Thursday, October 31, 2013

Junk Policies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inconsistencies and Contradictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Great Football Moment

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Last Thing We Need

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bye Week

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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Good Debt, Bad Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

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

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

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

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

Our decision making ability in this country is badly impaired.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

CBS News Sucks

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

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

African Tulip Tree

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Round Two Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Not A Balanced Budget?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2013


lego mania

Due to the shutdown...

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

The Ivory Tower Speaks

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flipping Over Deja Vu

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Full Faith And Credit

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

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

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

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

On what planet does that make any sense whatever?

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

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fiscal Responsibility?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 07, 2013


race carDanica Patrick crashed in the first turn of the first lap yesterday, finishing 43rd and last in the Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. The announcers and driver spoke of the accident as it was something that happened all by itself, was some sort of spontaneous event having nothing to do with the driver, which actually may be true. I think the car was embarrassed by the color it was painted; decided "I'm not staying out here for 267 laps looking like this," and turned itself into the wall. Sort of a vehicular form of hari kari. Regardless of cause, race cars don't want to be pink.

What can one say about the Chargers? That they're not the Giants? Philip Rivers threw the same number of interceptions that Eli Manning did yesterday. Three.

I told my wife that the Broncos beat the Cowboys by 51-48 yesterday and she said that she didn't realize that the basketball season had started yet. What interested me about that game was that about half of the time when the receiver caught a pass, on both teams, there was no defender within five yards of him. What were they doing?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

"Reasonable" Con Job

Just as Bush did before them, the Obama administration has said to Iran that it will negotiate with them regarding their nuclear program, but not until after they have dismantled their nuclear program. I’ve never understood the logic of that approach.

It’s like saying to my neighbor that I will negotiate with him over the nature of his tree, but not until he first cuts down the tree. That's just silly. After he cuts down the tree, what is there to negotiate about? He cuts down the tree and I just say, “Haha, you lose.”

Now Obama and the Democrats are saying to the Republicans that they will negotiate with them over spending, but not until after the Republicans allow passage of a “clean spending bill.”

Saying that they will negotiate, that “we’ll negotiate over all sorts of things,” sounds so very reasonable, but what is there to negotiate after the bill is passed? Unless I’m missing something about the legislative process, after the Republican House passes the Senate’s “clean spending bill” the President signs it and tells the Republicans to piss up a rope. Some negotiations.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Democratic Complacency

I think the Democrats are being a little too comfortable sitting back and letting the Republicans look bad, while doing nothing to alleviate the situation. They should be at least be trying to take some affirmative action to end the stalemate; instead they are simply pointing fingers and saying, “See, it’s all their fault.”

Democrats are calling Republicans “obstructionist,” but it’s Republicans who are passing bills and Democrats who are killing them in the Senate. Democrats claim to be passing bills in the Senate, but that is political posturing because these are revenue bills which, by dictate of the constitution, must originate in the House.

Yes, Democrats are on the populist side, and in a position of logic and reason, but the optics are not in their favor in the long run, and they need to be thinking about that.

Partisan Delusion

I usually make allowances for Obamabots, but this comment took me all aback and left me in irons. (That’s sailing talk. I watched the America’s Cup too long.) I commented that Obama had largely ignored his liberal base and this was one of the responses,

The liberal base got national health care, championing of homosexual rights, an end to the “war on terror” and likely another amnesty coming soon, that’s not being ignored in my opinion.

Oh my goodness, let’s start with the “national health care” that the liberal base supposedly got. Even calling that legislation “health care reform” is a stretch, because it’s basis has nothing to do with health care but with health insurance, which it requires everyone to purchase from private corporations. That is a very, very long way from “national health care.”

His “championing of homosexual rights” is almost as much of a stretch. For four full years he said simply that “don’t ask don’t tell” would be repealed “at the right time” without saying what that time might be. It was repealed because Congress responded to gay activism and Obama responded to Joe Biden shaming him into action by acting first. As to gay marriage, his view on the subject is to this day still “evolving,” and his administration has declined to participate in two cases on the subject at the Supreme Court.

As to the claim that he has brought “an end to the war on terror,” one has to simply laugh and hope that the writer will seek mental help. We’re still at war in Afghanistan and seeking to maintain a troop presence there after the war nominally ends. We are still employing Hellfire missiles fired from drones to kill people whose names we do not even know in at least four Islamic countries because they look like they might be “extremists.” We’re still foaming at the mouth over Syria and Iran. The “national security” apparatus is at an all time high and still growing, there is still incessant fear mongering about Al Queda and the war on whistleblowers rages unabated.

Finally, anyone who thinks there is “likely another amnesty coming” is, at best, using a seriously bad choice of words. Obama championed immigration reform during the 2012 campaign season long enough to secure the Hispanic vote and has not spoken of it since, and even then he avoided the term “amnesty” like it contained four letters; was careful to promise that whatever he offered it would not be amnesty.

At least there was no claim of him ending the war in Iraq.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Preserving Disorder

Every time the Obama administration feels that it is or might become unpopular it launches a campaign to get the name Al Queda in the news as often as possible and the media, of course, is happy to oblige. CBS Evening News has been on a real binge since the government shutdown, even though Obama is blaming the Republicans for it.

Last night they were celebrating the twenty-year anniversary of “Blackhawk Down,” complete with a “never before seen” film clip, and said that the mission was about capturing an “Al Queda affiliated warlord” in Mogadishu, which is an awesomely stupid and/or dishonest statement.

Whatever Mohamed Farrah Aidid was, he most certainly was not in any way affiliated with Al Queda or in sympathy with its goals. He was a Somali national, educated in the Soviet Union, who rebelled against the then Somali king and declared himself to be the head of the new Somali government. He was one of several vying in violent and bloodthirsty conflict for that role.

As a point of interest, he and his fellow warlords were later overthrown by the Islamic Courts Union, despite the fact that the United States was actively backing the warlords. Wait, we were backing the warlords after the “Blackhawk Down” incident?

Well, Aidid was dead by that time, so the conflict was less than it might have been, but it was still a bit odd. We claimed the ICU was harboring Al Queda, which it almost certainly was not. And this was another proxy war that we lost, because the ICU prevailed and established a considerable degree of order in the nation, which had known none under the warlords.

Nonetheless, we wanted the ICU gone, so we prevailed upon Kenya and Nigeria to invade and depose them, and assisted them in that process, thereby restoring total disorder to Somalia and returning it to its previous status as a failed state. We excel at creating disorder. At any rate, that opened the door for Al Shabab, which certainly is an element of Al Queda, to enter the country so in addition to introducing Al Queda to Iraq we also introduced them to Somalia.

CBS Evening News did not, of course, report any of this. The only Al Queda they mentioned in Somalia was Aidid, whose name they did not use and who was not actually Al Queda.

On Wednesday they ran a piece which was supportive of the war on whistleblowers, but which was also utterly incoherent.

It began, innocently enough, by blaming the New York Times for damaging the “war against terrorists” by reporting on the conversation within Al Queda which was intercepted and which led to the shutdown of nineteen American embassies. That link, CBS says, “went silent” as soon as the Times article appeared, and so the intelligence agencies lost a valuable asset.

They then said that “the material stolen by Snowden is almost certainly in the hands of the Chinese and the Russians,” and declaimed at great length about how damaging that is to our ability to deter terrorists from dropping a nuclear bomb on New York City. Haha, take that New York Times.

Okay, I made up the part about the nuclear bomb, but what does publication of one event by the Times have to do with unpublished documents taken six months earlier? And why is possession of those documents by China and Russia harmful? Are they suggesting that either of those nations sponsors terrorism? Or that they will pass the information on to terrorists?

Russia, at least, is actually working with us to stop terrorists. Does no one recall that some time back they notified us that a couple guys were headed our way who might be terrorists and we ignored them? The upshot of that was that the two guys set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, and I don’t recall any real words of praise about how Russians were such good guys for trying to prevent the tragedy.

Anyway, they kept condemning anyone who is willing to tell us what the government is doing. It was kind of ironic watching the news media saying that the news media should not report the news.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Pox Is In Both Houses

To say that our government is becoming increasingly dysfunctional is so trite as to be hardly worth saying, but it’s time to ask what the hell are we going to do about it and when are we going to do it?

In the present “crisis” the government has failed so many times to pass a budget that it quit even trying to do so and resorted to passing “continuing resolutions” to operate the government financially. These resolutions had to be of shorter and shorter duration in order to pass, and now they cannot pass one as short as three fucking months.

The government has always lied to us, but until recently they at least tried to conceal the lies. Now they don’t even try to make the lies remotely believable, nor do they make any real attempt to conceal from us the fact that they are lying. The revelation that the Director of National Intelligence lies to Congress is met with a huge yawn. The director of the NSA admits that the reports of “dozens of terror plots” that the administration has been telling us about was vastly exaggerated, and no one cares. Obama says that “no one is listening to your phone calls” and just three days later a report comes out that proves him a bald faced liar; no one cares.

Congress has constituted itself to render the minority party utterly irrelevant, denying it the ability to participate in governance. When Democrats were in the minority they accepted irrelevance and whined about how the Republicans were not treating them fairly. Now that Republicans are in the minority they reject irrelevance in the only manner that is available to them. Democrats are happy to allow them to do so, complaining about “obstructionism,” and blaming everything on their opposition for their own political gain.

Americans have short memories. It’s only been seven years, but we threw out a Republican Congress and installed a Democratic one in order to end the war in Iraq and put a stop to the Bush imperial presidency. We got the “surge” in Iraq, immunity for the telecom industry with regard to spying on Americans and TARP. We elected Obama to change the way things are done in Washington, and we all know how that worked out.

Democrats are saying this mess is all the fault of Republicans, but no one’s skirts are clean in Washington today. The entire government is foul with corruption, greed, money and influence peddling. If the American people had either intelligence or courage we would throw them all out, but we will not.

They will promise lower taxes and we will reelect them.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

It's All About Leverage

Obama’s position of “I’m not going to negotiate” is unattractive. It may be the correct position, because certainly the Republican position is utterly absurd, but it is tactless in its optics. A position in which he said that “There are points on which I am not prepared to be flexible," accompanied by a willingness to have talks would be a lot more sympathetic.

Americans like “tough guys” though, and I guess he is playing to that.

Although it sounds eminently reasonable, there is actually a certain unreasonableness in the Democratic insistence that “Congress pass the clean spending bill now and then we will negotiate everything else.” It is, in effect, asking the Republicans to surrender and then negotiate the terms of that surrender after they have emerged from their positions, laid down their arms, and put on the handcuffs.

Republicans have very little leverage. Democrats have the threat of presidential veto, and control of the Senate. Republicans have the House, and the only thing that gives them is control of revenue. They control nothing else, only revenue bills, and Democrats are demanding that they surrender on the revenue bill and only then will they negotiate on all the other bills; the ones where Republicans have no leverage whatever.

I don’t see this as a case of both sides currently being at fault, but that doesn’t mean that Obama and company has clean skirts. Obama has been a terrible negotiator, frequently making concessions before negotiations even began and then making further concessions during the process. He has backed himself into a position where he really can concede no further, and if he had been a better negotiator earlier we would not be here now.

It’s often true that the earlier you precipitate something the less disastrous that precipitation will be. There really was no need for this.