Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oh, This is Bullshit

In 24 hours, the intelligence community figured out who planned the raid in which all of the raiders were killed, identified the planner by name, tracked down the location of the planner specifically, planned and organized an airstrike, carried out the airstrike, and killed the planner of the raid. All in less than 24 hours from the time that they didn't know the raid was coming.

And, of course, the planner had ties to Pakistani intelligence.

Kicking His Own Butt

I waited until today to comment on Obama’s speech because had I commented yesterday I fear I would have been intemperate. Well, even less temperate than I will be today. Democrats are cheering him for “attacking” Congress but a) he should have been doing so for more than a year already and b) this attack was done using childish metaphor and trivial examples.

If his children (whose ages he got wrong) can do their home work on time, he says, then Congress can pass a $multi-trillion budget affecting the largest economy in the world. As Lawrence O’Donnell rather cogently pointed out, his daughters might have more trouble getting their homework done on time if they had to persuade all of their classmates to do it in perfect agreement with them and on the same day.

He harped on corporate jets six times. News flash; the economy did not collapse in 2008 because corporate fat cats were flying around in private jets, and we aren’t going to fix the economy by taxing those jets. Oil companies aren’t the “quick fix” either. Republicans aren’t going to fix the economy by making poor people the enemy, and Democrats aren’t going to fix the economy by making rich people the enemy.

Congress has to remain in session Obama says, adding smugly “I've been here doing Afghanistan, and Bin Ladin and the Greek crisis.” He’s also been in Los Angeles for a fund raiser, and in New York for a fund raiser, and in Iowa campaigning for his own reelection in 2012. And he hasn’t been getting to those places by flying in commercial airlines after getting groped by TSA agents, either. He’s been flying in the world’s biggest private jet.

It's also pretty easy for him to be smug about staying in Washington when he's not facing possible defeat in a primary election challenge, which most members of Congress are.

But the bigger point is that he is fighting the Republicans on their own terms when he says that “we can strike a deal to raise the debt limit.”

There is no need for any deal; we could simply raise that debt limit as we have done in times past without this circus of making deals on budget cutting and revenue enhancement. Obama said a year ago that is what he wanted Congress to do, in fact. Republicans said no, and Obama bought into their terms for the argument, as he always does, and so now we are having this huge catfight that the Republicans want purely because the Republicans want it, without Obama even trying not to have it.

Republicans have convinced the American people and the media that the debt limit cannot be raised without cutting spending in a major way, but it is simply not true, and Obama is not even challenging the premise.

He doesn’t like the Republican tax cuts, but he wants Congress to extend the Obama payroll tax cut which does nothing for the millions who are unemployed, does nothing for the millions of elderly on fixed incomes, but assures that workers with median income will have an additional $17.31 in their weekly paychecks. That’s a little bit short of a house payment. In fact, if you include food and energy, it doesn’t even cover the cost imposed by inflation at the moment.

Moving on to other issues, he tossed off as “foolish” any suggestion that he was outside his authority in starting a war in Libya. Saying that it is “foolish” to question him is what kings do. He then says that questioning the Libya action strengthens Kadaffi because it leads him to believe that we are divided. Echoes of Hillary Clinton last week and her, “Whose side are you on?” The last time we heard that kind of rhetoric was from Bush & Co.

I’m actually beginning to miss George Bush. I certainly don’t miss anything that he accomplished, but at least he stood at the bully pulpit and used it as a bully pulpit. He didn’t wait to see which way the parade was forming so that he could get in front of it. He knew what he believed was needed and he stood up and demanded that Congress pass it, on his terms, with his conditions, and they did it.

Obama stands at the bully pulpit and sounds like the guy on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face, who then apologizes for being in the way of the sand kicker. The Republican Party has been walking all over him since the day he took office, and they are flat stomping him into the ground with this debt limit issue.

No, This Is Not Leadership

Take your clue from Chris Matthews, who sometimes presents wisdom without even knowing that he’s doing so. On Hardball yesterday, he kept repeating the significance of the latest poll which shows that only 8% of voters “blame Obama” for current economic conditions, and saying that it is that statistic which enabled Obama to go "on the attack" yesterday.

You’re damn right, and that is why I am so annoyed with Obama.

He waits to attack until it is safe for him to do so. He waits until 92% of voters are blaming the other guy before he attacks the other guy. Bush never did that. He knew what he believed was needed and he went after it. Sure, he lost a few. He lost on Social Security privatization, and then he came right back and went after immunization for the telecoms and got it from a hostile, Democratic Congress.

Yes, I hate that he was able to do that, but I wish to God we had that kind of leadership today instead of what we have.

Attacking only from a position of overwhelming strength is a fine policy for fighting wars, but political leadership requires the willingness to change minds and the courage to attempt to do so even when you know that you might lose. Obama folds with anything less than a straight flush in his hand.

A determined leader cares not which way the wind is blowing. If it is blowing against him he furls his sail and rows the boat against the wind. Obama, if the wind is in his face, either sails downwind or drops anchor and waits for the wind to change. As a result this nation is drifting leaderless from one crisis to the next, reacting foolishly and aimlessly and heading for the rocks, while Obama plays futile tug-of-war with Republicans for the helm.

Update: And it seems that waiting until today was ineffective as to my objective of avoiding intemperance. Oh well, fuck it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Slander and Dishonesty on the Left

I hold no candle for Michele Bachmann, but I loathe slander and dishonesty in reporting, and I like it even less when my side does it than I do when the other side does. The discussion regarding the money that Bachmann receives from the government, as Lawrence O’Donnell puts it “in the form of socialism,” is turning more and more dishonest and more and more ugly.

Bachmann explained that the federal money received by her husband’s clinic was a grant for the purpose of training the clinic’s employees, and the farm is owned by her parents, but in any case there is hardly anything unique about politicians preaching against federal spending and then slurping at the federal trough. Everyone presently running for President could be found to be doing precisely the same thing, so if we’re going to insist on financial purity we’re going to be without a president after 2012.

Apparently liberals bought her explanations, because they went looking for more, and have discovered that her husband’s clinic has “received $137,000 in Medicaid funds over the last five years.” That means his clinic has treated patients who were on Medicaid, and was paid by Medicaid for doing so. Using the passive “has received” implies that he received the money free, for doing nothing. He treated people who needed help, and received payment for doing so. Are they suggesting that he should have turned them away, refused to help them, because he won’t accept government money?

Then Lawrence O’Donnell took himself into Rush Limbaugh territory. After Michael Isikoff finished explaining how Dr. Bachmann’s clinic “has received” money from Medicaid, O’Donnell launched into an explanation about how “of course” Medicare fraud occurs almost entirely in this type of clinic, not in mega-corporations, but in “small clinics such as this one,” and asks if Dr. Bachmann is going to be the subject of an investigation for fraud.

There has never been the slightest indication the Dr, Bachmann’s clinic has been involved with or investigated for fraud of any sort, and not only does O’Donnell make slanderous implication by asking the question, but he couples the question with a lengthy editorial statement about the type of clinic being the main perpetrator of fraud, an accusation for which he provides no supporting evidence whatever.

This is our bastion of liberal journalism. This is our counter to the lies and innuendo of conservative media. Slander and dishonesty to counter slander and dishonesty.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Emergency Planning

I am digging a nuclear fallout shelter in my back yard. My neighbors think it’s a swimming pool and I’m hoping to maintain that façade as long as I can. Since I’m planning for it to be 200’ deep, they probably think that is one honking big swimming pool.

My house is just twelve miles from the San Onofre nuclear reactor plant which is going to be hit by a tsunami, an earthquake, a hurricane and a terrorist flying a 747 any day now. All at one time. Since the plant has been the victim of corruption, mismanagement, neglect, ineptitude, and pulchritude for dozens of years, the results will kill millions of people.

If there is anything that CA has more of than ineptitude, it is pulchritude.

The freeways cannot carry enough traffic to evacuate the immense population, and in any case they will be devastated by the tsunami, earthquake and hurricane. Not to mention clogged with pulchritude.

We know all of this because two nuclear reactors have blown up in Iowa and Nebraska, eradicating Cedar Falls and Omaha and killing millions, as a result of flooding on the Missouri River. Oh, wait. That hasn’t happened.

Yet. But a lot of bloggers won’t be happy until it does.

Credible Campaign

Mitt Romney would have more credibility, at least with me, if he did not say things like, "Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban."

The people of Afghanistan are "Afghans," while the "Afghani" is a unit of currency in that nation. So he is saying something that would be, for this country, "The dollar will have to step up and vote in elections." Or, perhaps, he is suggesting that the Taliban will actually have to be bought off?

That Heinous Flotilla

I cannot help but wonder what planet the people governing us live on when on one hand they find it necessary to enter into a third armed conflict, spending millions of dollars to “protect human lives” in Libya, while at the same time they are saying that “we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza” who are literally starving to death.

I know that their definition of self defense is different than mine, given that they believe we are defending ourselves from terrorists by killing people in Afghanistan, and that is further confirmed when Hillary Clinton opines that “…we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.” Israel needs to “defend itself” from an unarmed flotilla carrying food and medicine.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ironic Title

Beat The Press titled one of its posts on Friday, "Can't The NYT Find an Economist Who Knows Anything Abou the Economy?" Oh boy. It would help if Beat the Press knew about spellcheckers, but they certainly should know that the NYT is not alone in being unable to find an economist who knows anything about the economy. The very term is an oxymoron.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

One State At A Time

Congratulations to New York for adopting equality for all of its citizens on the issue of marriage. It was the right thing to do.

Why Now? Why At All?

Silence on my blog yesterday as I have been pondering what the hell is up with releasing 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves, 30 million from U.S. reserves, at a time when prices are already declining. It was said to be caused by “current Middle East disruptions,” but how can that be when prices are dropping? The communiqué went on to mention Libya, but that conflict is almost three months old, Saudi Arabia promised to replace any losses from Libya, and in any case prices are dropping. “Current disruptions” cause prices to rise and prices were, at the risk of becoming really monotonous, dropping at the time the release was announced.

A guy on NPR said, “It’s an economic Hail Mary pass,” meaning, “The economy is in the tank, we have no idea what to do about it, so what the hell, let’s release some oil.” That sounds about right to me. It’s about the only thing that hasn’t been tried yet, so throw that against the same wall you’ve been throwing everything else at and see if it sticks any better than anything else has. Yeah, good luck.

It does reveal to bogus nature of the release; it is an effort to manipulate oil pricing, which is not the purpose of the reserve. The reserve is in place to serve as a buffer against real oil shortages, such as occurred during the embargo of the 1970’s, and it has been used only twice. The release during Gulf War I was certainly legitimate; the release after Katrina was, perhaps, stretching things a bit. This release is nonsensical in its reference to “current disruptions.”

And as an economic solution it is, at the very best, a short term solution to a long term problem. That understates it. It is a partial solution lasting a few days, for a solution which is systemic and which is not only destroying our economy, but which is taking our society and our planet down with it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pretty Words

For a man who can give such a rousing campaign speech, when he steps up to that podium in the White House he can be unbelievably dull; eyes unfocused as he monotones words that someone else has written for him, pretty words designed not to inform but to read well in history books. He strives to look authoritative as he speaks of “meeting our goals,” of dim lights shining in the distance, of wars which “will end responsibly” in a manner and at a time undisclosed, and of how we must be “as pragmatic as we are passionate” when we decide to use our military power in whatever manner is the latest definition of “not war.”

In his first sentence he tied together 9/11, terrorist planning in Afghanistan, and the Taliban. But 9/11 was not planned in Afghanistan, it was planned in Germany. In fact, when Bush tried to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11 he set the bogus meeting not in Afghanistan, but in Germany, because that’s where the plot was formulated. Osama bin Laden was head of the group that perpetrated that plot, but he had no more to do with its planning than Lee Iacocca had to do specifically with planning the Chrysler Imperial.

And still Obama holds on to the myth that we are in Afghanistan to assure than they will have “no safe-haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland.” That is simply nonsensical. For one thing, no actual attack upon this nation has ever been “launched from” Afghanistan, and for another good point, as Barney Frank put it later on
The Last Word, “We can’t plug every rat hole in the world.”

And 9/11 was "launched from" Boston, right here in the United States.

Obama talked about how “We have learned anew the profound cost of war,” as if the Iraqi and Afghan people had not learned that cost far better than we, because they learned that lesson on their own soil not for one day, but for ten long years. He talked about how that cost “has been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan” and didn’t mention the cost paid by the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He talked about our “responsibility as an anchor of global security,” which may be a phrase original to him; I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. It translates to permission to build and man military bases all over the world, including in countries which don’t really want us to, and to spend more on military that all of the rest of the world put together. He also referred to us as “nation of law,” except for when a president wants to start a war and the law doesn’t allow him to, and said that we “extend justice to every single citizen," except the ones we arbitrarily assassinate.

And then he ventured into “America’s singular role” and words which, if meaningful at all, were certainly obscure. Something about “rallying allies” without a “single soldier on the ground,” which is certainly singular but is of questionable accuracy. Then something that was supposed to make us believe that all these wars abroad created opportunity at home, which sounds good but is somewhat at odds with observable reality.

Then he told us at great length how wonderful our troops are and closed with “the little engine that could” thing about “no hill is to steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.” Go team.

Oh, and as for Afghanistan? The troops will come home, but not very fast, and the war will end, but not any time soon. Get used to it, there are many more freedom bombs to come.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We Are So Misunderstood

Watching CBS News last night, I had difficulty knowing how to feel when I watched a clip of Karl Eikenberry, Ambassador to Afghanistan, speaking in that country and castigating their leadership for complaining about our conduct of the war there. Mostly I felt embarrassed for my country. The tone of voice that he used can only be described as whining when he said,

"When Americans who are serving in your country at great cost in terms of our lives and treasures, when they hear themselves compared with occupiers and told that they are only here to advance their own narrow interests and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people," Eikenberry said, "my people in turn are filled with confusion and they grow weary of our effort here."

The homes that we have driven them out of and bombed may not seem like “treasures” to him, but it was the only treasure those people had, and they stood helplessly by and watched that home disappear in an explosion caused by Americans wearing boots, helmets and goggles and carrying weapons. How could they possibly not see us as “occupiers” of their country?

Those same booted, helmeted, goggled and armed troopers kick down the doors of their homes in the middle of the night and drive them out into the dark, hauling their sons and husbands off to indefinite detention on a whim. When their own leadership demands a halt to that practice, our military refuses. How could they possibly not see us as enemies and as occupiers of their country?

Eikenberry whines about the price we have paid, as if we were doing something noble in Afghanistan’s behalf, but they did not ask us to come there. We did, in fact, invade that country in behalf of our own interest and we are their for our own security. And he whines about the cost we pay, disregarding our destruction of entire villages in their country, and our disruption of their entire way of life.

When Afghans “compare us with occupiers, tell us that we are only there to advance our own narrow interests and liken us to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people” they speak the truth.

Voters Have A Choice

On Friday Lawrence O’Donnell had a guest from Netroots Nation who was berating Obama for being insufficiently liberal, specifically on gay marriage, and saying he did not deserve to be reelected. As a side note, I would suggest gay rights is the best part of Obama’s record, and is the one reason I would actually support him, but then I am half of a traditional heterosexual marriage, so that’s pretty easy for me to say.

On Monday O’Donnell brought on David Axelrod to “defend” Obama. Axelrod said pretty much what I expected. “Obama has a wonderful record, the president’s view is evolving, and the voters are going to very clear choice in 2012.” Last night yet another Obama defender talked about how voters are “going to have a choice” in the election next year.

So it appears that is going to be Obama’s campaign theme for 2012, replacing “hope and change” with “choice.” Democrats ran on the “we’re not them” theme in 2010, and it got them what Obama referred to as “a shellacking,” so I wonder why he thinks it will work in 2012. Sure, Republicans have gotten a little bit crazier, but are they that much crazier, and will voters elect someone based on “I’m not the other guy” alone?

A couple of years ago we had Democrats pressing for legislation that was a corporatist agenda with a veneer of populism and Republicans were “the party of no” with nothing to offer. Now we have Republicans pressing for legislation which is just batshit insane, and Democrats are the party of “we’re not them” with nothing to offer.

So voters do indeed have a choice. We can choose between the craziness or “we got nothing but at least we’re not crazy.” We can vote for Republicans who call themselves Democrats, or we can vote for crazies who call themselves Republicans. Some choice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

He still has young voters

One of my fond memories of my father was that he worked magic with infants. After he retired from the Air Force he worked in public health; as Director of Maternal and Child Health for the City of Milwaukee, he conducted what were called “well baby clinics.” Women with infants who could not afford health care could bring their babies to these clinics for checkups. He would take a fussy baby from the mother and, instantly, the baby would be calm and content. It was fun to watch him with infants.

Hardball showed Obama today on a campaign tour, and he was chatting with a mother whose baby was crying. He was clowning with the baby, who continued to cry, and finally he persuaded the mother to let him hold the baby. The infant instantly calmed and stopped crying as soon as it was being held by the President.

And they say he is losing the youth vote.

The Easy Answers Aren't Easy

Dean Baker debunks careless reporting on the economy in his column Beat The Press, but he is sometimes a little quick with his Keynesian solutions and it seems to me that he doesn’t always think things through. Today he is “debunking" Dana Milbank for claiming that “there is very little that government can do to create jobs.” Here are the things that Baker suggests the government can do.

"The government can spend money. People work for money, meaning that government spending will create jobs."

Yes indeed, spending money always feels good. I had a girlfriend once who, every time she felt depressed, went out and bought shoes. She didn’t need any more shoes and didn’t ever wear the ones she bought on her sprees, but spending money made her feel better.

So, indeed, the government can spend money, and it has been doing so like crazy for the past couple of years. Where are the jobs?

"The government can also have more tax cuts or credits. If these tax breaks go to low and moderate income people, then they will spend money. This will create jobs."

Or maybe those people will just pay off debts. Or maybe they will just save the money in case they lose their jobs. Or maybe they will spend it, okay, but will just quit adding debt on their credit cards. None of those things will create jobs.

"The Federal Reserve Board can deliberately raise the rate of inflation, thereby lowering real interest rates and reducing debt burdens. This will also lead to more spending and more jobs."

Inflation will also reduce the spending power of people who have jobs, which will cost jobs. And when people's debt load is reduced, they may merely say, "Whew" and not engage in additional borrowing, which will not create more jobs. And the debt reduction may make homeowners less underwater on their homes, but still underwater and still unable to borrow or spend, which will not create jobs. And inflation will utterly destroy the buying power of people on fixed incomes, which will cost jobs.

"The government could also push down the value of the dollar which will increase net exports. This will also create more jobs."

This will also increase the cost of imports, which is a large portion of what we buy these days, which will reduce the buying power of everybody and cost jobs. It will also raise the price of oil, thereby raising the price of a great many products and transportation and crippling the economy, which will cost jobs.

"And, the government could provide incentives to employers to shorten workweeks as an alternative to layoffs."

Except that eliminating layoffs is not exactly “creating jobs” is it? And what is going to happen to the spending power of the people who are working the shortened workweeks?

There just are no easy answers, and any person who wants to be president at this point should automatically be discredited and eliminated from consideration.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Collapse Is A Form Of Adjustment

I keep having the sinking feeling that we are getting this climate change wrong; that we do not really understand what is happening; that it is bigger, faster, and more out of control than we suspect. Every time there is news on the subject, it is that the effect is happening faster than was predicted.

And the illogic runs rampant, even within the ranks of supporters. A major snowstorm blankets the East Coast and they are quick to point out that no single weather event is indicative of global climate, but when tornadoes devastate Joplin and the Southeast they hasten to use it as an example of global warming.

We talk of moving to electric cars, wind farms and solar panels but no one ever suggests that there might be a need to adjust our basic lifestyle. We assume that the form of social living the we enjoy can continue forever. I suspect the Anasazi thought so too. We don’t know with certainty why that ancient society is gone, but by far the most common postulate is that it outgrew its environment and collapsed.

And yet we never look at the astonishing population growth of planet Earth and wonder if we are doing on a global scale what the Anasazi did locally.

Update, Tuesday morning:
After writing that yesterday, in the evening I came across this little gem.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Unfettered President

Obama supporters like to claim that no criticism of him should be made, but the reasons they give tend to fail the test of logic. That he is “better than the alternative” does not, in my opinion, shield him from criticism, neither does the argument that he has done so many good things, and neither does the argument that he is in some cases merely doing what many presidents before him have done.

I can’t go to the judge, for instance, and claim that I should be absolved of burglary because doing so is better than the armed bank robbery that others are doing. Likewise, I can’t argue to the judge that my burglary should be excused because I help little old ladies across the street, I’ve been a “Big Brother,” I donate to charity, and I vote Democratic. The judge is likely to say all of that is irrelevant and send me to jail for burglary.

As for the final argument, my parents used to reply to my claims that “all of my friends are doing it” by asking if all my friends jumped off a tall building would I want to do that too? I was pretty rash as a kid, so the answer actually was “yes,” but I always merely retreated. The point is that previous presidential law breaking does not justify this president doing so.

This president has started a war in Libya in violation of the limits of power placed on him by our constitution, and we should not passively accept that just because we think that he is otherwise a good guy. Friends don’t let friends commit crimes. Speaking out against this act does not mean we want to throw him out, it merely means we do not accept this action, we want him to correct it and we don’t want him to do it again.

It is not only okay to speak out against a president whom we support when he does something with which we disagree, it is our duty as citizens exercising free speech to do so. We cannot be afraid that we will weaken that president by doing so, we should be afraid that we will weaken our nation if we do not.

We will maintain our freedom of speech only for so long as we use that freedom. It matters not why we curb speech, whether it is curbed by government for base reasons or whether we curb it ourselves for more noble ones, when ideas are not freely exchanged in honest dialog then freedom of speech is a dream slowly dying.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

100 Years of IBM

IBM celebrates 100 years this year, although it didn’t take that name until sometime in the 1920’s. That company has always been a favorite of mine and I have always used a PC type computer. I have no doubt that Apple’s Mac products are excellent, but I prefer to give my business to companies who are less self-serving.

When IBM designed and released its “personal computer” it used a concept called “open architecture.” They knew that design could be copied and modified sufficiently to produce like products which circumvented their copyrights, but they had a broader view than the end of their nose. They knew that their decision would lead to a larger market in personal computing overall, and that in the long run they would benefit along with society from that larger market. We all know the outcome of that decision.

Apple went for the “closed architecture” which could not be copied or emulated, and they have never occupied anything but a niche market. It has worked for them and made them very wealthy, but without the larger market of the computing world created largely by IBM, Apple would most likely be a toy of limited interest and small value.

Vision? Not Apple, really. Apple has some really great ideas, but the company with true vision has been IBM.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Single Source Reaction

One of the things that I try to be careful about is avoiding reactions to single sources. When I read something, no matter where it is, I don’t react to it until I see the same thing reported an at least a couple of other sources, even if the first report is in a place which I consider to be pretty reliable. It’s amazing how often that policy saves me from looking like an idiot. I do that enough even with that policy, imagine what I could do without it.

When the McKinsey report came out saying that a large number of employers would drop health insurance when “health care reform” became fully implemented in 2014, I was tempted to do an “I told you so” thing because I am no fan of the half assed way that social policy was implemented, but I waited to see if there was a basis for my “aha moment.” Turns out there was not, as the study was entirely bogus.

That doesn’t mean that the “health care reform” was good legislation. It was botched by having to pander to the reelection campaigns of legislators in fifty diverse states, but that report was not the “smoking gun” that was illustrative of the problems with it.

In similar vein, a blogger took a report of an incident at a nuclear reactor at Fort Calhoun, Nebraska way out of context and went from that report to “a single earthen dam is the only thing preventing a Fukushima type disaster in America's heartland.” The blog is an excellent place that I don’t want to embarrass, so I won’t name it here.

The incident was a “no fly order” issued on June 6th by the FAA due to flooding of the Missouri River, and a small electrical fire the next day which had knocked out the coolant pumps for the spent fuel pond for about 90 minutes. The news release added that after about 88 hours the water in that pool would reach boiling point.

The “no fly order” is entirely routine, issued because whenever there is flooding every private pilot in the area wants to go take a look, creating a navigation hazard, so the FAA tells pilots to stay the hell away to keep them from crashing into each other. It has nothing to do with any hazard created by the reactor itself.

The electrical fire on Jun 7 was extinguished by automatic fire systems before the fire department arrived and power to cooling system was restored in 1.7% of the time that would have been required for the event to have become any kind of serious problem.

Finally, the reactor at Fort Calhoun is a pressurized water type, not the boiling water type that melted down at Fukushima, which is rather like comparing Ford Escorts at Fukushima to an armored truck at Fort Calhoun, and it's a single reactor rather than four units, so there is a good deal more than “a single earthen dam” preventing “a Fukushima type disaster in America's heartland.”

Update, Saturday morning: Not to mention that the Fort Calhoun reactor is in a state of cold shutdown, and has been since April. How many ways can we over-react?

Family Values?

One comment, on something which seems to have escaped the Weiner maniacs. At least no one commented on it yesterday, even Chris Matthews while devoting his entire show to the subject. In his showy, rather bizarre announcement, Weiner wanted to thank a lot of people including "my mother and father, who instilled in me the values which have carried me so far." Given the behaviors which compelled him to take the action he is currently announcing, thanking his parents for his values seems a little odd.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We are all frogs now

You know the story. If you drop a frog in boiling water it will hop out. But if you put a frog in cool water and warm it slowly, ever warmer, the frog will sit there not noticing the increasing warmth. It will stay right there until it boils to death, oblivious to what's happening in its little pond. We are that frog.

Military As Economic Model

The New York Times has run an editorial today that may be the most strange piece of economic thinking I have ever come across. Nicholas Kristof suggests that we look to our military for an economic pattern for use in our modern economy.

He points out that the pay scales in the military provide a relatively small difference between leadership and worker, that the organization is racially integrated, and that it “invests in soldiers and gives them skills and opportunities.” He goes on to rave about how it takes care of its people, employees and families, with universal health care and social support.

“Perhaps the most impressive achievement of the American military isn’t its aircraft carriers, stunning as they are. Rather, it’s the military day care system for working parents.”

Then he engages in some delusional discussion about education, hyperventilating about academies and War Colleges, and admiring the way that so many soldiers get law degrees and PhD’s while in service. Of course, a good many of them get killed, too, but that seems to be a minor detail for him, as he admits that “the opportunities for working-class Americans are mingled with danger.”

In the same breath he has to admit that the social support might be somewhat less than ideal, as “It’s also true that the military remains often unwelcoming to gays and lesbians and is conflicted about women as well.” So if you are a straight male, the military is the perfect social model.

And it serves as a great economic model only if you are not concerned with profit. There is the slight problem that the military operates at a 100% negative profit margin, so it might not serve as an ideal economic model for any business that wants to return a gain on their stockholders’ investment, or for any small business owner who wants to make a living from the business which he owns.

Not to mention that the military is, essentially, a dictatorship, where one is required to do whatever he is told without questioning the instructions or offering any backtalk. One cannot quit one's job, change jobs, or live wherever one wants to, and peope are even told what clothing they must wear, and when and where they must eat, sleep and take care of business.

I maybe can understand Kristof writing this nonsense, today’s laws make it impossible to institutionalize crazy people who are not a danger to themselves or others, but I can’t understand why the New York Times would publish it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Loyal Cabinet

I didn’t watch the Republican debate, having better things to do with my time, such as watching the paint dry in my downstairs room. I did see clips of it, though, including the part where they were fulminating about Muslims in the cabinet. Newt Gingrich declaimed with great enthusiasm that anyone who was “not loyal to America” could not serve in his cabinet, and that “we did that with the Nazis and we did that with the Communists, and it worked.”

In exactly what way it “worked” he did not explain in any real detail, but then he never does. I’m also not sure how many Nazis actually sought US cabinet positions, but I was just an infant at the time, so I can’t speak with any real authority on the subject.

I was still pretty young when Communists were seeking cabinet positions, but I do recall that we didn’t limit their non-participation to cabinet positions. As I recall we banned them from film careers, and from publishing, and… Well, it was a pretty sweeping ban. It certainly did keep them out of the cabinet, but I don’t think we want to do that kind of thing again.

Somebody needs to inform Newt that every member of the current cabinet has sworn an oath to “protect and defend the constitution of the United States.” I’ve always thought that phrase was slightly weird; like who is going to attack a piece of paper? It does, however, certainly imply a high degree of loyalty to America, so I do believe Obama has beaten Gingrich to the punch on this issue.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Well, he did say it...

Mitt Romney took a shot at Obama, saying with respect to the increase in unemployment that "They are not a bump in the road, they are Americans." Democrats are furious, claiming that it was a cheap shot, and that patriotic Americans would not attack an opponent in such a sleazy way. No one has suggested that, perhaps, Obama should have not made the remark.

The More Things Change...

One of the joys of advanced age is watching things published and called “innovative” which were standard practice when you were younger. A few years ago some company proudly announced that it had adopted the “innovative” practice of including production management in the design of its products, so that cost of production could be a design consideration.

A control panel was cited as an example, in which five different fasteners were being used in assembly and production suggested that the same fastener could be used throughout. This would save the assembler time, since he could use a single tool and would not have to be picking up and putting down tools while assembling the panel on the assembly line. The cost savings were substantial.

My question was, why in the hell were five different fasteners ever specified in the first place? Rather than bragging about reducing the design to a single fastener, they should have been embarrassed by the original design. In my day production cost was always a design consideration, so when and why did it ever cease to be? This firm was thrilled by the idea of returning to a practice that was standard forty years earlier.

Now, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, hospitals are discovering that healing is promoted by comfort, and are designing hospitals to provide patients with an “oversized suite-style room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking tranquil gardens or rolling green hills.” Awesome.

Not to burst their bubble or anything, but Tucson Medical Center was doing that thirty years ago, and it was not new at the time; it was something they had been doing for decades. My father was being treated for cancer there, and his room had sliding glass doors that opened onto a landscaped patio so that his bed could be rolled out for him to enjoy the sun, as did all rooms in the hospital.

TMC was founded as a sanitorium for treating Tuberculosis, back when that disease was treatable only with palliative care and the desert climate was considered the best venue for doing so. As it morphed into a full care and fully modern hospital, it maintained the atmosphere of comfortable care, and its example was emulated rather widely until medical care became centered on profit rather than healing.

Worlds Collide

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a good year in the Sprint Cup stock car racing circuit, standing third in the championship points, and winning “most popular” in fan voting for the past several years. Sandra MacWatters of The Bleacher Report, gives us ten reasons, supposedly, why he’s having such a good season in 2011 after horrible seasons in 2009 and 2010.

1. Winning atmosphere. Well, I’ll partially buy this one. Being on the same team with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and their crew chiefs is definitely an asset. Why this was not such an asset for him the past two tears, the writer does not explain.

2. Staying out of trouble. This is at least a reasonably valid point. He has had a few minor issues, but has kept his car intact and finished all races except Daytona.

3. Fan support. Give me a break. He has been voted fan's “most popular” for several years, and fan support didn’t do much for him in 2009 or 2010.

4. Qualifying. This one is nonsense. Junior has qualified horribly, and would undoubtedly be doing significantly better if he were not qualifying so poorly.

5. Rick Hendrick. Absolutely, this is one of the best team owners in the business, but Junior has been with Hendrick for several years now and this is his first successful year.

6. Steve Letarte. Absolutely, this reason is valid. The second best crew chief there is, and this is Junior’s first year with him.

7. Confidence. Blah, blah, blah. Junior has had fifty pounds of confidence in a five pound bag ever since he entered the Cup series. He is doing better now that he has developed a little bit of humility.

8. Upcoming tracks. What? The future schedule is why he has been doing well in the schedule so far? What are you smoking, girlfriend?

9. Contract extension. He has one year after this one on his present contract, and they are negotiating an extension. They have not signed an extension. Having signed an extension might give him confidence which would probably not materially affect his performance. Negotiating a contract is uncertainty, which might or might not affect his performance, but if it did it would be a negative.

10. Statistics. In which the writer says, “The statistics are proof Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a terrific season.” In this universe there is a difference between a “reason” and a “proof.” A “reason” pulls the wagon, a “proof” is evidence that the wagon has been there. This writer cannot tell the difference between a horse and a pile of horse poop.

So, out of ten reasons, two are valid, two are semi-valid, one is proof rather than reason, and the other five are utter nonsense. I would say this means that our sports writers have reached the same level as our political writers, in which words merely have to come from the correct chapter of the thesaurus, they do not have to be strung into actual, coherent sentences.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bachmann, Palin, anybody but...

Paul Ryan wants to cut tax rates while keeping revenue essentially neutral by eliminating deductions and loopholes. He claims this will benefit individuals but doesn’t specify exactly how; since it is revenue neutral, they will presumably be paying the same amount of taxes. Perhaps he is referring to it becoming easier to file tax returns, but I’m not sure I’m sufficiently thrilled by that to vote for him.

He also claims it will “make businesses more competitive,” which is really difficult to comprehend. Since all businesses will be affected by it in the same manner, how will they be more able to compete? If you give each of two football teams an additional kicker, which one will score more field goals? If he’s talking about competition in the world market he’s up against that “revenue neutral” concept again. How are they going to be more competitive unless they are paying lower taxes?

Obama has signed on to part of Ryan’s plan, lowering corporate taxes and eliminating deductions. Like Ryan, he says it will not be a tax cut for business because the lost deductions, which are not specified, will offset the reduced rate. That rather makes me wonder what is the point of doing it, and it really makes me wonder why Obama makes the glowing claims of how much it will help businesses and spur them to hire more people.

I’m pretty sure that the lack of hiring is not due to high income taxes paid by corporations. I’m pretty sure it is caused by lack of income upon which to pay those taxes. I don’t really see how changing the structure, but not the amount, of income tax is going to generate more income. But then I’m not trying to get you to vote for me.

Tim Pawlenty makes these guys look like Nobel laureates. He wants to cut the corporate rate too, but not merely to 25% as Obama and Ryan do, he wants to cut it to 15%. Not only that, but he wants to cut personal income tax to 10% on the first $100,000 of income and 25% on everything over that. Unlike Obama and Ryan, he doesn’t want to eliminate any of the deductions, exclusions or loopholes.

There’s no point in even discussing the numbers which result from this plan. There is no possible amount of spending cuts which could even approach offsetting this kind of revenue cut, and even the most delusional economist in the universe cannot believe that growth is going to come within an order of magnitude of compensating for it.

This is the guy who Lawrence O’Donnell says is the only reasonable Republican candidate, which makes both Pawlenty and O’Donnell absolutely, batshit insane.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Color Me Sceptical

Get out your coloring books, turn to page six, and color me sceptical. I've heard this "going into treatment" thing before. It's a place where the media can't scream at you, they probably won't let your wife visit, and it sounds good to critical contemporaries. Problem is they treat the wrong thing; self absorption, arrogance and stupidity treatment should have begun in early childhood.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Whole Deck?

lego maniaThe sailor in me loved this. I was rolling on the floor.

Nothing Inappropriate?

The police say that there was "nothing inappropriate" contained in the exchanges between Anthony Weiner and the teenaged girl in Delaware. Um, the exchanges themselves were inappropriate. Duh.

Why Is It Always Men?

Erica Jong was on Hardball the other day to explain why men keep engaging in sex scandals and women do not. She babbled something about being in a position of power, which didn’t make much sense, and I must confess that my attempts to figure it out have not made much sense either.

Then I was reading an item in Democratic Underground and a commenter said that, “In order for a woman to get into a powerful position they have to be very smart. If they are smart and savvy enough to get into a powerful position, they are probably smart enough to either avoid these kinds of scandals or hide them better.”

I think that person hit it on the head. Our system is still pretty much male dominated and allows a lot of pretty mediocre men to reach positions of power. So when you take a guy who is really not terribly smart, who does not have much self discipline, and you give him a great deal of power, he is very likely to misuse that power. He won’t do it because he is evil or corrupt, he will do it because he is simply not capable of managing the power which has been given to him.

Women, however, are not going to reach powerful positions unless they are very smart and very disciplined in their thinking and personal habits. Those who are predatory in their personal habits are going to prey on weak men, but we are damn sure never going to know about it.

Update, 9:40am: Of course, Michele Bachmann comes to mind. Hmmm.

Friday, June 10, 2011

This is just ugly

I've never been a particularly big fan of Robert Gates, mostly regarding him merely as being an improvement on the jackass who preceeded him. When he stands on the international stage and makes arrogant, ugly statements about what other nations should be doing I just think he cannot disappear into the woodwork soon enough.

Highlighting the U.S.' frustration with prolonged military engagements where it had to take the lead, Mr. Gates also said the “blunt reality” was there would be “dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress and in the American body politic writ large to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defence.”

I don't think Panetta is going to be a big improvement, frankly, but it would be hard for him to be much worse. I have no idea where he thinks we are "expending resources" in defense of European nations.

Update: Norway responded by announcing this afternoon that it would reduce its participation in the Libyan effort immediately and withdraw completely by August 1st. Good for Norway.

Tax Cut Election Dilemma

We are being warned by Democrats and the liberal media that we must not, under any circumstances, elect Republicans because they will cut taxes. Republicans are the party of tax cuts and that is what got us into this economic mess to begin with. Tax cuts are disastrous and if we elect Republicans they will perpetuate the policy of cutting taxes and the nation will go down the drain. We hear you.

This excerpt, from Obama’s “State of the Union” speech in January 2010, after barely one year in office, might seem to strike a little bit of dissonance with that message,

"We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses," Obama said. "We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college."

Six times in a matter of a few seconds Obama patted his administration on the back for cutting taxes. But he did not stop there.

For two full years the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, and they knew that the Bush tax cuts were set to expire at the end of 2010. They did not come up with any tax plan of their own to replace the Republican tax schedules, and did not even begin discussing it for the first eighteen months of their control of Congress. Then, for six months all we heard was discussion of in what form the Bush tax cuts should or should not be renewed.

Finally, Obama agreed to a full renewal of them, not for a mere one year, but for two full years. Despite his imprimatur on them, they are still referred to as “the Bush tax cuts.” But he did not stop there, he also imposed a “tax holiday” on the payroll tax for Social Security, money that will have to be replaced from federal revenue.

The Republicans, say Democrats, want to cut taxes for the rich and for businesses, while Democrats cut taxes for middle class working people. Read Obama’s State of the Union again, and consider the plan that his administration is rolling out now; a payroll tax cut on the employer side, and a reduction in the corporate tax rate, accompanied with the closure of unspecified “tax loopholes.”

We are supposed to believe that the elimination of deductions and loopholes will offset the reduction in the tax rate, and that corporations will wind up paying as much or more in taxes, but since the plan is being proposed in order to “make business more competitive” it’s hard to imagine how that can be the case.

So we mustn’t elect Republicans because they will cut taxes, but it would appear that we mustn’t elect Democrats for precisely the same reason.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Bombs Away

When Obama took office we had troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan were not unheard of but were rare and very discreet. Today we still have troops in Iraq, we have a bigger war in Afghanistan, drone strikes in Pakistan are almost daily occurrences, we have a significant air war in Yemen and we have a full scale and intense air war in Libya. The latter three offensives have not been sanctioned by Congress.

And the president ordering all of this has a Nobel Peace Prize. Awesome.

Still Too Big To Fail

I was reading a speech given last Monday by Richard W. Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and while some of it was a bit over my head a few things popped out at me. One was his concern that the new financial regulation in Dodd-Frank does not separate the risk-taking of financial investment from deposit banking institutions, another was his concern that it does not eliminate “too big to fail,” and the third was his concern for its impact on smaller financial institutions,

Post-crisis, the large institutions are even larger: The top 10 now account for 64 percent of assets, up from 58 percent before the crisis and substantially higher than the 25 percent they accounted for in 1990. In effect, more prudent and better-managed banks have been denied the market share that would have been theirs if mismanaged big banks had been allowed to go out of business. This strikes me as counter to the very essence of competition that is the hallmark of American capitalism: Prudently managed banks are being victimized by publicly subsidized competition from less-prudent institutions.

So not only has “too big to fail” not been eliminated, it has actually gotten bigger. The reason for that is that the FDIC has taken control of failed smaller banks and sold them to the (also failed) larger banks, making the big banks bigger and the market share of small banks smaller. Not only is this contrary to the principle of “free enterprise” that we are supposed to embrace, but it is entirely contrary to good sense.

The only disagreement I would have with Fisher is his implication that the failure of the “too big to fail” institutions was caused by error and/or stupidity. I believe the management of these institutions knew exactly what they were doing and knew exactly what the outcome would be. That the nation and investors would be impoverished was known to them in advance and was of absolutely no concern. They knew that they, personally, would be enriched and that was their motive.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

California Dimwittism

This shouldn’t be news, but California has broken out in another rash of stupid. There must be something in the water, or the air. Maybe all of the medical Marijuana has getting to us with the “second hand smoke” effect.

Anyway, the DMV is no longer issuing auto license renewals, and if you go into the office to renew your car license they will not accept your money or issue your renewal. The reason is that, bless their addled little brains, they don’t know how much to charge because there is a bill pending in the legislature that may change the auto tax rate, and it isn't approved yet.

Now some state offices would say, “Well, we will just follow the existing law until we are notified to change it,” but not California. This is a very forward thinking state. If there is a chance that the law might change we want to enforce the new law, not the old one, and so we will go into a status of suspended animation until…

Meanwhile, people who want to drive out of state are fearful of doing so due to the risk of being arrested for driving with an expired license. My tag isn’t expired, but even if it was I would not hesitate to drive to Arizona. They know about California in that state, they know all about California. Half of them spend their summers here.

Bump In The Road

I didn’t post yesterday, because nothing was happening other than the entire media fulminating about a Congressman from New York. Frankly,
I found him shallow and boring when he was being “good” and I find the subject of him even more shallow and boring now.

I did notice that, all but lost in that clamor, President Obama spoke yesterday on the unemployment numbers, and after hearing clips of it,
I wished I’d missed it. He said that the “uptick in unemployment” was a “bump in the road” caused as “employers look back on conditions that existed two and a half years ago.”

For an intelligent person, that man can be remarkably tone deaf. After ignoring unemployment for months, coming back to it only to downplay the problem is not going to endear him to the people who are suffering the effects of that “bump in the road,” and if he expects us to believe that employers are basing hiring decisions on events thirty months in the past he is delusional. Those of us who have an IQ higher than room temperature roll our eyes as we recognize that he is still trying to kick the can backward to George Bush. Employers are not looking at the Bush Administration as they make today’s hiring decisions.

He needs to quit trying to pretend that unemployment isn’t a big deal, and start talking like he takes it seriously. Continuing to say that the economy is improving and that we just can’t see it yet, like he and his advisors can, is not going to fly.

Monday, June 06, 2011

D Day, Never Forget

My father, a career Air Force officer, was not terribly upset when I joined the Navy, although the fact that I enlisted rather than becoming an officer caused a little friction. He told me that at least I would eat well.

Turns out that in 1944, serving as a medical officer in England, he was getting really fed up with bad food and wet, cold weather, and so volunteered for some “unknown, interesting and possibly hazardous duty.” That turned out to be on a Navy LST hitting Omaha Beach, where his function was to tend wounded on the return trip.

The food, he said, was awesome, but they kept calling him “Major” despite the clear insignia on his uniform which showed that he was a Captain. They finally informed him that only the commanding officer of the ship, who was a Chief Petty Officer, could be addressed as “Captain,” so they solved the problem by verbally promoting him.

He made several crossings, but like most people who served in World War Two, he had very little to say about anything that happened after he joined that ship. I daresay it was interesting. It got more interesting when one trip turned out to be one-way and he got assigned to Patton's group.

Speed Has Become Irrelevant

The Indianapolis 500 was won when the leading driver crashed, but the issue for the last 20 laps was whether or not any of the leading three drivers was going to run out of gas. The Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte later the same day was decided when not only the leader, but the second-place car as well, ran out of gas. The Nationwide race at Chicago this past Saturday was won when the first two cars ran out of gas. The Sprint Cup race in Kansas City yesterday was won by the driver who saved the most fuel.

I would love to return to the days when a reporter asked Dale Earnhardt how he planned to win a race and, with a supremely disgusted look at the young reporter, Earnhardt replied, “I plan to drive real fast.”

Ideaology Defined

I was in an online conversation elsewhere regarding the difference between a “liberal” and a “progressive.” I maintained that there is none, that it is two different labels for the same person. The reason is that conservatives turned “liberal” into a pejorative and, as is typical of the genre, liberals freaked out and began calling themselves “progressives” instead. Liberals pretty much always run from a fight, either changing the subject, or just surrendering to the opponent and calling it a “good compromise.”

Conservatives, on the other hand, love a good fight. Liberals tried to turn the label “conservative” into a pejorative and it didn’t work. Conservatives reacted with a sort of collective, “Hell yes I’m one of those. Suck on it.”

Full disclosure, here. I took a test one time; answer a whole bunch of questions to determine if you are a liberal or a conservative. Not only did I score as a liberal, I would up grading to the left of Desmond Tutu. That doesn't mean that I cannot recognize that liberals are really bad at politics.

The two movements approach policy in a similar manner. Conservatives have strong principles and will adhere to them at all costs, even losing elections if needed to stand up for their principles. If they elect a Republican, for instance, and he raises taxes, they will throw his ass out of office to prove their point, even if it means electing a Democrat to do so. Witness George the Elder.

That’s part of the current “disarray” that the Republican Party finds itself in today. None of the current candidates is sufficiently adherent to the principles that are the backbone of the party, and so party loyalists are thrashing around a bit looking for someone who meets their criteria. Pundits decry the wingnut candidates as being unable to win in a general election, but that doesn’t matter to conservatives. Adhering to their principles is more important than winning.

Liberals, not so much. They have some ideas, but not much in the way of actual principles. They aren't all that coherent on what those ideas are, really, and they don't require adherence to them in any case. They elect a guy to restore civil liberties and constitutionality and if he doesn't do it, well, they weren't all that certain about the civil liberties and constitutionality thing anyway. Maybe things were only bad because it was a Republican doing it, so they'll reelect this guy regardless, because he's a Democrat whatever he does.

Witness Barack Obama, who has done almost nothing which liberals hold dear, but who is utterly unchallenged for the Democratic spot in 2012 and, in fact, who no elected Democrat even dares criticize to even the slightest degree.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Consumer Economy

How long can a family continue spending 20% more than it earns in income before that policy comes crashing down on its head? A while, certainly, depending on its credit rating, but nowhere near indefinitely. A government can do it forever, theoretically, because it has the power to print money.

But how long can a nation’s economy do it? For decades, economists have said with complete calmness that 70% of this nation’s economy is “consumer spending” and have never batted an eyelash over the obvious corollary to that, which is that such an economy is one which piles up ever increasing debt. How long can that continue?

Well, we found out in 2008. The problem was not the “housing bubble” and the overvaluation of housing, the problem was the inability of homeowners to pay the mortgages on those homes. That bubble kept inflating as long as those mortgage payments were being made, it was only when the mortgages started defaulting that the grits hit the fan.

And yet even now, how is Paul Krugman saying that we can get things going? “We are not, after all, suffering from supply-side problems,” he says, “This is a demand-side slump; all we need to do is create more demand.” Right, he wants to recreate the “consumer economy,” the same one that crashed just three years ago.

Obama is describing this month’s increase in unemployment as “a bump in the road” and, two full years into his administration, is still blaming current conditions on his predecessors and offering no real solutions other than the same tax cuts and spending increases that he says were the causes of the recession to begin with. He calls them “investments” rather than spending, but how they translate into long term productive private sector jobs requires the services of a magician to explain.

Talking at an auto plant, he says that one automotive job supports many other jobs in the city and region and proves his contention by rattling off a list of fast food hamburger stands. He brings to mind my father’s opinion of the so-called “service economy” of days past. “Hell,” he would say, “we can’t all make a living selling each other hamburgers.” Apparently Obama thinks we can. Um, “Yes we can?”

We need to return this nation to being one which makes things, instead of a nation of laggards which merely consumes and produces only debt.

We could start by telling China and its friends that their products will not enter our country until their workers are paid on an equal footing with ours, and until their markets are as open to us as our market is to them.

We are the world’s biggest military, but when it comes to economic policy we allow other nations to ship their cheap shit into our market while they keep their markets closed to our products and commodities. Sure, we need them to buy our debt, but they need us to buy their products, too. If we aren’t buying their products their economy crashes, and it’s about time we started using our economic power as willingly as we do our military force.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

One If By Land...

Chris Matthews ripped into Sarah Palin over the nonsense which she babbled regarding Paul Revere's "midnight ride" on his show last night and her lack of knowledge of American history. He finished off by saying that,
"It was one if by land, two if by sea. That's the signal that he was giving that night to warn that the British were coming."

Sorry, Chris, that's the signal that he received before he began his ride.

The Bad Old Days

Sleeping in the dark is quite lovely, but I can assure you that doing pretty much anything else in the dark truly sucks. Computers don't work in the dark, and there is no Internet, and making coffee is somewhat less than satisfactory. Our power went out at about 6:00 last night and did not come back on until almost 7:00 this morning. We have yet to ascertain the cause. It certainly was not weather, and the power company recording merely says that "a combination of causes caused problems with overhead lines," which is both grammatically and informationally unsatisfying.

Reasonable Response

I have so far stayed out of this "Weiner Twitter," thing but I cannot resist commenting on one small aspect of it, that being his unwillingness to answer the question as to whether or not the picture is of him. I would suggest that his non-answer is at least a partial answer.

If someone were to show me such a picture and ask if it is me I would have no reason to hesitate before saying that it was not. I can tell you for certain that no photograph of that portion of my anatomy has ever been taken by camera, cell phone or any other means. I do not engage in pastimes in the form that would lead to taking such a picture.

Apparently Mr. Weiner does engage in such pastimes and/or has had such photos taken. That has nothing actually wrong with that, and it has nothing to do with his qualifications as a public servant, but it might reflect something about his intelligence that he would combine such activity with a career in public service.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Honorable Response

Ryan’s budget plan is unacceptable. I do not dispute that for a moment. But in the process of arguing against it, let’s be honest about what it is and is not. When Debbie Wasserman-Shultz says that seniors would “have to go out on the open market and search for a plan” and that “they would not be able to find a plan that would cover them” she either has not read what Paul Ryan is proposing, or she is lying.

Do seniors signing up for Medicare Part D have to “have to go out on the open market and search” for a drug plan? No, they do not. They are offered a set of plans from which they may select the one which suits them best. For each plan the individual pays part of the premium and the government pays the rest. These plans are offered by the private sector, they may not decline anyone, and they must offer the plans on a “one price fits all” basis. That is precisely the type of plan that Paul Ryan is proposing for Medicare.

What makes Ryan’s proposal unacceptable is in part that the portion of the premium paid by the government is too small, and even more in that it does not increase based on the rate of increase of health care costs, but rather at the lower rate of overall inflation. Thus it is shifting the cost of health care onto the individual rather than making any real attempt to lower that cost.

Paul Ryan had a valid point when he said that his plan had been "mis-described" and asked the president to ease up on the "demagoguery" regarding the plan. Obama also had a valid point when he replied that he is, “the death-panel-supporting, socialist, may-not-have-been-born-here president," and got a good laugh with that line.

Democrats do not, however, do themselves any favor by dragging themselves down into the mud with their opponents. Obama ran a campaign in 2008 that was resolved to remain above the fray of slander, distortion and mudslinging, and it got him elected. He, and the rest of his party, should be drawing on that experience today. Responding to distortions uttered by your opponent with distortions of your own does not constitute honorable response.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Libyan Debacle

The war in Libya has been a debacle on the ground, for sure. Originally declared to be for the purpose of protecting civilians, it is now working to the detriment of civilians as NATO refuses all offers of cease fire and vows that fighting, bombing and killing will continue until it achieves its real purpose of defeating Ghadaffi. It's original purpose of protecting lives would, of course, be best served by agreeing to a cease fire which has repeatedly been offered by Ghadaffi.

It now is becoming an even bigger debacle politically here at home. Daniel Larison writes scathingly today on that subject, and on the moves in Congress to compel Obama to bring this country’s illegal participation in that war to an end. He speculates that it might not change anything since, what with the war being illegal already, that Obama might simply ignore Congress and continue despite its direction to withdraw. He has a somewhat lower opinion of Obama than I do, because while I agree that Obama has begun the war illegally, I don’t think he would go that far in disregarding the constitution and the will of Congress. I must confess that I’m not altogether certain of that.

I do find the statement from the Pentagon to be hilarious, that Congress taking action to demand an end to our participation would “send an unhelpful message of disunity,” since they were against the intervention before it began. A commenter sent me into out-loud laughter with the comment that “Because members [of Congress] are irked, they find themselves now against what they were for, and the Pentagon discovers that it is for what it was against.” Our government in action.

Doing The Smart Thing

Paul Krugman posted on Monday four things that President Obama is doing “wrong,” and in each case stated the reason that Obama is doing what he is doing. In no case is the reason that he gave one that Obama has stated, so he apparently claims the ability to read minds, a trait which he shares with most political writers. Typically, the motives he assigns are those of basic political maneuvering, which is certainly possible.

Briefly, the first three things he criticizes are Obama’s unwillingness to take short term political risks to achieve long term economic goals (stimulus spending primarily), using half measures (stimulus spending again), and “adopting the positions of the opponents” (tax cuts). In his critique he implies that Obama knows that he, Krugman, is correct on all of the policies that he, Obama, should be implementing, but simply lacks the willpower, or courage, or something, necessary to carry them out.

It never seems to occur to him that Obama might not agree with him entirely. Maybe Obama thinks that the measures he is implementing actually are the correct size. He did not, after all, name Paul Krugman to his cabinet, and maybe there was a reason for that. Maybe Barack Obama thinks, as I do, that Paul Krugman’s ideas carried out fully would be the equivalent of taking a huge pile of cash and setting fire to it.

Maybe Barack Obama believes that there realistically is very little that the government can accomplish toward creating long term real jobs, sees nothing to be gained by creating additional deficit in a futile attempt to do so, and thinks the government should go about doing what it can reasonably and effectively actually do.

I don’t know of anyone who has claimed that Barack Obama is stupid. Evil has been asserted, certainly, and Paul Krugman has implied occasionally that he is stupid, but most people seem to think, as I certainly do, that Barack Obama is about the smartest president that we have had in many years. So maybe what he’s doing is smart, or at least what he thinks is smart. I’m not saying that is the case, but it’s certainly as possible as Paul Krugman’s theory.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Well, This Is Just Silly

The "Weather Channel's Rick Knabb, a hurricane expert," is saying that
five US cities are "long overdue" for a hurricane hit, and one of those cities is San Diego.  Gasp!   Run for the hills!

The sole hurricane found to have hit California happened on Oct. 2, 1858, when powerful winds damaged large swaths of property, Knabb reports.

The man is an idiot. One hurricane has hit us in all of recorded history, so we are "long overdue" to have another one. Your average sixth grader knows more about hurricanes than this Weather Channel "hurricane expert" does.

There's a very good reason why San Diego has only experienced one single hurricane. In fact, it's a little bit weird that we even got hit by that one.

Hurricanes are created and fed by warm ocean water, and the average water temp off San Diego is about 62 degrees, some 20 degrees too cold to sustain a hurricane. Hurricanes breed in the warm waters well to the South of us, and they almost always move West due to the Trade Winds. If they move North at all, which very few of them do, they die down to give us nothing more than some moderately heavy rain at worst. What an idiot.

Trust me, there won't be a run on hurricane shutters here.

Update: Salt Lake City is obviously seriously overdue for a hurricane, since it has not been hit by one in an even longer time than San Diego.

Our Usual Response

When I was in high school I was one of the biggest kids in my class, but I had been taught something by my father about the use of force. Bullying, he told me, was not something that a “man” did. It was not an act of courage, but was the opposite, it was the behavior of a coward. He was adamant that my size and strength was never to be used to my own personal advantage. To do that was dishonorable.

That’s why I have a sinking feeling when the president or high officials of my nation stand at a podium and talk about what other nations “must” do. That’s why I so strongly object to my country starting wars of aggression, and talking about, implementing, “regime change” in smaller nations. That’s why the talk of America “kicking ass” and the chants of “USA, USA. USA” bother me.

And now we even say that we will respond with military action to a computer hack, that “everything is on the table” if anyone messes with our computers. Armed force has become our all encompassing answer. America has become the world’s ultimate bully.

I remember happy years growing up on bases of Strategic Air Command, with its motto, “Peace Is Our Profession.” My father served his nation in uniform for 47 years and raised two sons to shun the bully’s role, and I’m not sure he would be very proud of what his nation has become.