Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekend Thoughts

In how many ways was it emotional to see the final act of number 42 in New York? I’m not even a baseball fan, but watching the clip of Rivera’s last pitch brought tears to my eyes. The last pitch by the greatest closer of all time, and the last appearance of the most famous number in baseball. Awesome.

There is, as always this time of year, mumbling about modifying NASCAR’s “Chase For The Championship,” which is sort of like a playoff system. Matt Kenseth says, however, that NASCAR should “leave the Chase alone for now.” That’s not surprising, given that he has won the first two races of the Chase and is leading for the championship by 14 points.

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is again spouting the line about the team losing games by “just missing one play.” As I wrote after lest week’s game,

The Chargers were outgained on the ground by 170 yards to 102 yards. We were outpassed by 299 yards to 184 yards. Tennessee ran 68 plays to our 53. We gave up 299 passing yards to a team that passed for 246 yards in its two previous games combined, and surrendered 170 rushing yards to a team with a previous high of 119 yards.

That is not “just one play” short of a win, regardless of the score. They were 15 plays short last week, and in any case, one play does not gain 68 yards rushing and 115 yards passing that the Chargers were short in terms of yardage that day. You cannot correct a problem when you do not admit that you have a problem.

Time to go brace myself for LSU at Georgia. Geaux Tigers.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Krugman Yet Again

Krugman wrote a post in his blog yesterday that starts off by wondering whether current economic policy is stupid or evil, and then asking why we need to choose. Indeed. It can, of course, as he does not proceed to suggest, be both at the same time.

He says that “problem of maintaining adequate aggregate demand is going to be very persistent,” which I think is a masterpiece of understatement given that wages are declining and the government really doesn’t give a shit about that, and goes on to say that “monetary policy could no longer do the job of stabilizing the economy” as if it was ever able to do that in the first place, given all of the bouncing around that our economy has historically been subject to.

It's also a bit odd to think that demand is something that needs to be created, rather than something that happens by itself. Sort of like making someone love you. It either happens or it doesn't.

He then makes the profound observation that “if monetary policy is assigned the task of discouraging people from excessive borrowing, it can’t pursue full employment and price stability,” because full employment and price stability require excessive borrowing and cannot be achieved without it, you know. What is he smoking, because I want some of that good stuff.

He then poses a dreadful thought, asking, “And here’s the worrisome thing: what if it turns out that we need ever-growing debt to stay out of a liquidity trap?” Hello? The world is out here Doctor Krugman. Are you just now figuring that out?

He follows that with his favorite hobby horse, higher inflation, saying that, “One answer could be a higher inflation target, so that the real interest rate can go more negative. I’m for it!” So if you were thinking about saving for retirement, forget it. Paul Krugman wants you to work until you physically can no longer do so, at which point your kids will borrow money to take care of you. That will work fine, though, because inflation will eventually reduce their debt to somewhere in the neighborhood of five cents, while their kids borrow money to take care of them.

"Another answer could be sustained, deficit-financed fiscal stimulus. But, you say, this would lead to exploding public debt! Actually, no – not if the real interest rate is persistently below the economy’s growth rate, which it will certainly be if it’s persistently negative. In that case the government can run a primary deficit even while keeping the debt-GDP ratio constant – and the higher the level of debt, the higher the allowable deficit."

And here we have the famous “debt only matters as a percentage of GDP,” which is one of the biggest and stupidest lies of all time. GDP is not a measure of wealth, it is a measure of cash flow, and not a particularly accurate one at that, and comparing debt to cash flow is a financial absurdity. Debt is offset against assets, wealth, not against cash flow.

If I pay you $50 to mow my lawn, and you pay me $50 to mow your lawn, according to Paul Krugman we can borrow about $90 between us because we have created $100 of GDP. We have not created a single dollar of wealth; I am out the $50 I paid you and enriched by the $50 you paid me, and you are in the same boat. But that $90 debt is offset by that totally imaginary and meaningless $100 GDP.

If we repeat the process the following month, we can increase our joint debt to $180 because we have increased our GDP to $200. Despite the fact that we now owe $180 instead of $90, we are not any deeper in debt because we still only owe 90% of our GDP. How long can we repeat this before the bank quits lending us money?

“Debt only matters as a percentage of GDP” is saying that you can borrow $90,000 because you are spending $100,000 per year. We don’t care about your income, we don’t care what assets you have, we don’t care how rich you are. Your income might be only $50,000, but since you are spending $100,000 per year we will allow you to borrow $90,000.

Think, too, about the last part of Krugman’s statement, “the higher the level of debt, the higher the allowable deficit.” The more you owe, the more you can spend above your income. The higher your debt, the faster you can create additional debt. That is utterly absurd on the face of it. Only a crazy person would say that. Or an economist.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Yikes !

Oracle Team USA should be called Miracle Team USA. They have won seven straight, preventing the Kiwis from winning the single race that would send the Cup to New Zealand. Final race is tomorrow, and I don't see how New Zealand has a chance. Oracle has not been beating the Kiwis, they have been slaughtering them.

In the second race today New Zealand won the start, led the downwind leg and was leading at the leeward mark by 17 seconds. Oracle not only took the lead going to windward, but was leading by 57 seconds at the windward mark. It was a bloodbath. The announcers were reduced to stammering.

PITA Feline

imageMolly has been dealing with some dietary issues, which reached a peak on Sunday; not only refusing to eat, but barfing up water and having a mild case of diarrhea. So, right after the Chargers lost we took her to the emergency vet, where she was kept overnight on IV fluids and medication. It was not fun going to bed with her not here.

Yesterday we took her to a feline internist (!) for exam, blood work and an ultrasound. Turns out they believe she has pancreatitis, but they can’t quite prove it. We are now medicating her for it, with five different pills twice per day. She doesn’t care for that, but pretty much takes it in stride.

She is doing fine today, eating canned food and demanding attention when she is not sleeping. They had to shave her belly for the ultrasound, which bothers me more than it seems to bother her.

You do not even want to know how much all of that cost.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Fizzle

The San Diego Chargers are again saying that it was “a few little things” and that “we just did not finish” that caused them to lose the game yesterday. At least I didn’t hear “we know what to do and we’ll do it” as we tended to hear under Norv Turner.

The Chargers were outgained on the ground by 170 yards to 102 yards. We were outpassed by 299 yards to 184 yards. Tennessee ran 68 plays to our 53. We gave up 299 passing yards to a team that passed for 246 yards in its two previous games combined, and surrendered 170 rushing yards to a team with a previous high of 119 yards.

Their quarterback ran for 68 yards, while our star running back, Ryan Matthews, ran for 58 yards. Locker did it on 5 carries, Matthews needed 16 carries for ten fewer yards, and his longest run was 8 yards to 39 for Locker. Locker is their quarterback.

Those things are not “few” nor are they “little.” Those things are dismal. It was not as close as the score would seem to imply; we were thoroughly trounced in every aspect of the game.

A happier fizzle occurred on San Francisco Bay yesterday. New Zealand needed only one win to take home the America’s Cup trophy and they didn’t get it. Oracle USA won both races, and won them with enough margin to make it seem quite possible that they might pull off four more in a row for the successful defense.

I am still not happy with what they have done to this contest, but the racing has been better than I anticipated, and the coverage is simply spectacular. NBC Sports is doing a lovely job of persentation, and the announcers are delightful. There are downsides to presenting it in the confined waters of the Golden Gate, but what a treat for spectators it has provided! Overall, a good decision.

LSU did not fizzle, and it is beginning to look like they might be a legitimate contender to unseat the Crimson Tide. Maybe I’m just being sentimental, but the Tide is looking a tad vulnerable right now.

The SDSU Aztecs, on the other hand, added to the weekend fizzle. With an upset in the making, they throw two interceptions in the last three minutes and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It's not even October yet, I know that because my wall calender is still on August, and they are predicting a Santa Ana wind for tomorrow. For those who don't know, that is a wind out of the desert and it can, and often does, bring wildfires. Bad ones.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Partisan politics has not only become rancorous, it has descended into illogic and insanity as each side tries desperately to defend positions which are becoming increasingly indefensible.

I have some small measure of respect for conservatives, who at least have some degree of consistency in their basic argument; they don’t want to impose taxes and they don’t want the government to spend money. I think their basic position is mistaken and without question they have taken arguments in defense of and positions with respect to it to ridiculous and destructive extremes, but at least the two parts of their basic ideology are not fundamentally at odds with each other.

I used to have great respect for what were then “tax and spend” liberals who felt that government should spend money to provide programs which created a social safety net and strengthened the social fabric of the nation, and that it should impose taxes sufficient to pay for those programs. They passed legislation such as Social Security, in which a person pays into the program for a lifetime and benefits from it upon retirement.

That group has now become “cut taxes and spend” liberals who still favor the government programs, but who no longer favor the imposition of taxes because suffering American voters cannot afford to pay taxes. They demonize health insurance companies as being the evil empire and then pass legislation which requires every citizen to purchase insurance from those evil health insurance companies.

They demonize “big business” as being the cause of American impoverishment, and claim that if they can just tax big business heavily enough to drive down their profits then the workers who are employed by big business will somehow become enriched.

The inconsistencies of the positions held by today’s liberals are myriad and baffling to me, and if you point that out and ask for clarification they simply become angry and call you names. Liberals actually spend far more time slinging accusations of “stupidity” and “insanity” at members of their opposition, and calling them “evil,” than they do either defending their own views or criticizing the opposition’s policies.

Neither side really makes any sense, but at least conservatives have not painted themselves into a corner and resorted to yelling, “Your mother wears combat boots.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Clarification, Part Two

I will attempt to clarify my disdain for “tax the rich,” today. Of course we should tax the rich. We should to a lesser extent tax the middle class as well. We have been on a tax cutting binge for the past three decades, a plot fomented by pandering politicians as a sop to obtain votes from ignorant and greedy voters.

I certainly believe that our tax code should be significantly more progressive than it currently is, and it should be higher at all levels of income with the possible exception of the very lowest income level. My reasoning is that we should have a sustainable social fabric which serves the needs of the people of this nation, one which is paid for and not one that is propped up by ever increasing debt.

I was recently involved in a discussion where a person insisted that “tax the rich” would promote growth because a higher marginal tax rate would discourage “keeping profits” and make hiring additional employees a “good investment,” thereby creating jobs. The idea is ludicrous, since employment is not an investment decision but rather is a market decision, but even if it were I abhor the idea of government using the tax code to manipulate the business environment.

“Tax the rich” is a populist slogan invented to suggest to the masses that they can have the benefit of government programs without having to pay for them; that they can receive benefit and require someone else to foot the bill. Free lunch. Obama loyalists keep talking about wanting to “reverse the Bush tax cuts,” but they only want to reverse that part which affected the rich, and they want to keep the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. They want to eat their cake and have it at the same time.

Voters are real big on “support the troops,” so long as “the troops” are not 99% of the American voters; the people who are supporting the troops by putting magnets on their cars. That is not what General George Patton meant when he said that war is about “making some other poor bastard die for his country.”

Every person who benefits from living in this nation should have a stake in maintaining it as a viable entity, if not by personal service then at least by paying some small portion of the monetary cost of operating its government. That does not mean “making some other poor bastard die for it” and taxing the rich.

NFL Football Thought

Watched the game last night. Notwithstanding the ravings of three sets of announcers about the awesomeness of the Eagles and Chip Kelly, what record is Piladelphia going to have to reach before everyone admits that a college offense in the NFL is not a viable proposition? It seems that 1-3 hasn't quite done it, but cracks are beginning to appear in the facade of media adoration.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Perhaps I should clarify what I wrote earlier about California driver’s licenses. I don’t care if this state wants to issue driver’s licenses to illegal residents. It’s no skin off my nose and if it makes people feel good than by all means go for it. My post was merely to point out the illogicality of Governor Brown’s statement that doing so will allow illegal immigrants to “drive to work safely and legally.”

First of all I know of no manner in which having a driver’s license makes one safer behind the wheel of a car. The idiot who was racing at 110 mph and killed himself and his three passengers had a valid driver’s license, as did the moron who was texting when she hit a bridge abutment. I have no data to prove it, but I'm willing to bet that a great many more accidents are caused by drivers who do have licenses than by those who do not.

Further, illegal immigrants are not even in this country legally, so how can they drive in this country legally? And, since they cannot legally work in this country, the legality or illegality of their driving to work is of very little consequence.

There is the advantage of licensing illegals, in that it does lead to a greater likelihood of them being insured, but “driving to work legally” is simply not a benefit of issuing licenses, and Brown’s statement is absurd in its entirety.

As is the concept of issuing an identification card which is labeled as not being for the purpose of identification. If it is not for that purpose, why does it have a holographic photograph and a thumbprint? Why make the “non-identification” driver’s license be in all respects identical to the one which can be used for identification other than a label saying that it cannot be used for identification, while including on it all of the features which permit it to be used for identification?

Like most moves made by any government, this whole thing is done on a whim, without in any way thinking it through.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday Circus

Yes, Bruce, after a Saturday Circus on Sunday and a Sunday Circus on Saturday, we now have a Sunday Circus on Monday. Try to keep up.

San Diego sportswriters have finally learned their lesson. They are deliriously happy about the Chargers win yesterday, but they are not using the words “Super Bowl,” or even suggesting what will happen next week in Nashville. None of them have gone so far as to admit that the Eagles’ defense stinks, but let’s not expect too much.

They are, on the other hand, saying that the Chargers’ defense stinks, which is kind of ridiculous. That defense held Philadelphia to 89 yards total on the ground, including Vick. When the offense gave up two turnovers they permitted the Eagles to score zero points off of them. The Eagles had first and goal three times without scoring a touchdown, including the one in the fourth quarter which set the Chargers up to win with a field goal.

Bad Eagles defense or not, celebration is appropriate. We’ve played bad defenses before and lost. We played well on both sides of the line of scrimmage yesterday, only punted once in the entire game, and won.

Again I was struck by the blind admiration the announcers displayed for Michael Vick, constantly swooning over his “pinpoint accuracy” as a passer, etc. Never mind that at least six times he had a receiver wide open and, even though not pressured by the San Diego defense, threw the ball where the open receiver was not. At least two of those mis-thrown passes would have been touchdowns. The truth is that Vick is a highly erratic passer; at times very precise and at other times unexplainably badly inaccurate.

NASCAR has added yet another rule for yet another rather bizarre reason, having to do with restarts. Actually it has to do with their fecklessness in enforcing the rule on restarts.

There is a marked “restart zone” prior to the start/finish line within which the leader is supposed to initiate the restart by jumping on the gas. If he does not do so the starter, the guy in the platform above the line, will wave the green flag to restart the race. The second place car, who restarts beside the leader, must not cross the start/finish line ahead of the leader.

That last part has been violated rather frequently lately without the officials noticing, and drivers have been complaining vigorously; sometimes with validity, sometimes not. The officials have noticed a time or two and penalized the offending driver, but usually they just blow the complaints off with some sort of excuse such as that the leader spun his tires, or that he drove slowly on purpose. (?!)

So NASCAR has now dropped the last part of that rule, the part about the leader having to cross the start/finish line first, so as to “remove the subjective judgement part” of the restart rule. Weird. If looking at which car crossed the line first is a “subjective judgement” on a restart, then why is it not a “subjective judgement” in determining who won the race?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Saturday Circus

I would not say that Nick Saban got his revenge. Yes, Bama won the game, but his defense letting the opponent rack up 42 points was humiliating no matter what his offense did, and his offense did it against a weak defense.

It was amazing to watch the sycophancy displayed by the announcers in the form of endless adoring discussion of “Johnny Football” no matter what he did. At one point he was scrambling Fran Tarkington-style to avoid a pass rush on third and twelve, was more than twenty yards behind the line of scrimmage, and threw up an unguided air ball into the center of the field. The pass was a horrible decision, it had the trajectory of a punt and was as likely to be caught be a defender as by one of his own. Had anyone else thrown that pass the announcers would have been declaiming it as absolute stupidity, but because it was thrown by “Johnny Football” and by sheer good fortune was caught by an Aggie for a first down, they were going crazy about what a brilliant pass it was and raving about the thrower’s athleticism.

We will undoubtedly see a lot of high scoring college football games, because the new rule about “targeting” has made defensive secondary players afraid to play pass defense. Not only can you not hit a pass receiver before the ball arrives, you now cannot hit him after the ball arrives either without fear of not only being penalized but of being ejected from the game. You are, apparently, required to tackle him without hitting him, which is a pretty neat trick.

An Alabama defender went for the interception. He had both hands on the ball in front of the receiver, made contact with the receiver shoulder to shoulder, and was flagged for “targeting.” The ejection was overturned by replay, but the penalty for pass interference was not. It seems the referees are told to “err on the side of receiver safety.” I’ll tell you how that receiver can be completely safe. He can sit on his sofa and watch the game on television at home. Football is not a noncontact sport.

During that play the cat left the living room in some degree of haste. My wife came from the back room to assure herself that I was okay. Always nice to know she cares. The referee probably does not actually have some of the habits of which I was accusing him.

Utah’s coach, by the way, is an idiot. Yes, Lee, that was addressed to you. On offense in overtime he went with two weak running plays and kicked a field goal. He had to know OSU would score a touchdown, given that they had done so on each of their last four possessions.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sunday Circus

Well, NASCAR has now lost it completely. As in, gone completely nuts. As in, have had their brains scrambled by listening to too many unmuffled car engines. Maybe this generation of the France family wasn’t very bright to begin with.

Last weekend’s race was the final one to set the 12-car field for the “Chase,” which is NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. The top twelve cars will be the ones competing for the championship and, during last weekend's race the cheating to manipulate the standings rose to awe inspiring levels.

Clint Boywer, who is locked into the Chase, spun his car on purpose so that a team mate, Martin Truex, could advance position during the ensuing caution. That was not sufficient to get Truex in, so Brian Vickers, another team mate who was not in the Chase, simply pulled into the pits to give Treux another position. That resulted in Truex being in the Chase and Ryan Newman, who drives for a different team, being out.

Meanwhile, the Penske team was conspiring with another team to have their driver slow down so that their driver, Joey Logano, could gain position. That worked and got Logano in the Chase, but it knocked Jeff Gordon who, again, drives for a different team, out.

All of this is against the rules, and they are not even trying to hide it; the cars are spinning and pitting right out in front of God, fans, officials and everybody, and the negotiations are happening on radios that have the frequencies published so that fans can listen in. The whole thing is resembling a scene out of “Talledega Nights” and I’m looking for Ricky Bobby to show up in his underwear any minute.

So NASCAR decides they need to take corrective action and issues penalties which result in Truex being out of the Chase and Newman being in. Unfortunately, it leaves Boywer, the guy who started the whole mess with his fake spinout, in the Chase and it leaves Logano in and Jeff Gordon out, so there is still a lot of grumbling.

NASCAR’s next move, then, is to "expand the Chase" to 13 cars and put Jeff Gordon in, which is beyond bizarre. About the only one who is happy about that is Jeff Gordon. Everyone else wants to know why, since Logano’s team cheated to get him in, he isn’t penalized as the other team was, which would put him out and Gordon in, instead of this nonsense about "expanding the Chase."

Gordon’s own teammate, Jimmy Johnson, is even complaining about the move, saying that having 13 cars in the Chase rather than 12, “alters the dynamics” of the deal. He’s obviously nervous about the fact that his average finish in the last four races is 35th, so I’m not taking him very seriously.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Side Effect, You Say?

The vet prescribed a new medication for Molly, which I picked up yesterday. I noted on the label a warning that the drug "may cause a slight degree of drowsiness." Seriously? We're talking about a cat here; a creature closely related to a vegetable. How are we supposed to tell if the medication causes any amount of drowsiness, let alone a slight one?

California Dreaming

California now has a law making it possible for illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, which clashes somewhat with our compliance with the federal Real ID Act, under which one has to present a birth certificate proving US citizenship, or some other documentation proving legality, in order to obtain a state identification. The license, apparently, will be marked with a “DP” to indicate that it is for driving privileges only, which illegal immigrants claim is discriminatory. I’m not sure why illegal immigrants think that they should not be discriminated against in this manner, but...

Governor Brown said that this “will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally.” There is the fact that it is still against the law to hire anyone who does not have official permission to be in this country, so this new law may allow them to get to work legally, but it won’t allow them to actually work legally. Perhaps it should be pointed out that Governor Brown is older than I am and may be suffering from dementia.

Supporters of the law say that "unauthorized immigrants are already driving, and that this law will encourage them to be trained, tested and obtain insurance." The logic of this thinking rather escapes me. People are robbing banks rather frequently, too, so perhaps we should pass a law making bank robbing legal so that bank robbers could be “trained, tested and obtain insurance” as well.

Yes, I realize the simile is not entirely valid and that very few insurance companies would issue bank robbing insurance, but I’m engaging in some artistic literary license here. Some might call it bullshit, actually, but I feel sorry for them.

The governor also said that this will “send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long overdue.” I have no idea why the governor thinks that, and I suspect that it will mostly send a message to the rest of the country that California is nuts.

But then, the rest of the country already knew that.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Chattering Class

I was channel surfing yesterday and stayed on MSNBC for an insufferable fifteen minutes or so, watching some jackass with a British accent pontificate about the horrors of the Republican Party. Why is the media so infatuated with British accents? Do they think people with that accent sound intelligent? If you listen to what they are actually saying, they sound like blithering idiots.

Anyway, Martin Bashir introduced his “panel,” one of whom it turned out wasn’t actually there (The fallible miracle of Skype. Hello? Hello?), and introduced the topic by saying that, “On a day which is supposed to be above politics, why are the Republicans being so critical of Obama?” They then proceeded to spend the next quarter hour discussing just how horrible the Republicans are.

No one seemed to notice the irony of the opening statement, suggesting that they think that Republicans should be above politics on this day, or perhaps legislators should, but that they certainly should not.

What they were discussing was not, furthermore, what any legislator was doing, or any legislation which was being proposed or passed in Congress, but merely what various Republican legislators were saying about Obama. “Senator Schmuckbutt said that Obama is weak on flag waving, so let’s discuss. Why would he say something like that?”

The topic here is nothing more than name calling, words with no more depth than “Your mother is ugly.” Name calling is lazy rhetoric; what one resorts to when one has run out of legitimate arguments, either because no more exist or because one does not know what they are, and these idiots are spending a quarter hour of national air time chattering about it.

And we wonder why voters in this nation are ignorant.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Well, That Was Confusing

When Obama told us last night that he was going to “talk to us about Syria” I wasn’t expecting much in the way of validity, but his opening statement set the bar really low. “What began,” he said, “as a series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad Apparently he’s been watching CBS Evening News.

The protests would more accurately be described as “food riots” than as protests against the government pro se, and “peaceful” is a relative term. I don’t actually know how brutal Assad actually was, and am inclined to doubt that he was any more brutal than several dictators whose governments we support to this day, but Assad enjoys even now the support of quite a large portion of the civilian portion of his country, including two million Christians. Everyone seems to overlook that, implying that the only ones on his side are soldiers who are somehow forced to fight for him.

Anyway, having given us a history lesson, which included “American GIs in WW1” and the Nazis of course, because any such speech has to include Hitler even if not by name, he goes on to describe how utterly essential it is that we launch a military strike on Syria, then says that thanks to Russia we aren’t doing it right now, and finally reminds us how utterly essential a military strikes remains. I was left with the impression that we’ll do it after Russia is finished flubbing around.

The long and the short of it, of course, is that he was about to lose the vote in Congress and Russia saved his ass by allowing him to call off the vote. The cult of personality surrounding Obama is claiming that makes him look brilliant and puts him on top of the issue as a three dimensional chess player, but I regard that claim as utterly delusional. He was insisting on a military attack that no other nation in the world supported, that Congress was about to vote down, and that is wildly unpopular among his constituency and a foreign government came up with a solution that he’d never thought of. Whatever that is, it most certainly is not brilliant.

Naturally, he had to present Syria’s chemical weapons as a “national security threat” to us, using a “slippery slope” argument that was convoluted and, to say the least, tenuous.

“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.” It has not, of course, actually been proven that they started using chemical weapons

“As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them.” Other than the bad grammar, that is what's called a non sequitur.

“Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield.” We could, of course, avoid that by not having our troops on the battlefields, but we can’t expect Obama to think of that solution.

“And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.” And we have come back to the threat of terrorists because Saddam Hussein was going to give nuclear bombs to Osama bin Laden.

“If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel.” He later says the threat of retaliation against our allies is irrelevant because these nations are fully capable of defending themselves, so

“And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction,” And we have to fight global warming because of watermelons.

“and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran -- which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon, or to take a more peaceful path.” And who could have predicted that this would be about Iran?

Not to mention that no one has proven that Iran even wants to have a nuclear weapon, let alone is trying to develop one. And of course, several high ranking military people have suggested that Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon would not really be a problem; a suggestion which is backed up by the fact that a large number of countries already posses nuclear weapons and have not used them. Except us, of course.

He says, then, that the purpose of the military strike is to make clear to Assad that “we will not tolerate their [chemical weapons] use.”

Interesting. This started out as a world ban on these weapons and how the world felt about them, and suddenly it is about what we, and we alone, will not tolerate. That may be related to the fact that the rest of the world refused to join the “coalition of the willing” in using force against Syria.

In answer to the assertion that “we should not be the world’s policeman” he launched into some flowery dissertation about the “burden of leadership” and something to do with “seven decades,” but I think he was speaking in tongues by that time, because he lost me completely. I think he was saying that in fact we should be the world's policeman, or that we actually are or something, but it sounded like bullshit to me.

Of course, the whole thing had been sounding like that, so

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Still 2012

The Chargers are leading at halftime 21-7 and the stadium is rocking. Philip Rivers has thrown three touchdown passes. Everyone is dazzled, for some reason, that Ryan Matthews has carried nine times for 33 yards. I don't find that very impressive, but at least he hasn't fumbled or broken a collarbone.

The Chargers receive the opening kickoff in the second half, score on their opening drive and are leading 28-7. The crowd goes wild. The all-white uniforms should be accompanied by Superman capes.

And then the offense falls on its face while the defense falls on it ass, and special teams contributes a penalty on a Texans field goal kick, which is followed by a Matt Schaub touchdown. Ryan Matthews carries four times for zero yards in the second half. Philip Rivers throws an interception in the fourth quarter which is returned for a Taxans touchdown. The defense repeatedly cannot stop third and more than ten. The Chargers have zero first downs in the fourth quarter.

The final score is a 31-28 Texas win. Why is that so familiar?

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Bad Course, Bad Boat, Bad Sailing

America's Cup started yesterday; two races on San Francisco Bay. The American defender started two races down due to an unprecedented penalty and must win eleven races against only nine for the challenger from New Zealand. I doubt they will win even one. They lost both races yesterday; one by more than 40 seconds and the other by more than a full minute. That margin in actual sailboats, which move at eight or nine knots, would be bad, but in these ridiculous contraptions moving at 50mph, it is utterly a blowout.

The announcers keep bleating about the course being five legs, but two of the legs are only a few seconds, and in actual fact there is one upwind leg and two downwind legs, which is ridiculous. Beating to windward is by far the better test of sailing, and it was the upwind leg where the Kiwis utterly destroyed Oracle. In a real sailing match the trailing boat could maneuver to find better wind or could engage the leader in a tacking duel, but with these so-called "boats" and with such a ridiculously confined course nothing of the sort is possible. What a joke.

Friday, September 06, 2013

"Oh, Just Screw Democracy"

Obama has gone nucking futs. From ABC News this morning:

President Obama today conceded that he could fail to convince the American public to back proposed U.S. military strikes against Syria, but said that members of Congress should vote to approve the action anyway.
But, Obama said, members of Congress need to consider the lessons of World War II and their own consciences and vote 'yes' to authorize the use of force, even if it means going against the opinion of the majority of their constituents.

What lessons of World War II? Japan directly attacked us. Did he forget that part? Does he think Congress went against the will of the people in declaring war after Pearl Harbor? What fucking history book has he been reading? Is he claiming that Syria is responsible for 9 fucking 11 now? What is he smoking? My computer just blew up.

Let's quit pretending that our government is supposed to represent the will of the people. We only do democracy when it's convenient. When it gets difficult we just resort to blatant oligarchy.

Update: Commenters elsewhere pointed out that his rhetoric is even worse than the conclusion to which I jumped. He's echoing Bush by comparing, in this case, Assad to Hitler. We can no longer appease Assad, we have to stop him before he invades and conquers the rest of the world and engages in genocide at an unprecedented level.

That argument is so entirely bogus that it simply never occurrd to me.

Hitler was engaged in a campaign of continental domination and conquest, and in genocide.

Assad, this Assad, has not even threatened a neighboring country. He made an offer of peace treaties with Isreal and the US, which both nations rejected without even meeting with him. He is fighting an internal civil war, not a war of agression anywhere, and has no designs of agression anywhere. His government has been a secular one, encompassing Sunni, Shiite, Alawite and Christians.

He is "killing his own people" not in the form of genocide, but in fighting a civil war. That is no more genocide than was the shelling of Visckburg during our Civil War. No one, as far as I've seen, has even accused him of engaging in genocide.

The rebels, on the other hand, have lobbed shells and rockets into Turkey and into Lebanon. They have conducted ethnic killings in Shiite villages that they have overrun, have killed Christians merely for being Christians, and are burning Christian churches.

Let's applaud Obama for repeating the Bush argument for war; an argument which is entirely bogus.

There He Goes Again

Speaking at the G-20, Obama said that, “I did not draw a red line, history drew a red line” on the use of chemical weapons, and made reference to the 1925 Geneva Conventions. The man is overly fond of meaningless rhetoric, and has forgotten about YouTube.

First, even assuming the validity of his premise, history records, it does not act. “History” did not draw the red line, the crafters and signatories of the treaty did so. That, however, is a minor point. We also have him on YouTube saying, “that would be a game changer for me, that would change my calculations.” Social media has tripped up many people who try to avoid the consequences of their own words and actions.

Furthermore, when use of chemical weapons was first “documented,” he blew that off and said that the “red line” would be repeated or regular use of such weapons. That rather obviates using the Geneva Conventions as justification for his planned attack, because the convention does not specify a degree of use. It says that any use of chemical weapons is a violation, and Obama has already overlooked several uses which are as thoroughly documented as the incident he is presently claiming as justification.

Inconveniently for Obama, those incidents are rather convincingly attributed to the rebel forces, not to the Syrian government.

For two years we have been being told by the administration that we cannot assist the rebels because their forces include too many radicals and extremists and we don’t know who is who. Now, suddenly, when we have decided that we do want to intervene, Kerry is telling us that radicals and extremists male up only a small portion of the rebels, and that we know who and where they are. Why does that sound like utter bullshit? Because it is utter bullshit.

Finally, Kerry and Defense Secretary Hagel assure us that a military strike in Syria is not “going to war” and that there is absolutely no possibility of blowback in the form of retaliatory attacks either on us or on our allies. Pardon me if I find it impossible to believe that they are not lying through their teeth on the first, and that they have any idea at all what they are talking about on the second.

Twelve years ago this month we regarded the destruction of two buildings in this nation an “act of war,” and we retaliated by invading, destroying and occupying two nations and killing tens of thousands of their citizens, not to mention mounting a decade-long terror campaign in three other Islamic nations using unmanned drones and Hellfire missiles. Now we claim that attacking a seventh Islamic nation with a hundred or so cruise missiles is not an act of war, and that doing so should not and will not invite retaliation.

That is the epitome of dishonesty and very definition of insanity.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

It's About Regime Change

I spent some time yesterday watching the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the Syrian issue, and my first thought is to wonder why we keep electing idiots to public office. Probably because only idiots run for public office. Anyone with a grain of sense doesn’t want the job.

One thing that struck me was that there is a strong undercurrent of “regime change” in the administration’s position, no matter how much they try to deny it. Kerry and Hagel both spoke repeatedly of “leveling the playing field,” of “degrading Assad’s overall capability,” and of the goal of removing Assad from power. They admitted that the Syrian air bases would be a target, because airplanes can be used to deliver chemical weapons.

Such has not been the case so far, but destroying air bases would certainly affect the balance of power in the civil war. That is supposedly not the goal of this intervention, but regime change was supposedly not the goal of intervention in Libya, either, until it was. While the purpose of this strike is supposedly about punishing the use of chemical weapons, Kerry and Hagel did a lot of talking about the goal of removing Assad from office and achieving a negotiated settlement of the civil war.

I seldom agree with anything Rand Paul says, but he came up with a few points that rather make sense. The first was to ask that Obama commit to being bound by the Congressional legislation. If, he says, Obama is reserving the right to attack Syria even if Congress votes not to allow him to do so, then Obama is making a farce of the Congress and of the legislative process, and the whole thing is a joke. Kerry had no real answer for that; a lot of words, but no real answer.

Paul’s second issue was to point out that Assad has acted very irrationally by using chemical weapons, so if we make a “punitive strike,” why do we assume that he will respond to that in a logical manner? How do we know, he asks, that the strike will not merely make him angry and cause him to use them again?

Kerry got very huffy at that point, pounded on the table and retorted that, “I can guarantee you, guarantee you sir, that he absolutely will use them again if we don’t strike.” (emphasis Kerry's) It was dramatic, but it didn’t seem to me that he answered Paul’s question.

Paul didn’t think so either, because he merely repeated his question, and added a few more uncertainties. How, he wanted to know, do we know that Russia will do nothing? How do we know that Iran and Hezbollah will do nothing? How do we know that Israel will not be attacked? He suggested that we are creating a great many risks with this “punishment” of Assad with no assurance that it will even do what we intend for it to do.

Make no mistake, this is about “regime change” and the outcome is highly uncertain.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Resolving To Be Stupid

The draft resolution (pdf) which the White House has submitted to Congress for the authorization of the use of military force in Syria contains some interesting things.

Paragraph 1 reads, “Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;”

France and the United States are the only ones who are certain of that, and no other country, including France, claims more than about 350 people were killed. John Kerry says specifically that 1,429 were killed but cites no authority for that number.

To quote a Republican Senator from Wisconsin, “I have in my hand a list of 329 members of Congress who are card carrying members of the Communist party.” He made the statement often, and the number changed each time.

Paragraph 4 says that, “Congress found that Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;”

It doesn’t spell out the nature of that threat. Perhaps model airplanes flying over the United States like miniature crop dusters. Sorry, that was Bush and the chemical weapons in Iraq. The resolution also doesn’t say why, if the threat has existed since 2003, when Congress made this finding, it has not been necessary to do anything about it for ten years but now suddenly is. Unless the suspicion that Asad can throw these weapons 85 miles means that he can and will throw them 8000 miles.

The real oddity is in Paragraph 7, which says, “the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process;”

Followed by, “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate…”

This is not typical Congressional committee idiocy, this is a draft written by the executive for Congress to pass, and is a real masterpiece of non sequitur. “This can only be solved by negotiation, so let’s go bomb the shit out of it.” On what planet does that make any sense?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

It's Football Time

Well, LSU won, but it was not pretty. The offense was fine most of the time, especially Mettenberger, who showed vastly improved maturity. I wonder how much of that has to do with Cam Cameron. The defense was its usual self in the first half; tunnel vision and missed assignments but giving up only three points to the opposing offense. In the second half, facing a running quarterback, they looked like buffoons.

Fortunately it’s almost three months before they face that cocky, arrogant, money signaling, piece of crap with his autographing pantomime. I’m hoping that somebody breaks his fucking leg between now and then. In three places. Failing that, perhaps Les Miles has time to teach his eighth-grade ladies how to tackle a quarterback.

My family tells me I was supposed to favor TCU because my father went to school there. Well, big deal. He also went to Texas A&M, and I’m certainly not rooting for them. Anyway, despite having been born in Texas himself and having two children born there (not me thank God), my father always tried to pretend he’d never even been in the state. He regarded it as a blighted piece of leftover dirt that we should have given back to Mexico.

Silo Tech, which is what Jayhawk fans call KSU, fell to a really good FCS team. So did 5 other FBS teams, which maybe ought to tell us something.

San Diego State was one of them, on the short end of a 40-19 score to Eastern Illinios. Wait; is Illinois wide enough to have an "Eastern" anything? Rocky Long is not noted for being stoic, and he was not last night. He would not let the players speak to the media and said, "That was a bad a performance as I've ever been around." Happily for me, the game was not televised locally, but the morning writeups do not treat the Aztecs kindly.

North Dakota State earned their victory over KSU. They finished the game after trailing by four, with a nine minute march down the field to score the winning touchdown with twenty seconds left. That was a machine-like, precision march which is seldom seen in college football, and it was a thing of beauty. The stadium went silent halfway through it, because it was obvious what was going to happen.

Utah, which for some reason is in the Pac 12 South, had to work to beat a quality Utah State team. There is one state north of Utah, but there are a hell of a lot more to the south of it. Anyway, no surprise, as Utah lost to Utah State last year, and the Aggies are going to win quite a few games.

Screw a bunch of missiles and Middle East hellholes, it’s college football season.

Update, 20 minutes later: Well, shit. So there are two states north of Utah and only one state south of it, and maybe it does belong in the Pac 12 South. What do I know; I'm 12 miles north of Mexico.

When I lived in Atlanta I had a friend in Columbus, Georgia who regarded me as a Yankee. Not because of where I lived before, but because I lived in Atlanta. All things are relative.