Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Identy Politics

In the past few weeks Democrats have celebrated the following victories in primary elections. They have nominated two Muslim women. They have put the first transgender woman on the ballot for mayor of a major city. They have put two female candidates for US Senate on the ballot in California, for the second such election in a row. They have put a 28-year-old bartender named Ocasio-Cortez on the ballot in a district which is 68% Puerto Rican, who professes to be a Democratic Socialist, unseating a three-term Democrat.

Do you see a trend here? They are celebrating not the policies which these candidates espouse, but their identities. They are not electing candidates who espouse policies which will benefit the nation as a whole. They elect candidates because they are identities which are championed by the Democratic Party: women, minority, LGBTQ, Muslim…

If you are male, you cannot win in a Democratic district. If you are white, you cannot win in a Democratic district. If you are straight, you cannot win in a Democratic district. If you identify as the same sex that is on your birth certificate, you cannot win in a Democratic district. If you are Catholic, do not even bother to run in a Democratic district.

Notice, in that last paragraph, I never mentioned policies.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Democracy Speaks?

I read an article yesterday in which the impeachment of Donald Trump was mentioned and, for at least the third time in the past month, read that “Nancy Pelosi has taken that option off the table.” It continues to strike me as odd.

First, Democrats have to win control of the House of Representatives. They say that is going to happen in 2018, but they also said they were certain of winning the White House in 2016, and we all know how that turned out.

Then Nancy Pelosi has to be elected by her peers as Speaker of the House, and that appears to be by no means the slam dunk that she seems to think it is. Granted, the link is to Fox News, but there are others. The Democratic Party is increasingly being influenced by the Ocasio-Cortez crowd and they are, to say the least, not enamored of the likes of Nancy Pelosi.

Finally, even if Democrats do take the house and Pelosi does become Speaker, how is that her choice to make? Unless 434 other members of the House have a voice in making that decision, then one would have to say that the Democratic Party is about the least democratic organization in politics.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Oh, Good Thinking

The endless slog to expand the San Diego convention center refuses to die. Despite grocery shoppers being accosted daily for two months no matter which store they patronized or at what hour they did their shopping ("Are you a San Diego voter?"), the effort to get the convention center expansion "initiative" on the ballot for the upcoming election failed to get enough signatures and did not make the ballot. Cry me a river.

At least not as a "public initiative," which would require just a 50% affirmative vote to pass. The City Government is considering putting it on the ballot as a government proposal, which would require a two-thirds affirmative vote for passage. Consider the wisdom of that. It could not get enough signatures to get on the ballot, but the city thinks it might get two thirds of voters to vote "yes."

Of course, we already knew that we are governed at all levels by idiots.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Two Things Which Baffle Me

First is the endless screeching about who hacked the DNC servers without ever paying the slightest attention to the indisputable fact revealed by that hack, which is that the Hillary Clinton faction clearly and blatantly rigged the Democratic primary election.

We are outraged and terrified in equal proportion by the Russians meddling in our elections, but both political parties are utterly indifferent to the Democrats doing so.

Second is to wonder at the present screeching about the Russians continuing to meddle in elections, and touting the heinous degree to which they are doing so already in the 2018 midterm election. What is to be gained by all of that fear mongering?

I can see Democrats trying to discredit an election after they lost it (well, not really, but there is at least some logic to it), but why discredit in advance an election which you claim that you expect to win?

What Makes This One Special?

The national news has featured daily updates on a missing girl for the past week or so. There does not seem to be anything special about the circumstances under which she disappeared; her boyfriend was in a different state on vacation at the time, she did not disappear from a party… She just went out on an errand and never came back.

From the day that the story first began airing I have been wondering what sets this case apart from what has to be thousands of other missing person cases and sure enough, one reporter today commented that she is one of more than 88,000 current open missing persons cases.

So what makes her worthy of daily updates on the national news, with no mention of any of the other 87,999 cases? Perhaps it has to do with the families of those other cases, who are not sufficiently wealthy to offer a $100,000 reward for information as to the whereabouts of their missing family members.

Sometimes the way this nation functions is a profound embarrassment to me.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Law Is An Ass

I don’t recall the source of the title. Probably Shakespeare.

Congress voted on this DACA law twice, and both times failed to pass it. Obama, as part of his highly unconstitutional “if Congress won't act then I will” policy, made it law by executive order. Democrats applauded wildly, while Republicans and others who can read the constitution, which included me, decried it as executive overreach.

Trump then created an executive order canceling Obama’s executive order, thereby bringing DACA to a halt. The principle behind his thinking was that all presidents are equal, and that what one president can do by executive order, another president can undo by executive order.

Apparently not. A judge this week ordered the DACA program reinstated, saying that the Trump administration had “failed to justify eliminating it.” Apparently, the fact that it was created by an executive order written for the specific purpose of thwarting the will of Congress did not constitute justification.

Not that I think DACA is a bad program, and I was thoroughly pissed off at Congress for failing to pass it, but I’m something of a fan of this nation’s constitution, and was horrified by Obama’s blatant contempt for that document with his “if Congress won’t act then I will” policy.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Worth Notice

Well, probably not, actually, but Johnny Manziel ("Johnny Football" of Texas A&M fame) made his first start at quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League today, and left the game in the third quarter after throwing four interceptions, with the Alouettes down by a score of 41-3.

The Rest of the Story

Leslie Moonves is being charged with all sorts of sexual improprieties, none of them very recent, and demands are being made that he step down as head of CBS or that he be suspended by the network. As is today’s normal, he is presumed guilty, not only before conviction in a court of law, but before even being charged by any legal entity which could bring him into a courtroom.

What the media is not reporting is that Moonves is in a battle with Shari Redstone, controlling stockholder of CBS and of Viacom. She wants to merge the two giant media companies, while Moonves does not. Can there be much doubt that these accusations are a campaign by Redstone to discredit Moonves in order to achieve her corporate goals, and is it surprising that the media which is financially controlled by her is assisting her in that campaign?

This is the nature of the justice system in The United States today.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Medicare Adventure

I received an email from Medicare informing me that my new card had been mailed and that if I had not yet received it I should call 1-800-MEDICARE.

The first problem is that the word "Medicare" contains eight letters, so the phone number they gave me contains one too many digits. On some phones that creates no problem because the phone simply quits accepting numbers after you enter eleven digits, but on mine you enter the number and push "Talk," at which point the phone rudely tells you the number is invalid. You then have to determine which digit Medicare intended for you to omit. It isn't rocket science to decide they intended for you to omit the last one, but...

Then you have to go through having a lengthy conversation with a recording, in which it tells you what you "may say." I hate those furshlugginer things. It didn't tell me I could say for it to perform a reproductive act on itself, so I refrained from doing so and finally got a human being.

It turned out my new card had, in fact, not been mailed and I decided not to ask why they had sent me an email saying that it had been mailed if it had actually not been. I was trying to stay focused on what I wanted to accomplish and was, in any case, quite sure that not only would he not have an answer but that the question itself would create a serious distraction.

Even without the distraction, things went nowhere but downhill. We live on a street named Caminito Pintoresco, which is Spanish for "picturesque little street." It actually fits the name fairly well, and it's a great place to live, but it would be better if it was on, maybe First Avenue or something, because nobody outside of San Diego can even pronounce our street name, let alone make any sense of the spelling. (Tucson AZ gets ridiculous with street names, by the way, coming up with things like Calle sin Vaca, which means "street without a cow.")

At the person’s request, I recited our address and he said that the address he had was on “Caminito Pintores,” with no “co” on the end and that perhaps that explained why the new card was not mailed.

I’m like, “What?” and he went on that if the address “does not match” then they will not mail the card. I asked him what the address had to match with, and the conversation deteriorated into gibberish, because he only had the one address and had no idea what it might need to match against, only that it needed to “match.”

He finally abandoned the idea of it matching anything and said that if the address was “wrong” they would not mail the card, but did not explain how they would know it was wrong, or what he meant by “wrong.” Nonexistant? No such street?

I addressed the fact that if the database field did not allow enough characters for the long address, then Caminito could be abbreviated Cmto to allow the name Pintoresco to be fully spelled out, but he assured me that was not the issue because they had many addresses which were much longer than mine.

He explained that the address they were using to mail my Medicare card was in the Social Security database and that I would have to contact Social Security in order to change it, and we left it at that.

There are, however, so many things wrong with that explanation that it’s hard to know where to start, the first being the question of why Medicare is using the Social Security database for the addresses to mail Medicare cards, when Medicare is not part of the Social Security Administration, it is part of Health and Human Services.

Next is that Social Security mails things to me all the time, using the address that SSA has for me on “Caminito Pintores” and stuff they mail to me reaches me just fine, so I have no idea why Medicare would think that is a “wrong” or unusable address.

Medicare has my address and mails statements to me on a regular basis, and the street name they use is “Caminito Pintoresco,” which might be beginning to shed some light on the “address match” issue. It may be that Medicare requires that the Social Security address match the Medicare address, although why they would do that is a bit baffling.

I went to the Social Security website and changed my address so that Medicare can send me a card, which is sort of like going to the Del Taco website to order a Big Mac, and saw that Social Security does indeed have my street name as “Caminito Pintores.” (Except that it’s in all caps which I’m not going to use here.)

So I attempted to add the “co” on the end and discovered that what they have is the maximum allowable in the field. The street address is limited to 22 characters, which is utterly ridiculous. Probably half the street addresses in the nation are longer than that.

It also proves that the rocket scientist I was talking to at Medicare was as clueless as I thought he was, and that they certainly do not have “lots of addresses longer than” mine.

I went ahead and changed the street on my Social Security address to “Cmto Pintoresco,” because it’s neater that way, but that would not seem to help in getting me a Medicare card because it still does not match the address that Medicare has for me.

I have absolutely no clue as to where to go from here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Indirect Measurement

When I want to know how much I weigh I step on a scale, read the dial, and find that I weigh 235 pounds. Plus or minus a little from time to time, but I stay close to that. Same as I weighed in high school, by the way, although distributed a bit differently,

If the government wanted to know how much I weigh they would launch me in a rocket into orbit around the moon, then use my orbital speed around the moon and distance from the lunar surface to calculate my weight. They would then botch the process entirely by adding the phase of the moon into the calculation and come up with the answer that my “seasonally adjusted” weight is 428#.

It’s called “indirect measurement,” and it not only gets the wrong answer much of the time, it’s usually incredibly more expensive to perform than a direct measurement would be. Such as launching me into lunar orbit to determine, inaccurately, how much I weigh.

If the government wanted to know how many people are employed, they could go to the Social Security database and query, “how many unique numbers had transactions?” in a certain period, and they would have their answer in a few minutes. They would have to tap a couple other computers in similar fashion to get the count of government workers who are not subject to Social Security withholding, but the process could be made all-inclusive quite easily.

It is claimed that they cannot do that due to “privacy reasons,” but that is utter nonsense. The database query can be asked and answered without knowing anything whatever about any of the data other than how many numbers were involved; say, 84,650,133 records with different identification numbers had wages reported in the month of July.

So what the government does is have thousands of government employees make phone calls to tens of thousands of putative workers and ask them questions about their work and personal habits, questions which are presumably not invasions of privacy. They then do some fancy mathematical extrapolation with that sample of the population to extend it to the population as a whole and apply some mysterious “seasonal adjustments” to report the number of people who are working.

The government also has thousands of government employees making phone calls to tens of thousands of businesses ask them questions about their current hiring. They then do the same kind of fancy mathematical extrapolation with that sample to extend it to all businesses and apply similar mysterious “seasonal adjustments” to report the number of people who are employed.

The number of working people reported by the “Household Survey” often differs wildly from the number of employed persons reported by the “Business Survey,” but that doesn’t seem to make anyone disbelieve either number. They just use which ever number suits their purpose, and no one asks any questions about the validity of the methods by which we arrive at these numbers,

Similarly, if we want to know the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy it would seem to be a pretty simple matter to turn to the federal government’s income tax database and add up the reported incomes of the entities which are producing goods and services.

But no, we measure, instead, how much consumers are spending on goods and services. Then we add how much the government is spending on goods and services. Then we subtract the portion of that spending which is items being bought from overseas, and we add the items being produced which are being sent overseas and which, therefor, aren’t reflected in internal spending. Finally, we add “investment,” which is a term so loosely defined as to be almost meaningless. Buying a US Treasury bond, for instance, is not “investment” in terms of contributing to the GDP.

So we measure the Gross Domestic Product not by measuring production, but by measuring consumption. And, in addition to getting a number which is probably wrong, we get a number which, in terms of measuring the economic health of our nation, is utterly meaningless.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Losing Narrative

Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and the rise of younger generations who prefer socialism to capitalism, who actually regard capitalism as evil, betray a failure in this nation of the ability to think critically and an inability to see the fallacy in the promise of “free health care and free higher education for all.”

This nation enjoyed enormous prosperity in the 1950s, 60s and well into the 70s; a prosperity which embraced the middle and working classes as much if not more than any other. The economic system which was in place and which drove that prosperity was almost entirely capitalism.

Socialism as the primary engine of an economy has never provided significant prosperity for any part of any nation which embraced it. Not once in the entire history of structured economic systems.

What has destroyed the prosperity of today's working class is the perversion of the economic system by the destruction of the balance of power between business and labor which was provided by a system of collective bargaining. That destruction has been driven by the corruption of legislative bodies, members of which we keep reelecting at an 85% rate, and which we continue to look to for solution of the problem which they created to begin with. We blame business for asking them to create that destruction, but is the legislators who actually did it, and they did it for the most base reason. They did it for money.

We keep asking the governing bodies to pass laws strengthening labor unions. Why would the legislatures do that? They are the ones who passed the laws gutting them in the first place. You seriously think they are going to recreate the labor unions that they so carefully destroyed in the first place?

Don't let anyone fool you with the mantra that Medicare is socialism and that it presents some kind of solution. It is not and it does not. In socialism the government controls the means of production of goods and services, and Medicare does not fit that description. Medicare is delivered by private parties, capitalists, and only payment is controlled by government. And even that control of payment is an illusion, because the parties delivering the goods and services fix the prices through anti-competitive measures and through the same bribery of legislatures which drives all legislation.

Anyone who touts Medicare as an example of the benefits of socialism does not know what socialism is, and does not know of the hundreds of millions of dollars annually that are lost to fraud and overpayment through that health care system. Those losses are not decreasing, they are increasing.

The Veteran’s Administration is an example of socialism in medical care and, while for the most part it delivers quality care these days, it is does not have adequate resources to deliver that care to the population it is supposed to serve, veterans, and is having to farm out some of that population to the private health care system.

That is precisely why socialism has never delivered prosperity when serving as the foundation of the economic system of any significant population; it runs out of resources. Simply speaking, it over promises and under delivers, and it cannot do otherwise because there is not enough of anything for everyone to have as much of it as they want, and so the system collapses.

Does that mean that private enterprise is a better provider of goods and service than government in all instances? Of course it means nothing of the sort. Anyone with half a brain would gasp in horror at the thought of returning fire protection to the hands of private fire companies. It was clear in the late 1800’s that was not really a workable system, and no major city even thinks about being without public fire protection today.

But having a handful of public services provided by government and having socialism as the basis of our entire economic system are two vastly different things, and anyone who cannot see the difference is seriously lacking in critical thinking skills.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Media "Events"

If you would like to know what actually happened at the Helsinki press conference, rather than just what the media is screaming about, you can read the transcript here.

Unlike Trump’s response to the question about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which was muddled and not particularly on point, Putin’s was clear, concise and very much on point, beginning with, “We should not rely on the momentary political interests of some internal political forces in our countries but on facts. Tell me at least one fact that proves collusion during the election campaign in the United States. This is total nonsense.”

No double talk or evasion there. He goes on to say, “We heard accusations against the company Concord. As I understand it, this company hired American lawyers, and the accusations against it just fell apart in a US court. Just follow what happens in US courts. This is what you should base your view on, not on rumors.”

Of course the media is not quoting Putin, because he says things that make sense. And, by the way, his statement about the accusations against Concord is completely factual. Yes, we should judge people based on what happens in a court, but we no longer do. If a man is accused of “sexual misconduct,” for instance, his life is ruined by the mere accusation. Trial in court and conviction is not necessary.

The media is outraged that Putin suggested that Mueller come to Russia to cooperate with Russian authorities in questioning the twelve persons named in the latest indictment. They don’t, of course, mention the part of that suggestion in which Putin says, “There is the Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters of 1999.”

Nor do they quote where he says,”…this has proven effective. We initiate up to 150 legal proceedings in Russia at the request of other countries.”

The media did not mention Putin’s comments that in return for that cooperation, and pursuant to that treaty, Russia might expect American assistance with investigation of an American hedge fund which, “…illegally made over $1.5 billion in Russia, did not pay taxes either in Russia or the United States, but transferred this money to the United States,” and, “contributed $400 thousand to Ms. Clinton’s election campaign.”

Obviously the media did not quote his statement about having “grounds to suspect that US intelligence officers supported these illegal transactions.”

The reporter then insisted that Trump be very specific in calling Putin a liar on the international stage right then and there which was, at best, disrespectful to both leaders. “Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump sort of waffled, drawing great howls of outrage from the media. Putin rather blatantly insulted the media, which of course is not quoting him. “Is the United States a democratic state? If so, then the final ruling in a dispute of this kind can only be made in court, not an intelligence service.” He made this same point earlier, and was ignored.

He then wonders why we are so worried about interference in our elections. “You have many people, including those with major billion-dollar fortunes, such as Mr Soros. He interferes everywhere he can.” Well, we’re certainly not going to pursue that issue.

Interestingly, Putin has the rather bizarre idea that we should treat Russia as a sovreign nation, and not as a domestic political football. "We can expand this cooperation, as I already mentioned, but only on a reciprocal basis. … Let's discuss these matters in substance rather than use Russia-US relations as a bargaining chip in the domestic political strife in the United States.”

The person who asked that question, of course, had no follow-up.

My favorite answer of the evening was to the “reporter” who asked if Putin had some damaging information on Trump which he could use to control him. “It is hard to imagine bigger nonsense," Putin replied. "Please get this rubbish out of your head.”

A Sense of Community

The Thai football team has kind of touched my heart since they have returned to public after being rescued from that cave. Their display of reverence for the retired Marine who lost his life in the rescue operation is remarkable. Every one of the boys have expressed gratitude for his sacrifice, a sense of the debt that they owe to him, and knowledge of the suffering that they have caused to his family. It does them and their culture much credit.

The coach said that he “will live my life very carefully” to assure that the man’s death was not in vain. Wow.

The whole group has talked about their sense of the difficulty that their plight caused for their families, their community, and for all who participated in rescuing them. It is profoundly moving to see a group of young people who have such a strong sense of being part of a greater whole.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ineptitude Increases

Further displaying its position as the most inept “special investigation” in the history of this nation, Mueller & Company included in the charge that the twelve criminals they were charging are, “members of the GRU, a Russian Federation intelligence agency within the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian military."

That’s sort of like saying that the FBI is an investigation agency within the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

GRU are the initials of the Russian words for “Main Intelligence Directorate,” so the GRU is not within the Main Intelligence Directorate, the GRU is the Main Intelligence Directorate.

Further, in 2010 the name of the Russian agency in question was changed to Intelligence Directorate and has been known since then as the GU.

So Mueller & Company are saying that the meddling in our election was directed by Putin because the people who did it presently work for a Russian government agency that has not existed, at least not under the name that they use, for eight years.

And we are supposed to be taking these clowns seriously?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mortification Continues

So, another 12 Russian individual citizens have been indicted by Mr. Mueller for “engaging in a ‘sustained effort’ to hack Democrats' emails and computer networks.” Because, apparently, our Justice Department believes that Russian citizens are subject to American laws. They do not make clear why they believe that to be the case.

The Deputy Attorney General informs us that, "There is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result," so they are not only filing indictments under American laws against persons who are not subject to those laws, they are doing so because nothing happened.

And, of course, they make this announcement the eve of the President of this nation meeting with Vladimir Putin. If you think that is a coincidence, then I would like to talk to you about making a deal on a very nice bridge in Brooklyn.

I am, at this point, profoundly embarrassed to be a citizen of this nation.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Transmogrification

Molly
Molly was just hanging out, being cool and purring on my desk, when a bird landed in the tree just outside the window. She instantly was on her feet and at the window, belly low to the ground, head thrust forward, ears back and exhibiting all of the frenetic motion of a chunk of granite.

In less than one second she had gone from being this adorable little fuzzy toy to the prototype of a predator. Dogs can’t do that. Even at their most playful, dogs show evidence of what they are. Cats, however, look so cuddly and peaceful at rest, and yet they are in reality one of nature’s most efficiently designed predators, and they can go from one to the other in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Here We Go Again

Another “initiative” is apparently headed to San Diego’s fall ballot, this one painting with a rather broad brush in planning to fund a convention center expansion, benefit the city’s homeless population, and fund repairs to our deteriorating streets by raising the hotel tax by 3.35%. Note that is a 35% increase of the existing 10.5% tax on hotel rooms.

Politicians are very proud of this one, coining the phrase, “Visitors pay, and San Diegans benefit.” Lovely. Perish the thought that San Diegans should actually pay for their own road repairs and civic infrastructure.

I have an idea. Let’s raise the hotel tax to 85% and eliminate local taxes altogether, so that visitors could pay for things like trash pickup.

Raising the hotel tax is not going to reduce tourism, because Anaheim has a 15% hotel tax. Right. Anaheim also has Disneyland. We are not by any means the only town with Pacific beaches. San Diego County alone has eight.

All kidding aside, this mania of “we want to have nice things and we want someone else to pay for them” is a national mantra which, to me, amounts to a very real sickness; a sense of entitlement to unearned wealth which is weakening us as a nation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Overt Media Bias

The CBS affiliated local news ran a very strange piece last night about a woman and her daughter who incurred injuries while riding on a rented motorized scooter on a Mission Beach boardwalk. The piece painted the two as some sort of innocent victims of some horrible misfeasance because the company which rented them the scooter allowed them to “ride along the Mission Beach boardwalk last Friday” and caused them to have an accident in which “they collided with pedestrians.”

The pedestrians with whom the motorized scooter collided were not mentioned in the piece, other than as objects which got hit by the motorized scooter, and were not interviewed for the news item. News 8 did not consider them to be victims, and was not interested either in their fate or viewpoint of the incident.

The father/husband, who was not present, admitted that the two females “were sharing a scooter and not wearing a helmet,” both violations, but defended them by saying that, “They're not from here they don't know the history of this issue. They just did what everybody else is doing.”

I can’t tell you how many times my parents asked me when I was a kid that if everybody else was jumping off a ten story building would I do the same just because they were. When I was growing up children were not raised to become lemmings, but apparently today they are.

The victims, here, are the pedestrians who were hit by the idiots riding the scooter. The riders were not victims, as portrayed by News 8, they were idiots who were engaging in thoughtless and reckless behavior. The rental company was derelict in failing to provide proper safety notices, such as the need to wear helmets, but that was not really covered in the news piece.

News 8 is doing what the media considers to be it’s mission today, pushing a legislative agenda, in this case regulating these motorized scooters and/or banning them from boardwalks. The news item begins, in fact, by placing the event merely as prelude to the demand for legislation, stating that, “A man whose child and ex-wife were seriously injured in a scooter crash over the weekend on Monday called for a boardwalk ban.”

The man, ex-wife and daughter all live in Arizona, by the way, so News 8 wants to assist people from out of state to come here and tell us how to run our city.
I don’t think so.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Is NASCAR Dying?

I think probably it is. I don't know how many people were watching Sunday's race at Sonoma on television, but the lack of people in the stands was simply stunning. In years past when I have watched that race, the stands were filled and there were crowds of people watching on the hillsides. Yesterday there was not one person on any hillside and the stands were, perhaps, 10% filled. Can't blame the weather; it was 72 degrees and not a cloud in sight.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Good Thinking

Just a few years ago a gas line owned and operated by PG&E blew up, destroying several dozen homes and killing eight people. The pipeline was not particularly old and was of steel construction, but was found to be improperly manufactured and PG&E was found criminally responsible.

This year SDG&E applied to the California Public Utilities for permission to replace 400 miles of gas pipeline which is seventy years old and is of cast iron construction. The plan calls for the new pipeline to be 30" in diameter, greatly increasing the capacity of the 16" diameter original. The CPUC denied the application, saying that the new pipeline "is not necessary."

Question. Who will be held responsible if the 70-year-old cast iron pipeline fails and causes damage, injury or death? The title of this post is, in case you didn't pick up on it, snark.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Well, That Was Brutal

Only four players under par in round one today, and only by a single stroke. That course is tough on a good day, and when the wind is up... Yikes. Lefty hit 14 of 15 fairways and still wound up +7, which totally beggars the imagination.

Another post which is not important and, probably, not particularly interesting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Serendipity

I was at the grocery store and went to the coffee aisle, heading directly to where the Peet's was and glommed a package of Major Dickason's Blend whole beans just as I realized the person stocking the shelf was not wearing a grocery store uniform. She was wearing a Peet's Coffee uniform and she highly approved of my choice.

I realize this is not a highly important post. Just one of life's nice little moments.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Insanity Prevails

Outrage is hitting new heights on the Richter scale over immigrant children being separated from their parents at the southern US border. The implication is that this first started happening just a few months ago at the express order of the Trump administration.

The problem with this narrative is that US law requires that all people attempting to enter the US without entry documentation be stopped from doing so, and that they be detained until their request for asylum can be adjudicated by a court. That has been the law for many years. Further, since 2012, during the Obama administration, it has been illegal to detain children in adult detention facilities.

So all of this towering outrage is about something that has been going on for no less than six years. Not only that, but all of the screaming is to demand that the Trump administration stop doing what it is doing, that is to say complying with laws passed by Congress, and no one is demanding that Congress change the laws.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Premature Victory Laps

I’m trying to figure out why California Democrats are celebrating. No, they didn’t get “locked out” of any of the open Republican US House districts, but neither did they lock out Republicans in any of the open Democratic US House districts. In every race where Republicans are running for reelection, the Republican won with sufficient margins to indicate pretty certain reelection, and in Republican districts with no incumbent candidate the Republican candidate appears not to be in any trouble.

Based on California, Democrats could take over the US House, statistically, but the vote counts certainly do not indicate that they are likely to.

Nor did Democrats lock Republicans out of the gubernatorial race. In fact, the race is much closer than was predicted, and portends a pretty sizeable Republican turnout in the general election. It also leaves Gavin Newsome well short of “shoo in” status for the mansion in Sacramento.

Republicans were locked out of the US Senate race, but so what. They were locked out in the last US Senate race as well, and will be in the next one too. This is, after all, California. In my opinion Democrats suffered a bit of a setback this time in that one of the Democratic candidates for the US Senate is a male. It would be intolerable to the Democratic Party if he won, but there is little chance of that, despite the fact that Dianne Feinstein is actually a Republican in all political principles that actually matter to the nation, because none of those principles matter to the Democratic Party.

I don’t know why Democrats want Trump and/or Republican control of Congress gone, anyway. The stock market is at an all time high. Home prices are higher than they were in 2007, but this time we are told that’s a good thing. Interest rates are rising, which is great for retirement accounts and savings. Employment is at a seven year low and still dropping. Wages are starting to show signs of increasing. Higher minimum wages are passing everywhere. The trade deficit is at a seven year low. Women’s power in politics, in the marketplace, and in the justice system is not just increasing, it is rising like an Elon Musk Falcon 9 rocket. Marijuana is being legalized in more and more states. We’ve won the war in Syria, and Afghanistan apparently doesn’t exist any more. We are making peace with North Korea.

What do we gain by changing government party? If it’s about Trump's bad language, I don’t care. I served in the Navy and rough language doesn’t bother me, and using the bathroom of choice is not something that I consider of vital national security importance.

Memories

CBS News did a retrospect last night on the "last train trip" of Robert Kennedy. It was a nice piece. I enjoyed the memories it evoked of RFK and of how the people of this nation thought of him, and I enjoyed hearing the voice of Harry Reasoner. Perhaps the highlight, for me, was that the train was powered by a GG-1; an electric locomotive with a very special history all of its own.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Amusing

Economists and business writers are all screaming about the impending economic disaster and utter stupidity of Trump's imposition of import tariffs, and fail to notice that the US international trade deficit just fell to a seven month low.

In case you don't know it, that creates an increase in the GDP.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Repeated Drivel Abounds

Dean Baker has a couple of little mindless refrains that he chants repeatedly, one of which strikes me as petty, shallow and nitpicking, the other of which seems to reveal a very real lack of ability in critical thinking.

The first is his penchant for accusing journalists of “mind reading” when they report what various public figures of organizations think. He does so today, accusing the Washington Post of mind reading for its headline that, “Trump thinks he's saving trade. The rest of the world thinks he's blowing it up.”

He retorts with, “I will assert that the Post has no idea what Trump actually thinks,” which is to accuse them of living in a cave in Outer Mongolia, since Trump has stated repeatedly that he believes he is saving trade. I think Trump is nuts, but one does not have to agree with Trump to be willing to say that he believes what he says he believes, so I will counter Dean Baker by asserting that the Post is aware of what Trump is saying and has a very reasonable assumption for believing that it knows what Trump believes.

Baker could have asserted that the Post has no idea what “the rest of the world” believes, as that part of the Post's statement encompasses an overly broad, grandiose and unknowable scope of knowledge, but he did not have sufficient wit to make that reasonable accusation.

The second is, of course, his constant refrain in response to any talk of a labor shortage, which is that there are plenty of laborers out there who are, “working for your competitors,” so all you have to do is pay higher wages to hire them away from away from your competitors. He never admits that this “solution” solves nothing, merely moving the labor shortage from one employer to another.

This is the kind of drivel that economists thrive on these days.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Feline Anatomy

According to Darby Conley, author of the comic strip "Get Fuzzy," cats do not "throw up." (My wife might argue that point. What Molly does certainly looks to her like throwing up.) According to Darby, cats "practice selective digestion" and "gastro liberate" any unwanted "calorie free" food. Apparently they are related to owls in some abstruse manner.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Just Deserts

Every time I respond to complaints about government by reminding the complainer of the phrase “government of the people, by the people,” and that voters are governed by the people whom they knowingly elect, I get rejoinders to the effect of, “but, but, but…” and excuses why voters are not really at fault.

Dianne Feinstein wonderfully makes my point for me. There is every reason in the world why she should have no chance whatever for reelection in this “summer of discontent” with opinions of Congress running at 85% disapproval, hatred of “the rich” at an all time high, and overwhelming disgust with the governmental “establishment.”

Feinstein has been in the Senate for 25 years, is presently 85 years old and would therefor be 92 by the time she finished an upcoming Senate term and, being worth upwards of $100 million and married to a man who is worth billions, is very much a member of the despised “one percent.”

Her voting record is very clear, voting in favor of spying on the American public, extension of the Patriot Act, continuation of FISA and immunity for the telecom industry, and always voting against any curtailment of military spending. She has voted against all forms of strong encryption in electronic communication, opposed single payer health care, and has supported multi-billion dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia. She has consistently voted in favor of legislation that has funneled billions of dollars into her husband’s businesses.

By every standard that the vast majority of California voters claim are important to them, Dianne Feinstein should be getting overwhelmingly defeated in the US Senate primary, but the opposite is happening. By all polls at this point, she is receiving 42% to 50% of the vote. Another Dem, Kevin de Leon, is receiving 16% to 24% (roughly half of her leavings), and no one else is receiving enough of the vote to be of any significance.

For those who don't know it, California has an open primary so all voters, Democrat, Republican and miscellaneous, vote in the one primary election.

Clearly, what the voters say they want from their legislators has nothing whatever to do with how they vote and/or they are utterly uninformed as to who they are voting for. In either case, the American voter is getting precisely the government it deserves.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

In Transition

The United States is in transition between forms of government at this point, and has been since Nixon really, from a country governed by the Congress to one governed by an Imperial President. Obama made the largest incremental step in that transition when he made the statement that, "if Congress does not act then I will," and began issuing executive orders which directly contradicted laws passed and/or rejected by Congress.

Congress is finally waking up to the fact that it gave away more power than it meant to give to an Imperial Presidency and is trying to stage a coup against the current President by using the media, for the most part, and by distracting the public with domestic social issues. So, while the branches of government wage war with each other for control of government, a war which the Judicial branch has now illogically joined, the country is essentially ungovernable.

This results externally in an inability to make agreements with other nations and an equally ineffective military posture, and internally with ever increasingly open warfare between classes, ethnicities and genders, stoked by liberals in the guise of "social policy." We may be lucky enough to emerge from this without another civil war, but not if Democrats win control of Congress and impeach the sitting President as is their current plan.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Danica Does Not Disapoint

Danica started seventh in the Indianapolis 500 today and, while running 17th on lap 168, crashed while running by herself. Bestwick said that it would, "in no way detract from her legacy as a race driver." Indeed. Advancing to the rear and crashing unassisted are what she did best.

In all fairness, these cars are a handful, and quite a few other drivers crashed without assistance, including Bourdais, Castroneves and Kanaan, all of whom have won the Indy 500 one or more times. That didn't detract from my enjoyment in watching her do it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Vehicles Searched?

From Google news feed today.
news
The headline doesn't say whom they expect to have no regrets.

And it turns out the vehicles which may be searched are those driven by fans entering the race grounds on race day, but that is not the image that popped into my feverish little mind.  I imagined TSA putting on rubber gloves and searching the race cars in front of a grandstand filled with 300,000 impatient fans. Imagine the reaction.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

538 Ways To Blow It

An organization calling themselves “FiveThirtyEight” has been considered to be the holy grail of political thinking by liberals ever since they quite accurately predicted victory by Obama in the election of 2004. Their track record since then has been a bit sketchy, but they are still considered to be the font of all wisdom and, for reasons known only to the liberal mind, their reputation suffered not at all when their advance announcement of a Clinton landslide in the election of 2016 went so badly.

I mean, they didn’t even phrase that one as a prediction, they published it as a statement of known fact, and we all know how it turned out. They then came out with a whole host of reasons which “nobody could have known” why they had missed the call, all of which were bought by the powers that be, and which preserved their reputation.

Politics is a very weird business. You can, for instance, accept dirty campaign money so long as you give it back when you get caught. If you don’t get caught you can keep it, so there is upside but no downside to taking bribes. Similarly, you can make really bad predictions, and as long as you have good excuses for why you did so, all of your future predictions will continue to be relied upon as being accurate.

At any rate, FiveThirtyEight published a treatise last week comparing the Mueller investigation on “Russiagate” with the last three great special farces investigations of Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater. They take great glee in pointing out that Mueller has “racked up five guilty pleas and 14 indictments of individuals,” more than any special prosecution other than Watergate.

For some reason, the author is not mentioning the indictments against corporations, one of which did not even exist at the time the alleged offense occurred. We’ll pass on that for the moment. To hell with it, we’ll just pass.

The author also does not mention that of all the indictments and pleas obtained, not one of them involves the combination of the Trump campaign, the 2016 election, and anyone in Russia. Most of his indictments are for things like tax fraud and lying to the FBI.

Mueller does have handful of indictments which contain two of the three elements which are the purported subject of his investigation; indictments having to do with Russians and the 2016 election but not even pretending to have anything to do with Trump’s election campaign. Even those indictments are evaporating like an ice cube on a hot sidewalk as Muller pleads for a delayed trial because his evidence is not ready.

And yet FiveThirtyEight wants us to believe that the Mueller investigation is the most valid and productive “special investigation” ever in the history of the process.

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.