Friday, November 30, 2012

Does the universe have a purpose?

Okay the first minute is the most important. The last minute or so just conjectures about the irrationality of any purpose. Hey, if there is a Supreme Being who are we to know why It waited 14 billion years to make humans?

No, the real issue is that IF there is a purpose then how the hell can any one human know better than any other human what that purpose is? There is no empiric evidence of a purpose. If a purpose exists humans obviously don't  know it.... by definition.

Okay, the Holy Spirit can imbue us with the *feeling* of a purpose. Yes, that can be. We have a word for this: Emotion.  I have no doubt that some humans have a feeling that the universe has a purpose just like some humans might feel that the Cubs are a good baseball team.

It happens, but it's not based on anything observable in reality.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dollar

Now here's something you'll never see on Fox Business channel, or any business channel for that matter.

GDP and job growth in the 2000's was due exclusively to dollar devaluation.

During the election season all we heard about was jobs, jobs, jobs. Why aren't there any jobs?

The real question rather is why was there any job growth at all from 2001 to 2008? The answer is clearly because the dollar was devalued 41% over the decade.

It's not magic: unless you have some innovation like the internet in the 1990's to increase your GDP you get no economic growth and no growth in jobs. The only way out is to devalue the dollar so the jobs that are created are paid with relatively worthless currency.  The upshot is that not only the new workers, but ALL workers are paid with the devalued dollar.

Only when the world was ending in 2008 was the free fall in dollar value halted. Now we are Japan: with a rising cohort of dependent pensioners and a currency that cannot be devalued any further. Okay, we aren't as bad off as Europe, but relative to the last two decades we have a lot more drag on the economy.

The 1990's saw GDP growth due to the internet boom, so the US dollar was spared.

Modest Proposal:

We need a new growth industry.  One of the few things the US does with any competitive advantage is provide military firepower. I suggest we monetize this by contracting our services to global bidders for a price. Why provide it for free?  There was a time when global security was the loss leader: we made the world safe so that our industries could sell to the world markets, but that advantage is dwindling. Now we are making the world safe so that our competitors can compete with us and out-sell us.

Security is expensive. Why is the US bearing the burden for free? If our UN and NATO partners don't want to pony up then maybe we should accept bids from other potential customers.

Just sayin'.

Where did the debt come from?

My comments:

1. Assuming that McCain had been elected in 2008, the stimulus which accounts for 6% of the current deficit might have been lower than the $800B, but it still would have substantial given the Great Recession, so that  amount would still be in the 4% range conservatively.

2. The needed increased spending on entitlements was completely foreseeable in 2001, and ignored. Reforming entitlements today is merely stealing defined benefits from future retirees because of poor fiscal management over the past decade. Paul Ryan is the worst in this regard, doing nothing for 10 years and then lopping off Medicare.

3. Bush was a Grade A moron, no question, and Dick Cheney's "deficits don't matter" mantra was criminal crony capitalism, taking our Treasury and transferring it to his buddies in the defense and oil industries.  But the Democrats share most of my wrath because they are after all the authors and de facto guardians of our social safety nets. Most Democrats went along with war funding year after year as well as Medicare Part D and many signed onto the Bush tax cuts.  The Democrats need to be more vigilant of the robber barons who inhabit the Republican party; they cannot enable the grifters and then cry foul when the system breaks down.

Monday, November 19, 2012

George Will to GOP: "Quit despising the American People"

Money quote:

"...quit despising the American people, particularly because a lot of what they're despising them for are Republican policies. When Mitt Romney said, "So many Americans aren't paying taxes," yeah, because the Republicans doubled the child tax credit for conservative reasons, yes, because they expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, as Ronald Reagan did, because they thought it was an effective anti-poverty program."

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Quote of the Day:

"I've never lost a game. I just ran out of time."
-Michael Jordan

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The toughest job in DC: Speaker of the House

I don't envy John Boehner. 

True story: last year we were staying at Disney World's Grand Floridian and my buddy (whose son was the reason for the trip) and I were at the only smoking bar at the resort. I was having my usual Beefeater on the rocks and contemplating a fat maduro-wrapped selection when in comes an entourage of tall men in black suits and the Speaker looking all orange-tan as he lit up his cigarette.

"You guys secret service?" I asked one young gentleman in a black suit.

"Umm, yeah," he grunted.

I add, "Man, the president is a lot darker than he looks on TV."

A couple of them look at me, give the crook eye, and the only African-American one laughs.

I fire up my stogie and lean back to blow some smoke rings.

But Boehner seems like a decent guy in person. He was gracious to the vacationers who came up to shake his hand and get pictures taken. He comes from a working class background and probably has a better understanding of the nation's plight than most people in Washington.

The New York Times has a story about how the Speaker has called on the House to get into line and work with the president on pressing issues such as the fiscal cliff. Elections have consequences and the Democrats won; holding the nation hostage does nobody any good. This is what Boehner has to deal with:

"What we've seen in the past is the speaker goes, negotiates with the president, and just before we vote, he tells us what the deal is and attempts to persuade us to vote for it," said Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana. "We're just not very happy with deals being baked, then we're asked to stay with the team and support the speaker."

Mr Fleming is "not happy." Please get over yourself. Were any of us happy when the previous administration bankrupted the nation with wars and Medicare Part D and unpaid-for tax cuts? Were any of us happy with TARP bailout deals that were made in smoke-filled rooms? Were we happy when the GOP balked at raising the debt ceiling, spooking the capital markets and lowering the US credit rating?

The nation didn't buy the Republican bull shit that Obama caused the recession. We know what caused the recession and it's about time Mr Fleming figures it out too. Trickle down tax voo-doo doesn't create jobs just like birth control doesn't cause abortion and playing chicken with the fiscal issues due in 5 weeks is not going to be tolerated.

Most of the media seem to feel very comfortable telling Mr Obama how he should run his second term. That's crap. I'm going to do something different: I'm going to put this on Boehner. It's his turn to step up and do the right thing.

Mr Boehner is charged with herding these imbeciles into some coherent type of voting block. He knows that if he fucks up he will be held accountable. The president has made the initial gambit by asking the GOP to sign off on maintaining middle class tax cuts a priori, something everyone agrees on, but it seems even that is unacceptable to the wingnut branch of the Republican party. Why? I dunno, maybe because the President said it.  

Boehner will have to do what's right for the country, something he should have done years ago, and alienate the nutjobs in his own party. Fiscal cliff legislation can pass with a few House GOP votes and Boehner will have to split his caucus for the sake of legislating instead of his usual stonewalling. It was fun for a while, but now it's time to stop.

It's a tough job, Mr Speaker, man up and do it. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Avalanche on Bullsh*t Mountain

Watching Karl Rove do the "yabbita, yabbita, yabbita" is priceless.

It's not that I dislike conservatism, it's the opposite really: FOX news is setting back conservatism by a generation with this insanity. It's like what Jack Kevorkian did to the notion of euthanasia, stripping it of dignity and the moral high ground by driving around in a Chevy van with IV poles. 

Fox is doing the same thing to conservatism. This election was over months ago and Fox has acted like the family members on Family Feud when Gramps says the favorite meat in America is..."possum".

"GOOD Answer, Granpda!!!!"

"SURVEY SAYS: ...ummm, not possum." 

First of all, Obama has not been super-liberal as president, I mean his health care reform was practically written by the Heritage Foundation. Furthermore, there are conservative counterarguments to everything that has been broached by the left-wing, but nobody is making them. Instead we hear idiocy like "Obama's a Kenyan post-colonial socialist" and "Romney's gonna win in a landslide."

As long as Fox News stays on the air, disseminating its misinformation to a solid 43% of the electorate, we will never be able to get beyond this impasse.  At some point facts do matter.

"Lied to by the conservative entertainment complex"

David Frum is a smart Republican:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Back in October I remember conversing with someone after the first Romney-Obama debate and stating that the election was essentially over and had been over for several weeks. 

For the Republican party to survive-- and the country would do well to have two viable parties-- they are going to have to come to terms with reality. Hanging onto the white majority males won't work in national elections mainly because white males are no longer the majority in most jurisdictions.

Facts matter. I understand the discomfort we have for many of Obama's policies, such as health care reform (the one I'm most familiar with), but ignoring facts have ruined the Republican party.

Our economy starts to fracture when 50 million have no insurance, so why do Republicans have no plan? Medicare is the most significant source of non-discretionary federal spending, so why is the Republican plan to do nothing for 10 years? 

The great irony is that Gov. Mitt Romney had the chops to school Obama on health care reform if he really wanted to because Romney is one who signed the prototype for the Affordable Care Act. Instead he chose to appease the nutjob wing of his party and throw his signature piece of legislation in the trash.

Further, Romney chose as his running mate someone whose budget proposals are ludicrous. Paul Ryan's solution to Medicare is not even a serious attempt, it was just a cynical ploy to get the over-55 crowd to play along by making that the completely arbitrary cut-off for not getting voucherized. 

Chris Matthews has said that we need the Republican party, and I agree. Where are the Jack Kemps, the Nelson Rockefellers, the Gerry Fords to provide some counter debate? 

I've heard commentators say that this election shows the need for someone like Marco Rubio to energize the Latinos to vote Republican. Much has been made of George P. Bush, the Hispanic nephew of George W. Bush, voicing interest in political office.

I disagree with this gambit and feel that it's another cynical attempt to paper over the party's real deficiencies-- like when McCain thought Sarah Palin would garner the women vote in 2008. Demographic groups are not that superficial; I think that most individuals vote for what they feel is in the country's best interests, and not just because someone's name ends in a vowel.

Republican voters need to bring their party back to sanity or it will go away. There really are conservative arguments to be made, but they are not being made in the "conservative entertainment complex."

(h/t Eric)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The media is not liberal, they're liars

Maria Bartiromo is interviewing the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the world's largest labor unions. Maria is touting a couple of her favorite themes: class warfare and taxes.

1. The look on Maria's face tells it all as Ms Henry answers the question about class warfare. "No, really? Oh, wow", as if to say, "I can't believe someone would could not see class warfare."  Her disgust is obvious. Bartiromo's implication is in reference to the Occupy Wall Street crowd. My take: Yes there is class warfare in this country and the rich are only side waging it. Why else would we see bailouts for bankers and not homeowners? The average Wall Street salary is $362,950 per year while the average nurse makes $73,000

The wealthy have their media outlets carrying water for them, convincing the working class to disarm themselves in the class war. The result is that we see nothing wrong with CEO's making an unprecedented almost 400X the average worker's salary; we see no ill effects with the highest 1% accumulating 30% of the nation's wealth, the most since the gilded age. Maria wants the union president to apologize for negotiating fair wages and working conditions. Please. Nobody in this discussion is begrudging the wealthy and high income earners their fortune, but to beat up a union leader and imply she is waging class warfare is absurd and untrue.

Now we have a leveraged buy-out specialist within a hair's breadth of the presidency. 

2.  Ms Henry notes that "we all pay taxes" and Maria clarified that she meant "income taxes, and not everybody pays income taxes." Under Maria's definition Mitt Romney would be part of the "47% who don't pay taxes" since his taxes were capital gains on the carried interest loophole and not income taxes. 

Every employed worker has 12% of their compensation contributed to payroll taxes and since this money is put directly into the general revenue fund it is treated no differently than income tax. Bartiromo's argument would be valid if payroll taxes were sequestered as a true pension and health care fund, i.e., Al Gore's lockbox that was so damn funny back in 2000. There is no lockbox; our social security and Medicare was spent in Iraq and on TARP. Our pension goes to fund wars and roads and corporate welfare for Exxon just like all other revenue; therefore, Bartiromo is making a false differentiation between payroll tax and income tax. 

Bartiromo knows this and she is using this interview with a union boss to purposely deceive the viewers and spew her venom towards working people. Her disdain is unveiled. This shrill demeanor is not new for CNBC, the home of Rick Santelli's teaparty rants. 

Bill Griffiths sits and watches the trainwreck, wishing like hell he had not come out of retirement.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Show us some magic, Mr. Romney

Mitt Romney promises another vision for the federal government with a smaller role to be played in disasters like Hurricane Sandy, leaving more responsibility for states and the private sector. On an ideological level, I don't have a problem with that: why should taxpayers from Arizona fund hurricane relief in New Jersey?

Excellent! Currently, Mitt Romney is a private citizen, a wealthy businessman, an ex-governor, a high-profile executive with TV cameras following him around every minute at a time when millions are in need of disaster relief.  What an excellent opportunity for him to show us the magic of the private sector stepping into the breech in real time. 

What is Mitt Romney doing?

We see images of Mr. Romney loading trucks with canned goods and water bottles. We see Mr. Romney smiling, shaking hands with Ohioans at a "non-political" (yeah, right) event...just when millions are battling the elements a couple states away, thousands are in need of immediate relief, transportation, power, food, shelter. 

But the Red Cross doesn't want canned goods or water bottles, they are asking specifically for donations of money and blood products to supplement the logistical efforts of the government authorities. 

From the Red Cross website:

Unfortunately, due to logistical constraints the Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items. Items such as collected food, used clothing and shoes must be sorted, cleaned, repackaged and transported which impedes the valuable resources of money, time, and personnel.
The Red Cross does accept bulk quantities of product and services when these items meet our service delivery needs. These donations typically come from manufacturers, suppliers, and/or distributors that can package the items in bulk, palletize them and transport them directly to Red Cross sites. 
Mitt Romney seems to be doing the exact opposite of what is needed.

I'm not a political operative or a disaster relief professional but my guess is that Mitt Romney's day yesterday could not have been more misspent: either as a presidential candidate, as a resourceful executive or as just a concerned private citizen, his day was wasted. 

He's an executive. What the hell was he doing? Loading water bottles!? Why wasn't he on the phone calling his private sector connections and executive buddies to get some shit done?  You know, executive stuff: get some blood drives organized, some corporate donations pledged, some money moving to where it's needed. 

I would have been impressed if I had seen Romney 10 days ago at a desk calling plywood or sandbag suppliers to get some material "palletized"; or having Walmart and Costco pledge truckloads of food for shelters. That should have been the photo op: proactive administration. I know he didn't do that, because if he had done that I'd have those images scorched into my LCD TV screen by now. 
In his defense, Mitt did make an undisclosed personal donation of money to the Red Cross. As a private citizen, he can continue to do this...and maybe even more easily if he continues to be a private citizen.
Sure, Obama is going to be all presidential, cavorting with the governors, "assessing damage", cheer-leading the FEMA folks...that's the nanny state model that the Romneys of the world so loathe.   "[Mr Obama]  has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit,"  Gov. Christie (R-NJ) said.  

But Big Government™ is so damn useless, so let's see how the other model would work.

There are two competing views of the role of the federal government. In the extreme, the left will argue for an overriding nanny state with cradle to grave benefits and a mitigation of every threat with such things as disaster relief. The right sees a world with little government intervention and they claim that disasters like hurricanes should be managed by states accompanied by largess from the private sector.

Romney's model has merit. He wants to be a technocratic executive who "gets things done" by marshaling the forces of the private sector. This week we are in the vortex of a presidential campaign, an incredible natural disaster, and all the concomitant media coverage that goes along with these events, and Romney, the guy who wants to change the way we think about these things, had an opportunity to demonstrate how this would work. 

I'm not convinced. I don't believe in magic.

 "Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items."