Monday, December 31, 2012

Well, It Was A Win

The Chargers beat the Raiders yesterday, 24-21, but the most exciting thing that happened yesterday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium was a hailstorm which, happily, didn't last long.

The defense gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter; nothing new there. The offense scored a whopping 17 points and did not score at all in the fourth quarter. Philip Rivers threw for a sizzling 140 net yards and the team rushing total was 70 yards, which would be mediocre for a single running back and is utterly pathetic for an entire team.

Lordy, lordy. Thank heavens this season (7-9) is over.

Obama Speaks

President Obama was interviewed by David Gregory yesterday, an event I had serious difficulty watching because I loathe David Gregory even more than I do Barack Obama when he’s being political. For the most part I found myself being okay with Obama, though, while wanting to smack Gregory in the face, neither of which feelings is particularly unusual, given that Obama was being less political than usual. He has the upper hand at the moment, so he doesn’t need to resort to sleaze as often as he did in his first term.

That didn’t keep him from doing it, of course, and doing so to a minor degree in response to the first question which was, “Are we going off the cliff?” A proper response would have been to say that we probably are but that the cliff is the wrong term and that it is only a gradual slope, so that there is still time to avert most of the damage and even to repair what damage does occur. What he did do is describe a financial cascade which starts with consumers not having enough to spend on new televisions.

Our economy depends, you know, on consumption; on people having enough money to sustain the “consumer spending” that is the backbone of our financial house of cards. Our whole GDP is a measure of how much we are spending at any given moment, and pays no attention to what we are doing with it. As it happens, we are wasting it on crap and are building nothing that will last beyond the current fiscal accounting period.

He then implies that we can avoid the cliff “if we have raised some revenue by the wealthy paying a little bit more,” which is a masterpiece of trivialization upon which I will not bother to elaborate.

When Gregory asks him what responsibility he bears for the cliff we are facing, given that he signed the legislation creating it into law, he does a Pontius Pilate act and washes his hands, claiming to be as pure as the driven snow. “If you look at my track record over the last two years,” he says, “I cut spending by over a trillion dollars in 2011.”

It’s hard to imagine what the hell he’s talking about there, since federal spending in fiscal year 2010 was $3.59 trillion, in 2011 it was $3.67 trillion and in 2012 it was $3.56 trillion. He just pulled that one of somewhere that sunshine is completely absent. A $1 trillion spending cut would be well over a 25% reduction in any one of those years, which would be one hell of an executive order.

He may be talking about the Budget Reconciliation Act of 2011, which calls for a $917 billion reduction spending cut over the next ten years, but that was passed by Congress over his objection in return for an increase in the debt ceiling, and it’s what caused the fiscal cliff in the first place. It’s kind of weird to be bragging about having caused the fiscal cliff while blaming the failure to resolve it on the Republicans. Not to mention that it isn’t “over a trillion dollars,” it’s a bit under a trillion.

His most duplicitous moment came when the subject turned to the inflation adjustment for Social Security and the “Chained CPI,” something which Obama admitted is “Highly unpopular among Democrats” and “Not something supported by AARP.” He described it as something that, “sounds real technical but basically makes an adjustment in terms of how inflation is calculated,” which is another masterpiece of trivialization upon which I am going to elaborate.

Full disclosure; yes, I am on Social Security, but this is not about me. I can live in a damned tent if I have to. It’s not even about the inflation adjustment for Social Security. It’s about the casual manner with which Obama dismisses it as a “technical adjustment” and advocates it with some glib commentary about “strengthening the program,” without admitting that it reduces the benefits for senior citizens.

This is Obama at his worst. It may be necessary to do this. I don’t think so, but assuming that it is, admit what you are doing, explain the effects that it will have, and justify it. This penchant for tossing it off with a glib non-explanation is dishonest.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Taking Responsibility

Whenever I hear someone say to a uniformed serviceman, “Thank you for your service,” I want to walk up to that person, punch him in the chest and say to him, “You acknowledge that service to your nation is valuable, so don’t think him for doing it, go sign up at the recruiting office yourself.”

When we went into the service we did not think that we were doing anything noble, or anything for which we should be covered with glory and given thanks. We were doing what was expected of us. That expectation was embodied in the “Selective Service Act,” the draft. Everyone made himself available for military service and the military “selected” as many as it needed at any given time. If you were able to do so you served. If you did not serve you had to provide a reason. Some of those reasons were thin, but at least the expectation was that service to your nation was required.

This nation provides a great many rights and privileges. Do you really think those are free? We did not. Our parents, not 1% of our families and not some remote ancestors, our parents died in great numbers on the fields in Europe and in the Pacific to preserve them for us. We knew that someone had to work and pay for those things and we accepted that it was our turn.

Increasingly, the American citizen of today does not feel any sense of responsibility for the preservation of these rights and privileges; not in military service or even to the extent of paying taxes. Conservatives think
no one should pay taxes and liberals think that taxes should be paid by “others,” the rich and corporations, but not by “us.”

It’s not ideology, it’s the times. Republican George H. W. Bush, despite his “read my lips” pledge, recognized that the nation needed more money and so he raised taxes. Democrat Bill Clinton recognized that the nation needed more money and so he raised taxes. Barack Obama recognizes that the nation needs more money and so he makes speeches about how we must protect the American people from the horror of having their taxes raised.

If the people of this nation, not government, the people do not stand up to their responsibility we will lose what we have. We are not paying for it, neither in cash or in sweat equity, and there is no free lunch.

Friday, December 28, 2012

On Being Banned

When I corrected the commenter who claimed that the elder Mr. Bush abandonded his crew and pointed out that he in fact behaved honorably in his World War Two piloting in the Pacific I was banned from the discussion. Defending Republicans in any degree is not tolerated in some "liberal" circles, and truth is not the goal of discussions.

Everything But...

CBS Evening News did an interesting follow-up piece on a victim of Hurricane Sandy the other night. The original clip showed an elderly woman searching through the ashes of her burned home and finding the shard of a plate, all that she was able to recover, and taking it home as a treasured memory of her former comfort. What once was a home filled with treasures and memories was reduced not only to a plate, but merely to a piece of a plate. I’m paraphrasing, but it was a real tearjerker.

The follow-up was an interview to see how she was doing now. People had “been very kind,” she said, and had been sending contributions and giving her things. One woman from another state had even found a plate identical to the one that had been shown in part on the original news item and had sent it to her, so now she had the entire plate. How touching is that? More tears all around, only of joy this time; she has gifts, contributions and an intact plate identical to the one she lost.

Am I being cruel with my sarcasm here? Well, they started the piece by saying that she was a “woman who had lost almost everything.” Please notice the “almost” in that, because it turns out they were not referring to a broken piece of one plate. They began the interview by saying that, “We met her at a family home that she owns and had been renting out.”

How many people lost everything and wound up homeless after Sandy? And they choose to do an interview and a follow-up with a woman who is living in a second home that she owns in addition to the one that was destroyed. Seriously? She’s living in her own second home, and they are interviewing her instead of some family who is in a shelter or living on the street? You have to be kidding me.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tribal Hatred

In a different bastion of liberal thought than the one I referred to yesterday I found a post titled “Dancing on Their Graves,” which was in reference to former president George H. W. Bush being hospitalized in intensive care, and looking forward to being able to perform the action specified in the title. There was a long parade of commentary to the effect that he was scum and a man who should not be accorded honor in death because he had earned none in his lifetime.

Liberal expression of this sort is becoming entirely too common and is entirely repugnant to me. George H. W. Bush was a Navy pilot in World War Two and flew 58 combat missions. When I mentioned that in the comment thread the response was entirely negative, and one commenter claimed that he had “bailed out of the plane he was piloting before his crew, leaving his crew to die,” adding that there was “VERY little honor in the Bush family, going back many generations.”

The true story of his bailout was that while attacking a Japanese island “his aircraft was hit by flak and his engine caught on fire. Despite his plane being on fire, Bush completed his attack and released bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits. With his engine afire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft.”

Does that sound like a man who “without honor, bailed out of the plane before his crew” to you? I think not. To be so poisoned by tribal hatred as to speak of a man in such vile terms as these people do is a symptom of a nation descending into a political system that is no more reasoned or logical than the Hatfields and McCoys.

I wish the elder Mr. Bush peace, comfort and a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Left Wing Holiday Greeting

This is how an extreme left winger delivers a Christmas message. First, almost two months after the fact, he spends a paragraph on the “delicious schadenfreude” of the past election, “a dish that hot or cold just never gets old.” He goes on at some length about that, apparently not having noticed that the Republicans held control of the House.

Then he has an even longer paragraph about an article he read regarding the “Romney camp's delusions regarding its electoral prospects,” which he thought was “particularly delicious.” He drones at some length in his Christmas message about the mental deficiencies of Mitt Romney and his attempt to use the presidency to “fill the hole in his soul.”

He then cites an article he enjoyed about the National Review, a group which he describes as a collection of “the old, white, privileged, racist, patronizing, and delusional,” followed by another article which is a “month by month cavalcade of right wing nuttiness” which he describes as “a treat.”

Then he says Merry Christmas & all that because he’s off to “the tropics.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

SD mountainsYes, that is snow on the San Diego mountains. It's not the Wasatch, but it's the best we can do. We only manage it about once every thirty years, and it totally freaks everyone out. This picture was taken about 2000 or so. Anyway, joy of the season, everyone.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Excitement Reigns

The San Diego sports writers are barely short of orgasmic over the Chargers win yesterday. People, it was the Jets. It was a defensive secondary that could not cover a dining room chair with a king-sized blanket. It was a quarterback who, after the ball was snapped to him, stood there wondering what the hell he was supposed to do with it.

The fans are excited an offense that rushed for 87 yards. The whole team, in four quarters. Jamaal Charles of Kansas City, a team with a 2-13 record, rushed for 226 yards. In one game. At least six running backs ran for more than 100 yards yesterday, in one game. The team total for the Chargers yesterday was 87 yards, against the Jets.

The sports writers and fans are ecstatic about the return of Philip Rivers to his “winning form.” It must be about him not fumbling or throwing to the wrong team, because he passed for 136 net yards. Not in one half; that was the game total. Drew Brees, a San Diego castoff, passed for 446 yards yesterday. Eight quarterbacks passed for more than 300 yards yesterday. San Diego fans are excited about Philip Rivers passing for 136 yards.

Excitement in San Diego is a very low bar to jump over.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Request Granted

The president of the NRA was on Meet The Press earlier today. “If it’s crazy to call for putting police in and securing our schools to protect our children," he told NBC’s David Gregory, "then call me crazy.”

Okay, you're crazy. You are batshit insane. You are nucking futs.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wheeling and Dealing

President Obama is turning into a real tiger of a negotiator. His “stripped down” deal which he wants passed so that “we can deal with the hard stuff next year” is to extend that Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% but not for the top 2%, extend unemployment benefits, and hold off on spending cuts until next year. That is simply awesome.

Notice that it actually reads “give me what I want now and we’ll deal with what you want later,” and he thinks Congress can pass it in ten days. He probably thinks NASA can build a spacecraft that can take him, personally, to the moon in two weeks. He won’t need to take any Secret Service with him, because no Republicans live there.

What it would actually do, of course, (if it passed?!) is leave him dealing with what Republicans want next year along with the debt ceiling, which leaves liberal policies like Social Security and Medicare utterly screwed. On the other hand, that may be his plan. Remember, he plays chess in eleven dimensions.

Blending In

I watched an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles last night which I had taped earlier in the week. My first thought is to ask what idiot decided that dialog and “background music” should occur simultaneously and at the same volume? More and more programs are using this “dramatic effect,” and I am usually able to understand about half of what the actors say. My wife and I sometimes pause programs and hold a discussion on what we think the characters might have said. Replay does no good, as we don’t hear it the second time either.

Apparently the regular screen writers are on holiday break this week and they are using the second team, as scripts for all of the shows which are not reruns almost make me wish they would use reruns. This one had to do with smuggling cocaine on a Navy ship by mixing it in paint, which was used to paint the container holding lettuce. The sailors who ate too much salad were intoxicated by the cocaine fumes which were on the lettuce and went on rages. Apparently the lettuce wasn’t wrapped and this cocaine had a unique aromatic property. Anyway, the punch line was one agent saying to another, “so healthy eating can be bad for you.”

I had to giggle at the repeated scene where a group of men would be working and someone would scream at the top of his lungs, “Officer on deck.” Everyone would stop what they were doing, come to attention and salute. Can you imagine how a ship would be able to function at sea if the Navy actually did that? They don’t. You salute an officer the first time you see him each day, the Captain every time, but you don’t “brace” in the process. If the officer wants to address the group he will let the senior man present know, and that man will call out, “Attention on deck.”

Which brings me to my reason for this treatise; this was the first time I had ever paid attention to the new Navy working uniform in the setting of a ship at sea, and it is even more ridiculous that I first thought.

Wearing a camouflage pattern within the confines of a ship is simply absurd. What are they hiding from, and how do they think that silly pattern helps them do it? Given the color that ship interiors are painted, the Marines were more effectively camouflaged than the sailors were. Ship exteriors are still light gray, so it wasn’t any more effective topside.

What it does camouflage is the wearer’s rank, which is not a good thing. You can’t tell the officers from the enlisted men. There was one character who I thought for some time was an officer until someone addressed him as “Master Chief,” and I was shocked. I can assure you that in earlier uniforms, working or dress, a Master Chief stood out like a turd in a punch bowl, but here…

The Master Chief was also one of the ones who succumbed to the tainted lettuce because, it turned out, he was a vegetarian. A vegetarian Master Chief. The mind boggles.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Loony Bin Time

I thought that it was probably impossible to surpass the idiocy of the political rhetoric emanating from Congress and the White House these days, and I thought wrong. I thought dramatically wrong. I an profoundly shocked at how wrong I was.

For a week now the NRA has been saying that it was going to hold a press conference to propose a plan which would reduce the chances of another school shooting along the lines of that which occurred in Connecticut. They held it today, and it was probably the most profound stupidity since Mad Magazine ceased publication. At least that publication did not pretend that it was serious.

Wayne LaPierre stood at the podium and actually criticized laws which prohibit guns from being carried in schools, ranted against people and officials who advocate gun controls of any kind, and advocated as a method of preventing the shootings that have horrified America the installation of armed guards at all schools and other places where children gather.

If there was ever proof that this nation’s mental health system is failing, Wayne LaPierre is walking, talking, ranting proof of that assertion. If this nation had even a rudimentary mental health system, Wayne LaPierre would be locked up in a loony bin and wearing a straightjacket.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Plan B

Obama threatened to veto Boehner's "Plan B," which was pretty hilarious considering that it had precisely zero chance of passing the Senate. Actually, there was no chance that Harry Reid would even let it come up for a vote in the Senate. Then, to make the whole issue even more hysterical, Boehner could not even muster enough Republican votes to get it passed in the House. The whole crowd is now going home for Christmas.

I'm waiting for Boehner's, "Agent 99, I have an alternate plan."

Obama Wakes Up

I happen to think Jake Tapper is more than a little bit of a jerk, and maybe he could have phrased the question a little more politely at Obama’s press conference yesterday when he asked regarding Obama's promise of prompt action on gun control,

“It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008 in your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence. You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Senator Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue -- the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?”

Apparently Obama doesn’t like people who fail to kiss his posterior, however, as he began his reply with a rather snotty,

“Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been President of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.”

Jake Tapper did not crawl under his chair, nor did he vaporize in a puff of smoke, but he didn’t look all that happy either. He also didn’t remind Obama of his campaign remarks about walking and chewing gum at the same time, which was probably a good idea on his part, as Obama was clearly no longer in a good mood.

Obama continued, “as I said on Sunday, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters.” So much for wasting his time on economic crises, auto industries and wars.

Apparently he is a big believer in the “snooze button” on his alarm clock, because Kinston Alabama, Binghamton New York and Fort Hood Texas in 2009 were not wake-up calls, Tucson Arizona in 2011 was not a wake-up call, and Aurora Colorado earlier this year was not a wake-up call. He did not explain what makes this one a wake-up call and did not offer Jake Tapper an opportunity to ask.

Lowered Expectations

All sorts of reasons are being given in opposition to Obama’s proposal to switch to the “chained CPI” for cost of living increases to Social Security, but I have not yet seen anyone discuss the one reason that I find most compelling. Paul Krugman seems to be avoiding this discussion, or at least treading very lightly, presumably because he is on record as generally favoring the chained CPI. He favors it, of course, for an utterly inane reason.

The chained CPI (consumer price index) is a process whereby the economist keeps track of the price of a “basket of goods.” Problem number one, of course, is that houses, gasoline and heating oil won’t fit in a basket, but that’s okay because the present method of calculating the CPI doesn’t keep track of those items either, so we’re all good.

The chained CPI “accommodates the theory that consumers switch to cheaper items when prices rise.” That means that when the total price of the basket becomes uncomfortably high, the economist takes the steak out and puts in some hamburger, which lowers the cost of the basket and reduces reported inflation.

That move did not lower prices, you understand. Everyone except the economist understands that it did not lower prices, but it allows the economist to report a lower number for the rise in the CPI. Yes, when the price of the basket drops enough to allow it, they take the hamburger out and put the steak back in. If prices keep going up, however, eventually we have everyone eating catfood.

Paul Krugman likes the chained CPI because it produces “more orderly numbers” which don’t bounce up and down as much. No, I’m not kidding. I can’t find the article now, but he actually said that. Most people would regard that as totally fuckheaded thinking, but economists are not like most people. We have a great deal of proof that economists are not like most people. It is not even adequately proven that economists are people at all.

So, the chained CPI is on the same principle as not reporting people who have given up looking for work as unemployed. There’s no logical reason for doing that, but it produces “more orderly numbers” which don't bounce around as much and, just coincidentally, make the government look better.

If you are living in a cardboard box and panhandling for food, you are not unemployed. If you are eating catfood, it’s not because inflation drove you to it, it’s because the nation’s standard of living diminished to the point that catfood is considered to be standard fare.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hilarity Abounds

I'm only keeping up with the "fiscal cliff" discussions for reasons of amusement, since everything that is in public at this point is nonsense and sensationalism. What's fun is watching everyone freak out about it. My favorite at the moment is a reaction of one commenter on a relatively secluded blog to a criticism of Obama, asking "How dare you cut the ground out from under President Obama in the middle of his negotiations?"

Yes, I'm sure every Republican member of Congress read that comment and will act based upon the content of it. Come on people, how big a shovel do you think any one of us has? I suspect the ground under Obama is pretty firm no matter how vigorously my little shovel pecks away at it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Safety Last

The greatest fear in a ship at sea is fire. That is as true on the steel ships of today as it was on the wooden ships in the age of sail. Especially on a submarine submerged, but on any ship at sea, when you are faced with fire there is nowhere to run. Fire can back you into a dead end in a heartbeat, and it can run through passageways faster than the most fleet of foot. Fire is the nightmare that makes you wake up screaming.

There was a reason that our shipboard uniforms were 100% cotton. Synthetic fabric melts before it burns. It melts into the flesh of the person wearing it, and then it burns within that flesh, inflicting deep and terrible burns, often right down to the bone.

Today’s Navy has gone deeply stupid, because I read today that those idiotic camouflage working uniforms that they wear today are 50% nylon and only 50% cotton. Not surprisingly, they burn, and our sailors wear
them every day on US Navy ships at sea.

spacerFrom rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea.

Not to mention from the fucking idiots who specify and buy their uniforms.

Math Without Numbers

I had a thermodynamics instructor in Nuclear Power school who would set up a heat transfer problem on the blackboard, cross out the numbers, and then proceed to solve the problem with nothing but the units of measure. He claimed that numbers didn’t matter. No, his name was not Paul Krugman.

Krugman has a blog post today that discusses the merits of the “budget deal” that appears to be on the table at the moment. Read it and see if you can point out the huge glaring error that pervades the whole thing. It’s an elephant, sitting so squarely in the middle that you cannot miss it. Give up?

He makes almost no mention whatever of the effect that any aspect of the deal will have on the federal budget or the deficit. He posits initially that “the question is whether the end justifies the means,” and then he discusses the means and never weighs them against the end.

This is supposed to be about federal deficit reduction, but only once does he talk about how effectively any part of the deal will actually reduce the federal deficit, and even then only nonspecifically, when he says that “there’s more revenue in this deal than you get from letting the high-end tax cuts expire after the cliff.” Other than that his discussion is about the social fairness of one tax cut versus another, without evaluating which one will have more impact on the budget.

There’s also a rather high degree of idiocy in that “letting the high-end tax cuts expire after the cliff” thing. Those “high end” tax cuts cannot expire without all the rest of the Bush tax cuts expiring along with them, so Obama cannot, as Krugman suggests, simply “let the high-end tax cuts expire after the cliff.”

And when Krugman gets to Social Security he fails to observe that it should not even be part of this discussion because Social Security is not part of the federal budget and has no impact on the federal deficit at all. Cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit is like saying that you are going to mow your lawn in order to save electricity, or buy a car to save water in your home. Paul Krugman fails to say that, he merely says that switching to the “chained CPI” for cost of living increases for Social Security “doesn’t affect benefits immediately after retirement.”

He does go on to advocate against this suggestion “because the savings won’t have any significant impact on the underlying budget issues,” whatever the hell that means. The proper argument is not some mealy mouthed economic gibberish, but rather a clear statement that “Social Security has nothing whatever to do with the federal deficit.”

Paul Krugman does know that fact, right?

Few people remember that when the Simpson-Bowles commission was formed to come up with ways to balance the federal budget, Social Security was specifically excluded from their purview because it is not part of the federal budget. They decided to include it in their report anyway; the reasons for that are a whole different subject, but their report was not supposed to include the Social Security program.

So Krugman’s position is that the budget negotiations should be conducted based on how socially fair the components are, and not on how effectively they serve the purpose for which the discussions are being held. Yes, Krugman would think that.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Militias and Armies

Again we are embroiled in heated discussion about gun control, something about which I have no particularly strong opinion. Perhaps it would be better to say that my opinion is sufficiently divided, having to do with preservation of constitutional civil liberties, reality and practicality, that I simply prefer to leave the discussion alone.

And again the meaning of the phrase about “a well regulated militia” in the second amendment is being argued vociferously. The argument is moot, since the Supreme Court ruled some time ago that the amendment clearly guarantees the right to individuals, but still we argue as to what the founders meant by that clause.

I flunked mind reading in high school, something that has frequently played havoc with my dating career (and we won’t talk about its effect on my marriage), so I won’t claim to know what they meant by it.

I do know that the founders had a major revulsion to the new nation maintaining a standing army, something which they forbade in the body of the constitution, so I have to wonder if that had something to do with it. Maybe they just saw an opportunity to make sure that a militia was maintained as a hedge against the government finding an excuse to create a standing army.

Obviously that didn’t work out very well, but…

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Voodoo Economics

Paul Krugman is still using voodoo economics to explain why we should endlessly borrow money to operate the government at a deficit. I don’t know where he gets this stuff, but he certainly did not get it from John Maynard Keynes. In his blog yesterday he says that, “For starters, we need to be aware that we don’t need a balanced budget to have a stable fiscal situation; all we need is for debt to grow no faster than GDP.”

This is his theory that suggests that if your boss gives you a raise you should immediately go out and borrow more money, because the more money you make the more money you should owe. He’s not alone in this, many economists think the same, but everyone believes him because he’s from Princeton and he has a Nobel Prize. So does Barack Obama, for spreading peace around the world.

There might be a shred of validity to his theory if GDP measured wealth, but it doesn’t; it measures cash flow. If I’m paying you $10 to mow my lawn and you decide to charge $15 instead, then my contribution to the GDP has increased, but no capital has been accumulated and no wealth has been created by that change. There is merely half again as much money flowing.

So what Krugman is saying is that the more money you spend the more you should owe. There is some truth to that, because the more money you spend the more money you will owe unless your income goes up, which is sort of what budgets are all about. Who budgets with the intention of going ever deeper into debt? If I can’t afford to pay you $15 to mow my lawn then I should not agree to the increased charge unless I get a pay raise. What I should not do is borrow $5 every time you mow my damned lawn.

Not to mention that the GDP includes the deficit spending, so Krugman is including the increase in the deficit spending to justify the increase in borrowing, which is sort of a self licking ice cream cone. We are spending more borrowed money, therefor we should borrow more money. I just shot myself in the foot, therefor I need more bullets.

And just to burn the toast a little more, an increase in GDP can be and often is caused by nothing more than inflation, which John Maynard Keynes abhorred. In fact half of the GDP growth that Krugman illustrates is inflation, as he says, “estimates of long-run growth and inflation put them at a bit more than 2 and 2 respectively,” and then claims GDP growth of 4% annually in his argument. So if the economy is weakened by inflation, lets use that as justification to weaken it further by increasing the federal deficit. Or to put it another way, our borrowed money no longer buys as much so lets borrow more money.

He has not yet claimed that we should borrow more money because the Sun is still rising in the East, but I have no doubt he’ll get there soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Start At The Top

Of the Portland shooting it was said that “it could have been so much worse,” and then in Connecticut it was so much worse. As the lady responded when asked what could you say to a parent who had lost a child, “There are no words.” And yet President Obama found just the right words. He was genuine and moving, and it was one of the few times recently that I felt a real connection with him

While I am not opposed to gun control, own no guns myself, am only indifferently supportive of the second amendment, and utterly loathe the NRA, I think the problem goes deeper than guns. A sickness is creeping over this country and one symptom of that illness is an ever growing worship of violence and death.

We use assassination as an instrument of foreign policy. Our president used “Osama bin Laden is dead” as a campaign slogan; a slogan which everywhere met with great cheers. We strongly support the raining down of Hellfire missiles into villages of nations with which we are not at war, targeting people whose names we do not even know. Our president meets weekly to manage the “kill list” of those we do know, ordering execution without any process of law. We support the use of torture when it is done for the purpose of “keeping us safe.”

Our government has been engaged in continuous wars for more than a decade; wars that are demonstrably unjust or for which no meaningful reason can be given. We cannot even name the number of people who have been killed, injured or driven out of their home countries by our wars, other than that it is in the tens of millions. We have, and continue to maintain, a war machine bigger than the rest of the world combined, and we use it as a threat to implement “regime change” for any nation that displeases us.

At home we imprison more people than any nation in the world, do so in inhumane conditions, and we use capital punishment.

Government and the media endlessly warn us of terrorists, foreign and domestic, lurking everywhere waiting for the moment when they can deploy their “weapons of mass destruction” and kill us all. They make dramatic presentations of mass death and destruction which they have prevented with their “stings” here at home, and write news items of the “suspected militants” that were killed by Hellfire missiles overseas. They seldom mention the women and children who were slaughtered by those missiles.

We do not have discussions of differing ideas, we spew intolerance and hatred, regard those who disagree with us as evil and call them terrorists. We pontificate on the victimization of the common man, one side painting government as the evil party, and the other demonizing big business and the rich, but both portraying the vanishing middle class as the powerless and helpless party being preyed upon by others.

The fear and frustration, the sense of helplessness, turns all too often to irrational anger, and then to rage. Perhaps we should be grateful that such rage does not get unleashed more often.

But to reduce violence we need to start at the top. Start by eliminating the violence engaged in by our leaders. Stop the violence and death which is being done in our name.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Illiberal Discourse

I was sufficiently optimistic to suppose that once the election was past that the overheated rhetoric would calm down. For some, sadly, it has become even more heated. A liberal blogger that I have enjoyed following for some time today compares modern conservatives to the slave holders of 1861, and equates Republican leadership to the mass murderers of 9/11. When I said I thought he was going to an extreme, his response was to "stand by what I said." He has a right to do that of course, and I have a right to quit reading him and to remove him from my blogroll.

Blogging is becoming more difficult these days, in part because of the environment in which I do it. Writing is hard work, and too often any more the only ones willing to engage in it are people whose source of energy is irrational rage directed at anyone who disagrees with them.

I have always tried to inject a note of reason into heated discourse, but increasingly discourse has strayed so far from reality that I am sensing that reason is not wanted; that irrationality has become the purpose of discourse. I may write less frequently for a few days and think about why I'm doing this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Today's Date

I'm paying a couple of bills online today, routine stuff, but I'm tempted to pay them by snail mail just for the fun of writing the date 12/12/12 on the check. It doesn't take much to excite me these days.

It Is The Season

ArlingtonMy thanks to CBS Evening News for introducing me to this on their program segment last night. I had not seen it before. It's a pretty picture in itself, and there's something about the concept of including our fallen warriors in the festivities of a season of joy that I find very heartwarming.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Paul Krugman is a Luddite

Paul Krugman (oh, God, him again) has an op-ed in the New York Times which bewails a war between robots and robber barons and which is, as far as I can tell, pretty much a rehash of the Luddite argument of the 19th century, only against lower taxes on corporations. If that sounds a bit incoherent, well, it’s Paul Krugman who is pretty much always incoherent.

He starts out by observing that corporate profits are high while wages are low, which he hints at being caused by underpaying workers. He doesn’t come right out and say it because he knows it isn’t true, that mostly it’s caused by downturn in corporate investment and offshoring of jobs, but it gives him a chance to start using the term “robber barons.”

He then gets to talk about the wage gap between those with and without college educations, which he admits isn’t relevant because it had begun to stagnate before the “financial crisis.” One has to wonder, then, why he brought it up, especially since he does not use it in any further argument.

He then introduces the theme of his op-ed, that being that “profits have been rising at the expense of workers in general,” and goes on to say that “as best as I can tell,” which means he doesn’t really know and is purely guessing, that “there are two plausible explanations.” Plausible to him, anyway. We’ll see if they’re plausible to anyone else.

The first reason he offers is “technology has taken a turn that places labor at a disadvantage,” and the other is “the effects of a sharp increase in monopoly power.” These combine, he says, to place “robots on one side, robber barons on the other.” No hint at where the workers stand in that picture, so presumably the robots are attacking the workers from one direction while robots are attacking from the other. That's pretty complex, though, so I suspect that's not what he meant to say, and that he sort of got lost in his metaphor.

I’m not sure how the “sharp increase in monopoly power” plays into that. We all know how monopolies force consumer prices upward, but I’ve never heard how they drive wages down or what they have to do with robots. A near neighbor worked for San Diego Gas and Electric, which was at the time a monopoly. She retired at age 55 and paid cash for a $450,000 house. It does not look to me like her wage was suppressed very much.

He goes on to discuss the history of innovation at some length, citing several authorities from the 19th century no less, and argues that innovation can harm workers and has done so for centuries. He never mentions the Luddites, but he sounds like one of them.

He then makes his pitch, because it is on op-ed not just an editorial and therefor it has to call for some specific action.

…there is a big, lavishly financed push to reduce corporate tax rates; is this really what we want to be doing at a time when profits are surging at workers’ expense? Or what about the push to reduce or eliminate inheritance taxes; if we’re moving back to a world in which financial capital, not skill or education, determines income, do we really want to make it even easier to inherit wealth?

I happen to agree that corporate taxes should not be reduced, but this is gibberish. Wages are down because robots are replacing workers and therefor we need not to lower taxes on corporations and personal inheritances. The corporate tax argument at least has a slim thread of connection, but personal inheritance?

Krugman has an almost unique ability to state a valid point and then make myriad utterly absurd and nonsensical arguments in support of it.

“This is,” he says, “a discussion that has barely begun.” Seriously? Where has he been? This argument has been raging for more than a year. I know that his little ivory tower at Princeton is isolated, but it can’t possibly be that remote. Has he not been paying attention, or is he just that oblivious?

“But we need,” he says, “to get started before the robots and the robber barons turn our society into something unrecognizable.” News flash, Paul, the politicians and pundits have already done that.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

CINC Trophy Game

I don’t take the Army-Navy game as seriously as former officers do. When I was in the service that game was always something that officers got all hyped up about; us whitehats never really cared all that much. That being said, eleven in a row is fairly impressive. A couple of things stood out to me that did not reflect well on either service.

The Navy quarterback made a point of thanking God for allowing him to “reach this point” and for sustaining him during the game. Sort of as an afterthought he mentioned that his teammates had also been supportive. That struck me as unseemly coming from a military officer and a representative of a government military academy.

The Army quarterback was shown weeping uncontrollably after the game, head hanging and literally sobbing, and continued to do so for almost fifteen minutes throughout the ceremonial exchange of singing by the two academies. He is a senior, and certainly losing for a fourth time to Navy has to be difficult but, dude, you are an Army officer and a leader of men. Get a grip. This is not what Army officers are supposed to be made of.

Update, Sunday, 11:00am: The more I think about it, the more I realize than my opinion of both academies was significantly diminished by the aftermath of that game, and if our military is being led by crybabies and Jesus freaks I am profoundly grateful that my service is long behind me.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Manufacturing Genius

I read an article about “inshoring of manufacturing jobs” by General Electric, in which the company discovered that their water heaters that were being manufactured overseas were horribly designed in terms of ease of manufacture. By redesigning it, and having the production staff participate in that design process, they could save enormously on the cost of building the water heater, build in this country and actually sell it for less.

Oh. My. God. That thudding noise is me pounding my head on the desk.

IBM made a similar discovery twenty years ago, and they also were regaled as being brilliant for making the discovery. A panel on one of their printers was held together with no less than eleven different sizes of fasteners, requiring five different tools to install. In assembling the panel, the worker had to lay down one tool and pick up a different one no fewer than eight times. By making all of the fasteners the same, they discovered, they eliminated all of that and reduced assembly time by half.

My reaction to IBM at the time was, as it is to GE now, not that they are so brilliant as to have discovered new economy in manufacturing, but to wonder how their design got so stupid and fubar in the first place, and why it took them so long to discover how badly botched their product was.

There’s nothing all that new about that sort of thing, though. I was working for Allis Chalmers when the transformers for the TVA were being built. Great big things the size of apartment buildings. I was a maintenance electrician, but the transformers were behind schedule and I got assigned to their construction for a few weeks. We cut some 3” copper cables to go inside them, discovered that none of them were the right length, and called the engineers. One of them came down to the floor, looked things over, studied his drawings for a while and then told us to just cut new ones based on measurements. “Let me know how long they turn out to be,” he told us, “and I’ll change the drawings.” Cart, horse, whatever.

As Paul Harvey would say, the rest of that story is that the first transformer, when finished, was filled with oil, moved to a test position, powered up and exploded like a massive bomb. Happily, no one was hurt. I was at the other end of the plant and almost fell out of the crane I was working on.

I’ve always wondered if it was one of my cables. Nah. Actually, the one I worked on was number three, which I assume is still in service.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Christmas Cheer

My neighboor was somewhat taken aback when I said to him this morning that, "I like your balls."  I was referring to the Christmas decorations he had hung on the Agonis tree in his front yard. Perhaps I could usefully have given a little more thought to how I phrased that.

Employment Weirdness

The stock market is ecstatic because the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the economy added no fewer than 146,000 new jobs last month, and that unemployment dropped to 7.7% in the same period. Handstands and tickertape parades all around.

Further down it does note that construction lost 20,000 jobs and that manufacturing “changed little,” losing 8000 jobs, but we are not going to sweat the details, you know. Gains were in retail trade, professional and business services, and health care. So we are selling each other televisions and clothing, handling each others’ money, and taking each others’ temperature. Some economy.

Why this increase of 146,000 is so exciting is sort of odd, because the increase in September was 148,000, and for October it was 171,000. Oh wait, the September number was revised downward to 132,000, and the October number was revised down to 138,000. So look for this 146,000 to be reduced in the future.

It gets worse, because further down are even more details, and maybe we should sweat the details. A lot of people must have lost jobs, because despite adding 146,000 new jobs the number of people who are employed decreased by 122,000 last month, and the number who were unemployed rose by 229,000.

The population increased by 191,000 in that period, but somehow the labor force declined by 350,000 at the same time. If you are noticing that some of these numbers are not adding up, well, yes, so am I.

The decline of the number of people in the labor force is the entire reason for the reduction in the unemployment; not most of it, or any part of it, all of it, because the number of people employed decreased and the number of people unemployed increased. And the decline in the labor force was almost two times larger than the increase in the population.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Politics of Tokenism

President Obama has drawn a line in the sand, saying that he will reject any offer the Republicans make which does not include raising taxes on the top 2% of Americans. He claims that Republicans are “holding the middle class hostage” by refusing such a tax increase.

If Republicans came up with equivalent revenue from other sources, he says he would reject it, so the issue is not revenue, it is his insistence on a specific tax increase, but he claims he is not the party being intransigent, and that it is not he who is holding the middle class hostage. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not defending Republicans, here.

This is idiotic political posturing by both sides which ill serves the people of this nation. It is tokenism of the very worst sort, and neither side should take pride in it.

I would respect Obama if he drew the line over something that mattered, but this is simply nonsense. His little “tax the rich” plan doesn’t do any harm, and I don’t oppose it per se, but it doesn’t do any good either and it is ridiculous to be holding up other things based on this stupid token.

It’s not critical to deficit reduction, as it reduces the deficit by no more than 10% or so, and deficit reduction is not the most important issue facing us today in any case. Not to mention that he specifically says he would reject equivalent revenue from other sources, so he doesn’t actually care about this in terms of deficit reduction. If he did he would accept revenue regardless of where it came from.

This is Obama’s plan to appeal to the middle class; an effort to be seen doing something about “income inequality” even though he never uses that phrase. It doesn’t do that, of course, since it reduces the income of the upper class by less than 2% and does nothing whatever to raise the income of the middle class. But after four years of pandering to Wall Street and the corporate sponsors, and no longer in need of their donations for reelection, he needs to give the masses a “feel good moment," and this is it.

The classic phrase “sounding brass” comes to mind here; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It does no harm, which is really the point; it's a way to make the middle class feel good without harming the upper class.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Labor Power

Reading today that the port strike in LA was settled and that, apparently, the parties had essentially reached agreement when the federal mediators arrived at the request of the Mayor of Los Angeles.

On the bright side of this story is that the related union assisted by honoring the picket line, making the strike effective. That is the kind of utilization of the power of workers that has been missing for too long, and that I have been advocating for more than a year.

Last week I was reading a discussion of the victimization of workers by corporations and the low wages that they are forced to endure, and one commenter asserted that, “we need a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right of workers to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining.” I expected to be roundly flamed for responding that this was another example of waiting for government to do for us what we are simply unwilling to do for ourselves, either through lack of courage or due to sheer laziness. Oddly, the comment generated no response.

This port strike illustrates that we do not, indeed, need to wait for the government to do anything for us if we are willing to stand up for ourselves. Clearly, workers have sufficient power to win the day when we have the determination and courage to use it. This port strike has been a somewhat heartening event.

Less heartening is the crappy reporting that leaves the issue so murky. "...the union's contention that terminal operators wanted to outsource future clerical jobs out of state and overseas — an allegation the shippers denied. Shippers said they wanted the flexibility not to fill jobs that were no longer needed as clerks quit or retired. They said they promised the current clerks lifetime employment."

Clearly one side, or both, is fundamentally misrepresented in that inadequate "he said she said" presentation of the dispute. I'm sure many liberals are quite happy to assume that the workers' side is accurate and that the reporter is lying like a rug about the shippers, but I'm not sure that it is that simple at all. I would like to have a clearer picture of what the dispute was actually about.

Be that as it may, this is the first time that workers have united to exercise power in a meaningful way in a long time, and I am heartened by it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

More Krugman Fails

In one blog post today Krugman says that Republican counter offers are “fake” because they propose raising taxes by $800 billion by eliminating deductions, but don’t specify which deductions. His argument, as most of his arguments do, has a hole. Working out the details takes a lot of work, and if the total is not acceptable then there is no point in doing that. It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate the total first, and then arrive at the details once that total has been agreed upon.

In another post he slams Republicans for rejecting drug price negotiations for Medicare. “Bargaining over drug prices? Horrors!” He seems to forget that in 2009 Obama met secretly with the pharmaceutical companies before the “health care reform” negotiations began and agreed with them that drug price negotiations for Medicare would not be on the table. Obama was then and is now, I believe, a Democrat.

In both posts his overall positions may actually be ones ones with which I do not disagree, but Krugman seems to have an astonishing inability to provide valid reasons and proofs for his assertions.

The Greater Deceit

A friend of mine wrote me the other day, citing a quote by John Boehner and saying that “It's disgraceful that the Speaker of the House of Representatives would repeat provably false statistics about our economy.” Don is a good guy, and we’ve had some lengthy, interesting and very enjoyable political discussions, but he still has the illusion that elected officials have things like honor and decency. Why he would think that of anyone in elected office, let alone a Republican, escapes me.

Well. I can't say that I really care about John Boehner's lies, because I assume that if any politician is speaking he is lying, be he Republican, Democrat or anything else. That applies whether he is campaigning, or whether he is simply telling us why the government or military is doing something. Such as why we are fighting in Afghanistan; "to deny them space in which to plan their attacks." At least that is good grammar, but it certainly is not the reason we have troops dying in a foreign land fighting a people who are no threat whatever to this nation.

I think the bigger deceit is to palm the public off with panaceas like trivial taxes on the rich and token tax cuts for middle class while not dealing with real issues like tens of millions of citizens who have no income on which to pay taxes, or whose income is so small that taxes are the least of their problems, or the real energy problems of the nation, or a collapsing infrastructure, or militarism, or climate change which is destroying the planet on which people live.

I think the bigger deceit is to prate about the generosity of the income tax cuts that you’ve showered on the middle class when 47% of the people of this nation are so poor that they don’t even pay income taxes. What good is an income tax cut to someone who doesn’t pay income tax?

The party in the White House is devoted to maintaining the status quo and protecting corporatism on things that really matter while giving the public a meaningless little "tax the rich" sales pitch that will make the public feel good but does not actually harm the rich at all and does nothing to improve the lot of the middle class. Or the poor, about whom we no longer even speak. They propose a $50 billion "stimulus" which is so trivial as to not even qualify as a token in the face of the tens of millions unemployed.

Which is the greater deceit, a lie, or saying nothing masked in words that sound like more than they really are? Lenin had some thoughts about that.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again

Well, the Chargers are nothing if not consistent. They took the lead yesterday early in the second quarter and held it until there was just 4:11 left in the game. At that point Philip Rivers managed to get himself sacked and fumble the ball to the Bengals on the Charger 13-yard line, resulting in a field goal and a seven point Bengal lead. Rivers then pitched an interception, cementing the Charger loss.

To heighten the sense of continuity, the offense went another full game without scoring a touchdown, managing nothing other than two field goals. So the defense scored seven points on the day, while the offense scored six points, which could be considered role reversal except that the offense did nothing to slow down the Bengals.

Local sportswriter Nick Canepa is claiming today that coach Norv Turner did a fine job of coaching on the day and that he “outcoached” the Bengals head coach. He also gave a “B” rating to quarterback Philip Rivers, an “A” to the receivers and a “U” to the offensive line. The “U,” oddly enough, is not for “unsatisfactory,” but is for “unknown” because some of them are substitutes due to injuries. I’d like to know what Canepa is smoking.

Running backs, by the way, got an “Inc” for “incomplete.” Maybe it’s just me, but I think nine carries for 26 yards is plenty to determine a failing grade. It’s also a bit contrary to his assertions about the quality of the coaching, because calling only nine running plays for the entire game is not particularly clever.

There is also, of course, the fact that the offense has not scored a single touchdown in more than two full games. It’s a lirrle bit difficult to associate that with high caliber coaching.

All of the sportswriters are raving about the fine job that the defense did, and they did get several turnovers. A couple of those turnovers were even forced turnovers, and one of them was returned for a score, but they also gave up an 80-yard touchdown drive and a 55-yard touchdown drive. Decent, certainly, but not stellar.

Norv Turner himself had the usual vapid blather about how “they did some things that stopped what we were trying to do.” Oh really? I think we noticed that. My favorite is that when asked why the Chargers are losing he says, “Well, we’re playing some good teams.” No reporter ever calls him on that and asks him if his aspirations consist of only being able to beat bad teams.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Begging Blegs

I feel badly because here it is December of my seventh year blogging and I have not engaged in a “begging bleg” to implore you to send money to help me defray the vast cost of supporting this blog upon which you have come to so heavily depend, and to keep me and my cat from starvation. (My wife can fend for herself. It seems it is not good form to beg for one’s wife.)

Actually, of course, it doesn’t cost me anything to maintain this stupid blog, since Blogger is free. I have no idea why you would come to depend on this thing, heavily or otherwise, or what you would depend on it for. The cat and I are not only not at starvation’s door, actually both of us are a bit overweight.

But I feel kind of left out being the only blog on the Internet not begging for money. Nor do I have any other blogs out there pimping for me, saying that, “Hey, Jayhawk over there at On My Mind is the last bastion of sanity on the Internet, and he really needs your help.”

Of course, writing this crap and referring to myself as “the last bastion of sanity on the Internet” sort of beggars credulity, but…

I followed one such referral which described the guy as “unique among group prog blogs for never drinking the Obama-as-progressive Kool-Aid and for not trading truth for access” because I’d never been there before and it sounded like an interesting place. Well, I didn’t know what a “group prog blog” is, and it actually sounded a little bit obscene, but the rest of it sounded sort of interesting.

The first post was the “begging bleg” saying that he wanted to launch the fundraiser on Monday rather than Saturday, but that the “server people are being quite insistent.” Or, he could use blogspot, like the rest of us do, and “the server people” would not charge him any money at all. I saw nothing on his website that Blogger would not accommodate. And I guess launching on Monday would be better because then people could run to the bank and get cash to… Okay, maybe I don’t know why Monday would be better.

And perhaps I overestimated what a “group prog blogs for never drinking the Obama-as-progressive Kool-Aid and for not trading truth for access” blog actually is, because the blog in question consisted of miscellaneous trivia. There was a cat that was kind of cute, there was an insect and an “interesting” weed. Only two of the dozen or so posts that I read were written by the blogger, the rest were nothing more than links to other material, and pretty much none of it had anything to do with politics, liberal or otherwise.

And for this the guy has a goal of raising $55,000 per year to satisfy “the server people.” News flash: you can maintain a website containing hundreds of pages and major interactivity for about $1500 per year. A blog such as his on a commercial hosting service would run about $100 per year. Maybe he has a lot of cats.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tax The Rich

I continue to be amazed at the false propaganda and demagoguery that endlessly emanates from liberals and Democrats about the “Bush tax cuts for the rich,” and from conservatives and Republicans about the effect of increasing taxes on the rich on job creation. A pox on both their houses.

When the Bush tax package was passed it reduced taxes for the lowest incomes by 50%, for God’s sake. It reduced taxes for the middle class by 10% and for the top bracket by 9%. At the time the slant that was put on it was that it was a tax cut the benefited mostly the rich because the bulk of the total dollars being cut came from taxes on the wealthy, but that is an absurd argument on the face of it.

Comparing tax cuts in terms of absolute dollars is nonsensical. You cannot give a person earning $50,000 a $70,000 tax reduction, which is a minor tax cut to someone making $1.8 million. By the same token, a $2000 tax cut which helps someone making $30,000 per year is utterly meaningless to a millionaire. Tax cuts are meaningful only in terms of the percentage by which they reduce taxes, and the Bush tax cuts were most certainly not beneficial only for the rich.

I certainly have no objection to returning our tax code to the more progressive structure that it once had, and if today’s discussion were being held in those terms I would be on board. This “tax the rich,” or as Obama puts it, “make the rich pay their fair share.” Is an abomination in that it panders to what has become the American voter’s overriding demand: that we solve the problem without making the common man pay for it.

“Solve the problem,” we say, “just don’t make me pay the price.”

And for heaven’s sake let’s drop the “fairness” argument. Life is inherently unfair, and sane adults recognize that. “Fair” is what ten years olds argue about. The tax code should be more progressive, yes, but only because we tried that and it worked. Clearly, the one we have now is not working.

To make the pandering even more atrociously false, Democrats cite the revenue which purportedly will be produced by this miniscule tax on this small handful of people in dollars per decade while citing the deficit as an annual number so that the public will think that actual gains are being made, when in actuality this “tax the rich” solves almost precisely nothing.

But it doesn’t “harm job growth” either, and all of this nonsense about small business owners and S corporations is not a viable argument. One television host asked a “business owner” how it would harm him to pay and additional $8000 in taxes and his reply was that, “Then I don’t have that $8000 to spend on employees and employee benefits.”

Oh, please. The fact that that money is being taxed means that he has declared it as profit, and having done so means that he has already declared that he is not spending it on employees and employee benefits. The television host merely nodded like an idiot.

Personal taxes on small business owners are levied on profits, money which the owner has already made the decision not to spend on new employees. The argument can be made that, knowing that his taxes will
be higher, he made the decision to cut back on growth plans in order to generate higher profits, but… Wait, what?!

All politician lie. The only difference is what they lie about.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bashing Romney

Bad mouthing Romney is still very popular, even several weeks after the election is over. At one liberal blog I read I started noticing the number of comments evoked by the guy's posts. When the subject is labor relations he gets 17 comments; women's rights gets 24; the Egyptian crisis gets 14 comments. Whenever he writes a post critical of Mitt Romney, including yesterday, the post shows anywhere form 70 to 90 comments. I don't bother to read those comments.

Now, This Is Negotiating

President Obama spent last week proposing that Congress should pass a bill extending the middle class Bush tax cuts immediately and that, having done so, they could deal with the rest of the “fiscal cliff” issues at leisure.

Brilliant. Like the Republicans are going to give up their leverage before the negotiations begin. That’s like the car dealer suggesting that we agree on the price of the car first and then we will dicker over whether or not the sale will include wheels on the car.

Now Obama has a new proposal bigger and even more ridiculous than his first one: a $1.6 trillion tax hike, $50 billion in 2013 stimulus spending, $400 billion in non-specific spending cuts delayed for a year, and a transfer of debt limit hiking power to the president. His response to Republican hysterical laughter is that at least he has a plan, while they have none.

All of this, while a bit silly on the face of it, does show that Obama has learned something about the art of negotiation. In his first term his practice was to figure out what he thought he was going to have to give up during the negotiations and to offer that as a starting point. We all know how well that worked out. Now he’s taking the approach of starting by asking for "pie in the sky" and making them whittle him down from there. Maybe he’s not as stupid as he’s been looking.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Keynesian?

Paul Krugman claims to be of the “Keynesian School” of economics. I am by no means any kind of economic scholar, but I do know three things about what John Maynard Keynes advocated.

*Deficit spending (on infrastructure) in times of economic stress.
*Repayment of government debt in economic good times.
*That inflation was greatly not to be desired.

Keynes once said that, “Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

Krugman is on board with the first tenet of Keynes’ theory, although he’s not all that big on limiting the spending to infrastructure. He thinks government should spend money on pretty much anything that can be bought, and should do so essentially all the time.

He is not only not big on repaying debt, he specifically says that it is stupid, is a virtue that is not rewarded and that governments should never do it. I find it interesting that he does admit that it is a virtue, while advising against its indulgence. Typical government advisor, “Do not do the right thing, do that which best serves Wall Street.” Not in those words, of course.

And he is, of course, a big fan of inflation, seeing it as a form of economic growth and as a resolver of debt. To use my lawn mowing analogy of yesterday, if I charge you twice as much to mow your lawn and you charge me twice as much to mow my lawn, Krugman will cheer lustily and say that our economy has just doubled. Actually, of course, the exact same amount of lawn mowing is going on and our economy is unchanged. We just inflated the shit out it, and nobody gained anything in the process.

Krugman may or may not be an expert economist, I have no way of knowing, but he most certainly is not an advocate of Keynesian economic principles.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Balloons Pop Again

CBS Evening News had a fairly lengthy segment last night about recovery in the housing market. Sales up last month, it declaimed, and they provided interviews with people who sold their homes and brokers who have homes selling faster than IHOP sells pancakes.

Then we have this from Reuters today that "New single-family home sales fell slightly in October and the prior month's pace of sales was revised sharply lower," so CBS may have been just a bit premature with their celebration. Especially since Reuters goes on to say that the news is "casting a small shadow over what has been one of the brighter spots in the U.S. economy."

Is Virtue Rewarded?

Here’s Paul Krugman again, explaining why inflation is good, and going back to the 1920’s and European economics to prove his point. He even has charts, in which the blue line climbs more rapidly and rises above the red one, to illustrate his point. Omigod.

What he is pointing out is that both Britain and France emerged from World War I with large national debts. Britain, he says, “was a model of orthodoxy, returning to the gold standard and running huge primary surpluses to pay its debts.” We all know from the history of his manic scribbling that he regards such behavior as unbearably foolish.

France, on the other hand, “ended up inflating away much of its debt,” which he has always advocated as the proper way for nations to handle debt. The nation ignores the debt and engages in inflation so that the debt becomes an ever smaller percentage of GDP until it disappears altogether.

Of course it doesn’t actually disappear, so the term “inflating away its debt” is utterly absurd, but if Paul Krugman says it then everyone is going to accept it as gospel.

He claims that “virtue was not rewarded” since Britain’s virtue of paying off their debt resulted in a less favorable debt:GDP ratio than France wound up with by ignoring their debt. He assumes that no other factors than the payment or non-payment of debt were involved in that outcome, which strikes me as a bit simplistic, to say the least.

Like, for instance that Britain had almost no natural resources and had to import them, while France had tons of natural resources. But that would complicate his argument so he conveniently ignores it.

What his chart actually reveals is not the value of inflation in resolving debt, which is actually sheer insanity on the face of it, but the absurdity of using GDP as the measure of a nation's economic success. That GDP number is merely a measure of cash flow, which is nothing more than a snapshot of momentary activity and does nothing to measure what a nation is actually doing economically.

If I pay you to mow my lawn and you pay me to mow your lawn we are creating cash flow and contributing to the GDP. But what are we creating that is of any value? If I pay you twice as much to mow my lawn and you pay me twice as much to mow your lawn, we have doubled our cash flow and increased our contribution to the GDP by a factor of two, but to what degree has our economy actually grown? None.

So Krugman’s chart of the ratios of debt to GDP of Britain and France actually tell us nothing about the actual value of paying off debt because they tell us nothing about the real economies of the nations involved.

To add insult to injury, he's not even comparing the actual GDPs of the two nations, or perhaps the rates of growth in GDP, either of which might mean something at least, but the two nations' ratios between GDP and debt and calling that "economic performance."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lines In The Sand

The blind worship of Obama, where it existed, was not purely for the purpose of getting him reelected, because it continues today and may even be getting more shrill. The defense is unstinting, for instance, of his making plans to set rules for killing unknown people in foreign lands by drone strikes in the event that it might be a Republican in charge, and much relief is being expressed about the rules no longer being needed now that the authority remains safely in the benevolent hands of Obama.

Then I read an Obamabot saying that this “fiscal cliff” is “an event entirely manufactured by conservatives pretending to be deficit hawks,” a claim which I find as baffling as it is infuriating. Apparently he hasn’t heard his paragon of virtue lecturing for the past couple of years about “living within our means” and “paying down our debt.”

(The latter is a rather absurd mantra on Obama's part, by the way, since he never proposes eliminating our deficit, merely reducing it. One cannot "pay down" debt while still borrowing money.)

This specific event was an agreement reached between the two parties, partly in exchange for an extension of the debt ceiling, and partly for the purpose of postponing the “Bush tax cut” discussion until after the election. Not only was the agreement mutual, but Obama signed off on it before either house of Congress even brought it to the floor for a vote.

And this clown calls it “entirely manufactured by conservatives,” forsooth.

A big part of what makes it a “cliff” likely to be fallen off of is Obama’s inflexible demand that taxes be increased for the rich, and his threat to drive us off the cliff if Republicans don’t allow the “modest increase” in tax on the rich. That’s the one place that Democrats speak truthfully; the increase is not only modest, it’s minor to the degree of pointlessness.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this “tax the rich” plan will raise $82 billion per year, so it will impact the deficit to the tune of a 7.4% reduction. That’s a minor impact on a minor goal, because there is no real reason to be in such a feverish hurry to be reducing the deficit at this point. Supporters are, of course, delighted that Obama is “drawing a line in the sand” over a symbolic gesture that makes no real progress toward a goal that isn’t really worth achieving.

Supporters claim that it “speaks to income inequality,” but if so it certainly doesn’t speak very loudly. The “rich” in question make an annual income of $3.5 trillion, so this scheme takes a whopping 2.3% bite out of their income. It doesn’t raise the income of the poor or middle class, so the “speaking” that it is doing is more of a whisper than a shout or roar.

Of course, Obama’s gestures tend to be whispers, so…

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Perfect Reply

Our local paper is pretty much a right wing rag, mostly fit only for reading criticism of the Chargers and wrapping garbage in. It does, however produce a heartwarming column once in a while, such as today's column "Sports Dad" by Scott Kaplan.

A volunteer coach writes in about a problem kid on his team, describes the problems the kid is having at home, and asks for advice. Kaplan tells him, "This is exactly what you signed up for," and that he should, "Forget the parents, and forget the kid’s home life. Spend some time with the kid."

He goes on, "That kid will have a great experience playing for you if he feels safe, and not only might you get him to become a better player, but you might make a strong impact on his life, which sounds a bit unstable."

Read the whole thing. I wish we had more people like Scott Kaplan influencing our kids and the people who coach them.

New Tone Deafness Record

Every time I think the President Obama has reached about the limit of anyone’s ability to display tone deafness, the man comes out with another one which moves the goal posts forward another few yards. In defending Israel on Sunday he said that, “…there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

Yes, he actually said that. I did not really quite believe it the first time I read it, but it’s even on YouTube in video form, so he actually did say it.

That would exclude, apparently, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and even the Philippines, which are having missiles rained down upon them by the United States. Perhaps he does not consider these to be “countries,” or maybe he doesn’t think they are on Earth. I’m often of the opinion that he is on some planet other than Earth, so…

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Triumph Of Neuroscience

I’m not a big fan of doctors, generally speaking. I went through a series of “issues” a few years back which sort of filled my quota of seeing doctors, and I do so now pretty much only when my wife browbeats me into it. The exception is the neurologist I see every six months. He’s apparently known nationally as one of the best for treating movement disorders, but you’d never know it. His office is small and sort of dumpy, and the people in his waiting room are mostly working class like me. He’s a nice guy, and visits to him are by no means a tribulation.

He also doesn’t tell me something is “idiopathic.” He says, “I have no idea what is causing that.”

What made me write that is an article in the Los Angeles Times which refers to a “study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience” which supposedly offers a possible explanation why David Petraeus could not keep his pants zipped.

Apparently there is a human pheromone called “oxytocin” which, when smelled by a “monogamous male” (which I assume to mean a married man) causes him, later on, to avoid hot women, standing 6-1/2” further away from them than an unmarried man would do who had also smelled the same stuff. So, it appears, if a man stands 12” away from a hot chick he is going to succumb to her charms, while if he stands 18-1/2” away from her he will not even notice her. Is it a cooincidence that the difference is the average length of a man's...? I don’t make this shit up, I’m merely reporting.

The article goes on to say that the source of this substance which will assure his fidelity is, of course, his wife. We all saw that coming. Equally obvious is that he has to be pretty close to his wife in order to smell it, and we all know what is going to be next. It turns out that oxytocin “floods the body in response to orgasm,” and there you have it.

In order to bring it on home, though, the article goes on to explain that for married women, “It might make a lot of sense to remind him of the relationship, and sexual activity might be one means of achieving this.”

Or, in male terms, if David Petraeus had been getting more sex at home, he might not have been getting sex on the road. Like we needed neuroscience to provide that tired, old, lame excuse.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Speaking of Books

I’m reading again, I think it’s the third time but it might be the fourth, the Patrick O’Brian series on which the movie “Master and Commander” was based. There are thirty books in the series, so it takes a while.

I just finished the episode where Captain Aubrey is aboard the HMS Java when she is taken and burned by the USS Constitution. Interesting to read about that ship, the battle and about Americans from the British point of view. The description is scrupulously accurate historically, and the author makes it rather gripping reading.

HMS Surprise in on display in San Diego, and her presence provided me with a really nice lunch hour a few years ago.

This Day In History

I was reminded yesterday that, in addition to being Thanksgiving, it was also the anniversary of the death of one C.S. Lewis, an author whom I treasured deeply in my youth. I read and reread his “Space Trilogy” and, of even greater value, the “Narnia Chronicles,” which I read so many times I had it all but memorized. My parents were more enamored of the "Screwtape Letters" than I was.

When the first “Narnia” movie was made I was reluctant to see it. I had such fond memories of the books, and of the mental images I had formed reading them as a kid, that I was not sure I wanted to see how a commercial screenwriter would interpret the story. I finally did go to the movie, and it did Lewis justice. I’ve seen it several times.

Oh yes, it was also the anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

He's Not Heavy...

He’s my brother newspaper. The San Diego Union-Tribune has a little self congratulatory note on the front page to the effect that today’s paper weighs four pounds. Some papers would brag about content, or writing; our local rag brags about its weight. The "heaviest in at least a decade."
For comparison, they tell us that today’s issue weighs the same as two green bean casseroles, or four NFL footballs, or three eight-inch apple pies, or one average Chihuahua. A small Chihuahua, actually, but...
I wonder how it compares to the weight of an average bowel movement.

No More Twinkies

The uproar over the demise of the maker of Twinkies rather bemuses me, as I’m not sure why the welfare of our economy is so dependent on our ability to manufacture Twinkies. I guess it’s symbolic; the demise of a company that has been such a staple of the landscape for so long. Except that it hasn’t. The Hostess brand has only been around since 2004. If Interstate Bakeries was so critical to our financial infrastructure they would not have gone bankrupt and changed their name.

Some people are blaming the labor unions for this tragedy (?), some are blaming management, and yet others are blaming both. I’m going to go out on a limb, blame neither and say that dinosaurs naturally become extinct.

It is claimed that the company should have diversified its products when the existing product line began losing ground. I’m not sure of that. When you make Twinkies, how do you credibly introduce a healthy snack? It’s not going to fly and you’re just going to magnify your losses.

Rule of business: do what you do. Companies that drill oil wells generally don’t succeed when they decide to open up a chain of hair salons. Women don’t want to get their hair done by oil drillers, and hair salons stocked with drilling mud don’t draw well. Hostess did what it does until the need for what it does diminished to the vanishing point. So be it. They knew when it was time to quit.

Maybe the union should have made “just one more concession” to keep their jobs a little longer; times are tough and jobs are hard to get. But there comes a time to stand up on your hind legs and say that enough is enough. I cannot disrespect that.

I’m a union guy anyway. I’ve stood at the gates of a steel plant with an axe handle in my hand, staring down the West Allis Police Department. I’m not going to be very critical of a labor union saying that it will not accept yet more pay cuts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Technology Today

In the Google News technology section today the headlines all had to do with iPhones, Facebook and iPads. That’s what matters in American technology today. Meanwhile in China, a company is preparing to build the world’s tallest building, 220 stories high, and to do so in a mere 90 days. They recently completed a 30 story building, complete, in fifteen days.
Now that is technology that matters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Et Tu Brute?

The only thing worse than having the media condemn an organization is having the media ignore it. The San Diego Chargers have finally reached that nadir of ignominy. The local CBS television affiliate showed NFL highlights on the sports segment of its news last night and never mentioned the Chargers, and the Union-Tribune this morning had only one article about them, mocking the players who continue to assert that the team is still mathematically in the running to make the playoffs.

ESPN introduced discussion of the Chargers-Broncos game by saying that, “We come to bury the Chargers, not to praise them,” and at one point said of our quarterback that, “Philip Rivers is to turnovers as an ATM is to cash. He dispenses them.” Yikes.

Paul Krugman Is An Idiot

Oh no, Paul Krugman is at it again. In a blog post yesterday he repeats his claim that America’s post-war economic boom had nothing to do with the fact that the rest of the world was lying in ruins and that we were the only nation remaining which had production facilities which were not rubble.

His first argument for debunking that claim is that the boom was “whole generation long, from 1947 to 1973,” and we all know that rebuilding Europe only took a couple of weeks. Actually, we don’t all know that; only Paul Krugman thinks that. His span there was a whole 26 years, and fully rebuilding all of Europe in terms of manufacturing and economic strength took considerably longer than 26 years.

“The Europe-in-ruins era,” he says, “was long over while the US boom was still going strong.” Hardly true, but even if it was, that does not rule out that rebuilding Europe was what got our economic boom started.

Then he goes on to say that his argument is irrelevant anyway (which makes me wonder why he made it, then) and introduces an even more ridiculous one, saying that while, “our competitors were in ruins for a while; so were our customers,” and that therefore, “we had nobody to trade with.”

Because everybody knows that when you destroy a country’s buildings and bridges, you also destroy its monetary wealth and its natural resources as well. Actually, everyone doesn’t know that, because you don’t. Only Paul Krugman thinks that, because the country he lives in has no monetary wealth. In America if you destroy a bank you destroy the “wealth" that was in it because that wealth was nothing other than numbers in a computer. The money in the banks in Europe that we bombed into rubble was largely gold, silver and other forms of real money.

Of course we had trading partners, you silly ass. They rebuilt, did they not? What did they use for rebuilding, each other’s rubble? They rebuilt with what they bought from us, and the return trade was natural resources and raw materials.

He then argues that in the post-war years we did “very little trading” and produces a chart of exports and imports, as usual not showing real numbers but illustrating them as a percentage of GDP. Whenever an economist wants to obfuscate, he throws numbers at you as a percentage of GDP rather than using real numbers.

That cancer tumor in your brain is nothing to worry about because “it’s only 2% as large as your brain” will make a patient feel much less worried than telling him that the thing is the size of a golf ball. That’s what economists do with our deficit; the idea that it’s 8.6% of GDP is easier to swallow than knowing that it’s $1.3 trillion, or that it’s 43% of the federal budget.

I am always suspicious of overkill, such as when someone makes multiple arguments to refute one point, especially when, as Krugman does here, you toss in a few gratuitous insults at people who don't agree with you. If you know that you are right and the other person is wrong, you only need to make one argument to prove it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Symbolic Line In The Sand

President Obama has drawn a line in the sand over “taxing the rich.” He has drawn this line because, according to him, “we cannot afford” the tax cuts for the rich and because “it is only fair that people like me,” he says, “who can easily afford it, should pay a little more” in order to reduce the deficit.

This is absolutely thrilling his supporters almost to the point of orgasm, not because anything will actually have been accomplished, as I will proceed to illustrate, but merely because he will have scored a point over Republicans and the evil rich. Accomplishing anything is irrelevant in today’s politics; scoring symbolic points is everything.

This magnificent victory that Obama is purportedly going to win over Republicans and the evil rich will, according to the Congressional Budget Office, net $823 billion dollars in ten years, which will reduce the $1.3 trillion deficit by almost two thirds. Oh, wait. I forgot that we cite the deficit in one year numbers and modifications to the deficit in ten year numbers so that taxpayers will think that we are making changes that are actually significant. So this thunder and lightening and the line in the sand is over $82.3 billion per year, which will reduce the deficit by 6.3% in the coming year. Well now, isn’t that one hell of a victory!

That’s assuming that he actually scores the victory. Notice that the line is in the sand, not jackhammered into concrete. Obama only draws lines in sand, where they can easily be erased.

This $82.3 billion tax cut that we cannot afford is exceeded by the Obama payroll tax cut which amounts to $100 billion per year according to the Trustees Report of the Social Security Administration, which does report in one year increments. How is it that we can afford $100 billion per year in Obama tax cus, when we cannot afford $82.3 billion per year in Bush tax cuts which were there first?

Obama claims adamantly that this is not “taking from the rich to give to the poor.” I would possibly have no real objection if it was that; if he admitted to it and if it was indeed to the poor. But he does not admit it and it is to the middle class, not to the poor. The poor never enter into any political discussion these days, and certainly not into this one. Obama, who used to work for the poor, doesn’t even seem to know that they exist today.

Instead, we get this bogus argument about how “we can’t afford” one tax cut, and he replaces it with another tax cut, a larger one, which he claims is essential and omits entirely from the affordability discussion. Needless to say, his supporters are entirely on board with that.

The shift in taxes may actually be the best policy, but the method is dishonest and, worse, stupid. What should be done, if this is actually the needs of the nation, is the introduction of a comprehensive new tax policy, as has been done by previous presidents of both parties. Obama is trying to obtain a new car by changing one part at a time on his old car.

Policy is what leadership is all about, and Obama is still doesn’t get that. He is endlessly tinkering with details and never provides an overriding policy that tells us where he wants this nation to go. After four years in office, he is still looking for a parade to form so that he can get in front of it and call himself a leader.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wherein I Engage The Drivel

I have not been writing much because the drivel which is in the news and which is being discussed today is for the most part supremely uninteresting. Jobs was in the discussion so long as Obama was campaigning for reelection, but once that was decided he is right back to deficit reduction and doing so by stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

He is, for instance, totally unwilling to make any meaningful reductions to the massively overfunded “national security” feeding trough, but is adamant on making “those who can afford it pay a little more” to cut the deficit by a whopping 8% this year. As is the favorite ploy by both sides these days, he cites everything in ten year figures to make them sound like meaningful numbers, even though we only budget for one year at a time when we budget at all, which we have not done since the Democrats assumed control of Congress.

Obama only submitted one budget to Congress, a budget which not even Democrats would vote for and which was rejected by a Democratically controlled Senate 99-0. To avoid similar embarrassment, he has never submitted a budget since, and the only tax policy he has proposed is to extend the “Bush tax cuts” minus one bracket. That, after extending them
in their entirety for two years to assure his reelection.

Of course it could be worse. We could have elected McCain four years ago, who was so busy attacking Obama over the Benghazi affair and demanding a “Watergate style” investigation into it that he forgot to attend his own Senate committee hearing on the, um, Benghazi affair. The man may be just a bit past his prime.

There is, however, a question in my mind that Obama even has a prime.

Correction: Requiring “those who can afford it," that is to say "people like me" (Obama), to "pay a little more” will actually cut the deficit only by a whopping 3% in the coming year. Three. Precent. With him taking stands like this, I no longer have any question; he has no prime.