Friday, November 24, 2017

Yes, The Name is Apt

Given fifteen years of military progress in Afghanistan and recent conduct of the US Navy's Seventh Fleet, yes, I believe the Dallas Cowboys can appropriately be called "America's Team."

Meanwhile, local sports writers are swooning over the Chargers having won "five of their last seven games" and now being in contention to reach the playoffs. Right; with a current record of five wins and six losses. It should be noted that all five wins have been against teams with losing records; such notables as the Giants, currently 2-9, and the Broncos, who are currently 3-7. They have played two teams with winning records in that seven-game stretch, and have lost to both of them.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Specious Argument

Dean Baker used yesterday the kind of specious argument that is beginning to make me think that economists should simply be shot dead immediately upon graduation from economist’s school, claiming that the proposed increase in the standard deduction would decrease the value of the mortgage interest deduction.

His headline is about the elimination of state and local taxes as deductions, but that only serves as a lead to the taxpayer’s use of the standard deduction, which the tax plan would double in size. He immediately points out that, “The piece notes that doubling the standard deduction will reduce the number of people who itemize and therefore benefit from the mortgage interest deduction,” and thus has changed the subject away from the headline in the first paragraph.

Note the disingenuous argument here, when he refers to people who, “itemize and therefore benefit from the mortgage interest deduction.” If using the standard deduction results in a lower tax burden, how does it cause one to “lose the benefit” from the mortgage interest deduction? They are paying a lower tax.

The sleazy and dishonest part of his argument is what he means when he says that the new tax plan will “decrease the value,” specifically when the standard deduction is not large enough to overcome the advantage of itemizing and using the mortgage interest deduction, in which case he points out that difference between itemized and standard deduction would be smaller, thus making the itemized deduction “of less value.”

So when one thing costs more than another, if you raise the price of the cheaper one you devalue the higher-priced one.

Only an economist could argue that doubling the standard deduction is a bad thing. Just shoot them all and put us out of our misery.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mutual Poop Fling

Economists crack me up. They also annoy the shit out of me, sometimes doing both things at the same time. Dean Baker has yet another case in point where he makes a hilariously ridiculous statement in “correcting” an error that Robert Samuelson made in a print editorial.

He doesn’t link to Samuelson’s editorial, but from Dean’s rebuttals it seems that Samuelson claimed that our current trade deficit is being caused by the dollar’s status as “the global major currency,” inadequate government enforcement of patents and copyrights overseas, and the failure of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement to come to fruition.

I have no problem in agreeing with Dean Baker that Robert Samuelson is full of shit. My problem is that I don’t agree with his reason for thinking so, which is that “The reason the U.S. is running such large trade deficits was the decision by many developing countries to accumulate huge amounts of reserves…”

He does not make any mention whatever of consumers buying Korean televisions and Japanese automobiles, or the decision by American manufacturers to export the production of both industrial and consumer goods to foreign countries. No indeed, this nation had nothing whatever to do with creating the terrible trade deficit that is trashing our economy. It was entirely inflicted upon us by others, making us innocent victims of predatory foreign countries.

Economists should be sealed in a hogshead immediately upon graduation from college, stored in a deep isolated cavern and fed through the bunghole until they die of old age.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Security As Oxymoron

My wife and I switched health insurance this month, due to her phased retirement which will be finalized at the end of the year. United Health Care invited me to create a personal account at the website for the new plan, which I did Wednesday.

I had, of course, to create a username and password. The latter took me several tries due to a long list of rules for security reasons. It had to have a capital letter, a small letter, a number, and one of several special characters. It could not have any of several other special characters. No letter or number could be repeated more than once, and it could not contain any actual words.

All of this to protect entry into a site that does not allow any data entry, merely allows the viewing of data. They are seriously concerned with protecting my medical payments from being viewed by unauthorized eyes.

The next day I get an email from them thanking me for signing up at their website. It went on to say, “Please write down your username and password for future reference. You will need it to sign in the next time you visit our website.”

The emphasis is mine, because I am pointing out that they are asking me to render all of the complex security rules they have for creating the password entirely useless, since a password that is written down anywhere is completely insecure. (Not to mention the grammatical error of using “it” to refer to the two things they told me to write down.)

The point should be made that due to their security rules the password must be written down because no one could possibly remember it.

One website required me to remember the name of the street I lived on when I was in first grade. I am 74 years old and grew up in the military. I don’t remember the name of the street I lived on before we bought this house twenty years ago, let alone something from almost seven decades ago. I made something up to satisfy their webform, and then immediately forgot what it was that I invented.

When I needed to answer that “security question” I tried “First Street,” which seemed like a logical answer, but apparently I was not that logical the day I filled out the stupid form.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fine Lines

Best quote about the Chargers game from a San Diego resident. “That was like watching your ex throw up on the dance floor at a party and knowing that’s no longer your problem.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Um, You Already Said That

The Denver Broncos promise to "evaluate all areas" after being humiliated 41-16 by the New England Patriots and bringing their record to 3-6, tied with the Los Angeles Chargers for last in the division.

Um, they said that last week after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 51-23.

Last night was special, in that they muffed a punt on their own 15, gave up a 103-yard kickoff return, and suffered a blocked punt, all in the first 18 minutes of the game. They also scored field goals to answer New England touchdowns, apparently not realizing that scoring three points every time your opponent scores seven is not a winning strategy.

Perhaps they should evaluate their mascot; trading a stallion for a jackass.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Even More Fubar

I read the published account (pdf) of the investigation into the collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S McCain today, and it leads me to conclude that the US Navy is even more fubar than I revealed in my discussion of last Tuesday. There are at least two statements in that report which indicate that the investigating officers were no more qualified for naval service than were the officers and crew they were investigating.

The report states, for instance that the ship was running in “darkened condition,” part of which was that, “all interior lighting was switched to red instead of white to facilitate crew rest.”

If that was the reason for red interior lighting, why would the red lighting include operational areas of the ship, such as the bridge and Combat Information Center? In fact, that is not the reason to “rig for red.” The red lighting is to promote night vision so that if any of the crew is required to go topside their vision is optimized for being able to function at night.

The report describes the situation with three ships approaching Fitzgerald from starboard, and correctly says that Fitzgerald was required by the International Rules of the Nautical Road to take action to “remain clear of the other three and if possible to avoid crossing ahead.”

Well and good so far, but then the report says that, “In the event Fitzgerald did not exercise this obligation, the other vessels were obligated to take early and appropriate action through their own independent maneuvering action.”

“Early?” The privileged vessel is, in fact, required to maintain its course and speed until it is apparent that the burdened vessel is not maneuvering to avoid, at which point, and only at that point, the privileged vessel should take action to avoid. That is hardly “early and appropriate” action which, in fact, the rules of the road specifically prohibit.

These are fairly minor points, and the report reasonably attributes fault, and I suspect does so for the most part fairly accurately. But the lack of basic knowledge of shipboard routine, such as not knowing the reason for red lighting, casts a certain aura of doubt on the expertise of the investigating body.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


To this day, fifty years after I left the service, I continue to regard my time in the Navy as the best and most useful years of my life. I would not trade that experience for everything else that I have done before or since, and I have held the US Navy in the highest possible regard for all the years since I had the honor and privilege to serve.

What I have read the past few years of its ships and its men today almost brings me to tears. The ships of today’s Navy are barely seaworthy, are certainly not battle worthy, and social engineering has so degraded the manning of the Navy that high quality ships would be wasted in any case.

I read that the Captain of a ship is in a bar on shore during liberty drinking with the enlisted crew of his ship. How can good order and discipline be maintained under such circumstances, and how can a Captain’s subordinates possibly maintain a proper respect for a “drinking buddy?”

The crew of another ship forgets to replace the lubricating oil in the ship’s main propulsion reducing gear box, rendering the ship inoperative and requiring shipyard repair. In addition to the appalling carelessness of the crew, what kind of ship is rendered useless by the loss of one set of propulsion gears?

When the bridge crew of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer causes a collision with a civilian ship ten times its size and one engine room is flooded, the ship is disabled and has to be towed to port. What kind of warship becomes a stationary target due to the loss of a single engine room?

The initial cause of that collision turns out to be that a watchstander is seen to be “struggling to cope with handling both helm and engine orders.” I have stood that watch, and anyone incapable of dealing with helm and engine orders after a couple of days of training does not belong in the Navy in any capacity. He probably does not belong outside of his parents’ care.

The Arleigh Burke class did, at least, mark a return to all-steel construction. From Wikipedia, “An earlier generation had combined a steel hull with an innovative superstructure made of lighter aluminum to reduce top weight, but the lighter metal proved vulnerable to cracking. Aluminum is also less fire-resistant than steel; a 1975 fire aboard USS Belknap gutted her aluminum superstructure. Battle damage to Royal Navy ships exacerbated by their aluminum superstructures during the 1982 Falklands War supported the decision to use steel.”

That policy didn’t last. What does the Navy decide to do in building its new Littoral Combat Ships? Use all-aluminum construction, including the hull. How stupid can we be?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Facebook & Twitter?

Watching a bunch of Senators so serious in their grilling of a panel of "social media" executives leaves me in despair. If our voters are making their presidential election decisions based on Facebook and Twitter, then this nation has problems far, far bigger than anything that Russia can do to us.