Friday, January 30, 2015

Omigod, The Concussions

There is an alarming article which points out that players in the NFL suffered 111 concussions this past season. While I would certainly prefer that no players suffered any concussions, the awesomeness of that horrendous number of concussions needs to be put into proportion.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, and each team plays sixteen games. For each game, 22 players are on the field for the game; not the same 22, but there will be 11 defensive players and 11 offensive players who will "man the battle" during the game. A football game is sixty minutes long, so a little simple math says that there are 11,264 man-hours of football played during the season. That means that a concussion happens every 101.5 man-hours or, since 22 man-hours are played per game, once every 4.6 games.

That means that there is a 21.7% chance that a concussion will occur during the upcoming Super Bowl, and for each player the risk is slightly under 1%.

Not wonderful, but hardly "Omigod, 111 concussions."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Never Forget?

I have watched this week, and been deeply moved by, the film clips of survivors of Auschwitz returning on the 70th anniversary of their liberation to visit that place of horror. What must that be like for them? Their faces don’t show much, and they show so little anger when they speak. There is a nobility in those aged faces that suggests they are beyond anger and have reached something stronger and more enduring. The pain can still be seen, though; nothing can erase that.

Never forget. What does that mean? To me it means that the people of a nation must be aware of and responsible for every action taken by its government, and by that standard we have already forgotten. We accept the thousands killed in wars fought based on lies; the Afghan wedding parties slaughtered by Hellfire missiles fired from drones; the innocent bystanders tortured in Guantanamo

Immensely fewer innocents than the holocaust, but we are not speaking out against the killing of innocent people. Tell me how that ends.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Breaking: Inflationgate

Headline at Huffington Post reads "Employee seen taking balls into bathroom." They really need to hone their headline writing skills. I would certainly hope that the employee would not attempt to go into the bathroom and leave his balls behind. That would be painful. I guess one has to be a guy to jump to certain conclusions.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I haven't watched the Pro Bowl (or is it Probowl?) for years, but chanced upon it while flipping channels last night. Did they really make the uniforms for one side gray and white, and the uniforms for the other side black and white? Why would they do that? Is it a tacit admission of how boring the whole exercise in futility has become?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pot Calls Kettle An Idiot

Economist Dean Baker praised economist Paul Krugman last Thursday for ridiculing billionaire Jeff Greene, who Baker said richly deserved to be ridiculed for saying that people “need to get used to lower living standards,” which isn't actually precisely what he said.

Once again proving that economists are stupid as a bag of hammers when it comes to anything other than playing with and manipulating numbers which have dollar signs in front of them.

What Greene actually said was, “America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence." (Which is hardly a "lower living standard.") He goes on to say that, "We need to reinvent our whole system of life.” (emphasis mine)

He makes a lot more sense than does either Krugman or Baker, both of whom cheerfully endorse an economy which consumes twice as much as it produces and which maintains an annual net trade deficit of staggering proportion as a result. Baker occasionally gives lip service to the evils of the trade deficit, but continues to support consumer consumption as the basis of our economy, which actually makes him even more unmoored from reality than is Krugman.

Greene is simply acknowledging that a population of 350 million people cannot live as lavishly as can one of 200 million, because resources and infrastructure simply do not permit. Baker, Krugman and everybody else in public life have buried their heads in the sand and refused to see this simple fact, assuming that resources, energy in particular, and infrastructure are limitless and can accommodate an endlessly growing society.

It is as plain as the print on the front page of our daily newspaper that such is not the case. Our economy is not working. It has not been working for decades; has been failing repeatedly, failing bigger each time and recovering more slowly and less thoroughly. We can’t fix it by simply doing more of what we have been doing or trying to do it on a bigger scale, and we can’t continue to pretend that what we are doing is working, as economists and politicians want to do. We have to come up with something different.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Raising Tax Inequality?

The San Diego newspaper (well, it looks like a newspaper until you read it), which bears the rather weird name of U-T San Diego, had a headline on the front page yesterday which read, “Obama plan raises tax inequality.” The article itself does suggest, in a meandering and indirect way, that some people like the plan because they think that taxing the rich is good, while others dislike the plan because they are rich and don’t want to pay more taxes.

The headline is, I suppose, making some sort of ignorant and misguided counter to talk of “income inequality,” and the writer of it is unaware that our income tax system is, and has been since its inception, a progressive income tax, based on the principle that taxes should be levied on each citizen based on ability to pay.

Over the years various corrupt politicians have made the tax less and less progressive, and Obama’s proposal is to take a timid and utterly inadequate step toward restoring the progressive nature of the tax. His plan should, indeed, be criticized; not for “raising tax inequality,” forsooth, but for doing far too little to restore the progressiveness of our income tax and for his monstrously idiotic plan to “make corporate taxes more competitive,” which is Obama-speak for reducing them.

The U-T San Diego should be used exclusively for starting fires in your fireplace or for lining garbage cans, bird cages, and cat litter boxes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Big Speech

I saw the event described as the, “Annual Monarchist Ritual To Acclaim U.S. Hypocrisy,” which I thought was slightly hyperbolic but not altogether inapt. It does bring to mind the seemingly hours-long process of presidential entry into the hall, with all and sundry fawning over his presence and frantically attempting to touch the royal robe.

Everyone who has mentioned it has loved Obama’s comment about “I have no more campaigns to run,” but I have not seen one remark about the open and utterly corrupt cynicism which is embodied in that comment. This is the first time I have ever heard a politician openly admit that winning campaigns is more important than governing “for the people,” which is precisely what he is saying. He has not advocated this sort of legislation before because winning campaigns was more important to him, and he is doing so now only because he has no more campaigns to prevent him from doing the right thing.

One also has to wonder why, if he “has no more campaigns to run,” he has been headlining at fundraisers on an almost weekly basis.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Inflation Gate

It's perfectly reasonable to despise the New England Patriots. It's perfectly reasonable to be disappointed, even modestly angry, when they win a playoff game.
It is utterly insane to accuse them of tampering with
the fucking footballs.

Comedy Devolves Into Farce

Sony pictures is hacked and the government almost immediately announces that they know, have proof in fact, that North Korea did it and that the purpose was to prevent the release of a movie mocking the North Korean leader. The train of thought appears to be that North Korea is a terrorist state and therefor emulates radical Islam by threatening death to parties mocking their leader.

The “proof” is offered by the same FBI which once proudly announced the arrest of a man for attempting to blow up the Mackinack Bridge in Michigan, only to find out that he had no explosives because the only thing he was actually doing was bootlegging cell phones.

Anyway, professional computer companies examine the FBI proof of North Korea’s guilt in the Sony hack and say that it is doubtful that it proves anything of the sort. They reveal that the initial demand had nothing to do with the silly movie at all, but was an attempt to extort money and they suggest that they suspect a disgruntled former employee.

The government responds by standing its ground and claiming that some of its proof is too secret to release. The secret proof is more thorough, they say, than that which is being debunked by computer professionals, but we will have to trust them because disclosing it cannot be done for national security reasons. Just to prove how serious we are about this, though we are issuing sanctions against North Korea for hacking us.

That did not put the issue to rest because apparently we don't actually trust them all that much. The computer companies continue to say that they just don’t think the hack looks like North Korea, raising some pretty good points to support their contentions.

So here comes the FBI, who just won’t give up on this, saying that we know it was North Korea who hacked Sony because we hacked them first. We had, it seems, installed spyware in North Korea’s computers and were actually watching them hack Sony, and we know they did it because we were watching them do it.

Well, no, that would raise the question of why did we not stop them, so the FBI admits that our spyware did not see the actual hack of Sony but did see other things which lead to proof that the Sony hack came from the same computers. Unfortunately for the FBI, that’s not how spyware works, but we won’t go into that here.

Just the supposed fact that we hacked them first is ironic enough. How can we be quite so outraged at them hacking us if we did it to them first? The image of James Comey standing at the podium in high dudgeon over North Korea’s invasion of our computer networks and saying that he knows they did it because we invaded their networks first is simply beyond belief.

Germany, England and other allies have not yet raised the question that, if we have planted spyware in one government’s computer system, have we done the same in the computer systems of their nations as well? That question will arise, and when it does, things are going to get very, very awkward.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Yes" Means What?

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Sunday a bill known as the “yes means yes” bill that the legislature claims will significantly reduce rapes on the campuses of our state. Because if you have a social problem, you definitely heed a new law.

The law requires "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party to engage in sexual activity, which is about the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Imagine, if you can, two college students, both of them intoxicated, trying to arrive at an “affirmative, unambiguous and conscious mutual decision" about anything.

Respect for others, men for women, or for that matter respect regardless of gender, is disappearing from our culture, so we pass laws trying to cure that illness. It won’t work any more than an ice-water bath will work to cure pneumonia. The fever is not what kills a pneumonia patient, it is but a symptom, and passing a law that requires that he has to get a woman to audibly say “yes” does not teach a man to respect women.

Nor does such a silly law protect the woman if she is herself intoxicated, since an intoxicated person is by definition unable to give an “unambiguous and conscious decision,” and why should women in college be any less free to imbibe alcohol than are men?

And don’t give me the “he should have known that she was drunk” nonsense. Not if he was drunk himself, and it is perfectly possible for a person to be sufficiently intoxicated to be incapable of informed consent and to show no outward sign of it whatever. It is not, in fact, even a particularly rare condition

I’m not sure how pervasive the problem actually is in any case. I’m not questioning its seriousness, but Twitter blows things out of proportion. For a while the world was afire with passion about the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. They were never rescued and that crisis continued unabated, but it disappeared when the Ebola virus erupted and the world set out to cure that dread disease and succor people affected by it. Ebola is not cured and people are still suffering, but then Ray Rice slugged his girlfriend in front of an elevator camera and so now we are all about violence against women. Until the next sensational event occurs. Twitter rules to a degree that we pass laws based on its current trends.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Picking the Playoffs

Picking the Seahawks is pretty easy. Green Bay possibly could beat them in the 12th man stadium, but they won't.

I am, however, going to go against the odds and pick the Colts to win in New England. The Patriots only rushed for 14 yards last week, and the Colts defense is as good against the run as the Ravens. More to the point, the Colts will play pass defense, which the Ravens did not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Now That Was Poise

Give up four turnovers, three of them entirely unforced, surrender 13 points of a 14 point lead, and then march down the field from your own three yard line for a touchdown. Follow that up by holding your opponent scoreless while scoring two more touchdowns. That was impressive.

Immediately after he scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak, Cardale Jones was on the sideline slapping the shoulder pads of and congratulating each and every one of his offensive linemen. That was a very classy thing to do, and I decided right then that I would be quite happy if Ohio State won the game.

Win it they did, and it was a well deserved win. The announcers kept commenting that Oregon was in trouble with long third down situations because their game depended on deception, on making the opponent think they were going to do one thing while they actually did something else. Ohio State's game was one of execution and precision. Their plays were not complex, and they ran the same running play repeatedly. Oregon knew what was coming, but Ohio State executed the play with such precision and physicality that Oregon was simply unable to do anything to stop it. Shades of Vince Lombardi, and it was fun to watch.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Football Notes

I did not enjoy watching Denver lose yesterday, but I very much did enjoy watching the Colts play real live honest to God pass defense. The secondary got right in the grill of the Denver recievers and said to them, "I am not going to let you catch a pass. Be it one yard or twenty, if you are going to catch a pass, you are going to have to go through me." Which is why Manning completed only 9 of his first 22 passes, and finished the game with a paltry 200 yards passing on the day. Wrong team won, but it was a good game.

I also did not enjoy watching the Patriots win, especially given that they did so as a result of the Ravens' choice not to play pass defense at all. The secondary lined up eight yards off the line of scrimmage and stood there like house plants, allowing any pass of less than eight yards to be completed uncontested. Being stationary, they frequently were in no position to do anything more that shout curses at the receivers who galloped past them after the catch, turning eight yard passes into twenty yard gains.

This scheme was, of course, for the purpose of being sure that they did not "give up the big one," but they still managed to surrender a 51-yard touchdown pass that was not even thrown by Tom Brady. It was thrown by a pass receiver who they were deliberately not covering and was caught by another receiver who they were inadvertantly not covering. Awesome.

With 14 yards rushing and passing that was gifted by the Ravens, the Patriots' game was a travesty.

Carolina was simply beaten by a better team, which is hard to argue given that they entered the playoffs with a record of 7-8-1. I don't think we need to go into much detail on that one.

I didn't care who won in Green Bay. I wanted both teams to lose and knew that wasn't going to happen, so I rooted for whichever team was behind and enjoyed the hits on the quarterbacks that left them limping and hobbling around. Both quarterbacks walked off the field intact and one team won, so the game was a bit of a disappointment.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Feline Follies

I woke up last night from a dream which I only vaguely recall, having to do with battling for territory, only to realize that I was in reality fighting with the damn cat for possession of the bed. I was sort of perched on the edge, while Molly was holding the more desirable soft ground in the center.

Efforts to dislodge her were not as easy as one might think. She weighs only slightly over eight pounds, but was doing the feline thing of altering gravity and behaving much like a black hole of essentially infinite mass. There is a law of cat physics to the effect that a cat’s weight is inversely proportional to it’s state of alertness, and cats can reach infinitely low levels of alertness. Or they can rise from the dead like the gods that they think they are.

Not only can they alter mass, but they can transmogrify their bodies such that picking them up is much like trying to pick up a ninety pound mass of warm Jell-O. You pick up the front half, to which they offer no resistance whatever, and the back half remains on the bed, seemingly not connected to the front half but somehow managing to serve as a highly effective anchor for it.

We got things sorted out, but she was back to sleep before I was.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

35 Degrees, Forsooth

One of the dogwalkers who pass my window every morning was wearing earmuffs this morning. Earmuffs. Even the dog looked cold. "Do my business in this? You have to be kidding. Do you know about newspapers in the house?" Some people are walking really fast, either to generate heat or to get it over with, while others look like their blood has congealed. A few regulars have not even showed up, so apparently they do know about newspapers in the house. Or are just telling their dogs to suck it up until it gets warmer - mid-afternoon perhaps..

San Diegans do not deal well with anything below 60 degrees.