Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tribalism, Part 2

Please don’t think that I consider myself some sort of superior being in my resistance to tribal thinking in politics. I attribute that to my father, who was a rather unusual man. We had our difficulties, but there was much that I admired about the guy, who was a physician, a career Air Force officer and an Episcopal priest. These were concurrent capacities, not sequential ones, and every time the Air Force transferred us he would find a new Episcopal parish in which to function, which he did very actively.

His military environment led to him being a Republican and fiscal conservative, but he was a humanist and was socially quite liberal. That meant that political discussions when I was growing up had real depth about the impact of one policy versus another. I tended to be a little more conservative than Dad overall, which made things interesting at times, but certainly did and still do believe in the maintenance of social safety nets to the degree that we can do so without interfering with national function.

He told me I had lost my mind when I first told him I was for Barry Goldwater, but by November he was intending to vote for him as well, which I believe he did. It was the first time I ever influenced the old man’s thinking in such a fashion and was a milestone in adulthood for me.

He and I agreed entirely about “the little man in the White House” who fired MacArthur, and we continued to agree that every president subsequent to him made Truman look better and better. The last two, including the current one, have made Truman look positively statuesque.

The point is that policies have to be thought through, and cannot be merely accepted or rejected based on a distorted view through the lens of political tribalism, and seemingly contradictory policies can frequently coexist harmoniously in government.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Silliness and Grandstanding

CBS Evening News did an "expanded coverage" of hurricane Sandy tonight, in which Scott Pelley was shown standing out on the shoreline braving the wind and surf for no discernable reason other than to be seen braving the wind and surf. He looked utterly ridiculous and less than halfway through the broadcast the storm cut off the feed and he was seen no more. Served the silly ass right, in my humble (?) opinion. Then, just to add to the inanity of the whole thing we heard from him on a garbled telephone connection giving us a brain dead description of waves breaking over the sea wall behind him. Good God.

Ideology or Tribalism?

Paul Pillar speaks of people grouping into political ideological patterns, “not because they are all going through the same coherent thought process -- or any coherent thought process. It is because they are taking cues from groups with which they identify.”

That strikes me as about right, given the number of “talking points” used by both political parties, and the commonality of arguments used by both sides even when those arguments are wrong; various arguments about Medicare for Republicans, for instance, or the endless claims by Democrats that Obama ended the war in Iraq.

“It is essentially a form of tribalism,” he says. “People identify with either the Republican tribe or the Democratic tribe and shape their views on matters of public policy accordingly.” He goes on to say that having adopted the main basis of the tribal position, the person then adheres to all positions advocated by that tribe and rejects all positions not advocated by the tribe, and does so pretty much without thinking about it.

The other thing it does is make them take an uncritical view of the leaders of the tribe, focusing on their good points and essentially blind to their bad points. They will read an article regarding that leader and will accept as entirely truthful anything that is said within the article is complimentary or worshipful in nature, no matter how badly it may be in conflict with the facts. At the same time, they will happily remain unmindful of any and all uncomplimentary facts about that leader, simply because the article is not mentioning them. When it comes to faults and bad actions about their leaders, ignorance is bliss.

A friend of mine sent me a reference to an editorial in the New Yorker Magazine. He is a very smart person, and he and I have had many enjoyable discussions. He has been as critical of some of the flaws of our present government as I have and I would not consider him to be a typical “Obamabot,” and yet he “highly recommended” the editorial. I found it to be a typical piece written by overly partisan liberal tribalist, misrepresenting Obama’s positions and his accomplishments.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—the $787-billion stimulus package—was well short of what some economists, including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, thought the crisis demanded. But it was larger in real dollars than any one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal measures.

Which is a completely useless and misleading fact. The New Deal was a comprehensive policy that included a panoply of measures and was, in total, vastly larger than the paltry half measure represented by Obama’s “stimulus” which constituted the entirety of his functional contribution toward recovery for the middle class and the poor in this nation.

His insistence on the pipe dream of "high speed rail" is a typical distortion of what was included in this act. A large amount of that money went for land acquisition, which provided no jobs at all, and another large portion included long range projects and is money which has not yet been spent even now. Our local paper just featured a another project of the act; military barracks being built on San Clemente Island, almost four years after the act, on an installation which has no permanent manning to use them.

Obama has, however, engaged in repeated and vastly larger measures which contributed to the recovery of Wall Street and corporatism, and under him the gap between rich and middle class has grown rather than shrunk.

Five Presidents since the end of the Second World War have tried to pass legislation that would insure universal access to medical care, but all were defeated by deeply entrenched opposition. Obama—bolstered by the political cunning of the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi—succeeded.

And there we have an utterly false statement. At best the act assures universal access to the ability to purchase health insurance, which is not even close to “universal access to medical care” which the author claims. In actuality it does not even do the former, since even the White House admits that it leaves some fifty million Americans uninsured.

By ending the military’s ban on the service of those who are openly gay, and by endorsing marriage equality, Obama, more than any previous President, has been a strong advocate of the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.

At best he provided tepid support for ending DADT. It was Congress that finally actually made the change, and it did so without any significant impetus from Obama, whose strongest statement was along the lines of “we will work to end DADT at the right time,” and he permitted the military to drag its feet for two full years on implementation of the change even after Congress passed its repeal.

He has finally, due to the pressure of a reelection campaign, admitted that he “believes in” gay marriage, but he has specifically not endorsed it as a matter of law and has made no claims that it should be made legal at the federal level. As a matter of fact he has said that it is a matter for “states to decide for themselves.”

In the modern era, we have had Presidents who were known to seduce interns (Kennedy and Clinton), talk to paintings (Nixon), and confuse movies with reality (Reagan). Obama’s restraint has largely served him, and the country, well.

He finally provided one with which I cannot argue. We do have a President who is morally sound, other than his fondness for Tuesday meetings in which he lists people to be killed without due process, and is not demonstrably insane. On the other hand, I don't think anyone has accused Romney of running around boinking his staff or has claimed that he talks to paintings, so I'm not sure what his point is here.

About the only thing that this piece of hackery does not claim for Obama is that he walks on water or that he ended the war in Iraq.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Cleveland. Are you kidding me? Cleveland, a 1-6 team ranked 29th in offense and 26th in defense and we cannot cross their goal line? Against Cleveland Philip Rivers has a 65 quarterback rating? Why does Norv Turner still have a job?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Local Paper

My wife has finally blown her stack over our local newspaper, saying that "one more stinking editorial" and she will cancel our subscription. I decided that was not really the moment to suggest that I might have some input into that decision, since I also live here and read the paper.

The paper used to be called the Union-Tribune, which might clue you in that it is the merger of the city's two major local papers. That was a long time ago, of course, and it has been a fairly miserable rag ever since that merger. Then Douglas Manchester bought it and renamed it the San Diego U-T, and the paper has become as ridiculous as the new name suggests.

Manchester is the guy whose hotels were boycotted by gay groups due to his vocal and monetary support of the infamous Proposition 8, and that may be among the least vile things this asshole has engaged in. He supports a new downtown stadium for the Chargers, of course, because he is the developer who would get to profit from it. Do I need to tell you the editorials about which my wife was blowing her stack were in praise of Romney and his ilk?

Fuzzy Math

A couple of periods ago there was a huge drop in the number of unemployement applications, one which dropped the unemploymnet number from 8.0% down to 7.8% but which turned out to be a reporting error. Seems that California didn't realize it was the end of the calendar quarter, or it calculates calendar quarters differently than the rest of the nation, or it just counts slowly... Anyway, it failed to report some 30,000 unemployment applications. Of course it was California's fault; everything is.

At any rate, California eventually reported those applications and the "anomalous number" (otherwise known as the "bullshit" number) was corrected, but a funny thing happened. The unemployment figure which was dropped by that "anomaly" was not corrected back upward along with the number of unemployed people, it remained at 7.8% instead.

So, if you have a truck with 100 apples and 40 of them fall out you have 60% of your apples remaining. If you put 20 apples back into your truck you still have only 60% of the original number of apples. Interesting math.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Paul Krugman Predicts

Paul Krugman should really stick to economics, where he at least can fall back on some educational credentials to back up his nonsense. When he gets into politics, as he does again today, the effect of his voice echoing around inside Obama’s backside is becoming a little bit tedious.

As with most Obamabots, he is running around in ever diminishing circles and about to disappear up his own ass over the polling which is increasingly not favoring Obama. He says there are “two basic approaches to election analysis,” one being “campaign reporter style” which he describes one way and I describe a bit differently, and the other being “poll based” which he doesn’t describe but which I describe the same way as the first.

I favor a third style which I call “figuring it out after it happens,” because the first two strike me as the equivalent of shoveling up what comes out of the south end of a northbound horse. That’s why I limit my television to things like “Modern Family” and “Parenthood.” If she dies of cancer, by the way, I’m going to go buy some playdoh from the FBI and blow up NBC.

Back to Krugman’s election diatribe. He says that the “impressionistic style” reporting is all about “Romney on the rise, a narrative that is to a large part being fed by the Romney campaign itself.” Apparently claiming that your candidate has a chance of winning constitutes a form of cheating now. Obama, of course, is not predicting his own victory, only Romney is doing that; or else both are doing it and the “impressionistic style” reporters are listening to Romney and ignoring Obama for reasons that Krugman does not explain in this column.

Intrade, which he quoted as a reliable source when it was predicting an Obama landslide is now less than reliable because “Romney supporters are trying to manipulate the results.” Notice that he doesn’t say they are succeeding in doing so, merely that they are trying. Intrade is located in Ireland, so it’s difficult to say what Romney supporters are doing that would influence Intrade, other than altering the election dynamic itself.

Krugman says that “by inclination” he trusts the nerds who are predicting an Obama win, but I suspect that “inclination” is born out of the fact that they are saying what he wants to hear.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Proposition 30

Paradox at The Left Coaster has a post Monday bitterly declaiming against Proposition 30 upon which, paradoxically, he says he will vote “yes.” He goes on to rant about how afraid Governor Brown is, although what Brown has to be afraid of is unclear since he certainly will not be running for reelection at the age of 90+.

Paradox despises the measure because of, “No extraction taxes on oil, minerals or natural gas. No Prop 13 reform so business can finally pay their way. Pathetic top-rate tinkering on the yacht club and regressive screwing of people who have nothing, this is what a timid Republican would do.”

He has a point on the first, although it would bring in only $1-4 billion of the $16 billion the state is short, and it has been put to the California voters twice and has been turned down twice. It has been turned down for all of the wrong reasons, but it would be a bit silly to assume that it will succeed on the third try when it has failed badly on the first two. There comes a time when you have to go with what you think can work.

I have no idea why he thinks that Prop 13 allows businesses to avoid “paying their way.” Commercial property is treated exactly the same as private property, and I’m not sure why he would think that businesses should pay a higher share of the cost of civilization than do citizens. There is a mania these days for making business pay more, as if that somehow avoids people from having to pay. That assumes that businesses don’t pass that increased cost on to the people who buy things from them, which is delusional.

Then he decries the “pathetic top-rate tinkering of the yacht club,” which is how he describes four new tax rates for upper incomes which raise taxes in those brackets by as much as four percentage points. I recall him waxing quite enthusiastic about Obama’s “tax the rich” plan that raised the top rate by just one percentage point, but Brown’s increase of four times that is “pathetic top-rate tinkering.”

The “screwing of people who have nothing” refers to the increase on sales tax by one fourth of one percent from 7.25% to 7.5% with food, medicine and services exempt. Without the exemptions I would be more in agreement with his argument, but…

Paradox’s arguments, as is common today, consists of “tax the rich, tax businesses, but don’t tax me.” The services provided by government, however, should not go to the rich, or to business but should go to

No on Proposition 30. It is a short term solution to a long term problem.

Tribalism Gone Nuts

Over at Democratic Underground there is a post asking if anyone knows of a "left leaning tree cutter." No, not someone who cuts trees that are leaning left, but a tree cutter who is planning to vote for Obama. The poster has a leaning dead tree that needs to be cut down and wants to "give the business to a like-minded person."

My reply, which you can read at the above link, will probably get me banned, which would not be a first for at that forum. If they remove it, which is very much a possibility since they do not like me very much there, I will add it to this post as an update. Those people are nuts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Comprehensive Strategy

Whether he meant it or not, and it’s entirely possible he did not, Romney said one thing in the “debate” last night that was extremely important and has been ignored in its entirety in all of the discussion that I have read so far. In talking of the threat of terrorism he said that, “We can't kill our way out of this mess. We're going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism.”

That's actually a pretty amazing statement coming from anyone.

He went on to describe, albeit very briefly, that such a policy would include economic development, including foreign aid and encouragement of direct investment, education. gender equality and the rule of law. President Obama appeared to listen to that, but didn't respond to it, changing the subject back to whether or not Al Qaida is a threat and charging Romney with verbal missteps in earlier speeches, and we had no more discussions about “comprehensive strategies,” economic development, or fostering education. gender equality or rule of law in the Middle East or elsewhere.

There has been considerable discussion, although it did not come up in this debate, about Obama’s use of drones an “an instrument of foreign policy” and I have many times heard the killing of Osama bin Laden referred to as Obama’s “biggest foreign policy triumph,” all of which sounds like Obama’s foreign policy is, indeed, “killing our way out of this mess” and is a policy which meets with the complete approval of both political tribes.

I’m not surprised that the moderator did not follow up on Romney’s rather startling suggestion of a “comprehensive strategy.” He is, after all, nothing more than a potted plant who is there merely to look at his watch and ask the prepared questions at the prepared intervals. He certainly is not supposed to listen to the answers, assuming that what the “debaters” say in response to the questions actually are answers.

I am a little surprised, although only a tiny bit so, that I am apparently the only one who noticed what Romney said. For me that one statement, all by itself, was the debate winner.

Thank God, No More Debates

One has to wonder how many “undecided voters” had their minds made up by that “debate” last night. I actually wonder how many “undecided voters” at this point are even capable of making up their minds, or even have minds. They will almost certainly go to the polls and pull a lever based on the most recent tv commercial they saw while watching “Two And A Half Men.”

Romney played the theme of aiming for “world peace through strength” while Obama led off by saying that he ended the war in Iraq. So one is modeling Reagan and the other is taking credit for the one positive gain made by Bush. Amusingly, Romney accused Obama of trying to keep troops in Iraq longer, and Obama claimed he had done nothing of the sort, once again screaming for transcripts (of what was unclear), and that it was Romney who’d said we should do that.

The moderator didn’t bail him out with any transcripts this time, and “fact checkers” always let that one slide, never mentioning that Obama removed the troops from Iraq on precisely the schedule set by George Bush before he left office, or that he tried to negotiate with al-Maliki for a SOFA to keep them there longer but failed. And, of course, he is negotiating with Karzai to keep troops in Afghanistan past 2014 as we speak.

Schieffer asked, “How do you see America’s role in the world?” and both Obama and Romney launched into a discussion of leading the way on climate change. Oh wait, that was a dream I had last week. I’m into irrational fantasy in my dreams.

Obama was quick with a lot of clever quips like, “1980 is calling and wants its foreign policy back,” which is a lot of fun and displays how witty he is, but doesn’t say much about his own foreign policy positions. Perhaps he thought he was still at the Adam Smith dinner. It was based on these put downs that claims are made that he won the debate, which would be valid if he were auditioning for the Comedy Club rather than for President of The United States of America.

For a debate that was supposed to be on foreign policy, there was a great deal of lengthy discussion on education, jobs, deficit and the debt which the potted plant who occasionally asked questions allowed to continue unabated. He did at one point observe that “we all love teachers” before asking the next question. Both guys know that, other than “who will be the biggest bad ass in the Middle East,” voters don’t give a damn about foreign policy and kept steering the discussion back to issues where they could score some of those lovely “undecided votes.”

News flash, your flapping gums aren’t going to do that at this point. Those “undecideds” are going to walk into the booth still undecided, and even after they vote they aren’t going to know why they voted for who they voted for.

Yes, I know who I’m going to vote for and it isn’t either one of these two power hungry idiots. I live in California, so my vote is irrelevant, but I’m voting for Rocky Anderson.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Order, Disorder

I’m not particularly knowledgeable on interstellar science; merely fascinated by the awesomely beautiful pictures that are the result. This article, however, is rather interesting, in its observation that galaxies go from being disordered masses of stars to gradually forming the orderly spiral discs such as our own Milky Way.

Parenthetically, the idea that we’re looking at something and seeing it as it looked eight billion years ago because it took that long for the image to reach us blows my mind. I get it, I understand the principle fully, but it still blows my mind.

The odd thing about that, to me, is that it seems to be opposite to the principle that most things in nature tend toward disorder. When you have things in nice neat orderly systems, they tend to naturally disintegrate rather than the reverse. Just look at the ancient ruins of Chaco Canyon, for instance, or try to build a stack of bowling balls.

But then you realize that our own Solar System coalesced out of a cloud of debris, so perhaps it’s a matter of scale. On a human scale, we are a pretty disorderly bunch (no question about that!), but gravitationally and cosmically the universe is highly orderly.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Football Weekend

Well, LSU won, but… Five turnovers should certainly lead to more than a five point win. That was embarrassing, the offense bordered on pathetic and the defense showed a startling lack of discipline despite pretty much shutting the Aggies offense down.

I’m not talking just about the penalties, either, although I would not suit up Reid next week after that cheap shot late hit on the Aggie receiver who did not catch the pass. That was bad sportsmanship and, on a failed third and sixteen, was unbelievably stupid. The whole defense showed a very undisciplined tendency to forget their assignments and go dashing toward the quarterback, forgetting that where the quarterback is now is not where he is going to be when you get there. He is going to be where you were supposed to be before you acted like an idiot and went dashing off in that feckless chase after him.

Sometimes the defense all “stayed home” and that was just a thing of beauty. The A&M offense just came apart like a cheap suit.

The offense was not helped by the play calling of the pinhead on the sidelines, either. Let’s open up the second half with three deep passes in a row. None of them were completed, of course, because if it is more than ten yards away from him Mettenberger cannot reliably hit the Goodyear blimp. Later, a couple of successful inside runs get the Tigers to the forty yard line so, of course, dimwit calls three more of them in succession which net zero yards and the result is a missed 50-yard field goal attempt. The man is a complete and utter moron.

Watching Florida destroy Steve Spurrier’s team was about as much fun as going to the hospital and getting an iced water enema. I hate Florida, and those silly ass fans waving their arms in the stands thinking they look like alligator jaws. They look like idiots.

Kansas State can flat play some football. There was nothing tricky or fancy about that; it was basic football and teamwork, executed with determination and skill, and was a joy to watch. Might they go against Alabama? They might, they just might.

NFL Prediction: Bye Week 24, Chargers 17

Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting Specific

Critics of Romney complain about the lack of specifics in his plans, so I went looking for the specifics of what Obama means by saying that a $716 billion Medicare reduction in his "health care reform" bill will be “borne by providers and will not be reductions in services.”

The big one appears to be an “annual downward adjustments in payments based on the growth in economy-wide productivity.” Otherwise known as the more that the auto industry builds cars using robots, the lower payments will be to medical providers for services rendered to sick people. That may make sense to some people, but the logic of it rather escapes me.

Even if the cuts were based on “productivity” (which means fewer people doing more work) within the medical industry, how is having fewer people taking care of you when you’re sick not regarded as a reduction in services?

It will, in any case, almost certainly meet the same fate as the “doc fix” legislation of 1997, which mandated reductions in payments to doctors but which Congress routinely “postpones” every year with the result that payments to doctors have not changed since the legislation was passed.

Then there are “financial penalties for hospitals with high readmission rates,” designed to reduce costs by keeping people out of hospitals. That’s not a reduction of services though, because… “That does look bad, but let’s not readmit him until it gets worse.” Because readmitting him increases the readmission rate and incurs a penalty. The patient died, but that’s okay because there’s no penalty for patients dying, only for being readmitted.

Then there are “accountable-care organizations, which award hospitals and physician groups a share of any savings they can produce by streamlining care and reducing unnecessary or wasteful services.”

Seriously? “Streamlining care” and eliminating what the organization arbitrarily decides are “unnecessary or wasteful services” does not result in a reduction of services? And you're going to give doctors and hospitals a kickback for the services they decide not to provide?

Sometimes you are really better off not providing the specifics of your plans.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Small Facts

In all of the fact checking that has been done on this debate, no one seems to have checked how many times the candidate actually answered the question. I didn’t keep track, but it would be well under half the time, because questions were universally used as launching pads for speeches on whatever topic popped into the candidate’s mind.

For instance the question about who declined the requests for additional security at Benghazi and why. If that question came from an “independent undecided” voter, then I retired from the Navy as an admiral. (I didn’t retire and I was one hell of a long way from admiral.) Obama had to be careful not to laugh out loud before launching into his speech about how tough he is on national security, which was at best marginally related to the question. He never mentioned requests for funding.

He included in his mishmash of sound bites about his accomplishments in office that, “I said I would end the war In Iraq and I ended it,” which none of the fact checkers thought was worth mentioning. Reality is, of course, that he withdrew the last of the troops from Iraq on precisely the schedule set earlier by George W. Bush, after attempting to delay that withdrawal and failing to be able to do so.

He said at one point that he could do something by “spending the money saved by ending wars,” another little treasure that the fact checkers left alone. When you quit doing something which you were paying for with borrowed money you do not have surplus cash in your pocket to spend on something else, you reduce your borrowing. This statement suggests that he thinks our $1 trillion deficit is the norm and should be maintained, and the only question is where and how we spend the money that we are borrowing, but at the same time he talks about reducing the deficit.

These are relatively small things, but there are two ways in which they matter. As Judge Judy says, when you lie about one thing, no matter how small, then I am no longer willing to believe anything that you say. The other is that he is displaying such a degree of contempt for the voters as to so transparently lie about such trivial issues. Any thinking, intelligent person can see through this nonsense, so clearly he does not want that kind of support; he is appealing only to unthinking tribal loyalty.

A Study In Contrast

I was replaying the Chargers game to verify a couple of impressions; one being that Norv Turner did not stop running Ryan Matthews in the second half, as claimed by a great many angry fans. He didn’t initially, but Matthews was having less success and did get his number called somewhat less often in the fourth quarter.

I continue to be unable to see what others claim for number 24. He looks to me like a decent running back, but nothing more than average. The “awesome” performances of the last two weeks have been 84 and 75 yards for the game, and both weeks have seen at least six other running backs gain more than 100 yards on the day. He has some size and speed, but not a remarkable degree of either, and the only time he can make sizeable runs downfield is when he breaks through the line untouched. A “great” running back needs to be able to retain or regain his balance and make big runs after bursting through the line with contact, and he seems unable to do that.

Anyway, what I noticed was a study in contrasts. When San Diego was leading 24-0 and the camera showed the Chargers on the sideline, Philip Rivers was laughing and joking; having a party with his teammates. After Payton Manning threw the go-ahead touchdown for Denver they showed him on the sideline and he wasn’t even smiling. His face was a study in intense concentration. His team had just come from a huge deficit to take the lead and his focus was clearly, “What do I need to do next?”

Therein lies the answer to the constant underperformance of the San Diego Chargers. Payton Manning is a professional football player. Philip Rivers and his team are a bunch of clowns.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

That Was Awesome

The Chargers held a 24-0 lead at halftime and gave up 35 unanswered points in the second half to lose 35-24 to Denver on national television. The ESPN announcers spent the first half swooning about the superb expertise and athletic skills of the players in powder blue, and in the second half were spending their time on the fainting couch over the incredible talent displayed by the players with the white jerseys. I saw no particularly high level of talent by either team and was more impressed by the buffoonery displayed first by one team and then by the other.

When a Denver player trips over the 45-yard line with no pretty powder blue jersey even in the picture, where is the talent and expertise? That pretty much summed up Denver’s play in the first half, and San Diego’s as well, as it illustrates how well they were covering receivers. Their pass coverage consisted of allowing the pass receivers to fall down. The most frequent line all night was, “Oh shit, was I supposed to cover that guy?”

It wasn’t so much that San Diego imploded in the second half, as that Denver unimploded. The Denver players quit tripping over the yard markers and Manning finally realized that his receivers were not wearing those lovely powder blue jerseys, but were the guys in the white ones. Perhaps Denver was just so dazzled by the loveliness of the San Diego powder blue uniforms that they spent the first half just looking at them and forgot that they needed to hit those uniforms instead of merely admiring them.

You may get the impression that I am not fond of San Diego’s powder blue uniforms, which ESPN calls “the best football uniform ever” and says should be worn by San Diego all the time. You would be right. I think it is a candy ass uniform, and that only the stupid aqua worn by Miami is worse. Real men don’t wear powder blue.

So how good is San Diego, at 3-3 going into the bye week? Well, the three teams we have beaten have a combined record of 4-13, so we aren’t exactly beating good teams. We lost to Atlanta, which is currently 6-0, so there’s no shame in that, but last week we gave up 17 unanswered points to lose to an 0-4 team and this week we gave up 35 unanswered points to lose to a 2-3 team. So, of our three losses, only one has been to a team with a winning record. Long story made short; we stink.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Liars and Obama

The liberal world is saying that Romney lied in the first debate, and I have no argument with that, he certainly did. Many are saying that he did nothing but lie and are claiming that President Obama was the very model of honesty and integrity, and I have a wee small problem with that. There is, for instance the $716 billion that “Obamacare” is eliminating from the Medicare program, which Obama claims is “cuts in payments to providers and not to services.”

Romney said this in the debate regarding that issue,
On Medicare, for current retirees, he's cutting $716 billion from the program. Now, he says by not overpaying hospitals and providers. Actually just going to them and saying, "We're going to reduce the rates you get paid across the board, everybody's going to get a lower rate." That's not just going after places where there's abuse. That's saying we're cutting the rates. Some 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won't take anymore Medicare patients under that scenario. We also have 50 percent of doctors who say they won't take more Medicare patients.

Do 15% of hospitals and 50% of doctors say they will opt out of Medicare under that scenario? I don’t know, but it would not surprise me in the least, and Obama’s claim that cutting payments to providers will not reduce services is absurd on the face of it. Has any for-profit business ever accepted a reduction in payment without reducing the product or service for which it is being paid? The idea is absolute nonsense.

Tell a construction supplier that you will only pay $600 for that truckload of gravel and not the $800 that he quoted. You will get a "truckload" of gravel, okay, but it won't be the eight cubic yards that you were expecting.

Obama supporters refute my argument by caliming that “negotiation” is done “all the time,” using the example that “many pharaceutical products are delivered for less money when negotiation which delivers mass customer base to the drug companies” or that Wal-Mart "negotiates" with its suppliers for reductions in costs.

Use your brain for something other than a button to keep your spine from unravelling, people, that is a reduction in unit price for the promise of a much larger volume of product, which results in a larger overall payment. Obama is talking about a smaller overall payment, and is not negotiating for anything. He is merely dictating lower overall payment for essentially the same amount of business on an individual supplier basis.

Back to my construction supplier. Tell him that you will pay him $600 per truckload for 200 truckloads and you will get full truckloads and very good service. But $600 for one truckload; not so much.

Do for-profit businesses accept a reduction in unit price in return for a large increase in volume of sales? Of course they do. But a reduction in overall payment for the same amount of business? Get real. Pull your heads back out into the sunshine.

As to doctors accepting Medicare; I needed to get a new primary care physician last month. I went to the one my neurologist referred me to and was told that she was not accepting any new patients. Only after telling me that did the receptionist ask who referred me and what insurance I had, and tell me that she would see what she could do. With the referral and the fact that I have private insurance, I was accepted as a new patient. Do you think I would have been accepted if I'd said I was on Medicare?

Snake Oil Salesman

Krugman is still on his “We should do deficit spending because borrowing costs are low” kick and in one of his posts today shows a chart illustrating the interest rates on 10-year government bonds in England and the US. They are currently, for all practical purposes, at 1.5% on these bonds. Lets assume that borrowing money merely because you can is, indeed, a valid theory for anyone over eighteen years old.

So our government sells $1 trillion in bonds this year and it’s a terrific bargain because we can use it to kill people all over the Middle East, making a lot of rich people richer in the process, and it only costs us $15 million per year in interest. That is a bargain indeed, because $15 million is barely more than a rounding error in terms of government spending.

But these are 10-year bonds, so what happens in 2022 when the holders want to cash them in? We have to cough up $1 trillion in addition to our current spending, which means that in the next ten years we will have to have revised our budget by $2 trillion. Not very likely, right?

So, no problem, we’ll sell some more 10-year bonds to pay off these, and that’s where Krugman’s “spend freely because borrowing is cheap” argument begins to break down. Will rates still be 1.5% ten years form now? I failed crystal ball in college, but I’m guessing that they will not. What if rates are 12% or so? Paying $15 million interest on that loan was no problem, but paying $120 million is a little different matter.

Krugman is like the mortgage broker in 2007, who talked you into a house that you could not afford but which had a low, low monthly payment by assuring you that you could refinance that 3% adjustable mortgage before the rate adjustment kicked in. We all know how that worked out, don’t we?

Not to mention that Paul Krugman claims to follow Keynes on economic theory, and that theory says that government does deficit spending in economic lean times, but that it pays that debt off in times of prosperity. Krugman not only fails to suggest the latter, he specifically claims that governments do not ever pay off debts. He has, instead, some rather odd theory about debt becoming an increasingly smaller and smaller fraction of GDP until it eventually vanishes.

So, even if the rate does stay low, debt accumulates. The $15 million that we are paying on the $1 trillion borrowed in 2012 adds to the $15 million for the $1 trillion borrowed in 2013 which adds to the… We are, in fact, still paying interest on the debt incurred to fight World War Two, and how many “seasons of prosperity” have we had since that war ended?

Krugman is right about borrowing being fairly cheap; interest expense for the federal government was only $360 billion this year. But the fact that it was $454 billion last year is proof that government debt is on an adjustable rate basis and a pretty good clue that rates might not stay that low.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

SEC Football

Oh my, I do love to watch SEC football. Looks like Les Miles and Zach Mettenberger both learned something from last week's loss to Florida, and last night's game was everything that it was expected to be. LSU is not going to move back up to #3, but it will gain ground and is back into contention for the SEC West. The Tigers have their work cut out for them, but... Their fate is in their own hands. Texas A&M is continuing to be a pleasant surprise. Sure it was not a ranked opponent, but still...

Saw most of the Kansas State game. As you may guess by my moniker here, I am no big fan of Silo Tech, but they are a tough team. Next week will be interesting, because... What the hell happened to West Virginia? I was watching other games and when I saw that on the crawler had to back the dvr up to be sure I had not read it wrong. That might put a little tingle in the Wildcats' spine.

Not overly surprised by Notre Dame over Stanford, since I remain of the opinion that the whole Pac 1012 is overrated. Quack, quack.

Yeah, I know, San Diego and all that. We have sun, beaches, blah, blah, blah. We have lots of good stuff including some college basketball, but we don't have college football.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Food Review

Open letter to Sammy's Woodfired Pizza and Grill in Mission Valley:

My wife and I have been enjoying dinner take out from your Mission Valley location at least once per month for quite a long time, and dining in with friends fairly often. The Shrimp Angel Hair and Grilled Chilled Vegetable Salad have been great favorites. Our most recent experience has brought that to a screeching halt.

Your revised dishes are a complete loser. The Shrimp Angel Hair is at best fodder, fit only to sustain life, assuming that it does not kill anyone who eats it. It looks and tastes like vomit. You did not put herbs in the sauce, you used the dirt they grew in. Unless starving to death, I would not walk across the street to eat it if you were serving it for free. The Grilled Chilled Vegetable Salad looks and tastes like something that should be fed to cattle, but only to beef cattle. That crap would sour the milk of any dairy cow that consumed it.

When you are changing the make up of dishes this radically you should at least change the name of them so that customers will not be expecting the usual delightful meal and lured into spending $43 for something that the average construction site food truck would be ashamed to serve. Major rip off. Shame on you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cool Date

Today is ten, eleven, twelve. It doesn't work the way Europeans do it, which is one of the advantages (today at least) of being an American. 10/11/12.

It doesn't take much to amuse me.

Fiscal Responsibility, Part 2

I get two letters a week from my credit union telling me that I am preapproved for a car loan of up to $50,000 at a mere 1.99% with nothing down. Are they kidding me? They have access to my banking records. I bought this car for about 20% of that much money, paid cash, and have owned it for eight years. My wife's car is older and was also not financed. We have a 30-year fixed on our house, which is held by this credit union. Our credit cards are with this credit union and have never incurred a penny in interest. We are by no means rich; we're thrifty.

Why are they wasting their money on this postage twice per week? Do we look like we're going to go out and buy a new car for $50,000 with nothing down and finance it for four years?

And, as a point of thinking, if I was in the lending business, I would not lend money to anyone who was stupid enough to do that. But that's just me.

Fiscal Responsibility

David Dayen makes a telling point at FDL News Desk regarding the Obama campaign commercial hitting back at Romney for the “Big Bird” remark. They want to attack Romney for cozying up to “Wall Street criminals” and so they list three such felons; Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay and Dennis Kozlowski. Not one of them was prosecuted by the Obama Department of Justice. Two were prosecuted by Bush, and Madoff was turned in by his son before Obama took office.

So when Obama wants to talk about convicted Wall Street criminals, he can’t name ones prosecuted during his own term in office because, even with the biggest financial collapse in almost a century to work with and fraud at a scope never before seen in history, his administration has not prosecuted one single Wall Streeter.

So what this ad actually points out is that George W. Bush, whom Obama is blaming for our current economic disaster, did prosecute and punish financial fraud while Obama, who is dealing with the consequences of that disaster, does not prosecute and punish financial fraud. Which one is the “fiscally irresponsible” party?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

NFL Pink Month

I was actually afraid to post this for fear of being attacked as some sort of misogynist jerk, but I find the NFL’s “pink month," with players wearing the fluorescent socks, gloves, towels and what have you, for the Susan G. Komen corporation breast cancer “awareness,” seriously annoying. I think we’re already pretty well aware of breast cancer by now.

Then I was referred to this breast cancer survivor who is even more annoyed by the whole “pink month thing” than I am, and there are a dozen or more comments following her post of fellow cancer survivors who agreed whole heartedly with her. Read her article; she’s a nice lady. It struck a sympathetic note for me, in that I have Parkinson’s Disease, and I have no more desire to make a career out of that issue than those ladies do to put on pink tee shirts and join a parade. I have a life, and it isn’t about what cells my brain may or may not be producing.

Back to the NFL, it occurs to me to wonder, what color does the NFL wear for Leukemia, and in what month does it wear that color? What color does the NFL wear for ALS, and in what month does it wear that color? It only sponsors cancer "awareness," and only one form of cancer; that which is specific, essentially, to women.

Magnanimous? I think not. The NFL is pandering to a specific demographic in order to secure and expand its female fan base, and exploiting women in the process. I actually respect those players who choose not to go along. Real football players don’t wear pink.

Gasoline War: People Lose

Oil companies have long been a favorite political target, condemned by quoting their profits only as large numbers out of context and for the essentially irrelevant subsidies they receive from the federal government. The very first post I wrote on this blog was a dissertation on the folly of such scape goat tactics and the relatively modest profit margins that are actually made by oil companies.

When they use “supply and demand” as an explanation for skyrocketing gasoline prices, though, as they are currently doing here in California, I will join the critics in calling bullshit on them. Every time the price of gasoline goes up we are told that it is “due to a shortage,” or is caused by the “law of supply and demand” and we calmly go along. In this case, one California refinery experienced a fire and another was shut down due to a power failure, and so gasoline shot up to an average of $4.72 in a matter of days.

Nonsense. For one thing the refinery fire was in early August, so let’s not be using it as an excuse for prices that shot up in October. That’s like going to the hospital with a broken leg and claiming that it happened in a car crash three months ago. A story like that is going to have the ER doctors calling the police. Or the guys with white coats.

The larger point is, though, that the fact that you are making less gasoline does not mean that it costs more for you to make it. A shortage allows you to raise prices, it does not require you to do so. It is greed which is the cause of the increase, not the shortage. It would be entirely economically feasible for gasoline to be in short supply and remain exactly the same price if greed did not lead to producers charging more for it simply because the shortage allowed them to make more profit by doing so.

The governor’s solution is not to clamp down on pricing and immoral profit, but to allow the sale of “winter blend,” which the oil companies already have in stock, early in the season, proving that he’s bought into the “shortage pricing” lie. It also allows them to restart the two refineries on the winter blend rather than restarting with summer blend and making the conversion on schedule. Despite a slight decrease in gas prices which will result, this is a win for everyone except the consumer.

Anyway, high gas prices are due to profiteering, not “supply and demand.”

Monday, October 08, 2012

Chargers Fail

The Chargers are probably going to win our division by default simply because nobody, including the Chargers, wants to win it. Losing last night to an 0-4 team was a bit beyond embarrassing, especially after being in command of the game for the first 40 minutes but leading by only ten points and having second and goal at the two but scoring only a field goal.

Charger fans are wailing about the officials, apparently forgetting that the replacements are gone and these are the regular guys. The post game show analysts in San Diego harped endlessly about the call for roughing the passer that reversed an interception but, as Norv Turner properly pointed out, the officials don’t call based on intent. Not to mention that Ingraham led with his helmet and, given that fact, it doesn’t matter where he hit Brees. You can’t hit an opponent leading with your helmet, period. It was a perfectly good call.

Charger fans are also whooping it up about the “awesome performance" of Ryan Mathews who ran for 80 yards in the game. Yes, 80 yards is apparently an “awesome performance” for Charger fans now that Ladanian Tomlinson, who used to average 95 yards per game, is gone.

Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants ran for 200 yards yesterday, and a total of seven running backs gained more than 100 yards on the day. Frank Gore gained 106 yards as part of San Francisco’s team total of more than 300 yards rushing on the day. Mathews ran for 80 yards out of the team total of 117 yards and Chargers fans are excited. Please note that five running backs outgained our entire team.

Perhaps the “awesomeness” of the performance by Mathews is that he didn’t fumble. It doesn’t take much to excite San Diego fans these days.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

LSU Fail

And to Florida. Could have been worse, I guess; could have been Alabama.

The defense ran out of depth on the bench, and the offense didn't help their cause by not converting on third down until the fourth quarter. I blame that more on the coach than I do the players, though. I have never considered Les Miles to be any sort of play calling genius, but that was ridiculous. I have a nine year old grand niece who could call plays better than that, and she plays soccor.

Given the quarterback, calling a rollout on second and goal was rather questionable in and of itself, but to do so and only send a single receiver that direction so that when that one receiver is tackled the end zone is empty on that side of the field... What genius called that work of art? Oh yes, the grass eater over there on the sideline.

As the announcers kept saying of Florida's offensive play calling in the second half, "make your opponent's defense think." Les Miles didn't even make his own offense think. This week may be the most angry that I have ever been at that clown, even more so than when he failed to put Jarret Lee into last season's BCS title game.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Employment Wierdness

The “Establishment Data” portion of the September report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the economy created 114,000 new jobs. The “Household Data” says that the labor force increased by 418,000, which would seem to hint that unemployment would be increased, but it also says that unemployment decreased from 8.1% to 7.8% during the month. Odd.

When 418,000 new workers share 114,000 new jobs, unemployment drops?

Even more strange is that the Household Data says that employed workers increased by a whopping 873,000 in September. Interestingly, the media is not quoting this number, probably because nobody believes it, even though it is this number upon which the much touted drop to 7.8% unemployment is based. Usually the drop in unemployment is based on workers dropping out of the work force but, oddly, that number is not reported for September. Perhaps they are reporting them as “employed” instead.

These are “seasonally adjusted” numbers, remember, and nobody knows how these seasonal adjustments are arrived at. It's a secret formula known only to the BLS. I am beginning to believe the “seasons” upon which the adjustments are based have nothing to do with the Julian calendar, but are based on how many months until the election.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

I Don't Have Much

I don’t know why anyone is surprised that Obama appeared listless and displayed a passive demeanor in the debate last night, since that is invariably the way he appears when speaking without a prepared and well rehearsed speech. He gives a hell of a campaign speech, when he is fully engaged with the audience, but when speaking extemporaneously or when explaining policy he is far too engaged within his own head.

The “fact checking” seems to be a bit slanted toward Obama, for instance on the claims about the Romney statement that Obama's health care law cuts $716 billion from Medicare which will hurt current beneficiaries. Obama supporters, and the “fact checkers,” claim that the health care law will “limit payments to health care providers and insurers as part of an effort to rein in costs over the course of the next decade,” and are not cuts to senior citizens' benefits.

Seriously? Does anyone think that providers will accept $716 billion in reduced payments without reducing the degree of services provided? What planet are they living on? Try telling a gravel supplier that you will only pay $600 for the truckload of gravel instead of the $900 that he quoted, and see how much gravel he delivers. It will be a “truckload,” but it won’t be the nine cubic yards you were expecting.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, even when it’s a Democrat who is promising it to you. "We're going to pay less and get the same services," and you believe that, why? Because it's Obama saying it to you?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Five Things

The writers at Tom Dispatch usually provide thoughtful and meaningful discussion on topics of the day, but the other day Mattea Kramer wrote on five things that won’t be discussed in this election cycle and why they matter in the future of this nation. At least two of them actually are being discussed, Medicare and deficit reduction, and she has some rather odd ideas as to why they matter.

1. Immediate deficit reduction will wipe out any hope of economic recovery: is her first point and she might be more accurate had she used the word “immediate” twice, the second time being just before “recovery.”

“When the government cuts spending,” she says, “it lays off workers and cancels orders for all sorts of goods and services that would generate income for companies in the private sector. Those companies, in turn, lay off workers, and the negative effects ripple through the economy.”

This is the standard pablum of speakers who argue against reducing military spending, but I have argued that the purpose of the military is to defend against foreign enemies, not to provide civilian jobs. Likewise, the function of our government is to govern, not to provide direct employment of the civilian labor force. In the first level of employment that Ms. Kramer applauds, where does the government get the money with which it pays the salaries of those workers? Right, it gets it from that second level of workers who are employed by businesses other than the government. Sooner or later, the private sector must be weaned off of the government teat, and the longer it takes for that to happen the harder that process becomes.

2. Taxes are at their lowest point in more than half a century, preventing investment in and the maintenance of America’s most basic resources: and on this one I agree entirely. Politicians on both sides have been pandering to the self indulgence of a lazy and greedy American public with endless and self destructive tax cuts and this fiscal irresponsibility has led to a position which becomes ever more painful in recovery. And still this campaign is one of even more tax cuts and a circular firing squad of blame for “overspending.”

3. Neither the status quo nor a voucher system will protect Medicare (or any other kind of health care) in the long run: which is another issue that actually is being discussed.

She’s probably right on the point she makes, but then she says that, “Medicare could be significantly protected by cutting out waste. Our health system is riddled with unnecessary tests and procedures…” and goes on to blame complexity and overuse for the cost of health care, which is utter nonsense. The cost of health care is due entirely to the for-profit model of health care delivery and the government’s unwillingness to regulate that industry to even the most miniscule degree. The monetary abuses within the health care delivery industry simply stagger the imagination, and the government is fully complicit in all of them.

4. The U.S. military is outrageously expensive and yet poorly tailored to the actual threats to U.S. national security: and the only argument I have with that is that there actually are no threats to U.S. national security.

5. The U.S. education system is what made this country prosperous in the twentieth century -- but no longer: a point which is sheer idiocy.

What made this country prosperous in the twentieth century was first and foremost that we were the last man standing after World War Two, and second that we developed a robust and effect labor movement which protected the well being of the American worker. Certainly the GI Bill and our education system made a difference and I would not argue that our education system has not deteriorated, but to think that we will regain prosperity by sending everyone to college is absurd.

Obama’s premise that “the jobs of the future require a college education” envisions a future in which everyone is sitting at a computer processing data and manipulating financial resources and where all the goods and services somehow magically happen without human intervention. Garbage picks itself up, foodstuffs pick themselves at farms and transport themselves to… Delusion.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Krugman's Referendum

Paul Krugman has an editorial today in the New York Times in which he says that this year’s election is a referendum; not as profound a statement as he thinks it is since, by definition, every election is a referendum. He says that voters are “being asked to deliver a verdict on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare…” To the extent that he may be right is the extent to which this nation has lost any sense of principle and has sunk into a quagmire of self interest, because the referendum he poses is “what is the government going to give me?”

The debate which is not being held is “should this be a nation which takes a person’s liberty from them, or their life, without due process of law?” We do not even debate that. Our president has ordered that these things be done, and we accept it despite the fact that out nation’s constitution expressly forbids it.

Another debate which is not being held is to ask if this nation should have the world’s largest military, a military stationed in every corner of the world, and be a nation perpetually at war? We actively support that status, despite the fact that our nation’s constitution expressly forbids the formation of a permanent standing army.

We are, in this election, not discussing our wars abroad, the state of our military empire, or the death and destruction that we impose daily in nations overseas. We are not discussing the constant abrogation of the mandates of our constitution. These are mere principles, and principles mean little or nothing to us. Instead we are discussing what the government is going to provide in the way of benefits to us. We demand that our government spend money which it does not collect in the form of taxes to provide to us the comforts of healthcare, infrastructure, and pensions.

And it's all good because, Paul Krugman tells us, "borrowing costs are at historic lows." Having what you cannot pay for is good merely because debt is cheap. (And governments never repay debts.)

2000 men and women are dead in Afghanistan, 4500 in the sands of Iraq. Did they die so the Sally and Fred could have good jobs? Did they die to protect Johhny's pension? What they thought they were protecting, what they swore an oath to protect, was the constitution of these United States, and we blithely overlook the violation of that document every day and discuss what Obama has done to cut taxes and provide comfort. We dishonor their deaths every day with this campaign of selfishness.

Bread and circuses. An empire rotting from within.