Monday, October 29, 2018

The Medical Model of Auto Repair

Your car is running rough so you take it to the repair shop. They won't tell you in advance what it will cost to fix it but you really need the car, so you tell them to go ahead. You come back when it's done and they charge you $11,834.75, which is disconcerting because that's more than you paid for the car.

They look you up on their customer list and tell you that you are a "preferred customer" and are entitled to a discount, and that you only need to pay $632.84, which you fork over happily because it sounds like a bargain even though you see on the receipt that it only took two hours and the parts consisted of two popsicle sticks and a packet of bubble gum.

Then two weeks later you get an additional bill for $385.62 from the "diagnostician" who examined the car to be able to tell the mechanic what needed fixing. Your lawyer friend tells you it is a legitimate bill, so you pay it.

Three weeks after that, you get a bill for "space utilization" from the building in which the repair was done. Turns out the mechanic does not own his own space. Apparently he doesn't pay rent either.

Then you get a bill from the mechanic for $487.54 because the repair was not on the list of "Level 1 Discounts" to "preferred customers." They are sincerely sorry for the misunderstanding.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Modern Monetary Theory Bites Us In The Ass Again

Dean Baker is back, espousing Modern Monetary Theory to claim is his column Wednesday that the current slump in sales of new houses is due to the Trump tax cuts. Yes, those are the same tax cuts that MMT proponents feared would “overheat the economy” but are now, according to Dean Baker, cooling the economy by causing home sales to decline.

MMT, which I call the “Free Lunch Economic Theory,” is the theory which says that “sovereign governments that are the sole supplier of national currency,” meaning that they alone print their nation’s money, therefor “have an unlimited financial ability to pay for the things they wish to purchase and to fulfill promised future payments.” Because, to be perfectly clear, according to the theory they can print as much money as they want to.

Because of that the theory claims that, “it is not possible for a government that issues its own currency to be bankrupt,” and says that collecting taxes is “a policy tool that regulates inflation and unemployment, and is not a means of funding the government's activities.”

Just to be sure you understand all of that; the government collects taxes to prevent consumers from spending too much, which would cause inflation. It does not collect taxes to raise money to operate programs benefiting the poor, for example, because it merely prints money to run those programs. It only collects taxes in order to prevent inflation and “regulate unemployment,” whatever that means.

So how did the “Trump tax cut” cause the decline in new home sales? Well, the tax cut caused runaway inflation, which we didn’t see but Dean Baker and the Federal Reserve did, when it soared to dizzying heights and got all the way up to 1.87% last year.

Never mind that the price of gasoline went up 74%, it’s all in how you measure things. Dean Baker and the Fed only measure the prices of things that people don’t buy. Food, energy and housing are not included, thus 1.87% inflation.

So, since Trump would not raise the taxes back up... (Wait, you get that? Trump didn’t actually cut taxes, and he can’t raise them. Only Congress can do that.)

Anyway, in order to reduce this runaway inflation, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, which it turns out is another way to control inflation. Actually, MMT is not the only economic theory which claims that interest rates can be used to control inflation; pretty much all of them do that. None of them say why it works; at least not in English. (The words are English, or at least most are, but…)

Some people would say that it was the interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve which caused the slump in new home sales, but Dean Baker would rather blame Donald Trump. He would blame Trump for the Russian Soyuz rocket failure if he thought anyone would believe him.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Burden of Proof

Democrats continue to set new lows in standards for burden of proof. The current example is an article in headlined, “The President Is in Violation of His Oath of Office,” by someone named Charles P. Pierce. I can’t find much about him other than that he “has been a working journalist since 1976” and has a background as a sports writer.

The odd thing is not that some sports writer turned blogger would write it, but that so many Democratic enthusiasts would link to and comment with so much enthusiasm in agreement with it. Typically comments are to the effect that this provides grounds for impeachment.

The subhead of the piece reads, “It appears Donald Trump is assisting a foreign government in a conspiracy to obstruct justice in the political murder of a resident of the United States,” but he becomes much more assertive than saying that something “appears” to be so in the article.

First he goes into a somewhat incoherent rant about Mike Pompeo and the Saudi regime, and then provides a completely incoherent ramble about the founding fathers and the “Emoluments Clause of the Constitution,” with a reference to a Twitter thread which is about as comprehensible as Twitter threads usually are. (Namely, not at all.)

Finally he reaches the destination of his torturous journey, and tears into Donald Trump. “There is absolutely no question,” he tells us, ”that the president is acting against the Constitution and in violation of his oath of office in continuing to conduct private business the way he and his family are conducting it.”

The constitution says that the president may not be paid money or given gifts by foreign governments, but it does not say that he cannot “conduct business,” and it certainly does not say that his family cannot do so.

He goes on to rant that that, “there is also absolutely no question that this hedging about the murderous Saudi royalty…” The part about “this hedging” is more than a bit odd, since this if the first mention of any hedging, and there is no description of what it consists of. But all of the previous verbal wandering should have led us not to expect much in the way of clarity from this guy.

He goes on to say that the “private business,” which he doesn’t describe, and the “hedging,” which he also doesn’t explain, are “for reasons that very likely have as much or more to do with his business interests as they do with oil or some vague threat from Iran.” And so we meet the burden of proof to state that “there is absolutely no question” because of actions that are “very likely” to be based on… Only a Democrat.

He then goes full spectrum space cadet and claims that this “private business” and “hedging” are “precisely what the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution was designed to prevent.” Um, sorry. Read that clause. It says nothing about the president doing private business, and it certainly makes no reference to “hedging,” whatever the hell that is.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Titles That Make You Say, "Hmmm"

Today's food section has a recipe for "Turkey and Pumpkin Skillet Lasagna." Not having a pumpkin skillet, I don't think I can make that one.

Actually, regardless of the kind of skillet, Lasagna made with turkey (actually "turkey meatballs, sliced") and canned pumpkin? Really? I don't care if it is October, on what planet is that actually eaten?

Fuzzy Thinking

Hillary Clinton tosses off her husband’s White House sexual peccadillos with, “She was an adult.”   Hmmm, so were almost all of the “#MeToo” accusers. I guess the victim being an adult is a defense only when the accused’s wife is Hillary Clinton. Why, incidentally, is Hillary Clinton still in the news?

The big news, though, is that Elizabeth Warren brought out a DNA result, not from a laboratory, but from a research statistician, which shows a trace of Native American “heritage” anywhere from six to ten generations back.

The test does not differentiate between North American and South American DNA, so Ms. Warren may be 1/256th Columbian. Democrats are ecstatic, clamoring for her to run in 2020 so that we can have a female Native American in the White House.

They seem to be okay that it might be a female Native South American.

Based on this DNA test result, her claim that her father’s parents did not allow her father to marry her mother “because she was a Cherokee” (perhaps actually 1/128th Native South American), and that her parents were therefor forced to elope must be true.

In other news, the “establishment” is outraged that Saudi Arabia has executed a Saudi Arabia citizen who was residing in America. Earlier they didn’t care, and actually applauded, when President Obama executed an American citizen who was residing in the Middle East, and then iced that cake by executing the man’s son shortly afterward.

They also don’t care that Saudi Arabia, using American-supplied weapons and with the assistance of American military intelligence (to employ an oxymoron), is engaged in the wholesale slaughter of the the people of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia must, however, be punished for killing one of its citizens. Sort of odd from a nation which has not outlawed the death penalty despite its constitution forbidding “cruel or unusual punishment.”

One must conclude that the American government, and people, believe that death is neither cruel nor unusual, which sort of diminishes the credibility of any outrage over the death of one person at the hands of Saudi Arabia.

Hypocrisy, thy name is USA.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Fine Lines

My wife came into the room just as I was chuckling over something I had read in my book. She wanted to know what I had enjoyed so much. So I read to her the line I had enjoyed.

"Girl," one character had said to another, "you know better than to eat grits before they've had a chance to cool down."

She failed to see the humor. That's because she doesn't eat grits. Only someone who has had a mouthful of hot grits can truly enjoy that line.

Baker's Partisan Economics

Dean Baker loses his mind again in trying to prove that Democratic economics are better than Republican economics. He writes today that Wisconsin’s economy, led by a Republican governor, is “unimpressive” compared to neighboring Minnesota, which is led by a Democrat. I find the difference between the two states “unimpressive,” but judge for yourself.

He tells us that Wisconsin’s Republican unemployment is 3.0 percent, while Minnesota’s Democratic unemployment is a mere 2.9 percent. I am much less impressed by one tenth of one percent than he is.

He then tells us that Republican Wisconsin’s 5.0 percent wage increase in the past year doesn’t matter because “these numbers are extremely erratic.” He doesn’t tell us what wage increase was experienced in Democratic Minnesota last year because he doesn’t pay attention to erratic numbers.

I would suggest that month-to-month numbers are indeed very erratic. Numbers for an entire year? It may be very convenient to think so.

He does tells us that over the past eight years Wisconsin’s Republican wages rose 24.7 percent, while Minnesota’s Democratic wages rose a stratospheric 24.9 percent. Again, I am much less impressed by, in this case, two tenths of one percent than he is. It amounts to a difference of eight tenths of one percent which, in my book, is nothing more than a rounding error.

All of this, in my view, matching economic performance was accomplished while Democratic Minnesota raised taxes and Republican Wisconsin reduced taxes, which he cheerfully states is a point in Democratic Minnesota’s favor.

Because raising taxes is a good thing, even when the economy performs the same as one which reduced taxes. Let’s hear it for Democratic economics.

And, by the way, it doesn't seem to occur to Mr. Baker to consider the effect on the two tenths of a percent difference of wage increase between the states made by tax increase in one state and tax decrease in the other. Republican Wisconsin wages went up slightly less, but their taxes went down. Democratic Minnesota saw a slightly higher wage increase, but their taxes went up. Who came out ahead?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Out of the mouths of...

Sometimes I listen to or read the words of today’s liberal mind, and I wonder if that person is capable of even thinking about what he/she is saying. Or of thinking at all for that matter.

Justice Elena Kagan, one of Obama’s liberal appointees to the Supreme Court was speaking at Princeton University the other day (of course, where else would she speak?) regarding the appointment of now Justice Kavanaugh and the loss of a “swing vote” with Justice Anthony Kennedy's departure from the bench.

"In the last, really 30 years,” she said, “starting with Justice O'Connor and continuing with Justice Kennedy, there has been a person who found the center or people couldn't predict in that sort of way.” Notably, she did not include herself as being a Justice who was “of the center” or whose vote was ever non-partisan, so the role playing she did in her nomination process has been dropped altogether.

Nor did she offer herself as a possibility of becoming such a justice, which is ceratinly a telling point. "I am partisan and will remain so."

She went on to say that, “That enabled the court to look as though it was not owned by one side or another and was indeed impartial and neutral and fair." The emphasis was mine, and yes, she actually said that.

She is not concerned that the Supreme Court actually be “impartial and neutral and fair,” which would require all nine justices to be “impartial and neutral and fair,” she is only concerned that it look that way. That goal can be accomplished, in her mind, by having eight of the nine justices be partisan as all hell, four on each side, and one justice be “impartial and neutral and fair.”

It doesn’t occur to her, apparently, that the same thing could be accomplished by having just one justice on the Supreme Court, so long as he/she could be relied upon to be “impartial and neutral and fair.” Obviously, a Supreme Court with a single justice would be a ridiculous concept.

She doesn’t seem to believe that her plan of having four highly partisan liberal justices, four highly partisan conservative justices, and one “swing” justice who is “impartial and neutral and fair” is simply a non transparent form of having a Supreme Court consisting of a single justice.

Of course, she was appointed by a president who repeatedly said that we were in Afghanistan in order to “deny them space in which to plan their attacks.” All of which tends to confirm my growing belief that liberals are feeble minded.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

It's All in the Point of View

Alabama defeated Arkansas 65-31 yesterday, and coach Nick Saban is not a happy man. Winning by 34 points is no big deal to him; it merely what he expects of his team and actually counts as underperformance. Scoring 65 points is nothing more than meeting expectations. He is enormously pissed off that his defense gave up 31 points. Nick Saban football teams do not do that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, LSU lost, but at least it was to Florida, which is ranked 22, or was at the time. Auburn did them one better (worse), losing to Mississippi State, which was an unranked team. Utah, also unranked, handed Stanford its second consecutive loss, which comes close to being incomprehensible. Well, Bryce Love didn't play, but...

Texas defeated Oklahoma, and Northwestern won over Michigan State, two upsets which I had predicted as distinct possibilities, and the Aztecs won on the "smurf turf." All in all, an entertaining college football weekend.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Celebrating Hollow Victories

Democrats are dancing in the street over Bernie Sanders having forced Amazon to raise its minimum wage to $15/hour and, as is their wont, are celebrating without checking to see if their “victory” actually merits celebration. As is often the case, this one most certainly does not.

For one thing, while Amazon raised its minimum wage, it did not raise any other wages so while it used to be that a worker started at $10/hr and worked his way up to $16/hr, today’s workers will start at $15/hr and work their way up to, wait for it, $16/hr. That, folks, is not something that makes me feel like dancing in the street, and it gets worse.

At the same time that they raised the minimum wage, Amazon cancelled their “variable compensation pay” program, an incentive program that added between 8% and 16% to workers monthly pay. They also eliminated a stock contribution program, so the pay of workers making other than minimum wage has been reduced significantly.

Democrats do not care about this, because they are the party of symbolism rather than actual issues. They are once again celebrating a victory that in on the nature of “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.” It matters not that they accomplished something that is actually to the detriment of the workers involved, so long as they can point to an “increase in minimum wages” accomplished by demagoguery.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Only In California

Governor Moonbeam signed into law a bill requiring that corporations must have on their boards of directors at least one female by 2019, and at least two by 2021. This is irrespective of how many total directors are on the board.

Are they required to have any males on their board? Of course not. That would amount to discrimination against women, and we don't allow that in California. Somehow, however, in a manner that can be understood only by the female mind, requiring females is not discrimination against men.

Monday, October 01, 2018

It's All In The Name

Macedonia voted yesterday not to change its mane to “The Republic of North Macedonia,” which means it will not be allowed to join NATO. This is a devastating blow to both Macedonia and NATO.

Okay, I am through making silly statements for today. Well, perhaps not. We shall see. But that will fill my quota for hilariously absurd statements for today.

For those of you who don’t know, Greece is banning Macedonia from NATO because they have a province of the same name, and claim that the nation of Macedonia using the name constitutes a “claim on our territory.” Sort of like us claiming that since we have a state named Georgia, the nation of the same name near Russia should change its name to “The Republic of North Georgia” in order to avoid claims… Well, you get my point.

Actually, people in Columbus GA think that Atlanta is in a different state called “North Georgia,” and regard people who live in that city as quasi-Yankees. Some even further south in the state, say in Albany GA, would regard referring to Atlanta country as “North Georgia” as being overly polite.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Greece is unwilling to have a nation as a member of NATO which has the same name as one of their provinces, which is remarkably silly. That would be like us saying that the nation of Georgia cannot join NATO because we have a state named Georgia.

And yet here we are actively trying to get Georgia, the nation near Russia, not the state in the American South, to be allowed to join NATO, risking war with Russia to that end in fact, and we are perfectly willing for it to retain its present name.

This is the first time in more than two centuries than any nation has exceeded the United States in hubris.

We have invaded and militarily occupied other nations too many times to count. We have bombed other nations, subjected other nations to regime change and subverted the elections of other nations. We have sanctioned and blockaded other nations countless times. But we have never demanded that another nation change its name in order to join our club.