Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Crack Down"

Meg Whitman says we should get tough with those who employ illegal aliens. I could not agree more. We could start by not electing them Governor of California.

Note to/from ESPN

If it's time for SportsNation and both Colin and Michelle are absent, just cancel the show, dude. The show really struggles with either one of them gone, but without both of them... It's just not the show. Blow it off.

Quote of the day from Scott Van Pelt, an email from an LSU college student. "Nobody wants to set (football coach) Les Miles on fire because that would be murder, but if he's on fire and staggering through the campus it might be quite a while before anyone turned the garden hose on him."

Now that is a bit harsh. Admittedly there has been some risky play calling, but they are 4-0 against some pretty good teams, and they are ranked #12. They are at home against Tennessee this weekend. Geaux Tigers.

Alabama is at home against the abominable Florida. Roll Tide.

"She Filled Out A 1099"

Meg Whitman says that as far and she knew the housekeeper she hired was a legal resident because "she filled out a 1099" form. Interesting. I'm not sure that she helped her cause all that much with that statement.

A 1099 form is not something that a prospective employee fills out. The employer fills it out annually and sends it to the IRS to report payments made to a non-employee contractor, with a copy to the contractor. If the housekeeper was an employee, a 1099 would not be involved, and such a form certainly would not be filled out by the employee.

She may be thinking of the form I-9, which is a form confirming that the employer has verified eligibility for employment, but it is not filled out by the prospective employee. It documents that the employer has inspected and verified the validity of the prospective employee's identification, and in very specific format. It is filled out and signed by the employer, however, not by the prospective employee.

Meg Whitman is this high-powered business person, running for governor on the basis of her massive business acumen, and she doesn't know what forms 1099 and I-9 are? Really?

That sort of goes along with her record of not voting in past elections. She is campaigning for stronger employer verification requirements, but she doesn't even seem to know what the present requirements are.

Specious Argument

People should really think through the implications of their arguments. For instance, Democrats are refuting the claim of Republicans regarding “health care reform,” the ones about how it “is a government takeover” or that it “does too much.”

“No,” say the Democrats, “by a large margin people feel the reform should do more than it does, not less.”

Assuming that I am one who believes that, why should I vote to reelect the jackass who passed such a half measure? Why should I be madly in love with legislators who created a bill that does less than I want done?

Yes, I know, Republicans would not have done it at all, but that is really weak tea as an argument. Democrats are bragging about being half-assed as if it were a virtue. “We can pass half-assed bills.” This is pathetic.

I’m not going to argue about what “health care reform” actually does or doesn’t do. The truth is that it’s 7600 pages and nobody knows, or probably ever will know, what it does or doesn’t do. It doesn’t matter what it does or doesn’t actually do. My point is the argument itself.

At one and the same time supporters of those who passed the bill are making a point of saying that people wanted more than they got and that they should reelect the people who gave them less than they wanted. That’s just ridiculous.

The Afghanistan Payoff

This is the way our government has worked since 2001. If the citizenry begins to get too restless, begins to show signs that is might not tolerate the way it is being treated, the government trots out the discovery of an Islamic terrorist plot with which to freak out the public and distract people from things that the government does not really want voters to be talking about. If anyone thought that a Democratic-controlled government was going to do anything differently with respect to the Global War On Terror than the Republican one did, this should put that little illusion to rest.

This one was nicely crafted, too, because the “inside guy” who gave the plot away was captured in Afghanistan, no less, and to make things even more lurid CNN reports that "al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden himself signed off on the latest plan," and it seems that the plotters have been attending the same mosque in Germany that was attended by the 9/11 hijackers.

What’s interesting is that this time the standard plan is not working very well. NBC Evening News seems to have made a rather big deal out of this, and all three networks played the government-released clip of a explosion showing what the Times Square bomber “was trying to achieve,” but other than that the media is still talking about unemployment and the failure of Congress to pass tax cut legislation.

Perhaps the “boy has cried wolf” once too often?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great Governator Debate

I swear I actually did watch the Great Governator Debate last night, and I did stay awake through the whole thing. It was reported today as being “contentious,” but I don’t think the writer of that article and I have quite the same definition for that word.

I took almost nothing away from it except that Meg Whitman is not trying to “buy the election,” she is merely using her money to “get her viewpoints out there.” I guess that means she doesn’t want anyone to vote for her. If, however, she is elected as governor she does not feel it would be her job to “boil the ocean.” I think I’m glad to hear that, but it’s not really consistent with her intention to suspend environmental regulation laws.

Jerry Brown says that he could have not done anything about the schools as Mayor of Oakland since the School Board is not under the Mayor but didn’t explain why, that being the case, he promised when running for that office to make the schools better. Nor did he explain how that was consistent with his boast that, as Mayor, he created a whole bunch of charter schools.

Meg Whitman, asked about her ads which has labeled as “factually inaccurate,” replied that she does not accept the premise of the question and not only repeated the “facts” cited within the ads in question, but expanded on them. Take that,

Meg also is really sorry that she has never voted in any election since she has lived in California, and admits that “it was the wrong thing to do.” She did not go so far as to offer any explanation as to why she has never voted. She seems unclear on the whole election thing, actually; voter, votee…

Jerry Brown was asked to assure voters that he would really focus on the office if elected and assured us that he is too old to run for president again and that, since he is now married, he would not be hanging out in bars. Well, okay then, that gets my vote.

Bring Out The Big Guns

I was watching a film clip of Obama addressing a crowd at the University of Wisconsin last night, waving his fist as he was yelling at the top of his lungs about how “We can have change if we are willing to fight for it,” and I realized that he has completely lost me at an emotional level. I was totally unmoved by his words and, more importantly, I simply did not believe one single word he was saying. I did not believe they were true, and I did not believe that he believed they were true. He was saying them strictly for furtherance of the power of the Democratic Party.

"Fight for it?" When has this president ever fought for anything?

Where was all this fist waving and yelling when health care reform was in danger of not passing? He made a few intellectual speeches, but he never went out and waved his fist in the air and yelled about how we needed it.

Where was the fist waving and yelling on behalf of the “public option” that 80% of Americans wanted in “health care reform?” The best he could do was a lukewarm comment to the effect that it “would be nice to have.”

Where was all this fist waving and yelling when the revocation of DADT was failing? He stood silent and let it fail, and after it failed he remained silent except to tell the people who suffer under that policy to “be patient.” He’s not going to fight for that change, he wants people to be patient and “hope” that it happens when the magic pony rides into town.

Where was all the fist waving and yelling about closing Guantanamo? He “gave the order” to close that horrible blot on America’s honor and then has stood on the sidelines, silent and impotent, as the military and Congress have thwarted him on that issue.

The fist waving and yelling comes out only when the Democratic hold on power in Congress is threatened; then and only then he comes out in the full fury of his mastery of campaign rhetoric and sloganeering. This he will “fight for.” This is a cause worthy of battle. Principles be damned; this is power, man the cannons.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nicely Put

I didn't watch the game, so I can't vouch for the accuracy, but I love the writing, and I totally agree with Lynn Zinzer's opinion of ESPN.

Usually in the N.F.L., the numbers add up, winners looking better than losers, but it was possible to watch the entirety of Monday night’s game between the Bears and the Packers and have no idea how the Bears won. (This is only partly because of the brain-scrambling analysis of Jon Gruden, who is living proof that ESPN hates us and who does things like spend an entire Packers touchdown drive lauding the Bears defense.) The Packers did everything better, apparently leading the officials to believe they were cheating, and they were penalized for everything including, we believe, being from Wisconsin.

ESPN is why I no longer watch Monday Night Football. Ever.

Absurdity in Congress

I like Jon Stewart of The Daily Show; not enough to watch the show regularly, but I watch it once in a while. I do not like Steven Colbert of The Colbert Report, and I never watch him at all. Jon Stewart does satire, which is usually funny but becomes tiresome rather quickly. Colbert does sarcasm, which is almost never even slightly amusing.

Yes, I sometimes use sarcasm in this column. I do not intend it to be funny, but rather to express the fact that I am royally pissed off.

For Steven Colbert to use a Congressional hearing as a platform for his “comedy” routine is arrogant, rude, and totally inappropriate. Colbert is a performer, and a star performer at that, so his ego is without limit and his sole purpose in life is self aggrandizement, so is hardly reasonable to expect him to decline such an invitation. That a Congresswoman would issue such an invitation, and that the members of the committee would sit and listen to his performance is bizarre beyond comprehension.

It has been noted that similar acts have been presented before, but that is beside the point. People have screamed obscenities in church more than once, too, but that does not make it proper behavior.

Colbert went to the fields to explore the nature of the work and he had testimony to make that, it turns out, was valid and powerful. It would have served him well to make that testimony. Using the halls of Congress as a stage for his performance was, at best, in poor taste.

A point which seems to have been missed by all forms of the media is that his invitation to perform at this “hearing” actually reveals the true nature of the Congressional hearing process. Hearings are supposedly held for the purpose of discovering facts and, hopefully, truth but that is a sham and a farce. They are in actuality stagecraft, and a nothing more than a platform for the members of Congress and their invitees to perform.

Confusion Abounds

Subtitled, "These people are really, really fubar."

Wall Street Journal at 9:16am EST, "U.S. stock futures rose Tuesday following data showing U.S. home prices rose in July from a month earlier, while investors were also encouraged by the U.K. economy's fastest pace of expansion in nine years in the second quarter."

CNN Money at 9:46 am EST, "U.S. stocks fell early Tuesday, as investors digested a report showing home prices rising for the fifth straight month but the growth rate slowing."

I haven't looked to see whether stocks actually did rise or fall, and it really isn't pertinent to my point here nor, really, to my confusion. I finally noticed that one was reporting on stock futures while the other was reporting current stocks, but note that one is focused on the "British fastest pace of expansion" while the other dwells on "American growth rate slowing."

So the same people who are thinking that stocks will be worth more in the future, because the British are growing, are selling them off now as being worth less because the United States is slowing down. Certainly, if I had something that I thought was going to be worth more in the future, I would sell it now if I thought its present value was... Whatever.

Meanwhile in politics, the President is excoriating the Republicans for wanting to extend tax cuts to the wealthy using $700 billion in borrowed money, but he is not batting an eyelash at extending tax cuts to the middle class using $3.5 trillion in borrowed money. Of course, he tries to make that sound logical by not admitting that his tax cut money is borrowed, while ranting endlessly about how Republican tax cut money is borrowed.

Republicans and Democrats both say we have to cut taxes because "you don't raise taxes in the middle of the recession," but the OMB says the recession ended more than a year ago and Obama and company says we are "in recovery" even if they admit it's a bit slow.

Sort of reminds me of the alcoholic who says that, "Other than that one time I got drunk last month, I've been sober ten years." There's something of a lack of contact with reality.

Obama accuses Republicans of giving deals to business and screwing the people and then stands there and says, "We've cut taxes for small business eight times." That could still manage to sound pretty friendly to the "little guy," except that Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, among others, have been ranting all last week about how "small business" actually means major, multi-billion-dollar corporations.

Finally, we had Joe Biden on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell last night saying that we we are going to take the $700 billion that Democrats won't let the Republicans spend on tax cuts for the wealthy and we'll use it to pay down the debt. He was straight faced and utterly sincere as he told us that he is going to pay down the debt using borrowed money.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Not Gone

I'll be right back. I have a client with a serious website problem. No, I didn't cause it, but it's beginning to look like I get to fix it. I love my work.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chargers v. Seahawks

Well, it was entertaining, but I'm not certain that it could properly be called "football." The Chargers continue to illustrate why the first string should get more playing time in preseason. If they did they might not spend so much time early in the regular season displaying such a complete mastery of the fine art of ineptitude.

I must say that the play of the defense was, as it has been all season, admirable. And with Philip Rivers passing for 455 yards it is clear that one player we did not miss was Vincent Jackson.

CA-53 Susan Davis

I really want to vote incumbents out of office, but Democrat Susan Davis is messing up that plan for me. Not only can I not vote against her, I really cannot in good conscience fail to vote for her. Her voting record in Congress is just pretty much flawless, or I should say, it is too consistent with populist principles. I don't agree with every vote she has cast, but I cannot see that any single one of them has been influenced by corporate interests. Her speeches are remarkably free of meaningless cliches, and she not only seems to mean what she says, she actually seems to know what she is talking about.

Between her and the Boxer/Fiorina race, I'm just not going to be able to "practice what I preach." All this time of screaming to "vote against the incumbent no matter what" and I'm going to vote for two incumbents. Shit.

Alabama at Arkansas

I never doubted that Alabama would win that game. Not for a minute. Never. Not at all. Not the slightest moment of fear or indecision. Never any doubt.

Well, maybe just a little bit, at times. *LSU won, too. Geaux Tigers.

Update: Wait a damn minute or two here. "Mallet collapsed." "The Hogs gave it away." Mallett threw the ball away because he was about to get killed by two members of the Crimson Tide who had demolished the offensive line of the Arkansas Hogs. Alabama hammered and hammered and they wore the Arkansas Hogs slap out, because that's what Alabama does. Alabama beat a very good team. Arkansas did not give up and nobody collapsed. Arkansas walks off that field with their pride fully intact. They met the number one team in college football and, while they didn't win, they certainly made the big dog sweat.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nutjob Coverage

I don’t quite get the media’s and political blogosphere’s fascination with Christine O’Donnell. So she’s a nutjob; so what? She’s running for the Senate in one of the three smallest states in the nation and trailing by a large margin. Even if she won, she would be 1% of the Senate. How much impact would she have as 1% of a barely functional legislative body?

You want me to vote against Carly Fiorina (which I’m going to do anyway) because a nutjob is running in Delaware? (And losing.) What does my California vote have to do with Delaware? What does a Delaware race have to do with me? Does O’Donnell’s behavior mean that Fiorina is crazy? She’s not crazy, she’s merely repulsive.

I sort of get the media’s fascination. They don’t actually do news, and they don’t care about influencing opinion; they go for anything that is spectacular or eye-catching. The political blogosphere refers to the “lamestream media” as crippled and corrupt, and then copies its behavior. Yecch.

"Growing Out Of Debt" Again

Paul Krugman is still at it. On a blog post today he refers to, “a period of moderate inflation that reduces the real burden of debt; that’s how World War II cured the depression.” World War II did not cure the depression. World War II was stimulus spending that marked time until market conditions created by the aftermath of World War II cured the depression.

The growth of GDP that Krugman touts as having “reduced the real burden of debt” did not occur during World War II, in fact, that’s when we incurred that debt. The growth which “reduced the real burden of debt” occurred in the 50’s and 60’s, and it occurred largely because we were producing the goods to rebuild a world devastated by war, and we had no competition in that process.

Let’s make a hypothetical; Krugman is fond of hypotheticals. Suppose World War II ended and the entire rest of the world was fully and totally intact. All of the European, British and Russian factories were in full working order, all of the German and Polish oil fields were producing and shipping oil, etc. What, in that event, would be our economic advantage over the rest of the world, and what would be the basis for our economic expansion?

In the absence of that devastation, and with a whole functioning world competing with us, what would all those millions of demobilized soldiers have done? The world market for guns and tanks, which is what we were building, was pretty limited at that point. Our conversion to producing consumer goods and the creating the wherewithal to build the factories for producing those goods would have been a small fraction of what did occur, so they would mostly have become unemployed.

So, what would have happened in our hypothetical; when the government spending that was World War II ended was what always happens when government stimulus spending ends, the economy would have slowed down. What prevented that from happening was a very unusual event; a world destroyed by war that needed to be rebuilt.

Paul Krugman is pathologically incapable of seeing the lack of similarity between that condition and the conditions which exist today. The world does not need what we make, as it did then; to the contrary, we need what the world makes and are borrowing to import it.

We ran up a huge debt in World War II and “grew out of it” by rebuilding a devastated world. We cannot do that again unless we duplicate the conditions that allowed us to do it the first time. We can certainly duplicate the running up of debt, but we cannot duplicate the conditions that allowed the growth that Krugman believes will shrink that debt to insignificance.

*Karl Denninger at Market Ticker claimed yesterday that the Keynesian theory is “a fraud” because the theory includes that in good times the government is supposed to run a budget surplus and pay down the debt and that has never happened.

He’s right that it has never happened, I think, but I don’t agree that proves fraud. It merely proves that our government has never complied with the Keynesian theory. Of course, based on the evidence that Paul Krugman posits above, I do happen to think that the theory is total crap, so I may be splitting hairs.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stop The Presses, Yet Again

I don't usually comment on this kind of trivial bullshit, but I found this piece to be truly awesome. A bit over twenty-eight years away from my last drunk, I'm hugely unimpressed by people going to AA meetings before their court dates when they are expecting jail terms for drug/alcohol probation violation, especially when they make a public spectacle out of it and stop to pose for the photographers on their way out of the meetings. I also find it remarkable that the media seems to regard two days in a row as some sort of "sustained effort" or notable achievement.

Update: Well, that worked out really well for her. The judge ordered her to jail today, where she will be held without possibility of bail until the formal hearing on Oct 22nd. Seemingly, the judge was about as impressed by the AA meetings as I was. I think I like that judge.

Update again: Well, for a moment there I had the fond thought that we might have "equality under the law." I forgot what huge wads of money can do in American courts. The rich are treated differently in every respect in this country than are people who do not carry around filthy amounts of cash. We have actually become, formally, a class society with one set of laws for the upper class and a different set for the lower class. This is utterly disgusting.

I want to see photos of that judge's new yacht.

Idiots Abound

The stock market jumped early today “as investors were encouraged by readings on housing and capital spending” and decided the economic recovery is proceeding. This is the same stock market that took a dump yesterday because unemployment claims rose to 450,000 and investors decided that the recovery had taken a nosedive.

I’m beginning to think that the only people more idiotic than our elected officials are our freaking "investors."

Safety and Tax Cuts

We, as a people, are becoming deeply entrenched in a policy of wanting that for which we are unwilling to pay, and our leadership of both parties is encouraging us down that path of self destruction.

We want our government to “keep us safe.” We want it to rebuild New Orleans. We want it to build highways. We want it to replace our houses after a flood, because we have not provided ourselves with flood insurance. We want it to pay for our parents’ prescription drugs. And we don’t want to pay taxes. Above all, we don't want to pay taxes.

And so our leaders, Republican and Democrat alike, say that they’ll have government “keep us safe.” They’ll have it rebuild New Orleans. They’ll have it build highways. They’ll have it replace our houses after a flood. They’ll have it pay for our parents’ prescription drugs. And they’ll give us tax cuts.

Tax cuts is what Republicans do. I voted Democrat because I wanted a government which was capable of functioning. What do I get? I get tax cuts heaped upon tax cuts. I never thought that they would have the courage to actually raise taxes, but I hoped that they would at least stop preaching the endless mantra of cutting them.

Paul Krugman excoriates the Republicans for wanting to add $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade to “make the Bush tax cuts permanent” and says that the proposal is “about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.” So he seemingly has no problem with Obama adding $3 trillion to the debt to provide tax cuts.

We want that for which we are unwilling to pay.

I know that Democrats respond with, “Yes, but Republicans want to give tax cuts to the rich and we want to give them to the middle class.” Nonsense. Look at the amount we will be adding to the debt. We want that for which we are unwilling to pay.

Both sides are still preaching the message that the voters want to hear, “We’ll give you what you want to have, and we won’t give you the bill for it.” That is not leadership, that is pandering.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Olbermann is Ignorant

We knew that of course, but... Anyway, in his "Worst Person" segment last night he was reporting on the excellence of the VA Hospital system and said that, "Despite the Walter Reed debacle, veterans report satisfaction with their treatment in the VA system..." Walter Reed has nothing to do with veterans' satisfaction at VA hospitals, since it is not part of that system but is a US Army Medical Center, a phrase that Olbermann himself used repeatedly when reporting that "debacle." The US Army and the Veterans Administration are entirely separate organizations, a fact of which Keith Olbermann might actually be unaware.

It's sort of pathetic that the only time Olbermann can speak well of the VA system is when he is using it as a means of speaking ill of someone in one of his "Worst Persons" segments.

Lest anyone forget, we have Bill Clinton to thank for that satisfaction. The VA medical system was a national disgrace until he recognized and acknowledged the problem, named the right person to head the system and allocated money which turned it into one of the best medical facilities in the country, a medical system that this nation can actually be proud of.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Proud of What She Did"

I don't normally like negative political ads, but even after seeing this one about a million times I still rather like it. Makes me feel better about voting for an arrogant twit like Barbara Boxer.

Obama and Afghanistan

A Washington Post headline says that the White House doesn’t dispute the picture that Woodward’s book paints of Obama and his position regarding the Afghanistan decision making process.

From what I’ve read in reviews of the book, I would say not. It paints Obama as studious and analytical, which we already knew. It says Petraeus didn’t much like Obama, which to me is a major point in Obama’s favor. It portrays Obama as focused on an exit strategy and as being determined not to become mired in a long-term mess there. "I'm not going to do ten years..." None of that sounds the least bit unflattering to me; quite the opposite. I would hope the White House would not dispute that.

The media paints his staff, who were giving him a differing set of viewpoints as "an administration that was rife with infighting." How about an intelligent bunch of people who don't all think alike and who are not robots who tell the President whatever Rahm Emmanuel tells them to tell him. They don't, in other words, put the President inside an information bubble, which might actually be to this country's advantage.

Of course the idiots in the media are trying to make it sound like Obama was an idiot and some kind of surrender monkey throughout the process. Good luck with that.

Misplaced Opprobrium

Only in America can a company be excoriated for deciding to discontinue a product which is no longer profitable. Keith Olbermann labeled the decision “the insurance companies’ revenge,” as if a business taking revenge upon its customers was a concept that actually made any kind of sense. The alternative would be that the revenge was against the government, which makes even less sense. He brought on Wendell Potter to discuss the topic but I turned the television off because that man makes even less sense than does Keith Olbermann.

In introducing the topic Olbermann named the insurance companies who are stopping the sale of “child only” policies, and in each case he named the amount of profit each earned so far this year or in the last few months, stressing in an acid tone that it was in millions of dollars, and making it sound like a filthy amount of obscene profiteering. He’s not alone in this, it is standard practice in demonizing large corporations.

Does a 4.0% margin of profit sound obscene to you? If my investment was making 4% I would be looking for a better place to put it. I looked up the current profit levels of Aetna (5.7%), Humana (4.0%), Cigna (5.5%), United Healthcare (4.8%), and Wellpoint (5.0%) as reported to their investors. They might fudge the profit downward when reporting to IRS, but I hardly think they would do so to investors.

So, why did these companies discontinue child-only policies?

Congress mandated that insurers begin accepting sick children this year, while the requirement that all children be insured does not kick in until four years from now, so for a four-year period insurers will be required to accept enrollment of sick children without the offsetting benefit of the enrollment of children who are not sick. To say that represents a risky proposition would be a massive understatement. Looking at that statement, I would assume that insurance companies would be signing up almost nothing but sick children for the next four years.

The opprobrium should not be directed at insurance companies, but at Congress for creating the four-year gap between the mandate which makes unconditional coverage possible, and the requirement for unconditional coverage. It’s like creating the Pony Express to provide mail service in the western desert, and then saying that it has to operate for four years before it can be provided with any horses.

Executive Order on DADT

I finally learned the basis for an executive order ending DADT. I had forgotten that a federal judge recently ruled the law upon which the practice is based unconstitutional, so Obama could simply not appeal that ruling and order the military to knock off the practice. I could actually live with that but, since I really don't like this nation being ruled by executive order, would feel a bit hypocritical in the process. Not enough so to make me rail against him for doing it tho; not even enough to make me refrain from applauding.

I'm not sure he would even be "circumventing the will of Congress" if he did that. I actually think Congress does want to end DADT; they just don't have the courage to do it, so he might be doing that bunch of cowards a favor.

Advocates of DADT repeal have been saying that he could end it by executive order since long before that ruling, though, so I still want to know what their basis was.

Meanwhile, hold your breath for the troops who are going to be running out of bullets on the battlefield, though -- that was a defense spending authorization bill that Republicans defeated in order to prevent gays from serving openly, thereby illustrating how much they hate the troops.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Still More Consumer Spending

Robert Reich is at it again. We need to get consumers to resume buying flat screen televisions made in China, putting the money on their credit cards, and everything will be fine. He goes on at some length about what the problem is not, and then says,

The problem is consumers, who are 70 percent of the economy. They can’t and won’t buy enough to turn the economy around.

Don’t think that he isn’t talking about having people put those flat screen television purchases on their credit cards, either, because he continues,

Most don’t qualify for more credit given how much they already owe (or have already defaulted on).

No thought that maybe an economy that consists of more consumption than production just might be a model that is fundamentally unsustainable. If you are focused on digging a hole without thinking about where that might be leading you, eventually you hit groundwater and you drown. If you keep eating lunch out of your refrigerator and never go grocery shopping, what happens to your refrigerator?

Every effort discussed on restoring the economy is all about getting the “consumer engine” restarted, and no one seems willing to face the fact that it is not lack of regulation that got us into this mess, it is not “Wall Street criminals,” it is the simple fact that we are consuming more than we produce and we are buying more than we can pay for at every level of our society.

And what are both parties of government offering as a solution? Tax cuts.

Lady Gaga on DADT

While I have remained largely ignorant of the Lady Gaga phenomenon, and have been vaguely repelled by that part of it to which I have been exposed, I must say that her stand on open service in the military has been refreshing. Her syntax is a little weird at times, but her sincerity cannot be doubted, and her energy is much to be admired. I have not determined if she is, herself, gay and to be honest I’m not entirely certain I’m using the correct pronoun when I refer to her. None of that affects my opinion of the person, but it might affect my opinion of the advocacy. It is admirable in any case.

Remember I’m an old guy; my perception of modern culture… I try, but…

Anyway, in a rather sensible segment on Countdown last night, unusual for Olbermann and even more so considering that it centered around Lady Gaga, visiting pundit Richard Socarides made what has become a rather common statement that Obama “has the authority to stop these discharges by presidential order.” I’ve never figured out where the people who make that statement think he gets that authority, since he is charged by the constitution to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” and those discharges are made under the color of law duly passed by Congress and signed by a previous president.

He did say something that might shed some light on his meaning, although he did not directly connect the two, and if repeal does not pass today I would hope that this gets explored further.

He explained that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a compromise between Clinton, who wanted open service, and the military, who did not. He said that Clinton’s understanding in accepting the compromise was that gays serving in the military could acknowledge their sexuality outside of the military setting and would be required to conceal it only, basically, while on duty. The military has broken that promise and begun witch hunts to “out” service members in off-duty settings and discharge them as a result.

If that is the case, and perhaps even if it is not, Obama could order the military to adopt that policy; to require the concealment of homosexuality only within the framework of the military environment. That would allow gays and lesbians to live more normal lives and stop the discharge of people who want to serve their country, and it would remain in compliance with both the letter and the intention of the law passed by Congress.

Hopefully, repeal will pass today and the point will become moot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kicking It Around

Florida is better than they have been getting credit for, although the Tennessee quarterback is pathetic. Georgia uses a disruption type defense and forces Arkansas to punt twice. After tying the game they go to a coverage type defense which results in three consecutive pass completions and the game lost. “If it works, change to something else.” Baffling.

Do I really see the Cowboys off to an 0-2 start while KC starts off 2-0?

Chargers fans should not do too much hyperventilating yet. Our defense did fine, as it did last week in KC and as it did in preseason. Offense scored 38 points, but also gave up three turnovers, and special teams gave up a blocked punt. That was an ugly win.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Distorted Argument

Think Progress provides another example of how the “left,” in their haste to attack corporations, distorts reality. The International House of Pancakes has sued a prayer group who is using the “IHOP” acronym, calling itself the “International House of Prayer,” and Think Progress is portraying that as an incidence of corporate abuse of process.

Amusingly, because trademark infringement cases often come down to whether the defendant’s use of the plaintiff’s mark is “likely to cause confusion” between the two parties, this case could turn upon whether anyone is likely to confuse a church with a pancake joint.

What Think Progress, in its trenchant analysis, fails to observe is that trademarks have to be protected at all times, or they cannot be protected at all. If IHOP allows one group of any description to use its trademark then the trademark becomes “public domain” and is no longer considered to be unique under copyright/trademark law. If IHOP allowed the prayer group to use the acronym without objection, then it would no longer be a unique trademark and the next organization who wanted to use it could claim the prayer group’s use of it as a defense and IHOP would be unable to claim exclusivity.

The other thing they fail to observe is that their interpretation of the meaning of the “likely to cause confusion” clause is wildly off the mark. The actual meaning of that clause is not whether or not the use of the trademark is likely to lead people they are the same organization, but whether it might lead people to believe that there is a relationship between the two organizations. That might very well be considered a valid concern on the part of the restaurant chain.

A similar case was an auto parts store that named itself “Auto Shack” and was sued by Radio Shack. The latter was not concerned that people would go to Auto Shack to buy radios, their concern was that the name could lead people to believe that the two were affiliated. They won and the auto parts chain was required to change its name to “Auto Zone.” It would not surprise me that IHOP, the restaurant, has a similar concern in their suit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Failure To Lead

Obama is at it again. I’m almost to the point that I wish that when challenged to tackle a difficult issue he would just say “no” instead of tinkering around the margins of it and hoping that his base will then give him credit for “trying” on it or saying that he is “doing the best that he can.” This man is taking Clinton’s policies of “triangulation” to unheard-of heights.

Democrats are losing the Hispanic vote due inaction on immigration reform, so instead of challenging Congress to actually do something, or drafting a real immigration reform bill and demanding that Congress pass it, he starts touting the “Dream Act” instead.

There is nothing wrong with that act, I like it and I think it should pass, but it is not immigration reform. It is not even a beginning on immigration reform. It is a pacifier in hopes that the Hispanic community will bring their votes back to the Democrats despite their failure to address immigration reform. I really think that if I were Hispanic I would be insulted by this “let them eat cake” gesture. Admittedly that’s easy for me to say when I’m not Hispanic, but I strongly believe we need to do something about this issue other than just damned talk and tinker.

If a community of people are starving to death you do not drive through that community in a Cadillac tossing candy bars and promises and think that they should fall in love with you.

For repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” he lets Democrats try to sneak that through by tacking it on as a rider in a “must pass” bill, as they certainly don’t have the courage to try to accomplish the President’s campaign promise by means of stand-alone legislation, and he certainly does not have the willingness to demand that they do so. And when the military drags its feet in implementation by saying it needs a prolonged “study” of the subject, the Commander-in-Chief lacks the willingness to simply order them to do it.

We cannot even talk about single payer, or any system related to it, when it comes to health care reform because that would be “too disruptive.”

He orders the closing of Guantanamo and when Congress balks he drops the subject. It has now become clear that American nightmare will never close because our President lacks the willingness to engage in confrontation with the fear mongers who insist upon its perpetuation.

Obama promised to “change the way things are done in Washington.” Did he really think that he was going to do that without being disruptive? Did he really think that would be accomplished without actually having to confront or challenge anyone?

Obama is willing to throw campaign sound bites around, especially ones that blame the opposition for problems. “They drove the car in the ditch, and now they want the keys back. We’re not going to give them the keys back.” Great applause and laughter. But when it comes to confronting his own side as well as the opposition and demanding action, he doesn’t merely drop the ball, he doesn’t even know where the ball is.

For all the disaster that was the Bush Presidency, when he believed something needed to be done he got legislation written, sent it to Congress, demanded that they pass it, and refused to shut up until they did so. There is no way that I want that horror of a President back, nor do I believe that his was the right form of leadership, but the spineless unwillingness to challenge or confront anyone or anything other than the use of meaningless campaign sound bites that we have in the White House today is certainly not doing this nation any kind of service. We need leadership, and this is not it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Accepting Criticism

President Obama, speaking at the Hispanic Congressional Caucus,

You have every right to keep the heat on me and keep the heat on the Democrats. And I hope you do. That‘s how our political process works.

The same President Obama, speaking at a $30,000-per-plate fund raiser in Connecticut just one night later,

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particular derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker.

I guess who he is depends upon who he is speaking to.

A Must Read

Not my normal practice, but do not be drinking coffee when you read this.

Olbermann Is A Twit

I think I may be about done with Keith Olbermann; his show has turned into an hour-long anti-Republican screed with him screaming at the top of his lungs all night, and he has pretty much abandoned facts altogether. He’s relying increasingly on his “Twitter” account, which tells you everything you need to know about the intellectual content of his show.

Wednesday night he was castigating John Boehner for adding $4 trillion to the deficit to create “Republican tax cuts for the rich” and only “paying for $300 billion of it” with proposed spending cuts. He had Ezra Klein on to discuss the subject, and Klein pointed out that only $1 trillion of the added deficit was for “Republican tax cuts for the rich” and that the other $3 trillion was for “Democratic tax cuts for the middle class.” Klein went on to say, and rather pointedly so, that neither side was making much sense in the whole budget discussion.

Olbermann, of course, responded by changing the subject.

His anti-Republicanism has become frantic and delusional to the point that he really has become the Rush Limbaugh of the left. The same night that Ezra Klein shot him down in flames, an event that sailed over his head and of which he remained in blissful ignorance, he had Kris Kofinis on to support him with statements such as,

I mean, in terms of November, I think you have to do two things. I think you have to paint a very stark contrast between these two parties. And I think, in painting that in terms of the negative side is clearly framing these Republicans that would get in as an extreme, dangerous element. I think we have to go out there.

He went on in this vein at great length, and he did everything but wear a Halloween mask. I’ve met quite a few high school sophomores who could make a more cogent argument than that and, of course, Olbermann was nodding and agreeing throughout his moronic babbling. You may recall that Kofinis was a director of the campaign for John Edwards, a campaign that sank without a trace in just a few weeks, and he is one of Olbermann’s regular “visiting political experts.”

Olbermann also made, on the same night, the trenchant observation that Christine O’Donnell, newly elected candidate for Senator from Delaware, wears the same color clothing each day that Sarah Palin does. Well, she did on each of the two days that Olbermann reported on. Is that an impressive piece of political observation, or what?

Things I Don't Get

*BP has set up a $20 billion fund to compensate those who have suffered losses from the Gulf oil disaster, and are now saying that the fund must be the recourse of first resort. Lawsuits may not be filed, they maintain, until claims have first been made to that fund. The liberal media is horrified, but why? It seems perfectly logical to me that BP would require that the fund they established be the first recourse, given that they set it up for the specific purpose of avoiding the need to file lawsuits.

And why would a person suffering such a loss not apply to the fund for compensation, but go to the expense and trouble of filing a lawsuit instead?

*A homeowner in San Diego was unable to maintain the payments on her home. She had bought the home in 1998 for $280,000 and in 2007 borrowed an additional $589,000 in order to “finance a divorce and pay off debts.” The bank claims that they “tried to get the homeowner current” but due to privacy laws cannot reveal the details, and confirm that foreclosure is now in process. The homeowner contacted her U. S. Representative to help her avoid “losing her home.” Why should a Member of Congress interfere in a defaulted mortgage?

If the homeowner had bought a home which declined in value below the price she paid I might have some sympathy; the negative equity would not represent “real money” on her account. (Although it would certainly be “real money” paid by the lender and received by whoever sold the house.) In this case, though, the negative equity is cash which she received in hand and rendered to others for goods and services received. Why should she obtain any consideration of forgiveness on that debt?

And why in hell is the mainstream media making a big deal of this?

*New claims for unemployment dropped by 3000 last week, prompting prognostications of economic recovery and boosting the stock market. Why? Claims were still at 450,000, so the drop was a whopping 0.6% and left the level stratospherically above what would reflect an increase in employment. Sort of like Titanic’s damage control telling the Captain, “Good news, we won’t sink in eighteen minutes after all, it’s going to take nineteen minutes.” Gee, thanks.

*The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has some kind of weird fetish about marijuana, along with a rather odd sense of its own authority.

Some years ago California passed a law legalizing the medical use of pot. Part of that law was a requirement that each county implement a system of issuing medical pot permission cards, which was something of a farce since anyone with even so much as a common cold can get one of them. Our supervisors were horrified at the idea of marijuana being used for any reason in our fair county and refused to implement such a card issuance system. It wound up with a lawsuit being filed to force San Diego County to comply with the state law.

Now there is a proposition on the ballot in the upcoming election that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state, and our Supervisors have issued a resolution condemning the proposition, notwithstanding the fact that it is illegal for them to take positions on pending legislation. A couple of them have gone so far as to say that if pot is legalized in the state they will pass a law making it illegal in the county. That would be a nice trick, since they tried that with the medical marijuana law and failed.

San Diego is pretty conservative, politically speaking, but the Board of Supervisors’ frantic opposition to marijuana is just plain weird.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

The full phrase is “Neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat,” by the way, and I rather like the (apparently unknown) originator’s attitudes regarding food.

At any rate, after having remained undecided for an agonizingly long time, as seems to be his habit, Obama has finally named Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Protection Agency and, as seems equally to be his habit, he has managed to do so in a manner that essentially pleases no one and pisses off everybody. Does he spend all that time so that he can figure out how to do things in the least popular manner?

Populists wanted her appointed because Tim Geithner hates her and because she is strongly and vocally anti-business, and the business cabal wanted her not to be appointed for precisely the same reasons. Obama was nervous about appointing her because he was afraid she would not be confirmed by the Senate; a not unreasonable concern, given that some 80% (or whatever) of his appointments are currently blocked.

So he names her not as director of the new Agency, but as a “presidential assistant,” which avoids need for confirmation and pisses off the Senate. He also has her reporting to him and to Tim Geithner which pisses off the populists and, of course, naming her at all pissed off the business cabal. The populists think that the manner of appointment gives her too little authority, while the business cabal doesn’t even want that snake allowed in the house.

I may be the only one who isn’t pissed off, because I don’t really care about Lizzie one way or the other. My concern is about the whole Consumer Protection Agency thing itself. I like the idea of it, but the way that Congress created it strikes me as a horror. It was created with no rules, but with the authority to make its own rules which will not be subject to review or alteration by any elected official; not even formally by the President and certainly not by Congress.

Just to make things worse, those rules may be changed at the whim of that agency at whatever timing it sees fit, so the banking system will be operating under the volatile and arbitrary rules set by an unelected person in the Executive Branch whose actions are not subject to “advise and consent” once appointed.

There was some grumbling about this when the bill first passed, but it was silenced by Obama supporters because the agency would, after all, be operating under Obama. No mention about the fact that it is a permanent agency and Obama is not a permanent President. No mention of what might happen under a President Palin.

One Congressperson justified the formation of the agency without setting the rules by asking if we wanted them to “write a two-thousand page bill.” Well, yes, we do. They wrote a 7600 page bill to “reform health care” didn’t they? Of course we expect our elected representatives to set the rules rather than dumping it off on unelected bureaucrats in the Executive Branch.

The President doesn’t have to reach for excessive powers, Congress hands it to him on a damned platter.

Absurdity of Debate

If you are making breakfast with someone whom you know is very likely to throw the grits into the fan and ruin the breakfast, do you,
a) take the freaking grits away from him,
b) turn the fan off or remove it from the kitchen
c) wait until he does it and freak out because breakfast is ruined.

Well, if you are a Democrat, you choose option (c) of course.

Democrats have been in control of Congress for nearly four years, and of the White House for nearly two, and there has been a tax issue pending for that entire time, one which has gone by the name of “the Bush tax cuts.” Democrats had to know that something needed to be done about that issue or it was going to bite them on the ass.

Democrats, whether through cowardice or stupidity, ignored that tax issue, perhaps hoping that it would go away. It did not go away, and now it has bitten them on the ass. Republicans are now claiming that they planned it that way, but they did not. Republicans are not that smart. As hard as it might be to believe, Republicans are even dumber than Democrats.

Democrats could have helped their cause by something so simple as changing the name of that issue, by starting to call those tax cuts something else. But they did not, and so now they are faced with the distasteful task of having to renew at least part of “the Bush tax cuts.”
How cool is that? “Democrats renew Bush tax cuts.”

They could have spent some time doing the “Agent 99 thing” and coming up with an alternate plan. Then they could let the “Bush tax cuts” become history and introduce the “Obama tax cuts.” But apparently the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which has been pending for no less than nine years, caught them by surprise.

Democrats accuse the Republicans of not having a plan, but after controlling Congress for four years, they don’t even start talking about the Bush tax cuts until two months before the elections, and even then they have no tax plan other than the Bush tax cuts with a minor tweak of boosting the top rate from 35% to 39%. That’s where it was under the Clinton Administration, so even that tweak is not an original idea.

And when they finally do start talking about their non-plan they don’t even have a name for it other than “the Bush tax cuts.”

Seriously: Democrats have been in control of Congress for almost four years and they have no tax plan upon which they can put their brand.

President Obama has been in office for almost two years and he has no tax plan upon which he can put his name.

As a result, six weeks from an election the discussion is about in which form a Democratic Congress will extend a Republican tax cut package.

It pretty much doesn’t get any more absurd than that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We Luv Us Some Tax Cuts

The word today is “tax cuts.” Chris Matthews spent 23 minutes on the subject yesterday, and Keith Olbermann spent 18 minutes. We talked about Bush tax cuts, Obama tax cuts, Republican tax cuts, Democratic tax cuts, bi-partisan tax cuts and non-partisan tax cuts.

We talked about tax cuts for the rich, tax cuts for the poor, tax cuts for the middle class, tax cuts for the unemployed and tax cuts for people who don’t pay taxes. Oh wait, we didn’t talk about those last two. Of course we didn’t talk about those last two.

We talked about tax cuts for people who vote Republican, tax cuts for people who vote Democrat, tax cuts for people who vote Tea Party, tax cuts for people who vote Independent. We did not talk about tax cuts for people who don’t vote because, well, they don’t vote. Tax cuts are about getting votes, so if they aren’t voting then to hell with them.

I tried to count the number of times that they used the phrase “tax cuts,” but my calculator exploded. I did count seven times in one sentence.

We talked about “putting the debt on the national credit card for future generations to pay so that we can cut taxes for the rich” being the wrong thing to do, which is an idiotic statement. Who ever pays off a credit card? Besides, according to Krugman, a national debt is not something that is ever supposed to be paid off since we are going to “grow our way out of it.”

It also begs the question of why we should “put debt on the national credit card for future generations to pay” so that we can cut taxes for any part of today’s generation. Why shouldn't we be paying for our own fucking wars?

Obama is warning us not to vote for Republicans because they will cut taxes for the other people, but to vote for Democrats because he will see to it that they will cut taxes for you, but that is not class warfare. It’s only class warfare when Republicans do it.

Drone Strike in Pakistan

I am going to offer an excerpt from a news article in The Guardian mostly without comment, other than to underline a few words for emphasis, and to comment that Pakistan is still suffering from devasting flooding.

Missiles fired from unmanned aerial drones have killed at least 12 people in a tribal region along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan as the US military steps up its bombardment of suspected al-Qaida linked militants in the area.

All those who died were inside a house in a village just west of the town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The raid was aimed at the so-called Haqqani network, an Afghan group fighting US-led troops across the border. It was not immediately known whether any or all of those killed were militants.

Note the word underlined in the first paragraph. We fire Hellfire missiles at the homes of suspected militants.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Relevant Facts

Keith Olbermann last night used as his “Worst Person winner” the “news media in general” for failing to adopt a bogus argument for approval of building the “Ground Zero mosque” near but not at “Ground Zero.”

It turns out that the World Trade Center towers actually contained two mosques before they were attacked and destroyed, one in each of the two buildings. No one had discovered, or more accurately recalled, that fact until it was pointed out in The New York Times by Samuel G. Friedman on the 9th anniversary of the event.

Says Olbermann, “there was nobody who mentioned this stunningly relevant fact” until then, nobody had pointed out that, “There were two Mosques in Ground Zero the moment it became Ground Zero.”

Perhaps nobody mentioned that fact because not only is that fact not “stunningly relevant” to the discussion, it is not relevant at all, and for more than one reason. Those who object to the “Ground Zero mosque” do so because it is supposedly being built on “hallowed ground.” The mosques in the towers were not on hallowed ground, because the ground was not hallowed until after the event, and the “Ground Zero mosque” is not being built on hallowed ground in any case, it is being built several blocks away.

Skip the bullshit "facts," there are plenty of relevant arguments.

"Give Me Some Money"

I read a post by Digby regarding the impact that misinformation has had on the public’s perceptions of Social Security, leading them to believe that “it is broke” and that “benefits must be cut to save the program,” and really didn’t think much about it until I read reaction to it several other places. Consensus seems to be that if people really believe, as these three women in the grocery store seem to do, that people in Congress have stolen the money and run with it then the situation is fairly hopeless.

What seems to have gotten lost is an even deeper degree of ignorance. These middle-aged women think that they are supposed to be able to collect a parent’s Social Security benefits when that parent dies! When told that is not the case, they insist that it “used to be” that they were able to do that which is, of course, not even remotely the case. They then go on to maintain that the reason they cannot do so now is that “the money is all gone, stolen.”

How do we expect that the people of this country are going to defend a program from predatory legislators, when it is clear that they do not even have any understanding whatever of the fundamental nature of that program? The premises of Social Security are not hard to understand, but one has to be willing to listen to something other than “we will give you some money,” which is the only thing that American voters seem able to hear.

When that promise, real or imagined, is not kept, when the money does not appear in the voter’s hand, then it cannot be that the voter wasn't listening, perhaps heard something that was not said; oh no, it must be that “the money was stolen” or “we were lied to.”

Case in point: as a fully grown adult you have never been entitled to a dead parent’s Social Security funds, but the fact that they will not give it to you now is because the money has been stolen. These people are actually voting in our elections.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kicking It Around, Updated

A raspberry to those who have questioned Alabama's #1 ranking. Roll Tide.

Somebody needs to tell the Georgia defense this is not touch football any more; putting two hands on the ball carrier is not sufficient, it is necessary to actually bring him to the ground. Did Kansas actually beat Georgia Tech? As an SEC fan, I’ve always known the ACC was a lesser conference, but…

I’m surprised that I didn’t get a phone call from my sister when Utah won and BYU not only lost but embarrassed itself. Independent powerhouse loses to Air Farce? She probably would have called had not San Diego State gone 2-0 for the first time in several decades.

I only watched the first half of the Virginia Tech game. One announcer on the field said that their uniforms looked "even worse in person that they do on television,” but they were giving me a headache on television. I realize this is not a fashion show, but, good God.

This NFL weekend is an excellent example of why the first string should get more playing time in preseason games. The overall level of play was abysmal. Even the teams that were winning played like amateurs; like this was the first time since last year that they were handling the ball. They were not even close to being ready to play.

The McNabb trade is looking like something less than genius at this point. Washington beats Dallas, Eagles lose and, even before his concussion, Kolb looks considerably less than stellar. After his concussion, of course, he looked, um, absent, but…

San Diego in Kansas City tonight. It means I have to listen to those idiots on ESPN screaming at me for three hours. The KC coach is saying that, “Oh yes, we know that we can’t beat a team like San Diego. We’re just going to try not to embarrass ourselves.” Which really means, “We’re laying in the weeds and intend to kick their ass.”

And, of course, some idiot on the news last night observed that San Diego and Kansas City are "tied for the lead in the division" since Oakland and Denver both lost. Sigh.

Update, Tuesday am: That would be tied after no games, BC, as they were meeting in a mutual opener Monday night. That opener turned out to be another exercise in unreadiness, another example of why the first string should be played in preseason.

Unfortunately, it means we will be listening, wrongly, to how Vincent Jackson should have been signed. Legedu Naanee revealed with that piece of showboating when he scored that the team's character has not changed. He should be fined for it, but will not even be criticized. His dropped passes, one of which cost the team a touchdown, will also be overlooked. What the team will talk about will be his 59-yard touchdown, which was caused mostly by a KC major error, and during which he displayed a gross lack of character. Same old Chargers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Deteriorating Discourse

On a supposedly liberal blog one of the posters decried an image used by Fox News, among other right wing sources, which displays as red dots where human remains were found around the Twin Towers after 9/11. The purpose was to show that some of them were less than 1000 yards from the “Ground Zero mosque,” as if that proved anything.

The poster said that “showing this image was grotesquely stupid,” and displayed the image with the post. When I commented that if those people who displayed the image were “grotesquely stupid” then what did that make him for displaying it, I was referred to as an “ignorance troll.” Apparently displaying the image is necessary in order to inform people what the “grotesquely stupid” people are doing, otherwise we might “remain ignorant.”

Discourse continues to deteriorate in this country.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The "Responsible Service"

Some time ago, in writing about the hearings into the collision between a Marine F-18 and a Coast Guard C-130, I commented that the Coast Guard was coming across as “the more responsible service.” After reading about the hearings into the sailors charged in the boat collision in San Diego harbor that resulted in civilian loss of life, I am inclined to withdraw that conclusion.

It appears that these sailors being charged with crimes is more of an exercise in scapegoating than anything else, blaming them for a serious command failure at the Coast Guard station in San Diego. The hearings make it appear that this is a facility where training and discipline are all but entirely absent.

Unfortunately, the San Diego Union-Tribune does not make much of its content available online, but parts of this article reveal just how lacking the leadership is at Coast Guard San Diego.

But that picture was clouded by testimony from another San Diego Coast Guard boat driver who said Ramos’ driving had to be corrected from time to time, including during one offshore mission when a boat crew had to entreat him to slow down because they were getting battered about in rolling seas.

Petty Officer 2nd Class James Helt also said he thought Ramos’ boat driver qualification should have been suspended after that and then revoked in September when he destroyed a $18,000 boat engine by running it into a commonly used underwater boat ramp at North Island Naval Air Station.

Seemingly, the driver of the boat which caused the fatal accident was known to be a cowboy who frequently drove recklessly, and his habits had not only not led to disciplinary action, they had not even been corrected. Other articles have revealed that the other sailors in the boat were not keeping a lookout because it was not their habit to do so, for the simple reason that they had never been instructed to do so. One would think that basic training and fundamental intelligence coupled with self preservation would lead them to do it anyway, but evidently not.

So the Marine Corps and Navy simply find no fault at all when lives are lost, and the Coast Guard scapegoats junior sailors to avoid admitting command failure. Hard to see which is the “more responsible service” here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Trouble Brewing

I distinctly heard the cat throwing up a while ago. She does that from time to time, for no good reason, simply because that's what cats do. So when I finished what I was typing I went to clean it up and could not find where she did it. I searched everywhere, high and low; no luck. Dammit. My wife will come home from work and immediately step in it, and then will be pissed off at me for not cleaning it up. She might believe I couldn't find it.

At least I brought home California Pizza Kitchen salads for dinner.

Endangering The Troops

There is something almost buffoonish about watching the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and the President all frantically attempting to stifle free speech because it might "inflame Islamic anti-American sentiment and endanger the troops," as if this country's military occupation of two Islamic nations and bombing several others doesn't already "inflame Islamic anti-American sentiment and endanger the troops."

Health Care "Reform"

Democrats are not running on the “healthcare reform act,” not even mentioning it in their campaigns, while liberal bloggers are defending it with somewhat anecdotal evidence and unsubstantiated statistics. I can only go by my own experience, and I have no idea what role the “healthcare reform act” has played in it. The quality of care that I am receiving in the past year has declined noticeably, and the cost charged by the providers has increased quite a lot.

My primary care physician announced a new care plan whereby I must pay $1800 per year simply to remain in his care. That fee does include a “free” annual physical, but all other services will be charged at the same rates as in the past. If I am unwilling to pay the fee he will not charge to transfer my records to another physician.

I checked, and our insurance will not cover that type of annual fee, nor will our Health Savings Account. Our insurance does cover normal charges for an annual physical exam, without any copay.

I found out two weeks ago that I need some dental surgery and, due to an anti-coagulant medication which I take because of a history of small strokes, the dentist needs to see the results of a blood test which he thinks I should have been given to monitor the action of that medication. The various doctors that I see are all giving the dentist’s office a run-around, and it appears that I have never had that blood test. I don’t know if it is actually needed with this medication, suspect that it is not mandatory, but the dentist is unwilling to proceed without it and none of my doctors is willing at this point to order it.

So it appears that I may need to make a doctor’s appointment, pay the copay and have the insurance company charged for an office visit, merely to pursue the question of a blood test desired by the dentist. Perhaps this test should have been ordered before this, perhaps not, but all of the doctors consulted by the dentist merely blew him off.

Could it be that ordering the blood test now might be admission that it should have been ordered earlier and therefor no doctor’s office wants any part of it? That question might be reflective of the level to which my trust in the medical profession has sunk. My impression is that if the year-long discussion on “health care reform” did nothing else, it raised the "c-y-a" attitude to ever higher levels.

Idiots Discussing An Idiot

This idiot in Florida, the one who has managed to attract 50 people to his fundamentalist congregation in the heart of bible belt country, who was thrown out by his congregation in Germany, and who thinks that burning books is an act of Godliness, reached a pinnacle of newsworthiness yesterday by lying about an agreement with the founder of the “Ground Zero mosque,” an agreement which he portrayed as a “sign from God” that the book burning was not needed.

He did not say that God told him the book burning was bad, or that it was a bad idea, but merely that it was not needed. Apparently the mere threat of it had served God’s purpose. Although if the relocation of the mosque was an act of God, then why didn’t God just do it, without all the histrionics involving book burning? The Florida idiot was not asked that question.

Now, the Florida idiot’s announcement of this historic agreement, the one which doesn’t actually exist, was probably worth mentioning on the news before moving on to about two dozen other things which are currently happening and which are actually important. You know, things which will affect the future of our nation, like elections and such.

Chris Matthews didn’t think so. Chris Matthews thought that the Florida idiot and his historic non-agreement was worth an entire hour, complete with a "Breaking News" banner. Chris Matthews thought that he needed to discuss the Florida idiot with about twelve different “experts” of various stripe. I watched Chris Matthews display this stunning degree of idiocy with the sound off while I was reading a book, just in case he might display a trace of sanity by discussing some other subject. He did not.

I’ve said it before: Chris Matthews is an idiot.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tax Cuts For The Rich

I will give President Obama credit for taking a stand on ending the Bush tax cuts cuts for the rich, but he wants to extend them for the middle class.

I did not vote for a tax cutter. Tax cuts is what Republicans do and I voted for a Democrat. I voted for Obama, in part, because I was fed up with endless rounds of increasing spending and cutting taxes, and I swear he talks about cutting taxes more than Bush did. I think he sings the tax cut song more than any president since Reagan.

Just because you're not raising taxes doesn't mean you have to be cutting them. Yes, I know, extending the Bush tax cuts isn't "cutting taxes," but... Still, enough with the damn tax cuts.

Book Burning

I am finding this whole Koran-burning thing very distasteful, but I must say that those who oppose the action are in some ways even more distasteful to me than the group doing it.

For one thing they are the same people, for the most part, who criticized opposition to the “Ground Zero Mosque,” opposition which took the form of “they have a right to build it but it’s a bad idea.” They are now saying the church has the right to burn the Korans but that it is a bad idea. As is so common, another’s argument is specious, but the same argument used in defense of my own cause is valid.

I’m a little uncomfortable with high military being used to dictate what form of speech may be uttered, or not, for fear of “harming the troops.” It rather approaches the accusations of “being unpatriotic” that I’d hoped had gone out of fashion, and this nation has never before used proclamations of generals to limit free speech.

This book burner is gathering far more publicity from those who are trying to deter him than he is from his followers. This is what our media does; provide publicity seekers that which they seek, regardless of their reason for seeking it. As usual, if they would merely ignore this egregious person his action would have little impact on the nation because few would even know of him. Due to their endless prating and their needless airing of his face and his meaningless and hateful words, his actions of hatred will harm this country far more deeply than would otherwise be the case.

Finally, if actions should be refrained from based on the concept that they might inflame Islamic opinion against this nation and its foreign troops, then someone should suggest to President Obama that using unmanned drones to fire Hellfire missiles into the homes of innocent Pakistani civilians in the middle of the night should stop.

Update: The other side of this is, of course, that I would love to go down to Florida and personally beat this jackass into a pulp to prevent him from accomplishing this bit of hateful stupidity.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

On Deficit Spending

I believe that we should spend money to sustain the unemployed, and that one way of doing that is the creation of jobs. If we enlarge the federal deficit in the process that is probably a necessary evil until such time as we can manage to find ways to pay for that spending. As soon as can be managed, we should find ways to pay for that spending and eliminate the deficit. "National defense" would be a good place to start.

While I do not believe that we can "spend our way into prosperity," at any time and certainly not in the conditions that prevail today, I am open to seeing evidence if such can be provided. World War II and its aftermath is most certainly not such evidence.

Pots and Kettles

corruption newsPerhaps for the same reason we can't "tackle" ours?

This And That

The title does not refer to this article, it refers to my impression of how President Obama does policy. Chris Matthews was talking yesterday about Reagan’s success in the face of economic conditions worse than Obama currently faces, his guest responded that Reagan made people believe in his plan, and my thought was, “Yeah, but Reagan had a plan that he could make people believe in.” Where is Obama’s overall plan?

“Change you can believe in” is not a plan. Ordering Guantanamo closed as your first act in office, for instance, and then leaving it open and dropping the subject while the military trial of a child soldier is held in it is not a plan.

Obama said that a President should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but every time he looks at some other task the economy of the common man disappears from his horizon. Jobs was priority one until he got an undersized stimulus bill passed, but even then he didn’t “get” what the purpose of that bill needed to be. He was talking about long term solutions, while people were out of work in the short term. Those who cannot house and feed their families do not need “long term solutions.”

After that stimulus bill passed, for eighteen months he does nothing more than pay occasional lip service to jobs for Main Street, until the elections are two months away and Democrats are facing disaster. Now jobs are back within his horizon and still he does not “get” it.

First he proposes tax cuts and lending programs for businesses to stimulate hiring by businesses who are not hiring because they do not have work for any new employees to be doing; a Democratic president offering a useless Republican solution.

Now he is proposing spending to spur jobs by rebuilding roads, bridges and air traffic control, calling for “an ‘infrastructure bank’ which would be run by the government but would pool tax dollars with private investment.” The cost to government would be paid for by, “eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for the oil and gas industry.”

How many times have we heard that something would be paid for by “eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for the oil and gas industry?” Probably as many times as we’ve heard that something would be paid for by “eliminating waste and fraud in Medicare.” I can recall hearing both of those claims used when JFK was in office. How many times has anything actually been paid for with either method?

Further, he is going to give tax cuts to businesses with one bill, take them away with another bill, and encourage private investment in publicly-owned infrastructure. I’m sure that Hewlett Packard is seriously interested in investing money in owning a highway bridge over Mission Valley in San Diego. This is sheer gibberish.

Not only is it gibberish, but in the words of Robert Gibbs it is not even intended to provide the immediate help that is needed for the current economic situation, but “is about long term growth.” The mountain is on fire and he’s Smokey The Bear, talking about preventing forest fires.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

And Still More Krugman

Krugman is at his game of misreading history again, in a New York Times op-ed, which he even titles "1938 in 2010."

He sings the same song; FDR indulged in deficit spending with the New Deal, then ended it “too soon” in 1938 causing the economy to crash back into depression. World War Two was a paroxysm of deficit spending which triggered a boom of prosperity so vast that in the following two decades the national debt shrank as a percentage of GDP until it essentially disappeared. He concludes, as did the Bush Administration, the “deficits don’t matter,” although he does at least add the caveat that they don’t matter “when the economy is deeply depressed.”

He is very specific about his claim for the economic boom of the fifties and sixties. After describing the failure of ending the New Deal too soon, he says, “Then came the war. From an economic point of view World War II was, above all, a burst of deficit-financed government spending…” He goes on, “Deficit spending created an economic boom — and the boom laid the foundation for long-run prosperity.”

To duplicate the performance of World War Two and it aftermath, we would need to recreate the conditions of World War Two and its aftermath.

Perhaps Krugman should be looking at something other than financial ledgers when he studies history; maybe picture books which show the entire developed world as a pile of rubble after World War Two, with the notable exception of the vast manufacturing capacity of the United States.

Russia, all of Europe, England, Japan and China all reduced to smoking piles of rubble; the rest of the world industrially undeveloped, and only the United States untouched.

Perhaps that economic boom had more to do with a world in desperate need of manufactured goods which we, and we alone, were capable of supplying than it did with the deficits in which we indulged in order to pound a good part of that world into rubble. Perhaps it had to do with the world’s need for the oil which we were exporting. Perhaps it had to do with our own craving for consumer goods, which were manufactured here because no other country in the world could manufacture them.

Perhaps our prosperity was the result of a world market where we had almost unlimited demand and essentially no competition, and that is a vastly different world than we face today. Perhaps deficits didn’t matter then, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter now.

Maybe there are reasons for deficit spending, in fact I tend to favor it at this point, and perhaps there is valid evidence to support it, but World War Two and its aftermath is not it.

Social Security "On The Table"

Ezra Klein in the Washington Post, “That doesn't mean that Social Security shouldn't be on the table when we look at how to balance the budget.”

The man is an idiot, or he is one of the group of liars who is using the federal deficit as an pretext upon which to gut the Social Security program. Social Security absolutely should not be part of the discussion on reducing the federal deficit for one simple reason; the program’s cash flow is not part of the federal budget, and does not contribute to the federal deficit.

In all fairness to Klein, he’s saying Social Security should be discussed but not reduced, but he is still wrong. It should not even be discussed. It’s like saying that “scrapping some ships should be on the table when at look at how to deal with the housing crisis.”

Of course, Social Security will be “on the table,” and Congress will agree to the presidential commission’s recommendation cutting Social Security after the fall elections, when it’s too late for Democratic voters to punish them for doing it.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Kicking It Around

Why do so many college coaches give their team sedatives at halftime? LSU scored 30 points in the first half, then went scoreless in the second half and damn near lost. Illinois scored 17 points and dominated in the first half, then went scoreless in the second half and did lose.

Question of the week, why in hell did Navy not kick the tying field goal?

Back To Body Counts

In the Vietnam war the news reporters were treated to a daily briefing that included the “daily body count,” the number of enemy killed and/or captured that day. It lost credibility completely when someone figured out that according to the ongoing body count we had killed the entire population of both North and South Vietnam twice over.

Okay, I made that up, but after Vietnam the military quit providing body counts because of the complete lack of credibility of what was provided in Vietnam. Notably, in Iraq and Afghanistan both we have never, ever been given any such “metrics” of putative success.

Well, now we are back to body counts. In an AP News item it was reported Friday that Petraeus announced that “235 militant leaders were killed or captured in the last 90 days, another 1,066 rank-and-file insurgents killed and 1,673 detained.”

As the blog Newshoggers points out, it was reported by UPI back in March that British General Barrons estimated that the Taliban has about 900 leaders overall, including the most junior level, so Petraeus is claiming to have eliminated a full quarter of the enemy in his first three months in country. That claim lacks a certain credibility to me, though, because he’s claiming to have knocked off 26% of the leaders, while only taking out at most 10% of the fighters, and perhaps only 7% of them.

Further, if his claim was true we would certainly be winning, and there is simply no evidence, other than his “body count” that we are. In any event,
I find the very fact that we are back to military-provided body counts as evidence of success to be profoundly depressing.

Thoughts For Labor Day

Dave Kansas makes the point in a Wall Street Journal article yesterday that labor unions are, intrinsically, neither good nor bad but can be either depending on what they do. It’s an interesting discussion for Labor Day, and it was an excellent article. Unfortunately it’s behind a paywall, so I can’t link to it for you, so I’ll do my best to sum up his points. His discussion, as one might expect from a WSJ writer, revolves around the investor’s viewpoint, but I think the points he makes apply more generally as well.

His first point is that heavily unionized European nations are growing faster than America with its 12% unionization. Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark are all over 50% unionized and are all growing at 4% or 5% presently. He does say that European union representation is somewhat more cooperative than here, and I would add that there may be other factors affecting growth rates. These are all pretty small nations compared to the US, so the parallels may well be less than valid. Still…

His second point is the unionization participation in the “German miracle” and is a little bit vague in my view as it weighs in heavily on post-WW2 growth. As I have commented many times, growth which occurs from a base consisting of a pile of rubble is not very meaningful. People who talk about the growth rate of the fifties as if it was something we could replicate today are either delusional or just plain stupid.

He then compares FedEx which is not unionized and whose stock value has grown 15% in the past five years to UPS, which is unionized and whose stock value has increased by 20% in the same period. I’m not sure what to make of that. The stock market plunges if an oil executive sneezes, so I’m not inclined to believe that stock prices mean all that much, and would be more impressed if he was talking about profitability and net worth. Still, make note of the fact that the unionized company appears to have grown more than the non-union one.

He then brings up Southwest Airlines. Everyone who works for that company is a member of a labor union, and that company is far and away the most successful major airline company in the business. Powerful argument against the “evil union” theory.

Finally, he makes one point of the destructive influence of unions, that being the auto industry, and I hardly think that I need to fill in the details on that.

I think that part of the difficulty that we tend to have in discussing the issue is that we usually fail to distinguish between two very different terms; "collective bargaining" and "labor union." That is to say, we tend to think of the terms as synonymous when they are not.

Collective bargaining was the original purpose of what we know today as the labor union. It consists of nothing more than the workers of a business banding together and appointing one person, or a small group of persons, from within their ranks to negotiate with the management of the company regarding working conditions and wages. It does not require collecting any money from the workers, or at least not in any significant amount, and it is a constructive and healthy process because it equalizes power between workers and management.

Out of that grew the labor union process where the bargainers are no longer workers from within the company where the workers are employed, but professional negotiators whose wages are paid by money collected from the workers. The labor union then has officers and clerical staff, all full time persons, along with associated overhead, all of which is also paid for with money collected from the workers.

The process is no longer one of equalization of power, it has become an adversarial relationship because the negotiators must justify their salary, indeed their existence, by extracting higher and higher concessions from management. Just as our politicians promise the voters more and more benefits accompanied by tax cuts, labor union officials must promise the workers higher and higher concessions from business management.

All too often the labor union becomes an entity which uses the money it has collected from workers to wield power in ways not connected in any really valid way to the benefit of collective bargaining. The classic example is the SEIU member addressing a City Council and telling them, "We got you elected, and we can certainly throw you out."

Just as the election process in governance is a healthy process which leads to good government and a healthy nation when all participants contribute honestly, collective bargaining is a healthy process that leads to economic health when practiced in good faith by all involved.

Likewise, just as the election process being corrupted by power seekers leads to bad government, the corruption of collective bargaining by power seekers leads to a form of labor unionization that is destructive to good business.