Thursday, May 28, 2015

California Early Summer

I think it was Mark Twain who said that the coldest winter he had ever experienced was June in San Francisco. We're not that bad, but NOAA is pressed to come up with different ways to say the same thing. "Decreasing clouds"  gives way to "some sun"  which changes to "some clearing"  and is followed by "partly cloudy."

It all means the same thing. If you are three miles inland you will get two hours of sun in midafternoon, but it you live at the coast you will not see the sun until July. People come here from Arizona and sit on the beach in shorts and sweatshirts, wrapped in big beach towels, looking stunned and rather pissed off.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Paul Krugman is an Idiot #6,376

Paul Krugman likes to remind us about how often he is right when he says things. If it were anyone else it would be called unseemly bragging, but coming from a liberal economist it is merely reminding us. Anyway, yesterday he reminded us that he was right in saying the interest rates were not going to rise, and that, “The longer high unemployment drags on, the greater the odds that crazy people will win big in the midterm elections — dooming us to economic policy failure on a truly grand scale.”

Because high unemployment is not, itself, an economic policy failure. And what have the “crazy people”  done in terms of economic policy that is significantly different than what the Democrats did when they were in the majority?

Today he ponders on Inequality and Urbanism,”  or what happens when rich people move into poor neighborhoods. He uses an example of when “a bank branch takes over the space formerly occupied by a beloved neighborhood shop.”  Everyone is “maximizing returns,”  he says, except, of course, the shop owner who is out of business, but Paul Krugman is a Princeton man so we have to give him some room to forget the little guy.

He opines that “the disappearance of that shop may lead to a decline in foot traffic,”  but that on a more positive note “an influx of well-paid yuppies can help support the essential infrastructure of hipster coffee shops, ethnic restaurants, and dry cleaners,"  all of which are populated by people who pop into and out of them by teleportation, apparently, since the foot traffic declined when the “beloved neighborhood shop”  left.

He sort of waffles on whether any of this is good or bad, but he considers “hipster coffee shops, ethnic restaurants, and dry cleaners”  to be “essential infrastructure.”  Why do we keep listening to this idiot?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Never Forget"They go to war, these young men, not to die for their country but to place themselves, their precious lives, between their home and the forces which would destroy it."   Kenneth Roberts in "A Rabble In Arms."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Talking Points

So “the Benghazi affair”  raises its silly head again; an issue that could be of some modestly serious import but is not because it is a discussion about the relative validity of various “talking points.”  No one raises the more basic truth that the existence of “talking points”  is a problem in and of itself, regardless of whether they were valid or not.

Talking points are what people use to get their stories straight when they are not intending to reveal what they actually know. Susan Rice, it seems, had been given the wrong set of talking points, which is to say she told the wrong story, which would not have happened if she had been revealing her own knowledge. As Judge Judy says, “If you tell the truth, you don’t need a good memory.”

The whole Benghazi “defense”  is about members of the administration getting together to agree upon what they were going to say, and people who are being honest don’t do that. Somehow that point keeps getting left out of the discussion.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


CSAG has saved the future prosperity of the great city of San Diego by assuring that the Chargers will play their games here for the next thirty years in a new $1.1 billion stadium that will be built without the imposition of any new taxes on the citizens of our city because it will be paid for by unicorns and mermaids. Most cities have to rely only on unicorns, be we have the advantage of being right on the Pacific Ocean, so we have mermaids too.

Actually, the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group plan (pdf) includes more than a dozen putatively realistic funding sources, one or two of which might actually fly, in which case the stadium would be about 10% funded in the real world that you and I live in. CSAG’s funding includes:

$200 million from the NFL, which has not been approached on the subject and has not agreed to provide any money for any stadium in any city. They have said that they “will study CSAG’s proposal carefully.”

$300 million from the Chargers, who said twelve years ago that they might provide $200 million toward a new stadium, but who have not been approached recently as to paying any part of a new stadium. They also have said that they “will study CSAG’s proposal carefully.”  The Charger contribution is not really $300 million, though, as we will see later.

$121 million from the “City Stadium Fund”  which sounds like an existing pile of money but is nothing of the sort. In fine print it says “$70 million per year for 30 years,”  which is actually $210 million and is the amount of the general obligation bonds which the city will sell to provide $121 million toward construction of the stadium. The other $89 million is, of course, interest on the bonds, but the whole $210 million is money out of the taxpayers’ pockets. For some reason, that $210 million will come out of the pockets of taxpayers without any new taxes being imposed, which is a pretty neat trick.

$121 million from the “County Stadium Fund,”  which means that CSAG is an ecumenical taxpayer abuser, willing to screw county taxpayers as well as city ones.

$60 million from “personal seat license”  (PSL) sales. They actually plan to sell $120 million of these PSLs, 50% of which will be returned to the Chargers to reimburse them for what they contributed to the construction, which why it was pointed out that the Chargers’ contribution is not $300 million, but is actually $240 million. This is a complicated plan; try to keep up.

Selling $120 million in PSLs is going to be a neat trick in a market which cannot reliably fill a 40,000 seat stadium, which holds the league record in television blackouts and is in the only city ever to have a Monday Night game blacked out locally. Some of the PSLs will be bought by voyeurs who will be attending games to watch the mermaids who bought the other PSLs.

$216.2 million in rent from the Chargers, San Diego State and bowl games. If that goes to pay for the construction, what is going to be used to cover the operating cost? Nonetheless, probably one source of funding that is legitimate.

$225 million from the sale of part of the Mission Valley site to developers, at $3 million per acre. That might happen. And I might win the Boston Marathon too, but I don’t think that San Diego should be selling any bonds against that eventuality.

$110.7 million from ticket and parking surcharges. No tax increases, but going to games is going to cost quite a bit more. This does have the advantage of placing the burden on those who benefit from the Chargers, and not on the general taxpayers.

$50 million form “Additional funding sources stadium is expected to generate.”  This is otherwise, and more accurately, stated as “We don’t know what that might be but we needed another $50 million in the plan.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the Chargers and I want them to stay in town. But if the population is resisting the idea of building a $500 million stadium I just cannot believe that the solution is to come up with a $1.1 billion alternative. Someone has just flat lost their collective mind, here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Paul Krugman is an Idiot #6,375

Paul Krugman produced a column yesterday regarding manufacturing employment and its relationship the trade deficit which is so filled with muddy and downright delusional thinking that it’s hard not to conclude that he hasn’t had a stroke or brain aneurysm and simply become brain dead.

He begins by giving the opinion that people who believe that “US manufacturing has disappeared because it has all moved to China and Mexico”  are “largely wrong.”  He goes on to say that “pointing to measures of industrial production is not the bet way to make this point,”  and argues that a better way to examine the above claim is to “ask how much of the decline in manufacturing employment would have been avoided if we weren’t running big trade deficits.”

Since it was the export of manufacturing jobs to cheaper labor overseas which largely caused the trade deficit, because consumers are buying foreign goods instead of domestic ones, that’s sort of saying that we should ask how quickly the chicken would have died if I had not hit it in the neck with my axe.

He then says that the negative contribution of 3% to GDP in manufacturing is a “major obstacle in efforts to achieve full employment,”  as if we were actually making any efforts to achieve full employment, because it is “a drag on the overall demand for US goods and services.”  Really? Aside from a deficit in manufactured goods being unrelated to services, domestic or otherwise, and therefor unlikely to be a drag on them, as to domestic goods he’s saying that the unavailability of domestic goods reduces demand for domestic goods.

Hello? We’re not buying American computers because America doesn’t make computers. America has no manufacturing jobs making computers. They are all in China. And so we import computers, adding to the trade deficit, because the computer manufacturing jobs were all sent to China. Those jobs were not sent to China because there was a trade deficit, they were sent there because it allowed companies to build computers more cheaply. And I don't mean less expensively, I mean more cheaply.

He then makes the point that the trade deficit of 3% does not account for a decline in manufacturing jobs, which is “15 points,”  but he’s not even comparing apples and oranges, he’s comparing apples and freight trains. The 3% decline is a percentage of the nation’s total dollar economy, while the “15 points,”  is the share of manpower employment; manufacturing employment accounted for 25% of the workforce in 1970, and it accounts for 10% today. The workforce is vastly larger today that it was 45 years ago, so it’s pretty hard to come up with any really meaningful numbers, but Krugman’s numbers certainly don’t do it, and the manufacturing workforce certainly has shrunk.

Oddly, manufacturing accounted for 30% of jobs in 1955, but he doesn’t use that number. He chooses a time 15 years later and 5% lower. One has to wonder why.

He admits that the “3 points out of 15”  is an exaggeration, actually who knows what it is, because “not every dollar of manufactured exports corresponds to a dollar of manufacturing value-added,”  except that we’re not talking about “value-added”  here, we’re talking about labor, and one cannot conflate dollars with relative employment share in national employment.

“For the most part,”  he concludes, “in other words, declining manufacturing employment isn’t due to trade.”  And this is the crux and reason for the whole pile of babble and nonsense, because Paul Krugman is a supporter of Barack Obama’s push for the Trans Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement. “But even if we’d had a highly protectionist world,”  he says, “…we’d still have seen most of the great decline in industrial jobs.”

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Still Selling Bridges

*We apparently pulled off a commando raid in cooperation with the Syrian Army and killed an Islamic State oil minister this week. On George Stephanopoulos this morning various pundits, including Dianne Feinstein, opined that the raid was a complete success which signals that we are winning the war against the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh or whatever name it is being addressed by these days.

Meanwhile, the media is completely ignoring that the Islamic State completed its rout of Iraqi forces in Anbar Province this week and took full control of and occupied Ramadi, a major city in that province which is only seventy miles from fun-packed, downtown metropolitan Baghdad. So we kill an oil minister while they capture a major city, and somehow we are winning.

*The Obama administration is hyperventilating about the construction by China of a military base outside of its national borders, specifically a small airfield in the China Sea which is being built on a manmade island. It says that the base is an example of China “using its ‘muscle’ to bully smaller nations,”  even though it is being built by China in the China Sea.

We argue that the base is “violating the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia, and it’s certainly violating China’s claim to be a good neighbor and a benign and non-threatening power.”  Our 750+ overseas bases do not violate our claims to be a good neighbor, or to be a “benign and non-threatening power,”  because we make no such claims; we claim nothing other than to be the “world’s sole superpower.”

And, of course, our plan to restore the “feng shui”  of Southeast Asia and to assure peace in the area is to patrol this heinous base with B1 bombers, because nothing creates a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere better than a few nuclear bombs hovering around.

*Obama held a summit for the Gulf Cooperation Council (the “gulf” being the Persian Gulf) at Camp David, and virtually none of the heads of state showed up. There was much talk about Obama being “snubbed” until, after several days, the administration said that he was not snubbed at all; that the heads of state were not really supposed to attend and it was always planned that the summit would be held for deputies.

Right. When was the last time you saw a “summit meeting”  which consisted of the President of the United States and a bunch of deputy ministers being held at Camp David? It would not have been advertised as a “summit meeting”  unless heads of state were involved. If it was planned as a meeting of deputies, the Secretary of State would have presided, and it would not have been at Camp David.

Does Mr. Obama, perhaps, have a bridge in Brooklyn which he wants to sell us?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two Tales of a Killing

I have been studying the Sy Hersch account of the Osama bin Laden raid, against the account provided by the Obama administration, and I have to say that the former is somewhat more believable. Critics of Hersch cite the lack of any named sources, but as to sources for the administration’s story we have only itself, so

There has always been “holes” in the official story, even after the administration quit telling a miscellaneous set of wildly different stories and settled on a single one starring John Wayne and Chuck Norris. (Sorry.) The big hole, for me, was that after explosions and gunfire were reported in the close vicinity, a few blocks in fact, of the homes of several of Pakistan’s top generals no police or military showed up to investigate for more than 45 minutes.

Hersch explains that by saying that the police were told by the Pakistani government to stay away because the government knew it was the Americans and did not want to engage in a firefight with us. That makes more sense to me than the administration’s explanation that the Pakistanis were incompetent; an explanation which reportedly pissed off the Pakistani government. “We let you conduct a raid in our territory and then you throw us under the bus.”  Well, yes; throwing allies under the bus is what this nation does best.

It also astonished me that we though we could fly 100 miles across a heavily populated part of Pakistan without being detected, and apparently did so. The administration claims it was because we were using special “stealth Blackhawk”  helicopters, which had never been seen before and have never been seen since. They also didn’t mention the two Chinook helicopters, since they certainly could not claim that those beasts were configured to “fly quietly”  or be undetectable by radar.

Sy Hersch claims we pulled it off because Pakistan knew in advance and gave us permission, which sounds a lot more believable than inventing a whole new magical helicopter for the purpose.

Some of the government untruths don’t really bother me. The tale, for instance, about how bin Laden was discovered, that he was turned in by an informant rather than the fanciful story about following couriers and running fake vaccination programs, was told for the purpose of protecting the informant, and I see no harm in that. The fake vaccination program was an embellishment that did significant harm, in that it sowed suspicion on valid programs to the detriment of people who are in dire need of those programs. The administration should have thought more carefully about the consequences of that part of the tale, but in terms of being untruthful with the public I see no real problem.

I’m not even particularly troubled by the claim, false as it turns out, that bin Laden was supposed to be captured if possible when in reality that was a “kill mission”  from the start. Why is anyone upset by this? Assassination is the official policy of the United States, and has been since Obama took office. He makes no bones about it. Anyone who presents a perceived threat to this nation is killed. That is, according to Obama, “among the easiest decisions I make.”  Usually it is done by sending a Hellfire missile fired from a drone, but dead is dead.

I don’t like that policy, and don’t agree with it, but it is our national policy, set by the person we elected, and reelected, so why is anyone taking exception to it?

What I don’t like is the degree to which the story has been tailored simply to glorify the administration and the military, obscuring truth simply to make our elite class look good. Protecting those whose lives are at risk is fine with me. Lying to protect ego and reputation is a whole different matter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


My father died 40 days before his 72nd birthday. I have now reached a point 36 days before my 72nd birthday, so I have now outlived my father. I know that is statistically insignificant, but...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hyperbole Diminishes

After Danica Patrick was running 18th at Bristol and had ten cars running ahead of her crash, giving her a 9th place finish, the Danica fans went wild. She had turned the corner, they claimed, and would win one of her next few races, having finally proved that she can run with the best of the best in NASCAR racing. They were giddy with her success, and were breathlessly awaiting Talledega, where everyone either finishes on the lead lap or does not finish at all.

But first, she had to race at Richmond, where she finished 25th, two laps down to the leader. Then she did indeed finish on the lead lap at Tallegega, along with 32 other cars who did not wreck, but she finished in 21st place. This past weekend she finished in 27th place at Kansas, once again two laps down to the leader.

So, since her fans predicted her impending win and eligibility for the "championship chase," she has an average finish of slightly worse than 24th, and has driven four fewer laps than the leaders in three races, which is somewhat less than awesome.

Johanna Long, on the other hand, who actually is a race car driver, has driven in two races and finished in the top ten and on the lead lap in both of them, driving equipment with nothing on it but her car number, meaning that she has no sponsorship money. One has to wonder what she could do in the #10 GoDaddy car. Well, I don't have to wonder, I'm pretty sure I know.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Free Range Parenting

The fact that this term even exists is just sad. The fact that it is headlined in the news and is controversial, that people who practice it are being accused of child abuse, makes me wonder how we can survive as a nation.

We used to call kids who were raised by parents who were, at the time, known as "helicopter parents," who hovered over them constantly as being "tied to their mother's apron strings," and we wanted nothing to do with them. We went off in the woods with our buddies and did neat stuff like find Great Horned owls and raccoons to bring home and make pets out of.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Delusional Campaign

The New York Times brings us an article headlined, “Carly Fiorina Announces 2016 Presidential Bid, Citing Years Leading Hewlett…” The headline alone is enough to send anyone from California into either a rage or gales of hysterical laughter, depending on temperament, since her notoriety in this state is for having utterly ruined that once-beloved company.

One could cite her massive layoffs, or her purchase of Compaq computer company, or the infamous spying on the company’s board of directors. One could certainly find millions of former customers to document her company’s fall from one with the best tech support in the industry to being a company with no tech support at all.

None of which, of course, supports her contention that she “understand[s] executive decision-making, which is making a tough call in a tough time with high stakes,” since all of the high-stakes decisions which she made were disasterously wrong.

She makes some rather vague statements about her political experience, which is even more laughable, because she began her political career by working on John McCain’s campaign and has never run for public office and actually won the election. She spent $6.5 million of her own money running for the US Senate in California, won the primary against such political giants as Tom Campbell and Chuck Devore, and then lost to Barbara Boxer by ten points. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of those two primary opponents, nobody else has either. She then tried to run for governor but failed to even make the primary.

In addition to her “executive experience” and political savvy, she runs now on being a woman who isn’t Hillary Clinton, and on blaming environmentalists for the California drought. We have, it seems, expended too much effort saving fish, and that’s why our snow pack has failed and our ground water is drying up.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

It Sounds Good, But...

Hillary Clinton uttered a campaign line on Baltimore which is one of those things that sounds really good. "Without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be living in poverty,"  she said. "It's time to end the era of mass incarceration."

But does it really make any sense? Does It actually address the problem? Not really. A much better case can be made that poverty leads to incarceration than can be made for incarceration causing poverty. Changing sentencing guidelines is not going to do much to correct what ails Baltimore.

The people who were rioting were not prison inmates. They were not ex-cons. They were unemployed and underemployed and they were without hope.

What Baltimore needs is a better economy; a real improvement in the economy, in the form of more jobs. Baltimore needs employment that provides a future for the people who live there, and Clinton is tossing out sound bites about her campaign themes such as “mass incarceration.”  Not that I don’t agree with her premise, but are shorter prison sentences going to provide meaningful, remunerative employment for the people of Baltimore?

She reveals the typical political “thinking”  which is to simply toss around political sound bites. Asked to comment on the situation in Baltimore, she can do nothing more thoughtful than drag out one of her campaign slogans.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Trading Philip Rivers

Nick Canepa says that the Chargers draft "blew in cooler heads,"  whatever that means, and goes on to blather about the dodged bullet of the rumor that the Chargers might trade Rivers to Tennessee for a #2 draft pick which "would have been a mistake of enormous magnitude."  The "cooler heads"  bit presumably refers to the fact the Chargers drafted a running back, which everyone with an IQ higher than room temperature fully expected them to do.

Trading Rivers to Tennessee in order to draft a new quarterback is something that never even crossed the mind of the Chargers management. It was a rumor started by sports writers, probably Nick Canepa himself, so that sports writers would have something to talk about with respect to the upcoming draft. Chargers management never said anything about Philip Rivers until some sports writer asked them if they were going to trade him, at which point they not only said "No,"  they said, "Oh hell no."  That did not stop sports writers from speculating that Chargers management might be lying and that Philip Rivers might be traded to Tennessee in order for the Chargers to draft a new quarterback.

Which is pretty much the way political reporting is done these days, too. Rumors are not started because they have any basis in fact or logic, they are started so that reporters and political pundits will have something to talk about. Thus we have all this uproar about contributions to the Clinton Foundation, all of which has about as much meaning as the rumors of Philip Rivers shopping for real estate in Memphis.

Update, Friday night: oops, make that Nashville.