Saturday, November 29, 2008


Roy Orbison is, of course, best known for Pretty Woman. Good song but this one, written for his first wife, actually may be my favorite.

There was a special on PBS last night of his night at Coconut Grove. The last number was Pretty Woman, and the group riffed in the middle of it at great length. Relentless, and great music.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ruling the Roost

I know the saying about “dogs were domesticated, cats moved in because there was food.” I know about, “dogs have masters, cats have servants.” But this creature is getting completely out of hand.
molly image I bought a new computer chair the other day. It’s a nice one and, unfortunately, Molly likes it too. We compete for it much of the day, but I’m bigger than she is so I routinely win, and she does not take that particularly well. My desk is ell-shaped, and she crouches at my right elbow, waiting like a little fuzzy vulture for me to abandon the chair. No more hanging out behind the monitor, as that is too far away from the chair.

Remember the cartoon with the vultures? The caption reads, "Patience my ass, I'm going to kill something."

I draw the line at her new trick of poking me in the back with her paw while I’m typing. Trying to push me out of the chair? Or merely suggesting that I leave? Whatever, it’s going a little to far. Lurking is one thing; proactive efforts to take possession is a little much.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Spitting in the Wind

Bloomberg suspects that the latest move in Washington's flailing efforts to save a drowning economy, the $200 billion to stimulate consumer lending in the form of car loans and credit cards and the $600 billion in mortgage loans, is spitting into the wind. As a sailor, I suspect their metaphor is poorly chosen, since that one refers to an act that is going to make you devoutly wish you had not done it. I think that "spitting into the ocean" would be more apt, meaning an action that is completely futile.

Consumers are already saddled with excessive debt at this point and, additionally, unable to pay existing debt let alone any addon. So who, precisely, are banks going to lend this $200 billion to? Certainly not to the increasing ranks of unemployed workers.

In creating the push of mortgage money, rates have dropped but banks aversion to risk has not, so I'm guessing that most of it is going to go for refinancing sound mortgages at lower rates. Since the tax incentives have not lured new buyers into purchasing the glut of unsold homes, it seems unlikely that the simple availability of money is going to. And, again, who are the buyers? Certainly not the growing ranks of unemployed and those who are fearful of losing their jobs.

But what if the push to lend was successful? Where would that put us? It would put us right back into the same economy that failed, an economy based on consumer spending and easy credit. If it wasn't sustainable then, why do we think it will be sustainable now?

We are engaging in the form of insanity that consists of "doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting different results." Except that it may be mere stupidity. Insanity is excusable, the insane person is not in command of his/her actions.

Stupidity is just plain stupid. We need January 20th. Soon

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Laughing at Curves

The Laffer Curve is an economic theory drawn on a cocktail napkin many years ago. It has to do with income tax rates and government revenue and it says, basically, that raising rates provides a disincentive to make money and therefore actually reduces the amount of money that the government takes in. People, and businesses, decide that if most of the additional amount that they earn is going to be eaten up by tax, then they will just not bother to earn it.

It’s an interesting theory even though, while I have heard many people complain about taxes, I have never seen anyone decline a raise or tell a client, “I don’t want any more money.”

Let’s say you are Joe the Plumber. Do you remember Joe, of 2008 election fame? He supposedly was making $280,000 per year. (Actually, he was making less than $40K and owed some back taxes, but…)

He was concerned about the tax increase that Barack Obama was proposing; an increase of the 36% rate to 39%. So let’s explore the incentive effect of that tax increase.

The first $200,000 is unaffected, so the increase is on $80,000 and the amount of the increase is 3%, which comes to $2400 per year. Just for reference purposes, that is a bit less than 1% of his overall tax bill. Also for discussion the increase changes the amount that Joe keeps out of that $80K from $51,200 to $48,800.

What is Joe’s incentive, then, to go ahead and make that additional $80,000, and to what degree did the tax increase change that incentive? If Joe can’t keep, in round numbers, $51K then is he going to spurn $50K? Really? I mean, $48,800 will buy quite a lot of nice things.

And if he doesn't want that $48,800, he can give it to me.

Supporters of the Laffer Curve use the Reagan tax cuts and the concurrent economy as proof that tax cuts cause the economy to boom and tax revenues to increase. (They conveniently ignore the last round of Bush tax cuts.) Their theory is that if two things happen at one time then one thing therefor caused the other thing. Ipso facto. They get to pick which was cause and which was effect.

Okay, temperature rises after the sun comes up. Was the temperature increase caused by the sun coming up? Well, in fact it turns out it was. Here's another one. Car crashes are much more numerous when the sun is in the sky than when it is not. Are car crashes caused by the sun being in the sky? No. The sun being in the sky is coincidental to there being more cars on the freaking road, which is the cause of the increase in car crashes.

Another thing drawn on a cocktail napkin was the scoring system for stock car racing, and it works about as well as the Laffer Curve. It is universally unpopular with fans, and NASCAR refuses to change it.

The moral of this story is beware of plans drawn on cocktail napkins.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Money Run Amok

The public was aghast that taxpayers would be throwing $700 billion at financial institutions, and lawmakers were inundated with mail and emails from constituents which ran overwhelmingly against such a bailout. After adding “safeguards and oversight” to the bailout, it passed anyway. Of course the allocated money is gone and the oversight has not been even appointed yet, and the scale of the bailout is actually vastly larger than that to which taxpayers objected. How much bigger?

Seven trillion dollars bigger.

If you hated throwing $700 billion at failing institutions, how do you feel about throwing $7.7 trillion at them? That's half of the amount that our entire economy produced in the current year.

Having done that, however, Congress is loathe to toss $25 billion to the automakers. My calculator cannot handle those numbers, but $25 billion is a tiny fraction of one percent of the amount of money that has already been committed to rescuing this economy. Talk about swallowing an elephant and choking on a gnat.

Some highlights of the article.
“Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting,” Bernanke said Nov. 18 to the House Financial Services Committee. “We think that’s counterproductive.”

The “some” to whom he refers would be legislators, of course, our elected representatives and, as such, the American taxpayers who are footing the bill for this. It’s “counterproductive” to let us know where our money is going and what is being done with it.
After Bear Stearns’s collapse in March, the central bank started making direct loans to securities firms at the same discount rate it charges commercial banks, which take customer deposits.

In the three years before the crisis, such average weekly borrowing by banks was $48 million, according to the central bank. Last week it was $91.5 billion.

Prior to the crisis the central bank lent only to commercial banks, then it not only began lending to securities firms, it began doing so at the same interest rates receives by those banks. And just look at the amount it is lending.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said he was angry that banks used the money for acquisitions.

“The only purpose for this money is to lend,” said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. “It’s not for dividends, it’s not for purchases of new banks, it’s not for bonuses. There better be a showing of increased lending roughly in the amount of the capital infusions” or Congress may not approve the second half of the TARP money.

Having already gotten $7.7 trillion, how worried are they about the remaining $350 million in the TARP funds? Barney Frank is shaking his fist in his pocket.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Door Opened then Shut

The Chargers are talking about how they can still make the playoffs. I don't know why, since there is not one single playoff team that they are capable of beating. Why think of making the playoffs if you are just going to get your collective ass handed to you if you do?

Peter Schiff

CNBC's "Fast Money" is really annoying, filled with loud and fast talking clowns, and I never watch it; but I see clips from it on news talk shows from time to time, and this one is a bit worth watching. It's rather frightening, and I hope that he is wrong as to degree, but I think he is right as to the nature of our economy.

I have long argued that an economy based on consumption, based on importing consumer goods and paying for them with money that we have borrowed from the same nations who exported the goods to us is unsustainable. Despite my lack of expertise, I may have been right. At least this guy thinks I am.

At about 3 minutes into the clip: "We have to pay for what we import." And, "We manufactured our way into becoming the wealthiest nation in the world, and now we've squandered it on consumption."

I love the part where the CNBC guy says other nations' money is no good because "they're Commies."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

East County Posse

imageA group in San Diego’s East County get together to have fun. Their definition of fun is helping people in need, and they do it in person. They waltzed into a disabled person’s home one weekend recently, for instance, and rebuilt the place to provide wheelchair access. They brought the materials with them, too.

Some 300 of them got together another time and, in 12 hours flat, built an entire daycare facility using $250,000 of donated materials. That’s some way to have fun, huh?

To these people charity isn’t just tossing a dollar in the kettle. To them, helping means giving of their time and energy and donating their sweat to help their neighbors. They don’t just do it once, they formed a club to make a regular thing of it.

Tell me again about California being “the land of fruits and nuts.”

Mortgage Worries

We're worried about being able to pay our mortgage. Not a cash shortage, I'm retired and my wife is somewhat overemployed since she deals with people who have been laid off. Our problem is that the holder of our home mortgage is Citibank. Who do you make the mortgage payment to if your lender closes their doors?

Oh to heck with it. Football games are on.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Military by Consensus

From "Think Progress,"
Obama will not immediately move to repeal the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which bans openly gay individuals from serving. Obama reportedly “first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress.”

Another "commander in chief" who lets the generals dictate policy?

Another four years of, "General Petraeus will tell us when the troops can come home" in the future for our armed forces?

I can tell you for sure, this is not what I voted for.

Harry Truman integrated the military by executive order in 1948, and he did it over the objection of many of "his generals." He did it because it was the right thing to do and because he knew that, in the long run, it would serve the best interest of the military. He told the generals who opposed it that they either got behind it and supported it or they resigned, and that mere acceptance of it was insufficient.

He didn't wait for it to become popular, and he didn't wait for a "consensus of generals" to emerge. He led, he didn't follow.

Today the title of commander in chief is used by the media, by the president and by the president-elect endlessly and with unprecedented frequency, but the president is constantly "being guided by his generals," making statements like "Petraeus will tell us" when something can be done and, now our president-elect is apparently waiting for a consensus to allow gays to serve openly in our military as they do in almost every civilized nation in the world. And he's not going to do it himself, he's going to pass the buck to Congress.

Is Obama going to be a real leader, or is he going to be another "commander in chief" who gets pushed around by his generals? Anyone who wants to be called "commander in chief" needs to be a "commander in chief." Repealing DADT will take about five minutes of time, although it may take a few hours afterward to find replacements for a handful of dinosaur generals.

It's a Nike thing: just do it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Endless Drama

Will we ever be free of this endless Clinton drama?

I’m not against Obama reaching across the aisle in picking his cabinet. I’m not against him picking “insiders” in order to get the best, most experienced people to serve in our government. I’m just opposed to this particular choice because of the drama it creates; the drama that she and her husband always create. No, it isn’t just the media creating all of the drama, the Clintons thrive on this, and they feed it.

Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination and who was in the news endlessly? What did Hillary want? Was Hillary going to be picked as VP nominee? Now Obama has been elected President and what is all the news blather? Will Hillary be Secretary of State? What will Bill do? It is rude and unseemly, now that the suggestion has surfaced, for Hillary Clinton to allow the speculation to continue for so long without resolution, like some coy debutante being courted for a prom date. Negotiations, for God's sake, are ongoing between the camps.

I have heard at least five pundits opine that there has been essentially no difference between Obama and Clinton on foreign affairs. Am I the only one who recalls in the debates Clinton's statements about the naivete of meeting with leaders of hostile nations without preconditions? Does no recall how she said that doing so put the office of the presidency at risk and that suggesting it showed how unready Obama was to serve in that office?

That seems like more than a minor difference to me.

Given that Obama has promised to meet with the leadership of Iran, why does he want as his Secretary of State someone who has talked openly of “obliterating” that nation?

I trust Obama’s judgement and am looking forward to having him as President. But, I am sick to death of the drama and infighting of the Clinton crowd, and I dread the thought of having her and her clown of a husband center stage for the next four years.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Golden Rule Time

There's two ways to look at the Liebermann issue as it relates to Barack Obama. Here's the way I look at it. We have just elected a president who doesn't just talk about Christian principles and the Golden Rule; he lives them. We get to have this man leading our nation for four years.

Cold Spell

Well, that’s a relative term, I guess, as it only got up to 82 yesterday. But Molly decided she needed some sun and she hasn’t been featured lately.
sunbathIt’s supposed to be in the mere seventies this weekend, and then warm up again next week. There’s a forecast for a 20% chance of rain in 2009, but they aren’t going out on a limb and predicting which month.

Oh, and will somebody please tell me why it takes Alaska two full weeks to count their senate votes, when they have fewer votes in the entire state than San Diego has in a single precinct? Not to mention that it took them only hours to count their presidential votes. Weren't they on the same ballots? Weird state, but I think we knew that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Clinton Again?

I am not really all that prone to be telling Mr. Obama how he should be running his presidency. He demonstrated great intelligence and skill at getting elected, and I suspect he will do the same in office. I do not think he needs my advice.

That being said, I am unhappy with this talk of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. A commenter on another blog summed up part of my issue with the choice,
So sick of her and Bill and their inner circle and their supporters and the histrionics that seem to follow the Clintons wherever they go. We finally elected an adult who manages a team of adults and I don’t want these egomaniacal drama queens anywhere near the White House.

And not just her drama, do we really want the head of State Department accompanied (figuratively) by a galloping playboy slurping up money worldwide, whatever the purpose?

The other part is that the position requires management of a large staff of skilled and intelligent people. Look at how well she managed her campaign staff; at all of the infighting, squabbling and fighting for power in that relatively small group that she failed to quell or keep out of the press. Can she do any better with a larger State Department? Do we want State staffed with the best people, or would we welcome the Clinton proclivity for staffing with loyalists?

It would be pretty hard for Obama to pick someone who did not support the Iraq War, but does he need to pick someone who supported it in quite such a high profile way, and for so long? Someone who has never admitted the error of that support and never apologized for it?

Maybe I'm just being overly cynical, but the best reason I see for the choice is that it effectively prevents her from running against his reelection in 2012, and that does not reflect well on him.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Awesome Game

The hottest weather spot in the nation yesterday was El Cajon, just a few miles East of my home in San Diego. I spent the afternoon watching the Chargers play the Steelers in snowy weather. The final score was 11-10, but the game was closer than the score would seem to imply.

I would have preferred a win, of course, but that was one of the best and most enjoyable games I have seen in a very long time. That was two fine teams taking no prisoners, and was football the way it should be played. The Chargers offense made some mistakes, but it moved the ball well on the best defense in the league, and scored twice. The defense was aggressive and hard hitting, held a very good opponent without a single touchdown, and finally was not regularly missing tackles.

We set a record in that, after more than twelve thousand games, there has never in history been an NFL game ending in that score.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Santa Barbara Suffering

There is one place in California where fire is a worse nightmare than in San Diego; that is in Santa Barbara, and they are living that nightmare now. Heartbreaking. Santa Barbara is even more beautiful than the name would suggest, perched between the mountains and the sea.

My wife graduated from Westmont College, and they have lost many buildings. No people, thankfully, but college buildings and staff member's homes have gone up in flames. Cal Fire is saying as of mid day today that the "Tea Fire" is 0% contained, as the "Sundowner" winds continue. (Down here they are called Santa Ana winds.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wasting No Time

From Crooks And Liars, at 10:03am today: John Kyl (R, AZ) vows to filibuster Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, even though Obama has not taken office yet, hasn’t offered any names yet, and none of the current judges has retired yet. He doesn't know who he's going to filibuster against, or when he's going to do it.

No target in sight but by damn he has his gun loaded and cocked.

I used to live in Arizona, and I can tell you that John McCain is actually one of the most sane and reasonable persons in the entire state. It is a very strange place. To give you an idea, Tucson decided to add one lane to their freeway, so they closed all entrances and exits to their freeway through all of the downtown area for a three year period. To add a single lane each direction. You can go through Tucson on the freeway, but you cannot go to Tucson on the freeway until the year 2011. (Tucson only has one freeway.)

Too Big To Fail?

I know the argument about the big three automakers being worth saving, not because the corporations themselves are so valuable, but because of all of the jobs they provide and the subsidiary businesses they support. I’m not sure that I really quite buy all of that in its entirety.

If, say, GM suddenly quits making cars are that many fewer cars suddenly going to be sold in this country? Or will that many cars of other makes be sold? If the latter, don’t a significant number of ex-GM workers get put to work at the manufacturing plants of other car makers? Maybe they don’t, but a similar number of laid-off workers at those plants get rehired. Same result, the number of jobs decreases, perhaps, because of efficiency issues, but not nearly by as much as the doomsayers forecast.

Same with parts suppliers; the demand for GM parts is gone, but demand for Ford, Toyota and Chrysler parts is up. The GM dealerships close, but more employees are needed at other dealerships.

My point is that employment is driven by the market, not by employers. Employment rises and falls as demand for the products provided by that employment rises and falls, not as new manufacturers decide to start up or as old ones fail.

When the market declines, the manufacturers who survive are going to be those who are best managed and who have the best products. That’s not free market thinking, that’s just common sense. If the government wants to help the manufacturing sector, I suspect it should focus on measures that would improve demand for the product, rather than pouring money into those firms who have demonstrated the poorest judgement.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Liberal Thinking

Rachel Maddow (and she is by no means alone) wants Joe Liebermann thrown out of the Democratic Party, the party of Liberals, for his actions in behalf of John McCain. She (they) should look up the definition of the word.
Liberal: Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

I picked on Ms. Maddow, because she prides herself on being "liberal."

Barack Obama, notably, suggested that Liebermann remain in the Democratic Caucas. Seems he knows what liberal thinking is.

Update: Tuesday, 1:30pm
Besides which, you might want to keep in mind that pretty much everything Obama has done has worked. Those who have been second guessing him are, um, nowhere. He might have a clue. Or two.

Protesting Prop 8

Marchers are protesting the passage of Proposition 8 here in California, and I have to admit I find the current protest a little bit puzzling. I don’t like the outcome of that measure; I voted against it and I wish a majority had done likewise, and as such I am sympathetic to the protesters. I don’t argue for a moment their right to make this protest, but I wonder at the timing of it and I question just a bit whether or not it is entirely appropriate.

To the latter point first, Prop 8 is not a law passed by the legislature but a measure passed by a fairly significant majority of voters. The former might well be a valid cause for protest, but the latter? We have democracy in this nation, which implies that those who hold the minority position accept the decision of those in the majority. What would be the result if McCain supporters started holding protest marches at this point? There was a vote, and the majority spoke. Case closed.

Some of the protests are directed specifically at the Mormon temple locally, protesting the financial support that that religious body provided in favor of the measure. That protest makes sense to me. “We don’t like what you did, and we disagree with what you stand for.” But to march simply in protest of a majority vote of your fellow citizens?

As to the timing, the marches might better have been held before voting day. There were a few people at polling places on election day encouraging a “no” vote, but campaign activity against this measure was terribly scant prior to the election, outweighed in a very major way by those who favored its passage. These people are marching in the streets now, but why were they not in front of grocery stores handing out leaflets before the election? Their opponents sure as hell were. People for the measure were campaigning vigorously for its passage, those against it seemingly waited until it passed to become active, to march in protest against what had already happened.

Sort of like shaking your fist at the sky and cursing the rain, rather than building a roof.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Changing of the Guard

The Obamas visited the White House today and were treated with great courtesy by President and Mrs. Bush. Pictures and commentary have been on all of the news talk shows, and I have found myself being oddly moved by it all. What the hell; this happens every four to eight years. And then I realized: Zimbabwe.

In that unhappy nation elections are held and the losing incumbent refuses to relinquish power. The UN has to step in and work out a “power sharing” arrangement, and the losing incumbent refuses to honor that agreement, maintaining office by threats and the use of terror tactics on his people.

Here we have had eight years of a presidency that took executive privilege to unheard of extent, that gave new meaning to the term “unitary executive.” This is a president who has wrapped himself in the title “Commander in Chief” and called himself “the Decider.”

And yet when the time comes, he meets his successor at the door of the White House, shakes his hand and says, “Welcome to your new office.”

This is a great nation.

Noted in passing:
Chris Matthews referred to the office in passing as “the nation’s chief executive.” Thank you, Chris, that was music to my ears. I hope it is a sign of things to come.

Robert Reich, financial advisor to Barack Obama, in discussing the financial crisis and pending ways of dealing with it mentioned Obama, “mobilizing the people to be pressuring Congress to be sure things get done.” Not even a week since he was elected and here is a hint, however small, that Obama might be keeping his campaign promise to make “change happen from the bottom up.”

And I'm going to have to quit bragging about the weather. It's clear today, but it rained almost a tenth of an inch yesterday and the high today was only 67. It could reach 90 this weekend though.

(Obviously that last was snark and I'm still bragging.)

Treasury Transparency

Just before the elections Paulson came screaming to Congress that the sky was falling and that he needed $700 billion in unaccountable funds to rescue the economy. Congress, amazingly, actually asked some questions and gave him only part of the money he wanted, and they attached some strings to it. At least that’s what I think we were told happened; that Paulson would get only $350 billion now, with more later if needed, and that there were conditions attached.

Over the past few weeks it seems the conditions are not, emphatically not, being met and then today this item appears in Bloomberg News,
Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

The Federal Reserve is not the US Government. (I’ve never been real clear on what it is, exactly.) That article, however, says that $2 trillion in loans have been made “from American taxpayers” to unknown firms; banks and financial houses presumably.

Click on the link and read the story, but mostly what it says is that an unimaginable amount of money is gone, nobody knows where it is except the people who gave it away and the people who got it, and nobody is talking.

Except, Treasury officials are claiming that “transparency is good.”

Executive Orders

Barack Obama has released a statement to the effect that he is going to "undo" a great many of the Bush executive orders, ones damaging to the environment and such, by issuing executive orders of his own countering them. Many are cheered by the news, but I find it rather disturbing. The fact that one agrees with, or is of the same party as, the executive issuing orders does not make it any better that he is doing so.

Our founding fathers did not design our form of government to be one that was run by a President issuing orders. I seem to recall Obama promising to abolish the "unitary executive" theory; assuring us that he "understood the constitution because he had taught the constitution." I have never taught the constitution, have never read it from start to finish that I can recall, but I do not believe it contains anything about governing by means of presidential executive order.

I'm beginning to worry about just how much the times are changing.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Times, They Are A Changing

This is a lovely and timely song, and it has some lovely images.

"Come Senators, Congressmen please heed the call,
Don't stand in the doorway, don't block off the hall.
For the times, they are a changing."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Media Madness

Barack Obama has named three of the multitude of staff appointments he will be making in the immediate future, and already Rachel Maddow is having a major case of the vapors over him "surrounding himself with Clintonistas" and asking, "will this be Clinton's third term." Of course, nothing and no one will ever be sufficiently progressive to meet Rachel Maddow's standards, but...

Not having Bush to kick around is doing seriously bad things to her.

Update: Friday, 2:30pm
Knowing that Obama was going to carry California handily, I didn't really pay much attention to the county results in that race. Holy cow, he carried San Diego County. First time a Democrat has done that since 1944, and it wasn't even all that close; 53.8% - 44.5%.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Silly Weather

Well, this is just a little bit silly. There is a full-blown hurricaine in the Gulf, we have a Santa Ana condition (albeit mild) as I write, and another forecast for next week. Is my calendar off, or what?


San Diego County has no regional fire-fighting system; the only metropolitan county in California not to have one. Each rural town has a volunteer fire department, manned by local business people, so until a fire reaches the San Diego city limits it is not being fought by professional, fully trained firefighters. Well, the California Department of Forestry has very professional and well trained firefighters, and some of them are stationed in San Diego County, but they are stretched very thin. And I do not want to denigrate those volunteers, they do yeoman work and are very good.

The counties to the north take a very dim view of us over this situation, since their agencies are always called upon when we have major fires, leaving them short in the event that a fire starts up there.

A proposition was on this year’s ballot to charge each rural homeowner $52/year to establish and fund a regional agency so that the rural part of the county would be better protected. This is an urgent need that has been well established by disastrous fires in two out of the last five years. Just $52 per homeowner per year. The measure failed.

California the state, however, passed a measure to fund a high speed rail line to Northern California using unproven technology and to serve an unestablished number of riders to the tune of $9.9 billion dollars. It won't cost anything though, because it's a "bond issue" not a tax.

Another measure that did not fail was a proposition to assure chickens the right to live more comfortably before they are slaughtered; to assure that they will have room to spread their little wings before they are flung into a machine that will pull their heads off.

Another measure that passed was one to remove from gays and lesbians the same right that the rest of us have, the right assured them by a court ruling in June; the right to get married to the person they love.

Seems Californians don't want anything they have to pay for, and they care more about chickens than they do about some kinds of people.

That thing about the "bond issue" not costing anything was snark.

My grandmother used to drive my father nuts with "These biscuits didn't cost me anything to make, because I already had all of the ingredients." Dad would start sputtering and you would look at Granny; she would be absolutely straight-faced, but her eyes would be twinkling.

Update the second:
Granny was a very cool old lady. Us kids went to her house for dinner when the parents went for a night out. She always served the same thing: hamburger patties so overcooked they were crunchy, sticky white rice, and frozen peas. That was our favorite experience and we always bugged the folks to have a night out so we could spend the evening at Granny's.

She also took the turkey carcass home after holidays and came back the next weekend with deep dish turkey pie that was to die for. No doubt it didn't cost anything either.

She was "lavender and lace" and just fun to be around.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A More Perfect Union

On Election Day 2008 America cast off the threadbare jacket of ethnic tolerance and wrapped itself in the new, warm mantle of acceptance, equality and justice.

Tolerance was the result of a movement in the 1960’s that involved anger, strife and violent protest. It was a necessary and valuable movement, it was a movement that I supported strongly at the time, but it was a movement that in the end divided a nation and resulted in laws that coerced tolerance.

Barack Obama started a movement that united a nation, united a people. Asked why he would not be critical of the opposition party, he asked in response that if he spoke only to members of his own party how could he reunite a country? He appealed to our better nature and he made us a better people. We looked at this man, we saw the color of his skin and we elected him President.

We, the people of this nation, chose this man.

In a moment of symbolism, it was no one state that put the electoral vote over the top. Immediately when the Pacific states polls closed, three states were called simultaneously and Obama was projected as the next President. That was a nice touch.

Better than the happy crowds was Jesse Jackson, standing silent gazing into the distance with tears streaming down his face. I can’t help but think he was seeing Dr. King, and all who marched with him and are no longer with us, finally at peace.

This, not tolerance, is what they marched for.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting Day

I don't recall that I have ever felt this good about the act of casting my vote. Not even the first time I voted, something like a century ago. I don't think Obama needed my vote here in California, but "No on 8" sure as hell did. I went just before lunch, right after the rain stopped, and there was no line.

There were a couple of guys about 102' away from the poll waving "No on 8" signs, so I went over and shook their hands.

I was getting the mail out of my mailbox and my elderly neighbor came out to talk about how excited she was about having voted today. She's been jealous because my Obama poster is bigger than hers.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Football Morning

Even with the Chargers off this week, the local news is discussing the lack of defense and saying that the central problem is the absence of Merriman. That is nonsense and infuriating. There are 32 teams in the NFL and 31 of them have never had Merriman. Many of them have played excellent defense. We do not have ten useless, mediocre, inept, stupid, talentless, clumsy, slow players whose complete lack of any worthwhile qualities was concealed by the presence of Merriman. Get a grip.

I'm surprised they aren't suggesting that the war in Afghanistan is going badly because the Army doesn't have Shawne Merriman. The economy has gone to hell because the Treasury doesn't have Shawne Merriman. Auto sales have declined because the auto companies don't have...

Finance Questions Abound

We have had, for years, and economy that is dependent on consumer spending. Some 70% of our economy consists of consumers buying things. No one of substance disputes that, no one thinks that is remarkable, no one thinks that is problematic.

But, on the very face of it, doesn’t that mean that our economy is creating more and more debt? If well over half of the “domestic product” consists of money being spent on consumer goods, then less than half of the economy consists of money being earned by producing goods, and that means we have a negative economy, one that is creating debt.

No one disputes that either, and no one seems to be concerned by it. One reads statements constantly to the effect that “our economy is fueled by credit,” and that “our economy depends on the availability of credit.” Indeed, credit has been readily available, at low interest rates which were set not by demand, but by government fiat, and which was secured not by real collateral, but by the “bubble” value of a glut of real estate.

Indeed, the current failure of our economy is attributed to a failure of available credit.

So an economy based on consumer spending and easy credit has failed in a very major way, and what are we doing to recover? We are lowering interest rates, trying to stimulate consumer spending, and trying to restart easy credit by pumping more cash into financial (lending) institutions. Trying to restore the economy to the condition that it was in when it failed.

What? Isn’t that rather like trying to get a car with a blown engine going again by refilling the gas tank with high octane?
“My engine done blowed up!”
“Okay, pull up to the pumps and I’ll gas you up.”

So far, this tale just sounds stupid, but then it takes a turn toward ugly.

To date some $125 Billion has been injected into the failing institutions in the name of “recapitalization,” with more promised up to a supposed maximum of $700 Billion. The idea, supposedly, is that the money will be loaned to people and that will stimulate the economy. But…

According to USA Today, fully half of the banks which have signed up for the recovery program are intending to pay out billions of dollars in dividends to their stockholders. Too cash-short to lend money, but they have money to pay dividends to stockholders. Money they received from the recovery program? It would seem so. And there’s more…

According to The Nation, the shares that were purchased with this money are identical to shares purchased a month ago by Warren Buffet except in three respects; the taxpayer shares have no control, they pay half as much return on the investment, and they cost twice as much per share. Click on the link and read more. And there’s more yet…

According to Bloomberg News, firms that have received funds from the recovery program are intending to pay year-end bonus money to their executives in very large amounts. Totals are not known, but just three of those firms have set aside $20 Billion for that purpose. Again, click on the link and read the full details.

Barack Obama has promised to make sure than none of these things will happen, but he needs to be in office to do that and, assuming he is elected, he will not be there until Jan 20, 2009. All of these atrocities are happening now, with cooperation of officials of the Bush Administration.

This administration has almost three more months to facilitate stealing from the Unites States taxpayers by its cronies. In its rush to maximize its looting of the Federal Treasury, it is no longer even attempting stealth or pretense, and there seems to be absolutely nothing we can do to stop them.

Update: Sunday, 7:20pm
And now the Washington Post is suggesting that the $143 Billion the US taxpayer has pumped into AIG may not have done anything useful for the US taxpayer. Putting that money into a bankrupt company may have been a bad decision.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Peace As A Profession

I grew up in the United States Air Force, a good part of it in Strategic Air Command, the command that handled nuclear deterrence, including heavy bombers and missiles. I can still clearly recall the powder blue diagonal stripe, the mailed fist, and the proud motto, “Peace Is Our Profession.” I went on to serve in the Navy, but not due to any lack of respect or affection for the USAF.

What brings that to mind is that Templehof Field in Berlin closed yesterday, and Templehof evokes memories of the “Berlin Airlift,” one of this nation’s finer moments, and certainly one of the most glorious accomplishments of what would become the USAF. That airlift was one of those “it can't be done” things that got done because the alternative was unacceptable.

For those of my readers too young to recall, early in the Cold War the Russians closed the highways and railroads to Berlin in an effort to force us to concede that city to them by denying vital supplies to the citizens living in the half of the city controlled by the US and Britain. The only access to Berlin was by air, and the only operable airfield was Templehof.

Truman was determined to neither surrender Berlin nor go to war with Russia, so he determined that we would supply Berlin by air. The task seemed impossible. The airplanes were designed to fly long distances with few takeoffs and landings, and this was a very short with incessant takeoffs and landings that, it was believed, neither crews airplanes could withstand.

Withstand they did. For almost a year Templehof was the scene of ceaseless activity, day and night, 24/7. Not just food, they flew in thousands of tons of coal. More than a quarter million flights brought in more than two million tons of supplies that saved a city. Russia blinked, and West Berlin remained in our control.

The Air Force remained a proud and effective service for many years. I still remember watching flights of BUFF’s departing at precise thirty-second intervals; alternating right, left and center; each one wobbling in the wake of its predecessor. Zero failure. A scene repeated twice daily like clockwork, and the thought that one of those airplanes might not show up or even might not be on time, never imagined in a million years.

But something has gone horribly wrong.

A B-52 flies across the country with live nuclear weapons aboard and, worse, the flight crew does not know that they are live. At the destination the plane, weapons still aboard, sits untended for hours after the crew departs.

Just this week we learn that a fire occurs in a missile silo that contains a nuclear-tipped missile. No one on duty knew about the fire until it had already burned itself out.

I think I’m glad that my father is gone. I wish he were still here, but I think I’m glad he did not live to see this happen to his service.

Football Blogging

The Chargers are off tomorrow so their record will not deteriorate for at least another week, as even the Chargers can't screw up a bye week. They are happy about the week of rest, they say. Tomlinson and Gates had their best performances of the season against New Orleans and this week off will allow them to get their injured toes (I'm not kidding) fully up to speed.

All of which is fine, but it isn't going to help much if the defense continues swanning around on the field like a bunch of debutantes at the LaJolla cotillion. It's okay to get those stylish uniforms dirty, ladies; the team will launder them for you every week.

Oh well, Georgia goes against Florida today, and I lived in Atlanta too long not to get excited about that.

Update: Sunday, 7:00am
Sigh, 49-10 and the game wasn't really that close. Payback is a bitch. Maybe the 'Dogs shouldn't have celebrated like that last year.