Thursday, October 30, 2008

Embarrassing America

In a stump speech yesterday, characterizing Obama’s “tax and spend” policy as dangerous for national security and trying to frighten people into not voting for Obama, McCain went on to say this,
"At least in the past when European nations took the path of raising taxes and cutting defense, they knew that their security would still be guaranteed by America."

Does this arrogant, doddering, senile old jackass even give a moment’s thought to how the things he says sound to Europeans who hear them?

We’ve had almost eight years of this kind of sneering at our neighbor nations from the leadership of this nation, embarrassing us in the eyes of the world. Do we really want four more?

Update: Thursday morning
I grew up in a Deep South culture; one grandmother was raised on a plantation in Milliken's Bend, LA, the other in Arkansas. I am (what's the word?, not amused) amazed by where all of the talk about the effect of racism in this election is coming from. In all of the discussion of that topic, what state names are mentioned? No, not Alabama, or Georgia, but Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What was the Civil War all about?

Update 2: Thursday morning
McCain is warning us about all those "suspicious credit card donations" that have been made to the Obama campaign, warning us that we "don't really know who all of those people are."

Hey, pea brain, three of those were me. Want to make something of it?

Update 3: Thursday morning
I just read the fourth blog pundit who said words to the effect that after watching Obama's infomercial last night he's going to quit giving unneeded advice to the Obama campaign.

Ha. I made that decision weeks ago.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Weather Notes

Hmmm, upstate New York is closed due to a snow storm. We're still trying to decide if we should run the air conditioner; so far not, but the cat is not happy about that decision. Cold snap has been forecast for several days, with highs merely up in the low eighties, maybe even only in the (shudder) seventies, but so far it has not arrived.

The onshore breeze prevails about five miles inland, keeping humidities at out house in the 40-50% range. (It gets up to around 70% at night.) About five miles east of us humidities are still in single digits, though, and red flags are still flying.

Update: Thursday morning
Forecast for the weekend is a high of 68, slight chance of rain.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Drawing Crowds

awesomeMcCain spoke in Denver on, I believe, Friday and drew an “enthusiastic” crowd of 4500. Obama spoke in Denver two days later and drew a crowd (attitude unspecified) of 100,000 people. John McCain is guaranteeing that he will win on Nov 4th. Of course he will. How can he not?

Update: Tuesday, 12:45pm
You know, pictures like this one make me feel good. They just do. They give me a nice warm feeling, harkening back to Bobby Kennedy. People just want to "be there." They can't really see him way out there on the edge of that crowd, and they can't really hear him. They just want to be able to tell their kids, "I was there. I was part of that moment."

Commander in Chief

I can still recall the moment, more than forty years ago. I had just enlisted in the Navy and come home on leave; my father was in uniform and so was I; I threw him, for the first time ever, a crisp military salute and he returned it. It was awesome. We both broke out in huge smiles and hugged each other. It was a very special thing, shared between us for the first time.

The origin of the military salute is shrouded in myth and mystery. Some attribute it to “showing an empty hand,” the raising of the sword hand to show that one was not holding a weapon. Others attribute it to the raising of a helmet visor. Still others place its origin in the doffing of one’s hat. Whatever its origin, it is a unique gesture of recognition and respect, rendered to the rank or position and not to the man. (Although personal, earned respect may, and often does, lie beneath.)

The Navy had rather complicated rules about saluting when I served. One never saluted when not wearing a hat, for instance, and one would never wear a hat indoors. One would never salute anyone who could not return the salute, i.e. one who was not wearing a hat or was carrying something that prevented saluting. Lord help you, on the other hand if you were ever caught outdoors not wearing a hat, and therefor unable to salute. One didn’t salute on board ship, even though hats were worn at sea, except you did salute the Captain (even if his rank was not Captain) the first time you saw him each day, even if he could not return the salute due to, for instance, being hatless.

The Army and Air Force were somewhat more indiscriminate. They wore hats indoors and out, and saluted each other mercilessly, hats or not.

Common to all, though, was that when in civilian attire you did not salute.

Which is why it has always bothered me to see Presidents returning military gestures of respect with a hand salute of their own. Prior to Reagan, no President, even those with long military service themselves, had ever done that; they returned salutes with a simple nod of thanks. Reagan, I am told, saluted back because he didn’t know any better, but I find it hard to believe that none of his military advisors didn’t provide him with some coaching which he ignored. He set a precedent which all subsequent Presidents have followed, and I hope that the next one will put a stop to it.
It is disrespectful and unseemly.

Which brings me to the issue of “Commander in Chief.”

George W. Bush has poisoned this nation in many ways, and this one has gone under-noticed and under-reported. He has shortened and prostituted his constitutional appointment as “Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of The United States” and in so doing has obscured the dialog of governance. Even Keith Olbermann has been drawn by the Bush demagoguery, and has made mention of “the Commander in Chief of this nation” in one of his “Special Comments.”

Bush is not alone in his use of that term, nor in its application to the office of President with respect to the nation as a whole. The media does so constantly, and both presidential candidates and their running mates are not in the least bashful about following suit.

This nation has no “Commander in Chief” and the use of that term needs to stop. If it does not stop, then its use needs to be met with loud and prolonged condemnation. This nation is not a military dictatorship. Yet.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crossing Borders

This is starting to really worry me. For some weeks we have been raiding across the border into Pakistan. Now we have ground forces actually stationed in Pakistan, "combat advisors" who are training the Pakistani forces in special operations. That's how Vietnam started.

The raids across the Pakistani border are continuing, and now we have a similar raid across the Syrian border. American troops have been involved in firefights in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Syria.

This is beginning to sound like something is seriously out of control.

Defensive Debacle

Jeez. The only thing worse than being humiliated by the opponent’s passing offense is being humiliated by the opponent’s passing offense on a nationally televised game after spending all week mouthing off to the press about knowing just how you are going to stop the opponent’s passing offense.

The Charger’s offense stepped up and almost saved the day, but the defense did what it does week after week; talk tough and play candyass. Somebody ought to put a muzzle on these idiots. Don’t blather about what you are going to do, you morons, just get out there and do it.

I don’t have the final numbers yet, but the Saints had racked up 400 yards of offense against our ladies by the end of the third quarter. Usually 250 yards for an entire game would be considered a successful offensive accomplishment. Jeez.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Republicans and the Media

John McCain
Much of the media perpetuates the myth the McCain is this honorable and tremendously decent person who has been duped by his campaign staff into running a dirty and sleazy campaign against Barack Obama. I find that a very difficult scenario to credit.

McCain’s career in the Navy was steeped in misbehavior countered by his use of the influence that he was able to command. He graduated from the Naval Academy near the bottom of his class, which would normally prevent him from any possibility of admission to flight school, yet he managed flight school admission due to the influence of his father’s position in the service. Having that influence is beyond his control; using it to his own advantage and to counter his own misconduct was his choice.

He then crashed several airplanes, and was not disqualified from flying; again acting in a reckless and immature manner and using his family’s influence to escape the consequences.

Upon returning from the war in Vietnam he immediately began talking about his experiences as a prisoner in a self aggrandizing manner, using that as a stepping stone to secure public office. There were many men who suffered just as badly as he did, but very few indeed used that experience for personal gain in the manner that John McCain has done for forty years.

He then used the influence of his father-in-law and Charles Keating to ascent to higher political office and, having gained a seat in the Senate, abused the power of that office on his benefactors’ behalf.

Having been caught in the abuse of his power he instantly assumed the mantle of righteousness, but it is difficult to credit that a lifetime of self absorbtion and influence peddling is reversed in an instant, and only because one was caught with one’s hand in the cookie jar.

And his actions behind the scenes portray that his sense of his own entitlement continues to be very high. He continues to pressure regulators on behalf of his campaign contributors, and to lose his temper and treat anyone who disagrees with him in a threatening and contemptuous manner.

“I have never been chosen as Miss Congeniality,” McCain says. No man of honor and decency brags about, takes pride in making enemies.

Sarah Palin
A considerable portion of the media is raving about Palin’s future in the Republican Party, even promoting her as the probable candidate for president in 2012. I find that thought utterly astounding.

Is Alaska so far away that they are unaware of anything that she has done as governor of that state? Do they know that she has been convicted of the abuse of the power of her office for personal purpose? Do they know that she has appointed friends and campaign contributors to offices for which they were under- or non-qualified? Do they know that she has routinely collected state funds for personal expenses? Do they not know that when it comes to religious fundamentalism she makes George Bush look like an atheist?

I realize that the last criteria makes her attractive to one wing of the Republican Party, but the media must have some clue that it also makes her unelectable as president. Can you spell Mike Huckabee?

Are they not paying attention to her blatant lies, debunked and repeated? She claims to have stopped the "Bridge to Nowhere," a lie that is refuted in the press repeatedly and yet she continues to repeat the lie. A commission finds that she abused her power, publishes a report containing the word "guilty," and she repeatedly says how relieved she is that she was found "completely innocent." This kind of delusion leads to a future presidency?

Have they not listened to this woman speak extemporaneously? She is, if anything, even less intellectually curious than George Bush. The only people who would vote for this woman are the 23% who still love George Bush; the wingnuts who see this nation as becoming a theocratic state.

If this woman is the future of the Republican Party, then the Republican Party has no future.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Health Care Agenda

The cause for universal health insurance may be moving forward better than imagined. While that would not be the same as my preference for universal health care, it would still be a welcome change.

If Obama is elected he would need to create a plan and present it to Congress, right? Well, maybe not. It seems Ted Kennedy has not been idle in his "sickbed" these days. Not surprising, as the idea of that man idle rather boggles the mind. Turns out he is working on a plan for universal health care (insurance) which he intends to have ready to submit at the opening of the next Congress and which he intends to be his "legacy." You can read the details in the Washington Times, and it sounds both feasible and exciting. If anyone can lead the passage of this kind of bill, it would be the Lion of the Senate.

What a fitting Kennedy legacy it would be.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Red Flags Flying

No, this isn't about charges of socialism. The temperature today reached 93 and is expected to be higher tomorrow, the humidity varied from 3% all the way up to 7% or so. Winds are coming out of the desert, but thankfully are only moderately strong. Red flag is flying until 11:00 PM Friday night. This is fire country in fire season. The water dropping aircraft are on standby and firefighters are sleeping with one eye open. If they are sleeping at all.

And, yes, there is plenty left to burn. Sigh.

On Others' Minds

What concerns do voters have about the candidates? Well, there was a poll taken where people were asked to pick from a list of negatives about the two presidential candidates. "Which one of these items most concerns you," people were asked, "about the candidate?"

For John McCain the "winning" item was that he had picked Sarah Palin as VP and that she was clearly not ready to be president in the event of his incapacitation. No fewer than 34% picked that reply.

For Barack Obama, the "winner" was, "None of the above concern me."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Excuses Abound

If I were a professional football player, I would be embarrassed to admit that I was one of ten mediocre players on a team whose success depended on one superman. Merriman, apparently, can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and his season-ending injury rendered the Charger defense utterly toothless in the face of a second year quarterback.

Of course, that doesn't explain what happened last week, when that same defense rendered the Patriot offense pretty much impotent.

To defend against the pass, a team must either force the passer to throw in a hurry or must cover the receivers downfield. It needn't do both, either one of the two will suffice, but it must do one of the two. The Chargers defense has the talent and the demonstrated ability to do both, but in some games it inexplicably decides to do neither.

In some cases the offense will rise to the occasion and overcome the deficiencies of the defense, but against the Bills the offense decided to sink to the level of the defensive ineptitude.

I think there is no team in the league with as much talent and as little ability as the Chargers. If they put as much energy into playing the game as they did into coming up with excuses for losing, the Chargers would be 7-0 and Superbowl-bound.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Powell Endorsement

This is good for Obama, and Powell's endorsement was handsomely delivered and very generous. Anything that enhances Barack Obama's chances for election is very welcome.

That being said, Powell lost most of the respect I had for him when he delivered what he knew to be bullshit in front of the United Nations because his political superior told him to, demonstrating slavish loyalty to his political leaders and none to his nation. His "character witness" testimony for Ted Stevens in a corruption trial finished the job.

Now he waits to endorse Obama until many other prominent Republicans have already done so and he can do it without sticking his neck out into hostile territory. Endorsing Obama a couple of months ago would have taken courage. Doing so now is pretty much a just case of following the lead of those with more courage and better judgement than he has.

His endorsement may mean much to some, it doesn't impress me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Supremes and the GOP

Rachel Maddow was cheered by the Supreme Court decision regarding voter registration in Ohio this past week. On her show last night she said,
"The Supreme Court agreed with the Secretary of State of Ohio that systems to safeguard the vote from fraud already exist and that checking voter registrations against databases never intended for that purpose would have the effect of flagging and making problems for voters who really shouldn't have any problems voting."

Actually, she might have needed to do a little better research. The Court made no such decision or agreement. What they ruled was that the GOP had no standing to file the suit causing the issue to be raised, and they tossed out the adverse ruling. The result is that the issue which Ms. Maddow cited is actually still legally undecided, but there is good news.

What the Supreme Court's ruling did say is that the manner in which states conduct their voter registration is not the business of the Republican Party, and that the GOP may not use the courts to interfere in that process. If you think about it, that's an even more broad victory for democracy. Rather than a ruling on one narrow issue, the Supreme Court told the GOP in a much more broad sense,
"Keep your filthy paws off of our democracy."

Friday, October 17, 2008

HUAC Redux

California is known as the land of fruits and nuts. On the first part I’m going to take a pass, but on the second part, I don’t deny this state has it’s fair share and then some.

Minnesota has my niece and her husband, neither of whom is exactly boring, but neither of whom I would categorize as a nut either. That state did, however just outdo California hands down in the “nutcase” category, as anyone who watched Hardball today can testify.

Minnesota has Representative Michelle Bachmann, today’s version of Joe McCarthy. Ms. Bachmann believes that Barack Obama associates with terrorists, that he holds un-American views, that he is actively unpatriotic, and that he plans to install a leftist un-American form of government in this nation if he is elected. He is not alone in this, she believes, and she wants the associations of all the liberal senators and representatives in Congress investigated to see what terrorists they associate with, and to find out what unpatriotic and un-American views they hold. She is very concerned about the liberal, leftist conspiracy that is ongoing in our legislature, and she wants it to be investigated before this nation makes the mistake of electing a liberal leftist as president.

I am not kidding, and I am not exaggerating. I have condensed it, but she actually said every bit of that, and more. Chris Mathews let her ramble on, sitting there with his jaw hanging in open astonishment.

This woman is a member of the United States House of Representatives.

To this point I have been enjoying Pat Buchanan and his rather wacky support of McCain/Palin, but in his support of this nutcase woman he has stepped over the line. Calling people un-American because they disagree with you is not okay. Accusing people of being unpatriotic because their views are different than yours is divisive and corrupt. This nation is based on principles that include the freedom to express your beliefs without being attacked.

“Your words are anathema to me sir. I despise what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.”

But not this. You are not funny any more Mr. Buchanan. When you accuse someone of a lack of patriotism, of being un-American just because they do not agree with you, you dishonor the lives lost in battle of millions of patriotic men and women who have sacrificed for this nation. Whatever you have the right to say, sir, you do not have the right to say that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Debate Results Today


The Last Debate

Just a few thoughts on the (thank God) last debate.

If Joe the plumber is going to give up on his dream of owning his own company because he doesn’t want to have to “pay higher taxes” on the $250,000 profit that the company he plans to buy makes, then there is something seriously wrong with his priorities. Many years ago, when I was injured and out of work for a while, a group of guys were discussing how much they hated paying income taxes. I embarrassed them by observing that I would be delighted to pay income tax, because it would mean that I had income to pay tax on.

This focus on lowering taxes is just plain sick. Do you think that a standing Army to “keep us free,” all of these schools, and roads and bridges and federal programs that we demand are free? They are paid for with taxes, or should be.

McCain is back to saying he can balance the budget in four years. Insane. He has been back and forth on this so many times in the past year it is creating whiplash. He cannot do it without shutting the government down in its entirety.

Neither of them has the courage to say that the deficit as a percentage of overall economy is nowhere the highest it’s ever been, nor that in a severe recession deficit spending is a necessary, even worthwhile thing to do.

Schieffer was a jerk with the way he phrased the question about the “ugly campaign” issue, trying to equate the issue between the candidates. Obama’s attacks have been on McCain’s policies and his present actions. McCain’s attacks have been about actions of 40 years ago, and have been attacks on character and patriotism. The difference is clear cut.

McCain immediately played the victim card, bringing up the remarks of John Lewis. What utter gall and bullshit. I’m delighted that Obama did not dignify that with a response. Obama gave McCain several chances to drop this ugly non-issue, but McCain continued to pound this dead horse deeper into the ground. Not one person outside of McCain’s base, who are all going to vote for him anyway, care one iota about this “issue.”

ACORN threatens to “destroy the fabric of democracy” does it? The real threat is McCain and his cronies using ACORN’s victimization by its employees as a lever to disenfranchise voters. ACORN paid people to register voters, paying them on the basis of number registered. As was inevitable, no few employees faked forms to get money without doing the work, a fact that ACORN duly noted when turning in the forms as required by law. There is no threat to democracy here. “Micky Mouse” is not going to turn up and try to vote illegally. The bogus registrations are for people who do not exist.

McCain’s party is using this “threat to the fabric of democracy” to challenge the registration of legitimate voters. I have, for instance, two middle names. Some databases cannot accommodate that, so in some places I am listed with one middle name and in others with two. On the voter rolls I am listed with two, so if McCain’s party can find a database where I am listed with one middle name they can challenge my registration and prevent me from voting for Barack Obama. (oops)

Who is the real "threat to the fabric of democracy” here?

McCain is still using the excuse that it is slandering Obama because Obama would not join him in the ten town hall meetings “as Kennedy and Goldwater agreed to do before that tragic event in Dallas.” Goldwater only said that it was an interesting idea, he never agreed to it. And McCain’s dishonorable conduct is his own responsibility, not the result of Obama’s decisions.

I’m not going to get into the health care plans. The both stink, but Obama’s stinks quite a lot less than McCain’s does. McCain accused Obama of favoring single payer health care. I only wish he did. Most of America wishes he did.

McCain became utterly incoherent on abortion. He will appoint to SCOTUS based only on qualification, with no litmus test. No litmus test is acceptable, but one of the qualifications is that the applicant favor overturning Roe v. Wade. So the opinion on Roe v. Wade is a qualification not a litmus test. The way McCain gets around problems is not by solving them, it’s by simply redefining terms.

And the sneering “fingerquoted” thing about the health of the woman when talking about the “pro-abortion” position. Pro-abortion? Fortunately, my wife was not in the room at the time, or I would have been dodging flying objects. They would not have been aimed at me, understand, but she is not that good of a shot.

McCain described the school voucher program in Washington. I think this guy is mental, because he favors this program and he described exactly why it is about as thoroughly un-American as it can possibly be. “…there's a certain number, I think it's a thousand and some and some 9,000 parents asked to be eligible for that.” So, 8000 parents were left to send their kids to crumbling, underfunded schools that you are ignoring.

The America that I live in says that all people are created equal, which implies that federal programs must treat all people equally. But you want to provide money to send 1000 kids to private schools and send another 8000 to public schools for which you will provide no funding whatever. What universe do you live in?

McCain wants to take soldiers from the battlefield and send them to our schools as teachers without any training or testing. Do they get to take a shower first, to wash the blood and battle dust off? What is that plan?

He returned to autism in the education portion. He never connected his focus on autism to Sarah Palin’s youngest child directly, but he did make that connection earlier in an indirect manner. Does he think the baby has autism? If he’s talking about autism and not about her baby, he should make that clear, because much of America seems to think that he thinks he’s talking about Palin’s baby.

And again the pundits are saying that McCain “won on points” whatever that means, and the polls are saying that Obama won by very large margins. Pat Buchanan continues to disagree with the polls, insisting that McCain won on points, on style, and that he convinced millions of voters. Um, Pat, the voters who he convinced were already voting for him. They were in bars all over the country chanting “Sarah, Sarah.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Derivatives Explained

Suppose your neighbor’s house is worth $500K, and he has a $400K mortgage held by a bank. He doesn’t owe you any money, and you are no more than nodding acquaintances. I sell you a piece of paper for $5000 that says I will pay you the value of your next door neighbor’s house if he defaults on his mortgage. Congratulations, you just bought a derivative.

Why do you care if he defaults? You don’t.
What do you lose if he defaults? Nothing.
What do you gain by him not defaulting? Nothing.
So who gains by this silly ass derivative? Aha, we both do.

I gain $5000 by selling it to you, and all it cost me was a few dollars to have a lawyer draw it up and create some legalese. You gain because you now have a “secured debt obligation.” It is “secured” because it is tied to the value of your neighbor’s house, which you do not own and upon which you do not now and will never have any real financial claim.

The face value of your “secured debt obligation” is $500K, so you can show it to a banker and borrow cash using this piece of paper as collateral. The bank now has what it considers to be a “secured loan” for however much it loaned to you.

So we now have the $400K mortgage, the $500K derivative, and a bank loan all secured by this one $500K house. Something more than two times the value of the house is riding on the homeowner paying the mortgage.

And I’ve only sold one derivative against it. There is no limit on the number of derivatives I can sell against that house. That’s why the derivatives market is estimated to be in excess of fifty trillion dollars. And all of it is play money.

Derivatives are financial instruments created for the sole purpose of making money selling the instruments to people who are stupid enough or crooked enough to buy them.

So your neighbor defaulting on his mortgage is not the real problem in today’s crisis. Forget all this talk about how the government can pay off his mortgage and everything will be fine, because his mortgage is not the problem. The problem is your derivative and the loan that you obtained based on it. I have to pay you that $500K (along with all the others I sold), and I can’t do it. Since the derivative is now worthless, your loan has become an “unsecured loan” and your bank is freaking out about that. It can’t afford to have all this “unsecured debt” on its books and, as a result of that imbalance, the bank must obey bank laws and stop lending.

Your neighbor triggered the problem, but your derivative and your bank loan actually caused the problem. Nobody looked at your finances until your neighbor defaulted; that was the trigger. Then they looked at your books and mine (in this little blog drama) as a result of his default and saw that those finances were rotten and corrupt to the core, and the grits hit the fan.

And yet politicians of both parties keep yammering about the “housing crisis” and about getting those mortgages paid. Both talk about lack of regulation permitting the issuance of bad mortgages as having caused the present crisis, and promote paying off those mortgages as a solution. The Bush Administration is still, even now, pressing to buy up as much bad debt as possible to hold until it “regains its value” as if there is any hope that it ever will.

Review our blog drama again. Is your derivative and your bank loan ever going to have any value? Did they ever have any real value to begin with?

Government is even more corrupt than our financial world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Football This Weekend

Of the top four college teams, one did not play and the other three lost. At least all three lost to ranked teams, but still. The number five team won and became number one.

I can't believe Atlanta lost won that game. That was one of five NFL games decided in the last five seconds this weekend. Not sure if that's a record, but wow.

One of those actually went into overtime on a tying field goal by Dallas. The Arizona coach did that crappy thing of calling timeout just as the ball is snapped, nullifying the kick in an effort to freak out the kicker. I hate that, and I wish the league would make a rule for the minimum time before the ball is snapped that timeout can be called to eliminate this cheap trick. You win games by better play and superior coaching, not by cheap tricks. Much to my delight, the invalidated kick was blocked, while the re-kick was good, backfiring on the silly dickhead Arizona coach. I almost hoped Dallas would win in ot, but Arizona did. On a blocked punt, no less. It was a wierd game.

Chargers: Now this is what a team looks like when they quit whining about the injured players they don't have, and suck it up and play football with the players they do have. I would never denigrate the value of Shawne Merriman; he is a fine linebacker and an asset to the team. But football is a team sport and to suggest that the team is helpless without him is an insult to ten other fine football players. And it is wrong, as was demonstrated last night at Qualcomm Stadium. Randy Moss caught a couple of short drop-offs, but on long patterns Quentin Jammer was on him like a coat of paint. The defense swarmed all over the Patriots like hungry sharks in a feeding frenzy, and the game was nowhere near as close as the 30-3 score after 55 minutes would indicate.

Same thing with the offense. LT and Gates are hurt so Philip Rivers filled the air with footballs and wound up with a 141.9 rating, 17-yard average completion, and 3 touchdowns which would have been four without the one prevented by pass inteference, and which later came on a run play.

Only one small note; I just wish they'd lose those candyass blue uniforms.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Just Stand There

When the massive “bailout plan” was being rammed through Congress in a frantic, panicked scramble to save America from Armageddon, I plaintively asked, as did others far more knowledgeable than me, “Is this the only possible solution, and is it even the right solution?”

Well, the “free market” has given us the answer to that question, a resounding “Hell no.”

Over Paulson’s objections, a clause was put into the bill to allow the Fed to inject capital into the banks in return for partial ownership, a plan that he adamantly said would not work. Britain has now adopted that plan and strong consensus is building very rapidly here that we’d better do the same. I don’t know who insisted on that clause in the bill, but I’m glad they did.

Reactions to this crisis are interesting, to say the least. I like the way my wife deals with it. “I’m just going to go to work every day until election day. Then I’m going to vote for Obama. Then I’m going to go back to going to work every day.” Sounds like a plan.

McCain’s plan is, in the words of a movie president, “make you afraid of it and tell you who to blame for it.” He and his “female Sancho Panza” are on the campaign trail whipping crowds into a frenzy of hatred and anger by talking about terrorist connections and middle names, and by asking scary questions about origins. Presidential campaigns have never been pretty, but inciting to riot is maybe going one step too far.

Obama is playing the blame game more than I’d like to see him doing, but he is a really canny campaigner. Anyone who can campaign against and beat the Clintons does not need advice from me. He sort of reminds me of Will Smith in Men In Black. “Just chill, I’m on this.” That’s kind of the attitude I want in my leadership.

When things went to shit on my submarine at 400 feet beneath the surface, I did not want my skipper running around screaming and throwing shit against the bulkheads. I kind of needed to be able to look over and see that he was cool. When he was cool it reassured me that we might do what a submarine can do that a surface ship cannot do when submerged, which is go back up to the surface.

(Any ship can dive, you know. Only a submarine can do so repeatedly.)

Regardless of what the right move is, the chances of doing the right thing while in panic mode is vanishingly small. Panic mode is “fight or flight” mode; you either beat something up or you run like hell, what you specifically do not do is think. All of your body chemistry is organized against thinking to facilitate a faster reaction for either fighting or fleeing.
But in a crisis like this one, thinking is precisely what is needed.

The Navy does indeed have the saying that goes, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” The corollary to that is, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

Sometimes “standing there” is the right thing; if you’re thinking.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bradley Effect

Pundits are worried about this issue, named after Los Angeles candidate for mayor who was leading in the polls but unexpectedly lost. The reason seemed to be a number of people who said they were for him, but who in the secrecy of the polling place could not bring themselves to vote for a Black Man.

There are a couple of things that suggest to me that, in this race, that might not such an issue; in part because I do not trust these polls. There are an enormous number of young voters who are newly registered and use cell phones. Cell phone users, those who have no land lines, are not included in polls. In addition, the sampling algorithms do not take into account the large numbers of newly registered voters. We've seen that in the primaries, where polls were wrong a great deal of the time. In fact, they were seldom even close to being right.

I also think there might be some "reverse Bradley" effect. People in Los Angeles would never openly admit racial prejudice, but quite a lot of "Redneck Country" is openly racist and people there would never in a million years publicly admit to supporting a man with skin the color of Barack Obama's. Unemployment and this economy have hit hard there, however, and in the secrecy of the voting booth...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Weather On My Mind

I'm so glad Fall is here. As I drove by the bank near my house at 2PM yesterday the temperature reading was 97 degrees. At 10AM today it is 88 degrees. Fall is Santa Ana time when the hot, dry winds blow out of the desert but, no, we are not experiencing Santa Ana winds. It's just hot. We have a few deciduous trees, and they are losing their leaves, so...

Debate Reaction

If nothing else, I am taking great satisfaction in how disappointed David Gregory of MSNBC has got to be feeling. Gregory thinks that the Obama/Ayers “connection” is the most important thing in today’s news cycle. He hyped it endlessly on his show all day yesterday and claimed that McCain absolutely had to hit Obama with it during the debate. He gleefully predicted that the debate would be “bloody” because McCain would inject that subject repeatedly.

Well, so much for David Gregory.

Rachel Maddow, after the debate, observed that there is something particularly nasty about a campaign which is willing to make scurrilous accusations about an opponent everywhere except to the opponent’s face. I think she makes a very good point. Both McCain and Palin are making vile accusations about Obama and his associations, but when they stand in the man’s presence they are silent on those issues. I call that cowardice.

After the debate Chris Mathews and company were pretty much in stitches over some of the odder moments of the night, but the best moment for me accompanied the “green behind the ears” exchange. As Obama was talking about how he was the novice and McCain the sober and experienced one, McCain was happy as a clam, just too asleep at the switch to realize he was being set up and even interrupting (rudely) the say, “Thank you very much.” And then Obama whacks him in the kisser with, “And this is the man singing songs about bombing Iran,” and so forth.

I thought Obama hit just the right balance on which of McCain’s lies and exaggerations needed to be countered. Some are so egregious that he must refute them, but there are so many that if he tries to counter all of them he will bore and alienate the audience, and he knows that. You could sort of see him thinking things over and deciding that most of them were not worth countering, as they had been debunked so many times that the public already knows they are not true.

The one “idea” which McCain trotted out is one that the conservatives whom he is trying desperately to hang onto in his coalition absolutely hate. That’s the one where the government buys up the failing mortgages at the current amounts and reissues them at the current value of the houses. I hate that one too, but not for the same reason conservatives do.

The lender holds a $500K mortgage on a home worth $300K, so the government pays off that mortgage at the amount owed and reissues it at the lower amount. It looks a lot worse when there are numbers, doesn’t it? The lender just made $200,000 of what is known as “unjust enrichment” and the homeowner has just had an equal amount of debt forgiven. That $200,000 came from the taxpayer.

Right, it is our tax dollars that are “unjustly enriching” those lenders. It is our tax dollars being used to forgive the debt of those borrowers. In what world is it fair for those of us who have maintained responsible loans on our homes, to have our tax money used for those purposes?

In addition of $700 Billion used to bail out Wall Street.

After the debate we got to meet some “undecided voters.” After listening to them, my happiness at the polls showing Obama winning the debate vanished, because those polls came from undecided voters. Who cares what these morons think? None of these people could find their ass if you gave them a mirror on a stick. Chris Mathews asked if it bothered them when the candidate gave a speech instead of answering the question, and the “undecided voter” responded, “Yes, I think we should go get Osama bin Laden regardless of where he is hiding.” They are undecided because they don’t have a brain to decide with.

To hell with it. Obama won because I say he won.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Delusions of Sanity

Back in summer (h/t toThink Progress, it was in June), McCain gave me a “rolling on the floor” moment when he and Obama were asked, “What do you believe is the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy?”

I don’t recall Obama’s answer. It was reasonable, as I recall and not particularly windy. Following his response, the moderator asked the same question, in exactly the same words, of John McCain. After an embarrassingly long pause, he responded “radical Islamic extremism.” He went on with a militaristic explanation as to why he thought that was the case, but it struck me more as an in-depth description of precisely how deranged he was.

Or, perhaps, how desperate to avoid talking about the economy.

Then we had Carly Fiorina. (Yes, I’m going to connect this in a minute.) We know her very well here in California, and she may be the least popular person in the state. She turned the world’s most successful printer company into the world’s least successful computer company, costing 20,000 Californians their jobs, no few of them right here in San Diego.

In order to rescue herself from having said that Sarah Palin could not run a big company, she said that John McCain couldn’t either, which was less than brilliant on her part, but was actually typical of her management skill. So she joined a host of others in the McCain campaign memory hole.

That brings us to “senior McCain adviser” Nancy Pfotenhauer who was brought on to explain Fiorina’s disappearance and spent several appearances on news shows providing me with moments of hilarity trying to explain what Fiorina had really meant and why she had disappeared.

After a brief reminder of the McCain campaign staffer who announced to the media that the campaign was getting off of the economy to throw garbage at Obama because “if we keep talking about the economy we will lose,” back to the lady with the unpronounceable last name again.

Nancy Pfotenhauer is explaining to us that McCain has always loved talking about the economy and has, in fact, “made the economy, and his economic policies, just really, the fulcrum of his whole campaign.”

You can read the whole thing at Think Progress. It’s hilarious.

Monday, October 06, 2008

McCain's Terrorist Problem

No comment needed: just watch.

Specificity Advised

The Chargers have been stinking up the first half for the first four games, and playing like champions for the second half to pull out the win for two games out of the four. Fans are not happy, nor are the sportswriters, with both groups clamoring for better consistency.

Seems we should have been more specific. The Chargers went out and stunk up the entire game against the Dolphins yesterday, and lost, which is indeed more consistent but was not quite what we had in mind.

Rivers was the hottest quarterback in the league after three weeks, with the league's highest rating. Week four he had a 58 rating, with anything under 80 being basically awful. This week I don't have a rating, but he completed a mere 46% of his passes, and none of those misses were drops.

In the first four games the Chargers averaged 38 points scored. Yesterday they scored 10. Against the Dolphins.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Okay, Here We Go

The McCain campaign was thrilled with Palin's "steller" debate accomplishmants and, being that her brilliance in that venue seems to have dropped them even further behind in the polls, has announced that it is time to "get tough" in the campaign. So now the personality slurs and lies begin. From Reuters News today,
"There is a time when it's necessary to take the gloves off and that time is right now," Palin told thousands of supporters at a rally in a sports arena in Carson, California.

Earlier at a fundraiser in Englewood, Colorado, she departed from her usual speech to question Obama's character.

"Our opponent though is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough that he is palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin said of Obama, also calling him an embarrassment.

Obama is an embarrassment. Yeah, that's good. My father used to refer to that as "the pot calling the kettle black."

We have men and women in uniform dying in two wars, both of which we are not winning, we have people in this country working full time jobs and living in tents because they have lost their homes, 159,000 people lost their jobs last month alone, the cost of bread and milk to feed one's children has more than doubled, our bridges and water mains are collapsing, and our banks are in jeopardy of closing their doors with our money inside. And this stupid woman thinks she's in high school running for head cheerleader.

Her "palling around with terrorists" is referring, of course, to Obama's "connection" to William Ayers, which you can read about in the New York Times article here. Ayers was a radical when Obama was about eight years old, but is currently a professor at the University of Illinois. I guess that makes my next-door neighbor a terrorist as well, since he goes back each year to spend three months teaching at that school and he has an Obama campaign sign in his front window.

When the Clinton campaign went into its attack mode, and when McCain was attacking before the economy went bust, it made me angry. In part, I don't like my guy being attacked with lies and innuendo, but I don't want this kind of politics. I really don't. I'm sick of it. This time though, I'm more just resigned, recognizing this this just reveals just how totally out of gas the McCain crowd really is.

And I think the only thing more stupid than making this its campaign strategy, is announcing to the entire nation inadvance that it is doing so.

"Hey, America, our campaign is now going to get nasty and dishonest."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Referendum on Marriage

Some months ago the court decided that California could not legally differentiate between heterosexual and same sex couples as to marriage and next month we will go to the polls to decide whether we want to uphold that decision or, as a people, reject it. That is a pretty important decision. It is going to say quite a lot about who we are, about what kind of society we comprise. Happily, poll numbers show that the decision is likely to be that we will uphold the court's decision.

Same sex couples have been marrying for several months, and there has been no visible ill effect. Our divorce rate is so far unchanged, and heterosexual marriage rates are essentially unchanged as well, so any kind of "defense of marriage" nonsense seems not to be needed in reality.

There is a lot of advertising, mostly against the support, including many ugly lies. Fortunately, and speaking well for the people of this state, it does not seem to be working and may even be backfiring.

There is much to be said in favor of equality in marriage laws, and Jonathan Rauch says it much better than I can. He has been writing on the subject for many years, and has studied it in depth.
Even a moment's reflection shows the fatuousness of "Let them eat contracts." No private transaction excuses you from testifying in court against your partner, or entitles you to Social Security survivor benefits, or authorizes joint tax filing, or secures U.S. residency for your partner if he or she is a foreigner. I could go on and on.

Unfortunately, both of the current presidential candidates are of the "Let them eat contracts" school, so the best we can hope for is action at the state level for now. But, for Heaven's sake, let's at least get it right at whatever level we can.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Debate Reaction

Updated: Friday, 2:00pm

Much is being made of the issue the Governor Palin did not answer questions last night, that she provided memorized stump speeches that were frequently non-responsive to the question asked by the moderator. To some degree I’m not sure why that is such a topic of conversation, since that is the norm in politics as we know it today, and John McCain is probably the most masterful practitioner of it on the campaign trail at present. Obama, Biden and all of the candidates who have fallen by the wayside have been practicing the technique at length, though, so I don’t know why we expect Palin to do anything different.

There are a couple of things that make it noteworthy with Palin, though. One difference is that the others don’t answer questions because they don’t want to, while Palin doesn’t answer because she cannot do so, and that introduces a somewhat different dynamic into the evasion. Perhaps a trace of poorly concealed panic.

The other dynamic is that the others sort of glide into the evasion while Palin hits the viewer over the head, hammerlike, with the change of subject. She point blank announces the new topic, “I’m going to talk about taxes,” or just announces that she isn’t going to answer the question, “I may not answer the question the way the moderator…” The others at least pretend they are going along with the question that was asked, but then they are not “mavericks.”

The concept of coming right out and saying that she doesn’t care what we want to know, she is going to tell us what she wants us to know, doesn’t play well with me, but then I’m not a low information voter. I suspect there are plenty who are so charmed by her twinkling and “aw shucks” approach that they are satisfied with the answers to her self-asked questions rather than the ones asked by the moderator.

She managed to hide her Christianist fundamentalism pretty well on the question about gay marriage, although her use of the word “tolerant” grated on me rather badly. She doesn’t accept gays, she tolerates them. Isn’t that big of her?

But her Christainist fundamentalism showed in a brief glimpse when talking about peace in Israel, when she spoke of moving our embassy to Jerusalem. Yikes. I wonder how many people in the Arab world were watching the debate.

She echoed the tired old saw from John McCain about the importance of Iraq in the nonsensical war against terror,
And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was the General Petraeus and al Qaeda, both leaders there and it's probably the only thing that they're ever going to agree on, but that it was a central war on terror is in Iraq. You don't have to believe me or John McCain on that. I would believe Petraeus and the leader of al Qaeda.

Bin Laden made that statement in December of 2004, almost two years after we invaded Iraq. It was the central front because we were there at the time. If we had not invaded Iraq, Bin Laden would have no interest in that country whatever. Neither would Petraeus, since there would be no combat troops there for him to command.

My other reaction is that most commenters are saying that since she never broke down and babbled senselessly she was a big winner. Here’s where there is such a difference between watching live and simply reading a transcript, because I saw several times that she absolutely did erupt into pure sense-free babbling.

For instance when she was asked about the issue of the role of Vice President. Some commenters reacted to her response as saying that she wanted to expand yet further on the power of the office, beyond that which Cheney has already established. Others said that she was simply endorsing the expanded role already created by Cheney. But read the transcript of what she said,
“Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.”

She actually said nothing at all, other than displaying a considerable lack of knowledge of what the constitution actually says about the office of Vice President. Her personal pronouns need a little work; who is the “we” that will “do what is best” etc? To paraphrase Joe Biden that, ladies and gentlemen, is babbling.

When Gwen Ifill asked about the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons things really turned into chaos. In all fairness, her question could have been phrased more clearly, and I thought it was a pretty dumb question. I interpreted it to mean “At what point would you be willing to drop a nuclear weapon on an enemy?”

Joe Biden didn’t answer that question either, although he did get sidetracked by Palin’s foray into a Civil War general’s insistence that we were winning in Afghanistan, or that we could if McCain were elected, or… Anyway.
IFILL: Governor, on another issue, interventionism, nuclear weapons. What should be the trigger, or should there be a trigger, when nuclear weapons use is ever put into play?

PALIN: Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period.

Now, read that again and try to tell me that Palin never broke out into senseless babbling. “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet” is absolutely a palindromism.

Said forwards or said backwards, it makes no sense at all.

Update: Friday, 2:00pm
Ah, yes, this is the quote I was looking for,
"...unless you're pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don't think that it's going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the feds."

Um, hello. Most popular program ever, next to Social Security; Medicare.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What Happened, Part 2

This "rescue plan" is like a homeowner who just experienced a robbery. Thieves broke in a stripped the place clean of all valuables. Then the homeowner discovers something they missed. He tracks down the thieves.

"Here," he says, "you missed these diamonds." And hands them over.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What Happened?

I’ve been listening and reading to others regarding the current economic crisis; politicians, reporters who specialize on the economy, commenters on blogs; and I wonder what universe I’m living in.
“Our economy runs on credit and it always has.”

“People won’t be able to get loans to by cars and televisions and electronics, and the economy will come to a halt. Stores will close.”

“Businesses will not be able to get a loan to buy inventory and meet payroll.”

I owned my own business for eleven years, installing machinery in manufacturing plants. I had my own equipment; I had employees; I bought supplies; and I had some inventory. I never once took out a loan to meet payroll; the idea never crossed my mind. I never took out a loan to purchase supplies or inventory. The only loans I took out were for capital equipment, and more than half of my capital equipment I bought using cash. Paying interest on loans just didn’t appeal to me.

Most of the equipment I installed was made in this country. The plants I installed them in were here, of course, and they made things. They were manufacturing plants which employed people who made products which other people bought. Those other people worked in other manufacturing plants and made other products which these workers bought.

That was twenty years ago, and now those plants are gone.

Now we have an economy that’s just based on buying things. What happened? Where did this economy of buying things and not making things come from?

My father once commented about the “service economy” which was coming into vogue, “Hell, we can’t all make a living out of selling hamburgers to each other.”

This is even worse than that. At least somebody made the hamburgers.

Nobody is making anything, and nobody is paying for the things they are buying. This is the “consumer economy.” It just consumes. What happens when it runs out of things to consume?

What happens when it runs out of money to buy things with? It uses credit. What happens when it runs out of credit?

I think we’re about to find out.