Friday, July 31, 2015

"Delusions of Competence"

Paul Krugman penned a column in today's New York Times in which he accuses Chinese political leaders of having talked themselves into having "delusions of competence,"  and then describes at great lengths the wrongness of their economic claims.

This is the guy who claims to be an advocate of Keynes' economic theories and then says that "governments never pay their debts,"  because of some theory about debt shrinking to the vanishing point due to ever growing GDP, and believes that inflation will solve our economic slump. Economic "delusions of competence"  forsooth.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

That Was Wierd

I was sitting at a red light, in the left of two lanes. The car on my right was one of those "creepers," edging forward repeatedly during the red light. He edged forward about four times during the red light, but when the light turned green, he did not go. The car behind him did go, hitting him in the ass. I went, and almost had a wreck myself because I was laughing so hard when I saw the front car's trunk lid pop up in my rear view mirror.

In a rear ender the hitter is always at fault, but in this case I felt some sympathy for him. When a car almost jumps the red light four times. you do really expect that he will go on green. Still, one must always act on what the other driver is actually doing, not on what you think he is going to do.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Contributing to Chaos

There is an old folk song by the Kingston Trio that cheerfully describes all of the strife and chaos in the world, and then says that we don’t have to worry because we have a nuclear bomb and someday someone is going to set it off and blow all of us away.

We still have that bomb, of course, and now we have climate change to boot, so I don’t know why I am so stressed out over the United States inviting Turkey to join us in fighting the Islamic State. They have been refusing to assist us because they wanted Assad gone more than they wanted to destroy the IS, in fact they have been assisting the IS, and we seem to have forgotten that when we were in Iraq they kept invading that country to attack the Kurds, which is really the only force effectively resisting the IS on the ground at this point.

So when Turkey crosses its southern border, it is going to be attacking pretty much everything in sight, including Syria and the Kurds, both of whom are fighting against the Islamic State. So much for “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” or “my friend is the enemy of my enemy”
or whatever. In fact, on its first day in the war, Turkey air strikes hit two IS locations and five Kurdish locations.

Turkey says that hitting the Kurdish locations was a mistake and that they have some nice oceanfront property on which they can offer you a bargain price. Today only, though, the price returns to normal tomorrow. They will reduce the price again the next time they mistakenly hit some more Kurdish locations. Or some Syrian ones.

This whole Islamic State thing is not getting any better. It is, in fact, getting worse because we seem to be doing everything we can to make it worse.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

No, I'm Not A Feminist

But I will be watching the Arizona Cardinals, and especially their linebackers, during the upcoming season. I like the willingness to be radical and to embrace equal opportunity, and linebacker is my favorite position.

Monday, July 27, 2015

No, It Was Not A Quest

Obama was in Kenya and commented that, "Some people think I came here to look for my birth certificate." I thought that was pretty good. The way to deal with idiots is certainly not to let them drag you down to their level. The way to deal with them is to mock them; to illustrate just how silly their accusations actually are.

Indianapolis Notes

Danica Patrick had been running 20th or so, but was in 7th place for a restart with 40 laps to go after taking two tires. She then was 13th on a restart 32 laps later with eight laps to go, and dropped to 27th by the end of the race, last car but one on the lead lap.

Chase Elliott, driving in only his fourth Sprint Cup race and his first ever at Indianapolis, finished nine positions ahead of Danica in 18th. Of course, he did win the Xfinity championship last year, his first year driving in that series. Danica drove Xfinity for two full years and never won a single race, let alone a championship. Her best points finish was 13th in that series. There were, interestingly, only 14 full time drivers in Xfinity that year.

The one car behind Danica on the lead lap at Indianapolis yesterday? Her boss and team owner, Tony Stewart, who had taken four tires when she took two. Not a good day for the team, you might say, except that Kevin Harvick led 75 laps and finished third while Kurt Busch finished eighth.

Harvick might well have won except that Denny Hamlin got a little too exuberant in trying to help him on a restart. He was pushing Harvick to help him go faster, but overdid it a bit and lifted Harvick's rear wheels up off of the track. These are rear wheel drive cars, so instead of going faster, the move almost caused a big wreck and left Harvick pissed off and fourth in the running order.

Speaking of pissed off, Aric Almirola got into an “incident” with Trevor Bayne and, once he got his car underweigh, went after Bayne and smacked his car on the track a couple of times. I’m not sure what his issue was, because this was his second accident and he was already several laps down, and in any case he was the one who hit Bayne’s car in the ass in the first place. Maybe he thinks Bayne backed into him at 180 mph?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Paul Krugman Is An Idiot, #7,453

Paul Krugman writes today of “The New Liberal Consensus”  which, it turns out, is not actually a consensus at all. That’s not surprising, really, since if you put five liberals in a room you will usually have about fifteen opinions on any given subject.

Krugman is writing about the difference between old fashioned taxicabs, in which drivers receive wages, health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, retirement benefits, unemployment insurance and have half of their Social Security and Medicare paid for them, and the new Uber thing, where drivers even have to furnish the car they are driving and provide liability and hazard insurance for the damned thing.

Krugman points out that “wages are much less rigidly determined by supply and demand than previously thought,”  which begs a couple of questions. First is that if economists are so good with their mathematical formulas and economic “models” why did they think that wages were “rigidly determined by supply and demand”  and are only now finding out that they are not?

The second, and more important, question which it begs is that wages not being “rigidly determined by supply and demand”  seems like a bad thing for workers, or at least like a major factor affecting the working class, and he tosses it off with no discussion of its cause, effect or what should be done about it. Rather than discussing the impact of economic issues on workers, which you might expect from the liberal populist which he claims to be, he’d rather be talking about what liberals should be doing for their political advantage.

And even on that he can’t adopt an actual liberal position, because he suggests that liberals should “promote the use of new technology without prejudicing the interests of workers,”  which is a typical Clinton “third way,” middle-of-the-road approach to not actually taking a position on the issue at all, and that they should, “not let themselves get painted as enemies of innovation,”  which is, of course, to support the Uber model and screw the workers, which is precisely what Republicans are doing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Semper Fi

I have always had a fondness for Marines. Yes, I always fucked with them when they were aboard my boat, but they always took it good naturedly and dealt it back in the same manner. We are both Navy. I admire them tremendously as well. They have a long history which is important to them, and of which they are justifiably proud.

World War II in the Pacific was won by submarines and the Marines. Well, okay, a few aircraft carriers helped, and the Army Air Corps dropped a couple of big bombs, but the Marines took the islands and submarines sank most of the ships.

CBS was talking with some Marines who were at the shooting in Chattanooga. One of them was speaking of a friend who had helped several of his men to safety before being killed by the shooter. He said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “He took care of his Marines,”  and I found my eyes watering. Must have been some pollen in the air.

That’s what a non-commissioned officer and the Marine Corps is all about. Semper Fi is the Marine Coprs motto, short for Semper Fidelis which means "Always Faithful."

“He took care of his Marines.”  I hope they put that on his marker at Arlington; there is no finer epitaph.

Update, 10:30am: On a lighter note, the submarine service, as far as I know, does not have a motto, unless it would be something along the lines of, "Oh shit, don't open that valve you idiot"  which, for proper effect, should be screamed at the top of one's lungs.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Cosby Saga

Bill Cosby is still in the news, which is actually rather surprising. Have you seen one of his recent appearances? I watched one online, and was wondering two things the whole time. Why are clubs paying him to come to their venues and do this? And why are people coming to the clubs and paying money to watch him do it? I was amazed to find out that he is merely 78 years old. He looks and sounds 90 or older, and is about as funny as a bad case of diarrhea.

In the recently-released deposition he admits to buying drugs which he intended for use prior to having sex with various women. His opponents claim that to be an admission that he was “drugging girls and raping them.” His supporters say that many celebrities were using those drugs during consensual sex in those days, and so he admitted nothing.

I’m tend to side with the women who claim he raped them, but one thing I know for sure is that he admitted to repeatedly and callously cheating on his wife of (now) more than fifty years, and that puts him in a class with Tiger Woods; a person whose failure to make the cut in major tournaments I consider to be a cause for celebration. Actually, he’s worse than Tiger, because Tiger didn’t go around lecturing us on how to be a good father and family man while he was cheating on his wife.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Oh Really?

The headline reads "How To Fry Eggs,"  which I would have thought was an absurd topic before I met my wife, but we won't get into that. I normally don't read things that are on the order of "How To Pee Standing Up"  (I already know not to face into the wind), but for some reason decided to see what the Food Network felt constituted teaching me how to fry eggs.

The first step in frying eggs, according to the Food Network, is to "start with a hot nonstick skillet on medium heat."  I don't know what the second step is because, given that the first involves a thermodynamic impossibility, I don't much care what they consider to be the subsequent steps.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Things That Mystify Me

Greece is in debt to the tune of $335 billion, a debt with terms which it cannot meet, and Europe's solution is to increase that debt by almost a third, lending Greece an additional $95 billion on even worse terms.

The Greek government calls for a public vote on the offer, which turns out to be not only no but "oh hell no,"  so the Greek government then continues negotiating and accepts an even worse deal without a public vote.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Exciting Stuff

Pluto: wow
I have an idea of what it takes to hit a small target at long range. At one time I could hit a beer can three out of ten times with a rifle at 1000 yards. You can’t even see a beer can at 1000 yards? Yes, I was using a scope.

But to fling a vehicle to within a few miles of a target
2.66 billion miles away on a journey lasting nine and a half years taking a route that used the deflection of two planets And now we have pictures of that target, pictures as detailed as those of our own moon.

This is an object that is so far away from the Sun that since it was discovered 85 years ago it has not yet completed a single orbit. Not only did the discoverer not see Pluto complete its first observed orbit, it will be twelve generations before his descendants do.

And now we have these pictures. Wow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Inane Question of the Year

Sebastien Bourdais won the Indycar race in Milwaukee last Sunday in a manner that dwarfs the description of “convincing.”  He was in a different zip code most of the day and, at one point, had the entire field a lap down such that he was able to make his final pit stop for tires and fuel by himself without losing the lead.

After the race an NBCSN person asked him, “Did you have a first place car?”  He looked at her and paused, sort of like he was trying to figure out if there was some hidden meaning in the question; perhaps hoping that there was. English, after all, is not his first language. He seemed, finally, to decide that she had actually asked precisely the question that it appeared that she had asked, and answered, “Apparently I did.”

Yes, dear, he did. He won. Next question.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"It is a very good life."

One of the contestants on a back episode of Chopped was asked by the judges to tell them about herself. She had only recently come to this country from Bankok, where her family still lives. She was a young person and her English was charmingly broken. "I realize how lucky I am to be in this country,"  she said. "I am working very hard and having fun. It is a very good life."  I was quite happy to see her win the competition.

I wonder how many of her generation who are native to this country would include in their definition of "a very good life"  the fact that they are "working very hard." Some would, certainly, but...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Small Change

I’m not going to argue the cause of the War Between the States, and will accept for the purpose of this discussion that it was fought by southern racists for the sole purpose of preserving slavery. The Confederate battle flag, then, is an offensive symbol of a war fought 150 years ago to preserve slavery, and must not be displayed. But, eradicating that flag is insufficient. We also must rename schools which bear the name of persons who were on the wrong side. Military installations named after generals who fought for the losing army must be renamed. All traces of the losing side of that war must be erased from today’s society.

We used to call things like that “stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime.”

We are not discussing the rate of imprisonment of black men which is happening as we speak. We are not discussing the current rate of unemployment in the black population. We are not discussing the phenomenon of being arrested for “driving while black.”  We are not discussing, in any form, racism as it exists in our society today. It does exist, & is getting worse instead of better.

No, we are intent on eradicating symbols that remind us of racism as it existed 150 years ago, as if that was somehow going to solve anything.

We were talking about unemployment in Ferguson, MO and in Baltimore, at least it was being mentioned, but we dropped it in favor of this nonsense about the flag and then the renaming of schools and military installations.

For some reason, I keep being surprised by the public’s ability to focus on trivia while ignoring the real problems which face this nation.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

What Should Be Banned?

From an AP story about a man who was killed when he placed fireworks on top of his head and lit the fuse,

Devon Staples, 22, and his friends had been drinking and setting off fireworks Saturday night in a backyard in Staples' eastern Maine hometown, Calais, when the accident happened with a reloadable fireworks mortar tube, police have said.

It’s hardly surprising to learn that drinking had been involved, but I’m not sure that “accident”  is the applicable term here. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “when the Darwin event occurred,”  or “when Staples inadvertently committed suicide.”

In other news, not one but two NFL players, from different teams and in separate cities, had “accidents”  with fireworks that resulted in the amputation of a finger.

There will, of course, be calls to ban fireworks, and the mother of the New England man is already doing so. Banning stupidity is impractical, as it would render most of the population unable to function.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


I caught the last few minutes of "America's Got Talent" last night, probably the most horribly misnamed program in the history of television unless they are engaging in deliberate snark, and seriously wish that there was some way that I could unsee that.

The "talent"  was some guy who broke 120 raw eggs into four pitchers and then drank them. How that disgusting display is considered entertainment at all escapes me completely, but what totally blows my mind is that three of the four judges liked it enough to vote "yes"  for sending it onward to the next round of the tournament.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

PGA News Correction

If you were confused by CBS Evening News saying last night that Rory MeIlroy will miss the US Open due to his injury allow me to reassure you that, no, there are not two US Open tournaments this year. It is the British Open that McIlroy will miss.

Freedom of Speech

Yes, I supported discontinuing the display of the Confederate battle flag on government property. Banning its display generally, on private property or at public venues, however, constitutes impingement of freedom of speech. And no, I do not display that flag.

Greg Grandin says, in his piece at Tom Dispatch, that, “the Confederate flag represents ‘hate, not heritage,’”
but I would submit that it represents whatever the person displaying it intends for it to represent. We cannot know what is in the mind of another. He attributes that consensus to “liberal and mainstream commentators,”
so what he is saying is that it is perceived in that particular fashion by that particular group, which is a tiny fraction of the general population, and one which holds its own set of prejudices and preconceptions.

So, in reality we do not know what a person is expressing by displaying this symbol, but even if he is expressing some form of hatred, where is it a given that the expression of hated is impermissible? We may not like it, and I don’t, but what happened to the American tradition of, “I despise everything that you say, sir, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it?”

There seems to be an emerging belief that we have some sort of right not to be offended. What is particularly odd about that is that it is liberals who are fighting to deny the freedom of expression involved in the display of this flag, and they are at the same time declaiming that we should embrace a greater degree of diversity.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

14th Deadly Sin

I mostly enjoy books by James Patterson, including the “Women’s Murder Club”  series, but I have to say the the current one, “14th deadly Sin,”  is a bit sullied by one of its major premises. A young boy is falsely arrested and dies in custody, and one of the “Murder Club”  members quits the DA’s office to file a lawsuit in the boy’s behalf because, as the author puts it, the boy “suffered wrongful death and his family deserved justice that could only be delivered in the form of a multimillion-dollar settlement with the SFPD and the City.”

The concept that massive amounts of money constitutes justice is a premise that is fundamentally repugnant to me, and I am not looking forward to reading about how our “noble”  ex-ADA plans to pursue such an endeavor.
I will probably skip those chapters and focus on how Lindsay Boxer plans to apprehend the mass murderers.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Masterpiece of Understatement

The headline reads, "Skilled workers relish chance to restore USS Constitution."  I would think so, yes. I would give several years of my life to be able to be one of the restorers on this great ship. The Boston Globe article describes in the words of the craftsmen themselves what it is like to work on a piece of living history. Fine reading.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Flagging Interest

A large portion of the media discussion about the upcoming Coke Zero 400 at Daytona is not about who will contend for the win, or rules changes, or team efforts, it’s about whether of not any confederate flags will be allowed. (They will be, but are discouraged.)

There is no actual discussion about whether or not African-American people are welcome at NASCAR races. (Actually, they’re sort of not, which is why there are no statements about the flags being offensive to “all of the black people at our races,”  because, well, I think you get the point.) There is certainly no discussion of how many African-American drivers there are in NASCAR. (One, but only in a junior circuit.) So we are not going to talk about racism in NASCAR in terms of people of color, but we are certainly going to talk about racism in NASCAR in terms of a fucking flag. Good for us.