Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dean Baker Has An Accident

What is the saying about what even a blind pig does once in a while? I believe Dean Baker actually said something rather profound yesterday, but it's okay because I'm pretty sure he was unaware of the meaning of what he said.

Economists are baffled by the failure of something called the Phillips Curve in today's labor market. Phillips was an economist, of course, who drew a curve which showed that as unemployment decreased wages increased, and posited cause and effect. Today, however, unemployment is plummeting and wages are essentially flat and people like Dean Baker are tearing their hair out trying to figure out where Philips went wrong why. (Philips, of course, could not have gone wrong because he was an economist. Economists never go wrong, so there must be something wrong in today's labor market.)

Baker actually touched on part of the answer in yesterday's column when he referenced the low participation rate, which reflects a high number of people who are not working but are also not looking for work and are therefor not counted as unemployed. That means the actual unemployment rate is much higher than what is being reported, which plays hell with the Phillips Curve (even if the Philips Curve did make any kind of sense, which it does not), but the participation rate does not suit a number of Baker's other pet arguments and so he is forced to disregard it here.

Then he starts in on "quit rates," which is another of his pet theories having to do with when more people are quitting jobs wages go higher. I think he has it backward; that people quit as a result of higher wages, rather than people quitting being a cause of higher wages. Fred quits working for my company, so I'm going to hire Tom and pay him and Sam a higher wage. I don't think so.

Then he says that, "Fewer people are now employed in sectors with few quits, like manufacturing, and relatively more people are employed in sectors with frequent quits like retail trade and restaurants."

I recall many years ago, when there was much talk about the nation "transitioning to a service economy," something which Dean Baker seems to acknowledge has been fully accomplished, my father made the dry comment that, "Hell, we can't all make a living selling each other hamburgers."

I think Dean Baker has pointed out that Dad had it completely right.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Eating A Little Crow

Danica Patrick qualified seventh at Indianapolis yesterday. She is, admittedly, driving a car furnished by one of the best two builders in the business, and her teammate qualified on the pole. Nonetheless, the best car on the track is not worth a bucket of warm spit if it is not well driven, and she was impressive as hell. She was very smooth and accurate both days, especially on "pole day" yesterday, when she improved her position from ninth to seventh.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Only in NASCAR

I'm not sure that any organization in the world other than NASCAR could produce the following statement. Perhaps the US government, or some branch of the military, but probably not. Probably only NASCAR.

"NASCAR implemented changes for the All-Star Race to help drivers pass each other more frequently. The cars will have restrictor plates in the engines to slow down top speed and acceleration."

I cannot comment. That just leaves me speechless.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Media Goes Nuttier on Russia

According to CBS Evening News on Tuesday, a Russian oligarch paid $500,000 to Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s lawyer, and some of that money may have been used to pay the infamous porn star to keep quiet about her affair with Trump. According to CBS, Robert Mueller is investigating this Russian payment. Of course he is.

The facts, according to the New York Times, which is no paragon of truth telling itself, so we’ll have to take this for what it’s worth, is that Cohen "received payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch,” and that Columbus Nova “described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.”

So we go from “was paid by a Russian oligarch” to “was paid by an American firm who has a Russian oligarch as a customer” with no evidence that the payment was in any way related to the Russian oligarch. Not to mention the time travel aspect of Mr. Cohen using money he received in 2017 to pay off a blackmailing porn star in 2015.

CNN is freaked out over Cohen “having dealings with Russians who are under US sanctions,” but admits that Mr. Vekselberg was not under US sanctions if and when he paid unknown sums of money to Mr. Cohen Columbus Nova, nor was he under US sanctions when when Colombus Nova paid $500,000 to Mr. Cohen to represent Mr. Vekselberg some unknown client of Columbus Nova.

Furthermore, CBS News tells us that back in 2015 the same Russian government hackers that stole Hillary Clinton’s emails and gave them to Wikileaks (which is, of course, an entirely bogus claim) also sent death threats to military spouses purporting to be from ISIS. They interviewed one military wife who said that as long as she thought the threat was from ISIS she was able to shrug it off, but now that she knows it came from the Russian government, she is really upset about it.

She is not, apparently, afraid of ISIS but is afraid of the Russian government, which means the media is doing only half of its job with respect to at least one military wife.

Their “computer expert” said that the Russian government has a good reason to be “really mad at the US,” blaming us for the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Really? What part of today’s Russian government is upset about the downfall of the Soviet Union?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

It Depends on What You Say

People in government who reveal secret matters which the government does not want the public to know about are called "leakers" and/or "traitors," and are pursued relentlessly by law enforcement so that they may be brought to court and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

People in government who reveal secret matters which the government does want the public to know about are called "officials who demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the matter," and are rigorously protected by the media and by government.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Comedy Devolves Into Farce

“Fire, aim,” in the wrong order and just omit the “ready” part altogether. The Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has devolved from farcical into slapstick comedy.

Mueller, you may recall, filed indictments against several Russian persons and corporations several months ago, basically over alleged Facebook posting which, oddly enough, included posts favoring Clinton and Sanders as well as Trump. The Clinton and Sanders posts are alleged to have been mere camouflage, although evidence of that is not offered in the indictment.

It was widely regarded as symbolic, since Russia was certainly not going to extradite anyone. But, since corporations cannot be thrown in prison, lo and behold a Russian corporation showed up in court to answer charges, and Mueller and company does not know whether to shit or go blind.

First they claim that the corporation cannot be in court offering a defense because they cannot prove that they have been properly served. The court responds that it is a prosecution problem for having sent service to the Russian government instead of the corporation and in any case the corporation, served or not, is here answering the charge. Lack of service might be a cause for the defense to delay, but not for the prosecution to do so. Next motion please.

Then the prosecution asks for a delay in providing “discovery,” which is the provision for the defense to have the evidence against them presented to them by the prosecution. It is fairly routine for the defense to ask for this kind of delay, but it is unprecedented for the prosecution to do so and is tantamount to admitting that they have filed an indictment without having any evidence. So the judge calls bullshit on them, and does not grant the delay.

So at this point the case is in limbo, although not yet thrown out, with Mueller and company standing with egg all over its collective face.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

This is Gender Equality?

The Boy Scouts are no more. The new policy of allowing girls to join the club rendered the name obsolete, and so now they are just "Scouts of America."

So, we now have the "Scouts of America" which boys and girls can join, and the "Girl Scouts of America" which only girls can join. It's probably better that I do not express any opinion on this.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Trend is Down

Watching the NASCAR race last weekend at Talladega, television showed the stands as mostly filled, which turns out to have been mostly use of clever camera angles. An article in the sports section in Forbes, Sports Money, tells us that the race “was run before grandstands that were mostly filled, but empty enough that the word ‘TALLADEGA’ in unused seats at each end was visible.”

Even more deceptive was that the announcers, which included two former drivers, told us that the infield was “sold out” more than two weeks before the race and repeatedly made reference to the “packed stands.” Views from the overhead blimp, however, showed vast expanses of empty green grass in the infield, and confirmed Forbes’ suggestion of less than capacity crowds in the grandstand. “Packed stands,” forsooth.

Forbes tells us, in fact, that while NASCAR no longer publishes attendance figures at races, the race drew an 18% drop television ratings and a 20% drop in viewers than the same race last year. That would seem to contradict the announcers’ claims about how much more exciting the sport has become since the addition of “stage racing” and with annual changes to the aerodynamic configuration of the cars.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Picking The Winner

NASCAR is racing at Talledega this week. All of the "experts" are reminding us that the superspeedway race is totally unpredictable because the cars run in snarling, 200mph packs of twenty to thirty cars packed inches apart, and that wrecks involving as many as twenty cars are common and expected. They then go on to tell us who they think will win the race.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Subron 8: Inland Sea Cruise

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

One time, for reasons us whitehats were never told, Diablo took what was called the “inland sea cruise.” I think we were the first submarine ever to do it, in part because armed warships are prohibited in the Great Lakes by treaty with Canada, and submarines are difficult to disarm. Unloading all those torpedoes is a major chore, and the loss of weight does ugly things to our trim. Then, sooner or later, we have to put them all back in. We did keep a dozen or so practice fish, which had dummy warheads.

The cruise is up the Saint Lawrence Seaway, through all the Great Lakes, then down the Mississippi River. The Navy was not thinking clearly when they sent us on this journey because even rigged for surface we draw almost thirty feet, and you’ve probably read stories of what the Mississippi River is like. Right. Sandbars and such, and much of it no more than six feet deep. So at Chicago we turned around and went out the way we came in.

We didn’t, in those days, make a habit of colliding with everything in sight the way Navy ships do today, but that doesn’t mean my Navy was a paragon of clear thinking. Remind me to tell you about the refueling at sea experiment.

On the way we made port at lots of cities where the citizenry were all very excited about seeing a real live submarine. They came aboard in tour groups, gaped at all the machinery and asked a lot of rather silly questions, to which they got a lot of equally silly answers which embarrassed and frustrated the officers who overheard us giving them. They would chime in with a patient, “No ma’am, that isn’t what that does. What it really does…” and deliver an ugly look at the sailor involved.

The officers were, of course, totally unable to prevent us from having quite a good time conducting tours, entertaining guests in various ways which the Navy had not planned for, and getting phone numbers for when we went on liberty. On shore we were quite a novelty since many of the cities, Detroit for instance, hadn’t seen the Navy much, and we didn’t have to pay for our own drinks very often. So all in all, we enjoyed the cruise.

There were a few pitfalls to sailing a submarine in fresh water, though.

Like, for instance, how to deal with puddles of water on the deck. The air in submarines is normally very humid, and is compressed frequently which adds to condensation being a frequent issue. So when we see a puddle of water, we taste it. If it’s fresh then we know it’s condensation and can be ignored. Or cleaned up if an officer or chief petty officer notices you tasting it. If it’s salty, then it’s seawater, and you have a leak and had better do something about it. Leaks, in a submarine, are not good.

But when you are in the Great Lakes, any water leaking from outside the ship is not salty. Now what?

Yes, Diablo had leaks. She was built in 1941 for God’s sake. We maintained that our most critical piece of equipment was the bilge pump, because if it ever crapped out the leaks would sink us in eight hours.

The periscope gland leaked and the captain got wet every time he looked through the scope. The weird thing was that it leaked even when we were on the surface and the gland was 24 feet above the waterline, so the captain always got wet when he looked through the scope. Needless to say, he was not happy about it, and that gland was one of many things that made me glad I was an Electrician and not a Machinist’s Mate.

Then there was our stop at Bay City, MI, which was a bit weird. For one thing, the town is misnamed. It should be “Cove City.”

The “bay” into which we arrive is barely bigger than the length of our boat, and there is no pier other than one about eight feet long and situated in water about two feet deep. This was early in my service and I am still on the forward line handling party, so I’m on the foredeck looking around and wondering if the Skipper has gotten us lost.

We come to a stop about halfway into this cove, and I look up onto the bridge where some arm pointing and conversation is going on. The crowd on shore seems to be expecting us, though, so I figure we’re in the right place, that everything is under control and when it’s time for us to do something they will let us know.

Then I hear the vents pop under my feet and feel the deck settling and angling a bit, and I realize we’re flooding down forward. Not a lot, maybe a few feet, but it’s odd. Then the engines ramp up and we begin moving forward, toward shore. That’s definitely odd, and we’re all looking at each other like maybe the captain has gone off his nut. The bow rises very slightly, quite gently actually, the ship stops, and I realize than I’m on a ship that has run aground.

Apparently on purpose, because everyone on the bridge seems quite happy with the situation. So we’re all standing around on the foredeck with our teeth in our pockets and our hands in our mouths, until the captain finally leans over the bridge coaming and yells down, “Get a line over.”

We look around and wonder how the fuck we are supposed to do that. Not only are there no bollards, there is not even a pier. Not to mention, no personnel on shore to receive the line when we throw it. Ridley, who’s in charge, yells up at the bridge, “Get a line over to what, sir?” The query may have contained a faint note of sarcasm. Maybe more than a faint note.

If so, the captain missed it. “I don’t know,” he calls back, “That fire hydrant over there looks pretty good. Tie up to that.”

Tie up to a fire hydrant. Right. So after some yelling and arm waving we get a couple of volunteers on shore and we manage to get a five inch line to the fire hydrant in question. As soon as it is made fast, we shift the flag but leave one engine running to provide power since there is no shore power connection available for us to hook up to.

One guy is concerned as whether the fire hydrant will hold a 1800-ton submarine when the tide changes. Ridley puts his arm around the guy and assures him that of course the hydrant will not even come close to holding the ship, but that it’s okay because there are no tides in the Great Lakes.

When we were ready to leave, we just blew the forward ballast tanks, which picked the bow up off the bottom and allowed us to back smoothly out of the bay. The fire hydrant survived entirely intact. The same could not be said for some of the taverns, but no real harm was done.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Odd Ruling

Some Democrats and many Republicans were of the opinion that Obama's policy of "If Congress won't act then I will" was not only unconstitutional, but was weakened by the fact that what one president could create by executive order, another president could rescind by executive order.

According to a DC judge, apparently that's not the case. He ruled that Omama's executive order creating the DACA program, written after Congress specifically rejected passage of the exact same law, could not be ended by a Trump executive order. It is unclear whether the judge ruled that a Democratic president has more power than a Republican one, or a black president has more power than a white one, or a president elected by Americans has more power than one elected by Russians, or...

Democratic Platform

A liberal commenter waxes poetic about the excitement of the upcoming Democratic landslide in the 2018 midterm elections.

Instantly, the House would be converted into a hive of investigatory bodies. In a Democratic House, the grand Washington battle will no longer be Trump versus Mueller. It will be Trump versus 21 subpoena-wielding House committee chairmen, played out in public on a 24-hour televised loop…

Although Facebook has categorized me as a “liberal,” based on pretty much nothing since I don’t discuss politics on Facebook, I perceive this idiot’s wet dream as an overwhelming reason to hope for the retention of a Republican majority in both houses. The idea that the Democratic Party would abandon all pretence of governance in pursuit of a single-minded witch hunt against Trump utterly appalls me.

Actually, the Democrats have made very little pretence at governance since they ran on the platform of stopping the war in Iraq in 2006 and gave us “the surge” after taking control of Congress in 2007. They have been, in fact, a party of “against” and little else.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Madame Secretary

Having recorded it on Sunday, we watched the latest episode yesterday, in which the President, Chief of Staff and Secretary of State are in the Oval Office discussing to what extent, and on behalf of which candidate, this country should interfere in the Nicaguaran presidential election. There was no even momentary thought given to us staying out of it. I rather enjoyed the irony.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bathwater and Bad Pot?

Dean Baker lives in a state where marijuana is not legal, so he may be getting some of the illegal bad quality stuff which is doing weird things to his brain. Either that or he’s using way too much of the good stuff.

On the 19th, critical of the stand taken by the Washington Post against tax cuts, he said that, “we have already paid an enormous price for having deficits that are too small. We have needlessly kept the unemployment rate higher than necessary, with a cost to our children of a permanently smaller economy, to the tune of $1 trillion to $2 trillion annually.”

So spending at a rate which has led our debt to grow from $5.7 trillion in 2000 to $18.2 trillion in 2015, a 219% increase, is “deficits that are too small.”

He then goes on to argue for higher deficit spending and makes the claim that our debt level of more than 100% of GDP is not problematic by saying that, “Japan has a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 200 percent, over twice the US ratio. Until recently, investors were paying the Japanese government to lend it money, as its long-term interest rate was negative in nominal terms.” Etc.

He notes that Japan has maintained low inflation while accumulating that debt, but he doesn’t address Japan’s economic growth during that time, and it is economic growth that he claims has been harmed by insufficient deficit spending in this nation. In fact, Japan's economic growth has been so paltry during those years during those years of deficit spending that the population refers to those years as “The Lost Decades.”

So deficit spending didn’t grow Japan’s economy, but apparently he thinks it would grow ours. He does not explain why.

Then on the 20th he goes on another of his rants about the evils of patents and copyrights. It’s not that he doesn’t make some valid points regarding pharmaceutical companies, but he throws the baby out with the bathwater. Since Big Pharma is abusing the copyright/patent process, the entire process is evil and a person who writes a book should not be allowed to profit from having done so.

And, as usual, the ability to engage in logical thought completely escapes him.

“Suppose the government were to spend $400 billion this year on biomedical and other research and creative work,” he says. “This means that the deficit and debt would be $400 billion larger because it paid out money to corporations and individuals for this work.”

Then the train leaves the tracks. “Now suppose it grants patents and copyrights this year that will add an average of $50 billion a year over the next decade to the price of prescription drugs, software, and other protected items. Ignoring interest and discounting, how is that different from adding $500 billion to the debt?”

Actually, it adds nothing to the debt and $500 billion to the GDP, thereby reducing the debt to GDP ratio that, while utterly meaningless, is something that economists other than Dean Baker constantly worry about. Baker used to care, until doing otherwise suited his narrative better.

Baker does not see it that way, however, he sees that “we are requiring taxpayers to pay more money to drug companies and software makers,” which he says is, “in effect a privately collected tax.” Well, since it goes to corporations and not to the government, no, it is not a tax. Look up the definition of “tax” in the dictionary.

He then strays farther and farther into Paul Krugman territory. “Perhaps people feel better about being taxed by Pfizer and Microsoft than by the government,” he says, but given complaints about drug prices, clearly such is not the case.

He then discusses having an excise tax on drugs as opposed to the higher price and says that with respect to the difference, “No one would say that changes the debt story at all.” That borders on delusional, since the excise tax would reduce the deficit and the higher price does not.

He finishes with, “Anyhow, any deficit/debt monger who doesn't talk about the cost of patent and copyright monopolies is just being a political hack. They are not making serious economic arguments.” Well, we know who isn’t making serious economic arguments.

Monday, April 16, 2018

War Birds Have Bird Brains

Friday night I was really concerned, fearing that WW3 had begun, but by the next morning what I saw was a lot of yelling, fulminating, chest thumping and almost certainly a lot of lying by everyone involved. The whole thing is now beginning to resemble a comedy, except that we may not have seen the final chapter of it yet.

Actually, barring further escalation, the whole thing is mostly rather embarrassing at this point. My present conclusion is that we made an enormous production out of blowing up several empty buildings to “punish” Assad for a chemical weapons attack that not only did he not perpetrate, but which almost certainly never actually happened at all.

The US, Britain and France fired over 100 cruise missiles from airplanes and ships, which Russia said they would retaliate against but so far have not, other than with words like “violation of sovereignty.” I have no idea why they think such a charge would give this nation any cause for concern. The US violates the sovereignty of other nations on a frequent basis; it’s what we do best.

Russia pretty much said that since we didn’t kill anyone, only injured three Syrians, and didn’t destroy anything that anyone cared about, other than one civilian research lab which was unoccupied at the time, they are going to take a pass on this one.

Trump said the missile strikes would continue until Assad’s use of chemical weapons stopped, which was a bit odd since even he had not claimed Assad was currently employing chemical weapons as of the day of said missile strike. Which means they had already stopped. Logic, however, is not Mr. Trump’s strong point, so let’s move on.

Mattis, who is being referred to as “General” and as Secretary of Defense, says that this was a one time strike which will not be ongoing, so there is a communication problem here. One of them is obvious and the other is within the media and is with respect to his title, since military officers cannot serve in the civilian government. He is either an Army general or he is Secretary of Defense, but he can’t be both. The media needs to make up their minds.

Yes, general officers continue in rank after retirement, but using his rank while he is serving in government makes us sound like a nation with a military government such as, say, Egypt. You may recall that the military took over the government of Egypt by means of a coup. The population supported the coup because they trusted the military more than they did the civilian government. Does that sound familiar? When a US citizen meets a soldier today he says, “thank you for your service,” but when he meets a politician he says, “fuck you.” Anyway, back to the US war with Syria.

We say that we have dealt Syria a cruel blow and have destroyed their ability to use chemical weapons in the future, an ability which Syria, Russia and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says they did not have prior to our missile strike.

It’s also in conflict with Trump’s statement about the strikes continuing until Assad stops using chemical weapons. If we have destroyed his ability to use them, then by definition he isn’t going to continue using them. Right? Assuming, that is, that he ever used them in the first place. (“Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife, Mr. Jones?”) Consistency, however is another thing that Trump is not known for so, again, let’s move on.

Syria says that they shot down, or otherwise disabled, 71 of the 103 missiles which were fired in the strike. The US, of course, says that not one single missile failed to strike the target, which is the same thing we claimed back in April of last year. Pictures of the target back then, however, showed only 23 impact craters after we fired 60 missiles, so the truth about shoot downs this time is probably closer to the Syrian claim of 71 than it is to our claim of zero.

CBS Evening News is still claiming that last April, after a single missile failed into the sea near the ship which was firing it, all of the other 59 missiles hit the airfield which was the target. Somehow, however, they only left 23 craters, and the pieces of metal littering the ground dozens of miles away from the target which look like missile parts are actually, um, er, uh… something else.

If we anticipated a 100% hit rate, why did we need to fire 103 missiles, each with 450 pounds of very powerful explosive, to destroy three buildings?

As to those buildings we destroyed, according to a correspondent with our military who served in Syria prior to their civil war, those facilities are not recent intelligence discoveries, but were known to us and disclosed to the Israelis 25 years ago. They were emptied of chemical weapons in 2013 under a program initiated by Russia and overseen by the US military and have been monitored since then by the OPCW, an international watchdog agency who does for chemical weapons what the IAEA does for nuclear weapons. The most recent inspection, in which they were pronounced clear of any weapons, was November 22, 2017.

According to a Syrian interviewed by a CBS News reporter who worked at the research center in Damascus, which was hit by our missiles and destroyed, the facility did research on food chemicals and he did not have a security clearance. They were standing in the rubble of the destroyed research center as they spoke, and were not wearing anything in the way of protective clothing or breathing gear. Does that sound like a chemical weapons research center?

That same “news agency” is now walking the story back a bit, saying repeatedly last evening that the missile strike was “in response to suspected use of chemical weapons by Assad.” I find such a statement astonishing. Bit like a judge saying, “I sentence you to death for suspected first degree murder.”

Of course, we have been sentencing people to death by Hellfire missile for being “suspected militants” since the beginning of the Obama administration, so I don’t know why I should be surprised by this latest.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Futility Award

Chase Elliott, son of Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott, is in his third year driving in NASCAR's premier stock car racing series. When he came into the series it was widely expected that he would run away with stardom, given his heritage and the fact that he was driving a car furnished by Hendrick Motors, one of the winningest teams in the sport. He took over, in fact, the car driven by Jeff Gordon, who won the series championship four times.

Chase Elliott can drive very fast, but six races into his third season has yet to win his first race. He is on the verge of setting a record, however, for leading the most laps without winning a race. I'm trying to decide between naming the award as suggested in the title, or naming it "The Frustration Award."

I'm leaning toward the title, however, because when your car is fast enough to lead that many laps and you cannot win with it...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

CBS News No Longer Even Pretends

"We cannot verify this film clip, but it appears to show victims of a Syrian gas attack." If you cannot verify the film clip why are you airing it? A legitimate news agency does not air anything which it cannot verify as accurate. A propaganda machine airs anything which purports to support the position it is promulgating.

"The United States hit this airfield with 59 missiles after the last time Assad used chemical weapons on his own people."  First, the United States fired 59 missiles, but only six missiles hit that airfield. Fifty-three missiles went awry, some shot down by Russian air defense, and some for unknown reasons. Second, the putative chemical weapons use which triggered this missile attack was debunked; it never happened.

CBS News no longer even pretends to tell the truth.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Stupidity Reigns

The stupidity of these claims regarding the use of chemical weapons becomes more and more bizarre. Having essentially won, overall, his civil war, Assad destroys 90% of an enemy position and then, ready to begin “mop up” operations, hits civilians near that position with chemical weapons. We do not even stop to ask why he would do that.

In view of an announcement that we are leaving, Assad makes a move which is certain not only the get us to stay, but to get us to renew our threats of attacking him directly, something we have done only in a token manner before this. We do not pause to ask why he would want to have us in active military engagement against him.

Don’t even get me started on the White Helmets, who have been making idiots of us for years.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Beware of First Impressions

As Loyola of Chicago was in the final minutes of what was obviously a losing effort on Saturday, television showed a shot of Sister Jean being wheeled out of the arena several minutes before the final buzzer. I thought that was a bit odd, and certainly not in character. Sure enough, she was merely making sure that she was in place to greet each player as they left the court, congratulating each one individually on a successful and wonderful season and acknowledging each for their accomplishment. Nice.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Burden of Proof

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics filed a lawsuit to force coffee sellers to advertise that its product poses a risk for cancer and won, based on the judge's conclusion that Starbucks had failed to prove that coffee does not pose a risk of causing cancer.

Interesting legal theory. If you are sued for causing the death of your neighbor's barking dog by witchcraft, for instance, are you guilty if you are unable to prove that the charge is untrue?

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

From the glorified blog posing as a newspaper, The Hill,

Hillary Clinton is striking back at critics telling her to “shut up” following her 2016 loss, saying, “They never said that to any man who was not elected.”

That's because nobody needed to. Yes, Al Gore went on to become an advocate for climate change concerns, John Kerry ran for the Senate and John McCain remained there, but no man went on a speaking circuit giving speeches about nothing other than why they lost the election to a brain dead carnival barker.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Of Course The Irony is Missed

Facebook was widely lauded as a wonderful and valuable instrument of social change when it was credited as a prime mover of "color revolutions" in the Middle East. It is, however, being demonized when it is claimed to have had an effect on a US presidential election.

One has to wonder to what degree the demonization is due to the influence having been utilized by the wrong party. Would the media have cried foul if Cambridge Analytica had been working in behalf of the party of the left?

Monday, March 26, 2018

The New Orleans Saints Again

Some years ago it was revealed that the New Orleans Saints football team management and coaches were offering bonus money, and paying it, to players who deliberately injured key players on opposing teams. Management and coaches were fined and in some cases suspended by the NFL as punishment, but when the NFL tried to pursue similar punishment with respect to the players who took payment for inflicting the injuries to players, the Saints chapter of the NFL Players Union sued claiming that the NFL did not have the authority to do that under the terms of the union contract (known as the “players’ agreement”).

Now we have another reason to despise the New Orleans Saints.

It turns out that they have a set of rules which, they claim, are designed to protect their cheerleaders from being hit on by the players. These rules require that the cheerleaders may not contact or talk to the players, but there is no corresponding rule forbidding the players to contact or talk to the cheerleaders. Further, “If a cheerleader enters a restaurant and a player is already there, she must leave. If a cheerleader is in a restaurant and a player enters afterward, she must leave.” There are no similar rules pertaining to conduct by players.

I will continue to encourage victory for any team playing against the New Orleans Saints, including (sigh) the New England Patriots, as difficult as that may be for me.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Always Stoke Fears

When more than one interpretation can me made, or more than one conclusion drawn, from a statement, the media and/or pundits will always chose the one that stokes fear.

Form a March 20th New York Times story about things that go bump in the night could derail the economic recovery, “In February, markets tumbled after a report showing unexpectedly strong wage growth revived long-dormant fears of inflation.”

Strong wage growth posed as a negative for business due to inflation. Given that consumer spending is 70% of our economy, and that consumers are wage earners, why was strong wage growth not seen as a fuel which would increase consumer spending?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hurry Up

I cannot wait for that silly-ass Chinese space lab to come down so that we will no longer be bombarded with headlines about its impending fall and nobody knowing where it will burn up and how many pieces will hit the Earth and nobody knowing where they will hit.

Spousal Anxiety

Light switches rarely go bad, but in a forty-year-old house anything can happen, so when my wife left the house yesterday I was in the process of replacing a light switch and she was in a state of anxiety about it.

Electricity scares her to death, and it doesn't help for me to point out that electrical work is the one thing for which I have actual training, since I was an Electrician's Mate in the US Navy and the government trained me very thoroughly for that task. I then worked as an industrial maintenance electrician for some years after I got out of the Navy.

None of that helps, and she is convinced that when I am doing something electrical someday she is going to come home and find me dead. I have a suspicion that she leaves because she doesn't want to watch me die horribly, but she denies that.

When she got home she carefully did not express her relief that I was still alive, but did comment that the switch I replaced was whiter than the one next to it, and readily accepted my explanation that it was because it was forty years newer. She then noted that the new switch was upside down, and I don't think she was entirely convinced by my assertion that I had done that on purpose.

If that seems at odds with the "very thorough" training I received while I was in the Navy, I can only tell you that it was a domestic switch of a type that the Navy does not use.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On Anger

Anger has much in common with fire. Like fire, it can serve us well when stoked by proper fuel and kept within the confines of vessels which control it, or it can destroy us when overfed and/or allowed outside the places where it can be of use to us.

The anger that is bred of an unjust act against me or against someone who matters to me is like a cooking fire or a coal stove. Such anger moves me to right a wrong or to take action which betters my environment. It does me no harm, and indeed invigorates me. It moves me into actions which benefit others.

There is another anger that is like a forest fire; that harms and can destroy me. That anger is the one born from the cult of self; anger raised because someone does not agree with my opinion, anger raised because someone takes an action of which I disapprove and, worst of all, anger raised because it is a feeling that I prefer to that of experiencing fear.

That last surprises you? Many of us manifest depression, which is fear turned inward, as anger. We become angry if we fear that someone or something will deprive us of what we have or will deny us access to what we want.

The origin of the useful anger lies outside of myself, and since my anger resolution is aimed at the source the anger is resolved, the social or physical environment is bettered and I am left at peace.

Anger which has its roots inside me, in my unmet expectations or my unexpressed and often unrecognized fear, starts a vicious circle. Perceiving the source of the anger to be outside of myself, I aim my resolution efforts at that which is not the source, and allow that anger, like a forest fire, to grow larger and larger, to feed on itself, and ultimately to destroy all that it comes in contact with, mostly me.

When I abandon the cult of self, when I turn outward from self and expand my intellectual and emotional horizon to include others, then anger and fear lose their ability to control my life. It happens automatically. It is the inevitable result of the turn toward others and expansion of my horizons.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It Means What It Means

In political argument, the point being made means whatever you want it to mean, and proves whatever you want it to prove. The same citation, actually, can prove diametrically opposite positions depending on the point you are trying to make at the moment.

We know, for instance, that Vladimir Putin personally interfered in the 2016 presidential election because computer experts have traced his fingerprints through the internet and have tracked the computer hacking backward to a computer that sits right on his desk, in a room to which no one but him has a key.

Well, maybe not, but you get my point. Claims are made that the “interference in the election,” and the hacking into Hillary Clinton’s email servers have been traced to specific computers which prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Russia, under the direction of Putin himself, interfered in the election.

Now Putin announces that Russian nuclear weapons have been upgraded in response to a Trump policy in which nuclear weapons may be used in response to a cyber attack. MIT’s Theodore Postol tells us, an a Real News Network interview cited by Naked Capitalism, that Putin should have ignored that policy as an empty threat because it was unrealistic.

Postol says in the interview that as to, “the issue of using low yield nuclear warheads in conventional military situations or in response to a cyber attack, first of all, I don’t know how you would know where the cyber attack came from.” He goes on to say that, “anybody who’s even modestly competent, even some of these hackers who really are not very competent people, you can hide your address, your location from anybody you’re attacking.”

So when the Obama administration wants to blame Russia for interfering with our election, yes we can trace the cyber attack to its source, but when Russia defends itself against Trump administration threats against it, no we certainly cannot trace the cyber attack to its source. Isn’t that convenient?

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Not a Manchurian Candidate

From the New Yorker magazine, written by Jane Mayer, comes a serious and scholarly resume of Christopher Steele, the guy who exposed President Trump as a guy whom, among other things, likes to be urinated on by Russian whores. Steele told us that Vladimir Putin watched this being done, in fact, and would therefor be able to use that information to blackmail Trump into turning this nation into a vassal state of Russia.

Well, okay, maybe a little bit hyperbolic, but every bit as serious as the subject matter warrants. New Yorker obviously thinks differently, however, as they pay this…, this…, this person big bucks to write an article telling us how the “Steele Dossier” came to be written.

“In January, after a long day at his London office, Christopher Steele, the former spy turned private investigator, was stepping off a commuter train in Farnham, where he lives, when one of his two phones rang,” the piece begins, so now we know that the guy is so important that he carries two phones. The pace is brisk right from the beginning.

Notwithstanding his importance, she goes on to tell us, still in the first paragraph, he, “looks much like the other businessmen heading home, except for the fact that he kept his phones in a Faraday bag—a pouch, of military-tested double-grade fabric, designed to block signal detection.”

Which implies that you can tell by looking at him where he "keeps his phones," and, um, wait a minute. If he keeps his phones in a “Faraday bag” which blocks electronic signals, how did the phone ring? An average eighth grader knows that for a cell phone to ring, an electronic signal has to reach it.

I can’t tell you about the rest of the article because I stopped reading at that point. I don’t read dime novels written by idiots.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Stunning

MIT published a report saying that a study had revealed that the vast majority of Uber and Lyft drivers make net earnings of less than minimum wage, and that fully a third of them are actually losing money by driving in this "sharing economy" business. That's not the stunning part; hardly surprises me, in fact.

What's stunning is that it took an MIT study to bring it to public attention. If our schools were graduating people with real educations, this "sharing economy" nonsense would never have gotten off of the ground, because the basic economics of income and costs is dead simple and the drivers would have realized within a month of starting the work that driving your own car for someone else's profit is a losing proposition.

Also stunning is that Uber responded to the report by saying that MIT's study protocol was "deeply flawed." Of course it was.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Passing the Smell Test

This whole “Russia meddled in the election” thing just makes no sense to me. The test that it fails for me is a sensible answer to the question of, “What’s in it for them?” The indictment of 13 Russians by Mueller reduces that issue to absolute absurdity.

According to Mueller’s indictment the purpose of all of this was to “sow dissent” within the United States and to “cause Americans to lose faith in democracy.” And how does that benefit Russia or the Russian government? Even if they are doing what the indictment claims they are doing, what do they gain by it?

Actually, far from gain, it actually endangers Russia and the Russian government. In fact, it endangers the entire world, because the American government does what any government does when faced with unrest at home. It increases foreign adventurism in order to distract it’s citizenry from domestic issues. It threatens war with North Korea, for instance, and it wages war throughout the entire Middle East in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Keeping this whole “Russia is our enemy” issue active, whether Russia meddled in our election or not, whether Russia is active in our social media or not, is a useful method of distracting the public from the failure of our government to do virtually anything that works to the real and lasting benefit of the American people.

It also serves to distract the public from the influence of American money, not only in our elections, but in every aspect of governance in this nation.

We are horrified that the Russians may have spent a few hundred thousand dollars on social media to influence votes, and allow that to distract us from the fact that for many decades corporations and the wealthy have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to influence not only our elections, but to directly affect the passage or failure of legislation on a routine basis.

It seems likely to me that these 13 Russians were doing what they were doing, not for the purposes assumed and stated by Mueller, but rather for the same reason that thousands of Americans do the same things – generating “click bait” in order to create a multitude of “followers” which they can use to sell themselves for the purpose of a form online marketing consisting of “reviews” of products and services.

“I have 50,000 followers,” they will tell a business, “pay me $15,000 and I will write a favorable review of your product which those 50,000 people will read online.” Not very savory certainly, and possibly illegal, but the use of an election to create the followers was entirely incidental to a money making scheme.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Oh Really?

From Time Magazine we get an article which tells us that,

A study published Monday in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care says that medical dramas — Grey’s Anatomy, specifically — “may cultivate false expectations among patients and their families” when it comes to the realities of medical care, treatment and recovery.

Get out your coloring book, turn to page four and color me shocked.

I'm not sure which magazine is discredited more by that, Time Magazine for passing this nonsense on or Trauma Surgery & Acute Care for authorizing a "study" to determine something that a eighth grader would regard as obvious simply by watching a couple episodes of the show.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wrong Conclusion Again

A bunch of "heads of intelligence agencies" were in front of Congress yesterday to warn of all the dangers facing the nation, chief among them being that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and is now actively meddling with the 2018 midterm election. "We do not want Russians to tell us who to vote for," one of these clowns intoned, warning us of Russia's activity on Facebook.

Think about that for a moment. If people are basing their vote on Russian Facebook posts, then the problem is not that Russia is posting on Facebook, the problem is that people are basing their votes on Facebook posts.

We are a nation governed by morons who are elected by idiots.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hypocrisy Rules

Dean Baker is fond of castigating media persons for “mind reading” when they tell readers what various parties believe or think, even when the parties in question are on record as saying that they believe or think whatever belief it is that the writer ascribed to them.

“Republicans think that in a robust economy the social safety net could be dealt with by non-governmental charity organizations,” for instance, will instantly draw a charge of mind reading from Dean Baker, even though dozens of Republicans have stated that belief publicly over the last fifty years.

I would have no issue with Dean Baker for asserting that the belief is idiotic, but stating that Republicans believe it is certainly not mind reading.

Then on Monday he himself stated that, “Republicans in Congress are explicitly using the federal tax code to target states controlled by Democrats,” with the most recent income tax law. I wrote to him in the comments, noting his use of the word “explicitly,” and politely asked him to tell me the name of the Republican(s) who told him they were doing that or, I asked, “are you doing some mind reading here?” He deleted the comment.

Then yesterday he accuses the Washington Post of mind reading, saying,
“It's good we have the Post to tell us what the White House really believes.”

The entirety of his piece was not to challenge the theory advanced by the White House, but merely to castigate the Post for mind reading after he started the piece by saying that, "I thought it was just a way to give a middle finger to low-income people for getting government aid," which is, of course, clearly not mind reading.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

What Passes For Logic

Dean Baker tells us today that in the late 1990’s, “many new startups actually were financing investment by issuing stock,” and that, “This is generally rare, since the vast majority of investment is financed by retained earnings and borrowing on credit markets or from banks.”

The stock market, according to Investopedia, “provides companies with access to capital in exchange for giving investors a slice of ownership.”

So startups in the 1990’s were doing precisely what the stock market exists to do; they were selling part ownership in their companies to investors in order to obtain capital to build their companies into major operations. And Dean Baker tells us this is rare.

In the same article he tells us that, “In principle the stock market is the value of future corporate profits,” which actually has become accepted thought generally and is factually nuts, being completely contrary to what the stock market actually is, in which a share of stock is a “slice of ownership.”

That “principle” assumes that purchasing stock entitles you to be paid a share of corporate profits, but it does nothing of the sort. Other than for “Subchapter S” corporations, which most large corporations are not, it entitles you to receive a dividend, which is declared by the board of directors and may be greater than or less than the profits achieved by the corporation.

Dividends are usually less than corporate profits, as the corporation maintains some cash in the form of “retained earnings” against future operations and investment. If dividends were larger than profits, which is sometimes the case in order to (falsely) maintain stock value, the corporation has to borrow the money to pay them.

So at best, this definition should read, “In principle the stock market is the value of future corporate declared dividends,” and would still be bogus, since it misdefines what the stock market is, in which (to repeat) a share of stock is “a slice of ownership.”

Investopedia goes on to describe the “primary market” in which initial offerings of stock are sold to investors to raise capital, and the “secondary market” in which stocks are bought and sold between traders. It is in the latter that the prices of stocks rise and fall based on their perceived value.

The real value of a stock is determined by the corporation’s net worth, reflected by the bottom line on its financial balance sheet, divided by the number of shares outstanding. The perceived value is, quite simply, whatever someone is willing to pay for it, and is often totally irrational. Witness tulips going for thousands of dollars per bulb in the 1800’s and Amazon at $1,458 today.

To claim that perceived value as being “the value of future corporate profits” is sort of putting invisible new clothes on the emperor and hoping that no little kid comes along. You buy a stock based on what you think you can sell it for in the future. It’s called gambling, and investors do it with the same logic that visitors to Las Vegas use at the craps table.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Play Of The Game

Many are talking about the fourth and goal play near the end of the first half, when the ball was snapped to the running back, who tossed it to a flanker, who threw a touchdown pass to the quarterback. It was certainly an exciting play.
But for me the play of the game was this tackle, with the Patriots third and two at the Eagles’ nine yard line. The New England runner went airborne, intending to leap over the Philadelphia tackler. The tackler foiled that plan by keeping his head up and his eyes open, a practice that defensive players are taught but which they all too seldom actually do, and met the runner in mid air. He not only made the tackle, he stopped the runner dead in his tracks, preventing the first down and leading to a missed field goal.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Hyperbole Extends Now to Golf

I was watching the Waste Management Open in Phoenix yesterday... Well, I was watching it in San Diego; the tournament is being held in Phoenix. Anyway, NBC was carrying on about the tournament drawing the biggest crowds of any golf tournament in the world, which it does, and then they got carried away and started putting up graphics to claim that the event draws by far the biggest crowds of any sporting event ever, of any kind, anywhere in the nation.

They put up a graphic showing attendance for this year's event at 689,000 and pointing out that the largest crowd ever to watch the Indianapolis 500 was a paltry 350,000, but they failed to mention that the golf event is four days while the auto race crowd is cited for a single day event.

Not everyone who attends a golf tournament goes all four days, so it would be incorrect to assume that the daily attendance in Phoenix is 172,250, but the highest single day crowd is not much bigger than that, being about 204,000.

It's certainly far smaller than the crowd of 350,000 which showed up in one day to watch the Indianapolis 500.

They also failed to point out that, since the event is always held on NFL Super Bowl weekend, their biggest daily crowd of 200,000+ is on Saturday. That crowd almost entirely evaporates on Sunday, dropping to 50,000 or so, when 75% of those who attended on Saturday stay home on Sunday to watch the Super Bowl.

They made quite a point of saying that their attendance of 689,000 is more than twice the population of Scottsdale, which hosts the tournament and is home to 246,000 people. That little bit of hyperbole suffers when one realizes that the tournament actually draws about 200,000 people, many of whom attend the tournament multiple times, and that means there are actually more than 40,000 fewer people coming to the tournament than the population of Scottsdale.

The narrative really bites the dust when it is pointed out that Scottsdale is a contiguous suburb of Phoenix, and that the Phoenix metropolitan area has a population of over 4 million.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Busy, busy, busy...

I watched CBS News do a piece on the Super Bowl venue last night, telling us that cold weather was not any kind of deterrent to having fun when there is a Super Bowl in town. Temps of nine degrees, they were telling us, do not prevent crowds of people from enjoying the zip line over the Mississippi River, and the ice sculptures, and sledding down...

They tried their best to show us those "crowds of people enjoying the run up to the Super Bowl," but somehow never managed to widen the field of view on their camera to take in more than about eight people at a time. The gender and age ranges of those people could not be determined due to parkas and snow pants, so they interviewed a few folks so that we could know that both men and women were attending the game in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Failure of Rational Thought

This DACA thing is sort of amusing, really. Obama asked Congress to pass it as a law and Congress, at the time controlled by Democrats in both houses, refused to do so. They didn’t just reject the request, they introduced the bill in both housed and voted against it in both houses. Liberals yawned and went to the vineyards to sample wine. Outrage = zero.

Obama passed DACA as an executive order, not only usurping Congress’ role as lawmaker, but actually directly going against the will of Congress, and liberals cheered lustily, ignoring the cautions that what was done by the executive order of one president could be undone by the executive order of another president. They weren’t worried because Democrats would certainly never lose a presidential election.

Trump then says he is cancelling the executive order but will sign a DACA bill if Congress passes one. Congress does not pass one, but no anger is directed at Congress for not passing a DACA bill, in fact for twice not passing a DACA bill.

Instead, enormous anger and accusations of racism are directed at Trump for cancelling an executive order that, being executive overreach, should never have been issued in the first place.

All this despite the fact that 38% of voters approve of Trump while only 15% of voters approve of Congress.

No, I am by no means a Trump supporter, vote for Democrats more often than I do Republicans, and I am not expressing an opinion here for or against DACA. I am expressing that I continue to be astonished by the abysmal failure of political rationality in this country.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dean Baker Goes Openly Anti-Worker

Dean Baker argues today that the recent “uptick” in the economy may not have much to do with Donald Trump, creating a rare moment in which I actually agree with him, and goes on to say that it may actually be due to “the continuation of the Obama-Yellen recovery,” which puts us in separate universes again. The rest of his piece today is a virulent rant against the interests of the working class.

He does agree with Summers that when another recession happens “the Fed will again have to rely on unorthodox monetary policy,” and goes on to say that, “This is why many of us have argued for an inflation target higher than 2.0 percent.” Of course, so that the working class can suffer as badly during economic boom times as they do during a recession. Brilliant.

He then claims it is “also worth bringing in the story of robots taking all our jobs,” saying that it is “a story of a massive uptick in productivity growth,” which is awesome because he loves productivity growth. It is, after all, another opportunity to worship an economic theory which in modern times punishes the working class.

Higher productivity means that more product is produced by less work, so higher productivity means fewer workers. Even if, as Dean Baker claims, higher productivity inevitably resulted in higher wages, which it does not, then higher wages for fewer workers is not really a good outcome for the working class.

But higher wages for fewer workers is not a good outcome for business, either, because it requires an investment which doesn’t cut labor costs much, if at all, so business sees to it that higher productivity means unchanged wages for fewer workers, which really sucks for workers.

Dean Baker even admits that his claim of higher productivity is not actually what causes higher wages when he says that, “It's possible that we won't see the same wage growth this time due to weaker unions, the decision to expose less-educated workers to competition with low paid workers in the developing world, and more protectionism in the form of longer and stronger patent and copyright protection.”

The patent and copyright thing is nonsense, of course. It’s a pet peeve of his which he injects into everything, and it’s not about the working class at all. The abuse of patents and copyrights is about inflating prices to increase corporate profits and has nothing whatever to do with working class wages.

The other two items, weaker unions and offshored jobs, have a lot to do with wage growth not occurring as a result of productivity growth, so of course Dean Baker would follow that statement by agitating for stronger unions and for restoring manufacturing jobs to this country, right?

He does nothing of the sort. His support for the working class evaporates in a puff of smoke when he argues that to make up for wages not rising the government should, “make up the lost demand with larger budget deficits.” You get that? He’s a member of the “as long as money is being spent, it doesn’t matter who’s spending it” school of economics. He only cares about cash flow and, like the rest of the Washington elite, is unconcerned about the spending power of the working class of this nation.

Since workers are not being paid well and have no money to spend, he claims, the government should spend money instead, using borrowed money, to keep the economy flowing. The working class won’t be okay, but the economy will be fine. The spending level will be high even though the working class is flat on its ass, because the government will be spending money that it borrowed from…?

Sort of what we have today, actually, because last fiscal year, during what he claims to be economic good times, our government spent $665.8 billion more than it took in. He does not say what number in the way of a “larger deficit” he would consider reasonable.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Okay, He's Finally Lost It

Dean Baker seems to have finally lost all contact with reality, as yesterday he went totally, completely and utterly batshit crazy over tax cuts and investment by Apple Inc.

My favorite was his statement that the columnist he is criticizing, “doesn't seem to have a clue why the government taxes in the first place,” and proceeds to tell us that, “The reason the government taxes is to reduce demand in the economy. The purpose is to prevent the economy from overheating and experiencing inflation.”

I mean, I knew that Baker was unconcerned by the amount of the federal debt, an attitude which has always struck me as a bit bizarre. I never in my wildest imagination, however, thought that he believed that all government operation, things like national parks, highways and the military, should be financed entirely and only by borrowed money and increases in the government debt.

He appears to be of the modern school of thought that citizens should reap the benefit of government services and benefits without having to pay anything for them. Citizens at least think that somebody else, “the rich,” should pay for those benefits, but Baker seems to think that they should be paid for by just borrowing more money.

He expands on his “taxation to reduce demand” theme by adding that, “When the economy is near full employment we face the standard story where we have to tax to finance spending. In other words, if we want additional spending we have to pull demand out of the economy to open the space. However, when we are below full employment, the government is not constrained by its tax revenue.” I have no idea what any of that means, don't think that he does either, and included it here merely for it’s entertainment value.

He goes on in the same column to say that the government will not benefit from Apple paying $38 billion in taxes on the repatriation of funds from overseas because the money is, “already being held in the U.S., its ownership is just attributed to a foreign subsidiary,” which ignores the fact that it was not being taxed and now is, and that having $38 billion is better than not having $38 billion.

He asks the question, “How would the world be different if Apple still held its money overseas and we had the Fed credit the government with another $38 billion to count against its debt?” Because, apparently, the money that the Federal Reserve Bank creates out of thin air for "Quantitative Easing" is the same thing, in Dean Baker’s feverish little mind, as real money which will be paid by Apple in the form of taxes.

He then repudiates one of his favorite rants about how the media is “mind reading” when they say that “Republicans think blah, blah, blah” merely because Republicans say “blah, blah, blah,” when he says that Apple’s claim to be spending $20 billion on capital expansion and pay raises is due to the tax cut is not true because they would be doing that anyway without the tax cut, because businesses “make investments and raise wages all the time,” but that, “They usually don't go to such great effort to put on a public display” about it.

Actually, they do, but let’s not split hairs with an economist who has totally lost his mind.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Why Newspapers Publish

From an article in The Washington Post regarding a Trump "scandalous" rumor, "That doesn't mean it's true or even that there has been any genuine wrongdoing — just that it's worth asking some very serious questions."

Yes, a real newspaper prints that statement and then goes on to say that because a porn star says something we should read it on the front page and have a long discussion about it, even though she presents no proof of her allegations and offers as evidence facts which have been printed in the media for many years and is knowledge which has been held by millions of people, such as that Trump had a bodyguard named Keith and a secretary named Rhona, and that he didn't like sharks.

And the media claims that Trump is making the nation ungovernable.

PS: Okay, that's assuming that the Post is "a real newspaper" which is, perhaps, arguable but...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Election Derangement

I am considered by those who know me to be liberal in my thinking. Those who know me best see some fiscal conservatism moderating my liberal social thinking, but none would hesitate to label me a Democrat. They would be mistaken, but only partly so. Although I tend most often to vote for Democrats, I am registered as a Republican and sometimes vote for them.

An objective examination of reaction by the losing party in the last three elections which resulted in the White House changing from one party to the other might shed some light as to why I will not register as a member of the Democratic Party.

2000, Bush v. Gore: Democrats promptly claimed that votes in Florida had not been properly counted. They further claimed that the Supreme Court improperly intervened to prevent those votes from being properly counted, and that if they had not done so a recount would have given the state’s electoral votes to the Democratic candidate and the White House would have remained in Democratic Party hands.

While the losing presidential candidate, Al Gore, never embraced this argument, the Democratic Party leadership did. The outgoing president embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument.

2008, Obama v McCain: Republicans reaction was to vow to “block the Obama agenda” and to resolve that they would defeat him in the following presidential election, (i.e. “make him a one-term president”). While their reaction was inartfully expressed, that is pretty much what opposition parties are supposed to do. At no time did they question the legitimacy of the electoral victory.

There was the nonsense about the place of Obama’s birth, but the Republican Party leadership never from the beginning embraced this ridiculous argument. The losing presidential candidate, John McCain, certainly never embraced this argument. The outgoing president never embraced this argument. Senior Republican membership in Congress never embraced this argument. There was never the slightest suggestion that any Congressional investigation should be made as to the place of Obama’s birth.

2016, Trump v. Clinton: Democrats claimed generally that “the Russians interfered with the election.” Clinton also claimed that the FBI interfered with the election and, although that gained no traction with the media, she adhered to that claim regardless.

The outgoing president embraced the Russian interference argument. The losing presidential candidate embraced this argument. Democratic Party leadership embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument. So enthusiastically do Democrats embrace the Russian interference argument that Congressional committees are established to investigate Russian interference and the degree to which the winning candidate participated in it.

Conclusion: I am not a Trump supporter and did not vote for him, but I do support this nation’s constitutional democratic process and certainly have no desire to become a member of a political party which routinely attempts to discredit that process simply because it did not work in their short term favor.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Waiting For Orders

In news coverage of the mudslides in Santa Barbara County the past few days, I noticed that one person after another said that the noise made by the mudslides had waked them up in the middle of the might. That raised a question in my mind to the effect of, “Why were you asleep?”

Certainly these people knew about the Thomas fire that had left those steep hills denuded of any trace of vegetation, and certainly they knew that heavy rain was forecast for that night. The media and public officials had been warning for several days of the danger of slides and urging people to leave. And yet here they were, at home and asleep when the event happened precisely as predicted.

One woman explained why they didn't leave, saying that, “We were never issued the mandatory evacuation order.” She went on to say that, “We’re good citizens, if we were ordered to leave we would have left. We would have done what we were told to do.”

It suggests to me that if left to think for themselves, the people of this state will not do so. They were warned for days of the danger. They were warned for days that leaving would be the wise thing to do. They were waiting for someone to order them to do it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sportsmanship Still Exists

A small point is being sort of overlooked in what was maybe the best football game I have ever watched; the SEC National College Championship game between Alabama and Georgia on Monday evening. The game had it all. It had dominance, comeback, highlights, lowlights, suspense and exhibitions of the obvious.

But the best thing I saw all night came from a player who, at the time, was not even on the field. It was the Alabama quarterback, Jason Hurts, who played in the first half with so little success that Nick Saban pulled him in the second half and replaced him with a freshman. This freshman was wildly successful and brought Alabama back from a thirteen point deficit to win the game.

The entire second half, Hurts was on the sideline and fully engaged in the action. He was not standing behind other players, he was on the sideline, cheering on his team and applauding their successes. When his replacement threw a touchdown pass and returned to the sideline, the first person to meet him was Jason Hurts, applauding and pounding him on the shoulder pads.

Less is being said about this young man than should be said. It was a demonstration of sportsmanship and personal character that was heartwarming and rewarding to watch.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Tarnished Gold

Oprah knewI’m going to get in trouble for saying this, hopefully my wife won’t read it, but I can’t hold it in; the Golden Globes is just too typical of where we've gone.

The women who sucked up the courage to initially accuse Harvey Weinstein were not there, and were given no recognition. Asia Argento, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, and Annabelle Sciorra.

Did you see them there or hear their names spoken? Of course not.

The women who enabled that piece of shit for decades, who fawned upon him to advance their own fame and glory were there, wearing their symbolic black dresses and pronouncing that the era of men was at an end; that women have all of the power now.

They can, after all, put a man’s career and personal life into the trash can with merely an unsupported accusation now, against which his denials are about as useful as a paper match in a hurricane.

These women's definition of leadership is to find a parade, already formed by people with real imagination and courage, and to jump in front of it.

I’m willing to bet there are plenty of men who think this. It is symptomatic of the problem that none have the courage to say it.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Aging Well

I have written three checks so far this year, and I wrote the year as 2018 on all three. Unfortunately, I also wrote the month as December on one.

Do not grow old unless you tolerate embarrassment well.

Missing The Point

The Dow Jones rose another thousand points, much to the delight of pundits who think that overpriced stocks are good for the economy. As usual, the media reported the increase in a manner which made the one thousand point increase seem more dramatic than it actually was, with Market Watch telling us that the rise occurred, “in a blistering 23 trading days, which would represent the fastest rally to such a mark, outpacing the 24 sessions it took to ascend to 21,000 last March and the move to 11,000 back in May of 1999.”

But what was the increase in the value of the stock index in terms that have actual impact on the value of the stock market? Well, this month’s increase was 4.2% in 23 days, amounting to 0.18% per day, which is a little less exciting than the “blistering pace” they described.

The increase last March was a 5.0% increase in 24 days, or 0.21% per day, which means that the current increase did not “outpace” that March increase. The current increase was actually smaller than the earlier one, and it gets worse for Market Watch.

The increase in May of 1999 was a whopping 10% increase in 24 days, or 0.42% per day, meaning that it had twice the impact on stock values as did the one in March of this year and more than twice the impact as did the current one.

The media gets all excited about each “one thousand point” marker in the index, but that is hardly very informative. As the market index becomes larger, each thousand points becomes a smaller and smaller indicator. Here they are citing three such indicators, and are presenting the least impactful one, at 4.2%, as being more dramatic than an earlier one that was just one day longer and, at 10%, had more than twice the impact.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Constitutional Duty

Today’s version of “democracy” is baffling to me, and I suspect would make the founders of this nation wish that they had taken up golf instead.

The founders saw fit to make it one of the duties of our president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The people of this nation used to applaud presidents for fulfilling that obligation, but today they seem more often to applaud his breach of it and excoriate the executive branch for any attempt to carry out the constitutional mandate.

For instance, lawmakers, Congress and state legislatures, passed an amendment back in 1919 to make the production, transportation or sale of alcohol illegal, and Congress passed a law in 1920 making the possession and consumption of alcohol illegal.

While both aspects of the legislation were violated in a pretty massive fashion, no one ever suggested that the executive should ignore the existence of the law, or that no attempt to enforce the law should be made. Certainly no one ever suggested that any state could pass a law making alcohol sale, possession and consumption legal and that the federal government should overlook and allow that. By 1933 voters had pressured lawmakers to repeal the almost universally unpopular federal law. All of that was consistent with what the founders, I think, had in mind as to what they had set up for governance in this nation.

Then in 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which, among other things, classified marijuana as an addictive drug and made production, transportation, sale, possession or consumption of it illegal. More and more people, voters, are objecting to that law, but instead of agitating for the repeal of that federal law, they are insisting that they can pass state laws making it legal and that the president should simply not enforce the federal law.

I am actually sort of neutral on the legalization of marijuana. The evidence seems to be that it is actually somewhat less dangerous than alcohol. If nothing else, withdrawal from excessive use of marijuana is not medically dangerous, while alcohol withdrawal can cause death. Don’t know, and don’t really care. My point here is about governance.

President Obama announced that he considered marijuana to be a state issue and that he would direct the Justice Department not to interfere with states which had declared marijuana to be legal. In doing so he was actively renouncing his constitutional responsibility to enforce federal law, and he was widely applauded for doing so. If any voice was raised criticizing him for violating his oath of office, I never read it.

Then President Trump rescinds that directive and directs the Justice Department to enforce federal law. He is excoriated by the same media and the same people for following his constitutional mandate to enforce federal law as applauded President Obama for renouncing that mandate.

Nowhere is any call made upon Congress to change that part of the Controlled Substances Act which relates to marijuana. The media is, big time, all over whether or not the Executive Branch should enforce the federal law on marijuana use. The discussion, under the false umbrella of "states rights," is not about whether or not the federal law should exist, it is about whether or not it should be enforced, which is utterly nonsensical.

So what we had in the 1930’s was that a law which was unpopular resulted in the voters putting pressure on the legislature to change the law. Today we have an unpopular law resulting in voters putting pressure on the executive to violate his constitutional duty by failing to enforce the law. Voters, apparently, realize that they not only do not control Congress, they do not even have any influence with Congress.

Or perhaps the whole thing is just hollow drumbeat to popularize one president and, more to the point, to depopularize another one, and no one really cares whether federal laws are enforced or not. In either case, it’s pretty clear that what our founders created is no longer functional.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Tweeting For Change

John Dean tweeted today, “Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, is more important in 2018 than taking the US House from the GOP, and beginning the end of Trump’s horrific presidency. The well being of the nation depends on it. Don’t let a day pass without doing some act to help Democrats win control.”

It is worth noting that if you change one name, this would fit well for Democrats in 2002 after Bush was elected, and for Republicans in 2010 after Obama was elected. (“Our duty is to make sure Obama is a one term president.”) In both cases the opposing party did gain majorities, in both houses, and in both cases it changed nothing.

It’s also worth noting that both presidents, in 2004 & 2012, were reelected.

The Democrats might gain control of one or both houses in this year’s midterm election. Any bets on what it will actually change?

"Tweeting," forsooth. I would be intellectually embarrassed to discuss that I relied upon a "twitter" account to communicate in any dimension, given that "twittering" is what we used to accuse brainless adolescent females of doing. Brainlessness is no longer limited to adolescent females.