Sunday, October 31, 2010

Funky Forcasting

One of my favorite aphorisms is the one which goes, quite simply, “All generalizations are false.” That includes, of course, the statement itself. The same could be said, I think, of all of the ranting about what is going to happen if one party or the other becomes the majority in Congress, be it for good or for evil.

Remember how, in 2006, we were going to get Democrats into the majority and end the war in Iraq? How did that work out? Right, that victory resulted in the “surge” in Iraq.

Remember how, in 2008, we were going to elect Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress was going to become empowered to do all these wonderful things? That has turned out a lot better for Wall Street than it has for Main Street, hasn’t it.

So when I hear Obama and company screeching about all of the horrible things that are going to happen if Republicans win control of Congress, I just remember the claims of all the good things that were going to happen if Democrats won.

My suggestion is to vote for the person, not the party.

Starting Times

In its infinite wisdom, NASCAR has responded to the complaints of fans about the confusion regarding starting times for races, and announced a few weeks back that all races would start at one of three times. Fabulous.

For one thing that's, um, three times, fool. Not to mention that races start in four different freaking time zones, and that races are sometimes held on Saturday night and sometimes on Sunday. Awesome job of clearing up the confusion.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Babbling Sports Media

The San Diego Union Tribune used to have really good sports writers. Now we have articles by Nick Canepa that start like this,

A large part of this Pacific atoll, covered in thick, mysterious jungle, was previously uninhabited, unchartered territory thought preposterous during a time of technological advancement. It’s like a football remake of “Gilligan’s Island,” with Norv playing the skipper.

The reference to “Norv” suggests that it is probably about the San Diego Chargers, but what in the hell is he babbling about? He continues,

History of the dark region tells us that, until the Chargers came along, most NFLians were capable of crawling out of the swamp. Eventually, they managed to place one foot before the other and surprised themselves by finding their rear ends with both hands.

Yep, it seems to be about the Chargers, but… What? Where? Huh?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chargers Receivers

Everyone is all amped up because Vincent Jackson has finally signed with the Chargers. He will sit out three games and then be eligible to play. Hmmm. Three games? I understood he had to sit three games for being on the unsigned list, so what happened to the three game suspension for the drunk driving bit? If the NFL is doing a "concurrent sentence" thing, then effectively they are letting him off on drunk driving.

So hitting one person on the football field and giving them a concussion is worthy of a suspension, but driving drunk multiple times and possibly killing people calls, effectively, for a free pass. This is one hell of a league.

Update: He served the three game suspension while he was unsigned. He had no contract, was not playing in the NFL, and was suspended by the NFL at the same time. That, folks, is "hypocrisy" writ large. It is wrong on the part of the NFL to pronounce the suspension and then not enforce it, and it is wrong on the part of the Chargers organization to be complicit in it. The Chargers have never had anything to say about this player other than that he is a "fine player" and that "we will let the law take its course." The organization has no more moral character than its players do.

Can drunk drivers and playboys win the Superbowl?

Mozilla Also Sucks

I have been using Mozilla's Thunderbird email client for a long time, so of course I downloaded and installed the latest version of it today. It is a piece of crap. I like to filter out the spam before using my desktop client, so I tell the client not to check for and download messages from the server other than manually. Thunderbird ignores that setting and checks on startup and every ten minutes regardless of the settings.

At least I did finally get Flash installed on Firefox.

Adobe Sucks

Almost every website in the universe requires Adobe Flash Player, and I have tried repeatedly to load it in Firefox, version... Um, whatever the hell I downloaded and installed today. Each try has occupied some ten minutes or so, half a dozen to a dozen popups with increasingly opaque messages, and ultimate failure.

Just as a point of information, no website that I have ever participated in creating has ever used Adobe Flash.

You'll probably get occasional updates for a while in this continuing saga.

Stand Clear

Not only should you stay clear of me, you might want to avoid San Diego
for a day or so, and maybe Southern California altogether. My computer suffered a motherboard failure, and I am reconfiguring a new, Windows 7, piece of... It is most definitely not an improvement on Vista. It keeps requiring me to stand up, salute, shout "Heil" and give it permission before it will do something it considers dangerous, such a running a program or renaming a stupid desktop icon. I can't find the place to make it remove the little arrows from those icons, either; it's somewhere in "Control Panel," which is not a panel at all, and offers only an illusion of control. Not even a very good illusion, now that I think about it.

I am managing to get my passwords and most of my data off of the old hard disk, but it is time consuming and annoying. I am not in a good mood.

Update: It appears that you cannot get rid of those arrows on the desktop icons without doing some rather esoteric registry hacks. Microsoft decided to remove that from earlier versions. Shitheads.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blacked Out Again

The Tennessee game will be blacked out. With 8000 tickets still unsold, the Chargers did not even bother with the routine 24-hour extension request to the NFL. Chargers heavily favored by three, so we only get to watch their losses on television, but not what might be wins.

I'm cooking Stroganoff in a pressure cooker right now, and that damned thing freaks me out. I have worked with industrial propane and acetylene, 2000 gallon tanks of liquid oxygen, 3000# hydraulic & pnuematic systems, no problem. But a home kitchen pressure cooker scares the snot out of me. I am absolutely certain the damned thing is going to explode and destroy my entire kitchen, killing me in the process.

"Heckuva Job, Larry"

Any time I see an article written by William K. Black, as I click on the link to go read it I know that I am about to be exposed to some actual sanity regarding the economy, and that it will be written in clear and concise terms that I can actually understand. His piece today at The Huffington Post (yes, I know, I was referred to the article) was not a disappointment.

Picture it. Financial institutions are failing, with trillions of bad debt. Obama brings them back from a major depression with the injection of some money, restores them to health, and gets almost all of the money back. Obama is claiming to have done just that, and Mr. Black is calling him on it. When something sounds too good to be true it’s usually because it's not true.

The “toxic assets” which were threatening to destroy the financial sector were based on collapsing home values and high mortgages on those homes. The mortgages have not gone down and the home values have not gone up, so what happened to all of that bad debt? First we thought that the taxpayer had absorbed it, but Obama has now told us that the taxpayers have gotten virtually all of our money back, that the restoration of the economy cost us essentially nothing. So the question reemerges, where did all that bad debt go?

Bill Black tells us the answer, “The administration made the losses disappear the old-fashioned way -- with fictional accounting.” He goes on to tell us how worthwhile that is. “Creating fictional numbers and hiding losses at the Fed doesn't reduce losses. Unfortunately, it increases real losses.”

In the S&L crisis of the 1980’s we took over the failed institutions and restructured them. The people who created the problem were fired and, in some cased, prosecuted for fraud. The bad debt was written off. The investors who had accumulated illegal wealth had that wealth written off. Depositors were made whole. Real assets were sold for whatever recovery could be made, and we started with a clean slate.

New regulations were written to prevent a recurrence of such a failure, and these regulations were not followed. Some of them were repealed, but others remain on the books and are simply being ignored. Now we are passing yet more regulations, but what assures us that they will be enforced? The old ones were not, and the ones we still have are not. New regulations are a pacifier to the electorate; we are not even enforcing the ones we have.

Read Bill Black and Google “Prompt Corrective Action.”

California's Propositions

I don’t know how many of my readers live in California, but for what it’s worth, my thoughts of the initiative process upcoming. Do recall that my default position on initiatives is “no.”

Proposition 19: Legalizes, taxes Marijuana. It’s claimed this will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, but it will do so only for localities which choose to legalize and tax the production and sale of it, which the initiative itself does not do. It does address many of the core causes of California's enormous prison population. I’m nervous about the careless manner in which the local regulation part is written, but overall, Yes.

Proposition 20: Expands Unelected Redistricting Commission. This initiative would extend the new system of drawing state legislative boundaries to the US Congressional districts. It would require that lines be drawn along "economic interest" lines. I would like to see these districts redrawn, but this initiative was botched. No.

Proposition 21: Keeps State Parks Open: Establishes a vehicle licensing fee to fund state parks, “making them independent of the general fund and insuring they stay open even during budget crises.” It also means that the people who use them pay less to do so and the people who don’t use them pay for something they are not using. No.

Proposition 22: Ballot Box Budgeting: This initiative prohibits use of local redevelopment agencies and transportation funding by the State. While I support adequate funding for both these sectors, the California budget process is already overburdened by complex restrictions and protections. We need more, not less, flexibility in our budget process. No.

Proposition 23: Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws (AB 32): This would overturn landmark legislation related to climate change until and unless unemployment reaches 5.5% or less, which it has done only three times in our history, and then only briefly. Not only No, but Hell No.

Proposition 24: Repeals Corporate Tax Loopholes: Supposedly would repeal a series of tax loopholes for multistate corporations. I like the purported idea behind this one, but the language is obfuscatory and I don’t trust it. I will not vote either yes or no.

Proposition 25: Majority Vote Budget: This would establish a simple majority threshold for enacting a budget in the California legislature, eliminating the 2/3 requirement for budgets. On the face of it, this is a fine idea, but then they larded this thing up with a bunch of extras like not paying the legislature when the budget is late. Nonsense; there are times when it is necessary for the budget to be late, and punishing grown businesspeople in this manner is stupid. The 2/3 requirement is not the main problem anyway, closed primary elections are. No on this one.

Proposition 26: This would extend the 2/3ds requirement for raising taxes to include raising fees or levies at both the state and local levels. Currently, extending existing fees, if they are overall revenue neutral, require only a simple majority. Not as horrible of an idea as most people are screeching about, but not a good idea either. No.

Proposition 27: Restores Democratic Control of Redistricting: In 2008, Californians adopted a new system that took control over redistricting from elected representatives and created an independent commission to draw new boundaries. This would bring it back to elected officials. Why we would want to do that is beyond me. Did we create the independent commission two short years ago by accident? The proposal is that it would restore redistricting to “elected officials who are accountable.” Right. It’s been there for decades, and look what that got us. It would, in fact, restore redistricting to elected officials who benefit from the redistricting. Oh Hell No.

San Diego Proposition D: Raise local sales tax and “enact reforms.” Notice the latter part is in quotation marks? We’ll come back to that. The centerpiece of this initiative is to raise the sales tax a half-cent to close a 20% budget gap on the city’s operations. Hizzoner the Mayor is pressing hard for this, making dire threats that if it is not passed the police and fire departments will be cut and libraries closed.

In turn the citizens get ten “reforms” in city government but these reforms are, as my father used to say, “a snare and a delusion.” They consist of such things as “solicit bids for private operation of Miramar Landfill.” It doesn’t say anything about actually doing anything with those bids, or even actually receiving them, really, merely “solicit bids…” On what planet does soliciting bids constitute reform?

Six years ago the voters of this city passed a referendum to authorize and encourage the privitization of city operations. To this date, not one single function of the city's operations has even been considered for that process, and one of the "reforms" that Hizzoner now proposes is to "solicit bids" as authorized by the people of this city six years ago.

Another one is to “complete a study” on one portion of the San Diego pension system. It doesn’t promise to take any action on that study, and the study is not about the entire system. How does a study of a portion of the pension system that is bankrupting the city constitute reform?

Hizzoner the Mayor defends the system by saying that the average city worker has to wait until he is 57 before he can retire, and the average retirement check is “only” $35,000 per year. He doesn’t mention that the retirement is non-contributory, and that it includes free health care for life. Compare that to the private sector where one retires at 67 on average Social Security of $12,000 and pays for Medicare.

I think we need actual reforms before we throw more money at this problem, real pension reforms rather than “studies.” No on D.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Stink Returns

For those who are a bit dazed by the “who has the note?” foreclosure mess, who know that it has to do with the packaged resale of mortgages as “CDO’s” but little else, it may help to know one little fact which is seldom mentioned. When your mortgage is included in a CDO the original note which you signed is not put into that package, but rather an “electronic copy” of that note is included for convenience. The CDO could have hundreds of mortgages in it, and the original mortgages would weigh hundreds of pounds. Electronic copies weigh nothing and can be transmitted over the Internet.

So the outfit which holds the mortgage, because they hold the CDO which contains the mortgage, goes to foreclose. The print out the paperwork they have, the electronic copy of your note, and file the foreclosure in court. The problem crops up because in most states they cannot foreclose without the original document. Going back to the originator for the originals would be unwieldy enough, massively so, if everything had been on the up-and-up, but it clearly was not.

In some cases the originals have been destroyed. “For convenience” is given as the reason, which one might take to mean something like freeing up space in file cabinets. One might also think that it was to facilitate selling that mortgage more than once, and that is turning out to be the case. I suspect that is going to turn out to be more than a minor problem.

I’ve read many articles which take a rather gleeful tone to the effect that a) people who can’t pay their mortgages are not going to be foreclosed upon and will be able to live in their homes for free, and b) that the big banks who created the housing bubble are finally going to get what’s coming to them. Don’t count on the first, and let’s hope the second doesn’t happen. If the big banks go down we will be right back where we were two years ago.

These are the “toxic assets” that TARP was supposed to buy up, thereby rescuing the big banks. They didn’t get bought up, they magically became labeled as non-toxic and the TARP money got used for a different purpose. Dazzling the American people with footwork, the administration claims that they saved us from depression by “recapitalizing” the banks with that TARP money, and in so doing got it all paid back.

And the toxic assets turned non-toxic are now beginning to reek again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Keystone Kops

I was describing the latest Charger game to my sister, who had not watched it, and she thought I was making things up. Maybe I had watched a high school game somewhere and was attributing it to the Chargers. No, I was not. One play in particular floored her.

Philip Rivers threw a screen pass to Jacob Hester, who did not catch it. The ball is laying on the ground and players of both teams are standing around wondering why the whistle had not blown. One of the Patriots suddenly realized that the referee may have seen what no one else had noticed, namely that it was a lateral rather than a forward pass, so he fell on the ball.

After another moment or so he decided that if no one was going to pile on top of him he might as well get up and run with the ball, which he did. Jacob Hester had a “Where are you going?” reaction and then decided to chase him. It should have been no contest, a fullback chasing a linebacker, but…

One of our offensive lineman finally caught up with him, but apparently they don’t teach tackling skills to offensive linemen. Maybe he should have thought of it as “holding,” they do know how to do that. Finally, after running 63 yards, the guy was tackled at our eight yard line by Philip Rivers. It was a nice tackle, too; quarterbacks know how to do everything.

Well, everything except throw screen passes forward.

The Mortgage "Rework"

Paul Krugman is asking why, after HAMP has been such a failure, there has been no second attempt to rework mortgages and "keep people in their homes." He is baffled why HAMP itself was such a failure as well. "[T]he money wasn’t even being spent," he bemoans.

Does it not occur to him that if banks cannot foreclose, then they probably cannot "rework" either? They haven't been able to rework these mortgages because they haven't been able to figure out who is actually holding them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Generational Voices

Chris Matthews makes much of the racism in today’s politics, especially in the Tea Party, and is worried about that reflects upon the direction that this nation is going. He’s concerned that the election of Barack Obama was not the step forward that we hoped it would be.

I think it was. While I am not going to assert that we are where we need to be, I believe that we have made more progress than is visible at this moment, and that what we are seeing is the last gasp of the older generation. Look at the Tea Party rallies, with their signs of bigotry and anger; there are damned few young people in them. This is a geriatric crowd, with a few self-serving demagogues stoking their fear.

Young people do not feel the same way that the older generation does, and it was in large part the younger generation that elected Barack Obama.

It is the nature of things that when the young bull challenges the old bull, the old bull fights back, and I think that is what we are seeing now. In nature the old bull often wins the first battle, but it never wins the last one.

There is a movie, one of my favorites, Remember the Titans. It is a story of young men of different races placed together in common cause of playing football and overcoming the division of bigotry. That movie is fiction, but I have seen it happen in real life. When people are placed together, working together to achieve a common goal, they learn that they are not different.

That is what civil rights legislation and affirmative action are all about. They are not the solution themselves, but are a necessary step toward the solution. They place people together. In schools they place children together with the common goal of learning, and they allow them to learn that they are not different. In the workplace they place people together with the common goal of the working environment.

Viewed as the solution, such legislation can be seen as failure; we have it in place and the social environment is not where we want it to be. Seen as a tool for creating the solution, these things are working, because our social environment is changing for the better.

Tomorrow’s social voice is already starting to be heard; it made itself heard in the election of 2008. While the old bull is fighting back now, we have heard the voice of the future and we know what it says.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kicking it Around

For the third week in a row the #1 team lost, which illustrates the true value of the ranking systems. The BCS is the worst of them, but...

LSU lost to a better team and a quarterback that should win a Heisman. No hinky coaching this week, other than that idiotic rotating quarterback thing. Well, there is the small issue of LSU mostly running the ball against an Auburn defense that gave up 400 yards against Alabama's passing game. Les Miles might want to keep a low profile for a while yet. Still, a defense that gives up 86 rushing yards per game gave up 217 yards to Cameron Newton alone, 440 overall.

San Diego State has two players, the quarterback and the punter, who both wear the number 14. I have never noticed a college team where two players, both in the playing rotation, wear the same number. What's with that?

The Chargers play at home today and, with their 2-4 record, no running game and top three receivers injured, are actually favored by 3 points over the 4-1 Patriots. What idiot determines these point spreads? I'm not saying they won't win, I've learned never to predict what this damned team will do, I'm just wondering why anyone thinks they will.

Update: Well, the Chargers keep finding new ways to lose. No problem on special teams, and the defense was nothing short of spectacular. The offense defied description, so I won't even try.

Overheard during the Kansas City game; the "analysts" discussing the league's new policy on severe hitting. One of them observed that part of the problem was due to quarterbacks. The way they are throwing the ball, he said, is "leading the receivers into those head-to-head collisions." Sometimes I think those guys are just empty heads; somebody pours a dictionary in, and the words just come pouring out at random.

I'll be glad when October is over and we no longer have to be seeing football players wearing pink shoes and gloves. I'm all in favor of fighting dread diseases, but heart disease kills more women than cancer does, and it kills more men than it does women. What color does the NFL wear for that, and for how long? What color does it wear for men and women dying in foreign wars?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fixing What Ain't Broke

The Washington Post ran an article yesterday that shed some light on why Democrats are not running on the wonderfulness of “health care reform” they passed last year. In a nutshell, after almost a full year of relentlessly selling it to the public, it remains significantly more unpopular in the public’s view, with 48% thinking it was a bad idea, than popular, with only 32% thinking it a good idea. There’s no point arguing the precise merits of the reform; that 48% thinks it was a bad idea to do it at all.

These numbers are almost precisely the same as numbers that the measure polled during the contentious debate prior to passage of the bill. Even while Congress was in the business of debating the reform, polls were trying to tell Congress that details didn’t really matter, 48% of the country did not want them even doing this at all.

The polls don’t address the “why” of the good idea/bad idea issue, and article goes on to explain that the reform plays in to the Tea Party’s “big government” mantra. I’m not sure that is really the issue, because nowhere near 48% of the general public subscribes to that mantra. I think the issue was and is unpopular simply because it was the wrong issue to address. Jobs and the Main Street economy have been the number one issue, and Congress dealt with the Wall Street economy, and “health care reform.”

It’s rather like you took your car into a shop and told them to repair a blown head gasket in the engine and they ignored that problem and rebuilt the transmission. You would be pretty angry. Yes the transmission did need some work, but the new transmission does you no damned good if the car won’t run because the head gasket is still blown.

The upshot is they made 10 million people happy because they now have health insurance, or will have four years from now if they can afford to pay for it, and they pissed off 30 million people who still don’t have jobs, and another 50 million who are still underemployed and are still worried about losing their jobs. In my book, making 10 people happy while pissing 80 people off is not a winning formula.

So now all that Democrats can run on is an increasingly shrill fear mongering campaign of how badly the Republicans will botch the job if we elect them to run the country. This from the gang that repaired the transmission in my car and left the engine dysfunctional.

Who's calling who a "snake oil salesman" here?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dishonest Tax Discussion

Lawrence O’Donnell conducted a discussion on balancing the federal budget on his show The Last Word last night and, after criticizing current politicians for being unable to talk openly and honestly about the topic, he hosted as thoroughly an incoherent and dishonest discussion as I have ever heard held on any topic. Sorry, no link to it. His show is not online.

They started by saying that we should cut $300 billion from the defense budget and lost credibility with me right there. If they were serious about balancing the budget that number should have been far larger. While our defense budget is only $700 billion, all told we spend almost $1 trillion on defense, nearly ten times what is expended by the world’s next largest spender, and you cannot convince me that 70% of that is actually needed.

O’Donnell then disingenuously said, “We were not mandated to fix Social Security, but…” and they proceeded to include Social Security in the discussion of balancing the federal budget. They made statements such as, “We cannot get a grip of the federal deficit without fixing Social Security," and that at some point “Social Security, Medicare and payment on interest on the debt will consume 100% of federal revenue.” Both of these statements are utterly false, and O’Donnell did not challenge either the statements or the premise behind them.

Social Security is a self-funded program, funding for which is provided by payroll deduction separate from the federal revenue stream and held in a trust fund dedicated to paying benefits to participants in that program. It may indeed need some adjustment, but that is a conversation entirely separate from the federal deficit, and anyone conflating the two either does not know what he is talking about or is lying through his teeth.

These fatheads even made reference to the self-funded nature of Social Security, and then returned to the falsity of discussion by saying that we needed to assure foreign investors that we had “gotten control of our federal spending, including Social Security, Medicare and defense.”

They made much of the fact that they had left the Bush tax cuts in place, including the ones for the upper income brackets, and that they had therefor “not raised taxes,” and then casually mentioned that their program included health care benefits from employers as taxable income. News flash; that is a tax increase, and quite a large one. Not only is it an increase, but the burden of it falls far more heavily on lower tax brackets than on the wealthy, because everyone pays the same amount for health care benefits, and so it is a far smaller percentage for the wealthy.

One of the fatheads even bragged that the feature “brings in huge amounts to reduce the cost of health care.” The fact that it “brings in huge amounts” is evidence that it is a significant tax increase, and it does not “reduce the cost of health care.” Raising money to pay for something does not reduce the cost of it, it merely pays that high cost.

They also added a $1/gal tax on gasoline because of the belief that a “consumption tax is far less destructive to the economy than a tax on income.” Where did this idiot park his brain? We are, supposedly, trying to get consumers to buy more goods and services, and you believe that taxing those purchases is “less destructive to the economy” than a progressive income tax? Really? What planet do you live on?

They agreed that raising taxes in a recession was a bad idea so they didn’t raise taxes, except on income that consists of health care benefits, and on consumption that consists of driving to work and to the store to buy things.

They did note that some things don’t take effect until 2013. Why? Because, “We hope that the economy will have recovered by then.” I have a plan for you. Hold out both hands. Have your dog crap in one hand and hope like crazy in the other and see which one fills up first.

Chris Matthews is Trivial

I’ve been watching Hardball with an unidentified sense of distaste this week, and yesterday it struck me what my issue with the show has been. Chris Matthews is treating the election as if it were some sort of college sporting contest rather than as a matter of national governance. He has had the show complete with crowds of cheering college students, brass bands and cheerleaders waving pompoms. He shows us the “Hardball Scoreboard” daily, and discusses who is using what tactics.

Every day we get the latest gossip and discussion of the shocking behavior of Christine O’Donnell, a candidate in Delaware who is trailing in her race by stratospheric numbers and has absolutely no chance of winning a seat in the Senate. We get the latest polls, and who is winning the highest percentage of female voters who live on the first floor of multistory buildings on the west side of the street in states with names ending in the letter “o.”

This is not about who is going to rack up the most points on November second, Chris, this is about who is going to govern our nation. We don’t need cheerleaders and scoreboards, we need discussion of serious issues.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Democratic Demographic Plots

There is a certain punditry class who believes the Proposition 19, which would to some extent legalize marijuana, is a plot by Democrats to energize the young voting demographic that elected Barack Obama and help keep Barbara Boxer in office. I have to say that I am vaguely disturbed by the implication that Obama was elected by pot smokers, but I can’t really say that I give a particular damn how Obama got elected and am just glad that he did. I’m less concerned with Boxer’s fate; I’ll vote for her, even though I'm not a pot smoker, but not with any great enthusiasm.

Then here comes Attorney General Holder speaking in California against Prop 19, and these same pundits see an even deeper plot evolving. They believe that the current plan is that Democrats want Prop 19 to fail so that they can put it on the ballot again in 2012 and energize the youthful, pot smoking demographic two national elections in a row.

I’m not really buying it. I don’t think Democrats are capable of thinking that far ahead.

Why Not Foreclose?

I have been listening for a couple of years now to discussions of homeowners who are “underwater” on their home mortgages and struggling to make their house payments, and how lenders should accommodate them with lower payments and should lower the principal of the loan since the value of the home has decreased.

Mike Shedlock has a post yesterday addressing the question and offers the following as a reason why lenders should not reduce the principal, actually the only reason he offers. He may be saying this is worth thinking about in addition to the obvious reasons, but he doesn’t make that very clear.

Here's the real deal: If lenders gave loan modifications to everyone who was seriously underwater, it would openly invite everyone who was underwater to stop paying their mortgages.

It’s a good point, but my question is, why is anyone suggesting that the lender reduce the principal in the first place? That lender paid out that money in the form of hard cash to the person who sold the house, on behalf of the person who bought it. The present homeowner took that money to pay the seller, so why should he not be required to pay it back? If the present homeowner thinks he was “ripped off” on the value of the home then he should go after the seller for recovery, not the lender.

When someone buys a car, it depreciates. The moment you drive it off the car lot it is worth less than you paid for it. Are you then going to go to the bank and demand a loan reduction because the car is worth less than you owe on it? Of course not. If you bought stocks which declined in value, would you demand your money back? Of course not.

The problem is that we are letting emotion get in the way of sensibility. A homeowner and a lender are two sides of a business equation; nothing more, nothing less. It is utterly absurd to suggest that in the middle of the term of that business deal one side of the equation should surrender a portion of its equity in the deal because the other side cannot meet the requirements of the deal.

A Few Comments

*To Juan Williams, NPR unemployed, when someone starts a statement by saying that he is not a bigot, as with the following on Bill O'Reilly, I know that I am about to hear an example of raging bigotry.

I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Is my point made?

*To the San Diego Chargers, whose record is a pathetic 2-4 at the conclusion of the “easy part” of their schedule, and who face the New England Patriots this weekend, one method of scoring early in the game
is by running the ball.

The Chargers are not nearly as balanced on offense as they want to be, almost entirely because they keep falling behind on the road.

Their problem is not that they are not "getting a chance" to run the ball, their problem is that they are flubbing around and not running the ball in the first quarter and not scoring, letting the other team get a lead. They are not as balanced as they want to be because they cannot run the freaking ball.

*To Chris Matthews, and others, who are angrily denouncing that, “Bush bailed out the banks.”

You fail to mention that it was a Democratic Congress that passed the bill, nor do you mention that Obama took time during his presidential campaign to lobby for passage of that bill and to vote in favor of it.

At least he didn’t “suspend” his campaign and bail out on David Letterman to go to Washington in its behalf.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Years Ago

Three years ago this week we were having fires that destroyed hundreds
of homes and killed several people. This year we had two days of almost continuous rain. I don't know what that means, probably nothing, but needless to say I prefer the rain.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NBA Thought

Lawrence O'Donnell had a beautiful guy on his show last night who brought tears to my eyes and evoked a sad thought. There is a whole generation of grown adults who have never seen Bill Russell play basketball. They have no idea what they have missed.

Food Blogging

I came across this recipe in the San Diego Union-Tribune a couple of weeks ago. Despite liking all of the ingredients, it looked kind of weird to me, but interesting. I made it last night and it's, like, "Wow."

It served the two of us, with leftover for my wife to take for lunch today.

Shrimp with Bacon & Spinach
4 slices Bacon
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 med Yellow Onion, diced medium
1 can, diced Tomatoes (15 oz)
1 bag, Baby Spinach, chopped coarse
1-1/2 lbs, medium Shrimp

Cook bacon until crisp and set aside. Add garlic and onion to skillet, season with salt and pepper, cook until onion soft. Add tomatoes and spinach, simmer until spinach is soft. Transfer to bowl. Wipe skillet clean.

Cook shrimp in skillet with oil, salt and pepper for a couple of minutes, then return spinach/tomato mixture to skillet and cook until shrimp are done.

Serve over rice, topped with crumbled bacon.

I used the "petite diced" tomatoes, and didn't put the whole can in; maybe 2/3 of it. I took the time to pick all of the stems off of the spinach ahead of cooking, and it was time well spent.

Spending Causes Debt

In a continuation of yesterday's thought, the proper action, I think, is to have the courage of conviction. Come right out and say that one believes, as I in fact do, that Obama is handling this mostly the right way. I have plenty of disagreement with Obama, but this isn't one of them.

Yes, he has increased spending and, yes, he has increased the debt; those were not only the proper actions, they were necessary and critical actions and I approve completely of him taking them. I am not going to hide behind some weaselly half truths about how spending didn't cause the debt, or Obama didn't cause the spending. It did, he did, and I approve. He could have done it a bit more and I would have been more approving.

I've never said I disagreed with Krugman's theories, although I'm not entirely sure that I do agree with them; my criticisms have been of his "proofs," which are mostly nonsensical.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spending Doesn't Cause Debt

Paul Krugman is at it again. He is critical of Obama for “missing opportunities,” so you cannot accuse him of being an Obamatron. What he is seems to be is such a staunch defender of government spending that he can claim, with a completely straight face, that it does not cause deficits. He can even claim that it has not “surged” during the Obama term.

The precise meaning of the term “surge” is a little difficult to pin down. Thirty thousand additional troops in Iraq is a “surge,” but in Afghanistan it’s not, so he can probably back out of any accusation that he’s full of shit. Without judging whether an increase is worthwhile or not, if annual government spending was $4.8 trillion when Obama took office, and it’s $5.3 trillion now, it has certainly increased under Obama, surge or not.

The point I’ve marked on the graph here certainly looks like a “surge” to me.
And in any case, he is not refuting the deficit argument with this spending claim, he’s merely changing the subject. In response to a charge of “Obama is increasing the deficit,” Krugman counters that “He didn’t increase government spending,” which is neither accurate nor to the point.

First of all, look at that graph. Does it look to you like spending is going down? The slope of that line in Obama’s time is precisely the same as it was during the time of Bush. Revenue was increasing or level during Bush, and it’s falling during Obama, so Obama is increasing the deficit much faster than Bush did because he is ignoring falling revenue in deciding how much to spend.

This may be necessary, even desirable, but let’s not look at government spending that has increased by 10.4% and say that “Obama has not increased government spending.”

An ostrich with its head in the sand gets its butt kicked.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Question For NFL

It is now beginning to appear that, of the eight games they play in their home stadium this season, only one game of the San Diego Chargers will be shown on television in this city. The Chargers are trying to get the city to approve a new stadium, to be paid for with city taxes. Here's the question.

How many taxpayers who are denied permission to watch games played in the stadium do the Chargers think will vote in favor of it?

Update, Sunday evening: Although if the Chargers lose a majority of those games, the blackout issue may become moot.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

So There

funny pictures of cats with captions

Legalizing Pot

I usually vote “no” on initiatives, unless compelling evidence is produced to convince me otherwise. That is, of course, unless the initiative is cleverly written to take effect in the event of a majority of “no” votes, in which case
I vote “yes.” My reason is that initiatives are almost always sponsored by special interests and do not serve the best interest of the people at large, and even when they are generally well meant they are almost always so poorly written that they will not actually serve the purpose that is intended.

My view of Proposition 19 is decidedly mixed. I like the idea that it will save the cost of incarcerating all of those recreational pot smokers, something that has always struck me as serving very little useful purpose. I like the idea that we can raise some taxes from it, although doing so on a carte blanche localized basis seems a bit careless to me. I would have been a little happier if the writers of this initiative had formalized the taxation part just a skosh more. I’m not thrilled with the idea that it will attract tourists, nor with that “we will become the next Amsterdam” thing. Being “the land of fruits and nuts” is one thing, being “the land of fruits, nuts and dope” is maybe not quite as cool. Or maybe it’s a bit too cool.

I'm not persuaded by arguments of curtailing the drug wars, either. If you're going to put drug runners out of business, it's going to take more than cutting their income by the 2% to 20% that is being touted. Two percent?

Obviously I’m not particularly outraged per se by stoners being enabled to do their thing, though, although the federal government certainly seems to have its collective tail over the dashboard on the issue. That puts a couple more coats of paint on the proposition.

Having a state law which is in direct conflict with a federal law invites chaos, and that is sort of intrinsically not a good idea. On the other hand, there is always something a bit attractive about a state giving the finger, figuratively speaking, to the federal government. We, among other states, have done that with medical marijuana laws and they have gotten sort of pink in the face about it; have sort of sputtered and issued some threats, but have not yet really lost their cool. Maybe we should pass this initiative and see if we can make the feds come completely unglued.

Att'y General Holder has sort of dared us, see here, to do precisely that.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bizarre Ballots

Dave Weigel comes up with reasons why Democrats are attacking the Chamber of Commerce and its purported use of “foreign money,” and in the process makes a statement that to me illustrates just how utterly bizarre our electoral process really is,

Voters hate watching these ads. Yes, negative ads work. But voters, of their own volition, have expressed confusion and anger about negative ads at events for Democrats and Republicans that I've been covering.

If voters hate the ads so badly, then why are they voting for the politicians who are running the ads? They are doing so, as evidenced by Weigel’s, “Yes, negative ads work.” The way to get rid of the ads that voters supposedly hate so badly is not to vote for the candidates who run them.

This is so simple that the average sixth grader could figure it out, but political pundit Dave Weigel cannot, and neither can millions of voters upon whom rest the fate of this nation. They vote for the candidates whose advertisements they like the least, and then they complain about the results of their own voting habits.

Presidential Authority

For the past year and more several writers have been insisting that the President can suspend DADT “with the stroke of a pen” and I have been trying to find out what they believe is the basis of his supposed authority to do that, given that it is a law passed by Congress. None has responded to comments on their blogs, or to emails.

I did get a response from another reader to one of my comments, but the reference he gave me turned out to be an executive order issued by President Bush. Citing a presidential directive as the source of a presidential power strikes me as circular reasoning, so that didn’t satisfy my question.

A day or so ago Obama said at a town hall that, because this is a law passed by Congress, "this is not a situation where I can, by the stroke of a pen, end this policy." People tend to credit Obama with knowing what he’s talking about, so now I think I know why those bloggers never responded to my question.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Do What?

Well, this whole thing has now become seriously confusing.

A little while ago, courts found both DADT and laws against gay marriage to be unconstitutional. Everyone advised that it is great news, but will take years before it has any real meaning because it has to wind its way up to the Supreme Court.

Well, maybe not. The court issues an injunction against DADT and the military folds like a cheap suit. In a way, this is what you expect them to do, since they are subject to civilian authority, but it leaves a weird feeling. Sort of like a boxer collapsing between rounds. They’ve been fighting this for years, and one little peck from a different direction and they’re down.

It could make you wonder about the staunchness of our military.

The weird thing is that the court issued an injunction in one case, DADT, to end the unconstitutional practice and in the other case, gay marriage, to continue the unconstitutional practice. I’m probably the only one who thinks that’s weird.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch so to speak, the Justice Department is vowing to appeal the issue and get DADT reinstated, while President Obama is still making speeches about ending it. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks that’s weird. Almost certainly he has noticed that it is actually ended right now, but he wants Justice to reinstate it so that he can get Congress to end it “in a more orderly fashion.”

He for sure has a different definition of “orderly” than I do.

Justice is seriously freaked out about this ruling, outdoing the military in issuing hyperbolic rhetoric about its effects, and saying that it will "harm the government's critical interests in military readiness, combat effectiveness, unit cohesion, morale, good order, discipline, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces."

They missed its effect on “physical fitness” and “sartorial splendor” I think.

The military may feel it is subject to the courts, but civilian government is a different matter, and the civilian side at the Pentagon has also got its pants in a pretty tight wad. It says that military leaders need time to learn how to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. After all, this is a brand new idea that just came up, and we haven’t had any time to study it yet. You need to give us time, because we don’t know what discrimination is or how to prohibit it. We don’t have any different races in the military, and we have no women, so…

"Without this education and training," he said, "commanders in the field will not have the necessary guidance and will not be able to enforce the new regime in the consistent, even-handed manner that is essential to morale, discipline and good order.

"Equally importantly, service members must know what is expected of them."

Stanley also warned that "a poorly implemented transition will not only cause short-term disruption to military operations, but would also jeopardize the long-term success of the transition. Either outcome would irreparably harm our military and the national security of the United States."

(emphasis mine) I fear for our military, I truly do. I fear for our nation.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"It Wasn't The Steroids"

Much has been written locally about Shawne Merriman since his release by the Chargers yesterday, and apologists are trying to debunk the theory that his downfall has anything to do with his use of steroids, for which he tested positive at the height of his career in 2006. Even a few sportswriters have fallen into that trap, as Tim Sullivan writes in the San Diego Union-Tribune,

Revisionist historians who would date Merriman’s decline to his failed drug test have yet to adequately account for his success later that season or his 12½ sacks in 2007.

Steroids are not like direct acting drugs such as methamphetamines or cocaine, which take effect immediately and wear off promptly when you stop using them. Steroids are taken for the indirect effect of building muscle mass and strength, which requires using them for some time. The muscle and strength does not disappear immediately when one stops taking the steroids that created them, it can take quite a while for them to atrophy.

A side effect of steroid use, one that I suspect is significant in Merriman’s situation, is that it seriously compromises the immune system and the body’s ability to heal after injury. That’s one of the reasons that their use is banned, and not only in professional sports.

I am not without sympathy for Shawne Merriman, but he chose to use steroids to enhance his performance. There is no question that he did so, he tested positive for them and his denials are as meaningful as those of Roger Clemons. He had a difficult childhood, but so did millions of other kids, and they grew up in far more productive ways than he chose to do. The bed he sleeps in is of his own making.

Chris Matthews is an Idiot

In his first segment yesterday Chris Matthews covered a debate for Governor in California and one for the Senate in Connecticut. None of the four candidates appear to be any real prize, but Matthews spent the entire time discussing the most trivial issues he could find in the debates.

In the California debate he and his “guests” spent seven minutes discussing whether or not Jerry Brown had apologized quickly enough and in proper form for his staffer’s suggestion that they call Meg Whitman a “whore.” They also debated whether the staffer was trying to imply that she had been selling her body for sex, or whether the term was used in a more gender neutral political sense.

Meg made a snide “I think women know what’s going on, here” remark in the debate in an attempt to imply the former, of course, but I don’t think the audience was buying it.

Matthews’ approach to the Connecticut Senate race is really odd. He supposedly considers himself a liberal and wants to see Democrats maintain control of Congress, and he regards the Republican candidate Linda McMahon as something of a horror, and yet he seems determined to defeat the Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal.

Blumenthal, who has a quite distinguished career as Attorney General and is a well respected public servant, served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam era and has made the mistake in the past of saying that he “served in Vietnam” rather than “during” that war. When that was publicized during the campaign he apologized for having misspoken, said that he did not intend to have claimed combat service, and was supported by a considerable number of Vietnam combat veterans.

That was not good enough for Chris Matthews, who has never served in uniform a day in his life. He continues to harp endlessly upon and exaggerate this man’s error, claim that he has never acknowledged or apologized for it, which in fact he has, and demand that he do so. It’s just insane that he is so outraged in the first place, that he is so unwilling to accept the apology in the second, and that he is willing to ride this fetish to the political destruction and defeat of a candidate of the party he supposedly supports.

I like Chris Matthews, he is rather charming and I enjoy the enthusiasm he brings to the commentary. He can be, however, a bit annoying when he fastens on one of his narrow fetishes and rides it to death, unwilling to listen to reason and unwilling to let it go.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Amazing Accuracy

From the AP today comes this,

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Intelligence officials say four suspected U.S. missiles strikes have killed 11 militants in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border. The officials say the strikes occurred Wednesday in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan tribal region.

The first attack targeted a house in Lataka village, killing four militants. Minutes later, a drone attacked a vehicle nearby, killing two foreign militants. Another attack 15 minutes later against a second vehicle killed three militants. The final attack occurred a half-hour later and targeted militants collecting bodies from the house destroyed in the first strike. The attack killed two militants.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

Four missiles destroyed a house (twice) and two vehicles and managed to very discriminately kill eleven "militants" without harming anyone else. Apparently, only militants were collecting the dead militants from the destroyed house, and seemingly no families had gathered around the dead militants when the second destruction of the house occurred. Those are some amazingly accurate missiles. They are called "Hellfire" missiles, but maybe they should be called "Magic Bullet" missiles.

And, of course, the people who told the media about it could not give their names because they "were not authorized to talk to media." That's some discipline we have there.

Gone, Soon Forgotten

"I want to be with a team that will build its defense around me."

That was Shawne Merriman, explaining his holdout during training camp this fall, after missing the entire 2008 season and playing on a very limited basis last year due to an Achilles tendon injury.

He played on an even more limited basis in the first five games, aggravating the tendon and suffering a calf injury in game two. The Chargers placed him on injured reserve today, and will have to release him if and when he is ready to play again. So he will return to the field with a different team, if he can find a team that wants him.

The Bush TARP Bailout

Does anyone, anywhere, in either party, in any part of the media, writing
in any blog, when either praising it or blaming for it, recall that it was a Democratically controlled Congress that passed that thing?

Does anyone remember that not only was Obama a member of that Congress and that he voted for it, but that he lobbied actively during his presidential campaign to get it passed?

The Rest Of The Story

Here’s another story starting to make the rounds to illustrate how horrible the insurance companies are. I’m sure Keith Olbermann will be screaming about it at the top of his lungs pretty soon, but I’ve quite watching him, so somebody else will have to report on that. It seems that insurance companies are declining to insure more people in 2009 than they did in 2007. Interesting comparison.

The difference between those years was an increase of “nearly 50 percent” as reported in the Reuters article yesterday.

In a report released on Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's top Democrats said the number of people refused health insurance plans by big insurers […] due to pre-existing conditions rose 49 percent in the last three years.

Actual numbers are always helpful if you want to know the truth, and to Reuters’ credit, it does provide those numbers; denials rose from 172,400 in 2007 to 257,100 in 2009, an increase of 84,700 denials.

What else happened between 2007 and 2009 I wonder? Oh, yes, 3.5 million people lost their jobs. We don’t know how many lost their health insurance along with their jobs, and because of COBRA and people who could not afford to buy insurance, “health care reform” or not, it’s pretty hard to calculate how many of those applied for individual insurance policies, and how many of those who applied were declined for preexisting conditions. But is it unreasonable to think that 2% of them might fall into that category?

“And now,” as Paul Harvey used to say, “you know the rest of the story.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Campaign Funding

Recent liberal outrage over campaign funding, which seems to have been triggered by Obama himself, is intriguing to me on several levels. It started, apparently, with his comment at a campaign rally where he accused Republicans of outspending Democrats by a 2:1 margin, and said that large amounts of money came “from foreign sources.” He asked the crowd if they wanted overseas corporations determining the outcome of their local elections, and they responded with boos and cries of, “No.”

Either Obama is an idiot or that crowd is. What determines the outcome of an election is the votes of the people, not the amount of money spent or where it comes from. If those votes are bought and paid for by advertising, that is the fault of the voters, not the fault of those providing the money.

We know that Obama is not an idiot. He knows that elections are, in fact, bought and paid for. For the most part, whoever has the most money wins. He eschewed public funding and outspent McCain by a 2:1 margin in 2008 and became President, and now he is telling voters that it is not okay for Republicans to outspend Democrats by that same 2:1 margin. He’s not very ethical or honest in that pitch, perhaps, but he’s certainly not an idiot.

He’s outraged that the money might be coming from “foreign sources.”
Who cares where the money is coming from? The problem is not the source of the money; the problem is that the money is buying the election. He’s perfectly okay with that as long as it’s Democratic money buying the election for Democratic candidates.

And at the same time that liberals are fulminating about “foreign money” influencing our elections, they are urging Democrats nationwide to contribute to local races for Representative.

Interesting. All of the screaming about “foreign money” influencing our elections, and yet liberals also want money from 50 states to influence a local election. Why is money from, say, New Jersey not considered “foreign money” in the election for representative in, say, Arizona? Should not the people and businesses in Arizona be free of New Jersey influence in its electoral process for local representation?

Remember that those people in New Jersey know absolutely nothing about the local candidate other than that he is a member of a given party. He could be in all respects a complete and utter idiot and completely unsuitable to the local voters in every respect. He could espouse one or more policies which are anathema to a huge majority of the local voters regardless of party. Party-line donors 3000 miles away would know nothing of these things.

And nobody seems to care that our elections are determined by money.

Chris Matthews discussed this topic on Hardball with David Corn and Chris Cillizza for something like fifteen minutes, talking over each other and shouting, and it never occurred to any of them to mention the corrosive effect of money itself on our elections. All they did was fulminate about the source of the money and the political fallout resulting from various politicians’ discussions of it.

I remember, many years ago, an interview with Jimmy Carter after he had just returned from monitoring an election in a nation with an emerging democracy. He was asked if he would be able to “certify” an election in the United States, and he said that he would not because of the role that money played in our electoral process. That role has increased exponentially since he said that.

Saving The Chargers

San Diego has just pulled another fast one on its citizenry, this time with the assistance of the California Legislature and benefiting, among others, the ownership of the San Diego Chargers. It was a pretty nifty move.

At issue is something known as a “redevelopment zone,” in this case downtown San Diego, which was declared a redevelopment zone in order to build a ballpark for the San Diego Padres baseball team. The idea is that such a zone is declared in areas that are “blighted” (which is not to say they are slums) so that they can be developed with tax-free bonds. Property taxes from that “zone,” presumably enhanced by initial development, are then held within an agency and used for further development within the area, such as subsidizing hotels and condominiums.

(If the property taxes are enhanced by the development, they why do they need to be sequestered for subsidizing more development in the area?)

There is, however, a limit on how much of this enhanced property tax money can be held in the agency and used for development. After that cap is reached the zone is “over,” and taxes from the area become just plain property taxes and are turned into the city’s general revenue fund. This is where San Diego’s “slick move” comes in.

The downtown zone, pivoting around Petco Park, was nearing it’s peak of $2.9 billion and the city, seriously strapped for cash and with a budget deficit amounting to 20% of its operating budget, could definitely use the additional revenue of ending that zone. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers are making noises about leaving town if they don’t get a new stadium, and all sites other than downtown have pretty well been eliminated. Downtown development agency money is not available, though, because there is not enough room remaining below the cap.

So some enterprising city legislator hies himself up to Sacramento and gets the downtown redevelopment cap eliminated; not raised, eliminated. It turns out that the cap on redevelopment zones is outmoded and the newer zones don’t have caps. So now there is redevelopment zone money available to build a stadium for the Chargers, money that can be claimed not to cost taxpayers anything because it is “redevelopment funds” and not taxes.

Of course, it is taxes, but only on the people who live or have businesses in the redevelopment zone.

It also means the money that would have gone to things like paving streets and paying police and firefighters if the zone were ended will not be made available, but we do have our priorities. We do need to keep our fumbling, unable-to-punt, can’t-beat-the-Raiders, 2-3 Chargers from leaving town.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Republicans Are Insane"

I think it's remarkable that Republicans have nominated some 500 people to run for office and Democrats, and that portion of the media which actually is liberal, are focusing on about six of them and telling us, "See, Republicans are batshit crazy. Don't you dare vote for any of them."

San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers have a culture problem, and it’s one they have had for years. The problem was best described by a member of the New England Patriots, after that team defeated the Chargers in San Diego in a championship game. He said, “The Chargers are a team where they come out before the game with their helmets off and everybody has their own sack dance.”

This team’s culture is not about being a professional football player, it’s about being a celebrity. During the game it’s about making the play, not because that is the job but because, having made the play, one can do a dance and call attention to one’s self. Off the field it’s about being seen in the most fashionable nightclub with a pretty girl on one’s arm, and driving home from that club with a blood alcohol of .15% or more.

This team is undisciplined, always has been. Too many missed assignments; missed because the player thought he could go make the play; make the play so that he could then do his “look at me” dance. I’ve watched a lot of football games, a lot of teams; I have never seen so many missed assignments and so much self-adulating celebration.

This team has won games because a high-powered offense has often overcome the inability of the defense to play for more than about thirty minutes before the lifestyle of nightclubbing and partying takes its toll, but the offense has to do that in the thirty minute limit that their similar lifestyle imposes on their peak play.

A brain and body that was drunk on Friday night is not mentally or physically ready to play NFL football on Sunday.

On the Friday night before the playoff game with the Jets last year, Chargers players were out partying and nightclubbing, and claim that had no effect on their loss Sunday to the Jets. The Jet players were not out partying Friday night, they were staying in peak physical condition, were mentally preparing to play a complex and demanding game, and they made the Chargers look like fools. Which they were, and are.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

California Comedy

The new California budget was released this week, closing the $19 billion budget gap, and it is a real knee slapper. We now know who writes the screenplays for television comedies; it’s California legislators. No wonder the studios have to add prerecorded laugh tracks. Some highlights of the budget closing measures are:

Receive $5.4 billion from the federal government. Has Congress passed any bill saying that it will give $5.4 billion to California? It has not.
In fact, it rejected a bill that would have given $500 million to California. California nonetheless bases its budget on $5.4 billion that has not even been promised to it, let alone allocated. Perhaps Barbara Boxer promised to get the $5.4 billion for us. They do realize that Barbara Boxer is running for reelection, right?

Derive $1.4 billion in increased tax revenue if the economy improves. Really, do I even need to comment on this one? I guess if banks would grant mortgages based on “my income will be huge if sales pick up” then we can balance our budget on what tax revenue will be if the economy improves. I have a hunch, though, that the outcome will be similar.

Delay $1.9 billion payment to schools and colleges until the next fiscal year. Otherwise know as “kick the can down the road” or “make this somebody else’s problem,” and, what the hell, those schools don’t really need the money anyway.

Reduce higher education funding by $212 million, to be offset by increased federal funding. We’re really down to pennies here, as this amounts to about a hundredth of one percent of the budget, but didn’t we already use the “get additional money from the feds” as a method? Here too, has the “higher federal funding” been allocated? I didn’t think so.

This is also contradicted a bit by a statement earlier in the presentation, which said that “higher education funding increases slightly, to about $11.5 billion.” So they are taking credit for increasing it while claiming it as a cut to save money, all at the same time.

Save $820 million by reducing the cost of health care in prisons. Given that the cost of health care is rising everywhere else, reducing it in prisons is going to be a neat trick especially since the state is under a federal mandate to increase the amount of health care provided in state prisons, and to do so by quite a bit. A federal judge found the level of health care in our prison health care so appalling that he threatened to have the federal government take it over. So we are going to be increasing the quality and level of health care in our prisons while reducing the cost.

Why don’t we just sell the damned Brooklyn Bridge?

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Have no fear. Alabama always plays only one half, but they always play one half. They certainly didn't play the first half, so... (I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I have faith.)

I still think LSU will beat Florida, but then I'm an idiot.

Sunday: And then sometimes Alabama just doesn't show up. Not to take anything away from South Carolina, especially their defense. Still, I can't help that think that having beaten Florida decisively last week, Bama came to Columbia thinking that the Gamecocks were going to be "easy meat."

And State lost to BYU, but at least the LSU Tigers came through for me.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Olbermann Is Still An Idiot

Keith Olbermann is still in high dudgeon about the house that burned down; last night airing an interview with the homeowner's adult son. Of course, the son was seated in front of the father's burned out house, and he was no more coherent than his father had been. He kept babbling about "having a checkbook in hand" and "whatever amount it took, five thousand, ten thousand, whatever." As a point of information, the South Fulton Fire Department has apparently heard that before, according to reports from real news sources, and their experience is that the promise gets forgotten when the bill arrives in the mail.

Olbermann is fond of cute little slogans with which to title his hobby horses, and he has titled this one "Pay To Spray." He evidently has never seen a fire put out, because they most certainly do not "spray" it.

Olbermann also provided a clip of "the fire chief of Hornby TN, whose policy is not 'Pay To Spray,' defending the South Fulton policy." Actually what was shown was the Cranick son asking snide questions as a reporter and the Hornby fire chief not being given an opportunity to answer.

South Fulton does not have a "Pay To Spray" policy, and Olbermann's claim that it does is a lie. It puts out all fires in the area it serves, which is the City of South Fulton. It has no obligation to the county or to county residents. Since the county is without fire protection, by its own choice, South Fulton offered to protect individuals within the county for an annual fee. Some chose to accept the offer, some did not.

At the beginning of the segment Olbermann reported that there was a fire in Weekly county and the South Fulton fire department assisted because they have a mutual assistance agreement. He went on, "the system worked then, it certainly didn't work..." and went into his rant about the Cranick home burning down. Once again true statement and omission adding up to a lie. South Fulton cannot "assist the Obion County fire department" because Obion County has no fire department, and it has none because the voters of that county chose not to have one.

Cranick's house burned down because he was offered fire protection and declined it either on purpose or by error. In neither case is that the fault of the fire department.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

San Diego Budgeting

San Diego is still struggling with a deficit that amounts to about 20% of our operations budget, and the mayor has presented an initiative that would raise our local sales tax from 8.75% to 9.25% to cover a portion of the shortfall. In a wild flurry of fairness to citizens, the tax would not take effect unless the City Council first takes certain “cost effectiveness” measures, which do not include cutting their own salaries.

Hizzonor the Mayor is warning telling us that if the sales tax initiative is not passed that many, many city employees will lose their jobs, including mostly firefighters and policemen. Would anyone like to make a guess as to why those jobs are the ones at risk?

News coverage is focused on the individuals who will become unemployed, providing interviews with policemen who may get laid off and with their families, and expressing concern for their welfare. I’m not unsympathetic with anyone who’s worried about losing a job, but I think we’re focused on the wrong aspect of the issue, here.

San Diego, as a city, does not exist for the purpose of providing jobs for its employees, and the issue when employment is reduced should not be what happens to the employees, it should be about what happens to the services those employees provide to the residents of the city. If police officers are laid off, the issue that should concern us is how much less safe will be the City of San Diego?

The newspaper has not asked that question, and neither has one television station that I have seen. They have all been too busy being heartwarmingly concerned about what will happen to the firefighters and policemen who might lose their jobs.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Keith Olbermann is an Idiot

Keith Olbermann fulminated at great length last night about the house that burned down, outraged that the city did not provide fire service to a person who lived outside their jurisdiction, who does not pay taxes in their jurisdiction, who was offered coverage for a fee of $75 per year and declined that coverage, and who expected to receive that coverage after declining to pay for it.

Olbermann quoted at length from a county planning document regarding fire protection coverage, as if that county planning should in some fashion dictate the city fire department operations. He also failed to point out that the county plan was voted on by county residents some years earlier and was voted down. The county residents did not want to have a county fire department, and the “fee for service” being provided by the city was what the county residents chose to retain.

Olbermann cited this at the beginning of his night's rant as a "breakdown of government." In fact, it is the exact opposite of that. I believe it was what we call democracy; a form of government in which the voters receive precisely what they choose to have when they cast their votes at the balloting place.

Olbermann provided time for a lengthy and self-pitying interview with the homeowner, who now claims that he simply “forgot” the pay the fire protection premium. Sure he did. The homeowner also thinks, but has “not checked on it” that some of his taxes go to the city to pay for the operation of the fire department. He thinks his tax money goes to the general fund so maybe it isn’t specifically for the fire department, but he’s willing to bet that some of the money is used for fire trucks. Since he lives outside the city, I’m guessing he’s full of crap.

Olbermann did not cite the homeowner as saying, as other sources have quoted, "I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong." Indeed you were, sport.

The Purpose of Terrorism...

…is to terrorize. And how well it succeeds, nowhere so well as in America.

It appears that when US government officials try to think about terrorism their brains stop working. It’s a word that has become a piece of neural malware and everywhere it spreads, rational minds sputter and then cease to function. Who could have dreamed that a simple word could be so potent and destructive.

That is from an article by Paul Woodward at, and I strongly suggest you read the whole thing. He also asks, of the latest State Department warning, “Why were they so specific, limiting the warning to just one continent?” Good question, which led me to wonder why the warning was limited to “public and private places” and didn’t include phrases like “anywhere and everywhere.”

Lest you think that Barack Obama, he of vaunted intelligence and famously studious approach to governing, might hold himself above the fray,

A White House spokesman, Nicholas S. Shapiro, said that while the State Department had decided to issue the alert, it came in response to Mr. Obama’s insistence that “we need to do everything possible to disrupt this plot and protect the American people.”

Awesome. Protect the American people, mind you, from a “plot” by an unknown number of unknown persons to fire an unknown number of machine guns in unknown places of unknown cities of unknown European countries at some unknown date in the unknown future.

So when my wife left for Italy, which is in Europe, I kissed her goodbye and told her, “Duck if you see a bunch of guys with machine guns.”

She gave me a dirty look, which I think meant, “I had already figured that out on my own.” She gives me that look a lot. Doesn’t properly appreciate my sense of humor.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The House That Burned

This story is making the rounds online, used mostly as an example of how heartless conservatives are, but it really depends on how you write the story. The facts are these.

Obion County, Tennessee has no fire department. The city of South Fulton offered to extend coverage by its fire department to homes nearby but outside the city limits. Since those homeowners do not pay the city taxes which support the fire department, the city required payment of $75 per year for fire protection. One homeowner declined to pay the fee, so when his house was on fire the city fire department declined to respond.

Think Progress writes that, “As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters…” and goes on to say that the firefighters declined to fight the fire. That line is incorrect, because the county has no firefighters. The neighbors, in fact, alerted the city’s fire department, but the Cranicks had chosen not to be covered by the city.

Think Progress is so eager to criticize the provision of services only to those who are willing to pay for those services, which they seem to regard as a “right wing radical” concept, that they get the facts wrong in what they write even though the facts are stated correctly in the block quote which they provide. They say that “the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees,” but the quoted source reveals, and they even highlighted the sentence, “Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay.”

"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong," said Gene Cranick.

This guy seriously thought that he would get the service without paying for it. He intended to get the service without paying for it. Think Progress thinks that it is wrong for him not to get the service without paying for it.

The implication is, and Think Progress actually and falsely states, that the county provides fire services, but only on a “fee for service” basis, but that is not the case. The county provides no fire service at all. The city extends its fire service outside its jurisdiction, but they do not provide that service free of charge.

Paul Krugman chimes in, noting that conservatives approve of the incident and saying that this is “essentially the same as denying someone essential medical care because he doesn’t have insurance.”

How about if he was offered health insurance for a nominal fee and decided he didn’t want to pay for it, Paul? How about if he didn't pay for insurance because he assumed he didn't need to; assumed that he would get the care even if he didn't have insurance?

"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong," said Gene Cranick.

This guy seriously thought that he would get the service without paying for it. He intended to get the service without paying for it. Paul Krugman thinks that it is wrong for him not to get the service without paying for it.

The story's headline says that “Firefighters watch home burn down,” but that appears to be false. The story says repeatedly that the fire department “did not respond,” which means that they did not come to the scene, because the homeowner was not a subscriber. That means they were not there and did not “watch the house burn down.”

This is how we argue issues today. By falsely claiming that heartless firefighters watched a helpless family’s home burn to the ground; by painting pictures of a mercenary fire department that won’t work unless it can pillage the taxpayer’s pocket; by casting governments as the heartless monsters throwing children out in the cold.

The city of South Fulton could have left the county areas with no fire protection at all. It could have decided it would provide protection only to the people who were paying the taxes which provided the funds for maintaining its fire department. It decided to offer help to county residents and required only that those residents chip in a nominal fee to help cover the cost. This guy said no. He got back the same as he contributed.

Monday, October 04, 2010

And Now A Travel Warning

Back when Bush was in office we had the great freak out about terrorists blowing up airplanes over the Atlantic using liquid bombs. The British were a bit ticked off with us because they were actually on top of the thing, and we blew the whistle before they were ready to jump on the plot. Something to do with timing due to one of our elections.

Well, it turns out the current administration can pull that trick, too. We have a terrorist plot to blow shoot up a whole bunch of cities in Europe but, according to The Guardian, British intelligence says the American report is, um… Well they’re not very happy.

European officials again made it clear yesterday they were "irritated" with the US for leaking stories before they could gather more intelligence. There was no evidence that a plot was imminent, and intelligence was described by a well-placed Whitehall official as "ill-defined".

The story did not gain any traction in American media, perhaps the “boy has cried wolf” once too often, and so the government issued a “travel advisory” for anyone going to Europe. Wait a minute; wtf, Europe?!

Now, my wife kills spiders for me, but she is no dragon slayer, trust me. She pretty much jumps in the back seat if a car in front of us on the freeway even swerves. She is on her way to Italy as we speak, which last time I checked is in Europe, and even she laughed when she read that advisory. She is more worried about finding the right train and not speaking Italian than she is about getting shot up by some pissed off Muslim.

Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks.

I think that President Obama has been telling us that pretty much every week, when he tells us why we are fighting a war in Afghanistan. The warning goes on to advise,

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.

So my wife made a note to keep an eye out for “a variety of means and weapons” while she is riding the subway in Rome. But that, in itself, does not guarantee that she will vote Democrat when she gets home. Or perhaps, according to the administration, I should say if she gets home.

Since the simple statement about there being a massive terrorist plot didn’t create panic in the media and an upsweep in Democratic voter energy, we’ll see if a warning about travelling to Europe will do the trick. I rather suspect it won’t. I don’t think enough Democratic voters are travelling to Europe in the next month.

Update: Yeah, she probably will vote Democrat, she is one, but it won't be because the Democratic government kept her safe by warning her to watch for “a variety of means and weapons” while she was in "public and private" places in Europe.

Kicking It Around

Can anyone hold any doubt about The Crimson Tide any more?

I think that Les Miles might want to have an armed bodyguard whenever he walks around the LSU campus for a while. The nonsensical business of alternating quarterbacks is bad enough, but that jackassery in the last 30 seconds would make setting him on fire a case of justifiable homicide.

And we won’t even talk about the Kansas Chickenhawks Jayhawks.

Donovan McNabb was given a warm, indeed thuderous ovation when he was introduced at the Eagles’ home field. Moments later, when he lined up to run his first play from scrimmage as a Redskin, a loud chorous of boos erupted. That is Philadelphia in a nutshell. You have to love that city.

Jay Cutler failed to emerge from the locker room after the halftime break. So, concussion? Or just, "Oh, hell no. I'm not going back out there."

I’m all in favor of recognizing dread diseases, but not necessarily on football uniforms. And in many cases that wasn’t pink anyway; that was… Good God. As one announcer pointed out, when you are wearing flourescent pink gloves, how can the ref not call you for holding?

Impeccable Logic

Meg Whitman cracks me up. She continues to court the Latino vote by arguing that Latinos who cannot vote for her should be thrown out of the country. I did not watch the second "governator debate," as the one I did watch filled up my bs quota for the month, but from the SF Chronicle,

Whitman, who has aggressively courted Latino voters, opened by noting her campaign's unprecedented outreach to the Spanish-language electorate.

"Aggressively courting Latino voters" apparently consists of saying that you want 80% of them to vote for you while you are throwing the other 20% of them the hell out of the country.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Your "Tax Receipt"

Update: Monday, 8:00am. I have revised the chart to show the amounts actually paid by the taxpayer, and to note that Social Security is separate from the government's tax revenue stream.

I have discussed several times the fallacious approach of lumping Social Security in with the federal tax revenue stream, and the Agonist and National Public Radio provide a case in point by promoting misinformation published by’s (pdf) “The Economic Program.” I have added a column to the chart to show the correct numbers, but will explain below the chart why even those numbers are misleading and inaccurate.
lego mania
The amount that is shown for Social Security is wrong on several levels. First, the government does not spend some arbitrary percentage of its tax revenues to pay Social Security benefits. In fact, it does not spend any part of its tax revenues for that purpose.

Second, a person earning $34,170 would not pay the $1,040.70 shown, he would pay $2,116.69, or twice that amount if self-employed, and he would pay it not to the Internal Revenue Service but to the Social Security Administration, who would pay out essentially all of it in the form of benefits to people who are enrolled in that program either through disability or as a result of retirement. The government would not spend any of that money, because the government would never get its hands on any of it. The Social Security Administration is managed by the government, but the cash flow streams are entirely separate.

The issue is not really as clouded as some people like to claim by the fact that the government is spending money collected from Social Security payments. It is borrowing that money from Social Security and will someday need to pay it back, which is a straightforward and thoroughly uncomplicated process.

That chart is sort of like saying that my neighbor has $1000 income and pays $600 rent and that I have $2000 income and pay $300 rent, and so in combination we pay 30% of our income in rent. That’s technically true, but it’s totally irrelevant since we do not combine either our incomes or our rent payments. If I lend my neighbor some money to help him pay his rent, that changes absolutely nothing other than that he now owes me some money.

I also corrected the amount for Medicare. A person earning that amount will pay $495.00 into the Medicare fund and that money will be received by the federal government. It will, however, not be spent in whatever manner the government chooses, but is committed in full to payment of medical expenses of people enrolled in that program.

I adjusted the remaining amount to compensate, but got bored and left the rest to your imagination. Some are a bit questionable, I think. Federal highways, for instance, are maintained by the excise tax on gasoline, but that number may represent some building programs funded from general tax revenue so I won’t challenge it.