Friday, September 30, 2011

That Certainly Went Well

Said he, with teeth clenched. I was at the hospital all day, but not overnight, seeing more doctors than I can count and having tests run, and left without having the damned surgery which was the purpose of this exercise to begin with. It seems I can turn pretty much anything into a Chinese fire drill.

I have a history of ministrokes, for which I regularly take an anti-coagulant medication. It is my normal practice not to tell anyone when one of these things occurs, for reasons which you will understand shortly.

They had taken me off of that anti-coagulant before the scheduled surgery and had me on a shorter-acting one and so, of course, I had a ministroke the evening prior to the scheduled surgery. Upon hearing the news they promptly cancelled the procedure and did what they always do when they learn of this event, actually non-event, they freaked out. Consulting doctors were called in, seemingly by the dozen, I was wheeled all over the damned hospital in a wheelchair, feeling like a damned fool, probed, prodded, poked, rayed, zapped and needled interminably and finally they announced that they did not know what had caused it and sent me home.

Which is what always happens, and is why I keep these things to myself. At one point I turned to my wife, who has been critical of said practice, and said, “Now you know why I don’t tell my doctor when these happen.”

This country definitely has the best health care in the world.

Update, Friday, 6PM: Oh, good God.

Two calls from doctor and hospital to advise that yet more tests are pending, another MRI and one which involves examining my heart by sending a ultrasound probe down my esophagus.

This is devolving from comedy into a farce.

Keeping America Safe

President Obama has said repeatedly that his “first responsibility is keeping America safe,” so as his reelection campaign ramps up we are being pelted with news of terrorist leaders killed overseas, terrorist plots thwarted here at home, and now we hear that he is even making progress on keeping us safe from asteroids. Even Fox News is forced to admit progress on that front as it covers the announcement from NASA that the number of asteroids threatening Earth has been reduced by almost 50%.

Obama’s Justice Department just this week thwarted a plan to “blow the Capitol building to smithereens” using two pounds of explosive in a model airplane; explosive, it should be noted, that was sold to the plotter by none other than (wait for it…) the FBI. As far as I can tell, he bought the model airplane himself. I was out of communication yesterday (see above) so I missed the DOJ representative standing at a bank of microphones solemnly declaiming about how “we almost lost the Capitol building” and such.

And, much to be celebrated, the American citizen who has been at the top of Obama’s execution list ever since Bin Laden was erased from it was killed in an air strike yesterday. Of course, he is on that list not for anything he has ever done, but merely for what he has said. So much for free speech. Everyone is being coy at this point, and no one is saying whose air strike it was, but it occurred in a nation with which we are not "at war."

And Republicans claim that Obama is “weak on terror.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Wrong Target

I think that "Occupy Wall Street" is well intentioned but another example of firing your gun at the wrong target. They are all pissed off at Wall Street for buying off the government and taking advantage of government policies, when they should be "Occupying Washington" and directing their anger at the government which allowed itself to be bought off and which created the policies that enriched Wall Street.

But Wall Street is where Obama and the Democrats have been pointing their collective finger of blame, so that is where protesters direct their anger. When Wall Street is gone the government will still be screwing the people.

On Hiatus

Blogging will be on hiatus for a while, as I am going to the hospital later today for minor surgery. I use that phrase with some reservation, as I think that "minor surgery" is when someone else has it or when you are the surgeon, but...   I am expecting only one overnight in the hospital, but the surgeon advised me to remain "free of commitments" for 7-10 days, so I'll be back here with my commentary when I get back.

And, no, I have not appointed a "guest blogger" to fill in for me, because I do not consider filling this space to be that important in the greater scheme of things.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Always the Wrong Target

News items have popped up that the health insurance rates have increased this year even faster than they did last year, prompting liberal progressive blogs to respond with cries of “evil empire” against the health insurance industry. David Atkins at Hullabaloo writes yesterday that “insurance companies are sticking it to Americans more than ever,” and “insurance companies are using the ACA as an excuse for more profiteering.”

If David checked any facts before slinging accusations around, he would find that insurance company profits are up this year over last, but not by a degree that any sane person would call “profiteering.” United Healthcare improved from a 4.8% profit margin to a 5.0% margin, and Aetna from 6.0% to 6.7%. Humana did somewhat better, improving a 4.0% margin to 5.2%, but WellPoint actually lost ground, with its margin dropping from 5.3% last year to 4.9% this year. Does any of that look like “profiteering” to you?

We always need a target to point fingers at and blame for the problem, and we virtually always pick the wrong target.

Some years ago we needed an “excess profit tax” to punish the oil companies for their usurious ways, only when all the screaming and yelling calmed down it turned out there weren’t any “excess profits” to be taxed because the problem was not the oil companies at all. The problem turned out in part to be speculators, but mainly the money was going to countries who were taking the oil out of the ground, such as Saudi Arabia.

During the “health care debate” the health insurance industry was demonized as being profiteers for making outrageous profits, which turned out to be in no case higher than 9% and mostly significantly less, while health care providers and drug companies who were making far larger profit margins were completely ignored. Now we are back to flaming them as “profiteers” again, without pausing to consider that they do not generate health care costs, they actually pay those costs in our behalf.

Similarly with Obama’s rhetoric about “tax the rich” and his “Buffet rule” on taxation. It turns out that in terms of income tax, the rich actually do pay a much larger portion of their income than middle class and lower income workers. The problem is not with the amount of income but with the type of it. The reason Buffett pays so little is that he derives his income from trading and investment and therefore pays capital gains tax at a lower rate of 15% rather than income tax at 33% that the rich pay on their income.

The solution is not to “tax the rich” by raising their 33% rate, because doing so would leave Warren Buffett still paying 15% tax on his income. The solution is to change the way that traders and investors pay tax on their earnings, and neither Obama or anyone else is talking about doing anything of the sort. So the “Warren Buffet rule” will not raise Warren Buffet’s taxes.

We are once again pointing our finger at the wrong target, because it is not “the rich” who are “not paying their fair share,” it is traders and investors who are not doing so.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend Football

Politics is too depressing this week, so lets talk football. Actually, since I watched the Chargers yesterday, let’s talk college football.

The buzz is that LSU has a legitimate claim to #1 ranking. From what I saw Saturday, Alabama has a somewhat more legitimate claim, because the only thing that LSU is better at than dropping passes on both defense and offense is missing tackles on defense. West Virginia gained 531 yards, and I think that 330 of them were gained after missed tackles by LSU. If the Tigers don’t improve on using their hands by the time they play the Crimson Tide, Les Miles is going to be eating grass again.

When the Alabama defensive players graduate they are going to have to be employed in auto salvage yards after hours with chains around their necks and fed raw meat. Those dudes are mean.

The whipping that Arizona State put on USC did not exactly break my heart. I know, I’m from San Diego, but.. Come on, it’s Lane Kiffin.

My cable provider did not carry the SDSU/Michigan game. Thank you Cox.

Okay, Chargers. On a failed Chiefs 3rd and 11 Antione Cason was flagged for illegal contact on the receiver he was covering. The announcers blatted about it being a cheap call, and San Diego is in a uproar about poor officiating. It was bad commentary, since Cason hit the receiver in the face mask. You cannot do that, even within five yards. The call was completely legitimate, and Charger fans need to grow up.

The Chargers faced an opponent who had scored ten points in two previous games and allowed them to score 17 points in the second half; a team that had given up 89 points in the two previous games, and scored a whopping 20 points. To say that was a less than stellar performance would be a massive understatement, and of course the entire team is “not worried” and is saying they “will fix the minor issues” in due course.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Op-ed Advertising

The Guardian is usually a pretty sane place to be, so long as you are there only for the news items. As for opinion pieces, well…

One Alex Slater has a column at The Guardian today titled “Obama: back on the campaign trail” in which he assures everyone who is on the side of the angels Barack Obama and the Democrats that all is well in the world of politics because Obama is no longer governing is back to campaigning. He is waxing rapturous about the “new-found feisty tone” that Obama is using, and assures Obama supporters that thirteen months of listening to the man in campaign mode will turn the polls around completely and Obama will win reelection in a cakewalk.

It does not matter what the President has actually done while in office, he assures us, and it will not matter what the state of the economy will be next fall, nor will it actually matter what the President is actually saying in his campaign. Obama is such a good campaigner that the mere fact that he is “out there” doing it will win the election handily.

Alex Slater, it turns out, is “managing director of [a] leading Democratic communications firm.” That may explain why, about one-third of the way through the column, I quit reading it to avoid an explosive vomiting episode onto my keyboard. I thought only the New York Times provided unpaid advertising in the form of op-ed columns.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Preaching To The Choir, and Losing

Lawrence O’Donnell did an anti-death penalty editorial last night that had me sort of scratching my head. Well, okay, he often has me scratching my head and, no, I don’t have head lice, but…

I happen to oppose the death penalty for several reasons, not the least of which is that we risk executing the wrong person, but O'Donnell went into a lengthy tirade about “what we are doing to the executioners.” He has the idea, it seems, that we should be harboring a sense of collective guilt over the “fact” that people who perform executions “have to go home at night after killing someone” and wallow around in the horror and guilt over what they have just done.

He had a former warden on who supposedly confirmed how burdensome that function is by telling us that the executioner had to come to work on the days beforehand and actually practice the task in addition to doing the deed on execution day, but she did not say anything about anyone she had ever known who did it, or how they felt about it. She merely described the process, and O’Donnell drew his own conclusions.

Further, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever been forced to become an executioner. I’m pretty sure one has to actually seek that job, and express a desire to fulfill that position before one is selected to do it, so I'm not terribly concerned about what "society is doing to" people who volunteer to become executioners. I still, of course, am opposed to the death penalty for other reasons.

His diatribe was unconvincing, to say the least, and I’m already on his side.

Quality Candidates

Liberals, and a lot of conservatives, are fulminating about the low quality of the slate of Republican presidential candidates. Romney is remote, Perry is a yahoo, Bachmann is a nutcase, etc. I can’t really disagree with any of that, although I think quite a bit of it is overblown.

Still, Democrats only have one candidate, and he is calling for simultaneous passage of two bills by the legislature; one which calls for increased spending and tax cuts, and another which calls for spending cuts and tax increases. I’m not accusing him of being a “nutcase,” but it’s hard to say that constitutes a coherent economic policy message.

Obama accompanies his contradictory appeals with a lot of erudite rhetoric and some very clever insults aimed at the Republican Party, and throws in a good bit of cheerleading, and sometimes it’s a bit difficult to discern which bill he’s talking about at any given moment. It’s almost as if his plan is to keep us sufficiently off balance that we won’t have a clue what’s going on.

Now, it’s true that one bill is short term and the other long term, but he never really conveys that with any clarity and the long term bill, the one for “deficit reduction,” is not planned to delay the start until the short term bill is finished, they are both supposed to take effect immediately.

So our choice seems to be between stupidity and incoherence.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"The Audience Booed"

Sometimes I’m just embarrassed by my own side. I don’t watch the Republican “debates” because the rhetoric is idiotic sloganeering, which Democrats never, ever do. Democrats are always the epitome of the voice of honesty, reason and sanity, and they never quote anything out of context or exaggerate the truth. Well, at least that’s what we claim.

There was a question posed regarding the repeal of DADT at the Republican “debate” last night, which was posed via video from a gay soldier in Iraq. About two members of the audience started to “boo” loudly at the end of the video question, and were almost immediately embarrassed into silence.

Left wing blogs and media are all steamed up about “The night that Republicans booed a soldier,” and writing about how “the audience booed a gay soldier.” Give me a break. About two morons in the theater began to display their idiotic bigotry, and they received absolutely no support from the audience, a fact which cowed them into immediate silence.

The same blogs and writers are also disparaging the “debaters” for not rebuking the “audience” for booing, but the proper response to isolated hecklers is to ignore them, which is precisely what the “debaters” did. Rick Santorum, to whom the question was addressed, did not “thank the soldier for his service,” which is apparently a major crime. Needless to say, his response to the question was utterly idiotic, which is to be expected and has been written about elsewhere, so I won’t bother to describe it.

At a previous “debate” the audience actually did cheer at the topic of executions in Texas. Although the reaction was blown a bit out of proportion, it certainly was not a “made up” issue. Now left wingers are watching the Republican dog and pony shows looking for issues, and they are finding things that do not exist.

And so the nonsense about describing the action of one or two hecklers as “audience response” is a dishonesty that should be addressed. Republicans provide plenty of accurate grist for the mill of honest criticism, and when we start using dishonesty and exaggeration to criticize them we weaken the legitimate case which we have.

Bullseye, Part 2

This, from Bloomberg, cracked me up.

A neutrino beam was measured as traveling faster than the speed of light, appearing to break the limit set by Albert Einstein in 1905.

Really? Albert Einstein had the power to set cosmic speed limits? Did he post speed limit signs?

Thursday, September 22, 2011


In the distant days of my youth I was a pretty hotshot marksman. I could fire a bullet which was .3” in diameter and with decent frequency hit a beer can 1000 yards away. When I did not hit the can I certainly scared the hell out of it. A news release today makes that seem like not such a big deal.

Scientists think they measured a particle travelling faster than the speed of light. The speed is not the part that messes with my head. It seems that they fired a subatomic particle, a neutrino, at a laboratory 474 miles away and measured the elapsed time to within 10 nanoseconds of accuracy.

Wait a minute. This particle is so small that if they magnified it 10,000 times you still would not be able to see it, and they hit a target 474 miles away with it. How did the target lab even see the damned thing, and how did they know it was the same neutrino? I don’t think you can color code those little suckers, or paint numbers on them. And how do two labs 474 miles apart establish timing to within 10 nano-freaking-seconds?

Sometimes modern science just freaks me out.

Inconvenient Facts, Part 2

Paul Krugman is apparently unaware of the saying about a shovel not being the ideal tool to use for getting out of a hole. First yesterday he tried to divert us from the Wall Street Journal's discussion of rich people’s contribution to the federal deficit through income tax payments by bringing in rates of change and what they pay in “other taxes,” and then he goes back to discussing combined income tax and payroll tax and provides a chart showing that by income category.

Except that the context in which the discussion was raised was the federal deficit, and how the rich should contribute more toward reducing that deficit by having their income tax raised because it is claimed that they “pay less income tax than their secretaries do.”

Paul Krugman is using the Republican tactic of changing the subject whenever you are losing the argument. What the rich pay in payroll taxes, or state and local taxes, has nothing to do with the federal deficit, nothing to do with how the rich contribute to the federal deficit in the form of income taxation, and nothing to do with the present discussion.

I’m not opposed to raising the tax rate, I just dislike sloppy argument.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Inconvenient Facts

The president’s “Warren Buffet plan" is based on the idea that rich people pay a lower income tax rate than ordinary people, because Warren Buffet said he pays a lower rate than his secretary does, and this societal horror needs to be redressed. So the Wall Street Journal looked it up, and it turns out that in 2008 millionaires paid an average of 23.3% income tax, while someone making $50K paid 8.9% income tax. Things may be quite different when other taxes are factored in, but the issue is specifically income tax in discussion of the so-called “Warren Buffet” tax rule.

Some of the richest people derive much of their income from investment, which is taxed at 15%, and certainly that needs to be looked at, but sweeping charges about the “rich paying less than their secretaries” which sound dramatic and probative, are simply inconsistent with the facts.

The reaction of the ivory tower crowd has been to get really selective and decide that we are really talking only the top 400 richest, one of whom is Warren Buffet, and it turns out they can be used to prove the point. Well, maybe. They said that “millionaires and billionaires” proved the point until somebody looked up the facts. Even if it’s true, that’s 400 people out of 330 million, or about one ten-thousandth of one percent of the population.

Notice that Krugman throws in something about payroll taxes and “other taxes,” but that is a smokescreen. The discussion is about the federal deficit, federal income taxes, and the impact on the deficit made by income taxes paid by “the rich.” It’s not about tax burden overall, so other taxes are relevant to some discussions, but not to this one.

Aside from the silly length to which some people will go to prove their point, how much good is it going to do to impose a tax on 400 people? We have a deficit of $1.3 trillion, and these people are nowhere near that rich. Obama could tax those 400 people at a 100% rate and it would not come close to closing that budget gap.

Obama’s style of leadership is to look for a parade to form and get in front of it, and the crowd has started chanting “tax the rich” so here he is with his “line in the sand” about taxing the rich. It isn’t going to happen and it would neither create any jobs or repair the deficit if it did. It would be pretty much entirely useless actually, but the crowd wants it.

He even says that he is doing it because “the American people have made it clear that this is what they want." Right, this is the same American people who think that we spend 18% of our budget on foreign aid, who think that 58% of government spending is wasted, who think al Queda is a threat to our freedom, who believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 plot, and who think that the planet is not changing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Now He's Just Babbling

Did I see Obama sort of blink at one point in his speech yesterday, and think to himself, “Shit, I should have read this speech first,” when he reached the point of saying this? Actually, no, he read this from his copy without so much as batting an eyelash.

Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can’t afford to do both.

Since both things increase federal revenue, how can we not afford to do both? The man is reduced to babbling nonsense at us. Who writes this stuff for him? He followed that without pausing for breath with another one,

Either we gut education and medical research, or we’ve got to reform the tax code so that the most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get. We can’t afford to do both.

How can we “not afford” to do one thing that reduces cost and another thing that increases income at the same time? And what exactly does the “most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get” mean? This is what passes for eloquence today?

Did Obama read this speech beforehand and think that these items made any sense? Or does he simply know that nobody is paying any attention to anything he says, so it doesn’t matter if what he’s saying is gibberish?

Picking The Wrong Fight

I’m going to make this is several posts, because Obama’s sudden conversion is pissing me off in so many dimensions that I’m going to take them on individually rather than engage in one lengthy tirade, which would probably become incoherent in any case. I’ve never trusted “burning bush” conversions to “the right side,” and I don’t trust this one.

My first bone to pick is that he has picked the wrong battle. He’s not picking a battle over the Democratic issue of what we are going to do to help people who need it, and not really over the Republican issue of deficit reduction itself, he’s in agreement with them on that, his battle is merely about how we are going to do it.

And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share.

At this point I sort of became derailed, because the idea that it’s okay to reduce benefits for seniors and those in need, so long and you also impose higher taxes on the wealthy is indescribably disgusting to me.

We are told not to worry, that the Medicare cuts are all “on the provider side,” but that is false rhetoric. When do you ever get more of a service, or even the same service, by paying less for it? Providers are not cheerfully going to say, “Oh yes, you have been paying us too much,” and agree to lower prices for their products and services.

Everything about this “conversion” that Obama has suddenly experienced is Republican: cutting business taxes, cutting payroll taxes, tax cuts as economic stimulus, reducing Medicare and Medicaid, reducing the deficit, it’s all there. As a sop to the liberal base, he proposes to “tax the rich.” For now, he has taken Social Security off the table, but if reelected he will resume his efforts to “reform” that program.

I think our tax policy should more progressive, as it once was, and that wealthy should certainly pay more taxes than they do. But using “tax the rich” as a reelection ploy is not something that appeals to me. There are far more noble battles to fight, like jobs for the unemployed, and he is not fighting them adequately when he allows this one to distract from them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Grocery Strike Averted

Negotiators reached agreement last night between workers and the major grocery chains in Southern California. Details will not be known until final vote of the membership, probably Friday, but it will undoubtedly be approved and the strike is avoided. As far as I’m concerned details are unimportant because when agreement is reached without a strike everybody wins.

If I were not already a champion of collective bargaining, the people who work at the Albertson’s where I shop would certainly have won me over. Throughout the six months of negotiations these folks have been on duty, keeping their store fully functional and providing customers with a high degree of cheerful and pleasant service. To some degree, I have no doubt, that has been due to management creating an atmosphere in which that could happen, but mostly I think it has been a demonstration of a degree of personal and institutional integrity by these working men and women that has been truly heartwarming.

These folks are a credit to working men and women everywhere.

"Election-Time Awakening"

David Atkins had a post at Hullabaloo yesterday which was difficult to follow, most of his posts are, but which was about Obama’s latest campaign pronouncement proposing a tax on millionaires. We all know, including Obama, that the tax will never pass in Congress, and that it is purely made for the purpose of arousing Obama’s “base,” but David says that we should cheer wildly for it nonetheless.

But more importantly, Obama Administration critics and defenders need to realize that this shouldn't be about supporting or attacking the President. It should be about engendering a twitch response in our politicians that we'll support them for doing the right thing--even saying they'll do the right thing--and not support them when they don't.

If I’m following what he says there, the part emphasized by me, then he is suggesting that we should not require our politicians to actually do the right thing, but should be willing to support them for merely saying the right thing. How they actually govern, what actions they actually take while in office are not the deciding issue. As long as they keep the masses happy with all of the proper rhetoric we should continue to support them.

So when Obama says that he will close Guantanamo, will end that blot on our nation’s honor and integrity, it is utterly irrelevant that he did not actually do it. Apparently it doesn’t matter whether or not he actually intended to do it. He said he would do it, and having said so he deserves our support.

If Obama claimed that he would protect us from asteroids, presumably David would cheer wildly and urge Obama’s reelection because he urgently does not want this planet to be hit by an asteroid. The fact that such a promise would be utterly worthless would seemingly not bother him at all. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but…

The ineffable Glenn Greenwald has a different take on the issue, as one might well suspect, in an update to a post regarding the appointments to Obama’s financial advisory staff and his economic policies he responds to the rhetoric regarding the “Buffett Tax,”

As indicated, I at least appreciate the candor of those (such as the above-linked commentators) who acknowledge that this will not become reality and is not even designed to, but celebrate it because it will help Obama get re-elected by making the GOP (rather than him) look like the servants of Wall Street. It's the ones pretending that this eleventh-hour election-time awakening is reflective of some sort of substantive significance that are hard to bear.

Again, the emphasis in that excerpt is mine. "Celebrating" this kind of ploy for helping Obama to get reelected is hard for me though. I'd like to see him reelected, I think, but I am by no means fond of the use of this kind of dishonesty to do it.

No Comment Needed


Sunday, September 18, 2011

NCAA This Weekend

Auburn was just pathetic. Gene Chizik needs to tell his defense that getting their hands on the ball carrier is not enough, the object is to make the ball carrier, you know, fall down. That’s assuming that they have a clue where the ball carrier is. He also needs to tell the secondary that they are not there as observers, and that they need to do something other than merely watch receivers catch the ball and comment, “Oh, nice catch.” Clemson was playing football, Auburn was playing a combination of “tag, you’re it,” "hide and go seek,” and “button, button, who’s got the button?”

LSU won, but other than that I don’t want to discuss the Tigers this week.

San Diego State has been watching the Chargers too much. Hey guys, the game starts in the first quarter, not the third. If they’d played all four quarters like they did the last two, the score would have been something like the Utah-BYU game, in which some towel throwing might have been in order. Utah sort of poured salt in the wound by giving their second string quarterback some practice, which I thought was funny but a little rude, given that BYU was the home team.

Anyway, back to SD State, Rocky Long has been saying that he wasn’t afraid of the “big bad Pac 10 12," and I guess he proved his point. I have been telling “The Cabbie” that Rocky is a better replacement for Hoke than he thinks, and sooner or later he is going to give up and admit that I’m right.

Of course, next week will shed some light on that subject.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

American Jobs Act

I like the part about creating jobs by rebuilding bridges, roads and schools. It’s work that needs to be done and it will put some people to work. It should be a whole lot bigger, of course, and this part of it certainly isn’t going to pass. If you’re going to propose something that isn’t going to pass, why propose something this small? Why not propose something big and at least impress voters with your imagination? I guess he had to at least pretend he thought it would be passable.

It’s also written to allow the work to be done by private contractors, so that part of the money which goes into business profit will mean the creation of fewer jobs. Direct government action would have meant more jobs, sans profits, but there's the thing about keeping the proposal in a form that he could pretend he thought could be passed by the legislature.

Even if it did pass, it would take well over a year to implement, because the “shovel ready jobs” would turn out to be nowhere near as “shovel ready” as anyone said they were. So in the actual campaign when someone asked him to “show me the jobs” he would have to make something up. Oh wait, this is not a campaign stunt, this is policy. Whatever.

Anyway, give him credit for thinking like a Democrat, and an A for effort.

The other half of the bill is tax cuts, and that part I don’t get in more ways than one, mainly that this is the first Democrat that I have ever heard make the claim that tax cuts are an economic stimulus. Republicans have been claiming this since some drunken idiot drew a curve on a napkin at a cocktail party one night, and Democrats have been fighting a rearguard action against it ever since. Suddenly we have a Democratic president espousing tax cuts (plural) for economic stimulus.

Democrats also decry the complexity of our tax code, and if this part of the bill passes, which it probably will since it is Republican tax cuts, it will even further complicate the code. An employer who hires an unemployed person, who is a veteran, and who has been unemployed for more than six months, get no fewer than three tax cuts for doing so, but imagine the paperwork required for documenting that hire.

No kudos for flinging tax cuts around like a drunken Republican.

The third leg of the stool upon which the tax act sits is that it is “all paid for” with tax increases and additional revenue. What? Here’s your free lunch, pay at the door on your way out. Here’s five dollars for your right hand, now give me five dollars from what you have in your left and, hey, you’re rich.

No praise for a bill that’s 33% Democrat, 33% Republican, and 33% idiot.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fallacy Abounds

Lawrence O’Donnell, Ezra Klein, and Bruce Bartlett and were discussing a speech made by John Boehner last night and, while overall the discussion was reasonable enough, they tended to slip into some arguments refuting Boehner which sounded good but which in reality were no more sound than were the statements of Boehner that they were trying to debunk.

For instance O’Donnell argued with Boehner’s statement about the present economy being held back by excessive taxes by saying that he, Boehner, was “ignoring the fact that we have had significantly higher taxes when the economy was doing much better.” That statement is true enough, but it doesn’t refute Boehner. It may very well be that a more robust economy could tolerate the higher taxes, while the current depressed economy could not do so and can not, in fact, even tolerate the present level of taxes. In such a case Boehner’s statement would be true. I’m not suggesting that is the case, and in fact I don’t believe it is, but it seems to me that a better argument than O’Donnell offered is needed to refute it.

Bruce Bartlett then said that in order to show that regulations are holding the economy back right now one would have to show that regulations have increased seriously since 2008 and that they have not done so. This is another “proof” which sounds a lot better than actually it is. It could very well be that a level of regulation that would not harm a robust pre-2008 economy would prove very burdensome to the current depressed economy, in which case that regulation would be holding back the economy now without increasing since 2008. In such a case Boehner would be right and it might be necessary to ease regulation until the economy improves, at which time it could be restored to its pre-2008 level. Here too, I am not only not suggesting that such is the case, I am rather certain it is not, at least not to any significant degree, but Bartlett’s argument is flawed.

When I was working in business “we’ve always done it that way” was never acceptable as a reason for doing anything, and the arguments these guys were using amounted essentially to nothing more than “well, it worked before.” News flash people, this is not 2008. We need better reasons for what we’re doing that that you did it that way before you retired and became talking heads.

It does sort of suggest, though, that conservatives are not the only ones who are capable of engagement in shallow thinking.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Choosing The Lesser Evi

Lawrence O’Donnell is sure that the Republicans are too crazy to win an election, but one of them just took a seat in New York that has been Democratic for no less than 88 years. O’Donnell is baffled by that event. “How are voters sending a message of disappointment in Obama,” he asks, “by electing a weird and crazy Republican?”

When a baseball team is losing, it fires the manager. It may not actually be the manager’s fault, and it may be that the new manager will not be any better. The new manager may even be worse. What the team knows, however, is that the manager is what can be changed so that is what it changes, because something has to change.

When a business is failing, it fires the chief executive. It may not actually be the chief executive’s fault, and it may be that the new chief executive will not be any better. The new chief executive may even be worse. What the business knows, however, is the executive is what can be changed so that is what it changes, because something has to change.

When a nation is “on the wrong track,” as 72% of voters believe is currently the case for this nation, they throw out the party in charge because that is what the voters can change and because something has to change.

Democrats are trying to stay in charge with things like “it’s not our fault” and “you simply cannot elect Republicans because they are crazy.” Lawrence O’Donnell believes those things because he is a Democrat and he does not understand why anyone would not allow themselves to be swayed by those “obvious truths.”

Those are not “obvious truths” to Independents. That’s why they are called Independents. They know Republicans are crazy, but they think Democrats are crazy too. They don’t think either party is saying anything that makes any sense. If they vote against Democrats they are merely exchanging a form of crazy that is prattling about “tax cuts and balance the budget” and not working, for a form of crazy that is prattling about “tax cuts and balance the budget” and might or might not work. Some choice.

I’m not saying O’Donnell and the Democrats don’t have a good point with “it’s not our fault” and “you simply cannot elect Republicans because they are crazy.” I’m just saying it might very well not work.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Using the George W Playbook

I’m thinking back to the beginning of the financial crisis, when Henry Paulson took his selected group of legislators into that closed room and threatened them with “tanks in the streets” if they did not hand him $700 billion to rescue the banks, and they came out with white faces and trembling hands and said that they were “waiting for the White House to send them a bill” to pass.

That’s how George W. Bush, well, probably Dick Cheney actually, ran our government. He didn’t sit back and hope that Congress would write a bill that he liked. He wrote the bill as he wanted it, sent it to Congress, and then pounded on the bully pulpit and demanded “Pass this bill.”

Think Military Commissions Act, think Patriot Act, think immunity for the telecomms. Think TARP as his parting gift, with its $700 billion because, “That’s the biggest number that we could think of that seemed to make sense.” As if it did make sense.

Now Obama has taken a page out of George W’s book and has written a “jobs bill” the way he wants it, has sent it to Congress, and is on the stump screaming “Pass this bill” to anyone who will listen.

I’m not sure how to react to that. Part of me wants to cheer him on, as in it’s about time he picked a fight with that idiotic, useless Congress and did something worthwhile and actually liberal. But I can’t ignore that he is running for reelection, and can’t help seeing this more as a campaign stunt than as actual policy. I keep thinking he’s finally leading on policy, but then I see a clip of him in Podunk, waving his arms and yelling “Pass this bill,” and I realize that no, he’s campaigning, and I hit the “fast forward” button.

And he didn’t even read the George W playbook all the way through, because part of this particular play is that W always said that the bill had to be passed precisely as it was written and that if Congress altered the bill in any way, or deleted any portion of it before passing it, he would veto it. Obama told reporters on Monday that if Congress passed any portion of the bill, he would sign whatever portion they passed.

That just leaves me speechless.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


*There was a Bald Eagle at the Chargers game Sunday, which was given free flight during the National Anthem. It was, apparently, simply supposed to fly from one end of the stadium to the other, but it was having so much fun that it soared to the top of the stadium and circled about three times before returning to its handler. The crowd loved it.

I wonder how many people picked up on the tidbit that the military overflight which occurred just as the Eagle was landing was made by a Bell-Boeing V-22 flown by the Marine Corps, known as an Osprey.

*Now Obama is blatting about the “jobs bill” being “paid for” with taxes on rich people, oil company deductions and taxes on corporate jets. The amount of money that will be raised by taxing corporate jets will pay for peanuts to provide snacks for the elephants in the National Zoo. He’s using corporate jets because he knows that they are a symbol of the hatred that America now holds for anyone who has enough money to be called “rich.”

Republicans accuse Democrats of “wealth redistribution,” and the longer Obama prattles about “taxing the rich” to pay for programs to support the “working class” the more he gives them ammunition to make that claim.

The need to "pay for" the bill is a sop to Republicans and, as usual when catering to one's opposition, he merely weakens his own case and provides the opposition with ammunition in their own case against him. This guy is the most inept fighter in the history of politics.

*Do you see anything ironic that Mexico, one of the most violent nations in the world with its ongoing drug war, where bodies litter the street on a regular basis, considers capital punishment barbaric and will not extradite to the United States unless we promise not to apply the death penalty?

Now, how many people are going to respond by suggesting that that is why they cannot win their drug war? How successful are we at winning our drug war? Anybody ever think that their drug war is actually our drug war?

*If you think that the right wing has a monopoly on closed minds and blind ideological loyalty, you should visit some of the “liberal” blogs that I read. Some are as rabid as anything the right has to offer, permitting nothing in their comments other than vitriolic hatred of Republicans. It’s not even permissible to talk about Democrats at all, good or bad; the purpose there is merely to spew hatred of the other side. They haven’t even looked up the word “liberal” in the dictionary, let alone studied its political meaning.

*I have mentioned here, more than once I believe, that I was opposed to the continuation of the tax cutting policy that Obama had followed, and that I had voted for him because I had hoped that he would end Republican tax cuts and follow Democratic principles of not cutting taxes. Well, Eleanor Clift spells out the facts for us.

Obama has invested so much time demonizing the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich that he has obscured the true narrative of his presidency. Class-war rhetoric aside, Obama is one of the most prolific tax cutters in recent history, with a record that puts him squarely alongside that of George W. Bush.

Crunching the numbers at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, analyst Michael Linden found that if one compares the cost of tax cuts in just the first four years of Bush’s term (2001–04) to the first four years of Obama's (2009–12), Obama’s tax cuts are bigger. The value of the Bush tax cuts were about $475 billion in those first four years, or about 1.1 percent of GDP. Obama’s total about $1 trillion, or 1.6 percent of GDP.

My opposition to “Obama the tax cutter” has not been empty rhetoric. Make all the excuses you want to make, Obama has continued the Bush policy of starting wars (Libya, Yemen, Somalia) and cutting taxes at the same time.

*There was an article, can’t find it now, which said that the attack on the embassy in Kabul “raised questions about security” in Afghanistan. That struck me as a rather odd phrase, because to me the attack rather answered questions about security, and the answer was probably not the one we wanted.

Monday, September 12, 2011

America The... Oh Whatever

President Obama was making a speech about how this nation "refuses to live in fear" while our streets in New York, Los Angeles and Washington were being patrolled by guys wearing body armor and carrying machine guns because some dude in Pakistan said something and we believed him. He was, of course, standing behind bullet-proof glass when he said that, and he went on to warn that "Al Queda will never quit trying to attack us."

One airliner was escorted by fighter planes because a drunk onboard was spending too much time in the lavatory and the flight attendants got scared, and another one was similarly escorted by fighter planes because a couple decided to join the "mile high club" in the lavatory of that airplane. I'm not sure what the flight attendants thought those people were doing in there in either case, but they called for a fighter escort to protect the airplane from whatever they thought it was. I'm equally uncertain what they thought the fighters were going to do about whatever it was the people in the lavatory were up to, other than shoot down the airplane, in which case I suspect the passengers would hardly applaud the attendants' "abundance of caution."

I was seriously appalled when, following a very moving rendition of "Taps" at an NFL football game, the crowd started chanting, "USA, USA, USA." The chant gained no momentum and died out rapidly, to my immense relief. If I never hear that ugly chant again in my life I will be happy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chargers, Opening Kickoff

I am so glad the Chargers solved their problems on special teams. Shit.

Monday am: Actually, other than the opening kickoff, the special teams looked fine. The defense was awesome. They gave up that one 3-play drive for a touchdown, but other than that held the Vikings to one field goal all day. In the second half Minnesota had a total of 26 yards of offense.

What concerned me is our vaunted offense, which didn't look very good. They didn't adjust to Minnesota's cover deep defense until the second half (why he hell not earlier, like in the 1st quarter?), and even then did not exploit it very well. Three running backs combined for 80 yards rushing, color me unimpressed, and 24 points against that defense does not bode particularly well. Too often scoreless in the red zone.


Twin Towers
I caught this picture in Parade Magazine, and liked it a lot. Rather than the events of that day, it evokes memories of the Twin Towers being there. Better days.

Healing The Wound

There is a part of the creed which I live by that says that I need to forgive those who have harmed me, not because of what that forgiveness does for those others, but because the act of forgiveness heals me. The carried grudge does not harm the person against whom I carry it, nor does any forgiveness benefit him; he does not even know of the existence of either. The carried grudge sickens me and forgiveness is the cure. I know this to be true because I have experienced it.

On this anniversary of 9/11, and as I watch the rising tide of Islamaphobia in this nation, I am saddened that this is a lesson that we as a nation cannot learn. We still live with the unhealed scar of the Twin Towers because we cannot forgive. All of the revenge in the universe, all of the foreign nations invaded and conquered, all of the Al Queda leaders imprisoned, tortured and killed, all of the Taliban strongholds brought down, all of the trillions of dollars spent, all of the civil liberties surrendered and all of the American lives expended, cannot heal this raw and festering wound.

The simple act of forgiveness, costing nothing, could do so much.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rewards of Low Expectations

Obama has been doing so little for so long, has spent so much time surrendering to Republicans in Congress, that supporters are absolutely giddy with excitement that he is offering to do anything at all, regardless of how feckless and trivial that thing may be in actuality.

Chris Matthews and yesterday’s guests Eugene Robinson and David Corn were giggling hysterically and literally bouncing up and down in their seats at the prospect that Obama is going to actually challenge Republicans in Congress at long last, now that the popularity of that body is down to 12% and they face 87% unpopularity. That’s like an NFL linebacker picking a fight with a 12-year-old. Not that he shouldn’t have the fight, but it doesn’t take much courage to kick a guy when he’s lying on the ground and all but comatose. Give Obama the paper tiger award.

Just a few months ago Matthews was declaiming on Hardball that "this is America and we do big things," and demanding that Obama create a nationwide high speed rail system spanning the continent. Today he's delerious with excitement over a maintenance program.

Even Paul Krugman is happy with this “jobs plan” after being critical of one that was more than twice as big for being “far too small.” More than twice as big, that is, if you deduct from this one the amount that is nothing more than a continuation of existing policy and tax breaks for business. Since when is tax breaks for business considered to be “stimulus” or thought by Democrats to be a job creator?

The last president to face an economy this bad was Franklin Delano Roosevelt and he didn’t stand around fecklessly flapping his hands, bleating about “bipartisanship” and begging the Republicans to do something. He said that if business was not going to hire the unemployed then by damn he would, and six month later hundreds of thousands were employed by the government building dams which created lakes which people are boating on even today. They built roads that people are driving on as we speak and campgrounds which served as recreation for American families for half a century and more.

All Obama seems able to actually do is shovel money out the door and hope that somebody will pick some of it up and do something useful with it. Roosevelt knew that big business was the problem, Obama thinks they are the solution because they are the source of his campaign funding.

Roosevelt built dams and roads and new recreation facilities for future generations. Obama’s big idea is “let’s do maintenance,” and use the private sector to do it so that they can make some profit, and everybody cheers their silly heads off. Give me a break.

Friday, September 09, 2011

"Specific & Credible"

But, of course, "unconfirmed." Which still gives us the opportunity to hyperventilate about "car bombs, truck bombs, bridges" and "tunnels" in various combinations along with "Washington, New York" and "the nation's capitol." There was never the slightest chance that this weekend would go by without this rhetoric from our Department of Homeland Stupidity.

What I Missed

Having read the text of President Obama’s speech, I’m glad I missed hearing it because I might well have had to be cleaning vomit off the carpet and/or buying a new television set. Joint sessions of Congress are no place to be making a campaign speech.

It was clearly Obama’s usual concept that if he takes a whole bunch of small ideas and puts them in a big box he will get credit for “thinking big.” With the “low information voters” who are enchanted with his personality that will probably work, but many of us will merely be disgusted with the recognition that adding small plus small merely equals a whole lot of small. You don’t solve this nation's big problems with small ideas, not even with a whole lot of small ideas.

As with his previous offers, much of what he is proposing is tax cuts, so he continues to be a Republican in Democratic clothing. If I wanted tax cuts I would have voted for the party of tax cuts, which is the Republican Party. I do not want tax cuts, and I hear him proposing more new tax cuts every time he opens his mouth.

Not only are tax cuts not effective in creating new jobs, but with this proposal he creates a whole shopping list of tax cuts for businesses to take advantage of. They can get money from the government for hiring veterans, for hiring long term unemployed, and for hiring anybody at all. So if a businessman hires a veteran who has been unemployed for a long time he gets no fewer than three tax cuts.

Only the businessman is not going to hire that veteran who has been unemployed for a long time, because he does not have any work for that veteran to do if he does hire him. And, as Obama himself pointed out, small businesses aren’t making any money, so they don’t care about tax deductions because they have no income to pay income tax on.

And, of course, Obama’s plan “is entirely paid for” because he is going to ask the Super Committee” to make spending cuts “even deeper than the $1.5 trillion” mandated by the debt limit agreement which he made with Congress last month. Not that I care about “having it paid for,” I don’t, but why does that sound like utter bullshit to me? Because it is utter bullshit, that’s why.

This nation has big problems right now and we need big ideas and big actions to solve them. I thought I was voting for that in 2008, but what we have is a small man in a job that is too big for him.

Party Time

I didn’t see the president’s speech, nor did I see the Packers/Saints basketball football game. (I was briefly overcome by the score. Remember, I didn’t see the game.) Guess which one I most regret missing. Power went out at about 4:40pm yesterday and didn’t come back until this morning.

It didn't make me feel any better that there were four million people in the dark with me. Apparently some dipwad maintenance man at SDG&E removed the wrong part for maintenance, and wound up taking out power to all of Southern California, along with parts of Arizona, Nevada and Baja California. I’ll bet he’s embarrassed. I actually kind of know that feeling, but I’m not going to tell you why.

So I cranked up my emergency radio and listened to emergency notices, and then happened onto a station that was taking callers to report on local conditions throughout the city.

“Where are you calling from?” they asked the first caller.

“Hey, we’re at Mission Beach,” was the reply, “Come on down. We’ve got plenty of cold beer, hero sandwiches and the weather’s fine. We’re having a great time down here.” This is, after all, San Diego. When all else fails, it's party time at the beach.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

That Was A Debate?

How many times did they actually answer the question that was asked? Or, hell, any question at all? “I reject your attempt the get Republicans fighting with each other.” Good laugh line, dickhead, now answer the question.

Rick Perry called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” but he gave no analysis to back up that conclusion, that is facts to describe precisely what makes it a Ponzi scheme, and he offered no solutions to either repair or replace it. Immediately after decrying federal taxes as being too high, he complained that he has been “begging” for the federal government to send 1000 or more additional border patrol agents to his state.

Securing the national borders is a federal responsibility, so I’m not suggesting that each state should defend its own portion of that border, but his statement is a typical Republican one of using a single breath to call for cutting taxes and demand increased spending. And the question has to be asked, why should the federal government spend one thin dime fighting wild fires in Perry's state?

Todd Graham, a debate coach in Illinois, provides an excellent discussion of Perry’s evasions in the debate, which were many, along with some of the other debaters’ foibles, for CNN Opinion. It’s an interesting read and I recommend it to you.

“I’m a physician, but you aren’t going to ask me any questions about health care.” Well, no, because you’re also an idiot. National health care is not about being a doctor, it’s an administrative issue, and it requires someone who is, um, smart. This is they guy who says that airlines can do a better job of keeping airplanes safe than the TSA, except that they didn’t in 2001.

Newt Gingrich, of course, had to level a blast about “losing three cities to nuclear bombs in a single morning,” because “there are people out there who want to kill us in large numbers.” He is just so 2003. He’s also worried about Muslim spy cells and the infiltration of Sharia law, so actually he’s more 1955. He looks 1927.

And Democrats are worried about Obama losing next year. Really?

These people keep saying we should leave everything to individual states, like welfare and health care programs, but we’ve been there and it did not work. Either they are to young to remember that, or they have gone brain dead and don’t remember something called “welfare migration.”

Business and their employees moved out of states which offered high welfare benefits, because those states had high taxes, and they moved to states which had low taxes. You can guess what kind of welfare those low tax states offered. People who needed to live on welfare moved to the states that businesses had moved out of. The result was disaster for states which offered high benefits and boom for the low benefit states, and it put states in competition with each other.

The eight idiots on that stage want to go back to that chaos.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Non-Rebuttal Angst

The Republican leadership has decided that they will offer no rebuttal after Obama's "jobs plan" speech tomorrow night and Nancy Pelosi is outraged, saying that failing to rebut Obama shows disrespect. Sigh.

All I can say is that Nancy is easily outraged. Of course, we've known that for some years. Republicans non-rebuttal may have something to do with there being an NFL football game on after Obama's speech, but even if it's not, disrespect for Obama from the Republican Party is hardly anything new. And this may be the least severely insulting disrespectful thing they have done for Obama lately.

Okay, that last statement wasn't very clear, but you know what I mean.

Campaign & Speech Advice

Lawrence O’Donnell is becoming more and more a cartoon show. He now features Howard Fineman, head blogger at Huffington Post, as a guest expert every night. This is a creep who prefaces every statement with, “Well I talked to folks at (insert source here) today and they tell me that (insert propaganda here)." He is, apparently, incapable of original thought and merely passes on to us what other people tell him.

Fineman advised us that “the folks” in the White House believe there is some good news in the latest poll numbers, and that is that Congressional approval is at only 13%. This means that they can run the reelection by having, “not the president himself,” Fineman tells us, “but his people going intensely negative on Congress.” Apparently they will just ignore the Republican presidential candidate, and we will have a campaign where Obama is just some sort of cheerleader and his staff is running a negative campaign against Congress. It’s certainly a novel approach; remains to be seen how successful it will be.

He went on to give the “people” who will be running in Obama’s behalf an actual line to use, which goes, “Do you want the economic plan which you blame for the problem or do you want… something else?” The ending was really weak as he realized, as he reached that point, that the Democrats aren’t actually offering any plan, other than blaming the Republicans. He could with equal validity offer, “Do you want the economic plan which you blame for the problem or do you want the one that isn’t working now?”

I think that also lacks a certain punch, and that we might want to be glad that O’Donnell's crowd is not managing Obama’s reelection campaign.

The Hardball crowd is not any better though, as that gang was offering advice for Obama’s speech that varied between incoherent and insane yesterday. Mark Halperin, co-author of a book which awes Chris Matthews
with its collection of trivial gossip and not one single named source, says Obama should consult with John Boehner today and present not his own jobs plan but one upon which he and John Boehner have agreed in advance. Jonathan Alter says he should go for a big “New Deal” type of thing on infrastructure and construction spending, which he admitted could never pass and as far as I could tell he thought would serve no useful purpose other than pissing off Republicans.

I’m sort of with Jonathan Alter, actually. Obama might as well take advantage of the opportunity to piss off the Republicans, because he’s certainly not going to accomplish anything else tomorrow night unless his speech runs long and he pisses off NFL fans as well.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Wierdish Weather

Rain Image
Rain this time of year is unusual, and today is the second day. We have this narrow little band of showers, and it is not moving like a frontal system, but more like a train on tracks. So we are having rain all day, while people on either side of that band are getting zilch.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Wierd Suicide

A few weeks ago a young woman was found dead in the Coronado mansion belonging to her multi-millionaire boyfriend, with whom she was living. The cause of death was ruled “undetermined” at that time, and on Saturday was announced as being suicide. Some people, and I confess that I am one of them, find that just a little bit weird.

If you were going to commit suicide would you 1) get naked, 2) cut a rope into three pieces, 3) use one piece to tie your feet together, 4) use another piece to tie your hands together behind your back, 5) tie the third piece to a bed frame in the bedroom, 6) drag that rope out into the hallway and tie it around your neck and finally 7) jump over a waist-high railing and off of a balcony? I’ll grant that people committing suicide are not particularly sane, but that is a really weird method for doing the deed.

Police demonstrated a very clever method whereby one could tie one's hands behind one’s own back, but why precisely would one do that? Very strange. Did I mention that the boyfriend is a multi-millionaire?

Thoughts on Labor Day

Remember that what precipitated the fall of the communist dictatorship in Poland was a workers’ strike. One of my favorite movies is Norma Rae, and not just for the acting, but because it portrays the birth of what I consider to be one of the greatest processes known to man – collective bargaining for the workplace. That process was integral with a workforce which built the mightiest manufacturing nation the world had ever seen.

But the biggest weapon that collective bargaining holds in its arsenal, the workers strike, must be reserved for real causes, and when that weapon is abused by union leadership the workers’ cause loses legitimacy. Grocery workers in Southern California settled all issues but one, and are now prepared to strike because they are unwilling to pay any part of the cost for health care. They are not willing to pay, for full medical, dental and vision coverage for a family, a premium that is smaller than a senior pays per individual for Medicare that excludes vision and dental.

Initially framed as the share of cost that the worker must pay, the dialog changed to the “condition of the medical care fund” provided by the employers. Grocery chains have not been paying into that fund recently due to the lack of a contract, and the reason given for the threat of a strike now is a fear that the grocery chains might let that fund run out of money. That is a smoke screen and the union leadership knows it. The grocery chains have a commitment to pay for medical care and they will do so. That fund is merely a mechanism for payment of that care, and the state of that fund is not going to affect the commitment made by the employers. This argument is being made because union leadership knows it cannot maintain sympathy of the public with its unwillingness to share the cost of health care as everyone else in this economy is having to do.

This is the result of unions having paid leadership, electing officers who then no longer work in the jobs that they represent but become full time hacks taking money from the workers they represent instead of working beside them on a daily basis. These poltroons have to drum up “causes” to keep the membership aroused and agitated; to convince members that they are getting something from the union that they could not get if they did not belong. Otherwise they could not keep union dues coming in to pay their own parasitic salaries.

The problem is that members actually are getting something that the union obtains for them, the collective bargaining process itself, but that is not sufficiently visible and dramatic to keep new members joining up. So these leaders have to keep coming up with the dramatic gesture like “free health care” which serves the purposes of union leadership but harms the long term well being of union members.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Geaux Tigers

Well, the highlight of college football’s opening weekend was watching LSU rip the wheels off of Oregon's little, um, fluorescent green wagon. Les Miles’ defense was back in full flower but when some silly AP writer opened his piece by saying that “Jarret Lee admirably directed the LSU offense,” I had to assume he didn’t watch the game. Or read the stats. Or know a damn thing about college football. Lee completed 10 of 22 for 98 yards, which is somewhat less than stellar. Some work certainly needs to be done on the Tigers’ passing game.

I watched San Diego State on “The Mountain,” which is sort of a weird network. For one thing, whenever they reinstated the graphic which displays the score it was accompanied with a sound effect that sounded almost precisely like a little fart. Every time I heard that little “phffrblt” I didn’t know whether to laugh or be annoyed.

Anyway, at halftime coach Rocky Long said that he thought that the offense was doing rather well but that “the defense stunk.” His words. I like a coach who says it like he sees it, and I pretty much agreed with him. They were better in the second half, but they go against another option offense next week, and a better one to boot, and more discipline is definitely needed.

The other SEC game I watched was Ole Miss looking rather pathetic, but that is pretty much what I have come to expect from Ole Miss. It did mean that I had to suffer through watching BYU not lose. Oh well, I understand ‘Bama did well, and of course Auburn pulled one out of its ass Friday.

Big Opportunity

The San Diego Union-Trbune is advertising an opportunity for a cartoon artist. They want to publish a weekly cartoon strip in the Sunday comics page which will be authored and drawn by a local person and are offering the princely sum of $25 per week. Wow. That works out to $1,300 per year.

Economics v Management

Let’s say that you own the business that was featured on CBS News last week, manufacturing raised floors for computer installations. Your business is holding its own, but barely, and you are certainly not hiring anybody. The reason you’re not hiring is that you don’t have any work for the new hires to do, can’t foresee that you will have that new work, and while you do have a decent cash reserve, your profit is marginal.

Now the government passes a regulation which regulates ozone and renders your production equipment obsolete, forcing you to invest large sums of money in new production equipment which is non-polluting.
What do you do?

According to Paul Krugman, you cheerfully spend your cash reserve on new equipment so that you are exactly where you were, with a business that is not growing, that has marginal profit, but which now has no cash reserve. An economist at Princeton might do that, but I know of no actual businessmen who would do that.

The problem is that for people like Paul Krugman a “growing economy” means merely that money is moving around. Where that money is moving and who is moving it is irrelevant, merely the amount of movement is the issue. That’s why they think in terms of trying force businesses to spend large on capital equipment. It is movement of money in large amounts.

To you and me a “growing economy” means people getting jobs. That doesn’t mean requiring that computer flooring maker to spend money on new equipment, but rather managing to arrange for him to sell more computer floors so that he will hire new people. He will hire more people not because Paul Krugman told him to, or because any laws got passed, but because he needs them to make the additional floors he is selling.

Krugman not only fails to see that from our perspective, but he fails to see that the money which is being spent on new equipment is money which becomes unavailable to hire new people when, and if, the employer ever decides to do so. After that he can buy the new equipment because it will now be economically favorable for him to do so. He has more money coming in because he has more employees producing flooring for him.

The problem with listening to economists is twofold. They do not define the economy as you and I do, and as such their goals are different than ours. They merely seek the movement of money and, while they pay lip service to job creation, when it comes down to it they revert to their bottom line of the movement of money, and that is Wall Street, not Main Street.

The other side of the problem is that they advise and predict regarding business activity without the slightest idea of real world business management needs.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

No Easy Answers

A week or two ago the liberal blogosphere was celebrating an executive order from Obama that would cause federal agencies to use available funds creatively in order to create jobs. It was considered to be sort of a “poke in the eye” to Congress, and he was praised for taking action on his own when Congress would not.

I had no argument with the action itself, but I had some reservation about the principle of governance by executive order. I pointed out that we are happy with this because it is a Democratic president issuing an order that we like, but asked what would be our reaction if it were a Republican president issuing an order we did not like? Responses ranged from “Oh, foo” to calling me names that shocked even me a bit.

Then Obama issues an order canceling ozone regulation and it turns out that, indeed, we most certainly do not like governance by executive order when we do not agree with the order, even when we like the president issuing the order.

Paul Krugman weighs in with his usual ability to see only one side of any picture, claiming that ozone regulation would actually be a good thing for the economy because it would force businesses to buy new equipment to meet the regulations, and that is what we are trying to do, create the spending of money. He doesn’t stop to think that businesses which can’t afford to spend that money will simply close their doors, putting more people out of work.

I have actually seen this at work, which is why the fallacy of Krugman’s remark so immediately struck me. When I was in the steel business I was selling sheet steel to three companies which were manufacturing small battery chargers. They were having problems with increasingly strict regulations on the release of paint fumes into the air, and finally one of them bought an enclosed paint line. The other two went out of business. A lot of jobs were lost and, of course, I lost two customers. Did the remaining one hire more workers because of increased business? No. In fact, it reduced workers because the paint line not only solved the environmental issue, it was also automated.

To make the story even more interesting, a fourth customer nearby was also having paint pollution problems and I persuaded him to convert to making his product out of sheet aluminum. That eliminated the painting altogether, but it made his product a bit more expensive and it eliminated, as I recall, a dozen or so jobs in his factory.

All of this over the regulation of paint fumes. Don’t get me wrong, I highly approve of that regulation, but don’t try to tell me it comes without cost.

It always amazes me when these ivory tower economists start talking about how various things will affect businesses, when not one of them has ever been within hand grenade distance of running a business themselves, and almost certainly none of them has ever so much as held a conversation with anyone who has done so. They may know their magic formulas inside and out, but outside of their ivy-covered cloisters they are complete idiots.

The upshot is that I have mixed feelings on this ozone regulation thing. I’m uncomfortable with the decision being left to presidential decision, my opinion is that we need tighter regulation, and I happen to agree with Obama that there is cost involved. There is no easy answer here.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Well, That's Just Silly

I didn't see the game, but Baylor over #14 TCU by 50-48? Was that a football game, basketball, or a track meet? I'm assuming there were actually defenses on the field? I mean, live ones?

Whistling Past The Graveyard

Lawrence O’Donnell is desperate for Obama to win reelection, and the more bleak his chances look the more bizarre are the scenarios which O’Donnell trots out to prove that Obama has a second term in the bag. On Wednesday he brought us a Professor Allan Lichtman with a thirteen point analysis to predict presidential elections. He didn’t list all thirteen but did say that all of them carried equal weight and that, for instance, the plus of Obama having had no scandals neatly cancelled the negative of the economy being in the crapper, which proves that Obama will win reelection.

Yesterday he informed us that Obama’s presidential campaign staff held a secret meeting of some sort and invited a presidential historian to speak to them about how FDR and Ronald Reagan won reelection in years when the economy was in poor shape. They were thrilled by what he had to say and have decided to run Obama's reelection campaign on that model, so everybody relax and breathe easy. Obama will win in a landslide by running the same campaign that FDR and Reagan did.

Can anyone visualize Obama crooning “It’s morning in America” as Reagan did, or raising his fist and declaiming that “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred” FDR style? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The problem is that this plan comes from the Obama camp itself, and they actually think it’s going to work. The plan as Beschloss, the historian mentioned earlier, laid it out was in two parts. Part one was to convince the voters that the state of the nation was getting better, and to do that there has to be some evidence that it actually is getting better. In Reagan’s case that was pretty easy; the economy was growing at a significant pace and unemployment, while still quite high, was dropping rapidly.

FDR had to make a slightly different case and was far and away the more skillful campaigner. “For four long years instead of a government twirling its thumbs you have had a government which has rolled up its sleeves.” While conditions were struggling to improve, the steps that had been taken to create improvement were highly visible and were directed at the lives of the working man. FDR was not touting bank bailouts, or financial reform, or “confidence fairies” which would create jobs. He was pointing to huge programs like the CCC and the WPA which had already put millions to work. He wasn’t counting on business to create jobs and thereby dodging responsibility; business was the enemy who had created unemployment and “I welcome their hatred.”

Contrast that with Obama who has joined the Republicans in the mantra of, “We must create the opportunity for businesses to hire people.” He doesn’t get it. Businesses laid those people off to begin with. Instead of welcoming their hatred, he’s taking their money for his reelection campaign.

The second part of the campaign is to tell voters that turning government over to the opposition would be a step backward. Is that going work if you are unable to show any positive progress being made by your own time in power? Bad mouthing their opponent wasn’t a major part of the game plan for either Reagan or FDR in any case.

Reagan barely mentioned his opponent, the majority of his campaign was the “morning in America” theme. For FDR his campaign was about having his “sleeves rolled up” and the opponent was not the political opposition but the “malefactors of great wealth” whose hatred he welcomed. In either election, do we even remember who his opponent was?

I’m not saying Obama will lose, but merely going negative on the opponent, and using money from the “malefactors of great wealth” to do it, no less, while not having any accomplishment from his own “rolled up sleeves” to point to is not going to keep the reelection campaign ship off of the rocks.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Okay, I'll Play

Just to pretend I care about the Washington spitball fight. Obama is clearly more afraid of the Republican Party than he is of the NFL, which proves how thoroughly out of touch he is. He probably doesn't even realize that's it's the damned Green Bay Packers, and they won last years freaking Super Bowl. He plays and follows basketball, after all.

He should have told Boner, "Well I'm going to speak Wednesday, and if you won't give me Congress I'll just speak from the White House and make you look like an idiot." Which is actually kind of redundant because Boehner being made to look like an idiot is pretty much the same principle as a self-licking ice cream cone.

Arguing The Wrong Point

Here we go again, arguing about the wrong point. The President “caved” by agreeing to change the speech to Thursday, he should have “been strong” and insisted on Wednesday. Republicans were wrong not to agree to Wednesday in the first place, they were disrespecting the President merely because he happens to be black. The President disrespected Congress when he picked Wednesday. It should have been on Wednesday, no it should be held on Thursday.

No, disagreement on the date should not have been held in public. The date should have been agreed upon before the damned speech was announced. That is the way it has been done countless times in the past, and that is the way it should have been done this time.

Who made the public announcement of the date for the speech?

Liberals' Pipe Dream

I have been holding off comment on Obama’s “jobs” policy speech until after he actually makes it because I’m not much into speculation what he might say or telling him what he should say. (Which actually, I guess, makes me a rather boring blogger.) I have some ideas what he should say, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog, and wouldn’t follow my advice if he did.

But since he has now released a letter regarding the speech I can comment on that letter, and I have to say that I am hugely unimpressed. So much for being “the adult in the room.” Yes, we have been wanting him to challenge the Republicans, but we meant for him to do so on policy issues, not with this childish “Haha I’m going to mess with your debate” nonsense.

Yes, I know there are White House claims of “adequate notice,” and that Democrats say it is the President who is being disrespected, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. The inescapable fact is that the White House released the letter before agreement had been reached with Congress on a date and time. That is a breach of protocol and it injected petty politics into what should have been a moment of governance and leadership, and this round of childishness is more caused by the White House than by the opposition.

There is considerable excitement that choosing to make the speech before a joint session of Congress means that Obama is going to introduce something really big and dramatic in the plan. Steve Benen even suggests that, “As settings go, this is in the swing-for-the-fences category,” but I have seen Obama at the plate many times and have never seen him as more than a percentage hitter.

Consider how he himself describes his intentions for the address to Congress, with emphasis added by me which might indicate why I think there will be nothing new, and certainly nothing big or radical,

"It is my intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the Middle Class and working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order."

With that description, the same "cut spending and raise investment simultaneously" that we've heard many times before, from the pen of the man planning to make the speech, I think Steve Benen’s hopes of some sort of home run is little more than a pipe dream.

There's also the issue that, coming a day later than originally announced due to a rebuff from Republicans, the impact of the speech is going to be reduced. This is at best poor management by the White House, and at worst the result of a childish power play that backfired.