Saturday, July 30, 2016

Also Interesting

The San Diego Chamber of Commerce has taken a position supporting the Chargers bid to build a stadium downtown, financed in part by a 32% increase in the city's hotel tax. What's interesting is that the Chamber apparently did not reach out to any of the downtown businesses it represents to obtain their opinions before taking this position. If they had, their position might be a bit different, since the business owners downtown almost universally oppose the plan.

Seems that the Chamber of Commerce represents its constituents in much the same manner that the United States government does.

Friday, July 29, 2016


Donald Trump "invites" the Russians to hack Clinton's email server, which no longer exists, and there is a massive freakout from the entire Democratic party and the media, who think he's serious.

It's going to be an interesting political campaign year.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Well, That Was A New Low

America's Got Talent: Results was a one hour show. It took about four minutes to announce which five acts will go on to the semi-finals, and the rest of the time was... I don't know what it was. It was just nonsense and crap.

Happily, the ninety-year-old stripper has reached the end of her road and, even more happily, the Philadelphia Eagles football player will continue. "Thank you America," he said, "and thank you Eagles for allowing me to do this."  I've always been an Eagles fan; more so now.

Distraction Continues

The by now infamous emails are homophobic, anti-Semitic and betray both Democratic and democratic principles, and of course Obama does not even address, let alone condemn that content, but merely condemns Russia for the act of illegally obtaining and releasing the emails. He says that the Russian purpose in doing this was to “interfere with US elections,” which is precisely what the DNC was doing.

That is the “politics of distraction,” practiced by politicians for many decades, but perfected by Obama's predecessor, Bill Clinton. It is also what psychologists call, “projection;  accusing someone else of having certain character flaws so that you do not need to acknowledge the presence of those same flaws in your own character.

That’s why we should never elect to any office anyone who has expressed a desire to hold that office.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Delusion, Delusion

Paul Krugman posted a thought piece yesterday saying that Trump is a candidate that “Putin is aiding because he knows Trump is close to, probably financially entangled with friendly oligarchs.” Seriously? The use of popular cant verbiage detracts from one’s believability a bit, but when Putin was asked if he was “aiding Trump” he didn’t even bother to answer, merely laughed in the reporter’s face.

Krugman goes on to say that this controversy about Putin aiding Trump is timely because it is “dovetailing with my bedtime reading,” which is about the Roman Empire. I’m not sure what foreign leaders were nefariously aiding the Roman emperors in their bids for power, but…

To dovetail with my bedtime reading we would have to have combat troops actively engaged at brigade strength in Columbia, so Who knows? Maybe we do.

Anyway, he compares Trump’s claim of making NATO allies pay their fair share of the cost of common defense, which Krugman describes as “a protection racket, in which countries get defended only if they pay up,” to the Roman Empire’s looting and sacking which, even for an economist, is quite a stretch.

Dean Baker says, also yesterday, that “Glass-Steagall would not have prevented the economic crisis in 2008. The problem was allowing a massive housing bubble to grow unchecked.” The first is debatable, while the second is utter bullshit.

The housing bubble was a symptom to begin with; the real problem being far too much wealth accumulating with no place available to invest it at reasonable rates of return due to the Fed’s low interest rates. That wealth was the fodder for those loans, and the failure to repay those loans was merely the trigger for the collapse.

The meat of the collapse was not the housing loan money itself, but a huge pyramid of “funny money” financial instruments that had been sold based on those mortgage loans and which had face values orders of magnitude larger than those loans.

And because Glass-Steagall had been repealed, money in deposit banks was available for the purchase of these “funny money” financial instruments. Would the collapse have happened without the money which came from the deposit banks? Possibly, but it would have been much less severe.

Economics is not actually a science. It is a profession that allows you to just make up shit as you go along.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Um, Okay? Again

Message from Elizabeth Warren, "Donald Trump’s Divisive Tactics Empower Those At The Top." This from the party that just rigged the primary election in order to assure the nomination of the establishment candidate.

Shoot the messenger, or... Shoot whoever is accused of being the messenger, even if he isn't, but in any case, ignore the message. Democrats are utterly focused on proving that it was Putin who released the emails, and are totally ignoring the fact that the emails reveal a rigged election. Contents, apparently, are irrelevant, their illegal release is all that they care about.

And Democrats accuse Republicans of being deranged.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Um, Okay?

I will doubtless be castigated as a misogynistic pig for this, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign are beginning to make me question their contact with reality.

Hillary Clinton said on CBS Sixty Minutes that she faces more scrutiny than other top-level politicians, saying, “I often feel like there's the Hillary standard and then there's the standard for everybody else.”  Shades of her earlier complaint of a “vast right wing conspiracy.”  Her supporters will doubtless claim something to the effect that being paranoid does not disprove the presence of someone following you.

Then Clinton’s campaign manager claims that Vladimir Putin released the emails which revealed that the DNC had deliberately sabotaged the candidacy of Bernie Sanders; emails with sufficient level of evidence to force the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He claims at considerable length that Putin did so as a deliberate effort to damage Clinton’s election chances and to bolster Donald Trump.

He may, of course, have done that without Clinton’s knowledge or approval, and I may have won the San Diego 10K last month. But I didn’t and neither did he.

Then, after Wasserman Schultz resigns from the DNC, Clinton praises her leadership (yes it is specifically her leadership that Clinton admires) and names Wasserman Schultz as a member of her campaign staff. Why? Well, apparently because the principles revealed by the emails that forced her resignation from the DNC are precisely the principles that Clinton admires and wants to use in her campaign.

The San Diego Union Tribune comments, in an article which is not online, that, “Two years ago it was almost unimaginable that she [Hillary Clinton] would be campaigning on debt-free college, expanding Social Security, breaking up ‘too big to fail’ banks and all these other progressive issues.”

Yes, and it still is. When someone says and does something for decades and then suddenly reverses that position for an election, what kind of person actually believes that reversal? Democrats mock Republicans for believing that dinosaurs coexisted with mankind 6000 years ago, and yet they believe that Hillary Clinton is going to   Oh never mind.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Smug Word Games

Now here’s a stunningly dishonest piece of opinion from Forbes, a supposedly legitimate economic journal. It is, at least, presented as the opinion of one Tim Wortstall, a “Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London” and apparently a complete idiot.

The headline, “As We've Been Saying, California's Minimum Wage Rises Increase Unemployment,” doesn’t define who “We” is, so one has to assume that it means the staff at Forbes, since writers don’t write their own headlines. Please note the implication of consensus as the piece begins.

This is an interesting little tale which illustrates the other side of the minimum wage story. Around here at least the standard side is that when you raise the price of something people buy less of it. Increase the minimum wage and employers will economise on minimum wage labour. This is a terribly simple point and yet people will twist themselves into ever more improbable positions to try to deny it.

Actually, of course, it’s not a “terribly simple point” at all, because it has been proven repeatedly that employers have not reduced the number of such jobs when the minimum wage was increased. The current increase is larger than past ones, and such a reduction may happen this time, but it’s unlikely, and it certainly has never happened in the past.

The piece babbles some nonsense about “seasonal adjustments,” which has nothing to do with the subject at hand, and then admits that “seasonal factors” are not pertinent to the issue, which makes you wonder why the idiot brought them up in the first place and makes you question his economic bona fides. As if you hadn’t done that already when you read the “Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute” thing.

He then goes on to discuss the way that unemployment is reported, namely that only people who are actively looking for work are counted as unemployed. He tells us that the increase in minimum wage has caused people to resume looking for work, and that since more people are looking for work the unemployment number reported as a percentage of the workforce has increased.

He makes the claim that even though thousands more people are employed rather than fewer, the fact that 27,000 more people are looking for work means that, “higher wages have called more labour supply into the market,” which is true enough. He then concludes that, “unemployment is defined those looking for a job but cannot find one. Thus an increased labour supply at this higher labour rate leads to more unemployment.”

In reality, of course, we know that those not previously looking for work were actually unemployed before they were drawn back into the workforce, and that this smug bastard’s word games prove nothing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Baton Rouge

I am not a fan of LSU because I like their colors. My parents met when my father was in medical school at Tulane in New Orleans. My grandmother grew up in Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana and once worked as a dietician at LSU.

CBS ran an interview with two women whose husbands were among the police officers killed in Baton Rouge a few days ago. I usually have little patience with these productions, which normally involve much display of weeping and self pity, but this was Southern Louisiana. These women spoke of deep love and respect for their husbands. There was great sadness, and there was dignity that just tore the heart right out of my chest.

This is Cajun country; a people who have a inner core strength that puts the rest of us to shame. They are why Katrina did not beat New Orleans. They are of French heritage by way of Canada, and arrived in southern Louisiana when even native Americans disdained it, making their homes in an uninhabited and formerly uninhabitable swamp.

Cajuns look adversity in the eye, turn it around and kick its ass, and they don’t cry while they are doing it. These women will not raise damaged children. They will raise kids into healthy and happy adults unharmed by the adversity of their childhoods.

But I do like purple and gold.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hello, Pot. Nice to meet you.

CBS Evening News responded to Trump's speech last night by saying that he stressed "gloom and doom"  too much, that he talked too much about what is wrong in the nation. Right, because their nightly news segment only reports unicorn sightings and rainbows over mountains.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Capitalism, What Capitalism?

Capitalism: an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit

I started to listen to a discussion on the problems of modern capitalism, held by “great thinkers on the economy,”  and turned it off after just five minutes, having found out why our economy is sinking under its own weight.

The first exercise in lunacy was a discussion was about how “every problem has become a financial problem,” citing the example that if there is not enough energy then we must invest in more energy.

That would be a problematic approach if we were following it, because eventually we would be consuming more energy than the planet has resources to produce, but with a population increasing by 20 million every decade when was the last time we invested in new water supplies of any significance? When have we invested in transportation in any real sense?

Then they begin discussing the financial sector, the trading of financial instruments, as if it was part of capitalism, when in fact it is entirely artificial and is destructive to capitalism. It allows capital to become stagnant and to do nothing more than to produce more artificial capital in the form of debt not backed by any real or economic property.

The discussion was rapidly moving toward proof that finance has overtaken capitalism as the basis of our economy, to the almost complete destruction of the latter.

Back to the “energy problem;”  we should, of course, be designing a social model that consumes orders of magnitude less energy, but no one is talking about that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why Nucs In Turkey?

In all of the blathering about the attempted coup in Turkey, one thing that was largely ignored by the mainstream American media was that the US has a fairly large collection of nuclear weapons stored at Incirlic Air Base in Turkey. This is a base which is inside Turkey, belongs to Turkey, and which they are permitting us to use.

I have been asking sources, mostly retired military and some former intelligence, why we still have nuclear weapons in Turkey, and have not gotten any really meaningful answers. No one, for instance, is willing to say that we might use them on Middle East nations because they are “harboring terrorists” or because we fear that they might be “building a nuclear bomb.”

One suggestion was to the effect that it is simply inertia; that we needed them during the days of the Soviet Union and have never gotten around to taking them out. That may be the most frightening thought I have encountered.

One person made my question more specific and raised a question of principle. What, he asked, is their purpose there; are they serving as a counter to the nuclear capabilities of others, or are they intended to counter non-nuclear threats?

If the former, it makes no sense whatever and they should have been removed several decades ago. If it is the latter, then it reflects a refusal to rule out the ”first use” of nuclear weapons, in which case that policy should be reversed, a policy of “no first use” should be reinstated and the weapons should be removed.

I recall a time when this country had a clearly stated policy that our nuclear arsenal was strictly a deterrent and that we would never again be the initiator of the use of nuclear weapons. I have not been able to track down precisely when that policy was abandoned, or who it was who first threatened to use “the nuclear option,”  but that threat has become common today. It should be banned, and any question about the use of nuclear weapons should be met with a restatement of the “no first use” policy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oh, Please

No fewer than 23 headlines on my news feed to the effect that Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech. Turns out she is actually only acused of plagiarizing part of said speech, but so what if she did?

Her husband is running for president, not her, and she will do nothing in the future other than decorate the White House. Of what real import to the Trump campaign is her speech in real terms? None. Our obsession for trivia...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Here's A Question

If you bought a house in my HOA in, say, 1990 and were forced to sell it after the housing crash of 2008, you lost a ton of money that you had gained in (supposed) equity in that house. If, however, for some reason you did not have to sell that house but held on to it, you came out well ahead of the game, because that house is worth more now than it was at its peak before 2008.

So if that value just before 2008 turned out to be phoney, why is its value today not phoney?

And don't tell me it's inflation, because inflation has been pitifully low. The government is frantically trying to make it higher (for reasons that are entirely bogus, but that's a different subject). Home prices nationwide are back up to where they were before the crash of 2008, and everyone is reporting that as if it is a good thing.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pokemon Go

What's not to like about this game? Okay, I actually know almost nothing about it, except a quote from one kid playing it. "I've never been to Ocean Beach Pier before. It's pretty cool."  Looking at his iPhone, "Next I'm going to Petco Park. I've never seen that either."

What's not to like about a game that has people getting out and going places they've never been?

Update, 8:15am: Okay, on the other hand, the game seems to have led to two guys falling off a seaside cliff in Encinitas. My guess would be that they had never been there, either, but perhaps they should not have let the game take them there.

Get Used To It

imageSan Diego is not boring, really, but its weather can be. This seems to be the only image that the Weather Service knows how to use for the several months of summer. Not sure where the "patchy fog" occurs, because it looks like a solid overcast where I live. It does, however, burn off well before noon, so...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Oh, Big Whoop

Bernie supporters and other “liberals” in the Democratic party are all excited, as illustrated by an NBC News headline reading, “Democrats Advance Most Progressive Platform in Party History.”  I am, to say the least, somewhat less impressed.

Is there anything less useful than the platform of a political party? Screen doors in a submarine come to mind. A political party platform has all of the significance and impact of a good healthy a fart in the midst of a hurricane.

The lifespan of the party platform is day one of the party convention, when it is passed to much acclaim and self congratulation, after which the process moves on to selection of the party’s nominee for the presidency and the platform sinks into oblivion, leaving no more trace than the proverbial pebble in the mill pond.

“Progressive platform” forsooth. Select a progressive candidate and I’ll be impressed.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

"They were not careless."

Judy Woodruff: "Madam Secretary, we also want to ask you about the FBI report that came out this week.

We heard the director, James Comey, say they were not going to recommend criminal charges against you, but he said that you and your colleagues at the State Department were, in his words, extremely careless in the handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

Do you believe you benefited from a double standard, that ordinary government employees experience one sort of treatment and a different one for you?"

Hillary Clinton: "No, not at all.

In fact, I think Director Comey made exactly the opposite point in his long testimony yesterday, that those who somehow hoped that action would be taken are the ones who were hoping for a double standard.

He made very clear there was no basis for going forward. And he also clarified what he said in his statement.

You know, with respect to the handling of classified material, I take it very seriously, and the 300 or so people with whom I e-mailed on the course of my time in the State Department do as well. These are experienced diplomats. They have expertise in handling classified material. They were not careless.

And the material that they sent to me, they didn’t believe was classified. The very, very few examples that Director Comey pointed to have also been clarified, as he accounted yesterday. The State Department has said two of the three that he had pointed to were human error. They were not to be classified.

So, I’m very proud of the work that we did over four years. And I’m very proud of our diplomats and our other professionals, who have to act in real time. They are responding to heads of state, to press inquiries. And they are doing the best they can. I do not believe they were careless. I do not believe that they sent material that they thought was classified, and certainly no finding of anything intentional was made after this investigation."

This is the babbling empty suit we will almost certainly elect to be our next president.

And I love Woodruff calling her “Madame Secretary,”  the title of a post she has not held for almost four years. Like Cuba and other tinpot dictatorships, this country now seems to bestow lifetime titles.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Today's Navy

Six months ago or so there was a scandal in the Navy during which it was mentioned that the Captain of a ship was in a night club on shore, drinking with members of his crew. I thought that was part of the scandal, but it turned out that it was being mentioned in defense of the Captain; as an illustration of the crew’s esteem for him.

I was shocked to discover that drinking with the crew ashore by any officer, let alone the Captain, had become common practice in the Navy, and wondered how any kind of command structure or atmosphere of good discipline could possibly be maintained in the face of such behavior.

Turns out, apparently, that it pretty much cannot. One crew, for instance, forgot to put oil in the ship’s main propulsion reduction gears, disabling the ship for almost a year. Then we have Navy gunboats in hostile waters off Iran who were not mounting half their weapons because they didn't want to have to clean them. Those same boats left port three hours late because they could not start their engines, and then were picked up by the Iranians because their engines broke down again.

Now a Navy SEAL is the victim of homicide in training, and it turns out that he was taking medication for asthma and had an abnormality in his heart which contributed to his death. How does a guy with asthma and a potentially fatal cardiac abnormality get accepted for SEAL training?

I used to have momentary regrets from time to time that I did not stay in the Navy and make it a career, but I have not had such a feeling for quite a while. I mostly feel like I “dodged a bullet” so to speak.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Less and Less Pretense

James Comey yesterday, in announcing the results of the investigation regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server, did not attempt to claim that what she did was legal or that a person doing what she did should not be prosecuted for the actions that were uncovered.

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

The felony statute regarding the mishandling of classified information makes it an offense to do so “either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way.”

Comey claims that their investigation “did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information,”  but went on to say that “that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

So he declaims any intent, which is possibly but not definitively arguable, but finds that there is a difference between “gross negligence” and being “extremely careless.”  Someone will have to explain that difference to me because I don’t understand it, and Comey made no effort to clarify it in explaining why Clinton should not be subject to prosecution.

Let’s not forget the “undue command influence” that was in place when Obama endorsed Clinton for the presidency before the investigation was completed. Do you think that there was any chance that Comey was going to recommend prosecution after his boss had said of Clinton in a national forum that he had “the highest possible confidence in her judgement and integrity?” Yeah, right. I’m surprised that Comey’s statement was a critical as it was.

I have no real issue with the law not being applied to the ruling class; it has not been for several decades. What astonishes me is the degree to which pretense has been dropped. The ruling class has simply become openly contemptuous of due process and the rule of law.

Comey openly says in his statement that “this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences,” but goes on to say “that is not what we are deciding now.” More plainly put, “I would hang an ordinary person who did this, but not Hillary Clinton.”

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Jingoism v. the Rational

Jonathan Turley is a law professor at George Washington University and is about as strict constitutionalist as can be found in public discourse today. I read his blog regularly, even though it has mostly deteriorated into meaningless trivia, because he still has pieces from time to time about the ongoing shredding of the constitution by all branches of our government and the efforts by him and by others to prevent that.

He can also be a bit of a jingoistic pain in the ass, for instance beginning his Independence Day post yesterday with, ”This holiday has particular meaning for many of us as we fight those who wish to destroy liberty and to terrorize people into submission.”

For one thing, he isn’t fighting terrorism even at a keyboard, let alone on any field of battle, so his “we fight those who, blah blah blah” was a little bit hyperbolic.

I responded with a comment,
Yeah, right, “They hate us for our freedoms.” They do not wish to destroy freedom and they don’t care about our submission. They are fighting to get us to take our boot off their necks. They want our armed forces out of their countries. They want to stop the terror drones from killing them and their families without warning.

If somebody was raining Hellfire missiles down on Phoenix and Denver at the rate of several a week and killing more than a thousand of our wives and children per year, how would we react?

Their terrorist attacks are not by any means righteous, but neither are ours, and self-righteous posturing is not contributing to the solution.

Interestingly, of the many comments not one was critical of what I had to say, and no few of them specifically agreed with me. One even went so far as to say, “Thank you for summarizing my thoughts.”

There is still rational thought in this nation after all.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Oh, Please

I just read the twentieth claim that Bill Clinton is lying about his meeting with Lynch because, "It has been 110 degrees in Phoenix and, trust me I've been there, no one plays golf in that kind of heat."

Well, I have been there too, and I have seen plenty of people playing golf at 7:30 in the morning when it was 110 in the afternoon. I doubt that a former president would have much trouble getting an early tee time.

That doesn't mean that his strolling over to Lynch's airplane to spend a half hour "chatting with her about their grandchildren" wasn't incredibly stupid, but he most certainly may have been playing golf in Phoenix.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Debt is Good

Yves Smith writes today at Naked Capitalism that today’s debt fears are unfounded; a premise which, I believe, is doubly flawed.

The first is that I see no evidence for the premise that there is any real fear of national debt, since governments everywhere talk about “austerity” and yet continue to crank out deficit spending at ever increasing levels. Republican control of Congress in this country cut our annual deficit from $1 trillion down to just under half that, but pandering in a national election year and fear mongering after a couple of European terrorist incidents has driven it right back up to the $1 trillion ballpark again.

Ms. Smith betrays her Harvard and Goldman Sachs background on an almost daily basis, and tells us in today’s exercise in delusion that (all emphasis is mine),

After the 2008-2009 financial meltdown brought many OECD economies to a standstill, there was a brief revival of fiscal activism. Many OECD governments initially responded with large fiscal stimulus packages, while bailing out influential financial institutions. Major developing countries also put in place well designed fiscal stimulus packages including public infrastructure investment and better social protection.

I would have liked for her to name one nation which did such a thing and describe the nature in which the package was “well designed,” the specific infrastructure in which it invested, and the social protection it provided, because I was paying attention and I didn’t see any.

She certainly wasn’t talking about the American “stimulus package,”  which was woefully small, was far too heavily invested in tax cuts which are pitiful in terms of stimulating the economy, and invested in such things as “high speed rail” projects, the first one of which broke ground seven years later and connects two small towns in California which are 85 miles apart.

She should go have lunch with Paul Krugman. They’d make a nice couple.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Political Derangement

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Obama has proposed to Russia that he will “deepen military cooperation between the two countries against some terrorists in exchange for Russia getting the Assad regime to stop bombing U.S.-supported rebels.”

What part of the word “rebels” does Obama not get? The man is widely regarded as being highly intelligent, but he does not appear to understand what a “rebel” is. Further, Obama seems to think that Vladimir Putin is an idiot as well, if he thinks that Putin is going to ask Assad to quit fighting any forces that are trying to overthrow him.

The article goes on to express frustration the Putin is, indeed, not putting such pressure on Assad, which rather proves my point. What would the United States have thought if, during the Civil War, some foreign government had tried to get us to stop shelling the Confederate forces in, say, Vicksburg?

According to the Post, the Obama administration wants “the Assad regime to stop bombing certain Syrian rebel groups the United States does not consider terrorists.”

So apparently Obama does not understand what a civil war is either. Assad is not fighting terrorists, he is fighting rebels who are trying to overthrow the government of his country. He is protecting Christians and Alawites who are a major part of the Syrian population. He doesn’t care what any group of rebels call themselves, what flag they fly or to whom they claim fealty; if they are shooting at his army he is going to drop bombs and artillery on them.

And note that Obama wants Assad to stop bombing certain Syrian rebels because the United States does not consider them terrorists.

Assad is fighting for the life of his country, and he really does not care what the United States thinks. Think about the hubris of this. A nation is embroiled in a civil war, and our president has the gall to step in and tell that country how he should manage the fighting of that civil war.

We all know that power corrupts, but more subtly I think it leads to derangement.