Thursday, December 27, 2018

Liberal Justice

A New York Times editorial (sorry, no link, it’s behind a paywall) asks a profound question which admits to no legitimate answer. “How can we deny citizenship to anyone, when none of us have done anything to deserve our own citizenship?” The editorialist is, of course, a white, female, native born American citizen and a registered Democrat.

There is an answer, however, and we are already engaged in implementing it. You take away the benefits of citizenship from those who are now citizens. Things like free the speech of anyone who doesn’t think the same thoughts you do.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Liberal Logic

The title is an oxymoron, of course, but introduces a statement made in all seriousness by a self-proclaimed liberal regarding our current president; claiming that, "he was elected by a minority of the voters, a vanishingly small one if the many non-voters are taken into account."

I did not bother to ask him why non-voters should be considered as a "percentage of the voters."  Nor did I ask him why, if they were included, they should be included as ones who voted against Trump. His answers would undoubtedly have satisfied him, but they would not have made any sense to me, so there was no point in asking the questions.

Update, Wed. 12/26/18: from a different person in a different "discussion" on why it's okay for us to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia but not okay for Russia to sell weapons to Venezuela. "No doubt we've done some terrible, terrible stuff in the world, but I do believe that we stand for freedom, some modicum of order, and general safety & opportunity."

Don't judge us by what we do, judge us by what we "stand for."  Right.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Military Goes Rogue

Another way to phrase the New York Times headline is that the military is determined to undermine the Commander in Chief by finding clever ways to circumvent his orders.

"Pentagon Mulls Options For Syria," the headline reads.

"The Pentagon is considering using small teams of Special Operations forces to strike the Islamic State group in Syria, one option for continuing a US military mission there despite president Donald Trump's order to withdraw troops from that country."

It goes on to explain that the troops would be stationed in Iraq, but would "surge" into Syria for specific raids, "according to two military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

I'll bet they did demand anonymity, considering that they were revealing that the military is maneuvering to obviate two centuries of civilian control, and describing methods specifically designed to violate direct orders from the President of the United States. Rest in peace, US constitution.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas in Amman

The hotel had covered the tree with star shaped ornaments each inscribed with the name of one of its staff. There were stars with names of all kinds. There were; Marys, Gunters, Muhammads, Seans, Josephs, Ahmads, 'Issas, Pierres, Ivans, Abdullahs, Muhsins, etc. There were hundreds of names.

I was hoping that Pat Lang would relate this story again this year. I always enjoy reading it. I urge you to go read the whole thing. It's a short piece, and worth your time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Obamacare Again

A judge ruled that Obamacare is unconstitutional the other day, once again putting this silly topic back into the forefront of national conversation as if the fate of the free world depended upon the outcome. This is a program providing health insurance to fewer than 9 million people, while leaving 29 million still uninsured, which leaves me wondering why it is worth the effort at all. Why bother to take care of 2.9% of your population if you are going to ignore three times that many?

So we argue endlessly about a program which costs $55 billion and saves a few lives, and do not question at all a program which consumes $750 billion annually and kills people all over the world. Of course we have to do the latter or those people we killed might come here, presumably flying on a commercial airline carrying their AK-47s since they have no ships or airplanes of their own, and kill us all. Which we would pretty much deserve for being as stupid as we are.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

China Hacking Western Hotels?

Our government claims that China, the Chinese government no less, is behind the hacking of 500 million records of hotel visitors in the United States, allowing them (the Chinese government) to obtain the personal records of 500 million visitors to hotels in this country.

Do I believe it. No, I emphatically do not. What could the Chinese government possibly want with the "personal records" of 500 million non-Chinese people?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Election Nullification

I cannot cite accurate quotes here, because the reference articles are on the Washington Post and NBC News, and both websites contains advertisements which cause my browser to crash, but both media sites are terribly concerned about Republican legislatures passing legislation which limits the power of incoming Democratic governors. They cite a risk to the survival of democracy due to what they call “election nullification.”

That’s pretty rich. First they reported with a complete lack of concern when the Democratic Party rigged a primary election against a highly popular anti-establishment candidate, then they were completely unconcerned when a Democratic outgoing president and the losing presidential candidate tried to nullify a presidential election by claiming without the slightest shred of evidence that the Russians had rigged the national presidential election in favor of the person they lost the election to.

That there is a ton of evidence now, evidence which may or may not be valid, is beside the point. At the time that Democrats first made the claim of an illegitimate election the media fully supported Democratic claims that the election was fraudulent when there was no actual evidence offered at the time the claim was made. They were and still are completely unconcerned about, in fact are fully supportive of “election nullification” when it is the Democrats who are trying to do it.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Army Navy Game

I sat down to watch the Army/Navy football game yesterday and witnessed the Army chaplain precede the game with a prayer, beginning by intoning, “God of wonders, some wonder why we pray for a football game. So I tell them in this game, every player on the field is willing to die for every person watching.” (Which doesn't answer the question of "why we pray," of course, but that's beside the point I'm planning to make.)

He finished by saying, “And so, almighty God, we who are willing to die for others, we salute you. Let this game begin. Amen.”

I kept wondering what the future soldiers, sailors and marines were thinking about the chaplain’s characterization of them as being “willing to die,” and belaboring the point by saying it repeatedly, because I’m pretty sure none of them signed up for that. I kind of wanted to punch that chaplain in the face.

Lumping these fine young men and women together with Muslim jihadists who strap dynamite vests on themselves and walk into a crowded marketplace to blow themselves up was pretty insulting, actually.

Dying is not what these people have in mind when they sign up to serve their country. What they do is something far more noble than being “willing to die.” What they do is place the value of their nation above themselves. I am reminded of a wonderful line from a book by Kenneth Roberts about the Revolutionary War titled, “A Rabble in Arms.” One of the great novels of all times.

“They go to war, these young men,” he said, “not to die for their country, but to place themselves, their precious lives, between their home and the forces which would destroy it.”

On a more trivial note, I then watched the Army team play football, and do it very well. I don’t know what it was that the Navy team was doing, but it wasn’t playing football. They changed quarterbacks after the first one completed zero passes in four attempts during the first half with two interceptions, but it didn’t help. The second quarterback fumbled the ball rather than throwing interceptions, but the result was the same.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Growth Means "Smaller"

Dean Baker, economist, not only admits yesterday that his discipline mostly doesn’t know what it’s talking about, saying that, “Almost no economic models projected the collapse of the housing bubble and Great Recession,” in the same article he admits that he does not know what constitutes growth.

As things wear out, the tells us (“clothes, shelter, computers, etc.”), and we replace them with ones that are “better (e.g. longer lasting, clothes that are warmer or cooler etc.) than the ones they replaced,” presumably on a one-for-one basis since he uses the term "replace," he asserts in the article that, “that sure sounds like growth to me.”

So, if I have a 2 MHz computer with 2Mb memory that cost me $3000 and am able to buy a 4 MHz computer with 6Mb memory to replace it for $1400, which actually happened, that $1600 smaller sale and $1600 smaller contribution to GDP would represent growth to Dean Baker.

A businessman would certainly not consider a $1600 smaller sale, a 53% decrease, to be “growth.” Only an economist would think in those terms.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Solution Precedes Formula

I’m not going to link to the source because what he’s saying could have been said by any economist. It’s gibberish having to do with a discussion between economists regarding whether foreign trade increases or decreases productivity in the domestic economy. Suffice it to say, the discussion is a clear and convincing example of why we should not take economists seriously.

He begins his argument by saying that, “Gross output in the growing sector is (sum i = 1 to N of x_i^alpha)L1^(1-alpha)…” because economists love mathmatical formulas. Individual future performance can be predicted by past performance to some degree, but mass behavior is a different crittur, as the 2016 election demonstrated.

Economists get around this problem by making their math formulas so complex that solution of them is possible only by economists, who don’t actually solve them. They just present the desired result as being the solution of the formula.

As evidence of that, the guy goes on to say, “I am willing to bet you could whip up a model (a.k.a. math formula) where trade causes high productivity growth within 15 minutes.”

Of course he can. “Whipping up” a formula to prove a foregone conclusion is much like conducting a trial process specifically to prove that a particular drug works and is safe. That’s how we get drugs on the market that kill people.

And this writer illustrates why economists are astonished when debt levels increase to the point that the economy implodes, because their “whipped up” formulas proved that it could never happen.