Saturday, March 31, 2012


Whatever else you want to accuse them of, those Jayhawks have grit. I actually think Bill Self did some major ass chewing at halftime, because they came out of the locker room with their big boy pants on and quit letting Ohio State push them around. Even I had to admit they looked like candy asses in the first half. They sure didn't in the second half.

And, no matter how badly the rest of my bracket my have blown up, my original two picks for the championship game are in the championship game. Not bad. Yours?

Presented Without Comment

a week ago

Bad Guys and Boogey Men

Obama is what I call a classic “boogey man politician,” in that underlying his rhetoric is always a ”bad guy” who he is blaming for all that is wrong in the nation and/or that you should be afraid of.

He fear mongers more subtly than George W. Bush, but every bit as vigorously, even using the same phrases now against Iran that Bush used against Iraq when he says that the “window of opportunity for diplomatic resolution is closing.” I guess when you have limited policies you are stuck with limited rhetoric, regardless of intelligence quotient.

He variously targets the insurance industry as the “bad guy of the day,” or rich people who “aren’t paying their fair share” or, with today’s gasoline prices, oil companies. He doesn’t care that oil companies are actually not the culprits in the gas price issue, they make a better “bad guy” than do the complex issues that really do drive gas prices up.

So, in order to punish the oil companies for their predatory practices, and the usurious 7% profit margins that they are taking us for, he wants to raise their taxes eliminate their tax cuts. (When you eliminate a payroll tax cut for individuals it’s called “raising their taxes,” but that doesn’t apply for corporations; eliminating tax cuts does not, apparently, raise their taxes.)

Yesterday he made both pitches in one speech, blaming oil companies for high prices and demanding that their tax cuts be eliminated. That’s a little bit insulting, really, because he cannot actually believe that the way to force a company to reduce its selling price is to raise its cost of doing business, but he seems to think that the voters won’t notice that and will just applaud his intent to punish the oil companies.

And, of course, the people at his rallies cheer wildly when he says that, so to that extent he’s right. But those people are his loyalists and will cheer wildly at anything he says. He could say that the Pope is a Presbyterian and they would cheer wildly in agreement. That may make him feel good but, news flash, all of those people are going to vote for him anyway. He doesn’t even need to make a speech and they are going to vote for him.

It turns out that “diplomatic resolution” apparently consists merely of us not bombing Iran, because yesterday Obama announced that any nation purchasing oil from Iran will be “punished” by the United States. He even said that removing Iran’s oil from the world’s supply will not affect the price of oil, which is nothing short of delusional. A week ago he was talking about releasing oil from the strategic reserve, which would contribute something less than 0.01% to the world's oil supply, and now he’s saying that removing Iran’s 5% of world production will not affect anything.

But, gas prices are high and Iran has a bomb. Vote for Obama.

Friday, March 30, 2012

$640 Million

Has anything ever been sillier? The lead item on both local and national news. People who have never bought a lottery ticket in their lives are standing in horrendously long lines today. Really? Just because the prize is bigger you really think you have any better chance of winning it? Guess how many tickets I have bought.

The Internet Is Not For Journalists

The only reason I read is that Glenn Greenwald in on there with his Unclaimed Territory column. At his worst he is worth reading, and I check daily to see if he has anything new. The rest of the site is about 50% weird sex (“When I Discovered I Was A Hermaphrodite” and “Why I Brought Home A Hooker To Meet My Wife”) and 50% Obamabottery. The latter are actually somewhat more likely to make me lose my lunch than the former.

Currently we have a couple of real rib ticklers. One is by Steve Kornacki citing polls to say the Mitt Romney is so damaged by the Republican primaries that there is no real point in holding the general elections because Obama has so much higher favorability lower unfavorability ratings that he will win the election in a romp.

Even better, though is one by Andrew Leonard which claims that there is no crisis arising from gasoline prices because the “economy is not cratering” (right, tell that to people who are having to buy gasoline) and, “If you’ve got a smartphone and a Facebook account, who needs to leave home?”

Oh absolutely. When I buy my new refrigerator, on Facebook presumably, I will expect to have it delivered over the Internet.

I will shop for groceries on my smartphone and then just hold my smartphone up to my Internet-delivered refrigerator and push a button. It is a smartphone, after all, so it will just vomit my groceries into my refrigerator.

You don't need to actually, you know, visit your girlfriend; just chat over Facebook and have phone sex. Presumably smartphone sex. Smart sex?

In an earlier post I commented that future generations will wonder if this one actually went to school. Future generations, hell, I’m already wondering that.

Krugman: Still Brain Dead

There is a saying that we should "judge a man by the company that he keeps." Paul Krugman is in company with Tom Friedman, David Brooks, George Will and Maureen Dowd as columnists for the New York Times, and yet liberals keep quoting him and thinking that he is smart.

Today he is critizing the Supreme Court for their lack of legal knowledge,

Let’s start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter. That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli.

I do believe, Paul, that that was precisely Scalia's point. Duh.

Uncritical Support

In reading the debate that rages in recent days, the one centered around the Supreme Court’s review of the “health care reform” act passed two years ago, one thing that strikes me is the continued completely uncritical support that liberals/progressives give to their party and to Obama.

These people are absolutely furious at Republicans for opposing this legislation and throw all sorts of epithets and name-calling at the people who want it overturned in part or in its entirety. The arguments that opponents use are “stupid” and “brainless” they claim, and to argue against the act is inhumane.

They are appalled that the Supreme Court would even take up the case, and accuse the court and a majority of the members of that court of corruption for even considering the idea that the legislation is anything less than ideal.

Yet they refuse to consider that any part of the problem might lie with with the legislation itself. They refuse to think that Obama or the Democratic Party passed legislation that contained flaws and that could have been done in a better fashion. Even as they admit outside of this discussion that the legislation is lacking in some respects, and that it is merely “the best that we could get,” within the framework of this argument they rail at the thought that it should not stand as some sort of monument of perfection to the “most liberal president in generations.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Heroic Feline

Well, after yesterday's little episode, maybe not.
The terror at the window
The neighbor's cat, Rosita, was playing in our front yard, much to Molly's discomfort. Her tail was all fuzzed up as she stood tall watching Rosita through the window, except that every time Rosita happened to turn toward the window Molly shrank down below the window sill. After a few seconds she would peek over the sill and, if Rosita was not looking, stand tall again. Given that it is a second story window, Rosita never knew Molly was there.

Under the circumstances, maybe we will withhold the medals for bravery.

ACA Under Fire

One Supreme Court justice suggested during discussion about repealing the act in its entirety that requiring the justices to read all 2700 pages of the act would be "cruel and unusual punishment." Indeed.

When the process started out, before one page was even written, with a secret negotiation with drug companies that Medicare pricing for drugs would not become subject to negotiation and that drug reimportation would remain against the law, how can any good "health care reform" result? Add to that the concept that 535 legislators wanted to do 535 different things to benefit, not the nation as a whole, but 50 different states, and that an effort was made to placate all 535 of them, and serve the narrow interests of each of 50 states, and you have them makings of a horrible mess. Sure, there might be one or two good things in it, but it remains a horrible mess.

I think the justices have a good point. It took a full year to put this pile of crap together and, while parts of it are undoubtedly worth saving, it would take much longer than that to pick it apart to see which parts those are. We would be far better off to scrap this dog, and start over.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Individual Mandate

I guess in this country, in today’s political climate, if you feed somebody a starvation diet of garbage, while you are eating beef steak and caviar, you should be hailed as a savior and a hero because you aren’t letting them starve to death. Thus we have the “Affordable Care Act” which allows, and will soon require, people to spend large portions of their inadequate incomes to purchase health insurance from private corporations.

Obama was opposed to the individual mandate in 2008, of course, and had some rather harsh things to say about it when Hillary Clinton supported it in the campaign. Now he is vigorously defending it in the Supreme Court, but Mitt Romney is the “flip flopper.”

The mandate is supported as being an essential component of ACA, because in order for insurance companies to be able to enroll people who are sick they have to be able to enroll people who are well as a balance. That should not be taken to support the individual mandate, but rather to condemn the ACA as a flawed program which promotes the profitability of insurance companies over the well being of the American people.

This is a country where we create a problem and then, rather than admitting that we made a mistake and undoing it, we create another problem to fix the first, so that we wind up with two boondoggles and double the cost. The “cost shifting” that the individual mandate is supposed to fix was caused by a law passed in 1986 which mandated that any medical facility which received federal funding would be required to treat anyone seeking treatment regardless of their ability to pay.

So first we pass a law encouraging people not to get health insurance and then we have to pass another law that mandates health insurance, because we never foresaw that the first law would result in people not getting health insurance. That is simply awesome.

Future generations are going to look back on this, if they are not cooking over campfires and unable to read, and wonder if this generation even went to school.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Heat Is On

The question of what is happening to our planet is really one of thermodynamics; studying the effect of the amount of heat stored by Earth. I once had a thermodynamics instructor who would set up an equation, cross out all the numbers, and then work the equation using only the units of measure. He said that “in the study of thermodynamics numbers don’t really matter.” That’s why the heat wave in the Eastern US is irrelevant; temperature is just a number, while heat is something quite different.

Quite simply, temperature is a measure of the quality of a form of energy, while heat is a measure of the quantity of that same form of energy, and more heat does not by any means necessarily mean hotter.

Natural gas burns at about 3000 degrees, but that doesn’t tell you how rapidly a furnace will warm up your home. A furnace rated at 90,000 BTU will do so a lot faster than one rated at 40,000 BTU, but both are burning natural gas at 3000 degrees. That’s because the larger one has more burners and is delivering a larger quantity of heat, even though both are operating at the same temperature.

So how does that relate to the state of our planet? I’m glad you asked.

The Sun is very hot, but that doesn’t matter to us very much because none of that heat reaches the Earth. Heat cannot travel through a vacuum, which is why the coffee in your thermos stays hot. What does reach us is a different form of energy radiated by the Sun; light, and one whole hell of a lot of it. A good bit of that light energy which reaches Earth is re-radiated back into space. Some of it bounces (is reflected), some is radiated as infrared light on the night side, and some of it remains as heat in our atmosphere.

As the amount of CO2 and Methane in our atmosphere has increased the planet’s ability to radiate infrared light back into space has been diminished, and more of the absorbed light energy is being retained and stored, mostly, as heat. So our planet is storing more and more heat energy. Do you notice I haven’t used the word “temperature” yet?

So what does that heat do, if not make us hotter? Another good question.

I’m sure you’ve watched a pan of water boil. At first nothing happens, then a bubble appears on the bottom of the pan, then a few more; those bubbles rise to the top. More bubbles appear and rise, then bigger bubbles and more of them, and at the end the pan is a violent roiling mass of activity. The period of interest is the time between when that first bubble appeared and the end stage.

Water boils at 212 degrees, and that first bubble did not appear until the water in the pan reached that temperature. Because it boils, water can never get any hotter than 212 degrees, unless you prevent it from boiling by pressurizing it, which we didn’t, so at the end stage our pan of water was still at 212 degrees. But it certainly changed, didn’t it? That’s because we continued to add heat to it. The additional heat made the water much more violent, but it didn’t raise its temperature by a single degree.

Just as the addition of energy changed the state of that pan of water without raising its temperature, the extra energy being added to our planet is changing the state of our planet. It may or may not be raising the planet’s temperature, and while a temperature change might affect man, that is not really the main issue. The added energy is most certainly is doing other things to our planet, and we may not even be aware of some of them yet.

When a person gets overheated, that is absorbs too much heat on a sunny day, he sweats, which is the human body’s natural cooling mechanism. When the overheating goes too far the person stops sweating, and when that happens the person almost always dies very quickly.

Our planet also has some natural ways of keeping the extra heat from overheating Earth; for instance the melting of planetary ice fields. When ice melts it absorbs energy and keeps that energy from turning into heat. One whole hell of a lot of ice has already melted, and much more will do so, but what happens when all of the ice has melted? All of that energy will start going into our atmosphere. That is not going to be fun.

Our atmosphere may be becoming warmer or may not. It probably is, but that's not the important point. Like that pan of water, as more and more energy is stored within our atmosphere, it is unquestionably becoming more and more vigorous. Storms are more frequent, move more rapidly and are more violent. Where does that end?

Actually, the added energy is changing our atmosphere in a number of ways which we are only beginning to discover and some of which we don’t understand at all. Why, for instance, is the average altitude of clouds becoming lower? There may well be other atmosphereic effects which we haven’t even discovered yet.

We know more about outer space than we know about our oceans. A great deal of energy is being absorbed by our oceans, known by those of us who live on the West Coast as “nature’s great air conditioner,” and we know almost nothing about the future effects of that energy gain on our oceans. How long can they condition our air?

These are the things we should be talking about, not how hot it got in Dubuque, IA on Wednesday of last week. Temperature is just a number.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Aha, It's Hot Out!

When there were blizzards in the Eastern US, extending all the way down to Washington, DC, the argument was immediately made that the cold and snowy weather proved that global warming was bogus. Supporters of global warming cried foul, saying things like, “weather is not climate,” and “you can’t draw conclusions from…” You get the drift.

Now we have warm weather in that same part of the country and the climate change supporters are, of course, using that as proof that climate change is real and that it is happening very rapidly. Their recent cries of “weather is not climate,” and “you can’t draw conclusions from…” are long forgotten.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment says today that “2011 should have been cooler because of a La Nina but the warming trend owing to climate change was so powerful that it produced another record-breaking hot year.” Actually, La Nina doesn’t historically affect overall global temperatures. It does push the jetstream to the north and tends to produce warmer and dryer conditions in the US, which is precisely what it did last year. It also produces colder conditions in Europe, and it did that as well in 2011.

And, while there were some heat records broken in the US in 2011, globally it was not a record breaker. The hottest year on record was 1998, with 2010 coming in second. The year 2011 was cooler globally than several years early in the last decade. Even this year, while the Midwest and Eastern US was having record warm temperatures last week, Interstate 8 in San Diego County was closed due to snow and ice, something which hasn’t happened in more than ten years.

There is plenty of real evidence for global warming. The ocean is becoming more acidic. That is measurable and is happening as we speak. We don’t have to make conjectures about it, we don’t have to use guesses. We know it is happening, we can document it, and there is essentially no question that it is caused by the oceans absorbing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. We should be using that evidence rather than wild guesses about the weather.

Sea level is rising. We can document that also, and we know why that is happening as well. It is happening because the oceans are warming up and because ice packs are melting. The melting ice packs are right in front of our eyes, and we can measure the rate at which they are disappearing. Even a high school freshman can comprehend why they are melting. We should be using that as evidence rather than saying that a hot day in Podunk, Iowa is proof of anything.

Tomorrow I’ll write about the difference between heat and temperature, but for today, I can never understand why our side decries an argument used by the other side and then turns around and uses precisely that same argument to support our point. We claim that cold weather doesn’t prove anything but that warm weather does, and we sound like idiots. How are we going to convince anyone with that kind of brainless debate?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rock Chalk, Baby

lego mania

"No Duty To Retreat"

I have not commented on the Sanford gated community shooting, because I don’t know the facts. I cannot read the mind of the shooter, as a whole lot of other people seemingly can, so I don’t know if the shooting was racially motivated or not. I do know that having these “neighborhood watch” programs using people on active patrols and carrying guns is on the face of it a hideously bad idea.

When I read that the Florida law under which this guy was operating said that when a person is not on their own property and is acting in self defense that they specifically have “no duty to retreat” in the face of a threat, I was appalled.

Mere civilization imposes a duty to retreat, for God’s sake, if that option is available. The only reason that a person would not avail himself of the present opportunity to avoid threat is if he actually enjoys confrontation and looks forward to an opportunity to inflict harm himself. That is blatantly uncivilized behavior, now codified into law. What kind of insane community passes such law?

Update: Did the shooter commit a crime? Two points should be made as to that question. First is that whenever there is a shooting, fatal of not, done by an officer of the law or not, there should be an official investigation as to the righteousness of the shooting, and there seems to have been no intention of doing that in this case. Second, we have some pretty damning, concrete evidence of wrongdoing in the call made by the shooter himself when the 911 operator asks, prior to the shooting, "Are you following him?" and he replies that he is, wherepon the operator says, "We don't need for you to do that," and tells him that the police are on their way.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I'm Glad We Cleared That Up

Jimmie Johnson says that the removal of the points penalty and crew chief suspension proves that the C-posts on his Daytona car were legal after all. Mike Helton, COO of NASCAR says that the retention of the $100,000 fine proves that they were illegal, and that if they show up at Talledaga with the same C-posts they will be penalized again. Meanwhile crew chiefs who are building cars for all the other teams don't know whether to shit or go blind.

I'm so glad that NASCAR has made this situation so crystal clear.

Subron 8: The Admiral's Kid

Another in the ongoing "Subron 8 Sea Stories" series.

During the 2008 election some reference was made to the advantage John McCain had during his Navy career due to his father being an Admiral. Well, there are limits to what even an Admiral can do.

We had a kid come aboard out of submarine school whose father was not only an Admiral, but a submarine Admiral. Names are being omitted here to protect the innocent. We could not quite figure out at first why, with his father’s influence, the kid had not gone to the Naval Academy, but we did not wonder that very long. The kid was dumb as a post. For his IQ to be a golf score would have required scoring a hole-in-one on at least eight holes.

We were soon making odds on whether or not he would “qualify,” but it never reached that point. What did him in was standing lookout duty. You’d think pretty much anyone could stand up in the periscope shears with a pair of binoculars and sing out whenever they see something, right? Well, he could do that part okay.

Whenever we dive the lookouts have to go below and take control of the diving planes, and that part was a problem for this guy. In fairness, the process is not all that easy. You have to come down out of the periscope shears onto the bridge, go through the upper conning tower hatch and down a vertical ladder, run the length of the conning tower, go through the lower conning tower hatch and down another vertical ladder, circle the ladder you just came down and begin controlling the planes.

It’s important that you haul ass, especially if we are making a “crash dive,” because by the time that you reach the diving plane controls we are already about one hundred feet down and the dive is essentially uncontrolled since the planes are unmanned. Not only that, but the bow planes are up flat against the bow and must be “rigged out” before they can be brought into use to control the depth. The stern planes control the angle of the dive and are effective as soon as the lookout reaches them.

In the interest of speed when going down the ladders, one does not use the rungs. What you is grasp the vertical members of the ladder with hands and feet and slide down, much like a fireman slides down the firehouse pole. This kid simply could not get the hang of doing that. He would go down the ladders rung by rung with people screaming at him to get his ass in gear.

Finally one day he reached some sort of mental limit and when he got to the lower conning tower hatch he simply kissed the ladder goodbye and jumped. He landed stiff-legged on the steel deck in the control room and broke both knees and one ankle. He was sent ashore to the hospital and we never saw him again.

(Not So) Big City

San DiegoSan Diego likes to think of itself as a big city, but seeing it from the International Space Station kind of puts things into perspective. Compared to Los Angeles, or even Phoenix, maybe we're not all that big. The city is, however, just about the right size in my book.

If you look closely, you'll notice a darkish area in the northern suburbs of San Diego. That's Camp Pendleton, a Marine base.

Update: Okay, I just heard from a friend who is a former Marine. Camp Pendleton is not, it seems, merely "a Marine base." Camp Pendleton is actually "the Marine base." I stand corrected.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Oh Really?

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about astrophysics which has a rather strange opening paragraph. Or at least I, with my rather quirky sense of humor, was rather amused by it.

Planets in tight orbits around stars that get ejected from our galaxy may actually themselves be tossed out of the Milky Way at blisteringly fast speeds of up to 30 million miles per hour, or a fraction of the speed of light, a new study finds.

When I walk across my front yard I am actually walking at "a fraction of the speed of light." That fraction is very small, undoubtedly much smaller than that of the purported fleeing planets, but... Somebody probably deserves a Nobel Prize for this discovery, but perhaps not for writing the article.

On Nobel Prizes

Someone argued with me the other day that Paul Krugman should be taken seriously because he has a Nobel Prize.

And Barack Obama has a Nobel Peace Prize, too. While holding that prize he expanded the war in Afghanistan, and he started a new war in Libya; the latter not only done without Congressional approval but continued after Congress specifically denied such permission. He sent troops to fight in Central Africa, and established new military bases in Australia. He is currently threatening military attacks against Iran. He also has expanded the policy of slaughtering people by firing Hellfire missiles from unmanned drones from one nation to seven. Of course, we are not at war with any of those seven nations, so...

In short, it's hard to define what it is that a Nobel Prize proves.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grandstanding and Credibility

The Senate, in the person of Dick Durbin (well named, imho), is going to investigate the practice of bounties in professional football, now that Roger Goodell has issued the harshest penalties in the history that organization to prove that the NFL will not tolerate the practice and to assure that it is brought to a screeching halt. This is not "locking the barn door after the horses have escaped," this is looking to see if the barn has a door after the horses have been rounded back up. The Senate of the United States has become about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

This is what the Senate does in lieu of actually governing the nation.

Meanwhile, in NASCAR, after Jimmie Johnson's crew chief is caught cheating egregiously for the third time and issued severe penalties, which are upheld by the review board, the owner of the team appeals them to the ultimate review person of the sport. That person is a retired executive of Chevrolet, which happens to be the make raced by Jimmie Johnson, and is a long time close personal friend of that team owner, and he promptly reverses the penalties. NASCAR claims that the reversal "does not damage the credibility of NASCAR," which is true enough, since NASCAR has no credibility in the first place. You cannot damage that which does not exist.

The US Senate will not, of course, investigate cheating in NASCAR.

Obama and Gas Prices

CBS News ran a clip yesterday of President Obama standing at a solar power plant in Nevada and responding to GOP accusations regarding high gas prices saying that they are opposed to anything that is new merely because it is new and accusing them of being members of the Flat Earth Society. He went on to say that we are producing more oil than at any time in the past eight years and are “opening up new areas for drilling every single day,” embracing the McCain/Palin mantra of “drill, baby drill” which he campaigned against in 2008.

I think that may be a new record in the category of “weak responses.” Solar power is going to have precisely zero effect on the price of gasoline, and he responds to Republican accusations of him restricting drilling with, “no I’m not and, in fact, I’m drilling more than they are,” which is also going to have near as dammit zero effect on the price of gasoline.

What is affecting the price of gasoline is the sanctions on and threats of war against Iran, something which he does have the power to do something about. Well, he does if Israel allows him to, that is, or if he summons up enough courage to do it with out the approval of the Israeli government. Pretty much everyone except the American people recognize that the belligerence of the US and Israel toward Iran has raised the price of oil by as much as 30% and is urging the US to remove the sanctions, but Obama is still having the vapors about a “nuclear arms race” in the Middle East.

Juan Cole has an excellent article today about Iran as it relates to Obama’s reelection. He says that Obama “needs to explain” the issue “or he is putting his second term in jeopardy,” but I don’t see how that’s going to help. How exactly, does Obama increase his popularity if he tells the public that it is his sanctions on and threats against Iran that are raising the price of gas if he doesn’t then drop those sanctions and threats? If he does drop them he is “weak on national security” and/or “anti-Semitic.” (I can’t believe I just said that and I hope you know what I mean by it.) His own policies pretty much put himself between a rock and a hard place there.

Obama’s incoherent policy extends further, because he has just announced that some nations will be exempt from “punishment” which the US will deal out the any nation which continues to buy oil from Iran. (I think it’s simply awesome that the US can “punish” other nations.) The nations who will be exempt will be France, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK. In other words, almost everybody except China, India and South Korea.

It seems to me that with those exemptions the sanctions are not so much punishing Iran for its supposed nuclear policy as they are punishing China, India and South Korea for… Hmmm. Currency issues, perhaps, or trade policies?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No Bounties, Bubba

There have been some people who said that the bounty system employed by the New Orleans Saints was no big deal, but Roger Goodell is not among them. The man threw a major tantrum, and flung poop on everyone involved. I do believe he was majorly pissed off.

Between that and the Tim Tebow trede to the New York Jets, subsequently derailed by John Elway's demand for $5 million cash, ESPN has been positively orgasmic all day. Rotflmao.

Paul Ryan Again?

I usually avoid the "Republicans are batshit insane" meme because I really dislike ad hominem attacks, but Paul Rayn just seems to drift further and further from reality. He's back with another little booklet which I am not going to dignify with the word "budget." He looks like he is about twelve years old, and he sounds younger than that. How can anyone take this guy seriously?

Has HCR Cost Doubled?

Faux News is trumpeting that the cost of “health care reform” is twice what the Obama Administration promised it would be, while Obama supporters are citing the same CBO report to say that it actually will be slightly “less than originally forecast.” So I went to read the report for myself and, having done so, can tell you without any reservation that the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. As to who actually shot Jesse James…

There is no question that the Obama Administration advertised its cost for a ten year period during which it would be in effect for only six years, so it’s hard to believe that their estimate provided an accurate picture of its true cost. However, they also claimed that it was offset by savings which were also in place for only six years out of the ten year period, so that should be a wash. Except it’s not, because the net cost per year was positive, so a positive net cost for six years is certainly smaller than the same net cost per year for ten years.

The CBO report only evaluates spending, not savings and tax increases, so the report actually has very little value, politically or financially, and I don’t know why anyone is even bothering to discuss it. Well, yes I do, of course, but that’s my point here. Like most political discussion, both sides are blathering about bullshit.

Republicans are attacking Obama based on the spending having increased while ignoring the savings side of the equation, but Democrats aren’t all that much better; they are defending the program based on savings, but they cannot tell you what those savings actually are. They just claim that they offset the spending to “x” degree without listing them, and they carefully fail to mention the six years versus ten for net cost.

You certainly can’t tell much from the CBO report, which doesn’t compare spending to the original estimate at all, which was in 2010, but rather to the CBO’s estimate in 2011, which is not all that useful. And I’m not sure how much point there is in evaluating spending alone, rather than evaluating the actual net cost. They have a chart at the bottom of the report, but since Medicare is not included in the chart I’m not sure how meaningful it is.

I doubt very seriously that we’ll ever know what the cost of “health care reform” will be or what effect it will actually have. The damned thing was thousands of pages and included hundreds of programs, such as community clinics which are certainly useful, and others which are almost certainly not. Is it likely to reduce the cost of health insurance? You have to be kidding; of course not. Will it enable more people to buy insurance? Of course it will, and in fact it will force a lot of people to do that who don’t want to. That may turn out well, or it may not.

The bottom line is, we have “health care reform” and we need to quit squabbling over it and learn to live with it, because it isn’t going to go away.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20, 1982

I usually don't talk about this, because I don't really think about it much. Sobriety has just become normal to me by now. But it has now been precisely thirty years, today, since I took a drink. It seems like both longer and a lot shorter, but these are the good times.

Public Sector Employment

I must say that I don’t quite “get” the present day argument on government jobs, and the wailing that accompanies the loss of them. I’m not arguing for “small government,” here, and I actually support government providing a rather high degree of service to the public, a function which necessarily requires rather high levels public employment. I’m referring to the emphasis placed on jobs, rather than on what the jobs are about. It’s a subtle distinction, and not an easy one to make.

San Diego, for instance, is in the midst of another round of school funding cutbacks, and nowhere do I see any discussion of the effect of those cutbacks on the nature of the education which will be delivered to our children. The discussion revolves entirely about the poor suffering teachers who will lose their jobs, and conducting interviews with them so that they can tell us that they don’t know how they will pay their bills if they are laid off. So the school system, apparently, exists for the purpose of providing jobs for teachers? We should be talking about the impact of those cutbacks on the purpose of the school system, which is education, and instead we are talking about its impact on the employees.

The government should not have, as one of its functions, the provision of employment purely for the sake of employment. It provides services to the taxpayers, and hires people to provide those services, but those jobs are a byproduct of the services, and it is the services that matter from a standpoint of determining public policy.

But we tend more and more, with Paul Krugman and Dean Baker leading the way, to claim that reductions in public sector employment is harming the economy because of the reduction of employment and urge that the federal government hand money to local governments so that they can increase hiring merely for the sake of improving the economy by increasing employment. That is just nonsensical.

Unemployment assistance I fully support, and we should be doing more of that than we are, and providing jobs as a short term emergency measure to fill in during economic hard times (CCC and WPA), sure, these are worthy endeavors to relieve the suffering of those damaged by the economy through no fault of their own.

If the services are necessary, then provide the services and hire as many people as needed to provide the services, but the attention and discussion should be on the services, not on the number of people employed.

Monday, March 19, 2012


New York and most of the Eastern part of the nation is setting heat records. Here in San Diego County, Interstate 8 is was closed due to ice and snow.

I kid you not. Update: And Spring starts tonight, with a freeze warning.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Freaking Jayhawks

The Kansas Jayhawks won despite wearing their lace uniforms tonight. When you are playing against thugs, ladies, you have to put aside your swooning couch and play like you have hair on your chests.

Update, Monday am: So, Robinson attempted 5 shots in the first half, making one, and was not much better in the second half; attempting 7 shots and making just one of those. Four whole points from the field all night from their playmaker. What crap. If the opponent is using two guys to bully your inside playmaker, that means you have an open man; so you send that open man over and you assure that some Purdue Boilermaker buttocks hit the boards. If you get called for a foul, then fine; that's what fouls are for, sending messages. You don't just flap your hands and fecklessly take bad shots from three point range.

Bill Self was beyond being pissed off; every time they showed him he just looked like he'd just stepped in some fresh dog poop.

March Madness Observations 2

I agree with Charles Barkley, the zone defense should be easy to beat, and I agree that if it was that difficult to beat more college coaches would use it. You certainly can’t beat it the way Kansas State tried to, though, moving the ball rhythmically from side to side outside the zone and then trying to pass it inside to the two guys who are following the ball movement rather than anticipating it. Every time Kansas State tried to penetrate the zone on the dribble they succeeded, and had they been doing that more often and making shots instead of missing lay-ups they would have won easily.

Sure, Kansas State got a lot of offensive rebounds, which means they were missing shots, but they missed their second shots too. It wasn’t the zone defense of Syracuse that was successful. As soon as they go up against a physical team that can reliably make shots, Syracuse is toast.

And CBS kept telling us that K State had, for instance, 18 offensive rebounds against 4 for Syracuse, which provides information as to how one offense is playing as opposed to the other offense, but it doesn’t tell us how the two teams are matching up under the same basket. I would like to hear, along with the number of one team’s offensive rebounds, the number of the other team’s defensive rebounds. If I hear that, say, that the offensive team got the rebound off a missed shot 22 times while the team on defense got it only 5 times, that tells me the offense is being really aggressive.

The number of missed shots would be pretty close to the same, discounting airballs or balls over the backboard, but they don’t really give us that directly. They give us shooting percentage, but they don’t do so very often and, between 2-pointers and 3-pointers, it’s hard to figure out how many shots that represents. During breaks they do show number of shots attempted and made, but…

Nobody ever accused me of chronically underanalyzing things.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Madness Observations

The Kansas game was turning into a blowout, so I switched to Legigh/Duke. Boy, am I glad I did that. I'm sure I was not alone in being happy to see the rich brats of Duke go down, no matter how badly it busted my bracket. I thought they finished with a rather notable lack of class, too. Down two points with 2.8 seconds left and shooting 1 and 1, they commit a lane violation in the act of making the first shot and lose the opportunity to tie, and then on the inbounds commit an intentional foul by holding onto the opponent's shirt. Really?

These games do have a lot of downtime for commercials, don't they? And the end of close games is really annoying when they play for only one made basket and then call time out. The last 2 minutes of the game takes 20 minutes to play, 13 minutes of which is commercials.

I watched Florida play half a dozen times during the regular season. Who are the kids they have in those uniforms in the tournament? There needs to be an investigation, because I think they have at least five ringers. Or maybe they are on speed. Highly motivated?

I understand the concept of deliberately fouling at the end of the game when you're trailing; but when you're trailing by ten points and your opponent is in double bonus? Come on; they're not going to miss that many free throws. Accept reality.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Magic Ponies and Numbers

I can’t link to the Wall Street Journal piece, which is behind a wall, so I’ll just refer you to the post at Mish’s Global Economics which talks about how numbers in the economy do not add up. It sort of reminds me of a saying by Judge Judy, “When you tell the truth you don’t have to have a good memory.” Our government has a really poor memory.

The issue is that our economy has grown by only 1.7% last year, but unemployment fell from 10% to 8.3% which is a full 17% decrease. How does a 1.7% growth in the economy produce a fall in unemployment that is ten times greater than that? Or, to put it another way, why does such a large drop in unemployment produce such anemic growth in the economy?

Paul Krugman and Dean Baker will tell you, no doubt, that it is because people are paying down debt instead of spending money, but that sort of begs the question because what are all of those newly employed persons doing by way of employment that is not contributing to the economy? Forget about their unspent income (heh), what is happening to the work that they are doing?

Mish adds, “Trimtabs thinks the problem lies in the heavily massaged BLS employment data and the highly suspect BEA personal income data.” No, really? And I love that term, "heavily massaged."

In the same article he shows tax revenue for California, and it appears that California’s economy is not only not growing but appears to be pretty much crashing. In passing the budget last year the legislature was unable to balance the damned thing so they pulled the infamous stunt of increasing their assumptions for economic growth, thereby increasing tax revenue estimates and balancing the budget. That’s called the “magic pony” solution and it seems to be backfiring big time.

And the unemployment picture in California looks a bit bogus in light of that as well, since the state’s unemployment has dropped from 12.4% to it’s present 10.8% level. So while income taxes have dropped by 16.5% and sales taxes have dropped by 12.4% the state’s unemployment has also dropped by 12.9%. How does that make any sense?

Either the drop in unemployment is bogus or there is massive tax fraud going on; with people collecting wages and not reporting them for income tax, and then spending their money and not paying sales tax.

I think our government needs more than a good memory to balance all of these numbers. I think it needs a magician combining the talents of Merlin and Harry Houdini.


Much is being made of the sloppy documentation banks engaged in on mortgages, and how they are unable to foreclose on defaulted mortgages as a result. The woman who, apparently, opened up this whole can of worms was just awarded $18 million for discovering it. She was fighting to prevent the bank from foreclosing on her home, on which she had not been making payments, and discovered that their documentation was bogus. They were unable to foreclose, she got to keep the home she wasn't paying for and got an $18 million bonus to boot.

Paperwork. People owe money that they are not paying, and they get to keep that which they are not paying for because the paperwork on the debt is not proper. Does anyone dispute that they owe the money and are not paying it? No. Does anyone dispute that the company foreclosing is actually owed the money? Well, no, not really. But the mortgage holder does not have the proper paperwork so they get screwed out of their money, lawyers get large fees, and the deadbeat homeowner gets to keep his house without paying for it. Because a piece of paper was lost.

Is this a great fucking country, or what?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Career Change

A couple of “whistle blowers” have been making the rounds recently, one from Goldman Sachs and one from Google, asserting that they quit their companies due to disgust with the manner in which those companies had changed policies. I can relate. As my profile says, I worked in the steel industry for many years, and changed to a career in landscaping. That change was for reasons not unrelated to the feelings expressed by these whistle blowers.

After working for 6 years on the floor of a steel plant as a member of the Teamsters union I moved the office and then, after several years, into plant management. I later formed my own company installing machinery in steel plants and remained in the steel industry until the mid 1980’s.

As production (sheer volume) and productivity (efficiency) increased in the 1960’s labor and management had a rather interesting relationship. Outwardly adversarial, it actually worked rather well since productivity gains were pretty much matched by wage gains and it remained a win/win situation. Along with that, as production needs increased the industry engaged in capital spending, procuring more and more modern equipment to sustain the faster production that was needed.

Then two things went bad. The industry reduced capital spending, merely working the existing equipment harder and at higher than design parameters to achieve more production and running it longer hours and often without proper maintenance. And for reasons of globalization and government regulation the unions lost their ability to assure that increases in productivity were matched by wage gains.

So now you have equipment running at speed it was not designed for, without the regular maintenance it needs, with operators who cannot keep up because their operations were designed for a slower speed line, and whose job satisfaction has been diminished by minimal or no pay increases for significantly increased workload.

For me, none of this was abstract. By 1977 I had become manager of a steel plant in Atlanta. Upper management was demanding that I run my equipment beyond it’s capacity. I would argue, telling them that a machine was rated at 14ga for instance and that using it for 12ga material would specifically damage it, and they would order me to use it for the 12ga material. I would tell them I needed to shut a line down for one day to perform maintenance because otherwise it would certainly produce product that was out of tolerance, and they would order me not to shut it down. As an inevitable result of management decisions, our defect rates were climbing and I was utterly unable to prevent that from happening.

I knew how to prevent that. I knew how to ship 300 tons/day out that door with zero or nearly zero defects, but management cost saving and/or output target decisions prevented me from doing that. That’s why I left to form my own company and later, as the steel industry foundered on the rocks of its own bad decisions, to become a landscaper.

Good Start

Well, I'm two of two on my NCAA brackets so far. We can be assured that won't continue.

Thursday Morning: and now I'm down to 75% as reality sets in. Did you see that Obama picked North Carolina over Kentucky for the championship? The man is delusional.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Deploring Violence

CBS News did a piece recently on the targeted killing of Iranian nuclear scientists within the borders of that nation and showed Hillary Clinton denying the involvement of this country. “The United States deplores violence,” she says vehemently, “and we renounce killings.”

And then, of course, comes the headline that, “Missile fired from US drone kills 15 suspected militants in Yemen.” Note that they were suspected militants, and it was in Yemen, a nation with which we are not at war.

Do these people even listen to themselves when they talk?

We are very quick to condemn Assad for the massacres in his country, where some 7000 civilians have been killed. How many civilians were killed as a result of our invasion of Iraq? Yes, no official number, because we don’t count them. We count the number of “innocents” that Assad kills, but we don’t count the number of innocents that we kill. We just kill them without counting them. The number in Iraq is certainly over 100,000 though, more than 14 times the number Assad has killed. He is a monster; we are…

We “deplore violence” but we are the world’s leading manufacturer and exporter of military weapons and munitions, and we spend as much on our military as the rest of the world combined.

We “deplore violence” and we are performing assassinations in at least seven sovereign nations by firing “Hellfire” missiles from unmanned aircraft. Not only do we practice assassination as an element of foreign policy but we do it with missiles which are not anti-personnel weapons but are anti-tank weapons, with a killing radius that kills not only the target but anyone who happens to be within 100 yards of him.

We are a “peace loving nation” which “deplores violence.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Electability vs. Ideology

The Washington Post has a truly strange headline, reading "Rick Santorum hoping ideology will trump electability." Within the article is the statement that, "Romney was won Republicans who say electability is the most important factor in their vote," while Santorum does better "among those who say they are 'very conservative.'" This would seem to mean that people voting for Santorum would rather have a candidate who is ideologically pure but would lose to Obama in the general election than to nominate someone who does not meet their standards of ultra-conservatism but who stands a chance of defeating Obama.

It kind of makes me wonder what the purpose of the Republican primary elections actually is. If they don't actually want to take control of the White House, then what in the hell are they doing? What possible reason would they have for nominating someone who they admit will probably not beat Obama? I just don't get it.

Obama's Magical Thinking

CBS News had a segment last night about the war in Afghanistan, and on how it might be affected by the Sergeant’s rampage, and they showed an excerpt of an affiliate’s interview with President Obama in which he said that our leaving should be done in a manner “so that we don’t have to go back in and take down a resurgent Al Queda should they return and resume making attacks on us.”

So Obama appears to still have this fantasy about some sort of magical properties that Afghanistan possesses which facilitate attacks upon America. He seems to think that Al Queda is breathlessly awaiting an opportunity to return to Afghanistan because they can plan attacks there that they cannot plan anywhere else. That, notwithstanding the fact that 9/11 was actually planned in Hamburg, Germany.

Either that or his thinking dwarf’s that of Hannibal, and he plans to “deny space” to Al Queda by occupying the entire planet and occupying any piece of ground where they might set up their laptops and engage their feverish little brains. I’m not sure which is more deranged, that approach or the magical properties of Afghanistan.

Interestingly, CBS News altered that piece for it’s online version which is showing this morning. In that version Obama is shown saying that “It’s time, it’s been a decade,” and that “now that we’ve gotten Bin Laden and weakened Al Queda we can transition effectively.” I think that “transition” means “get the hell out” but a lot more slowly so that it doesn’t happen until after the election.

Because, of course, everything is about the election. Everything.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Paul Krugman is Confused

Well, Paul Krugman is at it again. The man is about as sterling an example of the danger of assuming that fame equals intelligence as I can think of.
I happen to agree with his argument that the comparison of government to household spending is nonsensical, but the ways he comes up with to defend that position vary from insane to comical. The only argument that is actually needed, of course, is that a family can’t print money, but Krugman can’t ever seem to let it go with that.

Today he argues the relationship between government spending and jobs and, as usual when he ventures into that territory, he trips over his tongue and falls flat on his face.

“When a family tightens its belt it doesn’t put itself out of a job,” he says. Well, no, but then neither does a government. The government keeps right on trucking. He goes on to say that, “When a government tightens its belt in a depressed economy, it puts lots of people out of jobs.” Which may be true, but when families tighten their belts they also put lots of people out of jobs, namely the people they have been buying from.

So as usual, instead of proving his point with his analogy, Paul Krugman manages to actually disprove it. On the surface Paul Krugman is a deep thinker, but way down deep he is a really shallow thinker. He’s probably picking Harvard to win in March Madness.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Subron 8: Liberty "Cancelled"

Another in the ongoing "Subron 8 Sea Stories" series.

Dockside, New London Submarine Base. Pughead and I are returning to the ship after a gedunk run when, as we turn onto the dockside street, we notice a Shore Patrol van parked at the head of the pier which contains our ship. We are, of course, basking in the glow of present virtue, but we both have a modest aversion to the Shore Patrol on general principles, so we decide that now is not the best time to return to the ship.

Diesel boats in port are assigned a barracks, so we beat feet there and inquire if anyone knows what the SP’s are up to. Someone says that it has to do with a complaint filed by the USS John Paul Jones, and Pughead and I are no longer basking in the glow of present virtue. We also know why the barracks is so empty, and we decide to make it even more so by depriving it of our presence. Maybe it’s time to go examine the fuel storage tanks on the far reaches of the base. We might well find the rest of last night’s liberty section there.

We had been doing anti-submarine warfare exercises just off of Long Island for three days against an ASW task force, serving (obviously) as their target. That is not our favorite pastime by any means, especially since they stack the deck against us by making a rule that at the start of each attack we had to let them spot us on the surface before we pulled the cork. No submarine would do that in actual combat, of course, and this rule tended to reinforce our impression that surface sailors are weenies.

Our maximum speed submerged is six knots, and in practicality we really top out at about four knots. That’s about how fast you normally walk if you’re in any kind of a hurry, so by letting them know where to start looking for us, our normal protection of being able to “hide in the ocean depths” was pretty seriously compromised. Our impression was that without the initial peek they wouldn’t be able to find us, and we were pretty sure that they couldn’t find their own asses if you gave them mirrors mounted on sticks.

So find us they did, and on a very regular basis. Dropping real depth charges on us when they found us would have been in poor taste, of course, since we were, after all, in the same Navy and on the same side. Sort of.

So to simulate depth charges, they dropped hand grenades on us. They would wrap toilet paper around the lever that controls the grenade, pull the pin, and throw it over the side. The seawater would dissolve the toilet paper, the lever would pop, and the grenade would explode. The more turns of toilet paper they wrapped, the deeper the grenade would sink before exploding. There wasn’t any real risk of damage, because shrapnel doesn’t travel any distance underwater. But sound does, and it travels very, very well.

One destroyer in particular was outstanding at getting their effing grenades close. The sonarmen could identify individual ships, and they would tell us when John Paul Jones was making a run; their effing grenades were always close, and that ship was really pissing us off. Over the three days of the exercise, we developed an abiding hatred for that ship.

First night back in port about thirty of us were on liberty in Boston. New London is not much of a town, and other than a short 12-hour liberty, everyone goes either to Boston or New York. So we’re in a bar in Boston and a largish group of sailors comes in, having a good time, and before long we spot a ship’s name on their shoulders. USS John Paul Jones.

We did not even start by calling them names or yelling at them, we just waded in with fists flying. (Do I need to say that we may not have been entirely sober at the time?) Three days of being hand grenaded just exploded, and they never really had a chance. By the time that the police and/or Shore Patrol arrived we had vanished like a bad dream, but our ship’s name had been seen, and thus the presence of the Shore Patrol in New London the following day.

Eventually the watch schedule demands our presence back at the ship, and when we return the Shore Patrol has left. For two days there is an “atmosphere” aboard, and no one says anything about liberty, SP’s or any form of misconduct. Finally it’s midmorning and the off duty section is hanging out in the barracks when the XO walks in.

The first person to see him calls, “Attention on deck,” and he does not respond with his usual, “As you were,” but leaves us standing at attention. For a lengthy minute he simply stands, glaring at us. Then, “I know you did it,” he says, “and you know you did it, and nobody else had better find out you did it.” Without putting us at ease, he turns on his heel and leaves.

We find out later from the yeoman that the SP's had been demanding a list of the crew members who had been on liberty that night and that the XO had told them that the ship had not granted any liberty that night. We had a really good XO. That's why I'm honoring his "nobody else better find out" by waiting fifty years to tell this story.

Time Change

Saturday night: "Spring whatever, fall whichever direction" my ass. I have seen my cat spring back countless times, and if you think that I can't fall forward, you have not seen me. To hell with it, I'll just wait and see what my computer does in the morning.

Update, Sunday morning: I can understand how my computer changed itself, since it's connected to the Internet. Same with my DVR, as it's connected to Cox. But how did my thermostat know to change it's own time setting? These furshligginer devices are getting downright creepy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pink Slime & Worms

There is a material being added, we are told, to fully 70% of the hamburger sold in this nation; added, we are told, in order to reduce the production cost of said hamburger. ABC News describes for us just how this additive, called "pink slime," is made,

"The “pink slime” is made by gathering waste trimmings, simmering them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef…"

Seriously? Gathering, simmering, centrifuging, spraying with ammonia, packaging, freezing, and then shipping to where it is defrosted and added to hamburger. You have to be kidding me. That crap is more expensive than the hamburger it is supposedly being added to. How do you reduce the cost of a product by adding something to it that has to cost more than the unadulterated product costs?

Remember how "everybody knew" that MacDonald's was adding worms to their hamburgers?

The Battle Over Trivia

I stopped by a CVS pharmacy and asked what the monthly cost would be for a typical birth control prescription if one did not have insurance, and was told it would cost $18 per month. So that’s what this massive Congressional month-long battle is over, $18 per month.

“But,” my sister argues, “there are people who really cannot afford that.”

Undoubtedly true. And if she cannot afford that then she undoubtedly cannot afford a great many other things, some of which are more important than birth control, and it is that larger issue which we should be addressing. We should be focused on making her life better so that she can afford that $18 per month, along with all of the other things which she presently cannot afford. Instead, the tiny little minds in Congress argue over whether or not we will give her that pathetic miserly $18 per month benefit and leave unaddressed the larger issues which make her life unbearable.

She probably cannot afford that $18 per month because she does not have a job, or is stuck in a job that pays less than a living wage, and we should be focused on getting her a job that allows her to afford it, rather that giving her a measly pittance for birth control and leaving her jobless or stuck in a miserable dead end job.

If she works for a religious institution, we should be asking why that institution is paying such crappy wages and insist that they pay their workers better, instead of merely insisting in effect that they raise their wages by an utterly pathetic $18 per month; and do so, by the way, for women while not doing so for men.

Don’t start arguing about uses of the same medication for medical problems other than birth control, because that is not the discussion here. The discussion is whether or not medical insurance should cover the cost of contraception. Besides which, in such a case any doctor who cannot write a letter and get that medication covered should not be practicing medicine in today’s environment. And don’t start yammering at me about Viagra, because that, too, is not part of this discussion; has nothing to do with it.

We are stepping over dollars here, stepping over hundred dollar bills, to argue over who is going to pick up a damned dime. There is just no way that this is not the wrong thing, the utterly stupid thing to be arguing about.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Holder: "A Nation At War"

After quoting John F. Kennedy about “the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger,” Holder went on in the introductory section of his speech to say that we have once again reached an “hour of danger.” The juxtaposition of quote and statement is a clear implication that it is our nation and our freedom which are in danger, an implication reinforced by his further statement that, “We are a nation at war.”

This administration fear mongers more subtly, but no less aggressively than did the Bush administration, and its rhetoric is every bit as hollow both as to the degree of threat, and as to the state of the nation. The rhetoric that Holder uses here is typical of that used on a regular basis by Obama and his administration.

First, the threat of terrorism is not a threat to us as a nation and it does not threaten any of our freedoms to even the slightest degree. All of the screeching about the “existential threat” posed by Al Queda and other terrorist groups is sheer nonsense. Saner heads will say, as some have actually said, that “they can take down a few buildings, but they cannot actually harm us as a nation.”

Suppose that what is posed as the “worst case” were to happen and a small nuclear device were detonated in one of our cities. Even if that city were Washington, DC, would that cause us to be unable to function as a nation? It would not. Which of our freedoms would be curtailed by that event? It could lead us to pass laws restricting our freedoms, as we have been doing ever since 9/11, but that is the result of our own panic-stricken overreaction to the event, and not due to the event itself.

Terrorism is a threat to the lives of American people, and certainly steps must be taken to prevent such crimes against persons. But the response to this threat is out of proportion to the risk, and these crimes are not in actuality “attacks against our nation” no matter how much the criminals want to pretend they are. They are crimes against persons of this nation.

And we are most certainly not “a nation at war.” Our military is conducting combat operations in an unknown number of foreign countries, but that is the military, not the nation as a whole. We give lip service to “supporting the troops,” but we don’t really care about the troops. If we cared about the troops, we would pay attention to the way that our government is abusing them, and we are not paying attention.

Hell, we are not even raising taxes to pay for these wars. On the contrary, the more wars we fight the more we cut taxes, which used to be the province of Republicanism, but which the Democrats now embrace with every bit as much fervor as the Republicans ever did. That's what we care about; we care about our "way of life" and our tax cuts, and we barely even know that our troops, and the wars that they are fighting, even exist.

The Manning Swoon

Peyton Manning is leaving has left the Indianapolis Colts, and everyone is all agog to see where he will land next; that is to say, which team he will take to the Super Bowl in 2013. Um, folks, you do realize that he isn't taking his receivers with him, right? You do realize, too, that he hasn't thrown a pass in competition in over a year? Me, I don't want him on my fantasy league team.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Public Sector Pensions

City pensions are much in the news, and are being overhyped a bit but are a legitimate issue. I am not one who believes that city employees are, per se, grossly overpaid, but the pension system is distorted and is out of line with the private sector. The claim that generous pensions are a trade off against low pay scales does not really stand up to careful scrutiny.

Originally, that claim was valid. Cities and other local governments, strapped for cash and unable to raise wages to competitive levels, gave pensions in lieu of wage increases. As time went on, though, those generous benefits were conveniently forgotten as public sector unions bargained for higher wages and politicians, with governmental coffers flush with tax revenues in a booming economy, granted those wages in exchange for union support of their reelection bids.

If you look at wages in the public sector you will generally find that, while not really overly generous, they are certainly competitive with the private sector. Here are a few of the salaries paid by the City of San Diego.

Auto body mechanic: $48,800
Carpenter: $47,700
Electrician: $51,600
Painter: $45,700
Custodian: $28,800

Checking with want ads and people I know in some of those trades, that appears to be pretty much the same rates that prevail in the private sector. The prevailing union wage for electrician in San Diego, for instance, is $25/hour, which works out to $52,000 per year, compared to the city’s rate of $51,600.

So, are pensions which are far more generous that anything that private sector workers in any industry are able to secure justified for workers employed by local governments? My sense is that at one time they might have been, but they certainly don’t seem to be justified now.

Security, Justice and Liberty

I thought that I would never see an Attorney General worse than Alberto Gonzalez, but I think we have come to that point in Eric Holder. Certainly he is far more intelligent than Alberto, but of course the same could be said of many house cats, so that isn’t necessarily high praise. Holder is certainly no more principled than Bertie. I’m going to comment on his odious speech at Northwestern in several posts, breaking it up into different aspects of what he had to say, almost all of which was un-American.

He started with a lengthy screed about defense of “America’s founding – and enduring – promises of security, justice and liberty.” Notice that he put security first, and don’t think for one minute that that is insignificant. Think about our Pledge of Allegiance,

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I think he would like to rewrite that to read “with security, liberty and justice for all.” I like it better the way that it is. The idea that “security” is one of the “founding promises” of this nation is utterly repugnant to me. The last words of the Declaration of Independence are a ringing, “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Putting one’s life on the line to create a new nation based on freedom and justice does not place security as a “founding promise” of that nation.

He goes on to quote John Kennedy about “defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger,” waxes eloquent about the threat of terrorism that clouds his every waking hour and promises that the effort to “keep the American people safe – has been, and will remain, this Administration’s top priority.”

Later, we’ll find out that doing so includes violating laws and trashing the constitution because, as implied in his statements earlier, security has priority over liberty and justice. But there is nothing in the President’s oath about keeping Americans safe, and there is a very specific statement about his duty to “protect and defend the constitution.”

In fact, the only duty spelled out in his oath of office is to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution.” The president also has a number of duties which are spelled out in the constitution, but “keeping the American people safe” is not one of them, nor can any of his enumerated duties be interpreted to mean that.

There’s nothing wrong with “keeping the American people safe,” of course, but the founding fathers thought there was something more important than safety, and so do those who go in harm’s way to defend this nation. When we place our own safety above what our men and women are fighting and dying to defend, then there is something horribly wrong. When soldiers die to defend civil liberties, and we abandon civil liberties in the name of safety, then this nation has lost its way and chickenhawks in suits who think they deserve to lead this nation are not fit to talk about its “founding promises.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Still Calming Down

I am not yet writing about Eric Holder's speech; not until I calm down a little bit and can do so in a more rational manner than would happen at present. Meantime, Glenn Greenwald can provide you with his opinion, which is not exactly reserved.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

SDSU Aztecs Sweep

San Diego State basketball programs made a clean sweep of Mountain West Division honors this year. Courtney Clements was named Player Of The Year on the women's side and coach Beth Burnes was Coach Of The Year, while Jamaal Franklin earned men's Player Of The Year and coach Steve Fisher was men's Coach Of The Year. The women won the Mountain West, while the men shared the division with New Mexico, but have the tie breaker for the top seed going into the tournament.

Things are rocking on the Mesa these days.

Winning The Big Battles

Q: Why did you vote for Obama in 2012?
A: Because he supported free birth control pills.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Descent Into Insanity

I'm not paying much attention to the Republican primary, what with not being a Republican myself. Well, okay, technically I'm a Republican, but functionally I'm closer to a Democrat than anything else.

Anyway, Santorum now reminds me of the retailer who prices his products at 10% below cost and "makes it up on volume." He wants to cut the manufacturer's tax rate to zero and claims the increase in manufacturing will compensate for the reduced rate. I think the silly ass is serious. How much volume does it require for a zero tax rate to "make up for" taxes which were formerly collected at any percentage?

A Way With Words

Glenn Greewald does have a way with words. He is a "card carrying member of the ACLU," to quote the movie An American President, a phrase which the speaker intended as an insult but which I regard as high praise. He writes, nonetheless, in scathing terms of the non-liberal actions of President Obama with great accuracy and objectivity and a total lack of partisan rancor. In a piece in the New York Times today he comments on the likelihood of Obama's reelection, saying that his record of the past three years will not seemingly count against him because, "he runs around the country giving uplifting, energized speeches depicting himself as some sort of populist hero of the 99 percent, and presto: the magic returns."

Indeed. I have noticed that too, and wondered why the act is believed.

Obama Is Ironic

Okay, the irony is probably unintentional, as Obama seems to be completely unaware of what he is saying a good bit of the time. Such as saying that if we keep terrorists out of Afghanistan they will be unable to plan attacks against this nation, a theory which is breathtakingly... Well, no, I don't want to call our president stupid, so let's just say the theory is nothing if not innovative.

Anyway, last week he was saying in an interview with Jeff Goldberg that it is "unacceptable to the United States" for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, and that we would "apply the military component" if need be to prevent them from getting one. Unlike George Bush, who was less intelligent and used terms like "bomb them into the stone age," Obama is highly intelligent and uses terms like "apply the military component." Means the same thing, though, and the two men, regardless of IQ, think pretty much alike.

This week Obama is at AIPAC, an Israeli lobbying outfit, trying to cadge votes for his reelection and saying that all of this "loose talk about war" is a bad thing because it "helps Iran." I was not sufficiently interested in his campaign speech to Israelis, who don't vote in our elections, to read on and find out how he thinks it helps Iran. Well, unfortunately, I guess he was talking to Israelis who do vote in our elections, but that's a different issue.

Meanwhile he was reiterating his threat to "act — with military force, if necessary" to prevent Iran from doing whatever we didn't give it permission to do. It may be that he explained why his loose talk about war against Iran did not help Iran while everyone else's loose talk about war against Iran did. Maybe he thinks Iran is afraid of him and not afraid of anyone else; remember, he did tell them last week that, "I don't bluff," which is pretty scary. It wasn't quite a Clint Eastwood "make my day" moment, but it wasn't bad, and remember that he was handicapped slightly by the lack of
a six shooter.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Obama On Iran II

Liberals defend Obama no matter what, of course. Assassination is good because it keeps us safe and demonstrates that Obama is not a candy ass. Lack of “due process” is a little tougher to defend, but they manage, using the somewhat circular argument that it’s okay when Obama does it because he is a good man and we trust him.

As to his threats of war against Iran, which is a violation of the UN charter and of American principle, there are two camps of supporters. One camp applauds because it makes him look tough and, like Republicans, they love having a tough president.

The other camp is a little more difficult to follow, but apparently they can read Obama’s mind and know that he has no intention of going to war and that his threats are actually aimed merely at persuading Israel that he “has their back” and will go to war for them if it becomes necessary and so they do not need to launch their own attack on Iran. His threats to “utilize a military component” on Iran are actually, therefor, a meaningful step toward maintaining peace in the Middle East.

That's all well and good, and I am so proud of having a president who can play three dimensional chess. My fear is that the rest of the world might not be quite as brilliant as our esteemed president, and what they might hear is what he actually said which is, in effect, “If Iran does something we don’t like we will bomb the shit out of them.”

Regardless of his intentions, what he actually did was threaten war where there is no threat to us, over a cause that is not in our interest, merely on behalf of a client state with which we have no treaties and which bullied him into it. This makes our nation look either stupid or cowardly, or both, no matter how brilliantly conceived the plan may be in the mind of our highly intelligent chief executive.

Obama On Energy

I've written on this before. Better mileage cars is small thinking. Hyman Rickover would have called it "ox cart thinking." We need thinking that employs imagination, and that is outside the box of conventionality.

We have eleven housewives driving eleven cars twenty miles each to eleven different grocery stores five times a week for groceries, and the best he can come up with is to have those eleven housewives make their fifty-five weekly trips totalling 1100 miles using cars that get slightly better mileage. He can't come up with carpools, or pooling of stores, or different forms of transportation, merely a regurgitation of the same thinking that has been around and been rejected for decades. Small, outmoded thinking.

Nor, while admitting that the high cost of gasoline is due in no small part to the uncertainty over the future of Iran, does he acknowledge that his actions are among the principal causes of that uncertainty or that it is within his power to resolve that uncertainty and by so doing to reduce the world wide price of oil. Apparently his genius does not extend to being able to connect his own actions to the outcomes of those actions.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Obama On Iran

I find myself at something of a loss for words, not really coherently able to respond to Obama’s position on Iran as stated most recently in preparation for the Israeli state visit. He says,

"I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say," and adds, "I don't bluff."

Is that what this has now boiled down to; some sort of international dick measuring contest? Did the media swooning over the Bin Laden assassination go to his head? Do we really want our chief executive strutting around talking like some sort of schoolyard bully? All over loyalty to and protection of some foreign nation with which we do not even have so much as a formal friendship treaty?

"Every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept," Obama said. "Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they've had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that?"

He doesn’t keep his promises to the American people on a particularly reliable basis, but he claims 100% rigorous reliably loyal support in keeping promises to Israel. Did I mention that we do not have a single formal treaty with them? So why does he have more fealty to the Israelis than he does to the American people who elected him?

And his reason for threatening to go to war with Iran, to take America into yet another “war of choice” despite there being no attack on us nor any imminent threat of attack?

"It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe."

The threat not to us, but to “a number of states in that region” and the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists because Iran “sponsors terrorist organizations.” Pakistan has had nuclear weapons for many years, and we are pummeling them with missiles from drones on an almost daily basis because of the terrorist organizations within their borders. They harbored, we claim, Osama Bin Laden. How many of their nuclear weapons have fallen into the hands of terrorists?

It appears that Cheney’s “1% doctrine” is far from dead.

And please do not overlook the implication in his “I don’t bluff” that he believes that the choice is his and his alone, and that Congress plays no role. If he wants to take this country into a war against Iran, he will do so whether Congress or the American people want that to happen or not. He is, after all, the Commander In Chief.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Obama On Gasoline Prices

President Obama never tells an untruth, does he? Well he is now telling a major whopper regarding gasoline prices. The LA Times features him holding a chart which he used last week to illustrate that “America’s dependence on imported oil is diminishing,” which one would think would lead to lower gas prices, not higher ones, and to claim that one reason is, “policies put in place by our administration and my predecessor’s administration.” Notably, he does not go on to say what those policies are. This little speech is mega-hypocritical on several levels.

Before we get to an explanation of just how ridiculous it is for him to claim credit, along with George Bush mind you, for lower dependency on foreign oil, we should note that he then goes on to make a major point of saying that now is the time to eliminate the subsidies that the government provides to oil companies. There are two possible trains of logic on that subject.

Gasoline prices are high; people hate oil companies because of high prices; we can make hay by punishing the oil companies while people hate them; so let’s stoke the people’s hatred of oil companies.

Gasoline prices are high; subsidies reduce oil company costs; ending those subsidies would raise oil company costs; raising oil company costs would cause them to raise gasoline prices; so maybe not is not the time to end subsidies for oil companies.

And, of course, Obama wants to end oil company subsidies. He’s more interested in demagoguing for reelection than he is in accomplishing anything actually useful.

The import-reducing policies to which he refers are, presumably, “drill, baby drill,” a policy for which he had nothing but contempt during the 2008 campaign. Like pretty much everything else he talked about during that campaign he has, of course, reversed his position and now firmly believes that the more drilling and pumping we do on American lands and in American waters the better. That, however is not the cause of our reduced level of imported oil. Not by a long shot.

The reduction of oil imports is the result of a drastic reduction of consumption of oil products as a result of the recession. Mike Shedlock has an excellent piece about that at his blog, complete with charts which illustrate just how dramatic that drop in consumption has been. It also shows that the percentage of our gasoline which is refined from imported oil has increased significantly since Obama took office, so his claim that he is reducing our dependence on foreign oil is the opposite of true.

Someone asks Obama what he’s going to do about high gasoline prices, he tells them there is “no silver bullet,” takes credit for reducing oil imports, which is false and in any case irrelevant, and says we should end oil company subsidies, which would actually raise gas prices. This is vintage Obama and, of course, Democrats cheer wildly because they do that for anything that Obama says, even when (like this) it's complete bullshit.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Deaths In The News

I actually liked the Monkees, and find it hard to believe that Davy Jones was 66 years old. Damn. It does not seem like that long ago. His group was fun though, and I hope his life was as enjoyable as his music.

Andrew Breitbart was an asshole, and the world is well rid of him. He had no redeeming qualities whatever. Unlike Christopher Hitchens, who was at least smart and interesting to listen to, this jackass was dumb as a post.

Winning Battles, Losing The War

After the war was over a Vietnam commander was talking to an American one. The latter said to the first, “You never once defeated us on the field of battle.” The Vietnam commander smiled. “We didn’t need to,” he replied.

For some two weeks now the liberal discussion has been endless fulmination over the Republican reaction to Obama’s stance on insurance coverage for birth control, meaning that Republicans win again. They always do, because liberals are just too stupid not to fall for the conservative tactics of delay, distraction and disrupt.

The economy in this country does seem to be taking a turn for the better, but it is far from recovered, and there are still millions and millions of people unemployed or underemployed. We should be talking about restoring those people to economic health, and we should not be talking about anything else. Republicans have nothing to offer on that front, so they want to distract us from that issue, and every time they run up some bogus “social issue” for discussion, liberals jump in with both feet and the issues that really matter get lost in the shuffle.

Nothing gets done, and liberals complain that “Republicans obstructed the process.” They did that only because liberals allowed them to do so. When conservatives start their tactics of distraction a smart and courageous liberal would stand up and say, “That is not relevant to the governance of a nation of 330 million people. Stay on a subject that matters.” That doesn’t happen because we have no liberals who are either smart or courageous.

Little minds are so determined to win arguments on minor, trivial points, that they abandon the larger issue of national governance altogether. Like the commander of the “400,” they charge headlong into the “valley of death,” determined to win each minor victory and cover themselves with glory, while the war itself is lost.