Friday, December 30, 2011

This Is My Solution

I think Paul Krugman will get here eventually, so I'll beat him to the punch. If the national debt is money that the government owes to American citizens, then there is a very simple way to deal with our national debt. Just write it off. Cancel it. Erase it. To compensate the people who were holding that debt, just tell them that they don't have to pay taxes any more.

Two huge problems solved in one fell swoop; the debt problem, and the tax problem. I think I am just freaking brilliant.

If You Can't Dazzle Them With Brilliance

The rest of that is “baffle them with bullshit.” Everyone thinks that Paul Krugman is doing the former, but I have a very good bullshit meter, and Paul Krugman is pegging that meter again.

He’s been making the claim that our national debt is not a problem because it’s money that we owe to ourselves. I have been unable to address that issue on his blog because you can’t comment there unless you are a New York Times subscriber, but apparently someone did challenge that position directly because he is responding with an acknowledgement that yes, a “substantial portion” of our debt is owed to foreign investors.

But his counter deals with total investment, assets v. liabilities, and since the government doesn’t invest money at all the chart he displays is clearly dealing with private investment, which relates to government debt about the same way that a Boeing 747 relates to a groundhog.

He further “clarifies” the situation by saying, “as the budget deficit has exploded, the trade deficit has actually been lower than pre-crisis” and says that proves that, “rise in debt is very much a rise in the amount Americans owe other Americans, not a matter of selling IOUs to foreigners.”

That sounds really good if you are talking to someone who doesn’t know what a treasury note is and doesn’t know that it has nothing to do with the trade deficit which involves consumer trade. Whether the trade deficit is positive or negative, and whether it is big or small, when you sell a treasury note you are effectively “selling an IOU,” and when you sell it to the government of Japan or China, you are “selling an IOU to a foreigner.”

Paul, a shovel is not the best tool to use for getting out of a hole.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chargers In The Pro Bowl

Philip Rivers is in the Pro Bowl, but I'm not sure I can figure out why. He leads the league in interceptions and his team will finish with, at best, an 8-8 record. He's 12th in quarterback rating, 7th in percentage of completion and 6th in total yards.

Antonio Gates might make a bit more sense, but even there Aaron Hernandez of the Patriots and Tony Gonzalez of Falcons have outperformed him by a wide margin, and both of those tight ends have contributed to their teams being in the playoffs.

Eric Weddle? Sure, he shares the league lead with seven interceptions, but that is by no means the only measure of a free safety. When it comes to number of tackles he's not even in the top forty rankings, and he's contributed to a pass defense that is no better than tenth in the league.

There's little to celebrate about the Chargers' season, and Pro Bowl selections that are about as reasonable as Obama's Nobel Peace Prize doesn't help much.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Bill Will Come Due

Paul Krugman has a new and rather innovative theory why we should neither stop spending government money at the present pell mell rate, nor begin taxing to cover the cost of that spending. It’s similar to his, “we will never have to pay the debt because inflation will make it disappear.”

This one is that “it’s money that we owe ourselves” and so we can simply ignore the debt. Basically, he claims, when we borrow money we are merely taking it out of one pocket and putting it in a different pocket. It’s still our money, and it doesn’t matter which pocket we have it in, so let’s keep borrowing and spending because life is good.

He is “refuting” the argument that we are leaving a huge debt to our children and there’s a certain logic to what he says, albeit a very shallow one. The government debt is in the form of treasury bonds and, while the debt is being left for our children to pay, so are the bonds being left to our children, and so it’s essentially a wash.

The first flaw is that our children will not inherit anywhere near all of the assets which he claims, since some 32% of them are currently owned by foreign governments. So the statement that “it’s money we owe ourselves” is a false premise to begin with and about a third of it is money that we owe someone else. Even when he throws that little parenthetical “mostly” in there, 32% of $14.1 trillion is a rather massive debt that we are, in fact, passing on to our children with no offsetting asset.

There is also the little fact that the people who receive government services and the ones who hold government bonds are not the same people. How many people receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps do you know who also hold treasury bonds? I didn't think so. So, yes, we are leaving a huge debt to that portion of future generations which is not rich and does not hold enough treasury bonds to offset the government services which they will lose.

The more serious flaw, however, is that we are setting future generations up to lose governmental function twofold, because when the bill comes due not only will that generation be taxed to repay the debt, but it will be taxed to pay for the services that we are presently getting without paying for them.

We absolutely are leaving a debt to future generations when we pass along to them the requirement that not only must they pay for their own needs, but they must at the same time pay for the services which we received and for which we did not pay. Paul Krugman and his cohorts may be able to play some numbers games which make that look okay on paper, but it can never be okay in practice.

The really serious flaw Krugman's argument is a moral one; the endless insistence in this nation that we receive that for which we do not pay.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Little Comet That Could

cometJust a week or so ago we watched a comet dive to its destruction in the Sun. Oops, not so fast; seems it survived the trip, but had its tail burned off in the process.

Well, maybe not so much. Lovejoy not only regrew its tail but did so in a rather spectacular manner. It seems that, “It’s just not wise to mess with Mother Nature.” Unpredictability reigns.

That's Earth's horizon at the bottom. Click on the image for more, and bigger pictures, which were taken from the Space Station. They are reason enough, seems to me, for maintaining that platform.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Turner Apologentsia

The media is generally showing no mercy on the heels of the latest Chargers debacle, but Norv Turner still has his apologists. This from Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune today,

That the Chargers were able to overcome crippling injuries on their offensive line, rebound from a six game losing streak and win three straight blowouts is a credit to Turner’s constancy and his competence.

First of all, the Green Bay Packers won playoff games and the Super Bowl last year with more injuries than we have had at any time this year. Second, two of the “three straight blowouts” were against truly pathetic opponents. Third, six losses followed by three wins is hardly “constancy.” Fourth, if the wins were a “credit to Turner’s constancy and his competence,” which isn't even English, what was the six game losing streak a “credit” to?

I cannot for the life of me figure out what these guys see in Norv Turner. His teams always stink like a long-dead fish for the first half of every season, and at no time during the season are they ever able to play a complete game. Much is being made about this season’s “fast start” with its 4-1 record, but it was nothing of the sort. Despite the record, the level of play was abysmal, with the team barely eking out narrow wins against shabby opponents. As soon as they played against quality opponents they folded like a cheap suit.

Norv Turner has never produced and will never produce a championship contender, and he needs to go.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home For Christmas

The "overnight" hospital stay turned into two full days. The surgery went fine, but in the small hours of the morning following I had another stroke. This time it was after the surgery rather than before, so I finally got that done with. The episode freaked the medical staff, as usual, more than it did me, although this one was quite a lot bigger than any that I've had before.

So I'm back at it, but sore and not feeling very well, so it may be a while before I'm doing much.

I did manage to watch the Chargers/Detroit game today, and I wonder if the Union-Tribune sports writing staff still thinks Norv Turner is some kind of coaching genius who should be retained.

Update, Sunday am: No, they don't. They are being rather brutal, in fact, in their condemnation of him. The readers comments are even more harsh, suggesting that the fans might not settle for mere firing; something involving tar, feathers and a rail might be needed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

On Hiatus

Leaving for the hospital to have the surgery which was scheduled for September and postoned due to the stroke. Will be in the hospital just overnight, but the surgeon said 7-10 days recovery, so posting may be scanty for a while.

Pointing Fingers

Ian Welsh is a Canadian who does not have a terribly high opinion of America or it’s people, a point of view which I am increasingly coming to share. His latest post is that the people of this nation are to blame for our own problems, that pointing fingers at the rich and at politicians is avoiding our own role in this mess, a view with which I am in complete agreement.

Congress has a 9% approval rating? Bullfeathers. We not only elected these criminals, the vast majority of them have been reelected many times. We knew precisely who they were when we reelected them, and at least 80% of them will be reelected next year.

Stolen elections? As Ian points out, possibly in 2000, but we reelected George Bush in 2004 when we knew full well that he was a murderous thug.

We cannot place blame on our elections being controlled by two parties. They are such because we don’t bother to vote in primary elections, leaving the choice of candidates in the hands of a few ideologues in the primaries and then complain about the choices we are faced with in general elections. We are faced with those choices because we did not bother to participate in the process of making the choices.

We elected a Democratic majority in 2006 based on a promise to end the war in Iraq and when they reneged on that promise and instead funded the “surge” in that misbegotten war we reelected them in even larger numbers in 2008. And look where that got us.

We reelect federal legislators based on the amount of federal pork they bring home to the state, and reelect them because we fear that a “freshman” will not have the power to get the “home state” projects passed. The legislators even say that their responsibility is to “represent the interests of the people of my state” above the best interest of the nation, turning us into a nation divided against itself based on greed.

The people of this nation vote for tax cuts, and only for tax cuts. The claim they want a balanced budget, but they fight tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in spending. In California, the vast majority of propositions which require the government to spend money pass with healthy margins, and 90% of those which raise revenue fail to pass.

Obama’s popularity is rising big time again, and over what? Health care reform did not do it, financial reform did not do it, the stimulus did not do it, repealing DADT did not do it, ending the war in Iraq did not do it, a new stimulus this year did not even get out of the gate, but a 2% tax cut has made him wildly popular.

It is not the wealthy 1% who put us in this mess, it is our government, and it is we the people of the United States who elected this government and who have kept it in office. We have the government and the economy which we deserve.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


After weeks of carping about the coaching failures of a Chargers six game losing streak, the team wins three games, two of them against pitifully weak opponents, and suddenly Norv Turner is a coaching genius whose team would probably have a record of 4-10 if it were not for his brilliant and dazzling leadership and play calling genius.

Give me a break. This is a team whose performance routinely stinks like skunk roadkill for the first half of every season. The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl with more injuries throughout the playoffs than the Chargers have had this season. Turner's team has beaten two powder puffs and a team that has not won on the road all season, and suddenly he's a genius.

Publishing Ignorance

The San Diego Union-Tribune published a "letter to the editor" today which expressed gratitude that military retirement pay is being increased the first of the year, but bemoaned the "fact" that the increase would be "wiped out" by the failure of Congress to pass the most recent tax cut because military retirement pay is taxed.

The Union-Tribune did not point out in an editorial rebuttal, which I believe it should have, that the tax cut in question is a reduction of Social Security withholding and that, while military retirement pay is indeed subject to federal income tax, it is not subject to Social Security withholding, and that the "tax cut" in question will actually not affect military retirement pay.

The Rest Of The Story

Nick Turse writes a rather odd piece which seems to tell us that the U.S. drone program is headed for failure because no fewer than 13 of its drones “crashed in spectacular fashion” this year. I’m guessing Nick would say that the Ford F-150 is a massive failure as well, given how many of those trucks have crashed in spectacular fashion.

His report has lots of big numbers, like that the MQ-1 Predator flew 228,000 hours this year so far, but is remarkably lacking in actually useful numbers, like how many drones that was. Some thirteen drones crashed, but at least 182 did not crash as far as I can tell, and probably quite a few more than that, because the Air Force had 195 of these things in 2009 but continued to take delivery of them until March of this year. Even with the 2009 count, though, that makes a 6.7% crash rate, which I’d consider to be somewhat less than disastrous.

Apparently his "crashed in spectacular fashion" is based on the fact that each crash caused $2 million or more in damage, but since the Predator itself costs $4.2 million I'm not sure how "spectacular" the crash has to be to exceed $2 million in damage. It doesn't even have to total the aircraft.

It also works out to one crash every 17,538 hours of operation. I suspect Ford would be delighted if one of its vehicles crashed only every 17,538 hours of operation, since that's almost precisely two years. The planes operated by airlines do better, of course, but then they have pilots. Ones who are not texting while driving, and are not drunk. Okay, I might be getting a little bit off track here, and maybe not making much sense, but then, I'm not sure Nick Turse is either.

Anyhow. Compare that 6.7% with the beginning of the program when, in 2001-2002, 50% of the drones crashed. I’d say the drone program is improving rather spectacularly, wouldn’t you?

I’m all in favor of criticizing the government and the military, and I am strongly opposed to drone warfare. But let’s oppose it for valid reasons, like the fact that it too often kills civilians, and that it violates the sovereignty of nations with which we are not at war. We just need to stop this endless nonsense of making up bogus arguments because we don’t like something.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Iraq Redux

Leon Panetta is one scary dude. CBS News carried a piece last night that was an excerpt of an interview with him for 60 Minutes. In it he claimed that Iran has the capability to “assemble” a nuclear weapon in a year or less and that “we will not tolerate” Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. Asked what his reaction to an Israeli strike on Iran would be, he replied that, “We share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it.”

He went on to use the infamous, “no options are off the table.”

I find it rather repugnant to hear the leaders of my country talking about what they will or will not “tolerate” another sovereign nation doing within the borders of their own country.

I find it both repugnant and frightening to hear the leaders of my country threatening to commit acts of war against another sovereign nation, especially on unsubstantiated charges of “weapons of mass destruction” programs which most of the world finds not credible. Did we learn nothing from Iraq and, “We don’t want the next evidence to be a mushroom cloud” rhetoric?

Update, 9:00PM: According to the NY Times, aides in the Pentagon are now backpedaling furiously from Leon Panetta's remarks; No one-year timeline, no war, no "all options are on the table." Hmmm. Interesting, if not altogether reassuring.

Role Reversal

I’m not sure I even understand the conversation any more. Democrats are now heroes for passing a tax cut, which used to be what Republicans did while Democrats railed against the folly of repeatedly cutting taxes. In fact, Obama is even now railing about how the Republicans ruined the economy by cutting taxes, while at the same time demanding that Republicans pass this Democratic tax cut.

Republicans, meanwhile, are being excoriated because they want to pass the exact same tax cut for a full year rather than merely for two months.

So a two-month tax cut is a good thing because we cannot let American working men and women “face a tax increase” on January 1st but a twelve-month tax cut tax cut is a bad thing because, apparently, we must have American working men and women “face a tax increase” on March 1st.

Somebody needs to explain to me why a "tax increase" on January 1st is a bad thing while a "tax increase" on March 1st is a good thing, because I’m not sure I’m following the logic on that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Democrats Never Make This Point

And I'm not sure why. Republicans keep honking about "big government" being a bad thing, but for a nation this size it seems to me that we damned well better have a big government. For one of the largest nations in the world, and the nation with the world's largest economy and by far the world's largest military, to have a small government would be utterly stupid.

Yes, I know that's inane. That's my point. So is the Republican yammer about "big government."

And, as Barney Frank points out, it's Republicans blatting against over- regulation who want to pass laws regulating what we can and cannot do in the privacy our own bedrooms. Morons.

"We're Just Playing Better"

One certainly cannot argue with that statement, made by Norv Turner, Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson after the Chargers not only defeated the Ravens but utterly dominated them and destroyed them in every aspect of the game. The Chargers punter, for instance, never took the field for the entire game, while the Ravens scored only once, other than a meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The question one needs to ask is, "Why not in September and October?"

Fan are no longer clamoring for Norv Turner to be fired, dazzled by the brilliance of his play calling the last couple of weeks. News flash; his play calling has not changed and the past couple of weeks is further proof that he does need to be fired.

This is a team overawed by perception of it's own level of talent, believing that it does not need to apply itself to win against an average opponent. When backed against the wall or facing an above average opponent, they wake up and actually focus on the game, but until then they are like rich kids in a private school, counting on entitlement to carry them through. That is a leadership problem, and Norv Turner is that leader.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chargers Preview

Nick Canepa and Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union Tribune are picking the Chargers to win tonight over the Ravens. I'm not saying that it cannot happen, "any given Sunday" and all that, but those two guys are delusional to expect for it to happen.

The Chargers have not yet won a game against a team with a winning record, and only one of the teams they have won against has a winning record even now, that being Denver. The team with the best record against whom the Chargers won was the Bills, at 5-7, and that team had a 5-game losing streak at the time. The Chargers won against a record of 9-23, and those teams have a current record of 28-51.

And these writers are picking the Chargers to beat a team that not only has a record of 10-3, but has the third ranked defense in the league and the second ranked running game. I'll be happy if they do, but I am not predicting that they will.

You Have To Be Kidding Me

Congress The Senate extended the payroll tax cut, which I consider to be of questionable value, and unemployment benefits, which I consider to be vitally necessary, for two fucking months. Has there ever been a more feckless action performed by a more thoroughly useless organization?

Update, Sunday: And the House cannot even agree to that. Congress is about as useful as putting screen doors between compartments in a submarine. Teats on a boar hog work better. A bucket of warm vomit is more attractive. Pissing into the wind is about as pleasant. And your average pedophile has more decency.

Things I'd Never Heard Of

First of all, I'd never heard of R+L Transport, who sponsored the New Orleans Bowl, which I'd also never heard of. I have heard of New Orleans, of course, my mother and one sister were born there, and my parents met there while my father was in medical school at Tulane.

Apparently the Aztecs had never heard of the concept of pass defense.

Actually, that's a bit unfair, since for quite a few of the Ragin Cajun catches the nearest Aztec was not only pass defending, he was comitting pass interference, with the penalty declined since the receiver made the catch. The Aztecs did, however, surrender 470 passing yards in the game, and three touchdowns through the air.

I'd never heard of a dead ball penalty for "illegal spinning," and apparently neither had any of the announcers, since they didn't explain it to us. It turns out the call was actually "illegal stemming," which I've also never heard of, and which doesn't make much more sense. It seems it consists of the defense charging toward the offensive team before the snap in an attempt the get them to move before the snap and trigger a "false start" penalty.

That raises a question or two, of course, one being why does everyone else simply call an "offsides" penalty for that? Why is moving toward the other team called "stemming," and if it's illegal when attempting to make them move, thus the "illegal stemming" call, when is it legal?

Anyway, San Diego State managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory last night. That "illegal stemming" call turned a 55-yard field goal attempt into a 50-yard one which won the game with the clock expired.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Is Tough?

President Obama may not strut around the deck of an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit, but he has his moments. At a news conference last week he had the following exchange with the Associated Press,

Ben Feller, AP: “Republican candidates have taken aim at your approach to foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East and Israel, and have accused you of appeasement.”

President: “Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 al Queda leaders who’ve been taken out of the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever’s left out there.”

So our president’s perception of “foreign policy” is assassination by military incursion into nations with which we are not at war, and by unmanned drone. That’s his response to a question about foreign policy.

Democrats are cheering about how decisive and tough that statement makes him, just as Republicans swooned over George Bush on the carrier’s flight deck. Why do we fall for such dreck? Riding in a jet wearing a flight suit is not tough, and neither is the Mafiaesque telling of a general to, “Go kill that guy and dump his body in the ocean.”

Chris Hitchens

I was not going to comment on his death. I loved the way he used words, but loathed the content of his commentary. He always took the wrong side of the debate, and he always verbally destroyed his opponent. I will, actually, miss his oratory but my cardiologist will probably not.

The one good comment about his passing that I read was someone who visualized him and Tim Russert forced to sit together in Heaven's waiting room for an eon or so. Now, isn't that an image?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Campaign Rhetoric

If you thought that deceptive rhetoric ended when George Bush left the White House, think again. This was yesterday in the New York Times.

“Congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families aren’t seeing their taxes go up by $1,000 and those who are out there looking for work don’t see their unemployment insurance expire,” President Obama said Thursday as he encouraged Congress to reach a compromise.

One minor point is that what states provide is unemployment insurance; what the federal government provides is extended unemployment benefits.
It is not insurance at all, because insurance payouts are the result of premiums paid into the program. State benefits are paid from premiums paid by employers, federal benefits are paid from general revenue. The President’s phrasing here is less deception than it is merely ignorant. It’s
a minor point, but I expect better from the chief executive of my nation.

The bigger point is his argument about a tax increase and his claim of its effect on a “struggling economy.” Republicans have long claimed that tax cuts stimulate the economy, while Democrats and economists have long provided convincing evidence that they harm the government more than they help the economy, and from the day he took office Obama has embraced a policy of repeated tax cuts with all the fervor of the most ardent Republican.

And what he’s talking about is not a tax increase, it’s the expiration of a tax cut, so he is not arguing against a tax increase, he is arguing in favor of the repeat of a previous tax cut which is expiring. And again, tax cuts are a Republican policy, not a Democratic one.

He might more accurately phrase it, “...working families aren’t returned to a policy of saving for their future retirement.” Or, “...working families aren’t required to pay for future benefits.” Or, “...we extend the Obama policy of government borrowing money to pay for people to retire.” But don’t give me that nonsense about a tax increase.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What is "Normal Growth?"

Matthew Lynn at Market Watch describes the similarity between the current economic conditions and the depression, not of the 1930’s, but the one which began in 1873 and lasted 23 years. I’m not sure that I agree with all of the five points that he makes, purportedly in support of his theory that this recession will not end until 2031.

One of his points made is, for instance, that recoveries can take a long time. How is that a valid comparison to these economic times? It’s nothing more than an observation of historic fact, and a pretty obvious one at that. So what? It offers no evidence that this one will take that long.

He does, however say in connection with that, “when their origins are in a debt bubble they should be measured in decades not years.” Interesting point, but I’m not sure that it needs to be true. The current recession was certainly triggered by a debt bubble and has lasted for a long time (depending, of course, on how you define “recession”), but it has done so because we have never dealt with the debt. It has neither been paid back or written off, but is still being held and, as such, is still an anchor preventing recovery. My theory is that if we had allowed the companies which were financially underwater to collapse and written off all of the bad debt the 1% would be considerably less rich and we would be well on our way to recovery by now. I could be wrong, but there are a lot of people who think I’m not. I didn’t pull that idea out of my ass.

“[W]hen their origins are in a debt bubble they should be measured in decades not years” because nobody wants to deal with the debt, which means writing it off. If it could be paid back, it would not have caused a recession, so forget getting it paid back. It is bad debt and the people who hold it need to take the loss. Instead, we impose even more loss on the taxpayer and make the whole mess worse instead of better by throwing borrowed money at the holders of the bad debt, who now have a bunch of cash in one hand and a bunch of bad debt notes in the other.

He does say one thing that is, I think, brilliantly on point, “The parallel with the 1930s is dangerous, because it has convinced bankers and policy makers that if you can just pump up demand, everything will be okay.”

It’s convinced economists like Paul Krugman, who has an indomitable ability to look at events and draw the wrong conclusions. The sun came up at 6:05am and there was an earthquake at 6:06am, therefor the sunrise caused the earthquake. Likewise, World War Two caused the end of the Great Depression. Or, New Deal spending did that, depending on which theory he’s on at the moment. Of course, New Deal spending ended in 1937 and the economy went back into recession, which would prove to most people that “creating demand” actually doesn’t make everything okay, but…

World War Two created demand all right, but it did that by destroying most of the civilized world. It did not create current demand in terms of prosperity, my parents can tell you that for damn sure. Rebuilding the world after that war destroyed it created plenty of demand and built prosperity at a tremendous rate after that war ended.

If I’m building houses and the market has become so glutted that there is no demand for new houses, my business is going to suffer a depression. I can create demand by blowing up my neighbor’s house, can I not? He’ll need a new house and I get to build it, so there you are. That’s what World war Two did. I doubt we’re going to see anything like that to create a demand big enough to end this recession.

“The global economy,” he says, “will eventually get back to normal growth,” but I’m not so sure it will. When you start putting beans into a jar, for a long time it appears that there is no time in the future that you will ever have to stop putting beans in that jar. But the capacity of that jar is not infinite and at some point it fills up. There are some 7 billion people on this planet, and I’m not sure that 7 billion people can live the same way that 5 billion did. I suspect that what we have been defining as “normal growth” may have become “unsustainable growth,” in which case it isn’t coming back.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where's the "Fraud"

CBS Evening News tonight opened an item on the Texas A&M band story with the statement that a fraud inquiry had been opened, but then said nothing about it in the story itself, merely describing various hazing rituals imposed on new band members. The website synopsis for tonight's news includes the same teaser, "Authorities looking into the death of a band member at Florida A&M open a fraud inquiry" but the report, again, contains no discussion of fraud. Searching for news of fraud connected to Texas A&M, I find a story dated May 2009, and several in June 2010, but nothing reporting in 2011 by anyone. Wierd.

One More Time On Football

The local news was, not surprisingly, filled with glee about the Chargers defense not allowing a touchdown in 7 of the last 8 quarters. I'm not sure how impressive that is, considering that it was against one team with a record of 3-8 and another which had a five-game losing streak going. The Chargers face Baltimore Sunday night, which is 10-3 and has a four game winning streak going. Um...

San Diego State football goes to the Big East in 2013. You've already heard my opinion of that. Now we find out that all of State's other sports will go to the Big West. The what? I had to look it up, since I have never heard of it.

Oh good, our basketball program will be facing such titans as Cal Poly and Long Beach State. Those are a couple of the big, better known schools in the conference. Steve Fisher says that it won't hurt recruiting. I guess he had to say that; the question is, does he believe it?

My other issue lies with having football and other sports being in different conferences. Kansas, for instance, has mostly had pretty crappy football teams but after losing to Kansas State on the gridiron the Jayhawks could usually take solace in knowing that come basketball season they would beat the pants off of the Wildcats. When the two sports are in different conferences...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pithy Comment

From Ian Welsh in a comment thread at his site, "Obama has a long history of proposing left-wing shit he knows won’t pass, and which if there is any danger of it passing, he will sandbag himself."

Indeed. I wish I had been able to put it as succinctly. It took me several posts, each of them several paragraphs, and he summed it up in one terse sentence.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Foot In Mouth Disease

While Obama is undoubtedly intelligent and makes great speeches, although now that he is in campaign mode I don’t listen to him much, he is capable of saying things that are remarkably tone deaf.

For instance he was at the Army-Navy football game and made a very positive impression. He spent half of the game with the Navy and the other half with the Army, did not inject politics while he was on air, and seemed to just be having a good time. He did say one thing in his initial address which grated on me, however.

“The highest honor and greatest privilege which goes with the office which I hold is serving as Commander in Chief of our men and women in uniform.”

That’s one of those things that sounds good at first impression, but after a moment one begins to realize that he actually insulted most of the nation. I used to be one of those “men in uniform,” but I haven’t been in some fifty years, so what am I to him now, some sort of collateral duty? Serving internationally as the chief executive of the world’s largest economy is, what, some sort of side job? These are things that he does when he has spare time because what he’s really “into” is being the number one man in the world’s largest military?

He is accusing the Republicans of “raising taxes” because they are balking at renewing the temporary payroll tax cut which he sponsored, but two years ago he was disparaging them for using “deceptive rhetoric” when they accused him of wanting to raise taxes when he was declining to renew Republican taxes which were expiring. Why is it “deceptive” when they do it but not when he does it?

When he was accused by a reporter of being “soft on terrorism” he responded by suggesting that the reporter should “ask Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlawki” if he was soft on terrorism. You know what? Bragging about assassination is about the last thing that I want my President to be doing, unless it’s joking about assassination.

Republicans aren’t the only ones speak unadvisedly.

Cleaning Up The Swamp

The problem is not economic inequality. The problem is not that the rich have too much money, or how they got that money. The problem is part of what they do with that money. They buy legislators.

You are not going to get the rich to quit buying legislators by telling them to stop doing it. People do not stop doing what is working for them until it stops working for them. Pitching tents in public spaces and screaming at rich people that you don’t like them may feel good, but it does not make anything stop working for rich people.

We have to make the sale of legislators stop working for them and, more importantly, we have to make it stop working for the legislators.

The argument has been made that if we throw these corrupt legislators out that we will simply have more corrupt legislators take their place and, furthermore, that even when an honest person is elected to office he becomes corrupted by the cesspool which is the seat of our nation's government. Perhaps that is so.

We can correct that, and the way we do it is to not merely throw the legislators out of office but to prosecute them for being unduly influenced by the money they receive from the rich, for taking bribes to act against public interest. To prosecute them for taking bribes to operate against the interest of the people who are paying their salaries as public servants. It is fairly certain that the example will in fairly short order clean up the swamp. Taking bribes is one thing when the worst you risk is leaving office with a pocket full of money. It’s something else entirely when you risk prison.

The rich cannot buy legislators when legislators are not for sale.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oh Keep It Under Your Mattress

CBS News did a piece the other night about how the collapse of MF Global had wreaked havoc with farmers who had put their cash reserves, which they “were saving to buy feed and seed” into that financial firm. “They thought their money was as safe with MF Global,” the reporter intones, “as
it was at the local bank.”

Oh, give me a break. They thought nothing of the sort. They put the money at MF Global because they were greedy and they got burned. The local bank was offering low interest rates while the New York financial house was offering high returns, and the farmers wanted the extra money.

Everybody who puts money into investment has to know that high return on investment is a trade off against risk, and that safety and return exist in inverse proportion to each other. If they don’t know that, then they should keep their damn money in a sock under their mattress and allow it to lose value.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Endless Tax Cuts

Obama and the Democrats are still flogging the payroll tax cut and, at the risk of sounding like an elitist Republican jackass, which I most emphatically am not, I’m not all that crazy about the tax cut itself, and I have problems with this rhetoric on several grounds. I’ll try to explain.

The tax cut weakens the Social Security program, which is under heavy attack and doesn’t need weakening. I understand that that funding is being replaced from the general revenue stream, but separateness from general revenue is one of the program’s greatest strengths, and reducing it at this point is very bad judgement.

I’m not crazy about tax cuts in general. After eight years of Bush tax cutting do we really need four years, or perhaps eight years, of Obama tax cutting? We cannot seriously continue to believe that tax cuts serve any useful purpose. After almost twelve years of cutting taxes and no gains in any dimension we have to realize at some point that they are merely self destructive pandering to the voters.

This tax cut is being promoted for the express purpose of “giving people more money to spend,” and that strikes me as contributing to an American attitude that is unhealthy and which is a good part of what got us into this hole to begin with. It is a different wording of George Bush’s “go shopping.” This national obsession with spending is beginning to sound a little sick, really. What do Americans do? They spend money.

Finally, I have a major problem with Obama’s insistence that the payroll tax cut be “paid for” with a tax increase on the rich. The whole concept behind the formation of Social Security was that it was people putting their own money into a fund upon which they would retire, such that in old age they would not be subject to the charity of others but could retire with dignity on their own resources. Obama thinks we no longer need to do that, that the retirement of the middle class should now be funded by the rich, and I find that idea deeply repugnant.

The American people, of course, love it. "I can buy a television and a car, because some rich guy is contributing to my retirement fund."

I am all in favor of a progressive income tax, and I think it should be significantly more progressive than it is now. People should pay to support the government proportionally to the degree to which they benefit from the operation of that government. But the endless prating about tax cuts, the standalone rhetoric of “tax the rich,” and the idea that the rich should provide funding for the retirement of the middle class are all concepts that are not consistent with what I perceive the American vision to be.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Well, He's Consistent

Obama has one to add to his "We're denying them space in which to plan their attacks" with his stance banning the Plan B contraception bill. He says that little girls shouldn’t be able, “alongside bubble gum or batteries -- be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect."

Indeed. If you consider making them not being pregnant an adverse affect. And since the pills cost $45 per pill, I doubt that "little girls" are going to be buying truckloads of them with their bubble gum. And when is the last time you saw batteries next to the bubble gum in a store?

They are also very difficult to use properly, you know, and the instructions are very difficult to comprehend. "Take one pill."

And this is the president known for his towering intelligence.

Double Standard?

I have been waiting for outcries about "income inequality" to erupt over the baseball contract of Albert Pujols, but none have been forthcoming.

Apparently $100 million bonuses for bankers are an abomination and evil, while $250 million for a baseball player is just fine. Okay, if you say so.

It Is The Season

I’ve never before seen the actual numbers on the “seasonal adjustments” that the government uses for various things, but I’ve always distrusted them. I basically don’t believe anything that the government, its representatives, or its politicians say to me about pretty much anything, and I’ve assumed that “seasonal adjustments” were the government’s way of concealing bad news to assure that present elected officials would be reelected.

So when The Market Ticker provided a link to the “unadjusted” numbers for yesterday it came as no surprise to me to see what the revealed.

The market was ecstatic that “seasonally adjusted initial claims” for unemployment compensation was the lowest in nine months, at 381,000 for the week and that, further, it had dropped from 404,000 the previous week. Joy from all sides, everyone, and reelect Obama in a landslide.

But wait. The “unadjusted initial claims” for unemployment, meaning the actual number of people who walked in the door and filled out applications because they lost their jobs, was 523,642 for the week and was an increase of 151,000 over the previous week.

Well now, isn’t that interesting? Instead of being a bit under 400,000, it was well over 500,000 and instead of decreasing by 23,000 it increased by 151,000. That’s one hell of a “seasonal adjustment” isn’t it? What “season” are we in that requires a 27% adjustment? And of course I know this is a stupid question, but it’s rhetorical, why are only the “seasonally adjusted” numbers reported?

I’ll bet the title led you to think this was going to be a Christmas story.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A Man's Actions Speak For Him

Salon has headlines reading “The evolution of a populist” and “The Obama we’ve been waiting for.” Robert Reich is swooning over “The Most Important Economic Speech of His Presidency.” While I will not say that what Obama is saying is bad stuff; people, he is campaigning for reelection. He is giving us the same rhetoric he gave us for an entire year during 2008. We loved it then, and we love it now, but are we going to love what we get during the four years of his second term?

Well, how much of what he said in 2008 turned out to be real? No, we’re not going to play word games about promises kept; like a promise to end the war in Iraq and troops coming home by Christmas, a promise made by him and kept by Bush. How much of what he portrayed himself to be did he turn out actually to be? Why, in the face of pretty speeches during campaign season do we suddenly forget almost three years of corporatism and catering to the wealthy?

His actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what he says.

Heat Is Good

We have heat. That's fortunate, since the silly frost advisory is continuing and it is 37 degrees again this morning. I care a lot less, what with having a working furnace. Interesting; I would not have guessed it, but some of our local dog walkers actually own parkas.

The new furnace came with a CO detector, so we are now legal, and a programmable thermostat. So much for my wife turning the thing down to an arctic setting when I'm not looking; she doesn't know how. Heh. One of the few instances in our house where I hold the power.

Now, if I can just figure out how to reset the damned thing myself...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

But This Is Progress

I’m not sure this is entirely the right target yet, but it one whole hell of a lot better than Kumbaya gatherings in public parks with tents, campfires and singalongs. Going after legislators themselves would be my preference, but targeting lobbyists is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

Update: Aha, and it gets better! They are going after legislators.

More than a thousand activists and constituents came together for a “Take Back the Capitol” action, as 99 or more delegations descended on congressional offices, demanding meetings with members of Congress...

This is getting better. I might be beginning to think this could actually accomplish something. It's early, but it's a start.

Not Exactly Progress

The San Diego Union-Tribune is in new hands as of yesterday, when Doug Manchester took over control. This is a local guy famous for building hotels, the major one of which was boycotted due to his financial support for the infamous Proposition 8. That may give you an idea what is going to happen to what was already pretty much a rag, useful only for wrapping dead fish.

I Give Up

I'm just not going to even try to make sense of it any more. San Diego State football will be in the Big East Conference, while all of its other sports will be in the Western Athletic Conference. What part of that makes any sense, other than the WAC? Splitting the sports into different conferences is pretty bizarre but, the Big East? Does anyone realize how far West SDSU is? It can go no farther without falling into the furshlugginer ocean. Well, okay, it's actually the Pacific but...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Oh, That's Good Timing

The guy came to inspect our 35-year-old furnace today. The verdict: toast.
It is so bad, in fact, that he red tagged it, so we have no heat tonight. The weather forecast for tonight:
frost warning
Do I have to tell you how rare it is to have frost advisories in San Diego? The good news is that a crew will be here tomorrow morning to install a new furnace and air conditioner. The bad news is that we will have to cough up some $9000 for that exercise.

Update, 6:30 Wednesday morning: Ah yes, I now recall that our fireplace is cleverly designed to send all of the heat up the chimney so that we can admire the flames visually without having to run the air conditioner too much. This is, after all, Southern California. Shit. I am considering setting a chair or two on fire in the bedroom. I am too old for this and there is a reason, after all, why I live in Southern California.

Where the temperature is currently a toasty 37 degrees. Shit.

Even New Planets Are Not Immune

Liberal blogs are so filled with hatred for Republicans that even the discovery of a new planet is used as an opportunity to mock and criticize the GOP. After citing the discovery of a planet which might have an Earth-like climate, a Balloon Juice poster went on a tirade about how the GOP would stand in the way of us traveling to that planet and would demand an end to Social Security, etc. Dude, it's just a new planet light years away, and has nothing to do with politics. You need a hobby.

Big Win. Big, Big Win.

When I predicted that the Chargers could lose to the Jaguars I had never watched the Jaguars play football. After last night I still have never watched the Jaguars play football. That team is an embarrassment to the NFL and should have its license rescinded. Games against them should only played on an exhibition basis, something like the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters. They should use a 5-6-0 defense, since if their defensive backfield ever served any useful purpose being on the field, it certainly was not apparent to me. The boos from the stands diminished only because the fans were leaving in droves.

Yes, the Chargers won, but it was a little hard to really enjoy it. It was like winning a battle of wits with Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. It was like Lyoto Machida winning a fist fight with a six year old. It was like LeBron James winning a one-on-one with a fifth grader. I mean, you don’t really celebrate something like that. You shrug, say “Oh really?” and move on.

And I find watching MNF on ESPN excruciatingly painful. In part it is the jabbering of the talking heads, which is a bit more obnoxious than most because there are three of them to the normal two, and they call each other “Jaws” and “Coach” and engage in endless adolescent repartee about their good old days when they themselves were actual jocks.

The other issue is the endless commercials, which are interrupted once in a while for a football play. I lost count of the number of times that we would return from a string of commercials, there would be one football play and we would return to another string of commercials. Sometimes they repeated that sequence two and three times in a row. All televised games have commercials, of course, but ESPN is vastly more obnoxious with theirs than anyone else.

Hope Is Eternal

Hope is now worth actual money. Reuters, no less, has a headline today that reads, “Wall Street set to edge up on euro zone reform hopes.” What’s really bizarre is that it is actually a credit downgrade upon which those hopes are pinned, because the article goes on (emphasis mine),

Stocks were set to edge higher at the open on Tuesday as investors hoped S&P's downgrade warning for the euro zone would help force budget changes at a European Union summit this week.

The illogic of this whole concept is stunning, of course. When the credit agencies were threatening to downgrade US credit there was huge alarm that it would cause the bond market to go crazy and the stock market to collapse. In the actual event, of course, everyone yawned and pretty much nothing happened because investors figured the credit rating agencies didn’t know what the hell they were talking bout.

Now the thinking resembles a billiard shot; being that the downgrade will alarm not the bond market but the governments and will cause the governments to do something about their budgets. That action would please the hell out of the bond buying deficit hawks, of course, but it would also trigger a recession and crash the stock market, but naturally “no one could have seen that coming.” Fabulous.

We won’t go into hope and its effect on general elections.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Our Big Chance

With Kansas City beating Chicago, the Chargers now have it within their power to take sole possesion of last place in their division by losing to the Jaguars tonight. I am just breathless with anticipation. I believe our plucky little team can pull it off, despite being favored by three whole points over that hapless 3-8 team.

A panel of experts on the teevee last night was opining that the Chargers did not really need to stop the Jaguars' star running back, since our run defense is pathetic in any case, but could win by focusing on their inept passing offense. I'm like, "What?" If Maurice Jones-Drew runs for 500 yards and ten touchdowns, how is stopping them from passing going to help us?

Oh well, onward and upward. Eli Manning lost, but he didn't look bad enough in the process to suit me. I don't know how Green Bay is undefeated with that defense, because it absolutely stinks. They play a real football team and they will get creamed. The Cowboys lost to Arizona. Really? Denver's defense finally met it's match, but this time their offense finally got in gear and Tebow actually played quarterback, going 10 of 15 for over 200 yards and two well-thrown touchdowns.

And, sure enough, we do get LSU - Alabama for the title. Geaux Tigers.

Time Frame Matters

Tom Dispatch has an article regarding the ongoing deterioration of our planet, and I guarantee it will be as thoroughly ignored as everything else on the topic has been, for one simple reason. It starts with, "...the International Energy Agency suggested that, by century’s end, the planet’s temperature could rise by a staggering 6ยบ Celsius." That will cause 90% of the country's population to stop reading right there.

The end of this century is ninety years away, and nobody cares what happens ninety years from now. They should care, of course they should, but they don't. Not only that, but they have no clue what "Celsius" is and that makes them care even less. You're not even speaking their language.

If people cared about how future generations are going to live they would not be demanding tax cuts and continued government spending. We would not have a demand for lower taxes while we have an infrastructure that is crumbling to rubble in front of our eyes. We would not be demanding foreign policy that creates long term enemies to destroy imaginary threats.

We give lip service to the future and live for the moment, bankrupting ourselves in every dimension for the sake of instant gratification.

If you want to address the climate change issue you cannot talk about what it's going to do ninety years from now. No one will act on that. You need to show that it is damaging all of us today. Not just Texas, we don't care about Texas unless we live there, and too few of us do. All of us and this year, then we'll worry about it.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

American Exceptionalism

So, you have some visitors in your home and they start kicking the hell out of your dog. You tell them that you don’t want them doing that and tell them to stop. They say no. You tell them that you are really fond of your dog, that this is your home, not theirs, and that you want them to stop kicking your dog. They say that kicking your dog makes them feel good and continue to kick your dog. You can’t throw them out, even though it’s your house, because they are bigger than you are and, they claim, they are doing you a favor by being in your house.

In what universe does that make any kind of sense?

In the universe where we are making night raids on homes in Afghanistan and the government there has been trying for years to get us to stop doing it, with no success. Instead, we make even more of them, to the point where we average ten raids every single night. We say that it serves our purpose, has a “high risk to reward ratio,” and we really don’t care that it’s their damn country.

We are back into the Vietnam-era realm of “body count warfare” now, which is a sure sign that we are losing the war, and the claim is made, notably by unnamed “officials,” that, “Thousands of Taliban insurgents, hundreds of them midlevel commanders, have been captured or killed in the raids.”

What they don’t say, something that is reported only by overseas sources, is that 90% of those captured turn out to be completely unconnected to the Taliban and are released the next day. But we are generating numbers, as we did with the Vietnam body counts, to justify our military activity and to secure promotions for the officers conducting it. The fact that the host nation doesn’t like it does not concern us much.

More of the much admired American exceptionalism.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

(Football) Tigers Redux

Once again, after trailing 10-0 midway through the second quarter and failing to achieve a first down for the entire first half, the LSU Tigers wind up beating Georgia by a final score of 42-10. It must be something in the bayou water down there. And yes, it would not surprise me a bit to learn that Baton Rouge football players drink directly from the swamps. You should see the things that they eat. If it doesn't eat them first, they will fry it up in bacon drippings and eat it.

Cause and Effect

Krugman, Baker and others are claiming that the current deficit and debt are not caused by a combination of excessive spending and inadequate taxes, but rather by the recession, which caused tax revenues to collapse and at the same time drove upward the costs of the “social safety net.” I'm calling nonsense on that, and here’s why.

Keynesian theory, even if you subscribe to it and for the moment let’s suppose that we do, says that the government should spend during lean times to support and “restart” the economy, and that it should pay off that debt and build a surplus during prosperous times, sort on the "save for a rainy day” concept. The current debt and deficit is caused by our failure to do the latter in the 90's and the first decade of this century.

The Great Depression and World War 2 caused us to build up a huge debt. Contrary to common Keynesian thought, the latter did not cause us to recover from the former, it added further to our economic woe, because we spent heavily to win that war, expenses which were not countered by tax revenue. An economic boom in the 50’s and 60’s brought our debt under control, but the growth of the Cold War exacerbated it once again.

The Clinton Administration raised taxes and balanced the budget, and then the Bush tax cuts were passed because we were developing excess revenue in a booming economy. Rather than pay down the debt, we reduced taxes for the specific purpose of not paying down the debt. I do not recall any Keynesian economists howling with outrage when we did that. Keynesians are only outraged by spending cuts, not by tax cuts.

Had we left the tax rates where they were and used the excess revenue to pay down the debt, then the economic downturn of 2008 would have caused far less governmental revenue problems. Instead of turning a small deficit into a huge one, it would have turned a surplus into a small deficit, and the debt would be far smaller and growing at a much slower rate.

So how do we respond to the deficit and debt in the midst of the economic disaster? Of course, the way we deal with everything, tax cuts. Payroll tax cuts, business tax cuts…

Reminds me of the carpenter with the saw and the baffled look. “I don’t understand,” he moans, “I’ve sawed it off three times and it’s still too short.”

Friday, December 02, 2011

And CBS Swoons

CBS News did a report this evening swooning over the dramatic turnaround of the economy, citing the "unexpectedly large number" of new jobs and the "surge in consumer confidence." They did admit that "about half" of the drop in unemployment was due to people who quit looking for a job.

So 120,000 new jobs is a "large number" when 127,000 new workers entered the work force, is it? That seems about 7000 jobs short of a winner to me. And with 127,000 new jobs and 320,000 workers leaving the work force, how do they come up with that "about half" nonsense? If Tommy has one apple and Jane has three apples, does Tommy have "about half" of the net total of four apples?

Where do we get these idiots?

This Is The Good News?

Headlines are crowing about a drop in unemployment to 8.6% which does look like almost stunningly good news, but on closer examination it’s rather like a shiny new car with no engine under the hood. The number of new jobs added was 120,000, which barely keeps up with the number of new workers entering the work force.

Update: Actually, it doesn't keep up because, on average, 127,000 new workers enter the work force each month. The population of the U.S. increased by 172,000 in November.

So why the drop? Because 315,000 workers left the work force, that is they simply quit looking for work, and are no longer counted as "unemployed." Not only that, but of the new jobs added, how many were temporary, holiday season workers?

Of all the people in this country who are working age, only 64% are either working or are looking for work. A full 36% have simply given up or are working under the table, which means they are working for substandard wages and without benefits.

Update: Most people would interpret that as an 36% unemployment rate. Oh, sorry, 36% + 8.6% = 44.6% unemployment rate. Yikes!

But Democrats are as happy as pigs in slop. Obama will be reelected in a cakewalk, because unemployment is dropping before the election and now is "in the 8% range.”

Congress is currently debating the continuation of extended unemployment benefits. They should not continue them, because if they don’t then millions will lose extended benefits and will, as a result, quit looking for work. They will therefore no longer be counted as unemployed and the unemployment rate will drop to somewhere around 5% or so.

Is this a great country, or what? American exceptionalism.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Tim Sullivan Masterpiece

Tim Sullivan has a masterpiece in the San Diego Union-Tribune today regarding the tenure of Chargers' head coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith. The opening paragraph is one for the ages.

Abraham Lincoln would have fired Norv Turner by now. Possibly twice.

And it just gets better. His point is that Abraham Lincold did not hesitate to get rid of generals who did not win battles, and that if the owner of the Chargers wants to keep the fans on board and sell season tickets, he needs to make the changes that will regain the loyalty of the fans. It doesn't matter how good Turner is, or Smith, it matters that the people who buy tickets are happy. Read the piece.

Interesting Weather

All day yesterday we were warned of "damaging high winds" and given advice on how to prepare ourselves. Today the LA Times has headlines of "Fierce winds blast Southern California; thousands without power." As far as I know, San Diego is in Southern California, but the wind here is out of the East at 5 mph and there is not so much as a leaf on the ground, let alone any trees. We are, admittedly, very near the coast, and I understand that North County and the mountains did get wind, but nothing like they had in LA. What a difference a few miles can make.

Looking at the satellite image, the storm center causing this is already well to the East of us, so apparently the storm track did not behave quite as predicted. I'm not complaining, mind you.

One thing that confuses me though, is that they are talking about "Santa Ana" winds, and the system producing these winds is not what I have known to meet the definition of Santa Ana in the fifteen years that I have lived here. That wind has always been a result of high pressure centered over the high desert plains and draining due to gravity through the passes of the coastal mountains. The wind supposedly gets its name fron Santa Ana Canyon, although that is subject to a bit of dispute.

This wind is the result of counterclockwise circulation around an intense low pressure system, though, and is actually storm wind, so I question the media's use of "Santa Ana" in describing it. I suspect they fell prey to thinking that any strong wind is a Santa Ana, which is not actually true.

American Ideals

Obama is pressing hard to prevent Americans from returning to putting money away for their own retirement, saying that the nation will “suffer a massive blow” if its citizens are forced to return to pre-recession levels of contributing to their own retirement savings account. The account is called Social Security, of course, and it was Obama's idea to reduce the level of savings in the first place, putting money borrowed by the government into that national retirement savings account instead.

Now he wants not only to continue the reduced level of contribution to savings for retirement, he wants to reduce it even more, and to “pay for it” by increasing taxes on rich people by an equal amount. He is angry at anyone in government who opposes this idea.

He wants us regular folks count on someone else to put money into the retirement savings account for our benefit, let rich people do it, so that we can spend our money on flat screen televisions and new cars instead of having to put it aside for our own retirement.

If we had any self respect, we would reject that idea. America, we claim, is founded on the ideal of self responsibility and self reliance. But in reality we merely pay lip service to those ideals, and the idea of having rich people pay for our retirement so that we can spend more money now is hugely popular. “Tax the rich.”