Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Filner Saga Continues

The latest exciting chapter of the San Diego Filner Saga was played yesterday when the slime creature emerged from the his office and read another prepared statement which closely resembled the first one. “I have a problem, I need to change,” blah, blah, blah.

He’s back to contrition. Having tried it as his first play, then going to defiance and finding that neither worked, he’s back to contrition with an added twist. This time he’s going into two weeks of “intensive therapy” to fix his problem. He’s going to remain on top of his task as mayor, though, because during his “therapy” he will receive twice daily briefings on the city’s business. So, and this is my interpretation, he’s going in for “inpatient sexual harassment therapy.”

Sort of a poor man's Tiger Woods.

I checked the DSM IV and I do not see “sexual harassment disorder” as a treatable mental defect, so I don’t think that is going to help him in the pending lawsuits. So far, it has not helped his declining political support much either, since 70% of the public and about 95% of the political establishment is still demanding that he resign.

I have a DSM IV because my wife is a therapist. Some day I’m going to write a book about that, by the way. Being married to a therapist is

Anyway, I ran this idea of twice daily city business briefings during Filner’s two weeks of “intensive therapy” by my wife, and asked her if that wasn’t somewhat counter to the purpose of the process; wouldn’t it tend to dilute the ability to focus on and deal with the problem. She was laughing at my question before I finished it, asserting that the concept itself was absurd, but agreed that if one is going to do two weeks of “intensive therapy” then outside distraction would be seriously destructive to the process.

She still puts down my criticism of the daily briefings, though, because why be critical of something that is detrimental to a process when the process itself is utter bullshit to begin with? She has a point, of course. Another paragraph for my book.

What Filner really needs is a brain transplant.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Tennessee Truck Adventure

In 1983 I had just closed down my machinery installation business and was working odd jobs while I got my feet under me after stopping a rather serious drinking problem. A friend called and asked if I still had my commercial driver’s license, and I said I did. He told me that he had a truckload of material in Nashville which he needed driven back to Atlanta, and asked if I would fly up and drive the truck back for him. I said sure.

It’s a fairly easy day’s work. Nashville to Atlanta is 250 miles; about six hours or so since there is a fairly nasty mountain pass to negotiate, which will slow me down a bit even in nice summer weather. I’m to pick up the truck at a rental place, and the steel plant is supposed to have the trailer loaded and ready to hook up. No sweat.

It starts out easy enough, except that those little bitty airplanes scare the crap out of me. Despite my premonitions of certain death, we land safely and I get to the truck rental place and fill out the paperwork. I get into the truck and am getting everything adjusted to my liking, looking over the dash and what have you, when I realize it has been a few years since I’ve done this, and in particular since I’ve done it when I was not drunk, or at least well on the way to being so. It feels kind of weird.

So I start the truck, put it in gear and the truck sort of leaps out of the rental lot toward the street. Oh yes, I remember now; you don’t start bobtailed in second gear. That’s a good way to, um, break the drive shaft. I look in the mirror and the rental guy is holding his head in both hands. I signal him that I have everything under control, which is not strictly true at this point, but Let’s try that again. Oh, good, the drive shaft is intact and my second start is not exactly svelte, but at least the truck stays on the ground.

Driving a truck is absolutely not like riding a bicycle, but it does come back fairly rapidly, and by the time I get to the steel plant I’m playing a fairly smooth tune with the gearshift and no longer leaving tire rubber on the pavement. I check in and this is where things go to shit because, no, not only do they not have the trailer loaded, it is not even parked in its loading bay and they want me to park it there for them.

Seriously? It’s been several years since I’ve been in a freaking truck and they want me to back a forty foot box into a door that is about one inch wider than the trailer. I have my pride, though, or I am stupid or something, because I don’t hesitate. I hook up the trailer, pull up in front of the door, and utterly astonish myself by backing it into the bay on the first try. Haha, fooled them. They think they have a real truck driver here..

I get to the freeway and gain confidence after a while; am cruising along at slightly above the 55 mph truck speed limit and feeling pretty good. I see a sign that says “Weigh Station 2 miles” and think nothing of it. A little later a sign reads “Weigh Station 1 mile” and it still doesn't register. Then I see a sign that says “Weigh Station, Open, All Trucks Must Exit” and I realize “Oh shit, I’m a truck.”

My first thought is that I have to go past. I’m not worried about my weight, since my load is only about half of maximum and well balanced, but there would be a fine for failing to stop and that would come out of my pocket.

But then I see that there are no trucks in the weigh station, so I hit the ramp at something like 50 miles per hour and I become as busy as the proverbial one armed paper hanger. My trailer is trying to get in front of me, which would not be good, so I have to keep it behind me, but I also have to stop this beast. I'm generating a rather impressive cloud of tire and brake smoke, but somehow I come to rest with everything straight and more or less on the scale. Turns out my steering axle has gone off the front edge a bit.

The scale guy communicates with drivers over a loudspeaker, which crackles after my cloud of smoke has fully cleared and I hear a sort of sarcastic, “You in big a hurry, are you?”

“Not really,” I reply. “I was kind of caught up with Reba on the tape deck and the exit sort of snuck up on me.” I’m thinking to myself that that was about the puniest response in the history of excuses.

Apparently it passed muster, because all I get is, “You want to back it up a little bit?” Maybe he likes Reba McEntire, too. Most guys in Tennessee do, which is why I said what I did, of course. Common ground never hurts.

The only message from the scale house after that is a green light, so I get out of there before he decides to check papers. My driver’s license is good, but I have no current DOT health card, and I’m not keeping a driver’s log. I probably could have talked my way out of trouble, but flying onto his scale like that has not helped my cause.

Negotiating the pass at Chattanooga was child’s play after that, although I did kind of laugh at myself on the downgrade as I’m tiptoeing down in sixth gear at 25 mph with a gross weight of 50,000# and remembering the times I’d done it half again as fast while grossing close to 100,000# and carrying eight or ninth.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sigh, It Never Stops

A Danica Patrick apologist, pretending to be a sportswriter, has a piece in USA Today yesterday saying claiming that Princess Sparkle Pony is actually much better than critics are giving her credit for. He compares Danica to “three IndyCar drivers [who] have tried to make the transition to the big taxicabs” recently:

“Sam Hornish was 33rd in the Cup standings after 19 races.”

Indeed. Sam won the IRL championship, three times no less, and the Indy 500 once, and let’s see where he is in the Sprint Cup standings today. Oh, he’s not. He’s currently running in the Nationwide series.

“Dario Franchitti was 37th after six races, at which point he was injured and ultimately returned to IndyCar.”

I don’t think that even requires any comment.

“Juan Pablo Montoya was 20th after 19 races.”

Indeed he was, after winning the Indy 500 and 7 Formula races, and his current standing, after seven full years in Sprint Cup, is 23rd. He’s also known as “Mister Hit Everything On The Track,” including the jet dryer during a caution.

“Patrick, heading into Sunday's Brickyard, is 27th in the points standings.”

Danica is also known as Miss Lapped 30 Times, is 0-91 in NASCAR, is 1-252 for her career and 0-21 for 2013, is ahead of exactly four drivers who've also done all 19 Cup races this year (and trailing 26 drivers), has never won a pro auto race in which none of her competitors ran out of gas, has never won a stock car race, has never won a street race and has never won a race over 300 miles, In her single Nationwide season she finished ahead of exactly one driver who ran all of the races.

Of the three drivers that Kravitz is comparing Princess Sparkle Pony to, all three had vastly better records than her in open wheel, only one is even remaining in Sprint Cup series, and he is doing more poorly now than he did as a rookie seven years ago. Do you see anything there that suggests that Danica is going to show much in the way of improvement in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series?

Further, NASCAR was not raving about how Sam, Dino and Juan Pablo were the greatest things ever to happen to NASCAR, spending half the race showing their cars in 37th place and raving about how well they were doing, and skipping seven top ten finishers after the race to go interview them after they finished 29th.

I am not opposed to women in stock car racing. On the contrary. There is a driver in the Nationwide series named Johanna Long, whose team is so poorly funded that she can only run in about eight races per year. If she were in the car that Danica is driving she would consistently be finishing in the top ten and would be showing us some really good racing.

If NASCAR was about racing instead of about “the show” she would be in the car that Danica is driving.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

America's Got What?

First a note on Chopped. One of the contestants was a Coast Guard cook. The judges were surprised that, even though he lived and worked on a ship, he was not very experienced at working with fish. I was not surprised.

Mariners in general, commercial or military, tend to have a deep aversion to eating fish. I’m not sure why, but the tradition goes back centuries. Naval cooks learn very quickly that serving fish to the crew is not a way to stay at their post very long.

Anyway, I watched the twelve semifinalists on America’s Got Talent last night and Oh. My. God. Half the acts were cute little kids putting on mediocre performances and winning because they are cute little kids. Note to the judges: being a cute little kid is not a talent. One “comedian” screamed misogynistic “jokes” having to do, for instance, with using chloroform on his date. This guy was about as funny as a flu epidemic and the two male judges raved about his performance.

Another guy levitated and disappeared. Okay. The audience had to be told to applaud, because they were still trying to figure out when his act was going to start. A lady got out of a straightjacket in a water-filled glass box. I think that’s been done before, about eighty years ago. Guy named Houdini.

Looking for a “million dollar act” are they? There was not one act in the bunch that I would have walked across the street to see if the admission was free.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A New High

I received a new high in complimentary rhetoric yesterday, when I commented in a liberal discussion forum that Obama's "health care reform" legislation might not be the panacea that was being suggested. I was accused of being a "dumb-ass lefty who serves as the rightwingers' useful idiot." I've never been called a "useful idiot" before, and I am guite proud of the achievement.

The agruments that liberals make over their "health care reform" are increasingly desperate and pathetic, because they are all attempting to avoid facing the simple and obvious solution which Obama rejected from the outset of the debate: provide health care (not health insurance) to everyone as a public service so that private parties cannot profit from providing it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Great West Allis Beer Adventure

In the mid-sixties, rather fresh out of the Navy, I was working for a steel company in West Allis, Wisconsin as a machine operator and sometime truck driver. West Allis is a manufacturing suburb of Milwaukee, and had some of the largest crane builders in the country at that time, along with the world’s largest tractor assembly plant under one roof.

I belonged to a social organization which, along with my employer, shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. We had a beer concession for West Allis Western Days, which was a large county fair type of thing, and I got put in charge of running the concession one year. Having me managing a beer concession was sort of like having a cat manage a canary concession, but few of our other members were exactly sterling examples of sober living either, so no one gave the selection much thought.

What complicated the task was that the brewery workers union was threatening to have a strike about the same time as the fair, which would make delivery of keg beer unavailable, so I arranged with the Pabst brewery to deliver a semi-trailer load of half barrels to the fairground before the strike deadline, and arranged for power to keep the refrigerated trailer cooled for the two weeks preceding the opening day.

Sure enough, the strike did occur and Milwaukee was not a happy place, as taverns ran out of draft beer in fairly short order. The fair opened and one of the few places in the city that had draft beer available was my tent concession at West Allis Western Days. It was, to boot, a sunny and hot weekend, and to say that our beer tent at the fairgrounds did a land office business would be a massive understatement.

Normally the ninety half barrels that filled my semi-trailer would have lasted for the entire weekend, but on the first day it was clear we were going to be running dangerously low, so I set out to see if I could find a supply from small breweries that were outside the metro area and not affected by the strike. I finally found a brewery in Potosi, about an hour away, who could supply ninety half barrels, but they had no way to deliver it to us.

So, of course, my feverish little brain went to work. I had a trailer, the Pabst one that was on the fairgrounds, but no truck. I worked, however, for a steel company which had a whole bunch of trucks. Would they miss one on a Sunday morning? Maybe not. Of course, I didn’t have permission from Pabst to use their trailer, either, but that was just a detail.

The only people at my steel plant on Sunday were the mechanics who were servicing the trucks, so I made a deal with them that they could come by the fairgrounds after they were off work and drink all the free beer they wanted if they would let me borrow one of the trucks for a couple of hours. I boogied off to the fairgrounds with one of the company trucks, hooked up the trailer and took off for Potosi.

Have you ever lifted a half barrel of beer? No? Let me tell you; that sucker is heavy. The brewer not only could not deliver the beer, he had no crew to load it either, so two of us had to load the trailer.

We headed back to the fairgrounds and I was hoping that no one was going to call my employer the following week and ask why one of our trucks was boogying down the road on Sunday morning with a Pabst trailer. Our trucks were fire engine red with gold lettering and I was feeling as conspicuous as a pimple on a bride’s nose.

Once we got back to the fairgrounds and started unloading the beer I sampled the product, which I had not thought to do earlier. Oh my God, this stuff was greener than the governor’s lawn, and tasted like the output of a dehydrated horse. Too late now, though, since all of the Pabst was gone, and we started selling this stuff in the Pabst glasses. It was still the only draft beer in the metro Milwaukee area, though, and no one seemed to notice the taste.

Well, occasionally a customer would take a swig of his beer and give the glass a kind of funny look, but no one said anything.

We sold out, setting a club profit record that has never been broken.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I'm sure you heard or have read it, so I won't go into detail on President Obama's talk yesterday, but it struck me as an extraordinary moment in his presidency; a moment when he exercised moral leadership in the Carter tradition. It was not a speech, really, it was a conversation, and there was not a single sour note. This is the man I hoped we would see throughout his time in office.

In particular, his challenge to the "stand your ground" laws was subtle, thoughtful, and beautifully done. It did not so much rebuke the law as it challenged us to think about the effect of such laws on the way we live.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

...And Loose The Dogs Of War

CBS Evening News had a lengthy segment which started with CJOS Dempsey's statement that we had "tools that could be used" in the event that Obama ordered military intervention in Syria, and then sequed into a reporter accompanying the 82nd Airborne in practicing for an invasion to capture chemical weapons in Syria to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists. CBS will not be happy until we have boots on the ground in Syria, and will keep beating war drums until that is accomplished.

Trivial, But...

Danica Patrick said on Jay Leno that she had to sleep on the couch after wrecking her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse, at New Hampshire last weekend. The article, in a auto racing venue, reporting that drew a great many comments that it was bad for the image of NASCAR the have two drivers sleeping together who are not married.

Apparently some people think we are still racing horseless carriages. I can't wait for a driver to come out as gay; my guess would be that will cause an epidemic of fainting spells amongst those fans.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Worse Than I Thought

Well, the Filner story is crawling out of the bag, and it is one ugly critter. His ex-fiancée, for instance, says that he was “texting other women sexually explicit messages and setting up dates while in my presence and within my line of vision." Yikes.

But there was worse. Donna Frye described how Filner kissed one woman on a public sidewalk, "jamming his tongue down her throat" and later groped her under her bra when she drove him back to his office. He apparently told one female employee that she “would do a better job on that floor if she worked without her panties on."

The article says that Filner has “all but dared his accusers to file formal complaints by promising a full investigation,” and that he continues to declare his innocence.

His supporters, all three or four of them, are insisting that he be accorded “due process,” which is certainly applicable to criminal charges, but not to political office and public trust. The man is scum, garbage, and he must leave office forthwith.

Well, That Was Elegant

Stewart-Haas Racing had a bad day. Tony Stewart was leading the race on the next to last lap and ran out of gas; finished 26th. Ryan Newman got collected by Kurt Bush when the latter dive-bombed a corner and slid up into him; finished 39th. Danica Packrick lost control of her car, couldn't find the brake pedal, and took out two other cars; one of which was her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse. Oops. She finished 37th.

Danica, bye the way, actually accepted the blame for this wreck. Of course, sometimes you just have to after you watch the replay. When no other car is within twenty feet of you...

Update, Monday AM: Well, she sort of took the blame. "I'm not sure if I misjudged the braking zone," she said, whatever the hell that means, "or if they stopped really quick in front of me," because race cars unexplanably "stop really quick" on the race track all the time. "It felt like they stopped really quick," she finished. "I tried to stop myself to keep from getting in the back of anyone, but I got sideways when I tried to do that."

No Racism Here?

Post on a liberal discussion blog titled "Check in if you're white and you think George Zimmerman should have been convicted of something." No fewer than 35 people checked in, none of whom were at either the event or the trial, who said that they were white and that George Zimmerman should have been convicted; that the jury, who heard weeks of evidence, was wrong in the conclusion they reached.

Note that the poster, who did ask for the opinion of anyone who is not white, is convinced that Zimmermen killed Martin because Martin was a person of color. I can't argue with him because I don't know why he did it. I was not there when he did it, I can't read his mind, and I was not at the trial.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hot Summer

Filner pledged Friday afternoon that there will be “a full, complete and independent investigation in response to any formal complaint against me.” He added that, “While I stand by my comments and pledge of yesterday to make changes to improve the workplace environment in my office, I am confident that a fair and independent investigation will support my innocence with respect to any charges of sexual harassment.”

So he is taking sexual harassment classes even though he is innocent of sexual harassment. All he did was “disrespect” women and lose his temper a few times. And again, there is the matter of that bridge in Brooklyn. The offer is still open. I’m telling you, such a deal I can make for you.

Nobody is buying his apology or his petulant denials here. Everyone who was calling for him to resign is still doing so, and more people have joined the chorus. The chairwoman of the Democratic Committee is calling a meeting, and will not speak on the subject until she gets a consensus from that meeting, but other than her, no public official of either party is speaking in Filner’s defense.

Filner’s Chief of Staff resigned yesterday, effective immediately, bringing the number of senior staff abandoning ship to four out of four.

It is going to be a long, hot, nasty summer in San Diego.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Filner Plays Victim

In his "aploogy" Filner says that, "It’s a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: inappropriate and wrong." He essentially claiming that, at age seventy, he is a victim of his generation.

I am precisely the same age as this asshole and guess what, I have never sexually harrassed women. I have never been inclined to sexually harrass women. It has never occurred to me in my adult life that it was even remotely permissable to sexually harrass women. The man is scum.

Touching, Very Touching

I was deeply moved by Bob Filners heartfelt apology, and am thoroughly convinced that his promise to change is genuine and will be carried out in full. I also own a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you, this week only, at a bargain price.

He says that "my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city." Exactly why does his staff need to particiapte in that training? And why did he not participate in it before subjecting multiple women to the ordeal that they suffered.

He does not address his irrational feud with the City Attorney which has resulted in the city being no longer able to hold closed meetings. He did not address his bullying of a minority race Assistant City Attorney, ordering him to sit in the back of the room and finally having the police eject him from the room. He did not address his irrational feud with the Office of Tourism and illegally withholding their funding.

He did not address the "pay to play" extortion game that he engaged in with Sunroad Construction. Of course, once that became public he returned the money to Sunroad, so that wiped out the crime as if it never happened and he no longer needs to address that. And we're back to that bridge in Brooklyn again.

A leopard does not change its spots. Bob Filner is a thug and bully to the core, and he needs to resign now.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Filner Saga

It has been said that the only way for Democrats to win control of government was to let Republicans have control first; they would prove their incompetence so thoroughly that voters would elect Democrats in a landslide. I’ve always thought that was pretty silly, since Democrats have been demonstrating a very high level of incompetence in governance themselves, but based on the theory San Diego may have a Republican mayor in the near future, or at least a new one, as a result of having just elected a Democratic one.

Did you follow that? Okay, I’ll explain.

Bob Filner was elected last year and took office in January of this year. He immediately got into a major pissing match with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, screaming at him in public meetings, because Goldsmith spoke to the public about city affairs. Filner claimed that the City Attorney serves the Mayor and speaks only to the Mayor and in confidence. Goldsmith says that he is elected by the people of the city and serves the people. Filner then cut the City Attorney’s budget by $500,000 while increasing the budget for everything else in the city. Later he had the police eject an Assistant City Attorney from a closed meeting, accusing him of leaking confidential information to the public.

Another major pissing match ensued, this time with the Office of Tourism, over payment of tax revenue generated by the hotel tax approved by voters some years ago. Filner wanted part of that funding to be diverted to pay for the Balboa Park Centennial celebration in 2015, and the Office of Tourism agreed to provide 15% of the receipts to that purpose. Filner withheld funding to that office because he didn’t trust them to actually pay the money, almost forcing the office to close down, and the money was finally transferred after three months of acrimonious battle between the mayor and the Tourism Board, which occurred at the beginning of the tourist season.

After several months working for Filner, his top two staff members resigned, citing “uncomfortable working conditions.”

Filner then went on a trip to Paris, France with his fiancé and refused to say who was paying for the trip, other than to say that the city was not, and claimed the trip was to “secure jobs for San Diego,” which convinced only the most loyal Democrats. He was, of course, on the city payroll at the time, and officials are not allowed to accept gifts over $400, so the matter of who was paying for the trip was of some importance. He finally admitted that the trip was paid for by an Iranian non-profit group.

It later turned out that he had two city policemen with him for security, so the trip did cost the city something like $22,000 but that somehow doesn’t count, or something.

A story then emerged about a construction company applying for a zoning variance which Filner denied. The construction company then donated $100,000 to a couple of Filner’s pet projects, after which Filner reversed himself and granted the variance. When asked, the construction company said that their understanding was that the variance was granted in return for the donations. Filner claimed that if there was a deal it was made by his assistant, who had resigned several months earlier, and gave the $100,000 back to the construction company. The construction company continues to assert that he made the deal directly with Filner.

Early this week Filner’s fiancé broke up with him, saying in her announcement that their relationship had “devolved.” Yes, I’ll bet it had, especially in light of what followed.

Filner is now facing charges from several women of sexual harassment while serving as mayor, and is being called upon by Democratic leadership to resign at once. That includes several people who were major supporters during his campaign.

Bob Filner is living proof that Democrats will vote for anything with a D after its name. He is a nasty piece of work and this behavior is nothing new; he has been a thug and a bully for his entire career in politics. San Diego got what it voted for, and this guy is a perfect example of the folly of partisan politics.

PS: Don't blame me; I voted for the other guy. Carl DeMaio, to be precise.

Center of Attention

Glenn Greenwald, who I admire enormously, said at one point that the discussion about Snowdon was a distraction, because the real issue was not the whistleblower but was the spying that the whistleblower disclosed. He then makes the story about the whistleblower, with four out his last five headlines, and six of his last eleven, being about Snowden.

I appreciate Snowden informing us, but I'm tired of hearing about him. Did he release the information so that we could discuss the actions of our government, or did he do it so that he could be the center of attention? So far he is succeeding mostly in the latter, and Glenn Greenwald is facilitating that.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Small Minds

A video has gone viral in which a young man pulls up to a DUI checkpoint with his driver's window open only a crack, is greeted in a friendly manner by the officer, and when the officer asks him to roll down the window he refuses to do so. The officer asks how old he is and the driver claims he is not required by law to answer, and when asked to provide an ID the driver claims that the law does not require him to do that either.

You can almost see the officer thinking, “Okay, this guy wants to play macho mas macho.” One thing leads to another and it winds up with his car being searched. This is presented as an example of "police brutality."

The young man is, of course, as dumb as a bag of hammers. What do you gain by refusing to roll down your window? You gain a pissed off policeman, of course, but I don't know many people who would regard that as a desirable objective. He claims he was “asserting his constitutional rights,” but I don’t see anything in the constitution or any of the amendments that says citizens don’t have to roll down their car windows.

And, please note, they do have to produce their driver’s license upon demand of a law enforcement officer if they are driving a car, so when he refused to do that he was not “asserting his constitutional rights,” he was just being an idiot.

But I am actually offended that this guy’s little game of pissing off the policeman is being passed off as “asserting one’s rights,” when all it is in reality is a little ego game played by a spoiled brat. No basic rights were involved here.

Rosa Parks was asserting her rights when she sat in the front of the bus, risking physical harm and perhaps her life to do so, and representing not her ego but the greater cause of human rights.

The 600 marchers who crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge and wound up badly beaten by state troopers were asserting their rights, That was not some ego game, that was part of a years-long struggle to fight for basic rights for their people, and they paid a price.

This video was posted on a liberal discussion group and more than fifty comments were unanimous in cheering the idiot for asserting his rights and condemning the police for brutality. We have become so small in our thinking in this country that we do not even know what “rights” are.

Monday, July 08, 2013

"Encouraging" Jobs Report

As usual, the media reports employment by cherry picking the best numbers from each of two different employment reports, “June adds 195,000 new jobs, unemployment 7.6%.” The latter number is from the Household Survey and it’s more modest report of 155,000 new jobs is not reported. The former number is from the Establishment Survey, which does not report an unemployment percentage.

The Establishment Survey always reports more jobs because when someone is working two part time jobs the Establishment Survey will report two jobs, while the Household Survey will report only one person working. Likewise, if a person who is already working a part time job takes on another part time job at a different company the Establishment Survey will report a new job, while the Household Survey will not report a newly employed person.

By reporting the unemployment percentage from one report and the job number from a different report, we get an overly optimistic picture of what is happening. Even worse, by not reporting on the types of jobs the picture is distorted even more badly. In June, while the number of employed persons increased by 155,000, the number of persons working part time not by choice increased by 332,000, so we actually lost 177,000 full time jobs during the month of June.

To point out just how dismal our economy is for the working class, between 2007 and this year the working age population has increased by 14 million people, but the total number of employed people has decreased by 2 million. That’s a net loss of jobs of 16 million, against a work force of 155 million, and represents a true unemployment of 10.3% in the real world.

Even worse, while total employment has decreased by 2 million during those six years, the number of persons employed in full time jobs has decreased by 5 million. So the percentage of people who are unemployed or underemployed is actually 12.3% in unmanipulated numbers.

Since employment reports today are containing unreported decreases in full time jobs and increases in part time jobs, it is going to be a very, very long time before we get employment reports that actually are as “encouraging” as the media claims this one to be.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Defining Democracy

We all know that President Obama gives awesome speeches, but it’s sometimes not altogether clear what the hell he’s talking about, and he can be pretty tactless at times. Such as when he says that, “Democracies don’t work when everybody says it’s the other person’s fault and I want 100 percent of what I want.”

He was actually being rather superior and insulting about Egypt, but it would have been easy to think he was talking about this country, where Republicans say it’s the Democrats fault, Democrats say it’s the Republicans fault, and voters 100% want a free lunch.

He also said regarding Egypt in the same speech that "our commitment to Egypt has never been around any particular individual or party, our commitment has been to a process.” That process turns out to be that if roughly 4% of a nation’s population takes to the street the Army throws the present government out of power. Democracy takes different forms in different countries, you see.

When Hamas won the elections in Palestine we were much less “committed to a process” than we have been in Egypt, so apparently we will remain committed to a process only for so long as the process produces an outcome which we find acceptable.

And in this country, when large numbers of people took to the streets during Vietnam, the Army did not throw the government out of power, it threw the people out of the streets. As I said, democracy works different ways in different countries.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


I have been with United Healthcare ever since my wife and I married, fifteen years ago. We have never had the slightest problem with them paying claims, even after I developed some severe health problems in 2003. In the fourteen years leading up to this one, I have probably had to contest a total of two or three decisions with them.

This year I have been fighting them tooth and nail all year; have done battle on forty or more claims on which they have denied payment. I have prevailed in every case, but it has been like pulling teeth from an angry bear. Their reasons have been transparently ridiculous, ranging from claiming not to know my Medicare status up to something having to do with the current phase of the fucking Moon.

Does this have to do with implementation of Obamacare? You decide.

Mandate Delayed

I’m not into making predictions, mostly because it takes too long to verify their outcome, by which time the predictions have been forgotten. I much prefer to just lurk in the weeds and then say “I told you so” even if, in fact, I was merely thinking it. That makes me something of a prophet in my own mind, but... Whatever.

Anyway, I knew back when Obamacare first passed that it was going to remain popular only until it began to be implemented, at which point it was going to become very unpopular. I mean, suppose you passed a law requiring fire insurance companies to sell policies to people whose houses were actually on fire at the time. Everyone would love the idea on compassionate grounds, but once you implemented that policy it would not take long to figure out that everyone’s fire insurance had become meaningless and useless.

And so, of course, once we reach the point of implementation of this “health care reform” thing we find that, having delayed it for four years, we need to delay the employer mandate for yet another year because... Well, the reason given is that we need to simplify the rules, but that sounds a bit bogus to me. They’ve had four years to simplify the rules and they wait until the last minute to discover that the rules need simplifying?

I think somebody actually read more than the headline of the BLS report and realized that while we gained 150,000 new jobs, we also gained 400,000 part time jobs, meaning that we lost 250,000 full time jobs, and made the connection between that and Obamacare’s exemption of part time workers from the requirement for providing health insurance.

Whatever this delay means, it is hardly a testimony to the wonderfulness of Obamacare is it? You’d think that would it embarrass the administration to reveal its bias toward business interests by delaying the mandate for business but not for individuals, but this administration is not sufficiently self aware to be capable of embarrassment.

Not to mention that the revenue generated by the employer mandate was supposed to pay for the subsidies needed to support the individual mandate, so a source of funding for those health insurance subsidies is going to have to be found elsewhere. Krugman will not hesitate to advise borrowing it, of course, and the administration is not going to worry about its promise that Obamacare would be revenue neutral.

I’ve lost two of my five doctors this year. One of them, in his early fifties, quit practicing medicine altogether. The other one quit taking Medicare, so as soon as I lose my health insurance I will have to replace him.

The closer we get to this Obamacare mess, the more we find that it is just going to crash and burn. No matter how morally wonderful it may sound to do so, selling fire insurance to a person whose house is burning is simply not functionally sound. Companies being forced to sell insurance policies on which they know they are going to lose major sums of money is simply not a feasible health care solution. Neither is forcing providers to perform their services for less than it costs them to do so.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Medical Lottery

Doctors today practice medicine on something of a lottery system, apparently; providing services to patients without ever knowing what they will be paid for those services.

Payment is determined after the fact by the insurance company, according to the billing person at my pulmonologist’s office. Her response to my question about a bill was that I should take it up with the insurance company, and when I pointed out that I was questioning an invoice on the doctor’s letterhead her response was “I don’t know, I don’t care and I’m not going to discuss it with you” and a repeat of the instruction to take it up with the insurance company.

At issue was three office visits, all identified as “office visit, long,” and each billed at $222.00. Two of them showed a discount of $96.00, while the most recent one did not, and I was being directed to pay the full amount of $222.00. I was questioning why I did not receive the discount on the third office visit that I had received on the first two and her response was that the insurance company had instructed them to collect the full $222.00 from me. I asked if she was telling me that the discount was not actually offered by and under the control of the doctor, and she said that the insurance company dictated how much would be payable.

So I asked if she saw any reason why a customer might object to paying almost twice as much for the exact same service as previously received, and she got really pissed off at me, said that she didn’t really care what I thought, and told me again to take it up with the insurance company.

So even though it’s the doctor who owns the medical practice, and I’m the guy who chooses the doctor and can choose a different one if I want to, and I’m the one paying the doctor bill, none of us has any authority when it comes to pricing. The amount payable is strictly within the purview of the insurance company and we all submit to whatever they dictate.

Is this a great country, or what?