Sunday, June 30, 2013

Three Monkeys

"Europeans are furious" at the US governemnt for having been spying on Europeans, it says here, while Americans are furious at Edward Snowden for revealing that the US government is spying on Americans. Europeans don't want to be spied upon, while we don't mnd our government spying on us, we just don't want to know about it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

This Will Be Interesting

Kyle Petty, son of Richard “The King” Petty said the other day that, while Danica Patrick “can drive fast, she is not a racer.” Kyle drove for close to twenty years and won eight races in the major circuit, then known as Winston Cup. In his statement he added that he himself was never “a racer” and that if he knew what it took to be one he would have been one. I would not actually disagree with any part of his statement.

That has raised an absolute tempest between the Danica haters and her loyalists, and what makes it potentially interesting is that Kyle is one of the commentators for the Sprint Cup race that will be on TNT later this evening. I cannot wait to see how the television crew handles this little drama, given that NASCAR has been promoting Danica as being the best thing that has happened to the sport in decades, notwithstanding her average finishing position of 26th and her standing of 27th in the championship race.

I may actually watch the pre-race blather, which I do not usually do.

Her fellow Rookie-of-the-Year contender, and boyfriend who is six years younger than she is, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has an average finish of 18.5 and stands 19th in the championship race. He finished ahead of her 14 out of 17 races, and in 10 of those races he was at least 10 positions ahead of her. That has to have led to some rather interesting pillow talk.

Danica has finished 25th or worse in 14 of the 17 races this year, which would tend to give some credibility to Kyle Petty's assertion.

Update, Sunday morning: During the rain delay they interviewed about thirty drivers. Danica Patrick was not among them, and neither was Ricky Stenhouse or Danica's team owner, Tony Stewart.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Trivial Question

Why are we celebrating a Senate that cannot find $20 billion to feed Americans who are going hungry, but can find $60 billion to keep people out of this country?

And The Losers Cry "Foul"

The losing side always seems to think that the winning side somehow “rigged the game” and cheated them out of what was rightfully theirs, no matter what the vote count may have been or what the nature of the process was. The undesirable outcome is never the “will of the people,” but is always a manipulated outcome achieved by scoundrels who suborned democracy.

(That does happen, of course. Think Florida and the year 2000.)

A piece the other day at Attywood complains that other states have gay marriage, so why can’t Pennsylvania have it as well? The answer is pretty simple, but seems to elude the writer of the piece; when the people of Pennsylvania quit electing representatives to government who oppose gay marriage, then they can have gay marriage. It’s not rocket science. You get the government you elect.

Do these politicians run on a platform of favoring gay marriage and then vote against it once they are in office? They do not. They are proud of opposing gay marriage, they campaign on the issue, they make speeches about opposition to gay marriage, and they win the election. Why are the voters upset and surprised that the state does not allow gay marriage?

Don’t raise the fig leaf of “Citizens United” at me on this. For one thing, voters who allow their vote to be purchased deserve precisely what they get; they are beneath contempt. But politicians purchase ads which feature the views they espouse. The advertisements to which these voters succumb scream the anti-gay marriage views espoused by the candidate.

When we stop electing representatives who oppose abortion, then a woman’s right to choose will be safe in this nation.

When we stop electing representatives who want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare then our social safety net will be secure.

In a discussion elsewhere conservative voters were accused of “voting for what politicians said and ignoring what they do,” but on these large issues that is nonsense. Politicians who oppose gay marriage, abortion and the social safety net do not hide their views. On the contrary, they make those issues central to their campaigns, and they win election. At reelection time they boast of having voted against those issues and they win reelection. There is no subterfuge here. You want gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose and a social safety net, quit electing these guys.

The voters who “vote for what politicians say and ignore what they do” are the liberals who reelected a Congress that had promised in 2008 to end the war in Iraq and gave us “the surge” instead; a Congress that decried the Patriot Act and then renewed it in 2009.

The voters who “vote for what politicians say and ignore what they do” are the liberals who reelected a president who said that he would close Guantanamo and then made no more than token effort to do so; who promised the most transparent government ever and then prosecuted more whistleblowers than all of the presidents preceding him combined; who promised to “change Washington” then named Wall Street to his cabinet.

Complain away, but we have the government we elected.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This 'n That

I watch the Food Channel a lot, probably more than I do any other one channel, and I not only have never seen Paula Deen, I had never even heard the name until this latest “news” broke. I can cite a couple dozen names of people who star on the Food Channel, but until now Paula Deen would not have been one of them. “Huge Food Channel star?”

Everyone is cheering about DOMA having been overturned, but actually only half of it has been. The remaining half is of lesser impact, but it would be well to get rid of the remaining part of the act that says that states do not need to recognize marriages performed in other states if that marriage would not be permitted in their own state.

We are about to lose one of the truly great men of the century in Nelson Mandela. He has made the world a better place in ways that very, very few men have done.

Since the first of the year we have been hearing about an “improving economy” and how consumer spending has been improving steadily. Now we find out that the economy grew at only a 1.8% annual rate in the first quarter, and that consumer spending was reduced by almost a full percentage point from its previous estimate. But not to worry, because the economy is picking up steam like crazy now. Yeah, right.

An economy that grows at 1.8% is actually shrinking, because the population is growing at 2%, not to mention the impact of inflation.

Obama says that he wants Putin to give Snowden back to us but is not going to do any “wheeling and dealing.” This is descending from comedy into farce. After we have been so nice to Russia, doing things like goading Georgia into picking a war with them over South Ossetia, admitting former Soviet nations into NATO and bringing NATO right up to Russian borders, this whole Syria deal And we think Putin wants to curry favor with us.

In typical Congressional weirdness, the immigration bill wending its way through Congress actually encourages hiring noncitizens. People who are amnestied under the bill will be ineligible for health care provisions under Obamacare, so employers will incur lower employment costs for them than for citizens, for whom they will either have to provide health care or pay a penalty. Do these clowns ever actually think about what they are doing?

The vet started our cat on a new medicine and said to let her know if Molly "started acting wierd." Um, she's a cat. How do I know if she's acting wierd? "Well," the vet says, "if she's licking herself or running around a lot." Are you serious? Have you ever had a cat? Or even seen one?

The problem with spellcheckers is that they will accept "manes" when you meant to type "names." Shit.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zombie Math

Paul Krugman claims today that “tougher climate policy will, almost surely, be job-creating, not job-destroying, under current conditions.” His reasoning seems to involve unicorns and magic ponies because of a “termite theory” which was debunked under it’s former name of the “broken window theory,” but which he says is “right under these conditions.”

Paul Krugman again confuses his mathematical models with real world conditions when he says that a policy that raises energy prices will do no harm because “our economy isn’t supply-constrained right now, it’s demand-constrained.” Meaning, of course that people are not buying enough. So, he says, “Even if prices go up a bit, how will this reduce real demand?”

The stupidity of that statement is really hard to fathom. Will people spend less money if prices go up? No, they are already spending all of the money they have, and borrowing to spend more. That is not the point. The point is where that money is being spent and how that spending pattern affects the economy. The point is that when their electric bill doubles and the heating bill goes up they will spend less on other things.

They will spend less, for instance, on clothing, and when clothing makers are selling less clothing they lay off workers. So there are fewer clothing workers, but there are no additional electric workers because only the price of electricity went up, not the amount being used. That, my good Doctor Krugman, is a net loss of jobs, caused by the price increase of electricity.

The problem for Dr. Krugman is that he deals in mathematical models. For him “real demand” has nothing to do with what real people are doing in a real world, it is simply the amount of consumer dollars that are flowing in an outward direction. So he’s right in that prices will not change the amount that consumers spend. But the real world does not allow that to be extended to mean that jobs will not be affected merely because the amount of spending is unchanged. One cannot merely plug in mathematics; one has to actually think logically in the framework that exists outside of the ivory tower at Princeton University.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Media Hysteria

If the media circus regarding Snowdon was not so pernicious it would be utterly hilarious on more than one level; first being that the real story is about what the government is doing, not about Snowdon’s flight from government prosecution for blowing the whistle on government malfeasance. It’s positively awe inspiring to watch the degree to which the media has “missed the point,” except that they have not done so by error, they have done so deliberately, as water carriers for the government.

Then there is the reasoning given for Snowdon’s “flight from justice,” which in reality can be summed up in two words which no one is mentioning; “Bradley Manning.” I suspect that if Snowdon thought that he would receive justice in this country he might well have stayed and faced it, but given the years of torture to which Bradley Manning has been subjected by the Obama administration and the kangaroo court that is trying him now, Snowdon reasonably chooses to take his chances in international flight.

Finally is the utter hysteria with which the media has reached over the “criminal of the century” and the need to capture him at all costs. To hear the media tell it this guy ranks up there with Ames, the Rosenbergs and Hanssen, and maybe worse, for telling the world what most of it already knew, namely that the American government has been watching who is making phone calls and what is being transmitted on the internet. There may be someone in the outer reaches of Mongolia who didn’t know that.

Not to mention the absurdity of the claim that letting terrorists know we are monitoring their phone calls "endangers national security.” Terrorist cells can no more destroy this nation than can a herd of house cats, and the term “national security” has been so overused as to have become as meaningless as the concurrent word “terrorist.”

As horrible the event was, “national security” does not mean preventing two guys from deploying pressure cooker bombs at a sporting event to kill three people. We need to prevent it, but it is not a matter of “national security.”

Edward Snowdon threatened the unfettered power of the federal government over the people of this nation, and that government wants to make an example out of him to prevent others from following his example.

Interesting Circle

I haven't commented on this aspect of the "employer mandate" for health insurance because I haven't figured out what it means. Having finally decided that it doesn't mean anything, I'm going to go ahead and comment on it anyway, because I find it interesting.

Why did employers begin offering health insurance in the first place? As a way to raise wages despite government wage controls. Government was fighting inflation and placed limits on prices and wages, and so to attract employees in a tight labor market, employers offered health care and/or health insurance as incentive. Kaiser Industries actually had its own doctors and clinics. It's not quite that simple, but...

So now business is trying to reduce wages. And instead of capping wages as they did in the past, the government is effectively mandating increased wages in the form of health insurance.

And we rant about the ill effects of "unfettered capitalism."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Oh Really? Where?

Andrew O'Hehir gives a little talk at Campaign for the American Conversation regarding the “American Dystopia.” He speaks of the American condition today which is not “1984” of oppressive government spying, nor “Brave New World” of suppression of dissent by means of unfettered consumerism, nor “The Matrix” where all is illusion and reality is concealed, but which has elements of all three. He makes an interesting and, I think valid, point, but it goes downhill from there.

He points out that he was born in the sixties and that times were violent and chaotic, citing Vietnam and “race relations.” To begin with it wasn’t about “race relations,” it was about civil rights, which is one whole hell of a lot more important than a matter of how we “get along with each other,” and if he was born in the sixties he doesn’t know jack shit about it because the major changes were all over by the time he was old enough to remember.

If he did recall the sixties he wouldn't be babbling about “race relations.”

He then mumbles some magic words about change, mentions Obama’s 2008 campaign and that Obama was unable to deliver on his campaign promise, and then segues into a bland non sequitur about how he sees hope for the future. “We do not have to be spied upon,” he says, because of the massive changes that have occurred over the past fifty years. Sort of a Shakespearean “past is prologue” kind of thing, I suppose.

The point he seems to miss is that all of the major social change that has occurred during those fifty years did so in the first twenty of them, and the only change that has occurred during the past thirty years has been a slow and steady decline toward dystopia. That’s hardly a rosy picture of hope, so it’s hard to imagine where he’s seeing that hope that he’s babbling about.

What he does manage to point out, probably without meaning to, is that change is not accomplished by politicians, it is accomplished by people who are pissed off sufficiently that they are willing to suffer serious discomfort and risk injury and death to force change on politicians who are benefiting from the status quo. By his own statement, we live in peaceful and comfortable times, and that is precisely why change will not happen.

In Brazil and in Turkey today people are willing to be uncomfortable as hell; to face water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets; to risk imprisonment, injury and death; to remain on the streets in the tens and hundreds of thousands indefinitely to make their point. In this country, a few hundred people hold a campout in a public park and sing songs, and then disperse as soon as the police show up.

Whatever form it takes, we have the government we deserve.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Banned Again

Whatever liberals may claim to be, open minded they are not. I participate in discussions in both liberal and conservative discussion groups, and have been both applauded and flamed on both since I tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I have never had a post deleted or been banned by a conservative group, but have had both happen on liberal groups.

The latest was when a poster bragged about having a friend who was a former illegal alien who had become a citizen, who wrote that the friend said that he would never vote for Republicans “if they tried to take his citizenship away.” The writer went on to say that Republicans opposed immigration because it would increase the number of Democratic voters.

I asked why immigrants would automatically be Democrats. Would it be, I asked, because Democrats “gave them citizenship?” If so, that would be voting based on bribery. I pointed out that the poster’s friend by his own statement was refusing to vote for Republicans because they would not give him what he wanted, that is to say would not bribe him. I added that there is no mechanism in this country for stripping a person of citizenship, so the friend’s statement made no sense, and went on to say that no one should feel bad, because pretty much all voters today vote based on bribes. “I voted for Blah because he cut my taxes.”

My comment was replaced by a notice that an “offensive comment” had been deleted as well as the commenter’s name, and that my “posting privileges” had been cancelled. In all fairness, conservatives do not like to be disagreed with either, but they do not try to erase the existence of opposing views altogether. Conservatives will call me some fairly nasty names, but they don’t try to pretend that I don’t exist.

I would actually agree that the deleted comment has something of an offensive nature, but there is a larger point that the ban missed, which is the frequency with which people unashamedly admit to utterly selfish reasons for their votes. A vote was based on “lowering my taxes,” or on the basis that the representative “brings more federal money into my district,” or “protects my Social Security,” or other ways in which the vote represents the personal benefit to the voter. That was the point which I made in the post, but apparently the “jury” only read part of my post and hit “ban.”

A couple of liberal blogs have banned me permanently, so...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fine Lines

From Col. Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis,

The generally mindless crew now described as "journalists" say whatever comes into their heads and then compliment each other on their "wisdom." They get paid for this?

Unfortunately for my keyboard and nasal passages, I was drinking coffee when I read this.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Effective? Who Cares

I watched Chris Matthews on Hardball yesterday and, as usual, most of his blather was nonsensical speculation about tactics which he and his cronies expect to be used in the election of 2016. He has no concern regarding the implications of that election on the well being of the nation, you understand, but is excited nearly to the point of orgasm over who will be running and what "issues" they will be running on. The man is an idiot.

They did do a segment on the NSA eavesdropping, and the entirety of the concern had to do with the degree to which the programs are effective in keeping us safe from being blown up by Chechen terrorists who deploy pressure cooker bombs at marathons. Oh, wait, they actually didn't mention that episode. Fucking morons.

President Obama also defended the programs, again by telling us how effective they are at protecting us from Chechen terrorists who deploy pressure cooker bombs at marathons. What he actually said was "terror plots," of course, because when talking about the NSA he's pretending that Boston didn't happen. He also said that the programs are "transparent" because a secret court in an undisclosed location with an unelected judge whose name is super secret approves 100% of the warrants secretly submitted to him without the knowledge of the persons who are the subject of the warrants. He has a vastly different definition of "transparent" than I do.

The issue, of course, is not whether or not the NSA programs are effective. The issue is whether or not they are legal, and that is a question that no one is asking. If they did ask the question it would not, of course, be answered because the answer is pretty clearly "no." Or, "Oh hell no."

This Is Interesting

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Arizona cannot require that a person show proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or a Social Security card, when registering to vote. It seems that such a requirement prevents the elderly and poor people from voting, which it may or may not actually do. I’m 70 and I got a new Social Security card not long ago which cost me nothing. Anyway, you know who such a law certainly does prevent from voting? Yeah, people who are not citizens.

Interesting that states can, and California does, require proof of citizenship before issuing a driver’s license. That is, in fact, a federal mandate which some states are resisting. I see nothing which intrinsically makes citizenship a requirement of driving a car.

Employers not only can, but are required to obtain proof of citizenship before hiring, and the feds periodically raid employers to assure that they are complying with this requirement. What is it about feeding one’s family which intrinsically requires that one be a citizen?

It would seem to me that participating in government does naturally require citizenship, but we now say that states cannot require proof of citizenship before registering people to vote.

So, to recap, we are a country which will not allow non-citizens to drive a car or work for a living, but we will allow non-citizens to vote in our elections. Is this a great nation, or what?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Syria Decision

The decision to send weapons to Syria was based on the evidence that Assad’s forces had used Sarin gas on the rebel forces, crossing a “red line” set several months ago. As Daniel Larison points out yesterday, this is where we get to as a result of a serious of “unforced errors” by the dimwit in the White House. He’s being kind; I call them stupid mistakes. First Obama says “Assad must go,” for no reason that is apparent in terms of American national interest, then he made the silly “red line” statement, which was an open invitation for claims of chemical weapon use.

Then there is the report from US “intelligence” to which Obama is responding. It claims that 100-150 rebels were killed by Sarin gas used by Assad’s forces; a claim that defies credulity all by itself. Assad’s forces are not some disorganized bunch of warlords. This is a disciplined, well trained and organized military. They have an air force, tanks, artillery, rockets, cluster munitions, and heavy weapons. And with all that, while winning battles and retaking ground, they are going to use Sarin gas to kill a mere 100 rebels? That accusation is utterly absurd.

Larison also points out that providing light weapons is completely illogical, since it does nothing to address the use of chemical weapons; it does not prevent the further use of chemical weapons, it does not protect from chemical weapon use. It does not, in fact, have anything to do with chemical weapons at all.

Then we have an article in The Times claiming that Obama didn’t want to do anything at all but was bullied by people inside and outside the White House to “do something” and yielded to the pressure. That sounds about right, given the degree of moral cowardice he has displayed since he has been in office. No one can ever claim that he is a steely “man of conviction.” My cat has more courage, and she runs away from birds.

And then we have another insider report that the real reason for the decision is not chemical weapon use, as we are being told, but rather the signs that Assad is winning the civil war; an outcome which the White House deems unacceptable. That at least is more or less logical even if it is, in several ways, utterly stupid. Not to mention dishonest, much like Bush and his WMD’s in Iraq.

In general terms, it is seldom a good idea to back the losing side, but more specifically is seems idiotic to back the side that has said it will commit genocide on the Syrian Christian population if it wins. Especially when you are doing so under a policy called “responsibility to protect.”

Finally, the fuckwit wants to ban firearms here at home, but he hands them out overseas like beads at Mardi Gras, because guns in the hands of nutcases in America are dangerous but guns in the hands of jihadist nutcases in other parts of the world is promoting democracy. That has worked so well in Libya, Mali, Afghanistan and Iraq, hasn’t it?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Obama's Mushroom Cloud

Colonel Pat Lang writes yesterday, under the absolutely brilliant headline, “The Mushroom Cloud is Called Sarin This Time,”

I thought it would take longer for the influence of Susan Rice and Samantha Power to take effect, and then, there is the pitiful spectacle of John McCain.

Colonel Lang, you have a truly magical way with words.

I thought there was no action so middle-of the-road, so feckless and idiotic that the idiot in the White House would not do it, and this proves me right. I was concerned when he brought these two “R2P” advocates into his house, and here we are. With Susan Rice screaming in one ear and Samantha Power in the other that “people are dying” and “we have to do something,” he decides to throw a bunch more weapons into the caldron so that the war will be prolonged, people will die in increasing numbers, and the Middle East will become more destabilized than ever. Fucking brilliant.

Do you doubt that this will escalate into a no fly zone and regime change?

I think this man is as fucking nuts as any neocon about this “American exceptionalism” crap, is as thoroughly blinded by the myth of the omnipotence of American military power, and that he has become utterly corrupted by five years of having been the “most powerful man in the world.” I think he has, like any president who stays in office for more than four years, gone completely insane.

Of Course "It Works"

“This program provided information which prevented dozens of terrorist attacks on our homeland.” Does that line, spoken by the Obama administration in defense of the NSA surveillance programs, sound familiar? It should; it is precisely the same line that the Bush administration used in defense of torture.

Did it justify torture? Yes, unfortunately, in the eyes of some, it did.

Those were the people who a) would justify anything that George Bush did because they were blinded by loyalty to George Bush and/or the Republican Party and/or b) were so terrified of being hit by an asteroid from outer space killed by a terrorist, that they would permit any action taken by their government.

Today we have people who are so blinded by loyalty to Barack Obama and/or the Democratic Party that they will accept and justify anything done by the current administration, and we still have people who are terrified beyond reason of being killed by a terrorist, even though being hit by an asteroid from outer space is more likely.

Those in the latter group, terrified of being killed by a terrorist, point to the Boston bombing as justification for their fears and as justification for the NSA surveillance, even though the NSA surveillance was in place at the time and did not prevent the bombing.

Clapper, Alexander, Joe Biden and others are claiming that these surveillance programs prevented “dozens of terrorist attacks,” but they are not going to give us the details of those attacks because those details are “secrets” which are vital to “national defense.” That’s one explanation. Other explanations for not disclosing details might be that there were fewer than “dozens” of attacks, that attacks were prevented but not by these surveillance programs, or it might be that no such attacks ever existed.

The only attack which has been mentioned is the guy planning to bomb the New York subway with bombs made from hair care products. Turns out the original tip did not come from these surveillance programs at all, and that the use of this surveillance not only caught him in the net but also swept up three other people who were buying large quantities of hair care products. Those people turned out to be hairdressers rather than bombers, so the efficacy of these programs might be a bit questionable.

Who could have imagined that hairdressers might buy large quantities of hair care products? They don’t call them intelligence agents for nothing.

Not to mention that, having received the tip, they could easily have gotten a FISA warrant to record this one person’s phone calls. Wherein was this “total awareness” surveillance program required?

But whether or not they work is moot. The first question about a government program is not whether or not it works, but whether or not it lies within the boundaries set by our constitution. That question is not even being addressed by the administration in defense of these programs and, since its legality has been challenged, it is the first one which should be.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I realize that Snowden is a whistleblower who revealed illegal activity by our government, and that he is to be applauded for doing so, but I cannot help but observe that he comes across as something of a narcsssictic self-aggrandizing twerp. Too many carefully rehearsed grandiose statements. There is just too much self-protrayed "nobility" there.

Otherwise Known As

Conservatism: a political or theological orientation advocating the preservation of the best in society and opposing radical changes.
Liberalism: a political orientation that favors social progress by reform and by changing laws rather than by revolution.

Ian Welsh observes in a comment that “those definitions are not how those who claim to be either liberals or conservatives operate or have operated in living memory in the United States,” and he makes a good point. Being in a comment rather than in an original post, he does not go onto as much depth or explain his point as cogently as his writing usually does.

Those who call themselves conservatives today are actually reactionaries. They do not seek to maintain “the best in current society,” but rather to unwind existing programs in order to return to a “better” past. The Luddites were also reactionaries, who wanted to dismantle the Industrial Revolution in order to return to the simpler pastoral life that had preceded it.

And, by the way, the “better past” touted by today’s “conservatives” was by no means the rosy state of affairs that they portray. Life was “ugly, brutish and short” and the oligarchs controlled things even more then than they do now. Which may be their point and their objective, but…

Those who call themselves progressives do nothing more than argue for the preservation of programs which were in place before their parents were born in many cases, Social Security and Medicare, and lobby for the continuance of “New Deal” type of spending that has been the practice for even longer. This is the very definition of conservatism.

Even Paul Krugman, the doyen of “liberalism,” illustrates today his true conservatism as he writes that, “Many of us wish that Obamacare were a simpler system, one that directly provided health insurance.” Emphasis added by me. The true liberal would have written that as, “…one that directly provided health care.”

And, yes, please don’t cite “health care reform” as an example of today's Democratic Party progressivism. Making health insurance mandatory instead of optional is not progressive.

So for all practical purposes we have no liberals today; instead we have conservatives and we have reactionaries, both using aliases.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chargers PR

The San Diego Chargers "fanned out" (pun apparently intended) throughout the city yesterday on a "Thank you tour" to express their appreciation for the support that fans have given them in past years. They dispersed, in uniform, to various parts of the city and spent time talking with people and signing autographs. Based on the photos, they didn't appear to be suffering in the process. If this is evidence of the management style of our new coach and general manager, I think Dean Spanos may have chosen well. Winning games will be the bottom line, of course, but still...

Killing The Messenger

CBS Evening News has done segments on the NSA surveillance issue for the last three evenings. All three times, the topic had nothing whatever to do with the content of the programs; nothing whatever to do with what the government is doing in the way of spying on its citizens. The topic was entirely about catching and convicting the person who informed the American people of what their government is doing.

The thing that surprises me in all this is the absolute openness with which our government and the people in it break the law. There used to be a concept of “plausible deniability,” whereby the top men were isolated from our government’s more heinous actions so that they could argue that they did not know it was being done, but today the top people stand up and proudly brag about being the authors of governmental malfeasance. “Hell yes,” the president says, “I ordered than man assassinated. It was the easiest decision I’ve made as president and I’m proud of it.”

Of course we used torture after 9/11. We’ve always used torture. The CIA was throwing Viet Cong out of helicopters during that war. But it was always a rogue action and the top brass was always saying, “Tell me what you found out but don’t tell me how you got the information.” Anyone who was caught inflicting torture was punished for doing it, even though efforts at catching them may have been less than rigorous.

George Bush and Dick Cheney came right out and bragged about having ordered that torture be used to obtain information, and suffered no consequences for it. None. Both retired to wealthy and sumptuous lives.

There is a certain amount of fulmination regarding Obama’s use of assassination, although few dare call it that, as an instrument of foreign policy. In one respect that is no big deal; the CIA has been assassinating people for decades. It was kept a deep dark secret, though; was something that our government would never admit that it did, and the President’s fingerprints were never on the orders so that he could never be accused of being complicit.

Today, Barack Obama brags about how he personally chooses the targets for assassination, a flagrantly illegal act by national and international law, and no one even suggests that he should receive any repercussion for that.

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress, and admitted to Andrea Mitchell on national television to having done so. When asked if the NSA was spying on Americans he told Mitchell that he “gave the least untruthful answer” that he could. He lied. To Congress. And nobody in officialdom cares.

But when Obama is asked if the NSA is spying on Americans, he not only says that it is, he becomes angry that anyone has dared to reveal that fact and vows to track down and punish the person who did so. "Hell yes, I am spying on you," he says, with fire in his eyes, "I am keeping you safe from terrorists." He goes on the attack against anyone who would challenge his right to spy on the American people.

Because, you see, these people are not subject to the laws.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Orwell Had The Year Wrong

The poll which reveals that the number of Americans who believe that the government tracking of phone activity is an acceptable method of “keeping us safe from terrorists” has actually risen from 51% in 2007 to 56% today is seriously disheartening to me. Bernie Sanders talks about an “Orwellian future,” but this poll makes me think we are living in an Orwellian present.

One has to suppose that the Boston bombing is contributing to this, but the problem I have with that idea is that this surveillance didn’t prevent the Boston bombing, and so this theory suggests we are surrendering our civil liberties based on a visibly false premise.

Other than that, we are farther than ever removed from 9/11, the “terror wars” are supposedly winding down, Osama bin Laden is dead, we are being told repeatedly that Al Queda is all but wiped out, and yet more people than ever are willing to have an authoritarian government in the name of “being kept safe from terrorism.”

One of the numbers in the poll is quite revealing of the “cult of personality” which has developed around Barack Obama. In 2007, when George Bush was in office, only 37% of Democrats thought that the NSA surveillance programs were acceptable; this year, with Barack Obama at the helm, 64% of Democrats find them acceptable.

This is the population of which dictators are made.

Monday, June 10, 2013

One Defense I Missed

There's one defense of Superman Obama which I had missed in my perusal of reactions to the revelations regarding our surviellance state, and was provided by John Cole in a post yesterday. It says that, "President Obama is not the villain here, he is merely following laws which were passed by Congress." He goes on to say that "they" followed every letter and comma of what are admittedly horrible laws.

Well, the latter point is highly questionable, but that point is moot. The real point is that the Patriot Act gives intelligence agencies some permissions to spy on Americans; it doesn't say that they are required to actually do it. The actual spying was a choice made by the current administration.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Not Just A River In Egypt

The reaction by the left blogosphere to the revelation of our Democratic surveillance state is nothing short of astonishing, coming in several forms. 1) It’s a made-up Republican scandal for the purpose of discrediting Superman, is therefor fake, and we can respond to it only by calling Republicans bad names. 2a) It’s true, but it’s okay because it’s Superman who is doing it. He is noble and pure of heart and is doing it only to keep us safe. Trust him and shut up. 2b) I’d rather be spied on than be blown up by a terrorist nuclear weapon. 3) It’s horrible but we have to accept it peacefully because both sides are doing it, so shut up and vote for Superman’s party because the other one would be infinitely worse.

One writer even used numbers 1 and 3 in the same post: it’s a fake scandal and we have to accept it because both sides do it. The mind boggles.

My responses are 1) If it’s fake why is Superman instigating such a furious hunt for the treasonous bastard who leaked the programs? 2a) Yeah, right. I’ve already talked about how much I trust someone who claims the right to kill me without due process of law. 2b) I’m also terrified of getting killed by an asteroid, which is more likely that your terrorist. 3) The lesser of two evils is still evil. In a democracy we don’t have to accept anything.

The “terrorist plot” that I've heard cited as having been deflected by this program, or by one of the several programs which have been revealed, regards a guy who was planning to put backpacks on the New York subways. They offer no more detail than that, but you may recall that the guilty behavior that the guy exhibited was that he was visiting too many hair salons. Turns out he was buying his bomb-making materials at these hair salons. I don’t make these things up, the FBI does.

Like the guy who was going to blow up the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. The evidence was that he had several dozen cell phones which he had recently bought in Detroit. They did not explain how he was going to blow up a major bridge using cell phones, and it turned out he was merely bootlegging cell phones. Good thing we were spying on him.

So, Republicans are outraged over this revelation, but they get outraged over pretty much anything. Democrats are either in denial or are making excuses, but Obama could rob a bank in broad daylight on Pennsylvania Avenue and Democrats would claim he was getting money to feed hungry families. Not his, of course; his family is a long, long way from hungry.

Meanwhile, you might be careful how often you call your hairdresser.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

On Safety and Liberty

I watched clips of Obama’s response to the revelations regarding the NSA surveillance issues yesterday, and to say that I heard echoes of George W. Bush would be an understatement. He spoke of “striking this balance between the need to keep the American people safe and our concerns about privacy, because, there are some trade-offs involved,” and assured us that the programs in question “help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

“But I think its important to recognize that you can't have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience. We're gonna have to make some choices as a society. And I can say in evaluating these programs, they make a difference in our ability to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity.”

The juxtaposition between his assertions of “100% security” and “possible terrorist activity” is rank Bushism, with the former being impossible and the latter blatant fear mongering.

He assured us that no one was listening to our phone calls which was distraction, since nobody ever claimed that any such thing was happening and that was not anyone’s concern regarding the illegal program. The fact is that obtaining a record of a person’s telephone activity requires a court order, and this program is making a database of everyone’s telephone activity which can be accessed at will. It is a massive violation of law, and Obama tries to palm it off as “keeping us safe” just as Bush did.

Obama goes on to say that whatever potential this program has for government abuse, such as repressing protest, that we should trust him not to engage in such abuse, and assures us that he will use to program only to “keep us safe from terrorists.” I don’t know if I trust him or not, I’m pretty sure I don’t. This is a man who says he finds it easy to give an order to assassinate an American citizen without due process of law, and I’m supposed to trust him?

Trusting him or not is not the point. Our constitution spells out a form of government which makes it unnecessary to trust any individual. Obama is violating that constitution, and then asking us to trust him not to abuse the product of that violation. That’s like a bank robber asking us to trust him to spend the stolen money wisely.

Organ of the State

CBS Evening News covered the various spying leaks last night in a manner that I have come to know as typical of them. They discussed the leaks in terms of how the leaks happened and who published them, and then went into a discussion of how the “whistleblowers” would be hunted down and punished by the government.

The content of the leaks, the fact that our government is illegally collecting data about its citizens, that it continues to do under Obama what was decried as illegal under Bush, was essentially ignored. It was about “enemies of the state” who dare to reveal to the public what its government is doing.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Arguing In Good Faith

Krugman today accuses one Arvik Roy of arguing “health care reform” in bad faith because he claims facts which are not true in making his points. Krugman does not say which untrue facts Mr. Roy claims, but that’s okay, because Krugman is undoubtedly correct in his accusation. My problem with Dr. Krugman is that I’m wondering where he gets off making such accusations, given his proclivity for spouting nonsense himself.

Let’s take, for instance, Krugman’s assertion that the government should borrow money without restraint at this time because interest rates are really low. Add that to the statement that he has made many times that governments never repay debts and you have an assertion by Krugman which is completely inconsistent with reality. Krugman knows that government debt is, essentially, adjustable rate debt and that interest rates are certainly not going to stay low forever, so he cannot possibly believe that his claim regarding the cost of government borrowing is true as he posits it.

It might be true if the government were to retire the debt when its term expired, but Krugman specifically asserts that government does not do that. It might be true if the debt were not time limited, but Krugman knows very well that such is not the case. So is Krugman “arguing in good faith” when he claims that the government should borrow without restraint because interest rates are low at this moment? I think not.

Let’s also examine Krugman using the writings of John Maynard Keynes as authority for why government should spend money in economic hard times. All well and good, but then he abandons Keynes altogether in arguing that we should strive for inflation because it “makes debt easier to repay.” Keynes abhorred inflation, and with good reason, in that it rewards debt, punishes savings and diminishes capital formation. Keynes also advised that, while government should spend in times of economic stress, he advocated that it should repay the incurred debt in economic good times, something which Krugman specifically decries.

Can anyone claim that selectively citing a source and quoting only those portions that fit your agenda is “arguing in good faith” on any topic?

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Is This Going To Be A Turkey Shoot?

It will be interesting to see how this mess develops, because it reminds me of two things which led to entirely opposite outcomes.

The first is the treatment which Occupy Wall Street received at the hands of various police forces in the United States. That, of course, led nowhere but to the irrelevancy of the movement formerly known as Occupy Wall Street, which is still around but is almost totally ignored. There were a few words of outrage, outrage I tell you, regarding the harsh treatment by “police thugs,” but no one in this country takes that kind of outrage seriously, so

The other thing it reminds me of is, of course, Tahrir Square in Egypt, and we all know how that turned out. We don’t have Hillary Clinton around to tell us how Erdogan is a “dear friend of the family,” but John Kerry has probably been to yacht races with him on the Bosporus Gold Coast, so that might serve the same purpose. Obama is already hyperventilating about the noble qualities of Erdogan while urging both sides to remain calm and use “peaceful measures,” so we’re all set for that phase of things.

People in the Middle East are serious about their protests, though, and unlike this country they meet police thuggery with an escalation of violence instead of stealing off into the woodwork. So we will see before long if this is going to proceed to the phase where Obama is telling the world that Erdogan has “lost his authority to govern,” and that he must “step down immediately” or face some "serious consequences" which Obama will refuse to describe.

Events in the Middle East are not always easy to forecast, but Barack Obama is completely and entirely predictable.

The Absurdity That Is Salon

Salon ArticleThis is the headline at for an essay by Lewis Lapham, describing his upbringing in a shipping family and his first time at sea. The episode of his shipmates taking him to a whorehouse is a very minor episode, taking less than one paragraph in a fairly lengthy tale, and is in no way actually relevant to his seagoing experience. The headline, however, illustrates the kind of thinking that prevails at what used to be... Oh, to hell with it.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

On Morals And Ethics

Ian Welsh had a piece on ethics this week in which he defined the difference between morals and ethics as, “…morals are how you treat people you know. Ethics are how you treat people you don’t know.” I rather liked that definition at first reading, even though it sounded a little bit “too good to be true.” The more I pondered it, though, the more it held up, and I came to like it very much indeed.

His discussion regarding the definition is well said and and makes some good points. Like most of what he writes, I recommend it as good reading.

He also, in this piece, resonates with my thinking regarding a major breakdown in our governance that has been a burr under my saddle for a long time and which no one ever talks about. That is that our legislators keep thrashing around in a misguided efforts to arrive at moral legislation, such as abortion and gay marriage, and have abandoned completely any effort at ethical governance, as is revealed by their oft-repeated statement that, “My responsibility is to serve the best interest of my state/district.”

Actually, we should have no laws regarding the moral issue of abortion, either permitting or banning it, and the ethical responsibility of a federal legislator is to represent the principles of his state/district in serving the best interest of the nation as a whole.

The voters, of course, contribute to the ethical failure by reelecting incumbents because they want to “maintain seniority in Congress.” What that actually means is that they want to assure that their representation has sufficient “pull” in Congress to secure the maximum amount of pork for their state, and they vote for legislators based on the amount of pork which the representative is able to bring home.

During the Civil War it was said that “a nation divided against itself cannot stand.” That was at a time when this nation was divided into two halves. We are now divided into fifty greedy, self serving states, each trying to suck the maximum resources from the federal coffers for its own benefit and each willing to throw the nation under the bus in order to gain a “leg up” over its 49 competitors.

Whenever I bring up this concept in discussion, especially in liberal discussion, I am roundly slapped down and told that the true and proper role of a federal legislator is precisely to serve the best interest of his state/district. “If they don’t serve my interests,” I am asked, “who will?”

It never occurs to them that in matters of national governance perhaps their parochial interests should not be served at all, by anyone.

The rise of the Tea Party was actually a triumph of principle over greed, because for the first time the voters were in significant measure willing to elect legislators based on the principles they espoused rather than on what they could do for the district’s parochial self interest. Whether those principles represented valid governance is beside the point, the Tea Party was not based on “I’m going to bring federal money into your area.”

Yes, there was an element of self interest in voting Tea Party, in wanting lower taxes and smaller government, but it was not parochial self interest. These legislators were elected based on principles of national governance.