Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What? WHO???

Today's NYT features an op-ed by... PAUL WOLFOWITZ... about IRAQ!
(In Korea, a Model for Iraq)

Personally I can think of NO ONE less qualified, with less credibility to opine about Iraq than Wolfowitz.
I didn't read the op-ed. (... but you can: link above!)

With Yom Kippur fast approaching (17-18 Sep), I'd suggest to Mr. Wolfowitz that he might better spend his limited intellectual capacity figuring out just how to atone for his many sins.
Maybe he'd consider serving (volunteering!) as an administrator with a humanitarian NGO in Baghdad -seems appropriate!
He's got administrative experience.

Continuing a long tradition...

Oops! - I missed the President's speech.
What'd he say?

Monday, August 30, 2010

... if only for the photos!

All: please visit my friend OneFly:
It's What's Called Tough Shit
... if only for his gorgeous photos!

BUT: he's also one of the few folks whose opinions I happen to value!

Hey, GOP! Wanna save some $$$???

AP Impact: U.S. wasted billions in rebuilding Iraq
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer
– Mon Aug 30, 12:01 am ET
KHAN BANI SAAD, Iraq – A $40 million prison sits in the desert north of Baghdad, empty. A $165 million children's hospital goes unused in the south. A $100 million waste water treatment system in Fallujah has cost three times more than projected, yet sewage still runs through the streets.
How 'bout we STOP pouring money into Iraq? ... NOW!!!

Recall:
"There is a lot of money to pay for this. It does not have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction."
[Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, testifying before the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, 3/27/03]
Recall: Iraq has lots of OIL! (... some cynics would say this is why we launched the war... I'm not one of 'em).

Yeah - I understand: China now has dibs on Iraqi oil.
Let 'em have it!
Let CHINA deal with with mess that is now Iraq.
If we end up buying oil from 'em? - Well, it'll be a whole lot cheaper than our continuing military presence, so-called "reconstruction", and all other entanglements.

Here's a chance for the GOP to step up and SAVE US SOME $$$.

Local news (related to national news)

From ABQ Journal, Sunday, 29 Aug:
Foreclosures Surge
By Richard Metcalf
Journal Staff Writer
29 Aug 2010
More and more homeowners in Albuquerque were falling behind on their mortgage payments in the first half of the year, pushing the metro area dramatically higher in RealtyTrac's rankings of distressed housing markets in the country.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company reports 4,574 households in the metro received some kind of foreclosure-related notice between January and June, almost as many as the 4,970 households receiving one during all of 2009. In all of 2008, only 2,688 households received a notice.

...

"We were slow going into this recession," said Janice McCrary, executive vice president of the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors. "This (increase in foreclosure activity) is the lag playing out in our real estate market."

New Mexico's economy is believed to have gone into recession in the fourth quarter of 2008, almost a year after the national economy did. The recession has led to massive job losses, which experts point to as the foremost cause of foreclosures.

In the Albuquerque metro area, the unemployment rate doubled from 4.6 percent at the start of the fourth quarter in 2008 to a high of 9.2 percent at the end of the first quarter of this year. The increase translated into 22,200 local residents losing their jobs.
Fun times ahead!

To see what's going on in your neighborhood, visit RealtyTracs.

... just another letter

Dear Mr. President:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
[attributed to Edmund Burke - the thinking man's conservative; best guess is that it's a misattribution]
Why are you collaborating with evil?
Why do you do nothing to oppose evil?

Your spokesman, David Axelrod, has characterized the “loyal opposition’s” talking points as “kerfuffles”.
No – they are NOT!
The so-called “loyal opposition” is intent on undermining your legitimacy.

You are silent.
Why?

Sincerely,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A letter to our President

Dear Mr. President:

“Change we can believe in”???
Okay – it’s time for YOU to CHANGE!!!

The so-called “loyal opposition” is fixing to take over Congress. Good luck with that!

It’s well past time for you to assert yourself, as President!
Pick three (3) initiatives. I really don’t care what they are, but I’ve got some suggestions:
1. Economic Stimulus: spend GOVERNMENT $$$ to rebuild America! (note: 10-year Treasury Notes are now going for close to 2.5% interest – this is the cheapest $$$ the Government has had in 30 years!)

2. Get out of Afghanistan. This isn’t your war. It’s not our war. Your distinguished predecessor blew it! – Don’t take the blame for his incompetence!

3. DEMEAN the so-called “loyal opposition”. Make it perfectly clear that – although you intend to govern ALL OF US – the so-called “loyal opposition” is interested only in appeasing Big Business. YES: use the word “appeasement”… frequently and often. The GOP is beholden to their CORPORATE MASTERS. Make this explicit to your fellow citizens!
… one more thing:
I’m inclined to agree with Boehner: FIRE GEITHNER!
Based on a two-semester “Economics 101” class thirty-five years ago (which I took PASS/FAIL … I passed), I know more about economics than he does! Yeah – he rescued the financial sector – Wall Street – but he’s done NOTHING to rescue the rest of us!

Do you want a second term?
Right now it sure doesn’t look that way!

Sincerely,

Prob'ly NOT Edmund Burke...

... but it's still a great quotation!
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
[attributed to Edmund Burke - the thinking man's conservative; best guess is that it's a misattribution]
So what if Burke didn't say it?
The sentiment is exactly right!

If the rest of us are too cynical to reply to the Beck/Palin/Gingrich crowd, THEY WIN!

Yeah - your lonely little letter probably isn't going to change the course of world events... BUT! - if you don't write the letter you're allowing evil to triumph without a fight!!!

WRITE A LETTER! Now. Today.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Other "Contact Info" is provided on right-hand side-bar.
Write a letter TODAY!

LLWS: Japan 4, Hawaii 1

Only 6?

From friend Woody over at Well-Armed Lamb:
I Am Objectively Pro-Miscuity
So... my question: Only SIX reasons to have casual sex???

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Go figure! (... just an observation)

As I've stated many times: what I know about economics can be printed in big block letters on a postage stamp.
I've taken exactly ONE formal economics class: "Economics 101"... more than 35 years ago... and I took it PASS/FAIL! (I passed)

... So... why do my posts on economics generate the most comments???

Beats the hell out of me!

That awful deficit!

[source: finance.yahoo.com]

Okay - there are two, maybe three, messages in this graph.

Message 1: The U.S. government is TODAY borrowing money at record-low interest rates!
So - when would YOU like to borrow $$$ - when interest rates are high or when interest rates are low?
[snide aside: during St. Reagan's glorious reign, we paid 9% on borrowed money!]

Message 2: The so-called "deficit hawks" deplore borrowing - it will surely diminish our national wealth!... Well, right now, folks are RUSHING to lend us $$$ - buying U.S. T-bills at record-low interest! ... folks are apparently quite confident of the solvency of the U.S. Government!

Message 3: The 10-year T-bill rate is set AT AUCTION! - this is not an arbitrarily set number, but the result of what may well be the single most unregulated FREE MARKET in the world!...
... YES! - the FREE MARKET - that beloved icon of our conservative friends - is telling us that we can BORROW to our heart's content! - folks are happy to lend us the money!!! - at under 3% interest!!!

When the so-called "deficit hawks" were BORROWING to pay for Iraq & Afghanistan (formally unfunded, 2001-2008), we BORROWED at 4%-5% interest.
Today?
We can BORROW at less than 3% interest!!!...
... hmmm... maybe we oughta BORROW to stimulate aggregate DEMAND! - you know, like... do what we can to lift the U.S. economy out of a demand-based RECESSION!

Help needed!

The next post (above) includes an Excel-generated graph.
The steps to getting this graph uploaded to blog are rather cumbersome:
Copy/paste graph into MS Word.
Print MS Word document.
Scan printed MS Word document as JPEG.
Crop/save resulting JPEG using a picture editor to get rid of extraneous margins.
Upload cropped JPEG into blogger.
Does anyone know a more direct way to get Excel graph saved as JPEG?

The cruciverbalist within

For whatever reason, I can never keep these three words straight:

Dada: a cultural movement that began in Z├╝rich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922.

Dado: a slot or trench cut into the surface of a piece of machinable material, usually wood.

Dido: according to ancient Greek and Roman sources, the founder and first Queen of Carthage (in modern-day Tunisia). She is best known from the account given by the Roman poet Virgil in his Aeneid.

LLWS update

Hawaii defeats Texas, 10-0 in 5-innings (10-run rule).
Texas pitching fell apart - lots of wild pitches, one of which allowed the closing run to score from 3rd in the bottom of the 5th inning.

Tomorrow:
Consolation Game
Chinese Tapei vs. Texas
11 a.m. ET

Championship Game
Japan vs. Hawaii
3 p.m. ET
Both games'll be broadcast on ABC.

For what it's worth: The ABC/ESPN collaboration features star commentators, Brent Musburger & Orel Hershiser... and they do a good job!

Little League World Series

Japan won the International Division, 3-2, in 7 innings, over Chinese Taipei.

The U.S. Division finals begin shortly: Hawaii vs Texas.

Note: I lucked out! - the first game I watched this year was a regional semi-final: Hawaii vs AZ. (snarky aside: Arizona lost... continuing the post-SB1070 thrashing of AZ's sports teams!)
... anyway: I've been following Hawaii ever since. I almost gave up on 'em a few days ago - down 4-0 in an elimination game. They came back to win.
Now they're in U.S. Division finals!

... I think I hear the game starting.
So long for now!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Marginal utility

Apologies: this will be a more-than-usual technical rant, involving the economic concept of "utility".

Let's first consider the 'median income' household. For the sake of simplicity, let's imagine that the median household earns $50K/year (the true income of a 'median household' is somewhat less than $50K).
Again simplifying, let's say this is $1K/week.
Give 'em a tax break of $1K.
That's 2% of their annual income - a full week's income!
What'll they do with it?
SPEND IT! - on the kids' shoes, on a new grill. This represents a real BONUS!
- and they'll almost certainly convert it into economy-boosting SPENDING!
$50K vs $51K - this is a LOT of $$$.
... could be the difference between kid going to UNM next semester or not.

Okay, now let's give that same 2% to upper 95th%-ile.
95th%-ile of households make roughly $200K.
2% = $4K.
So - what are they going to do with the extra $4,000?
- well, MAYBE they put a down-payment down on a Lexus. Maybe.
$200,000 vs $204,000... just not that much difference
- that extra 2% ain't worth all that much to 'em.

How 'bout households making $1M/year? 2% tax-relief = $20K.
What, EXACTLY, will they do with this extra $$$?
$20,000 on top of $1,000,000???
My bet - little or nothing! - they'll save it.
They've already bought everything they need or want.
UNM? They're already paying for kid to go to Harvard!
Shoes? You're kidding, right?
Lexus? They - both of 'em - drive Mercedes!
$20K for them is a drop in the bucket.
It - that extra $20K - has little "marginal utility".
Again: $1,000,000 vs $1,020,000 just doesn't mean all that much.
The extra $20K hardly matters.
This is the basic idea of "utility":
- Do you FEEL richer?
- Do you ACT richer?

That extra 2% for the $1M/year household just doesn't mean all that much...
It means far, far less than the 2% for the $50K/year household - you know, the rest of us!

... so, tell me again why GOPers want to give more $$$ to the $1M/year folks???
Recall, consumer spending is 70% of U.S. economy!
- What we oughta be doing with economic/tax policy is giving $$$ to folks who'll SPEND IT!... and, sadly, I admit, taking $$$ away from the idle rich who just SIT ON THEIR $$$.

(Oh: that pejorative "idle rich" comment?
Here's a dollar:

Here's another dollar:

What's the difference? Well - that first dollar represents a raise for the wage-earning worker, taxed at marginal rate of 20%.
That second dollar? It's counted as "capital gains"... taxed at 15% for the $1M/year fellow! Yeah: the IDLE rich!)

[Recall also: corporations are now sitting on more $$$ than they know what to do with.
More $$$ than at any time in post-WWII era.
Are they creating jobs with the $$$?
NO!
Are they investing the $$$ to increase production?
NO!
- they're SITTING ON IT!...
... Tell me again how increased taxes on the well-to-do are "job-killing". Please.]

Liberal Media Lie!

President's Remarks in "Focus on Education with President Bush" Event
"And as a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence."
[George W. Bush, President's Remarks in "Focus on Education with President Bush", 27 Sep 2004]
So: when the media today report:
Pakistani Taliban hint at attacks on aid workers
... and, oh yeah, MSM also report:
Taliban kill eight Afghan police: governor
... Remember: whenever MSM reports these things -
They're just LYING!

The Taliban don't exist! W told us so:
"Taliban no longer is in existence."

Just keep saying this over and over:
"Taliban no longer is in existence."
Saying so will make it so!
[In fact, I sort of wish Obama would adopt this tactic:
Just repeat, over and over: "Taliban no longer is in existence."]

Rules of the Road

[an imperfect analogy]
... So, today I'm driving down Lomas Avenue in Albuquerque, in traffic. What do I observe? Everyone is driving on the right side of the street. Folks are stopping at traffic lights and stop signs. Most everyone signals to indicate upcoming lane change. No one exceeds the posted speed limit.

What would this have looked like under GOP "free market" rules? Well - all of these governmental regulations wouldn't exist: you can drive anywhere you damn well please. Right side of the road? Only for pussies! Stop lights? Immoral restrictions on my personal freedom! Stop signs? Oh, please! Speed limits? You're impinging on my personal rights!

Within the well-established "rules of the road", most drivers manage just fine! The traffic ballet is really quite amazing to watch! - while observing the 'rules of the road', we manage to get to where we're going, fairly quickly, with few accidents, and fewer fatalities. Lane changes are executed with due respect for other drivers. Stop lights and stop signs are acknowledged... and lead to more-or-less continuous traffic flow.

What's more, these 'rules of the road' are enforced by the police!... no, not perfectly. Not everyone who runs a red light gets a ticket - but more than a few DO!
Speeding? If a cop's around, you'll get pulled over and ticketed. Most of us accept this. MOST of us are grateful when we see the cops pull over a transgressor.

The imperfect analogy? Why not establish 'rules of the road' for our financial institutions? The free-market ideologues - led by the late Milton Friedman - would have us believe that ANY restriction on the pure, unbridled free market would doom Capitalism! "No, no - ANY interference with pure, unbridled PREDATORY capitalism is bad!!!... We'll destroy our way of life!!!"

This was the philosophy embraced by the demi-god Alan Greenspan... till he saw the light:
“All of the sophisticated mathematics and computer wizardry essentially rested on one central premise: that enlightened self interest of owners and managers of financial institutions would lead them to maintain a sufficient buffer against insolvency by actively monitoring and managing their firms’ capital and risk positions,” the Fed chairman said. The premise failed in the summer of 2007, he said, leaving him “deeply dismayed.”
Ah! - the "enlightened self-interest of owners and managers" did NOT protect us from a 29-car pile-up on the freeway!!!
YES! - 'rules of the road' CAN lubricate traffic!!!

IF the rules apply to everyone, IF there IS enforcement - however sporadic - the rules protect us all from 29-car pile-ups!
Ah - but rules inhibit innovation!
... Well, no: in fact, I take a fair amount of pride in my ability to find ALTERNATE ROUTES when there's a traffic snarl ahead of me. This ability to use the 'rules of the road' to my advantage represents INNOVATION! - and I don't (or at least, haven't yet!) kill anyone in the process.

... and, oh yeah: this isn't just theoretical. The GOP's "no rules" regime has RECENTLY resulted in the The Great Recession - the current economic & financial mess in which we now live! "Rules of the Road" are GOOD!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the next time ANYONE cites the "miracle of the market" - LAUGH OUT LOUD!!!

"I was blind, but now I see."

Forgive me, dear readers: I've approached the so-called "ground-zero mosque" as a First Amendment issue. I failed to see the larger context, which, thankfully, has been clearly stated by my friend Tom Degan over at The Rant:
Gas on the Fire
Now they're encouraging the citizenry to hate a certain minority based solely on their religion. Tell me, just what the hell does that remind you of?
Again, my apologies for not seeing the Palin/Gingrich rhetoric in this light... and my thanks to Tom Degan for making the point explicitly.

Graphs: The decimation of the home-building industry

From Bubble Meter:
Bubble Meter - A housing bubble blog: Graphs: The decimation of the home-building industry
Yeah - main reason for sharing this is Bubble Meter's use of GRAPHS to convey quantitative information!

... why do so few folks do this???

p.s. ... + this coupled with Atrios's running commentary on "the big Shit Pile" suggests subprime, foreclosures, and related issues AIN'T OVER YET!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just another 4-star troglodyte

From Think Progress:
Marine Corps Commandant Conway Reiterates: Marines Should Not Have To Share Quarters With Gay Troops
But wait, there's a Reuters article, too!
Marines don't want to share rooms with gays: general
First: whether they know it or not, Marines are already sharing living quarters with gay/lesbian colleagues. Second: Gen. Conway's statements are based on anecdotal evidence:
"We sometimes ask Marines what is their preference and I can tell you that an overwhelming majority would like not to be roomed with a person that is openly homosexual," Conway, who is retiring in the fall, told reporters.
Third: even if Gen. Conway's sentiments reflected legitimate scientific polls of active-duty Marines, so what? If you'd asked white Southerners in 1961, "Would you feel comfortable serving niggers?", the overwhelming majority would have responded, "NO!". Ten years later? Every school & every lunch-counter in the South is integrated, and folks are delighted to serve black customers.

I note that Gen. Conway is "retiring in the fall."
Good.
Enjoy your retirement... and SHUT UP!

New Mexico politics on Think Progress!!!

From Think Progress, reprinted in full:
New Mexico GOP Candidates Are Global Warming Deniers
Even though New Mexico is facing a future of perpetual drought, killer heat waves, water scarcity, and wildfires, the crop of Republican candidates for major office in the state are in denial about the threat of global warming pollution. Gubernatorial nominee Susana Martinez and all three congressional candidates — former representative Steve Pearce, oil engineer Tom Mullins, and corporate lobbyist Jon Barela — believe scientists are engaged in a conspiracy to destroy our economy:
“[T]here is disagreement in the science community concerning the causes of global warming.” — Susana Martinez, GOP nominee for governor

“I don’t mean to be flippant about this, but only God knows where our climate is going.” — Jon Barela, GOP nominee for the first Congressional district

“I think we ought to take a look at whatever the group is that measures all this, the IPCC, they don’t even believe the crap.” — Steve Pearce, GOP nominee for the second Congressional district

“The science is not settled regarding climate change, temperature records have been falsified, and the assumptions used in computer models have large degrees of error.” — Tom Mullins, GOP nominee for the third Congressional district
The Wonk Room notes that New Mexico’s fragile frontier is already experiencing a wide range of debilitating climate change events, with extreme storms doubling and bark beetles killing tens of millions of trees in the now water-starved state.
With any luck, this publicity will generate $$$ for DEM INCUMBENTS! (Yes - NM's Congressional delegation is 100% Democratic - for the first time EVER!).
... and Martinez? Well - she's got a shot.

On the bright side: the weird weather has been enjoyable! - fierce thunderstorms with that ozone smell aren't what we're used to, but they're really fun!

Monday, August 23, 2010

BACK at the ranch!

Teresa's back home, after 2 days in hospital.
... horse-pill antibiotics for next week.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Wife has been admitted to hospital ... again.
Fever last night, temp reaching just shy of 102... but responded well to ibuprofen & tylenol - fever broke, she slept well.
On-call oncologist had her go to outpatient clinic this morning for blood-work.
Floor oncologist (one of wife's regular oncologists!) decided to admit her, based on too-low neutrophil count.

For your enlightenment:
Neutrophil granulocyte
and
Absolute neutrophil count... ("zero" is a bad number)

Good news:
1. We're getting better at recognizing impending neutropenic fever

2. she'll be getting a "chemo holiday".

Aside: We celebrate 29th wedding anniversary tomorrow. We celebrate eight years of "living with cancer" next week. ... that's more than 25% but less than 30% of our married life: living with cancer.

Repost

From 15 October 2008 (!):
Snake-oil salesman

Snake-oil
Snake oil is a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat joint pain. However, the most common usage of the phrase is as a derogatory term for compounds offered as medicines which implies that they are fake, fraudulent, quackish, or ineffective. The expression is also applied metaphorically to any product with exaggerated marketing but questionable or unverifiable quality.
In addition, I'll cite another fun book (I think I use "delightful" a bit too much as a descriptor of the books I recommend):
The Golden Age of Quackery
by Stewart H. Holbrook
"Snake-oil" has become the generic term for an ineffective nostrum, particularly one that cures "whatever ails you"... and in fact is probably good for you whether you're ill or not!

Long-lost history:
Back in January [of 2008!!!] I posted, Do they have any other ideas???, detailing the then-Republican-contenders' economic proposals. This was back when all were happy to aver that the U.S. economy was robust, healthy and growing.

Their universal prescription to maintain this health and growth?
(You'll never guess!):
Tax cuts!!!

Now that the Republican candidate has acknowledged that maybe the economic picture isn't all that rosy, what's his prescription?
(You'll never guess!):
Tax cuts!!!

Folks, when "tax cuts" is THE solution for the economy in all cases - whether it's in dire straits or robust & healthy - then we all oughta be saying, "Hmmmm".

... and, for what it's worth, the folks that are selling us "tax cuts" oughta be labelled as snake-oil salesmen!!!

Just a thought.

Have a nice day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm getting very repetitive

With consumers slow to spend, businesses are slow to hire
By Neil Irwin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 21, 2010
CHICAGO -- Corporate profits are soaring. Companies are sitting on billions of dollars of cash. And still, they've yet to amp up hiring or make major investments -- the missing ingredients for a strong economic recovery.
... and, oh yeah, interest on 10-yr T-bills is close to record low - meaning the government can borrow money really cheap!

... so, tell me again: why aren't we spending Government money to stimulate the economy? ... and how - with corporations SITTNG ON cash - can anyone make a serious case that keeping tax rates low provides a stimulus? - they've got $$$ that they're not spending!!!

I just don't get it...

Now it's the Army's turn

Troops: Skipping Christian concert got us punished
By STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press Writer
20 Aug 2010
RICHMOND, Va. – The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band's concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.
...
Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army's Transportation Corps.
...
Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the "Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concerts."

Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.

"Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down," Smith said. "It seemed very much like a punishment."
Sigh.

oh, boy!

we got another one!
Afghan insurgent leader captured
... sort of reminds me of a "Kiss Me Kate" song:
"Another Op'nin', Another Show"
... and, yeah, the quality of this particular performance seems to match our, uh, performance to date in Afghanistan.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

understanding the world

"Things are the way they are because they got that way."
- [Gerald Weinberg, American computer scientist]

"Unless things change they are likely to remain the same."
- [source unknown]

"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."
- [attributed to both Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr, and NY Yankees catcher Yogi Berra]

Here are some questions I'd like the pollsters to ask

Version #1:
1. Legally, can a Muslim be a U.S. citizen?
2. Legally, can a Muslim serve in the U.S. Congress?
3. Legally, can a Muslim be President of the United States?
Version #2:
1. According to the U.S. Constitution, can a Muslim be a U.S. citizen?
2. According to the U.S. Constitution, can a Muslim serve in the U.S. Congress?
3. According to the U.S. Constitution, can a Muslim be President of the United States?
... just for fun.

new blog added to "My Blog List"

Nameless Cynic.

my turn

A few days ago my friend PM over at Captain's Log weighed in on the "ground zero mosque" issue.

Now I'll take a turn.

Defenders of the so-called 'ground zero mosque' have emphasized that it's not a mosque, it's a community center.
My take: this is entirely beside the point.
What if it WERE a mosque??? - a full-fledged, dedicated place of worship for Muslims.

Would the underlying issue be fundamentally different? No!
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
[emphasis added]
Congress - and by extension, state and local governments - shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Seems to me that 'free exercise thereof' bit pretty much prohibits government - federal, state, local - from denying right to Islamic community to build a mosque ANYWHERE that is currently appropriately zoned. [... and re-zoning the property solely for purpose of denying the Islamic community this right would be an unconstitutional ex post facto law... and would probably also constitute an unconstitutional bill of attainder (U.S. Constitution, I.9.iii)]

Gen. Colin Powell addressed the issue of Obama's non-existent Muslim faith similarly several years ago.
Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?
[Colin Powell on Meet the Press, 19 Oct 2008]
Exactly! "So what if he WERE?" Recall:
"... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
[U.S. Constitution, Article VI, section 3]
Again: I believe the defenders of the so-called 'ground zero mosque' miss the point when they insist that "it's not a mosque, it's a community center". What if it WERE a mosque? Would their case be any less compelling??? - a case based solely on the United States Constitution? - our founding document? The document that our esteemed conservative friends claim to hold near & dear to their hearts?

What if it WERE a mosque?
So what???

have they even READ the First Amendment?

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin claimed that her First Amendment rights were being violated because people were criticizing her hateful and negative rhetoric.

In 2009 it was Carrie Prejean complaining that her First Amendment rights were violated when she was stripped of her Miss California title for breach of contract. She claimed the breach of contract excuse was just a cover, and that the real reason for stripping her of the title was her views on gay marriage.
In response, she asserted that her First Amendment rights had been violated.

Today it's talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger's turn. She was criticized by the media after repeatedly using the N-word to "prove a point" about racial hypersensitivity. In response she announced that she would give up her talk-show, stating
"I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart, and what I think is helpful and useful, without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates and attack sponsors."
Have these folks ever READ the First Amendment?

Public Service:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
[emphasis added]
Congress - and by extension, government at all levels - shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.

The idea is to prohibit the GOVERNMENT from silencing and censoring speech.

Nothing here about public opinion, or private-sector decisions.
The First Amendment does NOT guarantee anyone's right to demand sponsorship, nor does it guarantee that a private sponsor must pay anyone for views the sponsor finds unacceptable, nor does it guarantee anyone a soapbox on which to stand.
It certainly does not grant anyone the right to speak with a guarantee that the speech will not be criticized.

You can say whatever you want - the GOVERNMENT can't silence you.
BUT: there's no promise that anyone will PAY you to say ANYTHING.
... and there's no promise that your fellow citizens won't CRITICIZE YOU for saying ANYTHING.

Nothing guarantees you the right
"...to say what's on [your] mind and in [your] heart, and what [you] think is helpful and useful, without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent..."
Just what special status does Dr. Schlessinger claim that allows HER and only HER to bitch and moan, but denies others the right to bitch and moan about what she just said???
What special status does Palin claim? Prejean?
This is an amazingly expansive reading of the First Amendment by folks who almost certainly would claim to be "strict constructionists": The First Amendment guarantees the right to speak without fear of criticism!

In fact - so long as the criticism isn't libelous - the First Amendment pretty much guarantees your critics the right to say whatever they want in attempts to SHUT YOU UP!... sometimes it works... BUT: this occasional success on the part of your critics is NOT a First Amendment issue!!!

So long as the GOVERNMENT is not trying to silence you, you're just dealing with the "miracle of the market" - a concept I'm pretty sure these three exemplars of Republican values can understand!

p.s. Come to think of it, a 'right to speak without being criticized' might come in handy in my marriage!

the joys of home ownership

Yesterday our lawn-care person discovered a swamp at the side of the house.
Digging revealed a leak from the main water line.
"Was your water bill high?"
... "Hmmm... I haven't opened it."
The water folks had sent two envelopes - one a large bill (!), one a letter explaining that large bill likely due to a leak (!!!).

Plumber was called.
Repair underway.
Flood of water to be replaced by flood of $$$.

Meanwhile, no water for past 24 hrs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"New Dawn"

Operation Iraq Freedom is ending with withdrawal of last combat troops.
Operation New Dawn begins.

It's nice to know that Iraq is now a beacon of democracy, stable, with a healthy economy, paying for its own reconstruction.
... and in only seven years!

just for fun (courtesy C&L)

A tweet from C&L:
In fairness, we've been building 'ground zeros' near Iraqi mosques since March 2003.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

enlightenment [update]

phase 1: arrogance
I may be a schmuck, but at least I'm not stupid!
phase 2: humility
I may be stupid, but at least I'm not a schmuck!
phase 3: enlightenment
I may be a stupid schmuck, but at least I'm not cruel!


update: a friend suggests...
phase 4: acceptance
"I may be a dying, stupid schmuck, but at least I'm not a cruel fool!"

Gilbert & Sullivan from Eschaton

On Hardball

note: the song - a nearly unsingable trio patter - is originally from Ruddigore... the vid is from Joseph Papp's production of Pirates into which the song has been placed (more than slightly rewritten... but still unsingable)... this particular clip features Rex Smith (Frederick), Kevin Kline (Pirate King), and Patricia Routledge (Ruth).

Just for fun - here's another version, with Angela Lansbury as Ruth:

more august delight

Little League SOFTBALL World Series!
- again: best baseball on TV!

Monday, August 16, 2010

just for fun

Why I am not a Christian.
Christians worship a deified man, and would have us imagine GOD sucking on Mary’s tit!

Christians participate weekly in ritualized cannibalism.
"Take and eat; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins."

[Matthew 26:26-28]
Christians believe in the efficacy of HUMAN SACRIFICE.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...
[1 Corinthians 15:3]
Okay, this was "just for fun". It's an outsider's take on Christianity, and has nothing to do with the underlying beauty of the Christian myth.

But still...

p.s. ... and anyone who pretends to understand the doctrine of the Trinity is either lying or delusional!... at least, this is my personal opinion.

fun quotation

"At the moment, we have a system of tax brackets well suited to nineteenth-century New Zealand."
The entire article (it's short!) is worth a read:
Soak The Very, Very Rich
[James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, 16 Aug 2010]

Once upon a time

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the '60s of the last century.
Time Magazine rather cutely characterized Tulsa as "the buckle of the Bible Belt."
Oral Roberts held sway. Oral Roberts University was established. Oral Roberts Ministries owned lots of property.
During Junior High School I was routinely invited by my friends to attend Baptist and Methodist Sunday Schools. I usually accepted these invitations.
The communications - many via FaceBook - concerning my 40th high school reunion (which I, sadly, did not attend) suggest that most of my high school classmates are today conservative Christian Republicans.

BUT: In Jr. High and High School I never felt ostracized, belittled, pariahed BECAUSE OF my religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

Today? I feel I'm a foreigner in my own country!
The Bible-beating conservatives seem to own the airwaves - all the while decrying the (non-existent) "liberal media".
Religious tolerance - enshrined in MY U.S. Constitution? Apparently it means nothing to these xenophobic Christianists.

Canada's looking better & better.

My letter to General Petraeus

General David H. Petraeus:

This letter is written in response to comments you’ve made recently, as reported by the New York Times. I believe the intent of your comments was to encourage us, the American people, to keep heart and not despair regarding our Afghanistan mission. Several of your comments strike me – just an ordinary citizen – as anything but encouraging.

The Times quotes you as saying, “For the first time we will have what we have been working to put in place for the last year and a half.” I note that coming up on NINE YEARS after we invaded Afghanistan, it is somewhat less than heartening to hear that it is only now that “we will have what we have been working to put in place”! Coupled with the disparate “grand strategies” announced just this year (“clear and hold” in Marjah; build infrastructure in Kandahar), it seems far from clear that you or anyone else has any idea just what is needed to “win” in Afghanistan… whatever it is that “winning” might mean.

This highlights a second point deriving from your various public pronouncements this past weekend, again as reported by the Times. At no time did you articulate just exactly what the desired end state might be. With no clear strategic objective – an end state – in mind, it is impossible for you or anyone else to plausibly assure us, the American people, that you are putting in place a strategy to attain that objective. Your failure – whether due to inability or unwillingness – to paint a clear picture of just what it is we hope to achieve in Afghanistan, at the cost of American blood and treasure, speaks volumes! Given your willingness to explain so much else, your silence on this point is telling. Do you know just what it is we are trying to achieve? If so, could you tell us? If not, could you admit this fact?

Without telling us what the overall objective is, you nevertheless sketch, at least by implication, the elements of our current “mission”. Though the Times did not quote you, it reported that you claimed “progress on a number of fronts”:
1) routing Taliban insurgents from their sanctuaries,
2) reforming the Afghan government
3) preparing Afghan soldiers to fight on their own.
I note that in eight-and-one-half years of ‘routing the Taliban insurgents from their sanctuaries’, the U.S. and its NATO allies today face an entrenched an emboldened Taliban insurgency. Just exactly what will you do differently? The insurgency resembles a hydra: cut off a head and 2 or 3 grow back. This “strategy” has failed for close to nine years. How do you propose to make it work today?

I note that our erstwhile ally, President Karzai, has demonstrated close to zero interest in establishing a legitimate government, free of corruption. You are quoted as saying that,
“President Karzai is the elected leader of a sovereign country. That is how the people see him by and large; he is therefore — and has to be, for sure — our partner.”
Given that Karzai was “elected” only by virtue of widespread flagrant fraud – acknowledged by all international observers – your statement is disingenuous, as best, and, at worst, demonstrates your willingness to accept fantasy as political reality. Mr. Karzai’s government, by most independent accounts, is NOT respected by ANYONE, and does not rule in any meaningful sense outside Kabul.

Finally, as even Thomas Friedman has recently acknowledged,
"Why do we have to recruit and train our allies, the Afghan Army, to fight? That is like someone coming to you with a plan to recruit and train Brazilian boys to play soccer."
(What’s Second Prize, NYT Op-Ed, 22 June 2010, Thomas Friedman)
Our Afghan allies know how to fight, as do the Taliban insurgents. Recall, Afghan Mujahideen chased the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Who’s training the Taliban? – have they resources equivalent to those provided our Afghan partners by the U.S. and NATO? No.

Our Afghan partners do NOT need to be “prepared to fight on their own”!
They need to be given a REASON to fight for a sovereign Afghanistan. Is any of the training delivered to our Afghan partners focused on developing a sense of national identity? Is any training designed to instill a sense of pride in a country worth defending?
If you’re teaching weapons and tactics, you’re spinning your wheels.

Again, General: why are we there? And what will be different in the next six months or six years that will give us, the American people, confidence that you know what you’re doing?

Sincerely,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

That time of year again

It's August: some of the best baseball on TV is the Little League World Series.
Past couple of days have been Regional Semifinals & Finals...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

... how i've been spending my time

... since loyal readers realize that it's not been by blogging!

In the past 9 days i've written five 10-minute screenplays.
... this motivated by the Duke City Shootout: hey, I can do this!

Now... what to do with 'em???

Thursday, August 12, 2010

if $$$ are cheap...

The Fed - as in Federal Reserve - has pretty much exhausted its resources.

Yeah - it's really cheap to borrow these days.
BUT - who's rushing to the bank to borrow?
Businesses - big & small - are hoarding cash.
Why expand when there's no demand for your product or service?

The national debt?
Folks are now rushing to buy U.S. Treasury notes at record-low interest rates!!!
The U.S., with record-low interest rates, is being denominated as the best bet in town!

Tell me again: why can't we spend Government $$$ to increase employment?

Stop the madness!!!

First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
[First Amendment]
So, I can't help thinking: how is tax-exemption for churches and other religious institutions not "establishment of religion"???

I note that tax-status has engaged the U.S. Govt in more than a few pointless litigations, e.g., after protracted litigation, Church of Scientology was eventually granted tax-exempt status.
The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is the final adjudicator in these cases: Does this organization qualify as a "religious" institution or not?
Seems to me that this decision is tantamount to an ESTABLISHMENT finding.
Am I wrong?

Why not strip churches, synagogues, mosques, temples,... whatever, of tax-exempt status?
They are free to apply for tax-exempt status as 501(c)3 organizations, but their status as RELIGIOUS institutions is irrelevant.
Colloquially, a 501(c) organization or simply "a 501(c)" is an American tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation or association. Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)), provides that 28 types of nonprofit organizations are exempt from some federal income taxes.
[Wikipedia, 501(c)]

ESTABLISHING tax-exempt status for just anyone who claims to be a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, etc., seems to me to be an ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION.

What's more, it simplifies enforcement: pastors are free to advocate political positions from the pulpit - they're just like any other corporate "person"... so long as they're happy to forfeit tax-exempt status and be in all other respects just another corporate entity!

So shoot me.

DADT

This blog generally avoids gay issues...
... there are a LOT of blogs advocating for gay rights.

My interests are more economic, domestic (health insurance) and foreign (war) policy.

BUT: Every once in a while, well - I just think, "What's the problem?"

I served in U.S. Army 1975-1978. Did I serve with gay comrades?
No idea - more than likely, 'yes'.
Assuming 'yes' - did it matter in the least little bit?
NO!

For 20+ years I was employed by large, multinational company that SPONSORED internal LBGT organization. Did I work with these folks?
Yes.
Did sexual orientation EVER come into play during work?
NO!

... (as it turns out, the company's local LBGT group gave me a very nice plaque for supporting LBGT issues... but that was based on out-of-work activities).

Looking back on high school, there were probably more than a few folks with whom I was friends who were GAY! (... this supposition has been recently confirmed as a result of 40th reunion communications)

College, Army, grad school, work... were any of my colleagues gay?
Almost certainly, in each of these.
Did it make a difference? Did I care? Did it impact my performance, or my relationships?
NO!!!

What's the big deal???

An organization to which I owe a LOT, ToastMasters, adopted a resolution in the '90s of the last century stating that sexual orientation was NOT to be considered for membership. I note that ToastMasters is a very conservative organization - its members are Rotarians, Kiwanis, Elks... folks who JOIN... but want to improve their public-speaking skills.

Recent DoD survey is/was just stupid.
If you'd polled white Southerners in 1961, asking, "Would you feel comfortable serving niggers?" - the overwhelming response would've been, "NO!... not just NO but HELL NO!!!".
Ten years later, blacks were sitting at every lunch counter in Alabama.

BEHAVIOR - and officially sanctioned behavior - is all that matters.
If the powers-that-be declare DADT is dead, it's dead.
No need for polls... and, in fact, polls will just confirm existing prejudice!
Change behavior & you change attitude.
Homophobia?... well, yeah, there'll still be Bible-beating 'Christians' out there decrying the abomination of homosexuality... but these folks will be perfectly happy to eat shrimp! ["Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you." Leviticus 11:12]

Sexual orientation?
I've encountered NO circumstances in my life (close to 58 years) in which this particular issue has arisen in a meaningful way.
Have any of you had different experience???

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just for fun...

You guys can have the 14th Amendment if I can have the 2nd!

... and again: just for fun. I'll even propose an alternative to the 14th:
American citizenship is restricted to those who can document at least two ancestors living on the American continent in 1787.
... that'll probably leave me out... AND include LOTS of hispanics! - but who wants to be a citizen of America if the GOP gets their wish?

Call for curmudgeons

... if memory serves (always doubtful), i believe local curmudgeons anticipated a gathering this month.

anyone wanna take up planning duties?

A Sherlock Holmes joke

[note: a bit in the risque side]
"Good evening ladies", Sherlock Holmes said as he passed
three women eating bananas on a park bench.
"Do you know them?" Dr. Watson asked.

"No", Holmes replied, "I've never met the nun, the
prostitute, or the bride we just passed."

"Good Lord, Holmes, how in the world did you know all that?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson. The nun ate the banana by
holding it one hand and using the fingers of the other
hand to properly break the fruit into small pieces."

"The prostitute", he continued, "grabbed with both hands
and crammed the whole thing into her mouth."

"Amazing!" Watson exclaimed. "But how did you know the
third was a newlywed?"

"Because she held it with one hand and pushed her head
toward it with the other."

Monday, August 9, 2010

The crazies are out in force today!

... I'm simply overwhelmed by surfeit of riches... and am unable to pick any single wing-nut story to blog about!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Back on the campaign trail

On Friday I sent notes to both Finance & Field, suggesting I'd been far too inactive, and inquiring of work opportunities. Field responded with promise of data-base work.

... so I showed up at the office today.
Tyler - one of the young Field coordinators - was busy with a doorknob, trying to repair it.
He offered phone-banking.
I declined. (The Madrid campaign soured me on phone-banking... )
He offered me handy-man job: repairing doorknob.
Well, okay. "What tools are available?" - he held up a Swiss Army knife.
I laughed. "I'll be back in 10 minutes."
Re-appeared with selection of screw-drivers, pliers, and a hammer.
Quick study revealed I also needed an Allen wrench... back home to fetch one.

With tools in hand, proceeded to work on the knob.
Got the knob off with Allen wrench... now, how to get shield off?
Much deliberation, and several 'brute force' attempts later... Ah! - it unscrews!

End result: doorknob successfully disassembled and then re-assembled in working order.

... flushed with sense of achievement I then got to do some database work!

Tomorrow?... with any luck, just database work!

Buffoon welcomes a new follower

... Banda in barbar.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

[barbar?... as in 'place where unintelligble tongues are spoken?']

Friday, August 6, 2010

Another graph...

... but Government spending on jobs is clearly contra-indicated!

[note: HuffPost has more.]

Stop the madness!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oh, good: someone with credentials

How to Avoid a Third Depression
Testimony before the Committee on Financial Services
U.S. House of Representatives
Richard C. Koo
Chief Economist
Nomura Research Institute, Tokyo
r-koo@nri.co.jp
July 22, 2010

Hey: a graph!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Pareto Principle

A business rule-of-thumb:
Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
You've got problems in the production line? 20% of the causes represent 80% of the problems! This is the Pareto Principle.
It's a fairly standard rule-of-thumb in industry.

Whence does this 'principle' derive?
From an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto (no kidding!), who observed that in most industrialized countries, 80% of the wealth was controlled by 20% of the population... this back in the 1910s.

Today in America?
80% of the wealth is controlled by 5% of the population!
That pretty much leaves the rest of us - those in the bottom 95th%-ile - out of the loop.
No power - economic or political!
... what's more, GOP policies - which for reasons I do NOT understand seem to predominate in DC culture - ensure that we will be FOREVER kept out of the loop!
- no power, economic or political!

Stop the madness!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tax cuts & economic stimulus

This will likely be a fairly tedious and not-particularly-well researched post.

Key message: Businesses are currently sitting on tons of cash, none of it going to generate jobs. Given this fact, it is amazingly difficult to argue that retaining current low tax-rates on corporations & high-income households is stimulative, or that raising these rates would further crater the economy.

... It is in fact far easier to argue that if increased government revenue were used for DIRECT stimulus - job-creation, food-stamps, aid to states - then the increased tax-burden would in fact BENEFIT corporations with increased demand and lead to private-sector job creation.

Note: This argument applies only to tax-rates on upper-income households (95th%-ile) and corporations.
YES – in current economy, raising tax-rates on the rest of us – the lower 95% - would be counter-productive!
The U.S. economy is driven by consumers – 70% of GDP is consumer-based! – If we – the vast majority of households – have extra money, we SPEND it!
… this is in stark contrast to the upper 5% and corporations, who have the luxury of keeping their excess $$$ set aside for better times.

Okay... now I'll try to build a case.
Disclaimer: What I know about economics can be written in big block letters on a postage stamp!

Here goes:
Corporate Tax Rate Cut Likely To Be Ineffective As Stimulus
By Chye-Ching Huang
January 23, 2009
Numerous government and independent studies agree that corporate tax rate cuts provide relatively little “bang-for-the-buck” as stimulus. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for example, has concluded that a corporate rate cut “is not a particularly cost-effective method of stimulating business spending.”[1] The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has found that in terms of stimulating aggregate demand, the “effect of corporate rate cuts is likely small.[2] And Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com, has rated a corporate tax rate cut as one of the least effective of all tax and spending options in stimulating the economy, estimating that it would generate only 30 cents in economic demand for every dollar spent on the tax cut.[3]
Everybody got that? Tax cuts aren't stimulative!

First off, from the demi-god Alan Greenspan: “Tax cuts do not pay for themselves.”

A gentle reminder:
GDP =
private consumption
+ gross investment
+ government spending
+ (exports − imports)
Just in case you weren’t paying attention: CONSUMERS (that’s you and me) aren’t spending. LOTS of us are unemployed. We have no discretionary income to spend!

Biz investment? From recent Bloomberg article:
Non-financial industries are hoarding cash while laying off workers.
Industry has more cash-on-hand now than at any time since WWII.
Are they creating jobs with this $$$? NO!
Are they making capital investments with this $$$? NO!
They’re SITTING ON IT!
The argument that taxing profits at a slightly higher rate would kill biz investment is just silly.
THEY’RE NOT INVESTING THE CASH THEY HAVE!

Balance of trade? Surprisingly, the U.S. Dollar is fairly strong right now… which means it’s EXPENSIVE for Europeans and Chinese to Buy American, but cheap for us to buy foreign goods.
These purchases of foreign goods do NOT contribute to GDP.

What’s left?
Government spending!

Government spending – DIRECT government spending – on jobs, federal aid to the states, and such mundane programs as Food Stamps – DIRECTLY increases CONSUMER DEMAND – that 70% of GDP.

Okay – Government spending can, in fact, increase the deficit – which for reasons I don’t understand is suddenly everyone’s top concern. (… just forget about two unfunded wars, which have cost upwards of $1Tn – that’s $1,000,000,000,000 – to date.)
How to offset increased government spending?...
… hmmm… Yes – you, Johnny, there in the back corner!:
“Increase revenue?”
Yes, Johnny! Very good. You get an “A”!

Yes – increase revenue.
… and just what constitutes government revenue?
Taxes!
Again – I do NOT advocate increasing taxes on the bottom 95% of U.S. households, but ONLY on the top 5%, and on corporations.

Ah, “But increasing taxes on corporations will forestall job creation!”
… WAIT A MINUTE: American corporations are currently SWIMMING IN CASH - sitting on more cash than they have in the past 60 years! – BUT… they’re not creating jobs!!!... in fact, they’re laying off folks!

How ‘bout we take the increased tax revenue and SPEND IT – on jobs!

Both Congressional Budget Office & Congressional Research Service confirm:
Every one dollar spent on tax cuts buys 30 CENTS of stimulus.
Every one dollar spent on food stamps buys $1.35 of stimulus.
Hmm… which is the better deal?

Krugman – that evil, socialist, Nobel-Prize winning economist – is fast to point out that Japan’s response to economic collapse in the 1990s led to “the lost decade”.
Just what was Japan’s response to economic collapse? – Slashing government spending!

… He is ALSO fast to point out that our current Fed leadership, in citing all that cash being hoarded by corporations as ‘proof’ that Fed policy to increase employment is not necessary – ignore the fact that Japan was awash in cash during the lost decade… and, much as U.S. corporations today, Japanese industry simply held onto the cash, WITHOUT creating jobs and demand.

The economic crisis that faces us today is DEMAND-DRIVEN!
… and for as long as just ordinary folks – you and me – don’t have $$$ to spend, this crisis will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Can we do anything?
YES, WE CAN!
We can INCREASE Government spending – without ballooning the deficit – by increasing taxes on the wealthiest 5% of households and on corporations…
… with NO deleterious consequences!

Stop the madness!

Unbelievable!...

Brewers - 18; Cubs - 1.

... maybe the Cubs oughta be looking for pitchers...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Science and "truth"

... this post ought be considered a continuation of previous.

Herein will be engaged the "evolution vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design" debate... tho' obliquely.

Bold statement: Science makes no claim to truth.
Rather, science claims only "predictability" and "falsifiability".
To be generally accepted, a scientific theory must predict observations that are, in fact, observed.
To be generally accepted, a scientific theory must be subject to falsification.
- that is to say, it is possible to conceive of observations (experiments) that could produce results which contradict the predictions of the theory.
[If, for example, a fossil T. Rex is discovered with a human in its stomach, that'd pretty much falsify current scientific biological theories of the history of life on earth!]

Ultimate "truth" lies outside science.
Who knows, maybe G-d created the universe yesterday to look exactly like it does today - with all our memories, our prior measurements, our inferences intact.
Could be true.
This is the basis of The Matrix movies.

Avoiding biology: Two physical theories of the world today predominate in science - quantum mechanics (quarks, muons, the "god particle"), and general relativity (Big Bang, gravitational lenses, Hubble Telescope). Both do phenomenal jobs in their respective areas - the very small (quantum mechanics) and the very large (general relativity).
They are mutually inconsistent.
They can't both be true descriptions of the universe.
In their respective realms, they work: both are predictive, both are falsifiable.
Both suggest experiments and observations.

The fact that they are mutually inconsistent impels the 'string theorists'.
Let's find a unified theory that equally well accounts for known phenomena in both spheres (the small and the large), and that IS internally consistent.
Note: whatever replaces quantum mechanics and general relativity MUST do at least as good a job accounting for known phenomena and predicting future phenomena (e.g., suggesting experiments and observations) as current theories.

Again: science makes no claim for "truth" - it just seeks what seems to work, for now. Long ago, one of my statistics professors noted that Newtonian mechanics would have failed had sufficiently accurate measurements been available: planetal orbits are not, in fact, orbits! - no planet re-enters its previous path, ever!
Nevertheless, Newtonian mechanics landed a man on the moon in 1969! (... and freshman physics students are still taught that F=ma.)

Science claims only to work.
... and to explain, based on best currently available information, how the world works, without invoking supernatural causes.

Is Darwinian evolution "true"? - almost certainly NOT!
Is it the best scientific theory currently available? Yep!
It makes predictions... it makes predictions it didn't even realize it made!
- DNA confirms birds, reptiles, mammals... all are related.
Darwin never conceived this prediction.
Missing links and "transitional forms" - found almost daily!
[Of course, if you read the conservative Christian tracts opposing evolution, you'll realize that what they mean by "transitional form" differs significantly from the biologist's expectation: the conservative Christian is looking for a man-fish in the fossil record!... honest (i threw away the tract; now wish i'd kept it!)]

Again - (I'm getting very repetitive!): science qua science does not claim "truth"!

If you want "truth", ask G-d to speak to you!

"Truth": reflections on mathematics and G-d

In previous posts I've noted that
1. I'm an agnostic
... for me the truth-value of the proposition "God exists" is unknown and unknowable
2. I watch a LOT of TV evangelicals
... recently I've started watching Todd Friel's Wretched.
In my usual fashion, after watching a few episodes, I Googled "Todd Friel", and found a recording of Friel going one-on-one with "public intellectual", Iraq war apologist, and atheist Christopher Hitchens.
The basis of the "interview" is Friel's "What if...?" game:
Friel: “What if God exists, and what if he has provided everything for you… life, health, food, trees, royalties… would he not have been good to you?”
Anyway - Hitchens pretty much demolishes Friel.
[Note: I would likely take a different tack than Hitchens, thanking G-d for the gifts, but walking away. When someone gives me a gift, I thank 'em. I don't owe 'em anything in return - it was a gift!... and if the giver EXPECTS something in return, it wasn't a GIFT, it was a sales transaction to which I did not agree.
... Oh, and by the way: if G-d created me so that I could worship him, well - that makes him a rather vainglorious, petty deity!]... and I have a hard time not turning the tables on Friel:
“What if Allah - the deity who dictated the Qur'an to Mohammed - exists, and what if he has provided everything for you… life, health, food, trees, royalties… would he - Allah - not have been good to you?”
... anyway, that's not really the point of this note.
This note was prompted by one of Friel's other rhetorical tricks:
On this desk is Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism... They all have one thing in common: they assert that your WORKS gain you salvation.

On this other desk is Biblical Christianity, which asserts that salvation is from the Grace of God alone.

They can't both be true.
Well - sure enough, Todd - they can't both be true.
BUT: they can all be FALSE!

From this simple observation doth this treatise flow.
[note: file this post under "mental masturbation"... I'm just having fun playing with myself.]

Mathematics is the most highly developed logical system devised by man.
From a very few primitives (axioms & rules of inference) a magnificent, self-consistent logical system follows.
I'll do my best to avoid the various takes on the 'meaning' of mathematics, and leave it at, "Mathematics is the most highly developed logical system devised by man."

One of the most famous propositions of elementary geometry is the Pythagorean Theorem:
The sum of the squares of the legs of right-triangle equals the square of the hypotenuse.
There are hundreds (thousands?) of proofs of this theorem.
It underlies tons of mathematics & statistics (statistical sums-of-squares decompositions in the Analysis of Variance are essentially Pythagorean).

So, is the Pythagorean Theorem true?
(dear readers: please pause for a moment to reflect on this question... then read on!)

Every proof of the Pythagorean Theorem depends on Euclid's infamous Parallel Postulate:
At most one line can be drawn through any point not on a given line parallel to the given line in a plane.
Note: this is the high school geometry version of the postulate. There are LOTS of equivalent formulations. Euclid's original is a bit opaque:
If a line segment intersects two straight lines forming two interior angles on the same side that sum to less than two right angles, then the two lines, if extended indefinitely, meet on that side on which the angles sum to less than two right angles.
Does anyone remember that the interior angles of a triangle sum to 180 degrees?
This, too, is equivalent to the Parallel Postulate.
Fun exercise: Get a piece of paper, a straight-edge, a pencil, and scissors.
Draw a triangle.
Now, cut out the triangle you just drew.
Tear off the three corners of the triangle.
Arrange these three torn-off corners side-by-side.
Whaddaya get? A straight line! - 180 degrees!!!
Euclid's formulation seemed so bizarre that for close to 2000 years mathematicians were convinced that this infamous Fifth Postulate could be derived from the first four.
Some convinced themselves they'd succeeded.
None did.

In the early-mid 19th century several daring souls took another tack: what happens if we DENY the Parallel Postulate?
Turns out, you get perfectly consistent geometries!
Two denials present themselves:
1. NO line can be drawn through any point not on a given line parallel to the given line.

2. MORE THAN one line can be drawn through any point not on a given line parallel to the given line.
Careful readers will note the omission of the qualifying condition, "... in the plane".

The first alternative (NO parallel exists) leads to spherical geometry - the geometry of the surface on which we in fact live!
The second alternative (more than one parallel exists) leads to hyperbolic geometry - which is amazingly difficult to visualize!

In spherical geometry (the geometry in which we in fact live - the surface of the earth), the Pythagorean Theorem is NOT true.
In hyperbolic geometry, the Pythagorean Theorem is NOT true.
The Pythagorean Theorem is true only in Euclidean, PLANE geometry - the geometry of flat surfaces (planes).

So, is The Pythagorean Theorem true?
If one accepts Euclid's Parallel Postulate, yes - it is.
If one denies Euclid's Parallel Postulate, no - it isn't.

I note that it is perfectly possible for the conscientious mathematician to prove theorems in Euclidean geometry today and in non-Euclidean geometry tomorrow, without damage to his conscience and without being simply absurd.

What then is one to make of the truth-value of the proposition, "God exists."???

Accepting it as an axiom doubtless entails some theology.
Denying it implies a very different understanding of the world.

Can it be proven from a priori principles (axioms/postulates)?
Well - just what might these be?
... and what are the rules of inference allowed?

I suspect that Todd Friel will be quite happy to answer me by waving his Bible and asserting,
"God said it, I believe it, that settles it!"
... without ever reflecting that many others wave their Bibles at me, make the same assertion, and come to completely different understandings of G-d's Word!