Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Molly Taking Medicine

This totally cracks me up.

Two Sided Mouth

From whitehouse.gov we can read the anticipated impact of failing to extend the program of extended unemployment benefits: 1.3 million people currently receiving those benefits will lose them, and 3.6 million additional people who will become eligible for benefits during 2014 will lose them.

That paints a pretty bleak picture of 2014 employment, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t that make him sound like something of a liar when he goes around the country trumpeting about how well the economy is recovering? Doesn’t that make his words ring a little hollow when he prates about all of the jobs that are springing up? Does anyone believe him when he tells us what a good job the Democrats are doing?

Don’t get me wrong; I favor extending the program, precisely because the real economy is not improving. Jobs are not being created as fast as the Bureau of Lies and Stupidity claims they are, and certainly not fast enough to restore financial stability for the middle working class, and working class wages are still declining.

What I’m pointing out is that Obama is talking out of two sides of his mouth. His is promoting the extension of a program whose purpose is to support an economic emergency while claiming that there is no economic emergency. He is promoting a program to alleviate a suffering economy while claiming that the economy has regained a solid footing. If what one side of his mouth is saying was the truth, the other side of his mouth would have to remain silent.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Between The Lines

There was an interesting juxtaposition of headlines in an online news medium today, a set of articles which rather spells out just how feckless the media and the public are in this nation.

First was an article by Rebecca Solnit headlined, “2013’s unexpected lesson: Hope isn’t dead.” It was accompanied by a picture of President Obama, so I was able to surmise it’s content and did not bother to read it. Put hope in one hand an have your dog poop in the other one, and see which one fills up first. That sounds cynical, but the subsequent headlines rather proved my point.

The next headline was “Holidays marked by drone strikes.” What better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than to go out and slaughter a bunch of Muslims? While vacationing in Hawaii, no less.

Following that was, “Egypt government declares Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.” This is the government which we referred to as a “coup” taking over “the first democratically elected government in Egypt.” Having condemned said “coup,” we are sending it great piles of military aid and standing mute as it declares that the democratically elected government it deposed is a bunch of terrorists that need to be imprisoned without trial. Yes, hope is not dead, but hope for what?

Finally was “US quietly rushes drones, missiles to Iraq.” This is how we restore peace to a country which is increasingly torn by violence and strife; send the wherewithal to create additional violence.

The last one is particularly priceless, because the subhead is that we are sending “Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones” to Iraq at the request of the peaceful and comprehensively democratic leader, Nuri al-Maliki.

Not to mention that in Iraq wwe are supporting a Shiite government to suppress the Sunni rebels, while in Syria we are supporting the Sunni rebels to overthrow a Shiite government.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fruitcake and Spam

Everyone buys fruitcake and gives it as gifts at Christmas. Some people spend hours in the kitchen making fruitcake from scratch and give it as gifts at Christmas. That became known to me only recently when I saw a recipe for fruitcake on the Internet, which is one of the downfalls of the Internet. I had nightmares for weeks. Anyway, nobody eats fruitcake. Some people drill it to attach a chain and use it as a boat anchor, but nobody eats it.

One guy that I read regularly posted his own family recipe for fruitcake. I’m still shuddering. He says that he has some that was made ten years ago and is “still delicious.” I have no trouble believing that it is still as delicious as it was ten years ago, but that’s not necessarily saying much.

Other than in Hawaii, nobody eats Spam, either. People make jokes about it, and Hormel has a recipe contest for it every year, but the recipes are bogus because nobody ever eats it outside of one state.

And the US Navy Submarine Service. Or at least they did fifty years ago, much to the loudly vocalized disgust of the crew. We had fresh stores for about three weeks at sea, and then it was what was called “sea stores,” and the meat was bologna and Spam. For some reason, bologna was fairly well accepted, but Spam was a different story. We only had one cook, since diesel boats are pretty small ships, and he took a great deal of abuse every time he served Spam.

As did I, because I liked Spam, and still do. When Spam was on the table I would declaim, “Oh good, Spam for dinner,” which would be met with catcalls and cries of, “Kill that moron.” Fortunately, the ship was always short of electricians, so killing that moron wasn’t feasible.

I still like Spam, but not fruitcake.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Slow Season

Preoccupied with seasonal things, football games being among them, to care much what the idiots in Washington are doing. Did notice a few things that amused me or lightened my day.

A newspaper ad that starts with, "How to get rid of burning, itching feet." Somehow, I don't think they are offering what it sounds like they are offering. I certainly hope they aren't.

Dan Fouts may have been paying more attention to football that to English classes when he was in college. He observed during the Denver/Houston game that a receiver "never lost possession of the ball while it was in his hands." I believe that having the ball in one's hands actually defines possession, so Fouts was rather stating the obvious.

Payton Manning was asked about his record 51 touchdown passes in a single season and replied, "I really think it's a team record because there are guys out there catching those passes." The man defines class.

Officiating in the NFL is becoming farcial. The hit was to the chin using the helmet so, yes, it was a penalty, but "the punter is defenseless throughout the down" is he? As one analyst said, then he should punt the ball and run off the field. He has no business running downfield with football players.

And I can see ruling the Raider's catch an incomplete pass in realtime, but when the coach challenged it and replay showed that he caught the ball at the four yard line, carried it three steps into the end zone, fell down with it, and then a Charger ripped it out of his hands after he was down and they still called it an incomplete pass... They are idiots.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Unequal Branches

We have yet another rule change on “health care reform” this week, this one being that people who had their health insurance policies cancelled are exempted from being reqiuired to carry health insurance next year. This is the most recent in a long list of changes made by executive order to this legislation, to a law passed by Congress.

Apparently laws passed by Congress are now interpreted by our executive branch as merely suggestions, which it can execute or waive in accordance with its latest whim. Not content with mere “signing statements” used by his predecessor, Obama writes executive orders actually changing the substance of laws passed by Congress and no one blinks.

There was significant objection when Bush used signing statements to the effect that he would not enforce as passed certain portions of laws that he was signing into law, but there is no objection at all when Obama writes executive orders which entirely change the substance of portions of laws passed by Congress and which he has earlier signed into law. The infamous, “It’s okay when a Democrat does it.”

If part of the “Affordable Care Act” as passed by Congress is making Democrats look bad Obama can just change that law as needed to suit the public relations needs of the Democratic Party. Maybe that’s why we call it “Obamacare” rather than the name that was on the act passed by Congress. It isn’t really a law, you see, because Congress no longer has any real power in our government. All it can do is make suggestions, which the executive branch can either accept or ignore as it sees fit.

The article points out that, “…in October 2011, the administration scrapped a long-term care insurance program created by the new law, saying it was too costly and would not work.” It was the will of Congress that this program would be included in the reform, and when Obama’s staff decided that “it was too costly and would not work” Obama did not go back to Congress and ask them to remove it, he simply removed it by executive order. There has been no objection by Congress to him changing the law passed by Congress, no comment by the media, and no outcry by constitutional scholars or lawyers.

It is simply accepted fact that the executive and legislative branches of our government are no longer equal, as they were created by the constitution; that Congress is subordinate to the executive.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Food? Section, Sports?

The San Diego paper's Food Section has deteriorated into complete uselessness now, featuring recipes for Holiday Chili-Lime Fruit Salad and Glazed Medjool Date and Meyer Lemon Scones. Nothing wrong with fruit salad, and my wife is very fond of scones, but let's try for some small degree of sanity in the ingredients.

And why are the sports writers still putting the words "Chargers" and "playoffs" in the same sentence?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wives Can Confuse You

My auto license expires in February, and the state sends a renewal notice about four months before the expiration, so I went ahead and renewed this month. My wife is amazed by the fact that for most of 2014 my car will be running around with a 2015 sticker on it. She finds that amazing and difficult to understand. It did not bother her at all that for most of 2013 it was running around with a 2014 sticker on it, or that in 2012 it had a 2013 sticker...

For the sake of comity in the household I agreed with her that it was very strange. Husbands do things like that.

"Young White Males"

Piers Morgan was holding a discussion with a psychiatrist last night on the subject of school shootings. Morgan was, as usual, blaming the guns, saying that if we didn‘t have guns young white males wouldn’t go crazy because “it is always young white males between the ages of 18 and 24” and it is the gun culture that causes young white males to go crazy.

The psychiatrist to some degree in agreement but was trying to make the point that there is a bit more to it than that, such as teaching our young to accept disappointment and how to be resilient. Morgan was having none of it, repeatedly insisting that guns cause young white males to go crazy. When the psychiatrist spoke of the “black culture which teaches that a gun is a necessary fixture for being a man,” Morgan got all huffy and said that “this is not about the black culture, is it” because the shootings are always done by young white males.

The psychiatrist finally got tired of Morgan’s idiocy and told him that the shootings covered by the media were always young white males, but that he was certain that as many or more shootings occurred in black schools and were not covered because “the white-controlled media does not care what happens in black schools.”

Piers Morgan should have slinked off of the set in abject mortification, but of course was unfazed by having been made to look like a complete idiot. Being an idiot is a natural state for him, so he merely proceeded with the discussion, but he did quit prattling about “young white males.”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sweet Weekend

The Chargers beat the Broncos. Navy made it twelve straight over Army (note heading above). The New Orleans Criminals lost. Eli Manning not only lost, he was shut out, had five interceptions and finished with a 31.9 quarterback rating. And Miami beat the New England Patriots.

We will not talk about what Denver did to my fantasy football team.

Funky Math

An obscure (to me) blog wrote Monday of a “mysterious law that predicts the size of the world’s largest cities,” called “Zipf’s Law.” Apparently, this guy Zipf was a linguist who discovered this “law” with respect to word usage, and has since discovered that it is pretty much universal. With respect to cities, it means that a nation’s largest city is twice as large as the second largest, the second is twice as large as the third largest, and so on.

Just take a look at the top ranked cities in the United States by population. In the 2010 census, the biggest city in the U.S., New York, had a population of 8,175,133. Los Angeles, ranked number 2, had a population of 3,792,621. And the cities in the next three ranks, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia, clock in at 2,695,598, 2,100,263 and 1,526,006 respectively. You can see that obviously the numbers aren't exact, but looked at statistically, they are remarkably consistent with Zipf's predictions.

To say that “the numbers aren’t exact” is more than a little bit of an understatement, and to say that “they are remarkably consistent with Zipf's predictions” is nothing short of delusional. At my first casual glance I saw two cities which are essentially the same size.

The first one works reasonably okay; Los Angeles at 3,792,621 is at least within hand grenade distance of the 4,087,566 which would be half of New York’s 8,175,133.

But half of Los Angeles is 1,896,310 and that is a lot closer to #4 Houston than it is #3 Chicago, smaller than either one of them, and it’s getting pretty close to #5 Philadelphia. We only had one step in Mr. Zipf’s putative “law” before things went to shit, and the author of this piece didn’t notice.

And it gets worse; much worse. Half of #3 Chicago would be 1,347,799, which is nowhere even close to #4 Houston. In fact, Chicago and Houston are for all practical purposes about the same size. Half of #3 Chicago is significantly smaller than #5 Philadelphia.

For Zipf’s law to be true, Los Angeles would have a population of 4,087,566 rather than 3,792,621, and we will quickly see even larger divergence between Mr. Zipf and reality. Chicago would lose almost a quarter of its population, dropping to 2,043,783 from 2,695,598. Houston would shrink by half to 1,021,891 from 2,100,263 and Philadelphia would diminish to 510,945, one-third of it’s present 1,526,006.

China, it turns out, has one city at 44 million, one at 27 million, one at 19 million, and then a whole bunch at around 10 million. Brazil has one city at 11 million, one at 6 million and then a whole bunch are around 2 million. Argentina kind of breaks the series with one city at 3 million and several at right around 1 million. France really screws it up with one city at 12 million, the next largest at 2 million and the third at 1.7 million.

Hard do decide which is nuttier; Zipf or the writer of this piece.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Democrats and Populist Causes

If any event ever disproved the liberal position that electing Democrats is necessary, or even valuable, for the populist cause, this new budget deal should certainly do the job. It won’t, of course, because liberals hold fast to the position that “my mind is made up so don’t confuse me with any facts.” They also steadfastly focus on what Democrats promise and staunchly ignore what they actually do in office.

Neither side will mind the fiction, to repeat myself, that this budget is a false pretense; promising to do something in ten years while being only a two year deal. Nor will they mind that it doesn't even actually do what it proclaims to do; actually reduce the deficit to any meaningful degree. It actually replaces a $6.3 billion deficit reduction with a $2.3 billion reduction, which looks like a $4.0 billion increase to me. Even if you ignore reality and accept the $2.3 billion reduction; the CBO estimates the deficit to be $6.3 trillion over the next ten years, so that $2.3 billion amounts to a reduction of one third of one percent.

If I tell a prospective client that I am going to solve one third of one percent of his problem, and that I am going to take ten years to do it, he is going to tell me to take a long walk on a short pier. But I’ve covered all that before; back to Democrats and their claims to populism.

Democrats should be the ones screaming about the horrors of this budget deal, but other than a few mild squeaks about the failure to extend jobless benefits they ate not objecting to it at all. Rather than mild objections, they should refuse to accept a budget that did not include an extension of unemployment benefits, and that’s just the starting point. This entire budget is supported on the backs of the working class and gives an entirely free ride to the oligarchy.

Revenue increases are not in the form of a more progressive income tax, which certainly should be the case, but are in the form of “user fees” which will fall heavily on the working class. You will, for instance, pay a higher fee for the privilege of being groped by a uniformed thug at the airport every time you take the kids to visit Grandma. Government workers will pay a higher fee for their pension, and that is not a higher contribution which they will get back when they retire, that is a higher fee for the same retirement benefit. Many of our military retirees will have their cost of living adjustments reduced.

Democrats are saying they will get the unemployment benefits done at a later date, but it obviously will be a lot harder to do that as an “off budget” item. Not to mention that Obama promised to eliminate the “off budget” spending that Bush made so common.

Is there any evidence in this budget that Democrats are standing up for the working class? There is not, because they are not doing so.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bipartisanship, or Something

Today’s media will become rapturous over pretty much any line of bullshit that is fed to it by the power structure these days. A two-year budget that reduces the deficit by $2.3 billion in ten years, we are told by pundits and the media, is a “triumph of bipartisanship.”

Really? For one thing, a two-year budget can’t do anything in ten years; it’s a two-year budget, not a ten-year budget. At best, it reduces the deficit by $460 million in two years, and $460 million is pocket change. I’m not all that concerned about that; we need to balance the budget eventually, but I’m not one who thinks that there is critical urgency about when we do that.

Politicians are, of course, trying to have their cake and eat it too. Reducing the deficit becomes a priority when the economy improves. Politicians cannot admit that it is not improving, which would allow them to continue the deficit spending, so they crow about how much the economy is improving and give us a lot of bullshit about how they are reducing the deficit by billions (well, two billion), hoping we won’t notice the fiction of the reduction being over ten years while the budget is only two years, and that we will fall for the big number (semi-big number) and not notice that the reduction is less than one percent.

And the only thing bipartisan about this steaming pile of dog crap is that both parties looked at the calendar and realized that it is time to go home for Christmas. They bipartisanly agreed that they did not want to spend Christmas in Washington engaging in another futile exercise of shutting down the government, so they bipartisanly agreed to put a bunch of bogus numbers on paper, bipartisanly label it a “budget,” and bipartisanly ram it through both houses of Congress.

A successful compromise is when neither side likes the result. Right.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Football Musings

How about Auburn? Unranked at the beginning of the season, and then knocking off Alabama and winning the SEC championship with a first-year head coach. Grit. One has to think they can run the ball on FSU and win the national title.

The Chargers won, and it was Eli Manning they beat. Should have been exciting, but since there was never any actual competition I kept falling asleep. The Giants won five of their last six games playing like that? Then I looked up to see who they beat. Oh, yes, that explains it. No wonder the Chargers won.

Head coach Mike McCoy, whose name I keep forgetting and having to look up, says we are going to beat Denver on Thursday. With Payton Manning against the league’s 28th passing defense, I don’t think so.

Philip Rivers is not a fan of the “time of possession” thing; he just wants to get the ball down the field and score. The game between the New Orleans Criminals and the Carolina Panthers was a case in point. The Panthers controlled the first quarter; had the ball for 13.5 minutes, ran 20 plays to just 3 for the Criminals, and kicked two field goals. Then the Criminals went on a two-minute touchdown drive and were trailing 13.5 to 3.25 in the time of possession battle but leading 7-6 on the scoreboard.

Carolina then folded like a cheap suit. Newton kept throwing deep passes that landed in a different zip code than the open receivers, and the short receivers kept dropping the ball. They scored a “garbage time” touchdown late, but never again looked like a real football team and lost 31-13. Cam Newton, by the way, looks like an idiot on the sideline with a towel over his head.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Redefining Nothing

Piers Morgan had Rick Warren on last night and I watched for a few minutes, which is all I could take. Warren is an arrogant and insufferable jackass, and I cannot see him without thinking of the humiliating and unconstitutional religious interrogation to which he subjected the presidential candidates in 2008.

Anyway, Piers asked Warren why he opposed the right of gays to marry and Warren responded that he opposed the redefinition of the word “marriage,” with the same old bullshit about it having been defined for centuries as being between one man and one woman. He did not, of course, say where it has been so defined, which is the point and is why this is the silliest and most inane political argument in the history of governance.

I was married twice, both times on one day and to the same person. Most married people have had the same experience. We were married in a church by a priest, and at the end of that ceremony we were man and wife under the laws of the church but not under the laws of the state of California. We did not have common property at that point, we could not sign documents for each other, we could not file a joint tax return, I could not be on her health insurance

Then the priest said we needed to go into an office and sign some papers, after which we were married under the laws of the state of California. After that second ceremony we had common property; everything that had been mine was ours and everything that had been hers was ours. We could sign documents for each other, we could file a joint tax return, and I could now be on her health insurance. None of these things were so after the first marriage, they became so after the second marriage.

The English language is full of words which are spelled the same, pronounced the same, and which mean different things. A “ball” can be a round thing which you throw, or it can be a type of dance party. A “bore” can be an uninteresting person, or it can be the part of a rifle through which the bullet travels. Marriage is such a word; it refers to a spiritual union performed in a religious setting, and to a social contract which conveys legal rights and obligations.

When we talk about changing the law to permit gay marriage, we are talking about the second marriage, and not the first one. If legal marriage is changed Rick Warren will still be free to define marriage in his church any way his tiny, bigoted little heart wants to do so. Under the law, however, people of the same sex will be able to enter into a social contract which gives them the same rights of partnership as anyone else.

What part of this is so hard to understand? Right now the Catholic church will not marry anyone who has been divorced, so no on can have the illusion that any law compels any church to recognize any specific person as valid candidates for marriage. The law does not compel the Catholic church to marry divorced people, and it would not compel any church to marry same sex couples. That has been made crystal clear, so what is with all of this “redefining marriage” crap?

Why are not divorced people marching in the streets for the right to marry? Because they can marry. They just can’t do so in a Catholic church. So divorced people leave the Catholic church in order to get married, but that’s a problem for the Catholic church, not for us.

It isn’t about redefining anything. It’s a question about whether or not gay people should have access to the same social contract as straight people. That’s an easy question, with a simple answer.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Tiny Budgets

Dean Baker, in discussing the cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security today, points out that the measure he favors would only cost “$60 billion, a bit less than 0.4 percent of GDP.”

Not that I oppose the adjustment that he is advocating, but why does that calculation have any meaning whatever? Other, that is, that an economist is using it because it creates the impression that $60 billion is an infinitesimally small amount of money? Why is the amount of money being spent by the Social Security Administration being compared to the Gross Domestic Product of the entire nation?

Is $60 billion per year actually a small amount of money? It’s less than one percent of the amount of money moved by the entire economy of the United States in a year, but what does that have to do with anything? What portion of the Social Security Administration’s budget is it? That's what actually matters. The SSA will take in $959 billion this fiscal year, and will pay out $871 billion in benefits, so that $60 billion is roughly 6% of revenue, and it would raise benefits by almost 7%, which may be perfectly acceptable but is by no means trivial.

When I decide whether or not I can afford to buy a car I do not calculate what portion of the nation’s economy would be eaten up by that car payment; such a calculation would be utter stupidity. I calculate what portion of my own personal budget would be eaten up by that car payment.

Calculating the cost of government programs against the economy, rather than against federal revenue, certainly makes them look less expensive and makes it easier to justify excessive government spending, but it is idiotic and utterly dishonest.

Politics of Inclusion

I was absorbed yesterday by the rememberances of Nelson Mandela. A few mean souls chose to speak of his time in the ANC, a time of violence, forgetting that he was meeting violence with violence and fighting for the freedom of his people. Most remembered his later years as one of the most peaceful men the world has ever known; a man of inclusion and reconciliation unlike any other statesman in our lifetime. Savior of a nation.

I was struck by a memory that Bill Clinton told. Pointing out that Mandela had included in his inauguration those who had imprisoned him and made them members of his cabinet, he had asked Mandela if he hated those men. Mandela had replied that he did, briefly, and had added that he realized that, “If I continued to hate them then they still had me. In order to be free I had to let it go.”

And out of that grew a healed nation.

When we hate those who disagree with us, when we hate what they believe, we do not damage them, we damage ourselves and we damage the society which it was our original goal to protect. “They still have us,” because we are not free. We are no longer working for our own good purpose because we are too busy wrapping ourselves in the cloak of opposition and hatred to hold fast to our own true cause.

Political discussion today is no longer about the nobility of one’s own cause, it is about the evil of the opposition. The paralysis of governance is not a conflict of two forces trying to do good, it is two sides fighting to stop each other; fighting out of mutual hatred.

We are rapidly becoming a nation enslaved by our hatred of each other, by our intolerance of ideas which do not agree with our own, by our own policies of exclusion. Nobody wins.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Football Musings

Took me this long to recover from the Auburn game. They should be ranked number two, not Ohio State. Their loss was to a #6 team and they won against four other ranked teams, two of those in the top ten, and including the top-ranked team. OSU beat the #16 and #23; big deal. Perhaps this week’s champonship games will sort that out.

The New Orleans Criminals not only went down last night, they went down 34-7, with crime boss Drew Brees having a quarterback rating of 77.4. Way to go Seahawks. Still feel that your players should not be punished for taking bounty money, Drew?

The Chargers’ loss to the Benglas should, as U-T writer Nick Canepa puts it, “put a stop to nonsense about the playoffs.” Even at 5-6, as writers were bleating about the Chargers being in a position to make the playoffs, I was wondering what they would do if they got there other than lose in the first round. At 5-7 a few writers are yammering about how they are “not mathmatically eliminated.” Sheesh.

Manti Te’o continues to unimpress, especially so when he could not look at the interviewer or camera after the game, but was able only to hang his head, fixate on the floor and moan pathetically about how much he hates to lose for the entire interview. As linebacker, he was no small part of the reason the Bengals ran for 164 yards. That little boy needs to grow up.

Friday, November 29, 2013


The Chatgers game is blacked out Sunday, giving San Diego the distinction of being the first team in the NFL to have a blackout of its game this season. The loyal fans, who are not buying tickets to the game, are blaming Dean Spanos, the team owner, for the blackout, notwithstanding that Charger ticket prices are among the lowest in the league and that the blackout is a league policy, not a Charger team policy.

It's worth noting that Tampa Bay, with only three wins so far, and Minnesota, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Houston, each with only 2 wins, have not experienced a home game blackout this year. San Diego, with 5 wins...

The blackout rules are a bit bizarre. The game cannot be shown for a 75 mile radius but is blacked out in Los Angeles, which is a good bit further than 75 miles from Qualcomm Stadium. The CBS network, which carries Chargers games, cannot show any NFL game at 10AM, at which time the Chargers are not playing, but it can show the Chiefs-Broncos game at 1PM, which is the same time as the Chargers game. Meanwhile, Fox Network can show a game at 10AM but cannot show a game at 1PM because it would compete with the Chargers game.

My wife says the policy is not supposed to make sense; it's just supposed to piss people off make people buy tickets. She does not explain how it's supposed to do that.

Minor Hypocrisy

We seem to be getting used to requiring retail workers to report for work on Thanksgiving day, but there is still a good deal of protest on liberal blogs about that barbaric practice, along with demands that we boycott the stores who engage on such a horrendously inhumane practice.

Many of the same writers are delighted that we are able to watch football games on Thanksgiving day. A few give enough thought to the labor issue to rationalize that athletes are paid huge sums of money, but none of them give any thought to the thousands of ticker takers, concession workers, security guards, ushers and other low paid workers who are... wait for it... required to work on Thanksgiving day.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Fearful Nation

Much about thankfulness is being bandied about today, but it rings a little hollow with me given that the mostly the discussion revolves around how badly thing are going in this nation. Noam Chomsky commented in a piece not long ago that America is a terrified nation, and I think he makes a valid point. Being thankful and terrified at the same time seems discordant.

We are terrified of disease, of old age, of losing our jobs, of poverty, of bad weather, of crime, of drug wars, and of course we are terrified of terrorists.

For some reason we are not terrified of being killed on the highway in a traffic accident, even though only old age is more likely than any of the foregoing to cause us to be hurt or killed. We take our cars onto the freeway and drive as if we are invulnerable; utterly without any trace of fear. Or good judgement.

What happened? We were once a nation which was not afraid of anything. We took on the Axis in 1941 with a terrible resolve and fought it to it’s destruction in less than four years. Today we still don’t know what we’ve accomplished against a handful of primitive tribesman in Afghanistan after twelve years, but we’re still afraid of them.

We’re afraid of them because our leaders are constantly prating that they are the only thing standing between us and the death and destruction that could be rained down on us by “extremists” if we do not spend half of our national resources enriching the national defense industry and reelect them.

During the “Cold War,” when thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us provided real cause for fear, there was less of a sense of panic than permeates our nation today. When McCarthy ran his fear campaign of “Communists everywhere” we wound up rejecting him. Today’s fear campaign of “terrorists everywhere” has run for twelve years through two administrations and has been and still is enormously successful.

When and why did we become a nation characterized by fear?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Football Weekend

I’m still recovering from the football weekend. All of my teams were underdogs, and not only did all of them win, they all entertained greatly in the process. LSU not only beat the Aggies from Texas, they pretty much humiliated that smarmy little egotistic twerp that plays quarterback for them. Zack Mettenberger even mocked “Johnny Football” by using his “look at me” hand gestures after throwing an LSU touchdown pass. Excellent.

The SDSU Aztecs won in overtime, and I had to stay up until after 11:00 at night to see that. It was worth it. The Aztecs have now won 7 of their last 8 games and are 6-1 in their conference. What they lack in talent, which is quite a bit, they make up in grit.

What can I say about the Chargers? We lose to Miami and then we beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead. It was a matter of whoever had the ball last was going to win, because there were no defenses on the field. We won after the eighth lead change with the clock expiring.

Kansas City had the #1 defense in the NFL in terms of allowing points, but they must have been playing against tomato cans, because they stunk Sunday. Philip Rivers threw for 378 yards but 228 of that, or 60% of it, was yards after the catch. That’s not good offense, that’s bad defense; a secondary which simply doesn’t know where the receivers are. Still, even when playing a bad defense, the team needs to be able to exploit it, and the Chargers did.

And I had the amusing bonus during the LSU game of hearing Verne Lundquist talking about the imposition of thirty yards of penalty, and then him being surprised that only fifteen yards was walked off. After all of his years in football he is apparently unaware that never are two penalties imposed on a single play.

In the Aztecs game the announcers were a couple of clowns I’d never heard of. Every ten minutes one of them would learn a new word and then would use it to death until someone taught him a new one. For some time the offense was “gashing” the other team on every play, even when they didn’t gain any yards. A blocker would “gash” a defender. Then someone suggested the word “power” and we had “power pass” and “power run” and “power sack” etc. At one point I heard him declaim that "the defensive secondaries are performing well on both sides of the line of scrimmage."

Not surprisingly, I was unable to find a defensive secondary on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. Back in my drinking days, that would have made a neat game. Drink every time the announcer says something stupid. You’d have to read the next day’s paper to find out who won.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Winning The Battle

lego maniaMolly had her second round of chemotherapy this week. Due to worry about a possible flareup of her pancreatitis, she first had an untrasound which not only did not reveal any bad news, it revealed that she has responded to the first treatment round much better than was expected. If she continues to eat, poop and not throw up, she doesn't have to return to the vet for three weeks, when she will get the last round of treatment.

The vet staff is greatly enamored of her, in part due to her rather rare coloring. She is a tiny and very meek little girl and her vocal protests consist of quiet little squeaks. When she is really fed up she will look her tormenter in the eye and hiss, which cracks them up because she has never been known to threaten to use her teeth or claws.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wall Street Lottery

Much ado about the stock market increasing by 22% in less than eleven months, hitting 16,000 yesterday; a new record in that it is the third time that it has reached even multiples of 1000 in a single year. This is hailed as signaling a robust economy, with no one seeming to notice the rather startling disconnect between an extrapolated 26% annual growth in the stock market and a rather paltry 2.3% annual growth rate in the economy.

That’s because the stock market no longer has anything to do with the economy.

The stock market was originally formed for the purpose of providing a vehicle whereby businesses could obtain capital to create or expand their business. It no longer makes any pretense of fulfilling that role, as witness the “initial public offerings” of Facebook and Twitter. Not one cent of the money raised by those public offering went toward the expansion of those business, and neither business was functionally changed by the capital raised in the stock market. Every drop of that money went toward the personal enrichment of the principals of those companies and of the backers of the offerings.

Evan more blatant was the consideration of a public offering being made for the future earnings of NFL running back Arian Foster. There was no possibility that any capital raised in that offering could improve his performance or extend his career; the offering was being proffered purely as a speculative venture than participants could profit from it much as one would do by playing the lottery. The offering was derailed by an injury which happened prior to the offering, but had it happened afterward the “lottery” would have enriched the player enormously and the participants would have been massive losers.

The stock market today is, in effect, a lottery with participants speculating on factors almost entirely divorced from the companies which the stock market supposedly represents. The main factor for this speculation is the operation of the Federal Reserve and how long it will continue pumping more money into the financial system. Concrete evidence of the nature of that speculation can be seen when forecasts that indicate a weakening economy, and which spell hard times for the companies represented by the stock market, actually cause the stock market to rise because they assure that the Fed will continue to inject money into the financial system.

Note that I do not say, as the media usually does, that the Fed is “injecting money into the economy.” That is because the money that they inject does not go into the economy, it goes directly into the stock market. They inject that money by buying treasury bills, which they buy from investors. Those investors do not spend that money, they put it into the stock market, which is why the stock market is growing at an annual rate of 26% while the economy is stumbling along at a rate that does not even keep up with population growth and inflation.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Agreement, What Agreement?

John Kerry, who looks foolish under the best of circumstances, comes out of meetings with Karzai yesterday and announces pontifically that an agreement has been reached to permit our troops to remain in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline that Obama announced several years ago for their total withdrawal. He did not explain why in the world we would want to do such a nonsenical thing.

He mentioned in passing that the agreement needed to be approved by the loya jirga and the Afghan Parliment, but seemed to regard those as mere trivial details. Consensus seems to be that passage by those bodies is about as likely as a July ice storm in Miami. Or, perhaps, the Chargers winning the Super Bowl.

Karzai, who has a real talent for making American politicians look foolish, including Kerry who doesn't really need any help, then announces the following day that no agreement will be signed until after the American 2014 elections, at which point he will deal with Hillary Clinton the newly elected president. American foreign policy at it's best.

Update:, Friday morning: Aha, wrong election. He was not talking about our new president, he was talking about Afghanistan's new president. I need to read things more carefully.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Economic Gibberish

Paul Krugman has a blog post yesterday which is a perfect example of the technique based on the concept of “if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with gibberish.” He uses the technique positing that if you compare enough numbers to enough other numbers in a sufficiently irrelevant manner people will be so lost that they will throw up their hands and give you a Nobel Prize. It works, of course, because they did so.

Right now the real interest rate on US government borrowing is about 0.5 percent on 10-year securities, negative 0.4 percent on 5-year. Meanwhile, even pessimistic estimates of US potential growth put it in the 1.5-2 percent range. So r is less than g — the real interest rate on debt is less than the normal growth rate.

It’s the last sentence which is the real kicker; it’s about as relevant as saying that my heart rate is slower than traffic on the I-8 this morning. If he compared interest rates to inflation he would be making a meaningful point because both are about the value of money, but he compares it to economic growth only because he is getting ready to introduce another artificial and totally meaningless concept; the debt to GDP ratio.

This in turn means that the usual worry about a rising debt level — that it will require that we eventually run big non-interest surpluses to pay down the debt — is all wrong. As long as we run a primary (non-interest) balance, or in fact not too large a deficit, the debt/GDP ratio will tend to erode over time. What’s more, an increase in the primary deficit won’t cause a runaway debt spiral, it will lead to a gradual rise in debt to a higher level, but it will stabilize there.

Krugman claims to be a follower of Keynes, but the first part of that is about as non-Keynesian as one can be, because Keynes certainly never advocated that government should never repay the money it borrowed. He specifically said that it should do so, in fact, when economic times improved to the point that it was able to do so.

And this is where he brings in the debt/GDP ratio which will “erode over time.” This is what replaces the repayment of debt because the amount of debt is meaningless. The only meaningful measure of debt is its ratio to the GDP, and we can allow that ratio to shrink until the debt disappears altogether, at which point the government will no longer have to be paying any interest and we can quit worrying about interest rates going up.

His third point is that an increase in the deficit will not lead to “a runaway debt spiral” but rather cause a “gradual rise in debt to a higher level” at which it will stabilize. Really? Tell that to Japan, or Argentina. What, precisely, is going to be the factor which causes it to stabilize, other than eliminating the deficit?

Suppose, for example, that r is 0.5 and g is 1.5 — not too unrealistic. Suppose that you start with debt at 50 percent of GDP, and then begin running primary deficits of 1 percent of GDP. What will happen? Debt will rise to 100 percent of GDP, and stay there, even if nothing is done to address the deficit.

Our GDP is $15 trillion and deficits have been running $1.3 trillion, so our deficit is closer to 10% than 1% of GDP. Not to mention that our starting point is a lot closer to 100% of GDP than it is the 50% he posits. So how does starting at 100% of GDP and running deficits of 10% of GDP result in our debt “rising to 100 percent of GDP, and staying there, even if nothing is done to address the deficit” precisely?

Even assuming his more idealistic numbers, though, what causes the debt to stop rising when it hits 100% of GDP if the government has not and is not repaying debt and is still running a deficit? He doesn’t say what the mechanism is that causes that phenomenon, cites no examples illustrating it, and carefully omits mentioning multiple nations which have debts which exceed their GDPs by several orders. Whatever his limiting mechanism is, it clearly didn’t work for those nations.

I don’t want to push this too hard, but I just want to make it clear that if we really believe in low or even negative normal real interest rates, conventional views of fiscal prudence make even less sense than people like me have been saying.

The meaning of that is not entirely clear, but when he says that something "makes even less sense than what I’ve been saying” I’m inclined to go along with that.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Football Musings

When the Chargers score 16 points and lose against the Dolphins, why does all of the San Diego sports media blame the defense? Admittedly the defense stunk, but the offense scored one touchdown and three field goals, and that is going to lose the game about 90% of the time. The defense probably set a new league record for missed tackles, but the offense dropped passes and Philip Rivers crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing a forward pass. Plenty of blame to go around.

Why would the Steelers choose to wear those throwback uniforms? In case you didn't see them, they wore canvas pants and had horizontal orange and black stripes on both jerseys and socks. Looked like a Halloween jailbreak.

Why did Sunday Night Football decide to replace Faith Hill with an anorexic skank whose voice sounds like fingernails on a blackboard? I had to mute the television until that part was over.

Auburn utterly dominated Georgia for 50 minutes Saturday, and I was thinking they might give Alabama a pretty good run in two weeks. Then they gave up 21 points in eight minutes and I decided maybe not. Just for fun, though, they finally won the game just as the clock expired with what was probably the most unlikely 80-yard touchdown pass completion I've ever seen in 50+ years of watching college football.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Budget Busters

The U-T San Diego is waxing poetic over a construction project on Camp Pendleton. A new Navy hospital was finished six months ahead of schedule and 17% under its $570 million budget and the paper is heaping praise on the private contractors involved. I agree that compliments are deserved, but let's be realistinc here and consider the setting. It was on Camp Pendleton.

You don't screw around when you are surrounded by Marines.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Japanese Envoy

Compensating for his tonedeafness on other matters, Obama's choice for Ambassador to Japan is simply brilliant. I will deny with my last breath that my opinion is influenced by her stunning good looks. Caroline Kennedy is a graceful and gracious lady with impeccable credentials, and will represent all that is best about our nation. Not surprisingly, the Japanese are thrilled.

"We Fumbled The Rollout"

Obama said yesterday that “We fumbled the rollout” of the Obamacare plan, but didn’t seem overly heartbroken about it. “Fumbled” is something of an understatement, actually, given the constant stream of executive orders delaying various features of the program because the specific rules for that feature had not yet been worked out. Now he’s saying that people can keep insurance policies which have already been cancelled. Anyone who believes that will work should contact me about buying a bridge.

He did not explain why, with three full years to prepare for it, they have so badly “fumbled the rollout” of the Democrats’ signature program. After seven years of castigating the Republicans for incompetence, and with three years to prepare for it, they “fumble the rollout” of the program which is most vitally important to their image.

No one seems to question how it is that the president can change, by executive order, a law that has been passed by Congress. That is a mere constitutional detail, and when the president wants to do something we pay very little attention to that outdated document any more.

Implementation of “health care reform” was delayed for three years, with the reason never being very clearly stated. Supposedly it was so that everyone could prepare for its implementation; so they would be ready for it. We now know, of course, that it was to assure that this fiasco didn’t happen while Obama was running for reelection.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

That's A Highlight?

To my wife's dismay and my delight, basketball season is here and so sports shows and news programs are playing highlights. I have been trying to figure out why those highlights bore me. Basketball does not bore me; in fact I enjoy it immensely. Football highlights do not bore me; I love them. Volleyball highlights are exciting. Tennis highlights are boring, but then so is tennis. Golf is fairly boring, but the highlights are awesome. So why aren’t basketball highlights more exciting?

I finally realized that the problem is that basketball highlights are not highlights; they’re just basketball. This is the only sport there is which consists almost entirely of action which could be considered highlights.

They show a football highlight of a guy running seventy yards and scoring a touchdown; wow, how often does that happen? A golfer hits a shot out of the rough and it stops three inches away from the pin; awesome shot, almost never happens. A soccer player kicks the ball over his head and backwards and it goes in the net; incredible feat of athleticism.

But when a basketball player races down the court, leaps over an opposing player and slams the ball into the basket, that’s not a highlight; that’s just what basketball is. That’s what basketball players do all game long. You’re going to show me something that happens three dozen times during a game and call that a highlight? I don’t think so.

For basketball highlights you’d have to replay the whole game.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You Can't Cure Symptoms

When you have a high fever, it is not the fever that is your problem. The fever is actually part of your body’s defense against illness and is helping to kill the organisms which are attacking you. Further, doctors do not usually attack the fever directly, they seek to find out what is causing it and attack that underlying cause.

Similarly, the federal budget deficit is not our problem today, it is symptomatic of a much larger problem; that being our enormous and unremarked trade deficit. That deficit is a outflow of wealth which requires borrowing money to fill the hole which it creates in our economy.

So we know the cause of our problem and unlike doctors do nothing about it, frantically attempting to cure the symptoms instead. The result is that we move the debt around, from government to private sector, to business and back to government again, but never do anything about reducing it because we never even attempt to reduce the balance of trade deficit.

Why do we do this game of economic whack-a-mole with debt?

Because it is that game, not tax policy, which created and maintains the horrendous economic inequality in this nation. The money earned by the middle class goes overseas when they purchase goods made abroad, and that money comes back into this country as profits to the wealthy who own the corporations producing those goods overseas.

“Tax the rich” is not going to solve the economic inequality problem, because those tax increases are pennies; they amount to a few percentage points of income on the wealthy – single digits. The amount involved in this trade deficit is staggering, because income from overseas is, in many cases, the totality of upper class income, and the money going overseas for “consumer spending” is 70% of middle class disposable income.

In effect, the entire trade deficit goes into the pockets of the economic upper class in this nation; $25 billion to $40 billion every single month. Yes, that’s a slight oversimplification, but it is not mere hyperbole.

The solution to the federal deficit is neither “spend less” nor “tax more,” but lies in policies which solves both the federal deficit and economic inequality; “make more and import less.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Alliterative Date

I write very few checks these days, but... 11/12/13 today. I amuse easily.

Fox Intelligentsia

I inadvertantly clicked on a Fox News headline just now regarding enrollment in the "Obamacare" program, and got my daily dose of hilarity reading the comments. We know the caliber of the people who rely on Fox News is not necessarily high, but...

"Bush approval rating hire than Obama....."

"Dubya dreams of bankrupting the Texas Rangers and the US is coming to fluition."

"I liked ben ghazzi in that 60,s doctor show."

"What is Obama hocking these days? Budget? Immigration? Oh yeah, he's in CYA mode for the ACA."

I'd like to know how much he got when he hocked the budget.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Not "Targeting"?

Bad HitWith about eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter an LSU defender hit an Alabama pass receiver after the catch in a play which clearly illustrated the utter insanity and stupidity of the college “targeting” rule. The receiver was on his knees and in the grasp of another LSU defender, the whistle had blown, and the LSU player hit the receiver with what was blatantly and obviously a helmet-to-helmet blow. It was called a “late hit.”

The announcers, who despise the “targeting” rule as much as I do, were as shocked as much as I was. They were actually calling for the rule to be invoked and the player ejected and, for the first time since the rule was announced, so was I. The hit was a cheap shot, a demonstration of the frustration of a team that was losing badly, and it was dirty football.

If the officials did not invoke the “targeting” rule on that play, then they cannot justifiably invoke it in any instance in any game, ever. If that hit was not “targeting,” then targeting does not exist.

Bayou Bunglers

I'm not surprised by LSU's loss to Alabama, I was expecting it since Alabama is the better team, but I am a bit surprised by the nature of it. The game was not as close as the score would indicate. Alabama dropped three easy interceptions that might well have made it 59-17; a score which would have reflected the actual level of competition.

Les Miles has improved LSU’s offense, or Cam Cameron has, but he apparently cannot do two things at once as Nick Saban can, because the defense has suffered in the process. That crowd might have looked okay in some other uniform, Slippery Rock College, perhaps, or a Pac-12 school, but in the Tiger purple and gold they stunk.

They were standing up at the line of scrimmage, committing late hits, face masks, and unprofitable pass interference penalties, missing tackles more often than making them, and their closing speed in the secondary was pathetic. Alabama only gained 179 yards passing, but 100 yards of that was legged out after the ball was caught. Les Miles brags about a “hard hitting” defense, which they may be, but they are also slow as hell, and uncoordinated as a bag of puppies, only not as cute.

It’s not surprising they’ve lost 3 games, it’s surprising they’ve won 7.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

How Do You Like Your Duck?

Roasted, toasted, fried, stewed, boiled, or sauteed? Doesn't matter, Stanford only cooks Duck one way; mashed.

Stanford led 26-0 in the fourth quarter, and had completed just seven passes. The Ducks knew Tyler Gaffney was going to run the ball. The Ducks knew where he was going to run the ball. The Ducks knew the entire Stanford team was going to run over them like a dump truck going over a speed bump.

One did not need to speculate about which gap Gaffney was going to run through; there were no gaps in Stanford's offensive line. They were not shoulder-to-shoulder prior to the snap, they were hipbone-to-hipbone. That offensive line has incurred one holding penalty in the entire year. As a former linbacker, that game gave me nightmares for two nights, causing me to wake up in a cold sweat.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Well, Not Quite

CBS Evening News said last night that our economy grew 2.8% in the third quarter, after growing 2.5% in the second quarter. That would have our economy growing 11% for the year, which would be awesome. In actuality, our economy grew at an annual rate of 2.8% in the third quarter, which is a bit less exciting.

The Washington Post says today that the economy, "added 204,000 jobs in October, defying expectations of a weak labor market." As usual, they used data from the Employer Survey, which counts one person working two jobs as two people employed. From the Household Survey we find that the unemployment rate increased to 7.3% last week. It was reported by most media as "essentially unchanged," which is what they do when it rises, while when it drops by the same amount they say it "dropped slightly." It never "rises slightly," it only "drops slightly."

The article goes on to say that "This is good news for the economy," despite the report revealing that the labor force decreased by a whopping 730,000 people even though the population increased by 213,000.

Participation in the labor force dropped from 63.2% to 62.8% and workers who are "part time for economic reasons" increased by 125,000. The unemployment among people with "some college" rose by .3% and for college graduates it rose .1%. How all of that that is "good news for the economy" escapes me.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Insuring Without Risk

One of the features of “health care reform” is that it mandates what every policy must cover, including such things as pregnancy, addiction treatment, etc. This is widely applauded as preventing insurance companies from offering “junk policies” which don’t adequately cover people, and are compared to government safety standards mandated for automobiles.

The weakness of that defense is that while the government mandates safety standards for cars, it doesn’t mandate features. All cars have to have brakes, and the government mandates standards for the type of brakes that are furnished, for instance, but the government does not mandate that all cars must have air conditioning.

In its mandate that all policies must provide things such as birth control, the government is mandating features, not standards. A single male, for instance, would prefer to buy a policy that excludes that feature, since single males are exceedingly unlikely to become pregnant, and don’t carry health insurance for their girlfriends. The government requires, however, that any health insurance which they buy be priced on the basis that the insurer might have to pay the cost of the insured’s birth control and/or pregnancy.

In obtaining insurance for our home, we chose to include earthquake insurance but not flood insurance because we live in Southern California, which is long overdue for an earthquake but has not been hit by a hurricane in recorded history, and we are two hundred feet above the San Diego River flood plain. Using the “health care reform” mandate guidelines, we would be required to carry equal amounts of hurricane and flood insurance, because risk is not part of the equation.

Insuring against that for which you are not at risk; priceless.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tribal Wars

The media analyzed the elections endlessly last night, telling us both that the results signaled the death of the Tea Party and that they revealed a surprising degree of strength in the Tea Party. Apparently the Tea Party is strong but nonetheless dead? The operation was a success but the patient died? The media is absurd? Whatever.

Chris Christie won in a state in which Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans, which should mean the Democratic Party is dead but somehow doesn’t, but does mean that he will beat Hillary Clinton for the White House in 2016. I don’t make this shit up, I’m just repeating what I was told by the media last night. I paid close attention to this stuff, because no football games were on last night.

Democrat loyalists are, however, apparently becoming a little bit frantic since one of them said this morning that, “Any Democrat who voted for Chris Christie should be horsewhipped.” That’s taking tribalism pretty seriously. I don’t even want to think what the next step might be.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

NFL Bullies?

If you're following the story about "issues" between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, in which Martin left the Dolphins in a snit over being bullied and Incognito has been suspended from the team for "actions detrimental to the team," some clarity may be reached by knowing that Martin is an Ivy League graduate and speaks proper English. He probably does not insert the verbal pause "uh" five times into each sentence.

And now you know why gay football players have not "come out."

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Lowering Costs

Regarding my little post about health care costs, I'm not preaching against the ACA here, even though at times I have said that it should have been a better program and I dislike some of the flaws that are built into it. I'm making a different point here. I’m asking where are the promised and currently advertised cost saving benefits of the program.

When someone is telling me that the sky is blue and I look and observe that it is gray, I don't merely assume that I am wrong or that I cannot trust my eyes. I ask what is the difference between "his blue" and "my gray." I find out that he lives 300 miles east of me and that the rainstorm that is covering my sky has not yet reached where he lives and that explains it. His sky is blue, mine is gray and the discrepancy is explained.

The ACA was described for one full year of debate prior to its passage as a program to provide insurance for people who didn't have it and to lower the cost of health care. The latter was not some secondary unimportant discussion, it was a fundamental and important goal of the program, otherwise it offered nothing for people who already had insurance, which is some 85% of the people in the country. What it offered for 15% was insurance availability, and what it offered for 85% was a reduction in the terrifying increases in the cost of health care. Without the promise of lowering costs it would have had very little support, because it would have offered nothing for the majority of voters, and it would not have passed.

After it passed there has been much praise about how well it is lowering the cost of health care, and that is at odds with my observation. I don't see it doing that and I want to know why your skies are blue and mine are gray. I'm not going to assume that gray is blue merely because you tell me so or you claim that I'm colorblind. I’m not going to accept your assurance that the program is a success despite, “sure some people will pay higher costs,” because that was never advertised as part of the deal.

The program was not sold as “some people will pay higher costs and some people will save money.” The program was sold as being a program that would lower the cost of health care.” It is, apparently, providing insurance for people who previously didn’t have it and it is, apparently, doing so at affordable costs to those people, but where is it “lowering the cost of health care” for the rest of us?

Before ACA passed my health care expenses were increasing about 10% per year. Then they increased 25% and 30% and I was told that ACA hadn't fully kicked in yet. Well it fully kicks in next year and my costs are going up 77%. Who is getting the savings promised by ACA, and why are they getting them while I am not? How many people are seeing the same thing I am and are not having their voices heard?

Look, I would even be willing to pay a bit more for health insurance in order for people without insurance to get insurance, if that was the way the program had been sold to me, just as I am willing to pay higher taxes for people to have a social safety net,. But that was not the deal that was sold and is being touted as today’s success. Don’t promise me lower costs and then piss in my ear and tell me it's raining.

If the way it's working out is that some people are paying higher costs in order for people without insurance to get it, then we should admit that that's the way it's working out. We should admit that Plan A of insuring the uninsurable along with lower costs didn’t work and so we’re going with Plan B which is to insure the uninsurable and raise costs. But I’m fed up with being told that ACA is lowering costs and watching costs go up faster than ever.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Side Effects

One of the medications prescribed for our cat, which is labeled for "Feline Molly Robinson," has displayed on its label, "Warning; may cause slight drowsiness." Seriously? On medication for a cat?

It kind of shakes your confidence in the vetinary pharmacy. Should you be dispensing medication for a feline if you think that "slight drowsiness" is in any way remotely detectable in a cat? Or that anyone tending the cat would notice and be concerned by it?

Bending The Cost

We just got the information for next year's health insurance from my wife's employer. Between premiums and increases in deductibles and copays, what we pay for health care next year will increase by 77% over our cost in 2013. "Health care reform" is doing such a wonderful job of "bending the curve" of the cost of health care. 77% increase.

2013's increase was 25%, and 2012's was 30%. Helluva job, Democrats.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Junk Policies

I don’t happen to think it is an important part of “health care reform” but it’s a matter of honesty; not so much in the initial premise as in the nature of the response to the kerfuffle.

“If you like the insurance policy you have, you will be able to keep it,” Obama promised, specifically and repeatedly, a statement which rather slaps him in the face when millions of Americans receive letters canceling their policies because those policies do not meet standards set by “health care reform” legislation.

His response is to attack the policies, calling them “junk policies,” which is at best tone deaf. He often insults his supporters in that fashion, in this case telling them that they were pretty stupid to be liking those trashy, worthless “junk policies.” They only thought that they liked them, and if they read them or had half a brain, they would not have liked them at all because they are “junk.” They are so much better off now that he has denied them the ability to keep the garbage they liked having and can now “buy better policies at an affordable price.” He does not define “affordable.”

Democrats in general have taken up the refrain. One of them was on Piers Morgan last night screaming over the top of anyone else’s attempt to say anything that “These are junk policies that nobody wants to buy.” A variant on that was “They stopped selling them because they are garbage policies that nobody would buy,” which doesn’t quite square with the fact that it has been the insurance companies doing the canceling, not the policy holders.

One “progressive” described such a policy as being garbage because it didn’t pay for routine office visits. “If she goes to the doctor once a week, she gets to pay $648/yr in premiums and another $6525/year to the doctor,” as if going to the doctor once per week is a realistic expectation. In fact, the policy holder was quite happy with the “catastrophic coverage,” because she is a healthy young person and is covered in the event of a disaster. She doesn’t want to buy car insurance that pays for oil changes, either.

I would not necessarily agree with that point of view, but it’s not my call. Who am I to tell her what she should want? “If you like the policy you have,” Obama said. If he had gone on and added, “If you are stupid enough to like a junk policy then we are going to save you from your stupidity and require you to buy a better policy at a higher price,” then I suspect that “health care reform” would have been significantly less popular.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inconsistencies and Contradictions

The people who say this “health care reform” legislation will not work do not know what they are talking about. The people who say that it will work also do not know what they are talking about. The problem is twofold. First, the legislation is so convoluted and complex that no one can know everything that it actually does. Second, even in it’s most basic form it is an experiment. The policy prices emerging from the smoke and the hall of mirrors are guesses, and only time will tell if they will prove workable.

This “reform” was doomed from the start, because while everyone wanted it, no one was willing to pay anything or sacrifice anything to get it. The government was unwilling to increase its budget to accomplish it. People who already had insurance were unwilling to give that up. People on Medicare were not willing to see changes made to that program. Voters were unwilling to be taxed to pay for it. People who wanted insurance didn’t want to have to pay to get it. We all know the stake that medical providers, drug companies and health insurance companies had in this issue.

And so we have a “health care reform” which is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions. Government is by nature coercive, but this mess is gratuitously so. It forces businesses to sell a product to one group of persons on which it will lose money, and balances that by forcing another group of persons to buy a product which they neither want or need to buy. The claim is that one will balance the other, but no one has the slightest idea whether that is actually so or not. It may be nothing more than an urban myth.

When forcing an individual to buy a product which he cannot afford, the government pays a large portion of the premium, but it does so by "savings in Medicare," which means less medical care for old people, and by a tax on medical devices, which means higher prices for those devices and higher costs for medical care. So we're reducing care and increasing costs for one group who needs medical care to pay the premiums for another group who is being forced to buy coverage they don't need.

The claim is that reductions in Medicare will be borne by the providers and not by elderly people, which means that providers being paid by Medicare will provide the same or more care for the elderly while charging billions of dollars less. And pigs will fly, but not on this planet.

And the supposition is that a tax on medical devices will “reduce expenditures for” medical care. It may indeed mean that we will use fewer devices, because the cost of those devices will increase as a result of imposing a tax on them, but that is a far different proposition than “reducing the cost of” medical care. If the stated goal of the reform had been to reduce the amount spent on health care by reducing the amount of health care delivered, the “health care reform” movement would have been one hell of a lot less popular than it is.

Instead we get the claim that the “reform” is going to raise standards for insurance and deliver better health care for lower insurance premiums, which defies logic. Millions of people are having their “bare bones” policies cancelled as we speak because those policies do not meet the new standards, and are being told that they can sign up for new policies that do meet those standards at much higher premiums, so we know already that insurance companies are not going to deliver more benefits with lower premiums. Why is anyone surprised?

At every turn it looks like we are providing more care one place by providing less care somewhere else and pretending to lower costs here by raising costs somewhere else. And given that there was no willingness to pay or sacrifice anything to achieve reform, how could it be anything other than that sort of trade off?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Great Football Moment

For those of you who missed it, the Detroit Lions, trailing the Dallas Cowboys by six and needing a touchdown to win, receive the ball at their own ten-yard line with one minute remaining in the game and no timeouts left. Matthew Stafford throws a forty yard completion to the sideline, which stops the clock. He then throws a twenty yard completion to the middle of the field, and with thirty seconds left thirty yarder which is caught and downed inside the one yard line. The crowd is freaking out, because this is a Detroit home game.

Matthew Stafford races down the field, frantically gesturing at his team to hurry up and pointing at the ground with his right arm, indicating that he is going to spike the ball to stop the clock. The teams are lined up, the ball is snapped, and Stafford does not spike the ball. He jumps up and thrusts the ball over the linemen and into the end zone. Touchdown.

There is a brief moment of silence as everyone tries to figure out what just happened. Everyone, that is, except Matthew Stafford and the side judge who is signaling with both arms straight up in the air that a touchdown has been scored. Then everyone notices the side judge and pandemonium erupts. They still have to kick the extra point for the win, but…

I’m pretty sure that the only one who knew that Matthew Stafford was going to do that was Matthew Stafford. The Cowboys certainly did not know, because when the ball was snapped not one Dallas player moved. The Lions linemen didn’t know, because when the ball was snapped not one of them moved either, and when their quarterback scored they were, “What?”

And the best part is, the Dallas Cowboys got humiliated.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Last Thing We Need

Some guy wrote at length that the solution for mass shootings was to have everyone armed, so that if a shooter started waving a gun around then he could be stopped by the people he had chosen as victims because, being armed themselves, they would not be victims. They could whip out their trusty pistols and kill him instead and the problem would be solved.

There are a couple of problems that I see with this, the first being that in all probability instead of shooting the bad guy they would shoot each other and the casualty count would be increased. The last thing you need in an enclosed space is bullets flying everywhere.

The bigger problem is the handicap that it places on law enforcement. One of the cardinal rules for shooting scenes is that non-uniformed officers never enter the building, because uniformed officers who do enter will promptly take down anyone they see who is wielding a gun and is not in uniform, assuming he is a bad guy. If all of the good guys are armed as well as the bad guys, how do the officers know who to take down?

Idiots who advocate a universally armed citizenry as an antidote to violence are woefully ignorant of history. The wild west at one time consisted of a universally armed citizenry, and the death rate became so high that Wyatt Earp banned handguns in Dodge City.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bye Week

I have been basing Sunday dinner on who the Chargers play each week; cheese steak sandwiches when we play the Eagles, for instance. The Chargers have a bye this week so we're not having Sunday dinner. Seems logical to me, but my wife is not going along with that plan. She can be a little bit unreasonable sometimes.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Good Debt, Bad Debt

A writer in a liberal discussion group (they call themselves “progressives” now) wrote of “two kinds of debt,” one of which is “…going into the hole while building a military you don't need, fighting stupid wars, pouring Treasury money into bonuses for the bankers who already pocketed billions while gambling away your inheritance, etc.”

The other type is “…borrowing in order to put people to work building high-speed transcontinental rail, providing the whole country with broadband access, building a green energy network, setting up a true national health system, and similar things that will result in improving people's lives and healing the planet.”

Note that the first is “going into the hole” while the second is “borrowing.”

He then goes on to say that, “Conservatives always favor the former kind of debt, and progressives, the latter kind,” and that conservatives use the former kind to prevent progressives from creating the latter kind.

He cannot, of course, name one progressive politician who has proposed any one of the things he claims progressives favor, because no one has proposed actually doing any of those things. Some high speed rail was included in the laughably named “stimulus bill” of 2009, but not enough to complete any one intercity project, and certainly there was no pretense of even beginning a transcontinental one.

On the other hand, the Democratic Congress of 2007-2011 not only continued military spending unabated, it funded increased spending for the “surge” in Iraq and it passed TARP to bail out the banks. I can’t support the claim of Treasury money going into the bonuses for bankers, because Congress did specify that TARP money could not be used for that purpose.

I also cannot support the writer’s rather odd claim that conservatives use the bad kind of debt to prevent progressives from creating the good kind of debt, whatever that means. They don’t have to do that because in all the years I have been following politics I have never seen a politician suggest doing any one of the things he suggests that good debt would do.

You don’t have to stop someone from doing what they aren’t trying to do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Piers Morgan spent his entire hour last night in conversation with three generations of Buffett; Warren, son and grandson. It proved beyond any remaining question that the Buffetts are the most utterly boring family in this nation. The hilarity over total trivia was astonishing. The second generation Buffett spoke of buying a car when he graduated from high school and had Piers Morgan in hysterics. "I paid $7300," he said, "which was a lot of money back then," and Piers almost fell out of his chair laughing. Wierd.

Kieth Olbermann's show featured Kieth Olbermann for, I believe, four weeks and then was turned over to Larry King because having worked for a whole month Keith needed some time off. Since then it has been hosted by Colin Cowherd, who is not bad, actually, certainly better than Larry King, but why is it called the "Keith Olbermann Show" wheh he has hosted it for only four out of the ten weeks it has been on the air?

Why am I watching either one of these idiots? Good question. Nine in the evening is when I clean up the kitchen while my wife is getting ready for bed. It takes her much longer to do that than it does me. Not being critical, it's a gender thing. I get it. Women are wonderful people and the world would be much poorer without them. My life would be much poorer without my wife. It's all good; life, not television.

It's called "On My Mind," and what's on my mind is frequently fairly trivial.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

Much of the excitement about Obamacare boils down to the reality that we have found another way to hide the cost of health care. The nice low premiums that we will have to pay on the “exchanges” do not include the amount that the government pays in subsidy and do not reveal the deductibles or copays. In point of fact, the cost of one’s health care is not covered by the amount stated.

“I will pay only $74.75 per month for health care,” a writer gleefully crows. Actually, the writer will pay that for health insurance, without ever receiving one drop of actual health care. The government will pay a good deal more than that to complete the payment for health insurance, and still no health care has been delivered. When actual health care is required, the writer will incur additional expense for the deductible, and even after the deductible is met, the insurance will cover only a percentage of the health care cost.

We rant about how expensive health care is and about “bending the curve” of that cost, but we are actually happy if we can merely hide the cost and/or let someone else pay it.

One correspondent was rejoicing over obtaining a policy on the exchange at a lower premium than he had been paying. When questioned further, it turned out that the old policy had a $1000 deductible and the new one had a $5000 deductible. He was saving $2200 per year to obtain a policy with a $4000 higher deductible, and so while he would pay $2200 less in premiums he would pay $4000 more in out-of-pocket cost, so the only way he saves money is if he doesn’t get sick. He was basing his health insurance decision on the assumption that he would not incur health care costs, and getting all excited about health insurance while assuming that he didn’t actually need it.

Our decision making ability in this country is badly impaired.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

CBS News Sucks

CBS Evening News has developed a habit of whoring for its "60 Minutes" show on a regular basis. They run clips from that show as a "news item" with the show's logo in the lower corner, and then advise that you can see the entire piece on "our prime time news magazine Sunday night." Yecch.

They also now believe that is a story is worth running, it is worth running every evening all week. This week we were supposed to be utterly fascinated by the plight of refugees leaving North Africa for an obscure island in the Med. They claimed they were talking about Syrian refugees, but those were most certainly not Syrian people; probably Somalis. They advertised that they were going to be "onboard with a Navy rescue ship," not telling us in advance that it was the Italian Navy and that it was routine patrol rather than a rescue mission. Why is the action of the Italian Navy in foreign waters news in the United States?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

African Tulip Tree

lego maniaThe camera angles exaggerate slightly the amount of vertical growth, but it has been phenomenal; when planted last year it barely reached the bottom of the lower window, and now it is very nearly at the top of it. The flowers are only the beginning, as there are eight more clumps which have not yet opened. Watching this grow this summer has been fun. Click on the image for a larger version.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Round Two Begins

Hero KittyMolly survived heartworm about eight years ago, so now she is starting a campaign against a second invader; a lymphoma in her small intestine. It is a slow growing kind, which the vet says is treatable and probably curable, so she tells us to be optimistic.

She is taking pills twice per day, twelve different medications, and is reasonably cooperative in that process, merely raising one paw in protest and looking somewhat indignant afterward. She does get treats once the process is finished. She also gets chemotherapy at the vet every three weeks. The staff there cracks up at her demeanor, which is all meek and passive until she reaches her limit and hisses at them.

The vet was describing the factors in our favor, one being that she is a Calico, who are very durable, and another that she is female, which are far tougher than males. “She’s not a wimpy male,” she was saying and caught me sort of glaring at her. “I’m talking about cats,” she added somewhat hastily. My wife cracked up.

“Listen,” I told the vet. ”I’ve had a heart attack, several strokes, severe emphysema, Parkinson’s Disease, a metal plate and seven fractures in my right leg and three in my left and I walk without a limp. Don’t talk to me about wimpy males.”

Anyway, she assured us that because of the type of chemotherapy and because cats are neurologically different than people, the therapy will have little or no effect on Molly and no, her hair will not fall out.

Update, 9:30am: I looked up the term "well differentiated," which the vet used to describe the condition, and it means the cells are spread out and have not coalesced into a tumor. There are none in the blood stream either, all of which makes them easier to kill, so that's good news.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Not A Balanced Budget?

In a comment to an earlier post Bruce asked what the problem was with having a balanced budget and why an economist would claim that a balanced budget is a bad idea. The answer lies in the totally unchallenged statement by politicians and economists both that “consumer spending is 70% of our economy” and that restoring a healthy economy requires restoring that 70% which is consumer spending.

That would be fine, and was fine, so long as that money was being spent on goods and services made in this country, but that is not the case and has not been for many years. A considerable part of that spending is for goods from other countries, which is reflected in our balance of trade deficit, and which no one ever talks about. It is a huge negative, has been for many years, and it reflects wealth leaving this country and not returning. That means that we consume more than we produce, and that means that our economy depends upon the accumulation of more and more debt.

During the housing boom much of that debt was accrued by the private sector, while at other times debt has been accumulated by the business sector. But in order to continue consuming more than we produce, somewhere we have to create more and more debt.

When the private sector cannot assume any more debt, and the business sector cannot do so, then government must assume debt, which is where we are now. So the economists are, to that degree, correct. An attempt to balance the budget, either by reducing government spending or by raising taxes, would be disastrous.

If we ceased accepting the simplistic insanity of “restoring consumer spending” and restored a productive economy in which production balanced consumption and in which our balance of trade was a net positive, then we could balance the federal government budget quite safely without harming the economy at all, because such an economy would not have to accumulate debt in order to maintain itself.

Politicians may not know that. Economists do, they just don’t want to say so, because doing that would be too hard.

Friday, October 11, 2013


lego mania

Due to the shutdown...

The NASA website says, "Due to the government shutdown the website is not being updated," with a picture of the US Capitol building. Um, isn't that itself an update?

The Ivory Tower Speaks

Well, well, well, Paul Krugman finally admits that failure to raise the debt ceiling and default on national debt are not synonymous. Not that I actually care. That’s all a “sounding brass” kind of noise, and in the long run the debt ceiling is going to be raised. We all know that. It just points out the idiocy of the conversation.

In a post yesterday he posits a theory in which failure to raise the debt ceiling would not automatically and inevitably cause default on debt and result in a world wide economic Armageddon, supposing that when the ceiling is reached, “Treasury manages to engage in ‘prioritization’ -- paying interest on bonds, so that all the burden falls on other kinds of spending.”

He then says that doing so would require balancing the budget, an act that would be fully as disastrous as defaulting on the national debt, leading to “a Great Recession-sized event.” Well, it was fun while it lasted, but we all knew the dean of the Princeton Ivory Tower would never go along with a cessation of borrowing, and of course he has charts.

He points out that the “cash-flow deficit is a bit more than 4 percent of GDP,” because nothing ever matters except in the degree to which it is a percentage of GDP. I’m surprised he doesn’t relate greenhouse gasses to GDP. “Carbon dioxide is dangerously close to 4% of GDP, so we need to run our cars on gold dust.”

There is the rather scary fact, as he points out, that the government’s deficit spending is 4% of a GDP which is growing at only 2% per year. So there is a certain amount of national self delusion in this “economic recovery” we are in, because if you take away that 4% which is simply the expenditure of borrowed money, then our economy actually has a negative 2% growth rate. That most certainly is not recovery.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flipping Over Deja Vu

Some years ago I read an article about what was touted as a “new idea” in manufacturing, which was that the company had the manufacturing branch participate in the design of each new product so that ease and cost of manufacture became part of the design. An example was given of a panel which was presently being assembled using eight different fasteners and required five different tools, and the new panel was reduced to two fasteners which were installed with one tool. Purchasing cost was decreased by having to buy fewer parts, and manufacturing cost was dramatically reduced by the worker no longer having to lay down and pick up various tools.

My reaction was not to think about how smart the company was, but to wonder what idiot designed the existing panel to begin with, and to ask why they ever quit having manufacturing participate in the design process. When I came out of the plant and into the office my first job was detail drafting, and before starting any set of detail drawings I was always told, “Run this by manufacturing to see how they want to make it.”

Now the New York Times has an article about “flipped schools,” which it says is a controversial new idea, in which students watch teacher’s lecture at home on video and then do lab experiments and such in class while the teacher circulates and supervises. My response is, “What? This is new?” When did high school become a process of students sitting in class and listening to teachers recite lectures? And why in the hell would it do that? Maybe now we know why high schools are graduating idiots.

When I was in high school our homework consisted in large part of reading assignments, and in class the teacher would ask questions and hold discussions with the class to make sure we understood the subject, to amplify upon what was in the book, and to make us think about the subject and apply it to life. We didn’t skimp on the reading assignments, because if we did we would be deeply humiliated the next day in class.

So now they are going back to this model, only they’re using videos instead of books of course, and they call it a controversial and exciting new idea. More, they are finding out that it works. Fancy that.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Full Faith And Credit

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this “full faith and credit of the United States” thing, in which neither side makes any sense. I’m not even going to try to understand the single platinum coin worth $5 trillion, or the various people quoting the 14th amendment who apparently think it was written by people who did not speak English. That amendment is clearly about the validity of debt, not payment of it.

As I read the thinking of people who are dedicated to maintaining it, the “full faith and credit of the United States” does not depend on the United States being solvent. We have not been solvent for many years and none of them are demanding that we be solvent or even head in that direction.

It does not depend on the United States being fiscally responsible. We certainly are not that either, and not only are they not demanding that we exercise any fiscal responsibility, but when anyone does do so they shout that person down and accuse him of being unpatriotic.

“The full faith and credit of the United States” depends on the nation being able to continue borrowing money unhindered by limitations on the amount of borrowing. As soon as the United States makes a decision that it will quit borrowing money, the world will lose faith in its economic power, and the economy of the nation and the world will collapse.

On what planet does that make any sense whatever?

Everyone agrees that the government shutdown is a bad thing, that Republicans are to blame, and that Republican policies are evil, but no one questions the importance of maintaining the “full faith and credit of the United States” by assuring unlimited borrowing, because the Democrats say so, and they’re the good guys.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fiscal Responsibility?

Reasonable people seem to be agreed that failure to raise the debt ceiling would be insane because “it would be irresponsible to make the U.S. default on its debt.” All Democrats and even many Republicans agree on that. All economists agree on that as a matter of economic principle.

President Obama has warned that the dent ceiling must be increased because, “the country will no longer be able to meet its financial obligations unless its borrowing power is extended by Oct. 17.”

The only ones not wanting to raise the debt ceiling are a handful of idiots who wear boots or loafers because they don’t know how to tie their shoes.

Now that we have that established, let’s think about what “reasonable people” are saying. They’re saying that we cannot pay our debts unless we borrow more money. Think about that for a moment. In order, they say, to avoid destroying the world’s economy due to the world losing faith in our ability to pay our debt, we need to borrow money to pay our existing debt. Because without borrowing more money we can’t pay our debt, the admission of which would crash the world’s economy.

They’re saying that we cannot pay our bills without borrowing more money which is the very definition of “insolvency,” but they don’t call it that, they call it “maintaining the full faith and credit of the United States.”

There is an enormous contingent raging about the “irresponsibility” of failing to raise our credit limit so that we can continue borrowing money to pay our bills, but it’s only that little handful of idiots who don’t know how to tie their shoes who are concerned about the irresponsibility of a government that for all but one year out of the last seventy has been spending borrowed money.

We have utterly destroyed the meaning of “fiscal responsibility.”