Saturday, May 31, 2014

Who Didn't See That Coming?

Critics of recent conduct of the VA Medical System are saying that if it can't be fixed immediately then veterans should be given access to private medical providers at government expense. Of course they are. That was the purpose of underfunding the VA Medical System to begin with; so that performance would drop to a level at which privatization could be justified. They lost the opportunity to privatize Social Security, but there are plenty
of other targets.

Oddity of the week: GDP decreased at an annual rate of 1% in the first quarter, and it is being blamed on the weather, but "internals" make that excuse just a little hard to believe. Consumer spending rose by 3.3% in that same quarter. What did the weather stop from happening if it didn't stop people from going to the mall?

Jumping to conclusions: Prior to World War Two quite a lot of American citizens went to China to fight against the Japanese who were invading that country. That was not interpreted as meaning that America was invading China, or that the American government had declared war on Japan. The presence of Russian nationals in Ukraine, however, intrinsically means that the Russian government has declared war on and/or is invading Ukraine. Why can Ammericans act as private citizens but Russians cannot?

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Local sports writers were opining that the San Diego State University was disrespected by the NCAA by being sent to Louisiana for the first round of the NCAA baseball tournament. The team players and coaches, however, have a different reaction to the assignment. They say they are happy about it because it gives them a chance to "show the nation who we are." Nice attitude. Confidence without hubris.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Racing Notes

The Indianapolis 500 lived up to the hype this year. It pretty much never got boring, and the finish was awesome. I may lack the proper degree of patriotism, or something, but I really don’t care that “an American won.”

The racing was great, but the coverage utterly stunk. They should have people working in television for these events who know at least a little bit about auto racing.

They show every pass from the in-car camera. It is impossible to tell anything about the pass from that angle, because you cannot see where they are on the track. Was it an easy pass or did he really have to work to do it? How deep into the corner did he go making that pass? How much room did the passee actually give to the passing car? You can't tell with the view they give you.

At one point they showed Marco starting to pass Helio from the in-car camera. He had to abort the pass and fall back. Why? Where was he on the track that made him abort the pass? You could not tell from the in-car camera why the passing attempt failed.

At the three car wreck they first said it "wasn't anybody's fault" which was just plain ridiculous on the face of it. Three wide was stupid and of course it was somebody's fault. I was pretty sure it was Hinchcliffe who caused it by diving inside and creating the three wide, but the announcers were saying that it was caused by Townsend Bell. Later they interviewed Ed Carpenter, who said, "I think Bell and I would have been okay, but then Hinch dived inside and made it three wide and caused the wreck," confirming what I had figured but which the announcers had failed to notice.

Kurt Bush, NASCAR driver participating in his first Indycar race ever, finished sixth, which was a major accomplishment. I don’t like Kurt, but credit where it’s due. That was a very well-driven race.

Danica Patrick was going to win the 600-mile NASCAR race because she qualified fourth and has thereby finally proven that she is a superstar. The announcers were having a major case of the vapors over her until the race started, when she promptly started “advancing to the rear,” and was running 24th, one lap down, when her engine went sour. She then managed to wreck her car before the engine exploded.

Her inability to run with the leaders was, of course, caused by a “slow car.” Funny, the car was not slow in qualifying, nor was it slow in any of the practice sessions. No one has been able to explain why it was slow for the race.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

And We Do It Again

Isla Vista: many people killed and injured by a maniac who leaves behind a "manifesto." He wants to be "noticed." He wants people to know his name, because he has felt slighted and ignored. And so as a result of his heinous action we notice him. We talk about him. He went out, as he wanted to do, in a "blaze of glory." Everyone knows his name. He gets the attention he sought. We are idiots.

When someone runs naked onto a football field that media says they will not show him because, "we do not want to encourage others to do the same." But when someone goes on a shooting spree in one last desperate attempt for attention, they give him so much attention that they gurantee that more shooting sprees will follow.

Don't give these poor sick bastards the attention they seek. Bury them in an unmarked grave without telling the public anything about them so that other poor sick bastards don't follow their example. What part of that is so hard to figure out?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Living Wage

A subheadline at said that instead of fancy advertising MacDonalds should pay a "living wage." I'm not sure how raising wages would bring them more business, which is the point of advertising, but I submit that the point is nonsense in any case.

MacDonalds, and other fast food outlets, should not be paying a "living wage" for the simple reason that working in these places is not a real job. This is something that high school kids should be doing to make spending money, not something that anyone should be doing to make a living. It is nonproductive, useless and demeaning work with no real future. It is a stepping stone; "make work"to fill time until one can qualify for a real job.

If this nation has deteriorated to the point that flipping burgers and selling Happy Meals across a counter is considered a "living wage" career then there is no point in discussing our economy because we no longer have a meaningful econpmy.

"Minimum wage" should be about high school kids and college students.
It should be utterly meaningless in terms of careers and people who are working at full time jobs. The idea that we are willing to have people supporting families on minimum wage, whatever it is, is obscene.

We should not be working to make fast food joints pay "living wage," we should be busting our collective ass to get people the hell out of those trivial jobs and into real jobs.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Where Does The Buck Stop?

President Truman had a sign on his desk that said, "The buck stops here." Obviously the current president does not subscribe to that theory, because when agencies go sour the exercise in "passing the buck" for the problem up the chain of command stops somewhere well short of his desk.

When HHS totally botched the launch of Obamacare, Obama was pissed off and announced to the country that he would not tolerate that sort of thing, with the implication that it was neither his fault nor that of his apointee Kathleen Sebelius. She later retired with honor, blameless for the debacle over which she presided. Now Obama is "outraged" and "will not tolerate" the performance of the Veterans' Health Service, but he is not prepared to hold either himself of his apointee Eric Shinseki to account for that debacle, either.

Some presidents accept responsibility for what happens on their watch, and others stand back and are "outraged" by what their subordinates do.
"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Interesting Rant

Dylan Ratigan goes on a rather entertaining rant here about how this nation is “being extracted” and that both political parties are involved in the crime. I’m not entirely clear on his meaning of “extracted” but it has to do, I suspect, with the rich getting richer as he says that we are being “extracted through banking, trade and taxation,” which strikes me as an odd set of factors, given that taxation is the lowest it’s been in eighty years.

Nonetheless, given the context I suspect that “taxation” slipped in there by accident, or that he may be referring to the lack of progressivism in our tax structure, because overall he makes more sense than his demeanor would seem to suggest. It is not an angry rant, really, he just got carried away.

I particularly liked the part where he said that the “extraction” is destroying us and “…here we are arguing between a $4 trillion plan that kicks the can down the road for the president or just burn the house down, both of which are reckless, irresponsible and stupid.” He then apologizes for losing his temper, but I thought he lost it rather effectively.

Of course he wants the president to attack Congress for having “been bought” and “go to the American people” to demand that they be kicked out for having been bought, evidently not recalling that the president just spent two weeks on a fund raising trip, including a $10,000-per-plate dinner in San Diego. The fact that San Diego is home to Mitt Romney is actually irrelevant, but somehow seems rather interesting.

I still maintain that his point, along with the popular issues of “income inequality” and minimum wage, are distractions from the real issue which faces this country; that being the lack of the ability of the working class to find jobs which are sufficient for them to earn a real living. That issue is the one thing that politicians and pundits are totally unwilling to discuss today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fine Lines

There was a clip on the local news last night regarding the shooting of a barber shop owner, saying that the police have developed a lead on the shooter. The sister of the slain barber was shown briefly, saying to the cameras, "To the person who killed my brother I want to say this. I forgive you. I forgive you because that's the way my brother lived his life. He would not want his death to be the cause of hate and vengeance." Beautiful.

A New Law Governing Feelings

Carson City CA is in the final stages of creating a new “anti-bullying” law, which would create fines of $100 and up for anyone, including young children, who (emphasis mine) makes another person feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested” with no legitimate purpose.” I’m trying to imagine what would constitute a “legitimate purpose” for doing any of that, but…

The states already has an anti-bullying law, a much more sensible one, prohibiting “conduct done with the intent to harass or intimidate.”

Notice the difference here? The present law says that you are responsible for what you do, while Carson City wants to hold you responsible for how someone other than you feels. California judges you for your actions; Carson City wants to judge you for somebody else’s feelings. California wants the prosecutor to be evaluating the actions you have performed and/or the words you have spoken, while Carson City wants the prosecutor to be evaluating the feelings of a six-year-old in order to prosecute you for having broken the law.

“If you felt terrorized,” the prosecutor asks the five-year-old Mary, “I’m going to fine Timmy $600, but you only felt harassed then I will just fine him $100, so I need to know how you felt.”

Where do we get this kind of idiots?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

No Hype Wednesday

Firefighters are just fucking awesome.

Nine thousand acres burned in nine fires, half of it in densely populated urban areas, and we lost eight houses and one apartment building. Eight.
It could reasonably have been eight hundred. Zero lives lost.

I was watching television as a wall of fire approached a school building. The reporter on site was saying that they only had "hand crews" on the scene and were not going to be able to stop the school from being burned. I was thinking to myself that meybe he should not be flapping his mouth until he saw what the firefighters could do. Sure enough, half an hour later he was saying that, "somehow they stopped it."

Not "somehow" dipwad. They stopped it by doing what firefighters do. They are not supermen but they are really, really good at stopping fires. And they don't pound their chests and demand our admiration. Maybe they're just too tired, I don't know, but they just shrug and get ready for the next fire. Heroes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hyping the Fire

My sister emailed from Salt Lake City to ask if I was okay with respect to "that thing," meaning the fire that was on the news. It is much too early in the season for this kind of thing, but let's be clear about what this was.

About 5000 homes were evacuated, not the 20,000 reported. No one knows where the latter number came from; police and fire officials are vehemently denying that they ever reported it. One police officer said that 5000 homes might be expected to contain 20,000 people, so perhaps that was the source of the bogus number. For information, the average value of those 5000 homes was probably about $4 million.

The fire topped out at 850 acres, which is not really a very big fire. It was fought by about 150 firefighters, not the "hundreds" that was reported. It was driven by Santa Ana winds, but at their worst they were gusting at 50 mph or less, and by noon they were blowing at 15 mph with gusts at 25 mph. That hardly qualifies as "fierce Santa Ana winds."

Only one structure was burned, a small outbuilding. There are two reason no homes were lost, one being that homeowners had done a supurb job of maintaining "defensible space" around their homes; a 100' radius cleared of brush and combustible material. The other is that the fire was mostly burning in canyons which run toward the sea and in which no homes are built. That area of San Diego is very hilly and open, and is only now beginning to be developed; expensively developed.

This was by no means a minor fire, and great credit is due to the firefighters. They were ready, and their expertise and dedication prevented this from being a whole lot worse than it was. But it was only a precursor. Anyone freaked out by this had better move to Minnesota before July.

Space Disaster

We all knew something was coming. Well, maybe the suits in Washington thought that they could keep imposing "sanctions" on Russia and that Russia would meekly lie there and not so much as whimper as their American overlords whipped them, but those of us who live in the real world knew that Russia would deliver a "fuck you" in response eventually. And sure enough, Vladimir now says that they are going to quit carrying our people and supplies to the International Space Station starting in 2020.

Alarmists are screeching about the need to "do something" and the death of the space program and "how could we have let it come to this?" Um, did everyone miss the news that the private US company "Space X" has already delivered supplies to the ISS, and has said it will be ready to deliver people in 2017? That's a three year grace period before the Russians cut us off. Think before you panic.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Greenwald on Clinton

Glenn Greenwald on Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election,

"Hillary is banal, corrupted, drained of vibrancy and passion. I mean, she’s been around forever, the Clinton circle. She’s a hawk and like a neocon, practically. She’s surrounded by all these sleazy money types who are just corrupting everything everywhere. But she’s going to be the first female president, and women in America are going to be completely invested in her candidacy. Opposition to her is going to be depicted as misogynistic, like opposition to Obama has been depicted as racist. It’s going to be this completely symbolic messaging that’s going to overshadow the fact that she’ll do nothing but continue everything in pursuit of her own power."

Quite a few readers took exception to the “opposition to Obama has been depicted as racist” part, but I think the point has validity. No small part of the opposition to Obama was and is racist, of course, but I have seen valid criticism labeled as racist when it clearly was not, and one has to wonder how many people who would have criticized Obama have stood silent due to fear of being called racist. And by no means all criticism of Obama and his policies has drawn charges of racism.

That being said, I think Greenwald’s statement covers it pretty well.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Now What?

Eastern Ukraine has now voted to become autonomous. So what is the next move for the United States, which professes to respect democracy and “the will of the people” to govern themselves?

To say that the voted was rigged, presumably by Vladimir Putin, although they do not say precisely how he did that.

The next step is to follow that up by saying that even if it was not rigged, it was illegal. That one is really weird. Installing a new government consisting of the masked thugs that took government buildings by armed force and physically threw the elected government out on the street is okay, and we will acknowledge that new government, but holding an election to determine the wishes of the people of a region is illegal and we are not going to accept the results of that election.

And we’re going to impose sanctions on Russia for what Ukraine did, even though Russia asked them not to do it.

I’ll tell you what, those fuckers in Washington have far different definitions of “democracy” and “diplomacy” than I do.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Johnny Who?

So, the greatest player in the history of college football (or at least that's the way the greatest player in the history of college football describes himself) went 22nd in the draft, picked by Cleveland, who passed on him twice before taking him with their third pick. I think the Browns will regret their choice, but what do I know?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Self Justification

A post at Jonathan Turley mentioned that a circuit court declined to hold the airlines responsible for the cleanup costs after 9/11. Turley, whose opinions I generally respect, was comfortable with the decision but not with the reason given for it, which was that 9/11 was “an act of war.”

The commenters, a group which I also generally respect, universally agreed that it was indeed an act of war, and the reason given seemed to focus on our response to that act which was, of course, to invade Afghanistan. So it was an act of war not because of the act itself, but because of our reaction to it, which seems entirely illogical to me. One has to ask if it would still be an act of war if we had reacted differently. If not, then the act itself can not be defined as an act of war on the basis of our reactionan.

The argument makes me think of the words of Judge William Young, in sentencing the shoe bomber, “So war talk is way out of line in this court. You’re a big fellow. But you’re not that big. You’re no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.”

In defining 9/11 as an act of war we elevate and dignify criminals as warriors. We insult the men and women who have risked and lost their lives on the field of battle in defense of this nation. They are warriors. The 9/11 perpetrators were not warriors, they ware not waging war, they were criminals, engaged simply in multiple acts of murder.

Defining 9/11 as an act of war is an exercise in self justification, giving false blessing to us beginning a war on the Islamic world; a war which continues unabated almost thirteen years later.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Funky Numbers Again

We created 288,000 new jobs in April the media crows with great glee, but what they don't say is that the same agency reporting those 288,000 new jobs also tells us that 73,000 fewer people are employed. Why do we regard a report with any degree of seriousness, when it tells us that 73,000 fewer people are holding 288,000 more jobs? A difference of 361,000 jobs.

They also tell us gleefully that "unemployment dropped four tenths of a point, to 6.3%," but they don't tell us that number is from the same report that indicates 73,000 fewer employed; that it is based on zero increase in employment and is caused entirely by the fact that 806,000 people have given up looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed.

So if consumer spending has recovered as well as we are being told that it has, if corporate profits are at all time highs, and if the stock market is at record levels, and if all these things are signs of a recovery gainging steam as we are told they are, then why are people giving up looking for work in such astounding numbers? Maybe because the pathetic 0.1% growth in GDP in the first quarter was not entirely due to weather, as economists are claiming it was.

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Danger of Parachutes

I have found a dissertation online which uses a neat form of logic that can prove that parachutes are dangerous, and that we should stop using them when jumping out of airplanes. I only get out of airplanes if they are on the ground and stationary, or if the pilot gets out, whichever comes first but

This dude starts by admitting that if you are riding a bicycle and are in an accident a helmet will probably save your life, but he then proceeds to dive into misstatements of fact and tortured illogic to prove that wearing a helmet while bicycling is not only unnecessary but is actually contraindicated. He is an even bigger idiot than Paul Krugman, which is a considerable feat.

First he has a colorful pie chart which shows that 53% of head injuries in San Diego in 1978 occurred in cars, not on bicycles. Wait a minute, 1978? That’s 36 years ago! How seriously am I going to regard an argument that uses 36-year-old data?

Anyway, the guy says that since so many more head injuries occur in cars than on bicycles, we should be requiring people to wear helmets while driving cars, not while riding bicycles. I think he’s missing a basic point here, which is where the parachutes come in. You’re not going to believe that I researched parachute usage in San Diego, and you’ll be right, I made all this shit up and I’m still closer to reality than the idiot with his bicycle helmet arguments.

One person left an airplane while it was in flight not wearing a parachute in 1978 and the experience, not surprisingly, killed him. On the other hand, 126,543 people departed from flying airplanes while wearing parachutes and no fewer than nine of them died. Now go back to Howie’s pie chart and note that nine people died while wearing parachutes while only one person died while not wearing a parachute, and it becomes obvious that airplane jumpers should not be wearing parachutes.

That’s what Howie is saying with his silly ass 36-year-old chart; nine times as many head injuries occurred in cars as on bicycles, so people in cars should wear helmets and people on bicycles should not. I’m saying that nine times as many airplane jumpers died with parachutes as died without them, so jumpers should stop wearing parachutes. Both statements are equally stupid and illogical.

What percentage of non-parachute users died? 100% What percentage of parachute users died? .007% Put another way, if you jump without a chute you will certainly die; if you jump with a chute you have only one chance in 14,000 of dying.

The question Howie doesn’t ask is how many people took car trips in San Diego in 1978, and how many took bicycle trips? I don’t know the answer to that and I wasn’t here that year, but I will bet you my next Social Security check that at least one million more car trips were taken than bicycle trips and that the rate of head injury in cars was a very small fraction of the rate of head injuries on bicycles. Put another way, your chances of getting a head injury are vastly greater while riding a bicycle than they are while riding in a car, which is why we require bicyclists to wear helmets.

He later asserts that car drivers “passed an average of 3 1/3 inches closer when the bicycle rider was helmeted than when he was not.” He says that the closeness of the pass increases “the chance of being clipped by a vehicle.” He does not assert that any vehicle clipping actually occurred, or that bicycle riders fell off of their bicycles, or fainted in terror, so it is unclear what role those 3-1/2 inches played in the study he is citing, or why they justified not wearing helmets.

He than tells us that, “There's some evidence that having an enlarged piece of plastic and foam on your head increases the probability of hitting an object that you'd be able to avoid in the first place.” He doesn’t tell us what that evidence is, of course, probably because it is about as reliable as my evidence about parachute jumpers.

Then he tries the statistical game of showing no reduction in injuries, citing one study that "found an increase in head injuries between 2004 and 2010 despite an increase in helmet use,” He fails to mention that the number of snowboarders increased by 500% in that six year period, so it’s likely that while the number of injuries increased, the rate of injuries decreased.

He finished with a couple of flourishes like, “The ultimate way to make cycling safe is to promote a culture of cycling, not bike helmet use,” and that rather than helmets we should assure that “cyclists learn how to assert their road rights while also safely interacting with traffic.” Which sounds noble, except that these things are not mutually exclusive. Wearing helmets does not prevent, or even interfere with the goal of promoting “a culture of cycling” or teaching people how to cycle safely.

This nitwit doesn’t want to wear a helmet, and is engaging is extreme nonsensical self justification to comfort himself. The danger is that kids may read this garbage and be sold by it.