Monday, February 29, 2016

The Pirates of Penzance

Pirate King:
For some ridiculous reason, to which, however,
I've no desire to be disloyal,

Some person in authority,
I don't know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,

Has decided that,
although for such a beastly month as February,
twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,

One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.

Through some singular coincidence,
I shouldn't be surprised if it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy

You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement,
having been born in leap-year,
on the twenty-ninth of February;

And so, by a simple arithmetical process,
you'll easily discover,

That though you've lived twenty-one years,
yet, if we go by birthdays,
you're only five and a little bit over!
Yep - Gilbert & Sullivan have something to say about Leap Year!

semi self-promotion... the other half is GOTV

GOTV: "Get Out The Vote!"
Democrats Should Be Very Nervous About Their Terrible Turnout Numbers
YES! - Dems should be concerned.

The ONLY way to avoid "President Trump" come November is for Dems to VOTE!

I'll try a Pay it Forward kinda thing.

(This is the self-promotion bit.)

If you like this blog, recommend it to three (3) friends.
... and ask 'em to do the same.

My main concern is NOT increasing readership... trust me.

My main concern is getting Dems to the polls come November!

If we don't VOTE, we could well be stuck with President Trump.
(This would be BAD!)

I don't get it

The Republican Party’s implosion over Donald Trump’s candidacy has arrived

Divisions within GOP over Trump's candidacy are growing
I don't get it.

Here's my (entirely self-promoting) previous post:
Just for fun: an open letter to the GOP
Trump is the CREATION of the "Establishment" GOP!

Why are they now so surprised?
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

... a possible anti-Trump meme

Donald Trump stumbles on David Duke, KKK
By Eric Bradner, CNN
Sun February 28, 2016

"Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK?" Trump said.
"I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists," he said. "So I don't know. I don't know -- did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."
No, I'm not talking about Trump's appeal to white sumpremacists, or their endorsement of him.

I'm talking about his willful, fully acknowledged ignorance about ANYTHING!
"I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about."
I'm not going to dig through any of Trump's past rants to verify this, but I'd bet that he has stated, "I don't know...!" frequently...
... most likely in response to uncomfortable and discomfiting questions like the one above.

Maybe someone with more stomach than I could dig through published interviews & videos and put together a nice 30-second TV spot:
"I don't know... "

"I know nothing about..."

"I don't know... "

"I know nothing about..."

"I don't know... "
You get the idea.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

This headline scared me... till I read the explanation

Former CIA Head Explains Why Armed Forces Can't Legally Obey Trump
"If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act."
This had a frightening Seven Days in May sound to it... till I read General Hayden's explanation:
Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA and CIA, thinks some of presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign promises are so unlawful that the U.S. Armed Forces could not follow them as orders.

These include Trump's claim that people deserve to be waterboarded even if it doesn't work and that he would target the families of terrorists. The internationally recognized Geneva Conventions bars such action.

"If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act," Hayden said Friday during an appearance on "Real Time with Bill Maher." "You are required not to follow an unlawful order that would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict."
I was in Army Basic Training some seven (7) years post-My Lai.
Two full days of classroom instruction were devoted to the distinction between "lawful" and "unlawful" orders, and our duty to obey the first and REFUSE to obey the second.
'Twas a lot for young recruits to wrap our heads around.

Yep - waterboarding is TORTURE under international law... heck, we prosecuted Japanese officers as war-criminals for this act in WWII.
Yep - deliberately targeting non-combatants - even if the families of bad guys - is ILLEGAL under international law!

For what it's worth: the Federal Government working for ME!

For the past few days I've been publishing graphs reflecting various economic trends.
These graphs have been based on data collected, compiled, and conveniently distributed by the Federal Government!

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has been the source of GDP numbers.
The Census Bureau's Current Population Survey has provided data on household income and home prices.

With these readily available data, ANYONE can pretend to be an economist!
The data are empowering!
... and they're provided more-or-less FREE!
("more-or-less": one does need internet connectivity to access the data... and, yes, my taxes do support these Federal agencies.)

If you don't like the way I slice & dice the data, or perhaps object to my choices (e.g., using "household income" as my preferred metric), YOU can access the raw data YOURSELF and do your very own analysis!
I've used only a few of the myriad tables available on these websites! - Go for it!!!

Friday, February 26, 2016

I AM a Socialist!

We the people of the United States, in order to
form a more perfect union,
establish justice,
insure domestic tranquility,
provide for the common defense,
promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Which of these do the GOP hopefuls NOT want to pay for?

Okay - everyone is for "common defense".
Spend zillions of dollars on the military.

But other than that?

"A more perfect union"? - all I hear is Mexicans and Muslims are BAD! REALLY BAD!!!

"Justice"? - ... I'd love to say they've all said, "Lock 'em all up!"... but in fact, no one has said ANYTHING about JUSTICE.

"Domestic tranquility"?... again, no word about this.
Just build a wall.

"General welfare"? - Obamacare is BAD! ... but we've not a clue how to fix or replace it.

"Blessings of liberty"?
Torture good.

... and again: no clue how we're gonna pay for any of this.
... oh, yeah - I forgot: CUT TAXES!

(I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to work.)

"The rich get richer"? - is this a Law a Nature?

... alternative title:
Yes! - Let's TALK about the redistribution of wealth!
Below is a graph depicting another ratio:
Household income:
(Upper 5%)/median
I went to the trouble of drawing a line through the points - it's pretty darn linear!

If this were hard science one would be tempted to say, "Hey, we've discovered a Law of Nature!"
I doubt Galileo's data for his Law of Falling Bodies fit a curve quite so well.

In 1975 - the earliest year for which I have complete data, the top 5% of households earned about 2.7x the median household.
In 2014 - the latest year for which I have complete data, the top 5% of households earned just over 3.8x the median household.

I'm talking about the upper 5% of households, not the infamous 1%.
These aren't the super-rich, just the "pretty-darn-well-off" folks.
The median? - Well, those are the folks smack-dab in the middle - the truly MIDDLE class.

Every year, year after year...
... the top 5% of households gain about 2.8% on the rest of us!
What's going on here?
IS this a Law of Nature?

Just another graph

... this one presents a ratio:
(median home price)/(median household income)
For most of the period covered - 1975 - 2014 - this was reasonably stable at just over 3:
The "typical" house was priced just about 3x the "typical" household income.
Then we hit the housing bubble, when the ratio climbs to about 5:
The "typical" house was priced 5x the "typical" household income.

This should have been a clue that housing prices were NOT properly aligned with the over-all economy!
Then the ratio heads down, till 2012, when it starts to head up again.

The up-tick?
Housing prices are recovering.
Median household income is NOT.

The "recovery" from the Great Recession has NOT been visible to the truly MIDDLE class!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hillary or Bernie?

I don't care.
Either one of 'em is preferable to ANY of the GOP hopefuls!

I've probably said this before:
When I'm optimistic I hope that Trump will be the GOP nominee.

When I'm pessimistic I fear that Trump will be the GOP nominee.

... 20% of my fellow citizens

... live on no more than $21,500/year.
This is HOUSEHOLD income.

I just checked - a really CHEAP 2-bedroom apartment in Albuquerque is more than $500/month.
That doesn't include utilities.
Let's figure another $100/month for utilities - that's $600/month.
That's one-third of your monthly income.

This is HOUSEHOLD income - you've got kids.
Kids who need clothes and food.
Kids who have other expenses - daycare, school, transportation...

Pretty soon you have NO extra disposable income - everything you earn has gone to pay for basics.

Yeah - you're not contributing much to GDP, but you're contributing EVERYTHING you have!
Every dollar you make you spend!
Maybe you should get a reward.

(By contrast, every dollar that Trump makes is pretty much sequestered - it is out of the economy.
In relative terms, HE contributes almost NOTHING to GDP!)

... and still more "Tale of Two Dollars"

Here's a graphical representation of GDP components:

The GOP candidates favor...
1. cutting Gov't spending (defense, infrastructure, education, social safety nets, etc.)
2. cutting taxes on private investment
3. maintaining a strong dollar.

The effects of these policy proposals?
1. cutting Gov't spending really does cut employment and overall economic health. Yeah - all that defense, infrastructure, education, and social safety net spending really DOES create JOBS.
At least two of the leading GOP contenders are U.S. Senators - they currently make THEIR livings from Gov't spending!!!

2. Private investment is a relatively SMALL component of GDP: about 17%. (LESS than Gov't spending!)
... and the tax breaks you give to Quote "Job-Creating" Unquote investors? - they really are NOT creating jobs with the extra $$$.

3. A strong dollar? - mitigates AGAINST balance-of-trade. A strong dollar means NOBODY is buying our stuff! - we're spending $$$ buying every one else's stuff!

... and not ONE of the GOP hopefuls suggests anything that'll help the middle class - all us folks making $110,000/year - if we're REALLY lucky!

I've said it before & I'll say it again:
CONSUMER SPENDING drives the economy.
NOT business investment.

If consumers aren't spending there's no reason for businesses to invest!

... more "Tale of Two Dollars"

... one of the GOP candidates - Marco Rubio, the darling of the "GOP establishment" - proposes cutting the capital gains tax to 0%!!!
He REALLY hates labor!

A Tale of Two Dollars (a dramatization)

Here's that last story, "A Tale of Two Dollars" in a dramatic presentation:
... yeah, I've posted this before... but I'm really proud of it!

A Tale of Two Dollars

At the top we see a construction foreman. He works hard, and earns about $70,000/year. His wife also works, as an elementary school teacher, and earns about $40,000/year. They have one child. Together they earn about $110,000/year - at the 80%-ile of household incomes, which makes them upper middle class.
That dollar? It's taxed at 25%.

Below this fellow is his twin brother, who plays the stock market. He earns about $210,000/year. His wife doesn't work - she's a stay-at-home mom. They also have one kid. Their household income is that $210,000 - 95%-ile of household incomes: upper-upper middle class.
His dollar?
As "capital gains", it's taxed at 15%.

This is NOT an income tax.
It's a tax on labor!

Here's a graphical representation.
The lower dollar is the one earned.
The middle dollar is the one taken home by the player in the stock market.
The upper dollar is the one taken home by the construction foreman.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

David Brooks and the pink rug

I'll start with a repost, from 4 Dec:
No, Donald Trump Won’t Win
David Brooks DEC. 4, 2015

Somewhat bizarrely, he starts by talking about buying a rug. The pink one really stood out, and he liked it a lot on first glance... ... but then he decided the blue one would be easier to live with.

He then suggested that Donald Trump is the current "pink rug" of the GOP "likely primary voter".

This may have been a nice homey analogy... IF he'd been able to suggest a plausible "blue rug" alternative.
But - no.
In fact, Brooks doesn't even TRY to suggest a plausible alternative.
The best he can do is to suggest that
When campaigns enter that final month, voters tend to gravitate toward the person who seems most orderly. As the primary season advances, voters’ tolerance for risk declines. They focus on the potential downsides of each contender and wonder, Could this person make things even worse?
When this mental shift happens, I suspect Trump will slide.


Where's the blue rug?
Hmmm... Mr. Brooks has been a big fan of Marco Rubio, believing he will end up being the "blue rug".

I wonder now if Mr. Brooks might be willing to consider one of the DEMOCRATIC candidates.

He could even invoke his hero, Ronald Reagan:
“I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me.”
... of course, Mr. Brooks would have to paraphrase this:
I didn't leave the Republican party; the Republican Party left me!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


For the past week it's been in the 70s here in Albuquerque.
Yesterday it cooled off a bit - it was only in the mid-60s.

Today it's snowing.

What's wrong with these people?

Senate GOP: No hearings for Supreme Court nominee
Perhaps a 28th Amendment is needed:
No President during the 4th year of his term, whether his first or second term, shall be allowed to exercise any of his duties or fulfill any of his obligations under Article II of this Constitution.
No Democratic President during his term in office shall be allowed to exercise any of his duties or fulfill any of his obligations under Article II of this Constitution.
Just sayin'.

This my nephew-in-law!

L.A., as in Laboratory

By Jim Tranquada

Two years ago, Jeremiah “Jem” Axelrod—an adjunct professor of history, American studies, art history, and urban and environmental policy at Oxy—was inspired by his colleagues and students’ enthusiasm for ­research on Los Angeles to design and propose a new institute dedicated to teaching and research about the city.

This fall, just before Thanksgiving, Axelrod had the pleasure of formally announcing the launch of Occidental’s new Institute for the Study of Los Angeles. Rooted in the College’s strategic vision of an academic program intertwined with all that metropolitan Los Angeles has to offer, the institute and its interdisciplinary mission are the product of a collaboration between dozens of faculty from 11 departments, a long list of community partners, and President Jonathan Veitch, who secured a major grant from Howard Ahmanson ’72’s Charitable Community Trust.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Just for fun

"A rising tide..."

"... lifts all boats."
Well, yeah - but ya gotta have a boat!

The Reagan & Clinton years were pretty good for some of us.
Not so much the Bush I or W years.

... and for MOST of us, we've been pretty stagnant!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Just for fun (I used to do this a lot)

Here's a graph of household income in quintiles (+ 95%-ile).

[source: Historical Income Tables: Households, Table H-1. Income Limits for Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent, All Races]

Stanford news

... (I'm a grad school alumnus, so news is semi-relevant to me.):
Stanford Is Now Tuition-Free For All Students From Low Income Families
By James DeVinne
Posted on February 21, 2016

Even as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to provide free public education draws increasing support and attention, many elite private schools have quietly begun providing a tuition-free college education to many students. Stanford led the charge last year in announcing that students whose families make less than $125,000 per year and have assets of less than $300,000 won’t have to pay for tuition, which typically runs to about $46,000 annually. Additionally, students whose families make less than $65,000 per year won’t have to pay for room and board either, which typically runs to another $14,100. The costs will instead be covered by scholarships and grants, while students will still be required to contribute about $5,000 annually from part-time work or savings.
I particularly LIKE the income cut-offs: $125,000 and $65,000.

These numbers more-or-less accurately reflect "middle class"... unlike the $250,000 being suggested by some candidates in their tax policies!

Jeb: another poor decision

... nope, I'm not talking about his decision to "suspend" his campaign.
(... tho' why don't candidates just say they're quitting?)

I'm talking about Jeb's decision to NOT use the speech I wrote for him, and sent him!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bernie bashers

Many of the folks in the Bernie Bashers crowd point out - correctly - that's there's little chance any of his policies could be implemented.
So what?

Maybe it's better to stake out extreme positions and accept moderate compromises when the time comes.

I recall that Obama came into office promising bipartisanship, and ALWAYS proposed sane, moderate positions as his starting points.
It didn't work.
The Republicans saw his willingness to be reasonable as weakness.

Maybe, just maybe, it's better to start out with WHAT YOU REALLY WANT!... then give a little in negotiations.

(This seems to be how Rubio is positioning himself as the "sane" alternative to Trump or Cruz! - "Hey, compared to THOSE guys, I'm not all that bat-shit crazy!")

This and that...

Baby-sitting grandson Hunter last night, so no blogging.
This was particularly stressful as I was otherwise ALONE!
Melissa was in Dulce, NM, for the birthday of one her colleagues - a Jicarilla Apache woman with whom she's worked for many years.

... and it didn't help that my efforts to clean up my computer failed completely - in fact, resulting in my having no internet access.
Fortunately I was able to get a tech guy out to fix things!

In other news...
... a friend stopped by today.
We chatted about pets, the weather, our physical ailments... the usual.
Then HE brought up politics.
I was shocked to learn that he supports Bernie!

Why shocked, you ask?
The friend continued: "I used to think I was a Republican."

Yes, I was pretty sure this fellow was a Republican.
No more.
He even said nasty things about George W!

Meanwhile, there's a caucus in Nevada and a primary in South Carolina.
I'll likely watch the coverage of these later.

(Main reason for this post: I felt guilty about posting nothing yesterday!)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Trump on waterboarding...

Donald Trump on waterboarding: ‘Torture works’
Back in the dark W years I maintained a blog called al Qaeda in Albuquerque.

Here are a couple of reposts from that blog:
"Quaestiones sunt fallaces et inefficaces"

"Quaestiones sunt fallaces et inefficaces"
["Torture is deceptive and ineffectual."]

Nicholas Eymerich, inquisitor general of the Inquisition of the Crown of Aragon; 1357-1360, 1366(?)-1381(?)]

Note: This guy was NOT a humanist! In fact, "[h]e was the first inquisitor to get around the Church's prohibition against torturing a subject twice by interpreting [the] directive very liberally, permitting a separate instance of torture for a separate charge of heresy."
[Wikipedia entry, Nicholas Eymerich]

Presumably after several years of trying to extract confessions under torture, he arrived at the now well-known conclusion:
"Torture is deceptive and ineffectual."
But wait! - There's more!
I can't believe my country is having this debate!
Here's another fun quotation:
She said "If I knew what to say I would say it. Oh Señor, I don't know what I have to say-- Oh! Oh! they are killing me--if they would tell me what--Oh, Señores! Oh, my heart!" Then she asked why they wished her to tell what she could not tell and cried repeatedly "O, miserable me" Then she said "Lord bear witness that they are killing me without my being able to confess." She was told that if she wished to tell the truth before the water was poured she should do so and discharge her conscience. She said that she could not speak and that she was a sinner. Then the linen toca was placed [in her throat] and she said "Take it away, I am strangling and am sick in the stomach." A jar of water was then poured down, after which she was told to tell the truth. She clamored for confession, saying that she was dying. She was told that the torture would be continued till she told the truth and was admonished to tell it, but though she was questioned repeatedly she remained silent. Then the inquisitor, seeing her exhausted by the torture, ordered it to be suspended.

('...a very moderate case of water-torture, carried only to a single jarra, administered in 1568 by the tribunal of Toledo to Elvira del Campo, accused of not eating pork and of putting on "clean linen on Saturdays. She admitted the acts but denied heretical intent and was tortured on intention." ')
[A History of the Inquisition of Spain, Volume 3, Henry Charles Lea, 1906/7]

"Insert flap 'A' and throw away"

I have recently been assembling baby paraphernalia for grandson Hunter.
"Baby Bouncer", "Play Seat", Stroller... well, you get the idea.

I am not sure how many configurations were theoretically possible to attach seat of "Baby Bouncer" to the frame, but it took me three tries to get it right.

This has reminded me of an S.J. Perelman essay I read in high school: "Insert flap 'A' and throw away".
Below is the opening paragraph. (It gets better!... I just don't want to include the full essay - I've provided a link!):
One stifling summer afternoon last August, in the attic of a tiny stone house in Pennsylvania, I made a most interesting discovery: the shortest, cheapest method of inducing a nervous breakdown ever perfected. In this technique (eventually adopted by the psychology depart- ment of Duke University, which will adopt anything) , the subject is placed in a sharply sloping attic heated to 340 °F. and given a mothproof closet known as the Jiffy-Cloz to assemble. The Jiffy-Cloz, procurable at any department store or neighborhood insane asylum, consists of half a dozen gigantic sheets of red cardboard, two plywood doors, a clothes rack, and a packet of staples. With these is in- cluded a set of instructions mimeographed in pale-violet ink, fruity with phrases like "Pass Section F through Slot AA, taking care not to fold tabs behind washers (see Fig. 9)." The cardboard is so processed that as the subject struggles convulsively to force the staple through, it sud- denly buckles, plunging the staple deep into his thumb. He thereupon springs up with a dolorous cry and smites his knob (Section K) on the rafters (RR). As a final de- monic touch, the Jiffy-Cloz people cunningly omit four of the staples necessary to finish the job, so that after in- describable purgatory, the best the subject can possibly achieve is a sleazy, capricious structure which would re- duce any self-respecting moth to helpless laughter. The cumulative frustration, the tropical heat, and the soft, ghostly chuckling of the moths are calculated to unseat the strongest mentality.
This was found at:
The Best of S.J. Perelman
... I think I managed to get the link directly to the first page of the essay.
(... if not, it starts on page 285. It's worth it!)

Thomas Piketty on Bernie Sanders

It's a good read, reminding us that we used to be even more progressive than Europe... and still thrived!
Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The Big Lie

A big lie is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."
(Big lie)
Yep - this is the propaganda technique being used by the GOP for the past... how many years?... 20?... 30?... 40?

The "southern strategy" - fear "the Black"!
Fear Big Government!
Fear Iraq!
Fear Iran!
... fear, Fear, FEAR!
... when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it...”
(Joseph Goebbels)

"It's a great day in South Carolina!"

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley To Endorse Marco Rubio
Title of post references:
South Carolina Governor Forces State Employees to Greet Callers Cheerfully

It’s a great day in South Carolina. Even if it’s not.

South Carolina’s Republican governor Nikki Haley is ordering state employees to cheerfully answer phones with the phrase:
“It’s a great day in South Carolina.
How can I help you?”

the presumed looming "Constitutional Crisis"

Constitutional scholar, Russ Sype, here!
United States Constitution
Article VI
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

[aside: I highlight that bit about "no religious test" just to remind folks... ]

The oath to be taken by Senators is not specified by the Constitution.
But the following has been adopted:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Just a reminder to our esteemed Senators:
United States Constitution
Article II
Section 2
... he [the President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law...

Being just a wee bit pretentious

Melissa & I honeymooned in British Columbia, spending a few days in Vancouver and about week in Victoria.
In Victoria, we stayed at Fairholme Manor.

Since then we've stayed at a few "named" places while on vacation.
The most recent was Eshott Hall in Morpeth (northern England).

Anyway, giving a house a name seemed like a good idea...
... so we named our house:
"Los Ciruelos" - it means, "The Plum Trees", honoring our 4 plum trees (all different varieties!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What about Harriet Meiers?

Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination
... and I've always wanted to ask Samuel Alito,
"So, how does it feel to be W's SECOND choice, after Harriet Meiers?"

Trying to maintain cognitive function

Grandparents Who Babysit Are Less Likely to Develop Alzheimer’s
A few weeks ago we hosted a going-away party for one of Melissa's students.
He has embarked on extended trip to Columbia, of which he is a native, to work on an indigenous language.
(This is what Melissa and her students do - work on documentation & revitalization of indigenous languages.)

Anyway, when we offered to host the going-away party, both the student & his wife were concerned:
You know there will be LOTS of children attending?
Are you SURE you want to do this???
Well, "YES", we replied.
... and there were LOTS of children attending - aged about 18 months to 12 years.
'Twas a delight!

We do our best to encourage son & daughter-in-law to let us sit for grandson, Hunter.
We've accumulated a LOT of baby stuff!
So far we've been quite happy with this arrangement... BUT wish we could do it more!
(We mention this at every opportunity!)

Monday, February 15, 2016

How NOT to win votes

Why will I never be elected to any office?

'Cuz I say things like this:
"Keep the Government's hands off my Medicare!"
You're kidding, right?

No - you're not!
You're too stupid to know that Medicare is a GOVERNMENT PROGRAM!

But still you are allowed to vote!!!
Yes - THIS is what I want to say to folks who support Trump & Cruz & Rubio... and just about ALL of the current GOP candidates.
You are too ignorant to vote!
... of course, no legitimate candidate can say this.

So I'm doing a public service.
I'm saying it for 'em.

My extended family - a riff on "politics, religion, & life are not coextensive"...

... tho' this'll be mostly on the 'religion' bit.

One of my sisters - who was raised in the Catholic tradition, attending Catholic schools - married a Jewish man... hmmm... more than 40 years ago.
They're still married.

One of my nephews, nominally Christian, married a Jewish woman. 'Twas a fun wedding!
They're still married.

A nephew-by-marriage is Jewish. His wife? Nominally Catholic.
They have delightful twin daughters... and they're still married.

My in-laws?
All Jewish!
Somehow we get along.

Me - nominally Catholic. At least the Church claims me - I was baptized!

... and, oh yeah, I almost forgot: my wife is Jewish.

On the "politics" side... well... most of these folks are pretty liberal.
... tho' there is one "militia man" bro-in-law lurking, and a niece-in-law who seems to support Trump!

Still - family gatherings aren't too hostile.

A recent commenter - and loyal reader - noted:
Last night I had dinner with a couple in which the husband is a businessman/Republican/Creationist/Baptist and the wife is a science professor/Democrat/evolutionist/Jew. They are a lovely couple and very happy together.
Nope - religion, politics, and life are NOT coextensive!
That's a good thing.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Religion, politics and life are NOT coextensive

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg mourns loss of her ‘best buddy’ Antonin Scalia
Posted 9:21 am, February 14, 2016, by CNN Wire Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Polar opposites on the bench, Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a long, deep, an unexpected friendship.

“Why don’t you call us the odd couple?” Scalia said last winter during a joint appearance with the woman he has called his “best buddy” on the bench.

“What’s not to like?” Scalia joked at the event hosted by the Smithsonian Associates. “Except her views on the law, of course.”

The two justices and their families vacationed together. There was a trip to Europe where Ginsburg went parasailing, leaving Scalia on the ground to admire her courage but at the same time worry she might just float away.

In her chambers, she has a picture of them riding an elephant in India. Ginsburg — the pioneer of gender equality– has said that she was only sitting behind Scalia to distribute weight more evenly on the elephant.
Me? One of my best friends is a USMC reservist.
He served in Desert Storm & Iraqi Freedom.
He's done MANY tours in Afghanistan.
He's a statistician - one of my former colleagues.

Other than our chosen profession we have NOTHING in common.
He's the most politically conservative person I know - he votes Republican.
He attends a conservative Lutheran church - one of the Lutheran synods that would NEVER consider ordaining a woman pastor.

We get along well, exchange emails & snailmail.
We enjoy each other's company, and feel free to discuss politics & religion without coming to blows.

Religion, politics, and life are NOT coextensive!

Weird weather

Southern California endures record-breaking heat for a third day
Record-breaking cold sweeps eastern U.S.

... just how i'm feelin'

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Political calculus

... alternative title for this post:
"Unless things change, they are likely to remain the same."
Conservatives Quickly Refuse Any Obama Court Replacement After Antonin Scalia's Death
"Senate must simply refuse to appoint anybody."
I would suggest to Majority Leader McConnell that this is a very stupid, short-term strategy.

Does he really believe that Trump or Cruz - the two GOP front-runners - will win the general election in November?

Let's imagine for the moment that his political instincts, which have so far served him well, recognize the likelihood of a Dem victory in November...
... a Dem victory accompanied by loss of GOP control of the Senate.

Does he believe either Clinton or Sanders would nominate a less radical/left-wing/progressive replacement for Scalia than would Obama?
Obama recognizes that the GOP now controls the Senate, and is therefore constrained to nominate at least a MODERATE liberal!

Neither Clinton nor Sanders would be so constrained!

"I knew him, Horatio"

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dies at 79

Justice Scalia and I had many disagreements.
Still, I cannot find it in myself to celebrate his death.
'No Man is an Island'
No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;

any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

[John Donne, MEDITATION XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, 1624]

I learn something every day!

I sometimes use the phrase, "in the best of all possible worlds."
Whenever I type this, I internally reference the character Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide.

Just for fun I decided to look it up.
Turns out Voltaire was satirizing Leibniz!
The following is from Wikipedia article, Best of all possible worlds:
The phrase "the best of all possible worlds" was coined by the German polymath Gottfried Leibniz in his 1710 work "Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil". The claim that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds is the central argument in Leibniz's theodicy, or his attempt to solve the problem of evil.
As title of post indicates, I learn something every day!

Friday, February 12, 2016

... in the best of all possible worlds...

... I'd remember this anniversary.
But, given my mental deterioration it's unlikely... so I'll post it now - about a month ahead of the actual anniversary:
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911 was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in US history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men – who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged 16 to 23; of the victims whose ages are known, the oldest victim was Providenza Panno at 43, and the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and "Sara" Rosaria Maltese.

Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a then-common practice to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to reduce theft – many of the workers could not escape and jumped from the high windows.
This is what unregulated, rapacious, predatory capitalism looks like!

Yeah - I'm a Socialist.
I want MY government to protect me from unregulated, rapacious, predatory Capitalists!
(THESE are the folks the GOP simply LOVE!)

GOP candidates, redux

Yeah, this is old... but I'm proud of it:

Sadly, we've lost many of these folks:
Bobby Jindal: Dropped out 17 Nov 2015.
Lindsey Graham: Dropped out 21 Dec 2015.
George Pataki: dropped out 29 Dec 2015.
Mike Huckabee: dropped out 1 Feb 2016.
Rand Paul: dropped out 3 Feb 2016.
Rick Santorum: dropped out 3 Feb 2016.
Carly Fiorina: dropped out 10 Feb 2016.
Chris Christie: dropped out 10 Feb 2016.
Jim Gilmore: dropped out 12 Feb 2016.
We'll miss 'em.

Trying to be honest (unlike David Brooks)

In his op-ed in the NYT today, "Livin' the Danish Dream", David Brooks states,
"Currently, total government spending is about 36 percent of G.D.P."
This is a fact-checkable assertion.
It's a lie.

I checked the Bureau of Economic Analysis website, Table 1.1.5
Government consumption expenditures and gross investment is just under 18% of GDP.
In fact, it's just about half the figure cited by Mr. Brooks!

Gross private domestic investment is just under 17% of GDP.

Net exports of goods and services (balance-of-trade) is NEGATIVE - taking away about 3% of GDP!
(Just for fun: the "strong dollar" that ALL the GOP candidates desire contributes to a NEGATIVE balance-of-trade: nobody buys our stuff when it's expensive; but we are more than happy to buy their stuff 'cuz it's cheap!)

that leaves...

Personal consumption expenditures: just over 68% of GDP!
David Brooks simply lied when he cited "government spending" as 36% of GDP.

As I've stated MANY times, the biggest chunk of GDP is consumer spending - folks like you & me going out and spending $$$.

Business "investment"?
Recall, these are the purported "job creators" the GOP simply LOVE! - well, that's not much...
... and no matter how much we give to these "Job Creators" in tax-breaks, if WE aren't spending $$$ to buy stuff, they aren't going to create even ONE job!
I usually enjoy reading David Brooks.
I seldom agree with him, and his approach is off-putting... BUT, I still enjoy reading him.
He is sometimes delusional - Rubio will be the GOP's savior!

He frequently riffs on an unsupported initial postulate... yeah, if the postulate were true, he might have a case... but he offers NO support for the initial assumption!

He doesn't usually flat-out LIE.

Today he did... in a fact-checkable way.
... and I fact-checked it!

Just for fun... (and "about" is always fun to hear!)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why not?

Deaf Ted, Danoota, (and me)

Thorg hilly grove and burly ive,
Big daleys grass and tree
We clobber ever gallup
Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me.

Never shall we partly stray,
Fast stirrup all we three
Fight the battle mighty sword
Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me.

With faithful frog beside us,
Big mighty club are we
The battle scab and frisky dyke
Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me.

We fith the baddy baddies,
For colour, race and cree
For Negro, Jew and Bernie
Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me.

Thorg Billy grown and Burnley ten,
And Aston Villa three
We clobber ever gallup
Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me.

So if you hear a wonderous sight,
Am blutter or at sea,
Rememer whom they mighty say
Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me -

(sometimes we bring our friend, Malcom.)

(John Lennon, In His Own Write)

Economics 101

GDP = C + I + G +(E - I)
C = Consumer SPENDING
I = business Investment
G = Government spending (on things like defense & infrastructure & unemployment insurance)
(E - I) = Exports - Imports = balance of trade
a STRONG DOLLAR - which every GOP candidate wants - mitigates AGAINST balance-of-trade!
If the dollar is STRONG, nobody buys our stuff!
... and I've not heard ANY GOP candidate propose ANYTHING that encourages my wife & me to SPEND $$$ in our local economy.
For what it's worth - WE DO IT ANYWAY! - even without govt assistance.
We hire out ALL the work around the house.
... we hire it out to LOCAL FOLKS, who then go out and SPEND the $$$ we pay 'em.

WE are "job creators".

That "Consumer spending" piece of GDP?
It's 70% of the total!
For a strong economy, CONSUMERS need $$$ to SPEND!

The faces have changed, but the message is the same

Just in case you've forgotten

I occasionally write about economics.
Just to remind you:
What I know about economics can be written in BIG BLOCK LETTERS on a postage stamp!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Yeah - I knew this already

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Doesn't Actually Mean Anything
In a former life I was a "Mental Hygiene Specialist" - in the U.S. Army. One of the diagnostic tools at my disposal was the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). It was quite popular at the time. I never depended on it when working with clients. It meant little.

Then - in yet another life - I worked for a Fortune 500 company as a statistician.
For reasons unknown to me, "Team Building" and "Interpersonal Style" became the BIG DEALS.

I did Myers-Briggs and at least two other "personality inventories". Sorry, I don't recall the names of the other two.

While attending an intensive 5-day workshop on "Team Building" (off-site, at a pretty nice hotel!) we were asked to report our Myers-Briggs "type".
I replied "Virgo".
I figured my astrological sign had about as much predictive value as Myers-Briggs.

I still believe this.

Wanna know my personality, or inter-personal, or behavioral type?

p.s. Why'd I get into statistics?
As a math/stat grad student the only thing that mattered was being clever enough to solve puzzles.
I was really GOOD at this type of puzzle-solving! I LIKED it.
I got hired by a Fortune 500 company to do what I love - solve puzzles.
THEN this Fortune 500 company decides that, screw you! - we want team-work and interpersonal relations!
Hey - the reason I chose statistics was 'cuz I sucked at interpersonal relations! - I just love to solve puzzles!
You really want to know my interpersonal skills?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

General letter to all GOP candidates

Dear Senator/Governor/Wannabe:

You claim to be a Christian.

Have you even READ the Bible?

G-d is sometimes wrathful, but WE are always exhorted to be merciful and just.
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him:
for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
(Exodus 23:21)

The Parable of the Unjust Judge
There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
(Luke 18:1-5)

Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:18)
Somehow I'm not getting this sense of justice & mercy from you... from ANY of you!

No - you fear not G-d, nor regard man...
... You are simply ignorant, arrogant and cruel!
(Good things come in 3s.)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Supply-side economics

The GOP are addicted to supply-side economics.
Field of Dreams
"If you build it, he will come."
Yeah, right.

Problem is, folks have to have $$$ to "come".

Giving producers $$$ to create jobs doesn't work if there's no demand for the stuff the workers make.

DEMAND creates wealth.
Folks like me, going out and buying stuff.

If I go out and buy something, that "something" had to have been made by someone.

If someone makes that "something" and I don't go out and buy it?
Oh, well... it just sits there.

I've said this before: the median household income is about $50K/year.
It hasn't changed in 20 years or more.
THIS is "middle class"!

The folks that make $50K/year?
WE - SPEND $$$!!!

The folks that make $10,000,000/year?
They "invest" it... which means it's sequestered! - it is no longer in the economy.
They do NOT create jobs.

We - the "middle class" ... the folks making $50K/year?
- WE spend our money in the economy.
WE create jobs!...

A day late & a dollar short - reflections on Super Bowl 50

Most of the articles I've read about Super Bowl 50 have been sorta negative.
Folks complain about lack of offensive fireworks, about sloppiness, about miscues.

Yeah - all that is true.

BUT! - the Denver defense was AMAZING!

I watched Steelers v Broncos, and thought,
"Yeah, well, Big Ben ain't young no more.
Peyton looks BAD!
No chance against Brady & Co."
I watched Patriots v Broncos - and was truly surprised.
Son-of-a-bitch - that Denver D shut down Brady!
... but against Carolina? No chance.

I watched Super Bowl 50 and was flabbergasted!
- Manning looked like an old man (no surprise)...
... & I was hoping they put Osweiler in for the 2nd half!
BUT - that Denver D is GREAT!

I don't understand folks who bitch about a game in which such defensive domination is exhibited!
... well, okay - Manning sucked...
BUT - the entire Denver defense shoulda been awarded the MVP.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The middle class

For the past couple of decades the median household income has been about $50K/year.
It hasn't changed at all.

When the candidates talk about the middle class, these are the folks they ought to mean.

When they talk about folks making $250K/year? - Them folks are NOT the middle class.


We the people of the United States, in order to
form a more perfect union,

establish justice,

insure domestic tranquility,

provide for the common defense,

promote the general welfare,
secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
All this stuff costs $$$.

Why are the GOP folks unwilling to pay for these things?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My letter to Marco Rubio

Dear Senator Rubio:

WE are job creators.

My wife is gainfully employed as a tenured full professor at the University of New Mexico.
I am a retired statistician.

My wife & I just spent $130K to remodel our house.
This was a one-time thing.
A local contractor did the work.
All the folks who did the job went out and SPENT the money in our local economy.
We hire a woman to clean our house every two weeks.
– She has her own business… a SMALL business.
Every dollar we pay her, she spends in our local economy.
We hire a local company to clean the yard four times each year.
It’s locally owned – a SMALL business.
Every dollar we pay these folks they go out and spend in our local economy.
We hire a fellow to maintain our drip system.
He is local, and has a SMALL business.
He employs maybe 4 guys.
They spend every dollar we pay ‘em in our local economy.
We hire a fellow to do all the brickwork on our house.
He’s a veteran with a SMALL business.
He spends every dollar in our local economy.
The businesses you choose to support with tax breaks? Every dollar you give ‘em is sequestered. It gets parked in some off-shore account or tax-shelter, or is simply held as “working capital”. It is NOT spent. It does NOTHING for the economy. ALL those dollars are effectively removed from the economy.

Me & my wife? – We spend money in our local community, promoting local SMALL businesses and the LOCAL economy.

You have not proposed even ONE policy that benefits these SMALL businesses and the tax-payers that support ‘em, like us!

Economics 101:
GDP = Consumer spending + Investment + Govt spending + balance of trade
The largest component is CONSUMER SPENDING – 70%!!! – Folks like my wife & me, SPENDING MONEY.

The big businesses you want to support with tax breaks? They do NOT create jobs with that extra cash. They just sequester it. Those tax “incentives” you propose? – they make high-paid CEOs look great, but I’m betting you can’t cite one instance in which even one dollar of tax incentive went to create a job. – don’t worry about it: nobody can. – It’s never happened!


Another Republican debate!

... think I'll skip it.

I'm sorry - this headline is just too good to pass up

Flying Pink Dildo Hits Politician In The Face During Presser

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A regressive tax... that may help

Oil is now down to below $30/bbl.
This is reflected at your local gas station.

(Parenthetical remark: yep - this is what oil was at before we invaded Iraq in 2003. Hmmm... )

Anyway - we've gotten used to $3/gallon.
Now we're paying less than $2/gallon.

Maybe states could take advantage of this... ?
Tack a $0.40/gallon tax onto the price.
We'd still be paying less than what we were.
... AND - the states might just be able to balance their budgets.

Yes - this is a regressive tax.
BUT - it accomplishes a couple of things:
It raises state revenues.
It encourages conservation.
Would this proposal get me elected?


One of the digs against Bernie Sanders is that he's not "electable".
A socialist Jew? - c'mon!

My fear is that The Donald IS electable.
The racist xenophobe? - Yep, in a New York minute.

Melissa & I have started scoping out properties in Victoria, British Columbia.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Things I will never know

I will never know what it is to be a minority.

I will never know what it is to be black in America.

I will never know what it is to be a woman in America.

I will never know what it is to be Jewish in America.

I will never know what it is to be Muslim in America.

My life is that of the privileged class, just about any way one can define "privileged".

"... natural born Citizen..."

"No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President... "
[U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1]
Second apparition:
Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.

Despair thy charm;
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb
Untimely ripp'd.

Perhaps we ought ask of each presidential candidate,
"Were you delivered by Caesarian section?"
If "yes", you are NOT "natural born".