Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Molly Taking Medicine

This totally cracks me up.

Two Sided Mouth

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 27, 2013

Between The Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fruitcake and Spam

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

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

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

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

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

I still like Spam, but not fruitcake.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Slow Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Unequal Branches

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Food? Section, Sports?

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

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wives Can Confuse You

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

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

"Young White Males"

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sweet Weekend

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

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

Funky Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Democrats and Populist Causes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bipartisanship, or Something

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 09, 2013

Football Musings

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Redefining Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 06, 2013

Tiny Budgets

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

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

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

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

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

Politics of Inclusion

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

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

And out of that grew a healed nation.

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Football Musings

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

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

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

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