Friday, July 31, 2009

a return to the 19th century?

From HuffPost:
Worker Compensation Grows by Lowest Amount On Record
(AP): Employment compensation for U.S. workers has grown over the past 12 months by the lowest amount on record, reflecting the severe recession that has gripped the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that employment costs rose by 1.8 percent for the 12 months ending in June, the smallest annual gain on records that go back to 1982.
Meanwhile...
Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts
By LOUISE STORY and ERIC DASH, NYT
Published: July 30, 2009
Thousands of top traders and bankers on Wall Street were awarded huge bonuses and pay packages last year, even as their employers were battered by the financial crisis.
Most European countries were rocked by popular uprisings during the mid-19th century - mostly folks disgusted with the growing inequality 'tween rich & poor that followed the Industrial Revolution. Marx (with Engels) wrote Das Kapital.
The modern labor movement was born.

Do today's plutocrats really believe that such a popular uprising is impossible in 21st century America?
I don't.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

my email to Sen. Bingaman

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is a member of the Senate Finance committee, chaired - as we all now know - by Sen. Max Baucus (D?-MT).

Here's the email (largely cribbed from PrivateBuffoon):
Senator Bingaman:
The U.S. is the only developed country that does not provide some form of government-subsidized universal health insurance.
We pay more per capita and more as a percent of GDP for health care than any other developed country, but on almost all measures of health outcome (life-expectancy, infant mortality, etc.) we are in the bottom half or lower.
(See, e.g., U.S. Health Care Spending:
Comparison with Other OECD Countries
CRS Report for Congress
September 17, 2007
[http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RL34175_20070917.pdf])

If the Democrats in the Senate - you included - cannot provide a bill that includes a robust public option, what good are you???

I realize that you do not come up for re-election until 2012, but I'll be watching your rhetoric - and your votes - on this issue very carefully, and could well be a 'single issue' voter in 2012!!!

Please - don't be afraid of the 'socialism' epithet!
Socialism is good!
Who's to blame?... for
child-labor laws?
the Pure Food & Drug Act?
the 40-hr, 5-day work-week?
women's suffrage?
the Civil Rights Movement?
Pinko, commie, muckraking liberals, socialists and progressives! - that's who... including socialist, God-hating labor unions!!!

Pure, unbridled capitalism brought us:
- 8-year-olds losing fingers, hands, & arms in industrial looms
- the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
- 80-hour work-weeks
- the Great Depression... and - oh, yeah! - the current economic meltdown!!!

Me? I'm rather in favor of the government protecting me from pure capitalist greed!

Sincerely,
Some blogger recently noted that the Republicans & Blue Dogs fear no consequences if meaningful health-care/-insurance reform fails. My one vote doesn't matter, but if more folks let their Senators know that position on health-care/-insurance reform is dominant "single-issue", maybe the Senate Dems would get the message.

p.s. note: the threat of "single-issue" vote in 2010/2/4 need not be sincere. ["Always be sincere whether you mean it or not."]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Musings on a subject about which I know nothing

"The T-34-85 in early 1944 gave the Red Army a tank with better armour and mobility than German Pzkw IV and Sturmgesch├╝tz III, but it could not match the Panther in gun or armour protection. To the Soviet advantage there were far fewer Panthers than T-34s, and the T-34-85 was good enough to allow skilled crew and tactical situations to tip the balance."
[Wikipedia entry, T-34; emphasis added]

"At long range, the Sherman was badly outmatched by the Panther's 75 mm gun, which could easily penetrate the Sherman's armor. This contributed to the high losses of Sherman tanks experienced by the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO)."
[Wikpedia entry, M4 Sherman]

German Panther & Tiger tanks were technically superior to either the Soviet T-34s or America's M4 Sherman: better armored, better armed.
The Allies - with their inferior tanks - won the war.

Both Shermans & T-34s were designed for manufacturability, and both were produced in huge numbers.
The German super-tanks, by contrast, were not easy to produce, and were simply numerically overwhelmed on the battlefields of Western & Eastern Europe.
... In addition, both Soviet and Western tank commanders and crews developed tactics to maximize the effectiveness of their tanks against the superior German machines.

Moving on.
I just watched a Military Channel program, "Planes of the Red Star" focusing on the MiG-21.
Paraphrased/remembered (hence, likely not accurate) commentary from the program:
Originally designed for daytime air-to-air combat, the airframe proved so reliable that it was soon adapted to ground support, light bombing, and night-fighting missions.
...
Soviet military doctrine required that the MiG-21 be reliable, easy to produce, and require little maintenance...
... the engines were not designed for long life, and were simply swapped out on a routine basis, the old engines being sent to the rear for refurbishing and rebuilding.
Wikipedia [Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21] reveals that:
"The fighter has the distinction of holding a number of modern aviation records; it is the most produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history, the most produced combat aircraft since the Korean War, and it had the longest production run of a combat aircraft (1959 to 1985 over all variants)."
So... why am I going off on this tangent???

I suggest that the Pentagon's focus on the latest/greatest high-tech weapons systems is foolhardy.
Producing reliable, highly-manufacturable, versatile machines - on the cheap - is a better doctrine.
The Third Reich had the best tanks of WWII.
- Germany lost tank battles to inferior, but plentiful, T-34s and Shermans.
We had the fanciest jet fighters in Vietnam.
- the MiG-21 was a formidable opponent.
Germany lost WWII.
We were chased from Vietnam.

My bet is that there are Military Specifications requiring field equipment to withstand radiation from a multi-megaton atomic blast within 10 miles.
My question: who's going to be operating that equipment after the blast?

Quite a few years ago I read somewhere - no, I don't recall where, or even the context - that 'insurgents' were winning against state-sponsored armies using RPGs & 50-cal machine guns mounted on the backs on light pickup trucks - overwhelming the enemy with numbers.

A recent New Yorker article (again, sorry - I don't recall the title or the date... within past few months) - noted that in publicly sponsored war-games, a Stanford researcher won hands down by deploying LOTS of small vessels - overwhelming the more traditional fleets deployed by the rest of the players.
He was accused of 'gaming' the rules... BUT THAT WAS THE OBJECT!!!
... and after a couple of years of dominance, he voluntarily withdrew from competition.

Why can't we learn from these examples???
Why are war-games rigged to support traditional thinking???

"Best" isn't needed.
"Good enough" will do... and "good enough" is a LOT cheaper!!!

aside: my vote for best bang-for-buck weapons system in U.S. arsenal: the venerable B-52 bomber, vintage 1955... sub-sonic, non-stealth.
It's still flying in active combat.

p.s. okay - my memory is improving... slightly. A focus of the New Yorker article was the coach of a girls' middle-school basketball team who'd been roped into the job somehow. Realizing that his daughter - on the team - and her team-mates weren't exceptional athletes, he coached the team to use a full-court press ALL THE TIME. Challenge the inbounds. Swarm the ball. Don't let the other team get past half-court. It worked. His team of none-too-talented girls made it to the national championships. He was accused of cheating... somehow using a full-court press ALL THE TIME was considered impolite.

Again: why can't our military-doctrine folks learn from these examples? [It's not like they're winning our current wars!]

p.p.s. Returning to one of my favorite subjects.
Even granting that our anti-ballistic-missile system can work (which I don't believe, but I'm willing to grant the premise): so what? Does it protect us?
NO!
Crude cruise missiles (think "V-1 flying bomb") with nukes launched from freighters off our coasts can defeat the system, destroying LA, San Francisco, Portland OR, Seattle, Boston, NYC, Washington DC, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Houston... heck, with the St. Lawrence Seaway, even Chicago is vulnerable to a "V1 on freighter" attack!
The Maginot Line worked like a charm. The Germans did not penetrate it.
THEY WENT AROUND!

p.p.p.s. I found the New Yorker article!
How David Beats Goliath

p.p.p.p.s. One more note on Soviet MiG fighters.
"In 1976 Viktor BelenkoViktor Belenko, a Soviet MiG-25 pilot, defected to Japan. Subsequent analysis revealed a simple-yet-functional design with vacuum-tube electronics, two massive turbojet engines, and sparing use of advanced materials such as titanium."
[Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25; emphasis added]
Vacuum tube electronics... in 1976!!!
Please note the description: "simple-yet-functional design".
Recall: the Soviet Union did NOT lose to the West militarily!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The day Pat Buchanan saved my soul

17 August 1992.

At the time I was gainfully employed as a statistician with a large industrial firm.
Considering my education (Ivy League), my 'class' (upper-middle), my employment (geeky), and my employer (big industry), I was toying with the idea of voting for George H.W. Bush for a second term - perhaps, after all, the Republicans really did represent my interests better than the Dems... and I was none too sure about Clinton.

Then Uncle Pat delivered his speech at the Repubican National Convention in Houston.
I watched.

Immediately I recalled why I'd never voted for a Republican.

Thanks, Uncle Pat!
I've never wavered since.

Curmudgeons' night out

Thursday, 30 July, 7 p.m.
Ned's on the Rio Grande.
1100 Rio Grande Blvd NW
Albuquerque, NM

Join us!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Family Feud

Iran president defies supreme leader over deputy
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI and LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writers
22 Jul 2009
TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed rare defiance of his strongest backer, Iran's supreme leader, by insisting on his choice for vice president Wednesday despite vehement opposition from hard-liners that has opened a deep rift in the conservative leadership.

Where's Richard Dawson when we need him?

If I were betting, I'd bet on the hard-liners to eventually clearly, decisively, and forcefully exert their control. This isn't based on any deep understanding of Iranian politics, but only on the simple observation that "supreme leaders" really don't like to share power with anyone - no matter what the country's constitution might say.

Will they succeed? - If I knew the answer to that I'd be better off putting my ability to see the future to better use... 'better' from a purely personal, selfish perspective: cornering the next Big Deal in the market.

My preference would be for the regime to fall, as the Shah fell to them. Part of this preference derives from a desire for 'poetic justice', part from my antipathy towards theocracies, and part from my naive faith in real democracy.

What I really DON'T want to happen: the U.S. to undertake any military action against Iran - no matter how 'limited'!

[aside: Long ago, while teaching at UT El Paso, I had an Iranian student in my computer science class. This was during the Iranian Revolution, 1979-80. I asked him if everyday life back home seemed 'normal' despite the political upheaval. He smiled. "Normal? NO!"]

Calling all cars!

Friend Woody has suggested that it's about time for another curmudgeon/blogger social event.

If you're interested, let me know in comments!

... for what it's worth [update/edit]


Since 1979 (previous post's starting point), 95th %-ile of household income has increased by 78% (thru 2006).

During the same time, GDP increased by 225%.

Who's getting the $$$???
- the upper 1%!!!

update/edit: why 1979 as base year? My suspicion is that this year was chosen to illustrate St. Reagan's legacy.
Yeah, a rising tide lifts all boats... but the really fancy boats seem to be raised a whole lot more than the dinghies!
Though I'm not an economist, I suspect that Reagan's tax-cuts & 'trickle-down' economic theory can legitimately be cited as the cause of the widening gap 'tween rich folks & the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can we talk about wealth redistribution & socialism NOW?

Executives receive one-third of all pay in the U.S.
... Between 1979 and 2006, the inflation-adjusted after-tax income of the richest 1 percent of households increased by 256 percent, compared to 21 percent for families in the middle income quintile.

Please! - Let's talk about wealth redistribution & socialism!!!

It's a miracle!

U.S. Senate votes to stop production of F-22 jet

Now - can we start dismantling the ill-conceived so-called 'missile defense' program?... and the other very expensive, less-than-effective high-tech weapons programs?...
... and maybe invest defense $$$ in our troops? - the guys fighting - and losing to - under-funded 3rd-world insurgents.

The objective of war is to secure a more-or-less lasting peace.
Winning the peace requires controlling territory and populations.
So-called 'surgical' strikes by high-tech drones might take out bad guys, but they don't control territory or populations.
Boots on the ground just might.

[just for grins: conservative cost estimate of single F-22 = $150Mn. At $50K/troop, this is equivalent to 3000 boots-on-the-ground. The $150Mn does NOT include program cost, just 'sticker price'... excluding maintenance or 'cost of ownership'. The article cited above notes that the F-22 requires 30 hours of maintenance for each hour of flight-time. Me? I'd much rather have the 3000 boots-on-the-ground!]

No comment needed

Teen pregnancy and syphilis up sharply during Bush years

How come?

It's July - the middle of baseball season.
We get some half-dozen sports channels, including the MLB Network.

So how come there's never a LIVE baseball game on?
MLBN devotes its airtime to 'greatest games' of the past.
ESPN? - LOTS of 'World Series'... of poker! +lacrosse +soccer +NASCAR +NFL (??? - it's not even pre-season!)... and, recently, NBA 'greatest games'!... and LOTS of talking heads pontificating knowingly about... well - I can't tell you: I don't watch 'em.

Why no LIVE major-league baseball???

What I get is Fox's Saturday baseball telecast.
Seems to me this is less televised live baseball than I had as a kid, growing up with three (3) broadcast networks.

What's this country coming to???

Monday, July 20, 2009

'twixt Scylla & Charybdis

Pity the poor Republicans!

On the one hand, they are ideologically opposed to any 'public funding' of abortion:
"If you think of it in human terms, there is a financial incentive that would be put in place, paid for by tax dollars, that would encourage…single parents, living below the poverty level, to have the opportunity for a free abortion. If you take that scenario and apply it to many of the great minds we have today, who would we have been deprived of? Our President grew up in those similar circumstances. If that financial incentive was in place, is it possible that his mother might have taken advantage of it? Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice, if those circumstances were in place, is it possible that we’d have been denied his great mind?"
[Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), as reported by Think Progress]
[Hmmm... Barack Obama & Clarence Thomas - I wonder how he settled on those two examples???]

On the other hand, they're really afraid of the White Race losing its dominant position in America:
MADDOW: Why do you think is that of the 110 Supreme Court justices we've had in this country, 108 of them have been white?

BUCHANAN: Well, I think white men were 100 percent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 percent of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 percent of people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy.

This has been a country built basically by white folks in this country who are 90 percent of the entire nation-in 1960, when I was growing up, Rachel-and the other 10 percent were African-American who had been discriminated against. That's why.

[The Rachel Maddow Show, Thurs, 17 Jul 2009]
... Um... Pat... can you think of any reasons African-Americans might not have participated in the country's founding?... something about "three fifths of all other Persons" comes to mind - or did you miss that day in 8th-grade Civics?
... and - for what it's worth - blacks in uniform DID die at Gettysburg & Vicksburg... and Normandy!
[My bet is Uncle Pat isn't all that crazy about the 15th, 19th or 24th Amendments!... and the Golden Age - 1960 - to which Uncle Pat refers was before the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 prohibited so-called "literacy tests" and the 24th Amendment prohibited poll taxes!]
(... finally: does Uncle Pat really believe that W got into Yale and Harvard Biz School based on his SAT and GMAT scores? What promising, qualified white students were denied the Ivy League for W's "legacy" admissions???)

Then we have Brian Kilmeade on Fox and Friends explaining why a Scandinavian medical study is irrelevant to the U.S.:
KILMEADE: We keep marrying other species and other ethnics--
...
The problem is the Swedes have pure genes. They marry other Swedes, that's the rule. Finns marry other Finns; they have a pure society. In America we marry everybody. We will marry Italians and Irish.
Other species??? Ah, yes - the mongrel race we are becoming as a result of miscegenation!

You'd think these folks would be simply delighted to federally fund abortions to help control the super-libidinous fecundity of the colored races! - ESPECIALLY abortions for poor colored folks!!!

What's a good Republican to do???

... as if we needed another example

Health reform foes plan Obama's 'Waterloo'
... "I can almost guarantee you this thing won't pass before August, and if we can hold it back until we go home for a month's break in August," members of Congress will hear from "outraged" constituents, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said on the call, which was organized by the group Conservatives for Patients Rights.
...
"If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him," he said.

[reported by Politico.com, 17 July 2009; emphasis added]

All politics, all the time.

Senator DeMint seems to have forgotten that "We the people of the United States" ordained and established the Constitution to
promote the general welfare.
But who can blame him.

Recall St. Reagan:
"Government is not the solution, it's the problem."
[Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981]
... and 8 years of Republican mis-governance led poor Gov. Jindal to conflate W's incompetent governance with Government in his response to Obama's first State of the Union.

For Republicans it's always all politics, all the time.
Forget that the U.S. pays more for health care than any other developed country, but ranks in the bottom half with respect to health care results. [see U.S. Health Care Spending:
Comparison with Other OECD Countries
, CRS Report for Congress, Sep 2007]

No - that doesn't matter.

Forget that medical bills are bankrupting folks WITH health insurance.
[Insured ... and broke
Andrea Orr, Economic Policy Institute, 14 July 2009]

No - that doesn't matter.

All that matters is making Obama look bad.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What a surprise!

Iraq government faces claims of prisoner abuse

Gee - I wonder who taught 'em to abuse prisoners?

There go the ratings!

Tiger Woods misses the cut at British Open

"... and that's the way it was..."

Walter Cronkite, 1916-2009.

Taking over the CBS News anchor desk in 1962 was close to perfect timing. What did he get to tell us about?
- Kennedy assassination
- Civil Rights movement
- moon landing
- Vietnam - both the war & the anti-war movement
- King & RFK assassinations
- Watergate
- the Beatles

... and it was a good time to be in broadcast journalism technologically: the advent of satellite communications, with the microchip just around the corner.

Tho' my memory ain't that great, I don't recall Cronkite - or Huntley/Brinkley, or Reasoner - being either fawning or combative towards the regime. Since I never watch network news today, all I've got for comparison is KO's & BO's shrillness - tho' neither of them really pretends to be a 'journalist'.

For what it's worth, the myth of journalistic objectivity is just that - a myth. For most of the free press's history it has been dominated by parties. Perhaps the mid/late 20th century will stand out to future historians of journalism as an aberration, during which 'news' was supposed by all to be 'objective'.
Simply in choosing which stories to report, which to put on page 1 - or to put at the top of the broadcast - journalists, editors, & producers exercise arbitrary, subjective judgement.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cronkite.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

the conservative mind at work

Buchanan: Well, first, with regard to Levi, I think First Dude up there in Alaska, Todd Palin, ought to take Levi down to the creek and hold his head underwater until the thrashing stops.
[from Think Progress]
Good Catholic, anti-abortion guy Buchanan is more than happy to suggest killing someone for saying bad things about Palin.

Why is this always the conservative's response to challenge?
- "Just kill 'em!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Will this be enough?

... On the subject of oversight, the report particularly criticizes John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general who wrote legal memos defending the policy.
...
The report questioned the legal advice used by Bush to set up the program, pinpointing omissions and questionable legal memos written by Yoo, in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. The Justice Department withdrew the memos years ago.

The report says Yoo's analysis approving the program ignored a law designed to restrict the government's authority to conduct electronic surveillance during wartime, and did so without fully notifying Congress. And it said flaws in Yoo's memos later presented "a serious impediment" to recertifying the program.

[Report: Too few officials knew of surveillance; emphasis added]

Will this be enough for UC Berkeley to finally reconsider Yoo's law school tenure???

There's a name for this

Report: Too few officials knew of surveillance

There's a name for a government that asserts the unlimited right to spy on its citizens, in secret:
Police State!
W: the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just for fun

Loyal reader writes:
Hey, man, you don't talk to the Buffoon. You listen to him. You read him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he'll, uh, well, you'll say hello to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you, and he won't even notice you. And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say do you know that if is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you . . . I mean I'm no, I can't . . . I'm a little man, I'm a little man, he's, he's a great man. I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas...
Attentive readers will recognize this as Dennis Hopper's rambling tribute to Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in Apocalpyse Now... with "the Buffoon" replacing "the Colonel".

In fact, I like the idea of "the Buffoon" as "Kurtz"! -
Now: how do I realize that persona via the blog???

eBay currency index

The dollar seems to be rebounding.
eBay item previously listed at around $825 is now at $804.36.
(The price in GBP has been constant: 499.99... once upon a time this was less than $700!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lazy man's post (health care)

Finally - healthcare is bubbling up in the news.
Here are a couple of my past contributions:
Public Service Announcement: U.S. Health Care system
Highlight:
Based on OECD ("Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development") statistics, the report reveals that the U.S. spends more per capita ($6102) than any other of the 30 member countries; more on health care as percentage of GDP (15.3%) than any other of the 30 member countries...
YET: ranks near the bottom on several "outcome" measures, including life-expectancy (22nd of 30), and infant-mortality (28th of 30).

Alone... why???
Highlight:
We are the only developed country in the world without universal health coverage.
Why???
... and, NO: I don't want to read any headlines along the lines of "White House caves on public option"!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pointless

My wife and I have a dog & 5 cats.
While the kids were growing up we always had cats, frequent gerbils, lizards, a boa constrictor, a garter snake, and a few dogs.
We like animals.

Many years ago Time Magazine had a cover, Can Animals Think? [22 Mar 1993]
My thought then and now:
This question was asked by someone who maybe has read about animals in books... but never actually seen one!
Yes! Animals can think.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy July 4th (a bit late!)

Your homework: re-read the Declaration of Independence.

Given the recent hysteria regarding immigration, my favorite complaint against George III is:
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Darn!... + again, my inattentiveness proves positive

Palin resigns as Alaska's governor.
Darn! - I'd hoped to have Sarah to kick around in 2012!

... then again, my inattentiveness seems to be reaping rewards.
Back when I posted daily, and read & listened to the news, it was all simply depressing.
Since I've been neglecting events, good things seem to be happening.

... and I - with many other commentators - am waiting for the other shoe to drop. WHY did Palin resign???

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

just for fun... and bragging

70, Girls, 70 had a successful (sold-out) opening weekend...
... including a pretty decent review [login required], from which I quote:
"Russ Sype's rubbery, eye-rolling Harry recalls his years of lame on-stage joke-telling."
I've never before been described as "rubbery"... a description completely at odds with the stiffness I feel at the end of each performance.

Nevertheless, I'll take it as a compliment.

I'll also take as a compliment the remarks of 5 different people from 2 different performances:
"Has anyone ever told you how much you look like Harvey Korman?"
Well... NO!
In fact, I do NOT look like Harvey Korman... but my on-stage persona, Harry, apparently does.
I'll credit my amazing acting ability...
(Though 'Harvey Korman' was not what I'd envisioned, I'm more than happy to learn that that's how "Harry" turned out!)