Friday, August 31, 2012

Cheer For Penn State?

ESPN was asking the question just now, “Is there a reason to cheer for Penn State?” My answer would be unequivocally that at game time yes, there is. The Penn State football program, and to some extent the university, was tainted by the behavior of its coaches, but the game itself is about the players. They were not and are not a part of the crime that was perpetrated upon the innocent, and they should not be deprived of the support of their peers and the voice of the crowd. Cheer on.

Unless they’re playing LSU or Alabama, of course.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Illogic Abounds

I did not watch Paul Ryan’s speech last night, I was more interested in some guys catching catfish by hand in muddy waters and fascinated by a “swamp guy” opening his mouth repeatedly to show us that he had no teeth. Good stuff, certainly more interesting than Paul Ryan, and I wasn’t tempted to slap anyone in the face.

I did, however, read much of his speech, and it convinced me not to vote for Mitt Romney. That’s a pretty good trick, since I had decided many months ago not to vote for Mitt Romney, but if Obama can cause an auto plant closure a full year before he takes office as President, then by damn Paul Ryan can determine my vote many months before he is nominated. If that doesn’t make sense, that’s fine; neither does Paul Ryan.

Meanwhile, Obama supporters are pointing out that the stock market is awesome and that corporate profits are at an all time high in order to refute Republican claims that “Obama is ruining the economy.” These people are supposedly Democrats, but they are crowing about the success of the oligarchy and ignoring that middle class income is declining, the number of people in poverty is increasing, and unemployment is still at unacceptably high levels and not improving.

Accepting the decline of the middle class and cheering about the stock market and corporate profits is not quite what I an accustomed to hearing from Democrats.

Update, 10:15am: Oh, this is a real knee slapper. Factcheck says that Ryan took "Factual Shortcuts" in his speech last night. Those were "factual shortcuts" that came out of his jackass grinning mouth. That loud bang you heard was my computer blowing up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Well, This Is A Reach

Glenn Greenwald has an article in his new venue, The Guardian’s US Edition, regarding three episodes of military discipline and what he calls “the perversion of the justice system and rule of law as nothing more than a weapon to legitimize even the most destructive state actions.” I’m usually a big fan of Greenwald, but I think he’s really stretching here.

The cases were the episode of the Marines urinating on corpses of the enemy and “troops” burning copies of the Koran, and in Israel a case where an American protestor threw herself in front of a military bulldozer and was killed. In the American cases, “no criminal charges are being brought,” and the soldiers are being subjected to administrative discipline. The Israeli court found, according to Greenwald, that “despite Corrie's wearing a bright orange vest” the bulldozer operator did not see her and that her death was an accident. Perhaps Greenwald has never operated a bulldozer, but objects in front of the blade are not visible to the operator whether they are bright orange or brown camoflage.

With respect to the two US rulings, I have trouble in regarding the actions
of individual solders as “state actions” which Greenwald thinks are being legitimized by these court rulings, and in any case they were issued by courts martial, not by the US Department of Justice, and so I have difficulty as seeing them as part of the “justice system” per se. Besides which, what “criminal charges” does he think should have been brought? These guys certainly exercised bad judgement, and undoubtedly violated some military codes of conduct, but what actual crimes did they commit?

I don’t know the facts of the Israeli case, but apparently Rachel Corrie was “protesting the demolition of a house in Gaza” when she was killed by a bulldozer. I have operated a bulldozer and I can tell you of my own knowledge that a bulldozer operator cannot see what is in front of him. He guides the machine by using reference points to either side of the machine, and standing in front of the machine in an effort to stop it is an act of utter stupidity amounting to suicide. The operator absolutely will not be able to see you, will run you down, and it will not be his fault. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I’m perfectly comfortable with the judge’s decision that her death was accidental.

I don’t disagree with Greenwald’s oft stated assertion that our system of law protects the wealthy and powerful in this country, and that it legitimizes unlawful action by the powerful, but I think he is using some very silly and trivial episodes to prove his case here, and in so doing I think he weakens his cause. It’s disappointing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

There's Potential Here

The future Archbishop for San Francisco was visiting San Diego this past weekend and was stopped at a police DUI checkpoint near the San Diego State University. He failed the sobriety test and was booked for driving with a blood alcohol content over the 0.08% legal limit.

He’d better get out of town quickly, or the Chargers will sign him up to play wide receiver.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Politics of Baseless Charges

A couple of months ago opponents of Mitt Romney were taking him apart, both mockingly and with great seriousness, for “taking a $77,000 tax deduction” for his wife’s dressage horse. There was only one problem with that claim; he had not actually done what they claimed. He had listed the expense on his tax form, but had not deducted that expense from his current income. The listing was for the purpose of deducting those expenses from future income earned by the horse in competition.

That might explain why he is reluctant to release more of his returns; he doesn’t want the vultures picking through them to find more tidbits which they can misrepresent and use to attack him with. And so, of course, the vultures claim instead that “he must be hiding something terrible or he would release his returns, like everybody else has done in presidential elections for twenty years.”

John McCain, just four years ago, released only two years of tax returns and his wife, who controls the vast majority of their wealth, released none at all, and no accusations were made about McCain cheating on taxes, illegally hiding wealth, etc. Even to the extent that any comments were raised about McCain’s refusal to release returns, Obama declined to enter that fray, eschewing the negativity that such accusations involved.

So Mitt Romney is cheating on his income taxes, he is not paying any taxes, he is hiding wealth illegally and/or he is reneging on his commitment to his church. He can prove us wrong, we say, by releasing his tax returns. By saying that we acknowledge that we have no knowledge of what is in those returns, no evidence for our accusation that he is “hiding something” and that our charge is baseless.

The left claims that the charge that he’s hiding something is not baseless because, even though there is no evidence, there is impeccable logic; the only possible reason for him not to release his returns is that he’s hiding something which would be personally or politically damaging. Nonsense; I just offered another reason above, and yet another would be that he simply thinks that the details of his income are nobody’s business.

The left engages in “we get to make up stuff which discredits our opponent and he has to prove us wrong because we’re the good guys and he’s the one who’s a liar.” I can’t engage in that kind of practice because I am unable to resolve the “we get to make up stuff which discredits” part with the “he’s the one who’s a liar” part.

Whether or not the target of a baseless charge has the means to disprove the charge is irrelevant because the act of making a baseless accusation is, in and of itself, a fundamentally dishonest act.

From Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Regular Season Racing

Two Champions?The commentary during regular season stock car racing sometimes rivals that of preseason NFL football. Other times it is somewhat inane but much more entertaining. Pictured above are two former NASCAR champions, Tony Stewart in the 14 and Matt Kenseth in the 17, battling for the race lead at Bristol last night. As you can see, it was not a rousing success, and the announcer’s laconic comment was “Well that didn’t work out for either one of them.” Indeed it did not.

The 17 car was able to continue and Tony resisted efforts by the officials to get him into the ambulance for a checkup, loitering with his helmet in hand. The officials did not press their case because; well, when Tony is in a mood you best just sort of leave him alone. We all knew he was waiting for the 17 to circle around and that he did not have any sort of friendly greeting in mind. Turns out Tony is a championship helmet thrower, he scored a direct hit on Matt’s hood ornament.

Danica Patrick actually did pretty well, not really racing anyone but just staying out of trouble and trying to finish the race, which was a reasonable objective for her. She did not, as the announcers kept saying, “stay on the lead lap for 430 laps.” She was a lap down after lap 50, and was the third car a lap down on lap 59. It took three caution periods for the “lucky dog” feature to put her back on the lead lap, and nine more cautions bunching up the field to keep her there. She went a lap down again about lap 390, but another caution and “lucky dog” pass put her back on the lead lap again.

She then ruined a reasonably favorable impression when she was interviewed after a crash that was actually not her fault. After saying that she had not seen the replay and did not know what had happened, she made snide remarks about being on a track where “some people play fair and other people don’t.” The guy who hit her was passing her for position, lost traction and slid up into her. It’s racing and happened to plenty of others. None of them whined about “playing fair.”

Contrast that with Tony Stewart’s remarks after he was wrecked earlier.
“In the future I’m going to run over him every chance I get,” he said of Matt Kenseth. Race car drivers don’t whine.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Preseason Football

I have literally sat in a chair and watched paint dry, so I know what I'm talking about; doing that is more exciting than watching preseason NFL football. The drying paint thing is a long story; it was a long time ago and I was not entirely sober at the time, so it seemed like something the needed doing. Watching Billy Ray Smith interview celebrities on television last night while players cavorted on the gridiron silently in the background did not need doing. Especially since I was sober last night.

Anyone who goes by the name "Billy Ray" should not be appearing on television in anything but a comedy role. I guess it could be worse, he could go by the name "Billy Bob," and his role on Chargers preseason football is something of a comedy role, only he doesn't know it. He once interviewed the Mayor of San Diego about some tax initiative while showing the Chargers scoring an 80-yard touchdown, and did not let the action on the field interrupt his tax discussion for one second. He continued it through the extra point, and during the kickoff did the "while we were away..." thing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Entitlement" Is Not A Dirty Word

Social SecurityLiberals (or “progressives”) have espoused a variation of this image, one which goes on to talk about privatization, which is a different subject altogether. At any rate, they are vigorously denying that the Social Security program is an “entitlement.”

One definition of “entitlement” is “a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group,” but there is nothing inherently “dirty” about that, really. In any case, that is a secondary definition, established by common usage fairly recently in historical context and the primary definition is “a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.” Which is why Social Security absolutely is an entitlement.

Beneficiaries of the Social Security entered into a contract that for all of their working lives they would pay money into a trust fund and that once they were no longer working they would receive that money back in the form of a retirement stipend. Having upheld their end of the contract, workers are entitled by contract to receive those benefits, and the government is bound by contract to honor their side of the deal and pay the stipend to which the contractees are entitled.

The second statement on that image, about the “problem” of government borrowing from the fund, is a canard. In fact, the trust fund has invested its surplus in the safest place possible anywhere in the world; in US Treasuries. That is not a problem by anyone’s definition of problem, since the investment with the absolute lowest risk of loss world wide is US government debt. No one has ever lost one cent by investing in US Treasuries, so how is that a “problem,” pray tell?

I never can understand why liberals allow the other side not only to define the argument for them, but even to distort the meanings of individual words, and not push back.

Liberals should be standing up and asserting that “entitlement” is not a dirty word; that an entitlement represents an obligation on the part of the US government no less binding than monetary debt. We should be shouting that in making the claims that they do about entitlements, conservatives are demanding the this nation default on its debt as surely as if it were to refuse to pay on bonds due for redemption; that they are demanding that the government refuse to honor contracts made in good faith.

Instead, we accept the premise of the big lie made by conservatives and hunker down in a defensive crouch, whimpering that “Social Security is not an entitlement.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Leave Her Alone?

Tony Stewart says that we should “leave Danica Patrick alone” and let her do her thing. “Let her learn” he says, without badgering her and putting too much pressure on her. I like Tony Stewart a lot, but he is full of crap here.

Why should we leave her alone? It’s not like she came into the sport as some sort of shrinking violet. She came storming onto the stock car racing scene like she was the best thing since the invention of the bikini; strutting her stuff, parading in dozens of commercials and advertisements and posing as a glamour girl in every venue that was available to her. She basked in the acclaim as a race driving phenomenon and disclaimed none of it, and every time something bad happened she blamed it on everyone except herself.

If she wanted to be “left alone in order to learn” she should have behaved in a manner that encouraged leaving her alone, and portrayed a person who thought she needed to learn and wanted to do so. She did none of that. She played the diva &, after displaying a comprehensive level of incompetence, is reaping the reward of her own behavior.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wrong, No Solution

There was an editorial in the New York Times a week or so ago, which I can no longer locate for a proper citation, regarding medical costs. It posed an example of colon cancer, which could be detected by an inexpensive test called a “fecal occult blood test” or by a colonoscopy. We all know what the latter is, of course.

It made the argument between the more expensive test and the one of lesser cost as driving this nation’s high cost of health care, positing that we should be using the former less and the latter more, and suggested that some government regulation would probably be required to make that happen. Again we get both the wrong problem and the wrong solution.

After years of screaming objections to insurance companies dictating what procedures and tests our doctors could and could not order, we now want to put the government in a position of doing that instead? Or perhaps we want the government doing that in addition to the insurance company. If my doctor wants to order a test on me he would need to get permission not only from the insurance company, but from the government as well. The test was approved, but the patient died first.

The writer automatically went to “use the cheaper test” instead of asking a more intelligent question like, “Why does a colonoscopy cost so much?”

If a German bricklayer comes to the United States we do not question his ability to lay bricks, and as soon as he gets a green card he will be able to get a job here as a bricklayer. Similarly for auto and truck mechanics. But if a British surgeon comes to this country we will not allow him to practice medicine. Why not? Is the human body built differently or does it function differently in England than here? Of course not.

If foreign physicians were allowed to move to this country and practice medicine, we would not be paying our doctors anywhere near $250,000 per year as a starting wage, and our health care costs would plummet regardless of what tests and procedures doctors order on their patients.

Congress is mandating reductions in payments to Medicare, but they still refuse to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower pricing on medications, to take advantage of the purchasing power they have due to the volume of business which they do with those drug companies. We used to call that “stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime.”

Everywhere we look, applying wrong solutions to what is not the problem.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tipping Point

I cannot remember a presidential election in my lifetime where I had a complete and utter loathing and a total lack of respect for both sides. Whoever slings the most mud wins, while America circles the drain.

I remained reasonably okay with Obama until he "went negative," but now every time I see him he's either slinging mud at Romney or Ryan, or he's threatening war with someone in the Middle East. If he's spoken about helping the people of this nation with anything other than tax cuts or some other program aimed at special interests for the purpose of obtaining their votes, I have not heard it.

I don't read articles about the presidential campaign, I don't watch political networks, and when a segment comes on the news about a presidential candidate I hit the mute button. I am not going to vote for a president, and if this is what the office has become I think this nation would be better off without one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Great Lines

Ian Welsh, who is Canadian, comments that America's founders understood "that standing armies were a great threat to liberty and that eternal war is the graveyard of freedom." We are seeing the truth of that today.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fueling Consumption

Some of you will have a hard time believing that the excerpt below was written by a real, live honest-to-God economist, especially the part which I highlighted. Others will have no trouble believing it at all because, like me, you know that economists are by and large complete and utter idiots. It
was written by Dean Baker at Beat The Press.

The housing bubble was generating around $1.2 trillion in demand that disappeared when it collapsed. Half of this was in residential construction and half was in consumption driven by bubble generated home equity.

He doesn’t go explain that latter bit. It would be accurate if the consumption was based on people selling those homes to extract the increased “home equity” in the form of cash in hand and then spending that cash, but for the most part it was people refinancing to exchange that increased equity for more debt. The consumption was driven, actually, by increased debt which used increasing home prices as a basis for “securing” the debt.

There was no increasing home equity fueling that consumption, because the portion of rising home prices which was used for consumption was offset by debt and was no longer equity at all. Equity cannot “fuel consumption” unless the asset is liquidated. The consumption to which Baker refers was fueled by debt.

Friday, August 17, 2012

TV Review: Political Animals

I realize that when watching television dramas one needs to engage in some suspension of disbelief but, good God; Sigourney Weaver deserves better than to be spouting lines written by twelve year olds. I’m on the same wave length as my sister, who said she is still watching it because, “The series is so short that I figure I might as well see how it turns out.”

The latest episode involved a Chinese submarine going down 13 miles off of San Diego, with China so unwilling to admit spying on us that they were willing to let the crew of 100 die, and the American government so unwilling to let the crew die that they were willing to risk all out war with China. Oh, please. The scenario was so riddled with idiocy…

A real Chinese ambassador confronted with a charge of spying would most likely have responded along the lines of, “What? Are you on crack or something? Of course we’re spying on you. That’s what world powers do, they spy on each other. Hello?”

The USN submarine rescue operation is not in Hawaii, it’s in on Coronado Island in San Diego, so it wouldn’t take a couple days to get there, it would take just over an hour. Six hundred feet is actually not very deep, and would not present a difficult or tricky rescue, but the water 13 miles off San Diego is one whole hell of a lot deeper than 600 feet.

There’s also a few things wrong with the idea that the Chinese crew was going to “scuttle” the sub to avoid detection, and with that being an act that would spread radiation far and wide on the West Coast and kill millions. The most obvious flaw is that irradiating an ocean and killing millions is a pretty weird way to “escape detection.” I suspect that millions of dead people would be noticed pretty quickly and that it would not be particularly difficult to figure out what caused it.

The more subtle flaw is that we have lost two nuclear subs at sea and the Russians at least four, and the escape of radiation to the ocean has been zero. Even if, by some freak chance, the reactor vessel did breach, the reactors which power ships are infinitesimally smaller than the reactors which are used in shore based power generating stations, and the radiation release would not be even close to that described.

In the same episode a reporter (who is, of course, exquisitely beautiful) blackmails her way into accompanying the Secretary of State’s Chief of Staff (who is also the Secretary's son) on a trip to the West Coast on a private airplane that rivals Air Force one, has a dining room and a uniformed stewardess to serve dinner. Oh, jeez.

The Secretary of State doesn’t have a Chief of Staff, and if she did he would not be travelling on that kind of plane. If a reporter blackmailed him into taking her along he would not have her travelling in his private quarters, serving her dinner, and plying her with wine. He despises her and she is there because she is a blackmailer, remember?

As soon as that particular little scenario was revealed to us I told my wife he was going to have sex with her. Do I need to tell you I was right?

Now, That's A General

Presented, almost, without comment from Ynet News,

"Dempsey was painfully clear. He basically said that Israel should not disregard the opinions of its top security officials, stop the constant chatter on Iran and refrain from any acts that may have an adverse effect on the global economy. The general also meant to tell Israel that it mustn't believe that Netanyahu has any control over the US because he has friends in the Republican Party. Dempsey laid down the facts: Israel is not America, it does not possess the same capabilities, and if Netanyahu and Barak continue wreaking havoc – Israel won’t have America either."

More and more I like this General Dempsey, and applaud President Obama for appointing him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mere Semantics

How come it is that when unemployment claims decrease by 2000 Bloomberg says that they "dropped slightly," but when they increase by 2000 Bloomberg says that they are "little changed" for the week?

Campaign Afoot

When is the last time that California cast its electoral votes for a Republican president? Quick, anyone? Perhaps Abraham Lincoln? Let me phrase the question another way; how likely is it that California will do so in 2012?

So as I'm watching television in the evening why do I keep seeing advertisements, repeatedly, which begin with, "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message?"

Update: Well, okay my bad. From 1952 through 1988, Republicans won every presidential election except Goldwater in 1964. Still... 2012?

Today's "Big Ideas"

From Attywood, at Philadelphia’s Daily News, a guy who calls himself a liberal, we get this in an article Tuesday regarding the deficit,

There are three big ideas -- sharply cutting defense spending, restoring taxes on the wealthy to the rates of the booming 1990s, and smart health care cuts such as a better records system and reducing unnecessary tests -- that are so common sensical they should transcend ideology and party.

First, that he is a self professed liberal talking about the deficit in the first place rather than about restoring jobs makes him an idiot. Politicians on both sides want to change the subject away from jobs because they have neither track record or constructive plans on that subject, but we should not allow them to distract us from what matters.

“Big ideas?” Raising taxes on the rich by three percentage points is not a big idea; it’s not even a small idea; it’s a tiny, infinitesimal idea. It cuts our deficit by 4% or less. It is tokenism and is presented by Democratic leadership as a distraction from the track record of the present legislators and President. It is designed to make us angry at rich people instead of at our elected government, and we are biting like suckerfish on a shiny lure.

“Big ideas?” Health care with “better records system and fewer unnecessary tests” is another case of thinking like midgets. Record systems is a good idea, but it’s impact on costs is trivial, and after complaining about insurance companies having veto power over the necessity of tests, do we really want to give that power to the government? This is another way of thinking small and talking big, of saying that we are addressing the cost problem of “for profit” health care without actually doing anything about it.

Health care reform was our chance to think big in this decade, to make a change that would really matter, and we were afraid to do that. The leader of this nation said that it would be “too disruptive.” Instead, we created 7600 pages of small thinking, with absolutely nothing new contained in it. A vast collection of small, unoriginal thoughts do not add up to a “big idea.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Retail Sales Boom

CBS News did a piece about retail sales last night, citing no actual numbers but saying that they rose last month by the largest rate in five months. They spoke glowingly about how Colorado Springs would be able to keep the street lights on since their revenue depended on sales taxes. Happy, happy, happy.

The Los Angeles Times was even more rapturous, rhapsodizing about “consumers coming back” and jobs as “part time baristas at Starbucks” being gained. Boy, you know your economy is really booming when someone gets a part time position as a barista at Starbucks. Is that exciting, or what?

That part-time barista says that, "Now that I'm working, I've been spending most of my paychecks." The Times is all excited and claims the guy is
“…good news for the economy because consumer spending accounts for about 70% of economic activity.” Well, get on the phone to your stock broker, because with that part-time barista spending his paychecks, where can we go but back to the golden days of 2007?

The Times goes on to give us some numbers, saying that “The Commerce Department reported all major categories picking up. Sales of automobiles increased 0.8%, while retail sales other than autos rose 0.8% as well,“ and then quotes someone as saying that, "When consumers go on a spending spree, then the economy does well." Oy.

Well, 0.8% would hardly be a “spending spree” even if true, but it’s not.

The 0.8% increase was the number “adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences.” The raw number, not adjusted, was a 3.8% decrease. You may place a lot of faith in “seasonal adjustments,” I do not, but whether you do or not, retailers and governments live on real dollars, not seasonal adjustments.

Money in real dollars that can be used to pay overhead, payroll and inventory, and to provide income is what stores are concerned about. The real money that came in to the cash registers of retailers decreased by 3.8% in July, and that is what the retailers have to deal with. It is the sales taxes on that 3.8% reduction that local governments will have to use for meeting the city’s bills.

A retailer can’t pay his employees with “seasonal adjustments,” and a city cannot keep the street lights on with “seasonal adjustments.” They need money, and in July the money went down, not up. That is a fact.

Paul Krugman loves that 0.8% increase because it’s a number for his spreadsheet that he can look at while he’s sitting in his ivy-covered office in Princeton thinking great thoughts. Democrats love that number because they can point to it and tell you that things are getting better. The guy running a clothing store in Phoenix regards that number as total bullshit, because he saw his sales go down by 3.8% in the real world.

Winners Count Their Money...

...and the losers cry foul.   Juan Cole is becoming confused about who’s “buying our elections,” because now he’s hosting an article that says that the “Super PACs” funded by “47 billionaires” are being outspent by other PACs that are funded anonymously, so that we actually don’t know who it is that is buying our elections.

That sort of weakens his charge that, “They want something in return for their money,” since giving orders to the newly elected legislators is going to be difficult when they don’t know who the hell you are.

At least in the past we’ve waited until after we actually lost the elections before we started screaming about the election having been stolen. Now we’re bragging about how we’re going to win and preemptively crying foul at the same time, just in case we lose. Pathetic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Evils Of Money

Juan Cole continues to complain that “Your Election is being Bought by 47 Billionaires,” which would imply that whoever wins is the wrong guy. He doesn’t mention which “Super Pacs” those billionaires are contributing to, of course, since they are contributing to both sides, which makes it a little difficult to decide which side is the “bad guy.”

His article actually belies his headline a bit, because he goes on to say that, “There are also super pacs funded by corporations, not just individuals! And there are anonymous donors.” And the point of his discussion is that these donors are not merely political ideologues, but are donating money because, “They are expecting something for it.”

Let’s concede, for the sake of discussion, that the election actually is being determined by money from billionaires because that money is all going to one side. What are the implications of that?

A sales transaction can only occur if the sellers find willing buyers. If the rich are providing money in expectation of favors in return, then they are getting those favors from the legislators we elect in return for their money, which is called bribery.

When people in a position of power abuse that power by accepting bribes, we should take out our anger on them for betraying us. We do not do that. We reelect them repeatedly and blame rich people for the misbehavior of the legislators who we elected.

To repeat: we elect these people to represent us; they betray our interests; we blame our misfortune on rich people who paid our representatives to betray us, while reelecting the representatives who betrayed us. The betrayal of our representatives, with whom we have a compact of trust, is not important. The action of rich people, with whom we have no compact or agreement, is what raises our anger.

What never gets blamed are people who see the advertisements on television and base their votes on those meaningless advertisements. Those ads are the product of the money which we claim is “buying our elections.” They are almost always lies, invariably are meaningless tripe, and we still allow those ads to determine our votes. And then we don’t blame ourselves for the parlous state of our governance, we blame the people who bought the ads and, we claim, bought our government.

The problem is not, we claim, voting based on meaningless and dishonest soundbite advertising. The problem is not, we claim, legislators who take money to betray the trust of the people who elected them. The problem, we claim, is the money that bought the ads which determined our votes and the money which corrupted our legislators.

Money is not the problem. We have precisely the government we deserve.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Arrogance Rules

From an Obama-supporting site which I choose not to name, "...expect bitter tears when Ryan and Romney get their asses handed to them in November despite the best efforts of the Village elite."

I swear to God, I am almost reaching the point where I want Romney to win just for a chance to watch arrogant jackasses like this eating crow and/or slitting their damned wrists.

Regime Change Redux

I was walking along one day and came across a guy repeatedly striking a tree with an axe, chips flying everywhere. “Are you chopping that tree down?” I asked him, being the witty conversationalist that I am. “No,” he replied, “I certainly am not, but I am not going to stop hitting it with my trusty sharp axe until it falls down.”

That was President Obama regarding our military assault on Libya. The sanctions which he extracted from the UN prohibited regime change, so he disavowed any such motivation but openly declared that we were not going to stop pummeling Libya until Gaddafi was gone. How he expected anyone to then believe his disclaimers of regime change escaped me at the time, and his approach to Syria is making it even harder to believe in retrospect.

Hillary Clinton was in Istanbul, holding talks to “set up a working group with Turkey to plan a joint response to the Syrian crisis.” Why we have a dog in that hunt is unclear, but we can look to Mrs. Clinton for clarification,

"Our number-one goal is to hasten the end of the bloodshed and the Assad regime," she said. "Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that."

Ending the Assad regime using intelligence services and the military. Of course, why didn’t I think of that brilliant idea? When asked if we would create a “no fly zone” she “did not rule it out.” Of course not; "all options are on the table." Does it ever end?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Queen of Hype

I not only do not object to women driving in NASCAR, I am strongly in favor of it and wish the several women who are doing it well. My problem with Danica Patrick is that she is making so much of her celebrity status as a woman driver and doing such a poor job of driving, given that she has been given some of the best equipment in the Nationwide series and some of the most expert help in the business.

Yesterday she crashed in the first turn of the first lap at Watkins Glen, and to say that it was not a stellar piece of driving would be a world class understatement. You can watch the replay of it in this film clip and then tell me if you agree with her assessment that there was anything “last second” about the development of the problem

"I was just following the car (in front of me) down into the corner,” she says, “and right at the last second (Truex) came up on the track right in front of me.” Indeed, and while the car you were following went by him on the outside, you tried to drive through him.

If you drive on the freeway at 65mph, you know that “just following the car in front of you” is an invitation to disaster, but Danica apparently has not learned that yet.

"I suppose in retrospect I should have either slowed down or gone a bit wider.” She continues, “But it's so hard to know in those moments if they're going to come back out on the track and be fine, but he just stopped."

Seriously? Her spotter screaming repeatedly in her ear for her to slow down might actually make "retrospect" not the operative word here, and should have provided her with a clue to, um, slow down at the moment rather than blithely driving full tilt into the back end of the stopped car, not hitting her brakes until she was within a couple of feet of colliding with him. His instruction "don't go low" was a pretty good clue to "go a bit wider" which only now occurs to her "in retrospect." Simply awesome.

The announcer says that she “had nowhere to go,” but that’s not entirely true, and to the extent that it is true it is because she put herself where she had no escape while other cars managed to avoid not only Truex, but her car after she wrecked.

I wish she would get her scrawny ass out of that car and let Johanna Long drive it, and then we would have a successful woman driver in NASCAR.

ARM On Steriods

Poway is a smallish suburb of San Diego, not a wealthy bedroom like Rancho Bernardo, but an incorporated city with a smattering of industry and commerce and a population of 47,800 in the 2010 census.

In 2002 voters approved a $198 million bond issue to upgrade the city’s 24 schools, with the bonds to be paid off by a $55 per year tax increase per $100,000 value in individual home property tax for the term of those bonds. All well and good, but the building boom, and maybe some mismanagement and graft, caused the costs to climb and by 2008 the money was gone and, amazingly, the work was only half done.

In 2008, however, taxpayers were in no mood for a tax increase, so the city proposed another bond sale, of $179 million this time, that did not involve a tax increase and, awesomely enough, the voters went for it. No, I’m not kidding, the voters authorized the city to sell bonds but did not authorize the city to collect any taxes to repay those bonds. Interestingly, the voters did not specifically instruct the city not to repay the bonds, they just did not authorize any money with which to do so. California voters are fascinating.

So the city bought $105 million in “Capital Appreciation Bonds” on which they will make no payments for the first twenty years, not even interest payments. After twenty years of accruing interest without making any payments, Poway will make payments for another twenty years to pay off the bond, payments which will total $981 million.

Now, if you have a home loan, you know that the total of your payments consists of large amounts of interest. Initial payments are almost all interest, in fact. By the time you pay your house off, you may have paid as much in interest as you paid for the house. On a typical mortgage at a 4.5% rate, for instance, the total of payments might be $285,000, so one would pay $105,000 in interest on an original loan of $180,000.

Poway’s $105 million loan will cost them $876 million in interest. And where will they get the money to make the payments? The tax increase was extended in 2008, but that revenue is still paying off the original bonds, and that extension expires before the payments on these new “Capital Appreciation Bonds” are scheduled to begin. The city is going to have to go to voters and ask for a tax increase that will not provide any benefit because it is paying off money that has long since been spent.

Voters would, of course, say “oh hell no” and blame the politicians, but who approved the sale of bonds without authorizing money to repay them?

Okay, I'll Participate...

...just this once. I'm not into ad hominem attacks; despise them, really. But Paul Ryan really annoys the crap out of me. Every time I see him as a speaker I just feel like I want to slap that silly smirk off of his arrogant little adolescent face. I'm not voting for his new boss anyway, so...

Saturday, August 11, 2012


For some reason the liberal blogs are all over Romney's pick of Ryan for VP. I'm not sure why. Who could he have picked that they would not have been fulminating over? "This guarantees that he loses," they are saying, but they've been running Obama victory laps for months, so how did this change anything? Why do they care who he chooses, since none of them are going to vote for him in any case?

The one thing that liberals and/or Democrats never talk about is Obama and Democrats. They just talk about how much they hate Romney and complain about how sick they are of listening to Republicans talking about how much they hate Obama.

Political commentary in this country has become just totally wierd.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Politics of Pandering

It is considered quite unremarkable that a candidate would espouse certain causes to attract the votes of certain special interest groups; immigration issues to get votes from Latinos, for instance, or bolstering Medicare to secure votes from the elderly. No one sees anything wrong with that at all, those voters are merely “voting in their best interest,” and the candidate is merely “serving the needs of his constituents.”

When a candidate says he will support a specific tax cut, the benefit goes to the “one percent,” and the incentive is campaign contributions rather than votes, that is an appalling breach of ethics and we charge him with bribery.

But how are “I will promise legislation which is to your specific benefit and you will help me get elected by voting for me,” and “I will promise legislation which is to your specific benefit and you will help me get elected by donating cash to my campaign effort” different in any ethical principal? In one case the candidate is making promises for votes and in the other for cash, but in both cases he is selling his promises.

So corrupt has our system of governance become, that we fully expect our legislators to be mercenaries in that manner; to cater to special interests for votes by tailoring promises to the wants of those special interests, providing only that those special interests are not rich. We do not accept legislators selling promises for cash but we fully accept, even admire, legislators selling promises for votes to secure their own reelection.

The word “pander” in the political context means the act of expressing one's views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal, and we tend to be filled with admiration for politicians who do it skillfully, but outside of that specific context it means, “to cater to the lower tastes and desires of others or exploit their weaknesses,” which is certainly a much less noble endeavor. That is precisely what a candidate does when he “sells promises to buy votes,” and we not only permit it, we reward it by electing the panderers to office.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Nature Of Politics

Glenn Greenwald seems to share my opinion of the nature of the political commentary landscape, and he expresses it more elegantly than I do. He describes Mark Halperin, for instance, as “nauseatingly vapid.” Has there ever been a more perfect description of Mark Halperin than that? He goes on to ask that paragon of political commentary, “How, as a journalist, do you hear yourself uttering such obsequious, demeaning tripe and not jump off the nearest bridge?” Awesome.

The flaws in that question are that a) Halperin is most certainly not a journalist and b) he almost certainly does not hear himself uttering anything because it is paradoxically true that people who are totally self absorbed never hear what they say at all. They hear what they think is profound thoughts and great oratory.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Bird Slayer?

Killer CatDoes this look like a creature which would be out roaming the neighborhood and ravaging wildlife, savaging rodents and slaying birds? Is this crittur a "rapacious killing machine?" Trust me, she is not any of those things.

Just One More Time

Democrats are howling that Romney’s failure to release more than the two years of tax returns is “unprecedented” and clear proof that he is hiding something that must be contained in those earlier returns. Harry Reid says that it proves that Romney has not paid any income tax for many years and that the burden is on Romney to prove otherwise.

Tackling the latter charge first; no, the burden is on the person making the charge to prove the validity of the charge. A senior lawmaker of this nation should understand the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Harry Reid should be assumed to be a liar until he proves that he is not.

As to the “unprecedented” failure to release tax returns, we only have to look back to the most recent presidential election. John McCain and his wife file taxes separately and he released only two years of his returns and none of his wife’s. She finally released a summary of two years of her returns, but not the entire returns. So, by releasing the entirety of two years of his joint returns with his wife, Romney has actually provided more financial information than John McCain did.

And Mitt Romney knows how many houses he owns; fewer than McCain.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

"Lies Will Serve Us Better"

Liberals have apparently decided that they must become equal to the opponent whom they criticize. Obama and company seem to have reached the position that to beat the Republicans they must fight like Republicans, that telling the truth is senseless when lies will serve them better. My opinion is that if they do that then the outcome of the election is irrelevant, but I seem to be alone in that opinion.

Case in point, all of the liberals and Democrats who are gleefully pointing out that Mitt Romney “took a $77,000 tax deduction for his wife’s dressage horse.” Steve Clemons at The Atlantic gives us the straight scoop on that,

Mitt Romney declared in his 2010 taxes a $77,000 business loss (of which only $50 thus far was deducted from his taxes but which protects him on upside gains in the future) costs related to his Olympics-competing horse, Rafalca.

God knows, I harbor no warm and fuzzy feelings for Mitt Romney and would not vote for him if he was running against Adolph Hitler, but I do have a certain fondness for the truth. The fact is, Mitt Romney did not “take a $77,000 tax deduction,” he listed $77,000 in expenses which will at some future point be deducted from financial gains which the horse will earn in competition. That is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate thing to do. The costs related to preparing to win money in competition are a perfectly reasonable offset against the declaration of the income represented by those winnings.

Should an amateur poker player, who is required to pay taxes on his winnings, not be allowed to deduct his losses? I’ll give you a hint; the IRS allows him to deduct his losses up to the amount of his winnings, even if poker is nothing more than a hobby. This is precisely what Romney is doing. He is listing the costs of his hobby against future financial gain which his hobby may produce and which the IRS will consider to be income.

Lies of this nature may have a lot to do with why Romney refuses to release more years of income tax returns.

Clemons then goes on to applaud a column by Margaret Carlson criticizing Romney for his “tax deduction,” and is particularly delighted with her statement that, “A presidential candidate who takes a huge tax deduction for such an elitist sport exhibits a cluelessness bordering on contempt,” which I would say exhibits a rather extraordinary degree of cluelessness on his part, since he just pointed out earlier that it wasn't a tax deduction.

Liberals, it seems, are not only joining Republicans in being dishonest, they are also joining them in being stupid.

No "Blaze of Glory"

I’m not commenting on the shooting in Wisconsin, but on media response to it last night and this morning. CBS Evening News ran details of the shooter, showing his picture and describing his life and the various hate groups to which he belonged. features an almost full-page photo of him on their home page.

In my opinion, shooters of this stripe should be left in oblivion. We should not even know their names, should not hear about their backgrounds, and the names of groups to which they belonged should not be so much as mentioned in the media. We are giving them what they want. They want to be noticed. They want their message of hatred to be published, and we are publishing it for them. They are willing to “go out in a blaze of glory” and we should deny them that glory.

Monday, August 06, 2012

No, They Didn't!

I am able to take most of today's technological feats pretty much in stride. I've been following the Curiousity adventure with considerable interest, but it didn't really knock my socks off until I saw this little tidbit.

My reaction to that was "you have to be kidding me!" The Mars orbiter is circling the entire planet and it captures Curiosity during the couple of minutes that it is hanging from its parachute. Seriously. This is a picture of one space mission, taken by another space mission, on a different planet.

Now, that simply defines awesome.

Justice Served

CBS Evening News did a piece the other night that I have been thinking about, having to do with the definition of justice. The backstory is that a baby was being tended by a day care center and a young girl working there marked off that the baby had been removed from a transport van when, in fact, she had not. The baby succumbed to heat and died. The girl was charged with manslaughter, which carried a sentence of fifteen years to life.

The judge saw that the girl had an immaculate record, was a great student and was on her way to college. He took note of something that the father of the dead infant said during the trial. “Who will remember my daughter?” the father asked. The judge said that the girl is “no criminal,” sentenced her to two years probation and ordered her to create a permanent memorial to the lost infant. The parents approved of the sentence.

That, to me, is how justice should be served. No mistake, no matter how terrible, in and of itself should turn a person into a criminal and ruin their life.

What struck me more than the judge’s decision is that the parents not only approved the sentence but asked to meet with the girl to tell her that they “held no grudge.” Not only will the town remember the lost infant; those parents will remember their daughter, and their memory will not be discolored by anger and hatred. They may have helped the girl who cost their daughter her life, but they helped themselves to a far greater degree. They set themselves free.

Ted McLaughlin at Jobsanger made the comment that “far fewer people are interested in justice and far more people are interested in revenge.” I think he makes a good point, and in fact I suspect that a good many people do not know the difference. Our system of courts and law enforcement is not named the “Department of Revenge,” though, it is named the “Department of Justice.”

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Insanity of HCR

Somehow the “health care reform” discussion has come up again, possibly because of the nicely timed “rebate checks” which insurance companies are issuing at the height of the election season, and which return a small fraction of 1% of the cost of the premiums which people have paid but which are being hailed as some sort of major achievement.

Anyway, someone named Maggie Mahar wrote a piece of hyperventilation about the subject based on her background as an English Professor and a “financial journalist,” which tells us how the cost of health care will soon be plummeting to a mere shadow of its former self. To say that it did not convince me would be an understatement, but John Ballard at Newshoggers loved it. He quoted her piece and I added the emphasis,

The ACA told insurers that they would no longer be able to shun the sick by refusing to cover those suffering from pre-existing conditions. They also won’t be allowed to cap how much they will pay out to an desperately ill patient over the course of a year –or a lifetime. Perhaps most importantly, going forward, insurance companies selling policies to individuals and small companies will have to reimburse for all of the “essential benefits” outlined in the ACA–benefits that are not now covered by most policies. This means that, if they hope to stay in business, they will have to find a way to ”manage” the cost of care–but they won’t be able to do it by denying needed care.

Does no one realize how this defies reason? "The insurance companies must find a way to manage the cost of care." Somehow the responsibility of regulating the cost of treatment lies not with the companies providing the treatment and charging for it, but with the companies who are paying for the treatment. We say to the sellers, “Do anything you want and charge anything you want for it,” and to the buyers we say, “You are responsible for the rising costs, so bring those costs down. Bring down the costs that are being billed to you for procedures that you did not initiate.” In what universe does that make any sense?

John admitted that it was “counter-intuitive” but quoted further from Ms. Mahar to clarify why it all made sense.

As for providers, they, too, will be under pressure. A growing number will no longer be paid “fee for service” that rewards them for “volume”–i.e. “doing more.” Bonuses will depend on better outcomes, and keeping patients out of the hospital–which means doing a better job of managing chronic illnesses. Meanwhile, Medicare will be shaving 1% a year from annual increases in payments to hospitals. If medical centers want to stay in the black, they, too, will have to provide greater “value” for health care dollars– better outcomes at a lower cost.

Well, that just made the whole thing more ridiculous. If a provider is told he will not be paid for service, he will not provide service. To suggest that the provider will pull some magic pony out of his behind to find better and less expensive ways to "compete for the shrinking payment dollars" without reducing the services being rendered is the most wild eyed unicorn-seeking kind of fantasy.

Fee for service is not the curse that it is assumed to be. If the fee is based on diagnosis you are urging the provider to do as little as possible for the patient because the same fee is paid whether one service is rendered or fifty. The less the provider does the more money he makes. That is an utterly ridiculous model.

Would you go to a car mechanic and claim that he should charge one flat fee for any electrical system repair regardless of what he found to be wrong with it, what parts were required, or how long it took him to repair the problem? Of course not, but that is what these opponents of “fee for service” want to do to doctors. They want a doctor to bill a single fee regardless of how many times he sees the patient, how much time he spends each time, and how much time he spends studying reports and reviewing records on that patient’s behalf.

Would you go to your mechanic and ask him to make a repair on your car and tell him that he will not be paid when the repair is made, but only after you have driven the car a certain time and the repair has held up successfully, adding that if you run the car into a tree that’s his tough luck? That’s what these idiots want to do to doctors with this nonsense of “payment based on outcomes,” and “keeping patients out of hospitals.”

And then she adds that “Medicare will be shaving 1% a year from annual increases in payments.” How in the name of all that’s holy does that amount to “reducing the cost of health care” in this universe? If the $10.00 increase is cut to a $9.90 increase, that is still an increase in the cost of care, not a decrease. Only in the mind of an English Professor or an Obamabot could “shaving 1% from the increase” be considered a decrease.

John Ballard says that he “looks for the individual insurance market to blossom with more variants on HSAs and MSAs,” which actually means that he looks for health insurance to disappear altogether. Both of those plans involve money withheld form one’s paycheck and used to pay for health care, so all health care is paid out-of-pocket, but with pre-tax dollars. That’s fine for people who can afford it, but most people can’t.

I have had twelve strokes. Based on the "payment for outcomes model" my neurologist should not be paid for that kind of outcome, but I might very well have been killed by one of those strokes without his treatment. Based on the "payment by diagnosis model" he should be paid the same for treating me as for a person who has had one stroke. In either case, ridiculous.

The problem is not the “model” of payment, or health insurance procedures. The problem is a hospital that charges $5000 for one hour’s use of an operating room that costs it $1000 to run. It’s a surgeon who charges $500,000 for a procedure that takes him 90 minutes to perform. It’s the drug company that charges $500 for a pill that costs it $1.00 to make. It’s a lab that charges $13,000 for an MRI that costs it $1200 to perform. The “health care reform” act does nothing, absolutely nothing to address these issues.

In fact, "health care reform" went out of its way and made deals specifically to avoid dealing with these issues.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Distractions, Distractions

The biggest topic in liberal circles, actually two topics overlapping, are Mitt Romney’s wealth and increasing taxes on the rich. The latter is for the purpose of solving the budget deficit and resolving social ills which pervade this country due to the preciousness of income inequality. Presumably, taxing the rich with a 3.6% higher rate will impoverish them to a degree that will makes incomes sufficiently equal as to eliminate the social ills of income inequality.

The degree to which all of this is a distraction raised by the White House incumbent to avoid letting voters face the fact that he has not done, is not doing, and will not do anything for the poor slob who needs a job to feed his family escapes, of course, liberals of pretty much every stripe.

For one thing, the 3.6% tax rate increase on the rich will raise enough revenue to resolve about 1% of the deficit that this nation is running, and it will have essentially zero effect on the debt, so forget that. And “income inequality” is a long way from being the biggest problem this nation faces. Take the 10,000 largest incomes in this country and change them to zero, put those people on the street, and you still have 20 million people who don’t have jobs and 50 million whose jobs pay too little to live on. Make that 100,000 of the top incomes, make it one million, and you then have 21 million unemployed and 50 million underemployed.

The latest Gallup Poll examined what voters care about and taxing the rich is actually the last item on a long list; twelfth. Creating jobs is first, and reducing corruption in government is second; that’s reducing corruption in our government, not Afghanistan’s government. Income inequality is not even on the list.

We are talking about taxing the rich not because it has any real value, not because the average voter cares about it, but because Obama would rather talk about it than about things that really matter to this nation and that don’t make him look as good.

A little off topic, but interesting, is that in the partisan part of the poll the first priority for the next president, topping the Democratic list is “Making healthcare available and affordable.” It’s even more popular then “creating jobs.” What do they think that was that Congress fought about for an entire year in 2009-2010? Apparently a large number of Democrats share my opinion of Obama’s “signature accomplishment” in passing the “greatest piece of legislation in generations,” because they still think that what it purports to do is still in need of being done.

“…sounding brass; filled with noise and fury, signifying nothing.”

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Tax Cuts For Who?

In terms of who benefited from the Bush tax cuts, we need to recall that the lowest rate was reduced from 15% to 10% by that tax cut. Was this really a “tax cut for the rich” as advertised?.

An income of $8500 saw a tax bill of $1275 reduced to $850; 33%.

An income of $50,000 saw a tax bill of $10,588 reduced to $8530; 19%.

An income of $200,000 saw a tax bill of $60,051 reduced to $60,520; 16%.

A $500,000 income saw a tax bill of $175,670 reduced to $151761; 13%.

So who is the big gainer, someone whose tax was reduced by 33% or someone whose tax was reduced by 13%? The pattern is pretty clear; the larger your income, the smaller the percentage of your tax cut. But we refer to that as the “Bush tax cuts for the rich.” Context matters.

Cheerleading Danica

When NASCAR parachuted Katie Couric in to interview Danica Patrick, the interview was all about a woman trying to succeed in stock car racing. They failed to notice that, for that upcoming race that day, another woman had qualified for a better starting position that Danica. 18 year-old Johanna Long qualified 17th in an underfunded car, to Danica's 20th in one of the best funded teams in the Nationwide series.

When there is a wreck the team usually works furiously to repair the car and get it back on the track in order to salvage as many points as possible. After Danica's wreck her crew chief said on the team radio, "We're putting [the car] in the truck. We do stupid shit like that, we don't go back out."

Danica's side of the story was, "I got pretty close and I might have tapped him. I'm not sure. He was pretty ... like slowing it down quite a bit." So if he was slowing down, why didn't you, Danica? Actually, she more than merely "tapped" him. She pretty much ran over him.

Reminds me of a traffic accident where a lady pulled out of a stop sign in front of me and I hit her. She was the wife of one of my best customers, which turned out not to be a problem. His only response to me was, "Don't worry about it, I've ridden with her."

Anyway, she kept screaming at the cop that I was going too fast, and he asked if she saw me going too fast. She insisted, yes she has seen me going too fast. He finally asked her, "In that case, lady, why did you pull out in front of him?" She got a traffic ticket, I did not.

So I guess I finally made my snarky women driver remarks.

Cheerleading A Civil War

I’m not sure why CBS News thinks that the civil war in Syria is so important that it needs to run a lengthy segment on it every single night on its Evening News. The content is predictable; we will be told that Syria does not allow reporters to enter the country but that CBS has uniquely and fearlessly managed to risk the life of a intrepid reporter who is “with the valiant freedom fighters tonight.” After a reference to the “popular uprising against the Assad dictatorship,” we will be informed by interviews with sobbing and terrified civilians who are escaping from the areas ravaged by the savage government militias and army forces. We will be reminded that the rebels are armed only with rifles, while Assad’s forces have tanks, artillery and helicopters.

Several times per week we will be treated to a member of the government saying that “it is time for Assad to step down.” He’s hardly likely to do that under any circumstances, of course, but he certainly isn’t going to take that advice from our government, so…

Most of what you read in the American media is utter horse manure. I have been following the progress of this civil war at Sic Semper Tyrannis; reading the writing and comments of people who have served in that area for many years and who are not blinded by ideology. One commenter made some remark about troops “willing to fight for Assad,” and Colonel Lang replied,

This war is not about Bashar Assad's personal rule. It is a civil war between the more traditional Sunni Arabs, the Alawis, the Shia and the Christians and Sunni jihadis both home grown and foreign.

That sums up in a nutshell the confusing picture that is Syria. American media wants you to believe that Assad has no significant support within his population, but that is not only untrue, but the side fighting against what CBS News calls the “popular uprising” is a significant portion of the nation. If the rebels win then Christians, for instance, will be slaughtered, but it’s unclear that the rebels represent anything even close to a majority.

Reality: this is a distant civil war which has nothing to do with us.