Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Petard Thing

Democrats are waxing ecstatic about Republican missteps lately, feeling assured of holding the Senate and regaining the House because, among other things, Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a registered Republican. Never mind that he holds no position in that party and no one can even verify that he votes Republican; the left is gleefully pointing out his party affiliation and asserting that “with blunders like this Republicans are going to lose big in the next election.”

Democrats believe that they can win the election merely by pointing out Republican errors. They failed to overturn Obamacare, for instance, and cost themselves votes in the process because “Obamacare is working” and people “love the program.” Actually, by a single percentage point, people dislike the program, but Democrats don’t let facts get in their way any more than Republicans do.

There’s this Picketty thing, which allows Democrats to talk about economic inequality. None of them actually offer any actual solution for it, other than tokens such as a 1% tax on the rich or a raise in the minimum wage, they just blame Republicans for it and claim that Republicans don’t want to put a stop to it.

Given the plethora of Republican missteps upon which they can dwell, Democrats seem not to feel that there is any need to offer any plans for what they themselves intend to do next.

Then the polls come out which say that Republicans are pumped up and ready to vote for Republican programs, insane as those programs are, while apparently Democrats have tired of the name calling and lack of policy because they have no enthusiasm and are increasingly unlikely to vote at all. That’s actually rather predictable, and Democrats are responding with a “get out the vote” campaign, in effect saying, “We know we have given you nothing to vote for, but vote anyway because voting is important even when you aren’t voting for anything.”

Monday, April 28, 2014

Red Herring Renewed

The book by Picketty is all the rage, which has renewed the focus on inequality as being the source of all that is economically evil in our nation. And so the grand distraction is renewed, because inequality is the result of our economic problems, not the cause of anything economic. It is the cause only of social unrest and disorder.

This country established economic prosperity and its preeminent position in the world due to our ability to produce goods. We established a production capability that was unparalleled in the history of the world.

It was, above all else, our ability to produce that allowed us to win World War Two. We turned out more than 3,350 cargo ships, 35,000 bomber aircraft, 19 aircraft carriers, 150 fleet submarines and 100 other warships along with countless tons of munitions during the war, making these things faster than our enemies could destroy them and literally wore our enemies down and ran them out of resources.

After the war we produced and exported cars, trucks, ships, locomotives, railcars, machine tools, earthmovers, power generating equipment of all kinds, steel, copper, aluminum and a vast array of household and consumer goods. We were where the world came to get anything it needed or wanted.

Last year San Diego sought to buy new cars for its light rail system and it had to import them from Germany, because no company in the United States now manufactures railcars of any description. When the San Onofre power generation station needed to replace a large but essentially simple steam generator it had to go to a company in Japan because no company in the United States had the capability of building it.

The only thing this country produces any more is money.

And that, more than anything else, is the cause of our economic inequality because what generated wealth for the working class was production, and production has been shipped overseas. To some small degree it is being brought back, but not with a sufficiency great enough for it to restore wealth to the working class.

Liberals are gleefully crowing that Picketty has frightened to oligarchy, but he has not. They welcome the distraction. Anything that keeps the discussion away from an actual restoration of wealth to the working class is a welcome subject to them.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Media Fail

The media has been almost hysterical in its efforts to protray Russia as the agressor in Ukraine, but they really jumped the shark when they said that the masked men on the streets in eastern Ukraine "are assumed to be Russian troops because they are armed with Russian-made AK-47 rifles." Pretty much the entire world, with the exception of the US and its closest allies, is armed with Russian-made AK-47s, so that evidence is sadly unconvincing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rescuing Idiots

People were “victimized” by rising interest rates on the home mortgages, we are told, because bankers lied to them and sold them mortgages by making false statements about the nature of the mortgages, not disclosing what was in the terms of the mortgages (and presumably not allowing them to read the documents), and making promises that they had no intentions of keeping. Elizabeth Warren cites one such homeowner in her book,

Flora explained that she’d gotten a call a few years ago from “a nice man from the bank.” She said he’d told her that because interest rates were low, he could give her a mortgage with a lower payment. She’d asked him what would happen to the payment if interest rates went back up. According to Flora, he’d assured her that “the banks know about these things in advance” and that he would “call her and put her back in her old mortgage.”

That is a lie on the face of it for several reasons, and any thinking person would smell a rat and run as fast as possible in the other direction. Any person, that is, who was not too overly focused on the enticement of the lower monthly payment to really care what the pitfalls might be. Warren does go on to say, emphasis mine,

“A lot of people didn’t look too closely at the deals—and like Flora, many relied on the word of a salesman who gave a slick description of the arrangements,” but she still regards the problem as having been created entirely by unscrupulous mortgage bankers and the homeowners as poor innocent victims who should be relieved of the burdens imposed on them through no fault of their own. She does not notice her own words, such as “didn’t look too closely” and “relied on the word of a salesman.”

I like liberals, actually, and I admire politicians who advance populist causes, but I am not a big fan of political idiots.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Neat Deal

Russia, the European Union, the current Ukranian government and the United States, signed an agreement that boils down, basically, to saying that the protesters will stop protesting. The United States, who should not have been involved, provided no incentive for compliance, other than that we will stop making threats. The protestors were granted nothing for the promise that they would stop protesting, made for them in a conference in which they were not invited to participate. This Ukranianian thing gets wierder and wierder.

Sure enough, the protestors spoke up this morning and said, basically, "Oh hell no, nobody signed anything for us," so the agreement seems not to have lasted very long. That will surprise on one other than, perhaps, John Kerry who is able to forsee nothing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


This Ukraine thing has descended into complete detachment from reality, with a reporter, for instance, asking a man on a Ukraine street why he is wearing a mask, getting a reply that “That is a stupid question,” which it is, and the network airing that exchange as if it meant something. I was surprised they didn’t edit it out, and I suspect they didn’t realize that the man in the mask had made a valid point.

President Obama was interviewed by CBS and shown sternly castigating Putin for “actively supporting armed militias within the boundaries of a sovereign nation in violation of international law.” All that was needed was a map of Syria on the wall in the background to complete the perfection of irony in that scene, because not only are we doing precisely that in Syria, we are actually bragging about it. In fact it was only Putin’s intervention that prevented us from actively bombing in support of those armed militias in that sovereign nation.

Obama also keeps making reference to “the legitimate government” in Ukraine. Perhaps he was not paying attention when it happened, but the government in Ukraine that was actually created by an election was thrown out of the building by armed men wearing masks who had taken the building by force, and who then installed their own guys to run the government. I don’t know what planet Obama is living on, but on this planet that bears no resemblance whatever to a “legitimate government.”

When the Army did that in Egypt he called it an “armed coup,” but when armed masked men do it in Ukraine he calls it a “legitimate government.” His definitions are becoming more and more difficult to follow.

Executive Action

President Obama announced a $600 million jobs training program yesterday. That’s a good thing; populist in nature and supportive of the working class. The money, we are told “was already allocated” and is merely being diverted so it does not require Congressional action.

Well, okay, but what was the money allocated for? The money was allocated by Compress and I don’t think it was allocated as a sort of presidential slush fund. It’s quite a bit of money, even for the government. So what were the original intentions of Congress for that money?

Well, it was only Congress and their intentions don’t matter if the President has other ideas, so I guess we don’t even need to know what Congress wanted done with that money. Besides, Congress isn’t popular, and the President is.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Asymmetric Idiocy

Paul Krugman took Ezra Klein to task last week, not in itself an unworthy exercise, but in the process exposed his tendency to both illogic and arrogance and, perhaps, actually validated and confirmed Ezra Klein’s point.

Klein’s topic had to do with tribal thinking, the well established pattern whereby people who are strongly attached to a particular idealism misread facts in a way that confirms their biases. People, he says, screen out or discount facts that don’t fit their worldview, and that is why so frequently that “politics makes us stupid.”

Klein claims that both liberals and conservatives do it, but Krugman says that “the lived experience is that this effect is not, in fact, symmetric between liberals and conservatives,” which is Princeton ivory tower speak for “what I see is that conservatives do it but liberals don’t.”

We could start with a set of tax cuts which Democrats have extended twice and which they, Krugman included, still call “the Bush tax cuts.” Not to mention that “Obama ended the war in Iraq,” which he did by allowing the executive orders signed by George W. Bush in 2008 to be carried out.

We could cite Krugman himself who claimed in one discussion that the post war boom was the result of government spending during the war and had nothing to do with the fact that the war had destroyed all of our competition because “it also destroyed all of our customers.” As if bombs not only turned factories into rubble, but also left no survivors, vaporized gold and obviated the possibility of extending credit.

In one notable discussion he claimed that New Deal spending ended the Depression until it was pointed out to him that that spending was cut back in 1937, at which point the country promptly went into recession. He then switched tactics and said the New Deal spending “staved off” the Depression until WW2 spending finally ended it. He then advocated that New Deal-type spending would end today’s recession, which neatly confirms Ezra Klein’s point that zealots ignore facts which do not fit their worldview, and refutes his own claim that liberals don’t do that.

Klein’s piece is lengthy, ponderous, and difficult to read, which his pieces always are, but buried in there where Krugman apparently missed it is the assertion that while zealots are blinding themselves to facts which do not confirm their prejudices, they are completely unaware that they are doing it. Anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature should not have to be told that, it should be self evident. Unless, of course, it doesn’t fit their concept of how they themselves do their own thinking.

Because what Paul Krugman is claiming is that conservatives do this while my friends and I don’t, but what he is actually saying is that conservatives can be seen to be doing this while my friends and I are doing it without knowing that we are doing it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chopped Garlic

I started to read a piece the other day that was about how one should never use the chopped garlic that comes in a jar. I got as far as the first reason, which is that "it is peeled by subjecting it to a blast of air that can blow the flavor away," and decided that I needed to read no farther and could comfortably continue to use chopped garlic that comes in a jar.

If I am making something that features and depends on the garlic flavor, Scampi for instance, I will use fresh garlic and peel it while preparing the dish. Other than that, Christopher Ranch is my friend.

Going out on a Smarties expedition later today. I haven't had them in quite a while, and I need some Smarties. (Like this is Facebook, or something.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Economists Do Not Live In Reality

From Bloomberg on Central Banks yesterday, “The greater danger comes when disinflation turns into deflation, which leads households to delay purchases in anticipation of even lower prices…” It is incomprehensible to me that anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature keeps repeating this nonsense.

If it were true then the consumer electronics industry would have failed miserably. At no time did a personal computer even cost more than 15% less than the one you bought yesterday. Every person who ever bought a laptop for $1800 saw it advertised the next week for $1500 or less.

Flat screen televisions have been plummeting in price steadily, rapidly and continuously for ten years, and have been selling like pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The only problem retailers have had is keeping them in stock.

If your refrigerator craps out, do you delay replacing it "in anticipation of even lower prices," and for how long do you wait?

Interesting that this one did not come from Paul Krugman’s ivory tower.

The Weapon Doesn't Matter

One place after another I read comments saying, “Thank God he didn’t have a gun,” or “Imagine if he’d had a gun,” which I think is about the stupidest thing that can be said about the event in Murrysville PA. Such commenters are stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime, ignoring the larger issue to ask the more important question, “What in the hell is happing in our schools, our homes, and in our society to make our kids so fucked up?”

They think that they are strengthening some sort of anti-gun crusade, but in fact they are weakening it because they are clearly debunking the theory that it is possession of guns that make school shooters go crazy and embark on killing sprees. The fact that this young man did not kill anyone did not mean that he was not trying to, and the success or otherwise of children’s murderous rages is not our social problem.

Our problem is whatever it is that is creating this kind of isolation and rage in these kids, and if it is so severe in these kids that it erupts into killing sprees, then it surely exists to a lesser but still damaging degree in thousands, if not millions, of other kids. It surely is the symptom of a flaw in the living environment which we are providing for the future citizens of our nation, and we are not even acknowledging that, let alone doing anything about it.

At best, we look at it as individual mental illness, an aberration; but on the scale that it is happening it is clearly something more than that and if we do not acknowledge that and take corrective action this society is heading for serious trouble. It’s not about guns, and it’s not about some poor kid with a miswired brain; something is wrong, and we need to be finding out what it is.

Update: Episodes like this are not the only manifestation of the problem. We see it in the high incidence of rape in our military and on our college campuses. Rape is not a sex crime. It is a crime of violence stemming from rage, isolation and inadequacy.

Part of the problem, I suspect, lies in our passion in protecting our precious little babies from what we percieve as harm. We cannot let their valuable little knees get skinned or their tiny little feelings be hurt. But skinned knees and hurt feelings are part of growing up, and when we prevent that we prevent them from growing up and we wind up with five year old babies in fifteen year old bodies. When we don't deal with that we wind up with five year old babies in twenty year old bodies in our military and on our college campuses and all hell breaks loose.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Follies Abound

I’m trying to decide which outfit is sillier at the moment, the United States government, or NASCAR. The former certainly has more profound implications, but the latter is somewhat more entertaining.

Pro-Russian demonstrators have lit fires, torn down barricades, occupied buildings and generally created havoc in eastern Ukraine; pretty much the same thing that anti-Russian demonstrators did in western Ukraine. John Kerry is appalled, even though he cheered for and applauded the anti-Russians, and is accusing the Russians of instigating the riots and violence, even though he angrily denied accusations that we were behind the earlier anti-Russians violence.

There were actually some tape recordings of American officials discussing how we had spent $5 billion doing precisely what we were accused of doing regarding the anti-Russian riots, but John Kerry simply pretends those tape recordings don’t exist, or that he doesn’t know anyone by the name of Victoria Nuland, or something. The only evidence of Russian complicity in the recent riots is in John Kerry’s feverish imagination, but that doesn’t prevent him from threatening “harsh sanctions” against Russia if they don’t stop doing what there is no evidence, let alone proof, that they are doing.

If it weren’t fraught with such serious consequences it would be hilarious.

Since NASCAR has pretty much no consequence whatever, one can simply sit back and laugh one’s ass off at the antics that it engages in.

Sunday’s race was rained out, and considerable mystery surrounded the rescheduling of it because they waited for more than four hours to decide that it was not going to be run in a Texas swamp. It had been raining in Fort Worth for five days and was still raining at race time, but NASCAR for some reason still harbored the delusion that they could dry the track in time to race. The fact that water was coming up through the pavement from the ground under the race track should have given them a clue that wasn’t going to happen, but apparently they didn’t notice that and failed to check the records which noted that the track had a long history of that happening quite often.

By the time they called the race all of the television networks had decided they had better things to do that looking at a rain-soaked empty race track, so there was no one around to announce when the rescheduled race would be run. There were eight diehard fans left in the grandstand, so those eight people knew when to come back, but no one else did.

The Internet saved their collective ass, and so a decent crowd was on hand Monday morning to watch the rescheduled race. They track was still a little damp, so they started the race under a “green-yellow,” throwing both flags to start the race, meaning, “go but go slow,” which is nobody's idea of a race. Other than NASCAR, that is. The idea was that they would parade behind the pace car while NASCAR consulted with the drivers as to when the track would be dry enough to race on, because of course you always let the inmates run the fucking asylum.

As if they could ever get a consensus anyway. Tony Stewart is a dirt track racer, so the track could have water an inch deep and he would be saying, "Oh hell yes, let’s go racing.” Jeff Gordon came from open wheel, so even high humidity would have him whining, “Oh hell no, we can’t race, we’re swimming out here.”

Not only did they start the race on a wet track under caution instead of waiting until the track was ready to race on, they started it while the jet dryers were still on the track. These are trucks with jet engines mounted sideways, blowing hot air across the track to dry it. So as the parade of cars is passing the dryers the jet blast is blowing body panels off of the race cars. Holy shit, who could have predicted that? The pole sitter has to go into the pits to get the hood of his car taped back into position using duck tape.

They finally throw the green flag, and four laps later Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives his left side wheels into the infield grass on the frontstretch. The grass is so soft that the middle of his car bottoms on the edge of the pavement, disastrously so, and when he returns to the track the pavement edge rips the left front tire off, sending him hard into the wall. The accident throws a couple hundred pounds of mud into the front of his teammate, Jimmy Johnson, who was running right behind him.

The announcers were going crazy making up reasons why Junior drove into the grass. “At this track you can run in the grass.” Not at over 200mph you can’t, even when it's dry. “He was trying to pass the 43 car.” Not in the grass, no. “You can’t see very well out of these cars.” The view isn’t that bad; he could see that what was to the left of the 43 was grass, not track. When interviewed shortly afterward, Junior said simply, “I made a mistake.”

Jimmy Johnson made repairs, but finished in 25th, two laps down.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


Back in December of last year Florida State University was on its way to a national championship and its quarterback, Jameis Winston, was a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy. Then charges arose that he had been involved in raping a girl on the FSU campus, and that both the team’s championship and his Heisman Trophy were in jeopardy.

As soon as the rumor surfaced I predicted that he would be cleared within two weeks or less, that there would never be anything more than a rumor, and that the status of the player and the university would be unaffected. I did not say that because I believed he was innocent, but because I knew that it didn’t matter whether he had done it or not.

So now we find, from USA Today yesterday, that I was entirely correct. The girl was told if she pursued the case her life “would be made miserable,” not by the men boys who did the rape, but by school officials and law officers, and the case was for all practical purposes not investigated.

What mattered was what the school and the quarterback got; a national championship and a Heisman Trophy. The girl; well the girl just didn’t matter at all. This is America, after all, and we have our priorities.

Ask Hillary Clinton. According to her, we are fighting a war thousands of miles away so that women in Afghanistan can have better lives.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Ignoring The Enemy

Bloggers and pundits are outraged almost to the point of spluttering incoherence by the latest Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance. Some rage that the Supreme Court has destroyed the last vestige of democracy in this nation, others that the “one percent” will do so in the wake of the decision, but I would suggest that these are the wrong targets for blame as democracy dies in America.

Who decrees to American voters that they must vote for whichever candidate purchases the most advertising? There is considerable evidence that voters do, in fact, cast their votes in this manner, but that should be less a condemnation of the candidates and “one percent” than it is of the voters themselves. Voting for whoever spends the most money is a pretty damned stupid way to choose our leadership, so why do we do it?

I know why the politicians and “one percent” do it; it works for them. It gets them what they want. For the underclasses, the people who actually cast the votes, it consistently produces bad leadership, and yet we keep right on voting for whoever spends the most money. Not only that, but we complain about the system which we ourselves are perpetuating with our own votes.

Some call it “magical thinking” to imagine that those who are benefiting from the system, the legislators themselves, will change the system, but I call it stupid thinking. Legislators are making out like bandits; they are not going to cut down the money tree. We have to do that, and instead we keep watering and fertilizing it by voting for whoever spends the most money.

No matter who is spending the most money, elections are still determined by who gets the most votes. All we have to do is vote and not vote for the biggest spender. Problem solved. “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Thursday, April 03, 2014

NASA Joins Insanity Parade

Oh good, NASA is joining the rush to "isolate Russia." NASA is suspending all cooperation with the Russian space agency, except that we will still let them carry our astronauts up to the International Space Station because we don't have the ability to do that on our own. Mind boggling. I'm trying to figure out why the Russians go along with this.

I have a sinking feeling that we are going to push and push and push, thinking we are getting away with it, and all at once we're going to make one push too many and the grits are going to hit the fan.

No Logic Anywhere

NASCAR is proposing a rule change next year, one which will reduce engine power of the race cars. I’m not sure what the purpose of making race cars run slower is, but NASCAR is not exactly noted for doing logical things. “The racing really sucks,” say the fans, so NASCAR responds by making the race cars slower. You figure it out.

I am reminded of A.J. Foyt commenting at Indianapolis some years ago, "Hell, if we're going to hold taxicab races, let's get some damned taxicab drivers out here to run in them."

Of course, most NASCAR drivers today actually are taxicab drivers. The concept of putting the hammer down and nursing a loose car out of the turn onto a straightaway is a foreign concept to them. "I'm loose off," (exiting a turn) they scream at their crew chiefs, "I can't use the gas at all," and demand that the crew chief do something to fix the car.

"A quarter pound of air" in the right rear tire, forsooth.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. would put his car sideways going 200 mph at Talledega and, when asked if he was okay after he recovered it without losing position, laconically comment, "Yeah I’m okay. The car's a little loose."

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Logical Thinking Is Also Rare

Reuters tells us yesterday that “NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia” due to it’s “annexation of Crimea.” The entirety of the NATO response to Russia’s moves regarding Ukraine are a real study in a failure of logic. I'd say a certain amount of arrogance is involved as well.

While demanding that Russia pull its troops, which are actually on Russian soil, away from Ukraine, in effect dictating to Russia how it must move its military forces within its own borders, NATO is moving fighter jets and other military forces into the Baltic States to “reassure them” against the threat from Russian forces which are still located in Russia.

Better yet, the article says that NATO “expects Russia's cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan - on training counter-narcotics personnel, maintenance of Afghan air force helicopters and a transit route out of the war-torn country to continue.” So while NATO is suspending all cooperation with Russia on anything Russia wants to do, it expects Russia to continue cooperating with NATO on anything NATO wants to do.

What it takes to engage in that kind of thinking beggars the imagination.

Oh Good Lord

Huffington Post has a headline that reads "Thirteen Dead To Save A Dollar." It turns out to be an article about GM's recall issue, in which defective ignition switches were not replaced in order to "save a dollar," but that savings occurred in each of 3.5 million cars. Not that saving $3.5 million justifies thirteen dead, but that headline is ridiculous.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Innocence Is Rare

There was nothing on after the basketball games the other day, so I watched a couple of episodes of American Greed. The show is only modestly interesting and the plot is a bit repetitive: People invest their money with a rich guy, who spends it on his own lavish lifestyle instead of investing it, and the poor innocent people lose all of their money.

The victims are, however, perhaps not quite the lily-pure innocents that the show’s producers would like for the viewer to think they are.

In the first show the bad guy was advertising unusually high returns on money invested with him, in the neighborhood of 20% or so, and presented his firm as “closed to new clients.” He would tell potential investors that he was not really looking for new clients, and that he was letting them in as a favor to them. Being his client supposedly would provide them with better than average returns, and was a status symbol, so that had quite a lot to gain. And they didn’t put part of their money in his care, they put all of it.

In the second show the bad guy owned a string of “qualified intermediaries,” which are firms where people place cash to avoid paying taxes on it. It’s entirely legal, but they had their money where it was for the purpose of tax avoidance. Again, they had something to gain by having their money in the bad guy’s hands.

I am reminded of a scene in “The Sting” where Paul Newman advises his crew that they have had the misfortune to come across a completely honest man and will need to select a new “mark” because it is impossible to con a completely honest person.

Did these victims deserve to lose all of their money? Of course not. But it was their own greed that put them in the position to have this happen to them.