Friday, February 28, 2014

Posturing Is What We Do Best

Obama warns Russia against military intervention, but even as he is speaking Russia is moving troops into Ukraine.

He warns Russia that there will be costs for military intervention in Ukraine, but doesn’t specify what those costs will be, probably because he can’t think of any costs which we can possibly impose.

Chuck Hagel is asked what we can do if Russia “moves troops into other parts of Ukraine,” and replies, “Well, I don’t want to get into options.” Indeed he doesn’t, since we don’t have any options.

American foreign policy pronouncements are becoming increasingly vapid and embarrassing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Truth Will Out

Paul Krugman wrote a blog post yesterday refuting the lies which attempt to discredit the “health care reform” legislation known as the “Affordable Care Act,” and in doing so revealed the bigger lie that underlies its passage to begin with and even it’s very name. ”What the Act does,” he said, “is in effect to increase the burden on fortunate people — the healthy and wealthy — to lift some burdens on the less fortunate…”

And that is most certainly not the sales pitch that we were given when “health care reform” was being touted as the answer to the problems which plagued our system. Much was made of the rising cost of health insurance, and we were told that this legislation was going to “bend the cost curve downward,” not that it was going to increase the cost for most of us so that those who did not yet have insurance could obtain it.

We were told that “the Act” would be paid for with all sorts of arcane methods which none of us were quite smart enough to understand. Part of the payment, for instance, would be reductions in Medicare payments which would be absorbed by providers and not offset by reductions in services. They did not explain why the providers who were being paid less would not reduce services.

There were some protests that it was absurd to think requiring insurance companies to cover people who had preexisting conditions would not inevitably raise insurance premiums. They were shouted down as obstructionists, but now Paul Krugman is admitting that such was the intention all along; people without an existing condition will “bear a higher burden” so that people with existing conditions can obtain insurance.

The whole “zero cost” basis of “the Act” sounded like smoke and mirrors to me from the beginning, and Paul Krugman admits from his ivory tower in Princeton that it was indeed a fiction. Every once in a while one of the elites slips up and speaks the truth and make no mistake, notwithstanding how much the liberals love to quote him, Paul Krugman is one of the elites. He has no more concept of the middle class ethos than do the Koch brothers.

Having one group pay more in order to assist another, needier group is not an unworthy proposition, it’s what federal unemployment benefits are about for instance, so I don’t necessarily object to the fiscal basis of “the Act.” What I do object to is being lied to again; being sold something on the basis that “it won’t cost a dime” when it is known very well that the financing is nonsense. I object to the cost finally being admitted only after five years of government maintaining the “zero cost” fiction.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

National Security

russiaThe Department of Homeland Stupidity issued a warning to airlines flying into the United States a few days ago to be on the lookout for explosives hidden in shoes of passengers; shoe bombs. It was, they said, a "general warning," and not in response to "any specific threat."

That was the case with last month's "toothpaste bomb" threat, too.

Thanks to Mr. Snowden, we now know that the CIA tracks terrorists and fires Hellfire missiles at them by using signals from the cell phones that they carry, and we are told that the terrorists have countered by ditching their cell phones and using disposable phones for short periods. I suspect that some teenage girl picked up one of the discarded terrorist cell phones and called a friend to tell her of the really great deal she had discovered on shoes down at the Casbah, "They are really cute shoes and we need to hurry," and you can guess what happened. It winds up with us getting a warning about shoe bombs.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What The CBO Actually Said

Headlines everywhere are telling us that a hike in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would cause the economy to lose 500,000 jobs. We know this to be true because the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said so in an official report, which they arrived at after careful and thorough study by highly expert economists and business experts. And they are, to repeat, non-partisan, meaning that they wouldn't fudge numbers to favor anyone.

Except that they didn't say anything even close to that. They said,

"In CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of one million workers."

They said there's a one-third chance that nothing would happen, and that if there were losses it migh be between essentially none or as high as one million, which I translate as a sort of "Our crystal ball is busted and we don't have a clue." I don't know why we're paying any attention to that at all. Pundits translated it as "We'll lose half a million jobs," which is halfway between their worst guess and best guess, and is a mean rather than an average. An average would be closer to 280,000 jobs lost.

So yes, we might lose 500,000 jobs or we might lose a million. But as I read the statement it seems the most likely event is that we'll lose very few or none which is born out by the empirical evidence of history, because every time that the minimum wage ahs been raised the prophesies of wage loss doom have proven to be entirely baseless. A few times jobs have even increased after a hike in the minimum wage.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Always Use Your Siren

When you are proceeding through an intersection on a green light, always be using your car’s siren. What? Your car doesn’t have a siren? Well, then you might be in trouble if some drunk runs the red light and you hit him, according to the family of a young woman who was killed in that manner, because they would say it was your fault for not using your siren.

Their daughter was a passenger in a car that ran a red light and was hit by a fire engine which was using its lights on the way to an emergency, but was not sounding its siren at the time because it was proceeding through an intersection with the green light in its favor. The driver of the car, who was not killed, has pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter, which makes him the proximate cause of their daughter’s death, but since he doesn’t have any money they are suing the City of Poway, which does have money. How the money they might receive will replace their daughter is unclear, and how it will compensate them for her loss is equally unclear since they would not have been expecting to depend on her income in future years.

It’s also a bit questionable that Poway has any money, since they are one of the cities that sold those “buy now pay later” bonds that carries something like 4000% interest, but that’s a different topic.

There is also some nonsense in the parents’ claim about the fire engine driver not being properly trained. It originated with the driver not yet having the actual license, but that is not the same as not being trained. The license itself does not convey any training, and part of the training that must be performed is to drive the engine under actual emergency conditions.

The parents’ lawyer says that the fire department must assure that its fire engines are “controlled in a way that it won't hit cars in an intersection regardless of the driver of the passenger car,” which is an utterly ridiculous statement. It’s saying that you must avoid an accident even if I’m trying to create it, and if you fail to do so you are at fault.

I would love to be on that jury. Poway would love me on that jury.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

NFL Standards

This guy is awesome. The "money quote,"

"You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You're the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk? That guy's welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they're welcome. Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away? You lie to police, trying to cover up a murder? We're comfortable with that. You love another man? Well, now you've gone too far!"

Monday, February 10, 2014

On Watching the Olympics

Blogging is going to be light for a while because, hiving no feelings one way or another about Russia's hosting of them, I am watching the Olympics, along with college basketball. I have some 12 hours backlogged on my DVR, much of it stuff that I watch and my wife does not, like curling. I'll be back with greater frequency in March. Well, excluding March Madness.

I am still trying to figure out what to say about Obama's latest executive order. After spending five years deporting illegals at a pace more than double that of any previous president, he now says that he will permit an illegal to stay if he has provided "only marginal support for terrorism." Seriously? Run a stop sign and get deported, but "provide only marginal support for terrorism" and you can stay. Who decides what constitutes "only marginal support" and what is more serious level of support which is worthy of deportation?

And why the change at all? Why tolerate any "support of terrorism?"

Sunday, February 09, 2014

On Not Watching the Olympics

"Russia is a bad place, governed by bad people, so I'm not going to watch the Olympics which are being held there." Well, I guess you really showed them, didn't you?

But, wait. Who, precisely, are you hurting with that decision? I don't think Russia really cares whether or not you watch the Olympics. What does that country gain if you watch, and what does it lose if you don't watch? Even if you are one af a large group of Americans acting in unison, what does Russia gain or lose by that audience? Nothing.

The television networks lose, if your group is big enough, but you don't claim to be boycotting the networks, you claim to be boycotting Russia. Even if your target is the networks, you are misfiring, because they don't pay any cost this year while televising the Olympics in Russia. If their audience is smaller this year they will get paid less when they televise future Olympics in nations which you presumably will not view as disfavorably as you do Russia.

Congratulations, you are hurting only yourself. You missed, for instance a spectacular 19-year-old Japanese men's singles skater, and a breath-takingly lovely slopestyle run by Jamie Anderson. Self righteous judgement is usually an act more self destructive than it is punishing. It happens within one's own head and spoils one's own emotional environment, while the target remains blissfully unaware of it.

Friday, February 07, 2014


When I was reading all the ranting about the “biracial family in the cereal commercial” I was going, “Huh? What biracial family?” I had to click the link to see what the hell they were talking about. Oh, that one. I don’t know what this says about me, but I hadn’t noticed they were biracial.

I guess I was too busy cracking up at the expression on Mom’s face when Dad agreed that Daughter could get a puppy.

Fiddling The Numbers Again

The economy grew nicely in the last quarter, we are told, increasing at a rate of 2.7% annually. I waited until now to talk about this because I suspected that the initial report of 3% would be revised downward, and I was right. I’m learning how they play these games. They release a bogus number with great fanfare, and hope that fewer people will notice the downward revision which is released as part of a “news dump” on Friday.

Another point worth noticing before we get too excited about this number is that this was the first full quarter during which the new method for computing GDP has been used. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has a rather detailed article of what that means, but the short version is that even if the additions are valid (and I have some doubts about that) we need to be aware that the increase in GDP is not entirely due to growth in the economy, but is in part caused by the fact that we have changed the way we are measuring it.

Our government does things like this on a regular basis. Unemployment too high? Quit counting people who are not looking for work. Inflation too high? Exclude food and energy. The interesting part of the latter one is that now economists are complaining that inflation rate is too low. Add food and energy back in and economists will be happy, but the general population will not and many legislators might not get reelected.

So, how much of the improvement in economic growth numbers is due to real economic improvement, and how much is due to the new method of measurement? Well, I don’t think anyone will be able to provide a meaningful answer to that question, but what really bothers me is that no one is even asking it. No one, in fact, is even mentioning the subject at all.

These numbers, inflation, unemployment, and economic growth, are produced by various bureaus which are supposedly non-partisan, but don’t let that fool you. For one thing, the heads of these bureaus are appointed by the current administration, and don’t think for one minute that their biases don’t filter down into the functioning of the lower ranks within the bureaus.

More importantly, all government staffers are dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo, and that means publishing numbers that are not going to “upset the apple cart.” Partisan or non-partisan, they are not going to release any numbers that would tend to indicate that things need to change. If the numbers start making it look like change is needed, they are going to find a way for their reporting to make the status quo look better. It’s called “self preservation.”

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Now It's Toothpaste

The US government is now hyperventilating about terrorists and toothpaste, while the Russians are basically saying, "Oh please," and ignoring toothpaste in carry-on baggage since pretty much everybody has some. If they confiscated it from everyone who had any their airports would be knee deep in tubes of toothpaste. (That's quite a mental image.)

The Department of Homeland Stupidity did admit it had "no specific threat," so presumably it just heard some miscellaneous "chatter" about toothpaste, which may actually have been a wife telling her husband to bring some home from the drug store.

Meanwhile, if you see someone with a beard buying toothpaste, that's just me and I don't make bombs out of it. I brush my teeth with it.

CBS Still Thinks We Should Bomb

CBS Evening News is still logrolling for a military attack on Syria. While hyperventilating about how Assad has “missed four deadlines” to turn over chemical weapons and saying that he has turned over “only 4% of them,” they fail to mention that the US-provided ship which is to carry the weapons away has not yet arrived in Syria, and that the allies arranging the turnover have provided no secure storage while awaiting the arrival of said ship.

So the truth which CBS is not telling us is that it is not Assad who has missed deadlines, it is the nations who are charged with receiving the chemical weapons who have missed deadlines. We can’t say whether Assad is cooperating or not, but the US has certainly screwed the pooch in its part of the bargain, which is providing a ship to cart away the weapons.

The part where the “journalist” says that Assad is “holding on to the weapons to retain power. And so far it seems to have worked” is particularly laughworthy. He has never been in any real danger of losing the civil war, and long before his purported use of chemical weapons he was clearly winning that war. Since then he has seen the rebel forces splintering and even fighting each other, so the idea that he has retained power because he “held onto chemical weapons” is utterly ridiculous.

I love the contemptuous manner in which she asserts that Russia is urging Assad to comply with the chemical weapons deal, the sneer is classic, and then she finishes with “there is little political will in the White House to take unilateral action.” I’m going to have to keep a barf bucket by my chair while watching this crap in the future.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

No, It Won't "Cost" Jobs

I’m no big fan of “Obamacare,” still consider it a horribly botched piece of legislation, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to jump onto any silly bandwagon that provides an opportunity to bash it. I’m referring to the latest such effort of using the CBO report which says that Obamacare “will cost 2.5 million jobs” for that purpose, because that’s not what it says at all.

It says that Obamacare will likely cause 2.5 million people to “pass up on taking full time work” which, as I will explain, is actually more in the line of creating jobs rather than eliminating them. The effects are twofold.

The first consists of people who wish to retire but are too young for Medicare and have therefor continued to work because they needed health care benefits provided by their employer. They could not buy insurance on the private market previously, but now they can, so they will ditch their jobs and retire. That is, to some people, “costing” a job, but to anyone with any sense it means that one person is given freedom to exercise a choice and a job opening is created for a person who wants and/or needs to work. In what way is that a loss to anyone?

The other is that the subsidy for health insurance rises as one’s income diminishes, so an incentive is provided for one to lower one’s income, that is to work less, in order to get cheaper health insurance. This is on the same lines as thinking that unemployment benefit provides an incentive to remain unemployed; it undoubtedly does to a small minority of people who receive that benefit, but for the vast majority it does nothing of the sort. It keeps them alive while they frantically look for work.

I strongly suspect that the CBO’s projection of the amount of work reduction that will occur in pursuit of higher health insurance subsidies is vastly overblown. It’s kind of silly, actually, to assume that very many people will surrender $8000 income to gain $1000 on their health care subsidy, but even it they do, so what? The less work one person does the more work which is made available for another person who needs the money.

The fundamental basis of the CBO’s assumptions is flawed, because their whole theory requires that employment numbers be determined by the number of people who want to work, rather than by the number of jobs that employers want/need to fill. Using the CBO’s assumption to say that “Obamacare will cost 2.5 million jobs” would mean that unemployment would always be zero.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Falling From Space

It's not often that I get impressed by modern technology, frankly most of it is over my head, but this achievement is beyond awesome. I watched it streamed live at the time, and seeing that guy stepping off of the platform with the Earth so far below him that not only is the horizon curved, but the Earth visibly is a ball, just took my breath away.