"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fisking GLAAD's Statement on Duck Dynasty

The first pro-gay liberal group out of the box to criticize Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty was GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.   Below is their statement, with my comments, but I first want to make an important threshold point.   "Defamation" by definition in the law involves intentionally making a false statement that injures the reputation of an individual.   The key word here is false, which has two important implications -- (1) the statement must be a statement of fact, not of opinion; and (2) the fact stated must be demonstrably untrue.  

Applying this standard to Phil Robertson's comments in GQ magazine, it seems self-evident to me that he was expressing nothing more than an opinion and, moreover, to the extent that he was stating facts, what he said is at least arguably true.   And, of course, if it's an opinion and at least arguably true, what we have here is not a defamation (which may be actionable) but a disagreement (which is not).  Put differently, what we have here from Phil Robertson is not a slur that could be an appropriate basis for punishment, but an opinion, which in a democracy can and should only be countered with debate, i.e., opposing opinions.

Now, for the GLAAD statement

The Robertsons, the family whose duck hunting products have made them a fortune, are breakout stars featured in A&E’s Duck Dynasty. GQ Magazine’s profile of Phil Robertson included some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication. His quote was littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.
Now, let me hasten to say that, as a libertarian, I think consenting adults have the right to do whatever they want sexually.   I do not and would never support discrimination against gay men.   And, frankly, uniformly every gay man I have met in my life has been nice to me... good co-workers, good neighbors, good friends.  

But what is Phil Robertson really saying here other than, to him, in his opinion, anal intercourse with a man is unappealing, undesirable?   He doesn't say it, but let's infer... he thinks in his personal opinion that it's icky or gross.   Is he really not allowed to think that?   Or, more likely, is he just not allowed to say it?  

Wait a Minute... Didn't Democrats Ridicule Republicans for Suggesting that the Mandate under Obamacare Be Postponed?

Two months ago, tea-party Republicans offered to end the government shutdown in exchange for a one-year postponing of the Obamacare individual mandate.   For that they were ridiculed as extremists who had "bombs strapped to their chests."

Well, now there's this story:

Hundreds of thousands of people whose health plans are being canceled because their coverage doesn’t meet Obamacare rules will be exempt next year from the U.S. mandate that all Americans carry medical insurance.  
People losing coverage will now be allowed to buy bare-bones “catastrophic” insurance that the law usually limits to those younger than age 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said yesterday. Others can opt out completely without the threat of the fines being imposed next year on the uninsured as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Girl of the Day - Jennifer Beals

Jennifer Beals -- the girl from Flashdance back in the early 1980s -- turns 50 today.

Tempus fugit.    Man, does it ever.

Duck Dynasty Translated into the Catholic Catechism

I've never watched Duck Dynasty and probably won't ever watch it.   Reality TV is just not interesting to me... to me it seems like it's neither "reality" nor good "TV."   And I particularly don't like the kind of winking condescension of TV networks who put on hicks or white trash or southerners or simpletons and then induce them to say outrageous things.   It seems like slumming, like they're inviting the viewers to laugh at people, to think that they're superior to the people they're watching.   And, frankly, we're just not a smart enough country anymore that we can sneer at people for being dumb.   We're all pretty dumbed down ca. 2013.

Anyway, the Internet is fairly agog with the supposedly horrible comments about homosexuality by Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family that appears on A&E, in an interview/article in GQ magazine, so much so that A&E has taken the step to "indefinitely suspend" Robertson.   Now, I don't think the suspension will last very long -- Duck Dynasty is a huge hit, by far the biggest hit A&E has ever had, and they're in business, so you do the math.   And I also am not convinced that the whole thing isn't a publicity stunt.   Duck Dynasty's new season starts January 15th, they're obviously interested in capitalizing on its popularity and growing the audience share, etc.   Again, you do the math.

But, even so, this seems to me to be a very strange "scandal."   What is it that Robertson actually said about homosexuality?   Here is the article and below are the three quotes that reference homosexuality.   For the benefit of liberals who don't get out much and who apparently have no concept of what it is that mainstream Christianity believes anymore, I've translated his comments into the nearly identical positions of the Catholic Catechism:
1. “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” 
Translation:  Men and women have a natural sexual complementarity oriented toward procreation.   Men and men do not.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thoughts on the Cardinals Off-Season

The Cardinals got within two wins of their 12th World Series championship last year.   Their main strength was a plethora of young pitching -- Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Joe Kelly, etc., etc.   Their main weaknesses were:
  • poor outfield defense,
  • no hitting whatsoever from the shortstop position,
  • a star playing out of position at second base (Matt Carpenter),
  • a fading hometown hero playing abysmal defense at third base (David Freese),
  • no positions for our best young power hitter (Matt Adams) and our best overall prospect (Kolten Wong),
  • problems hitting against left-handed pitching, and
  • a weak bench.  
The assumption that everybody had was that, in order to fix even some of the problems, the Cardinals would have to part with some of their young pitching or spend a lot of money in free agency, and maybe both.

Which leads me to my assessment of the Cardinals' off-season:


The Cardinals GM, John Mozeliak, managed to solve every single issue the Cardinals -- a 97-win team last year -- had, and he managed to do it (a) without trading any of the organization's young pitching talent, and (b) while reducing the payroll.   What?   How the heck did he do that?

Step 1.   Mozeliak traded a liability -- the fading, horrible fielding Freese -- for arguably the best fielding centerfielder in baseball, Peter Bourjos of the Angels.   Bourjos improves the Cardinals outfield defense, its overall team speed, and he's both younger and cheaper than Freese.   Moving Freese also allows Carpenter to move to his natural position, third, which in turn frees up a spot for Wong, with the result that the Cardinals, in one fell swoop, improved their team defense at 3 different positions.   Oh, and the Cards also picked up a former 1st round draft choice and high-level prospect, CF Randall Grichuk.   Five years from now this trade will be thought of on a level with Broglio-Brock... mark that down, you heard it here first.

Step 2.   Mozeliak signed a front-loaded deal with Johnny Peralta, the best hitting (and also good fielding) shortstop on the market.   He didn't have to trade Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez or any other young pitching talent to get him.   He just signed him to a team-friendly deal where his salary in the third and fourth years drops to $10 million, and makes moving him via trade or to the bench at that time much more palatable.   Meanwhile, he's a huge upgrade of Pete Kozma and/or Daniel Descalso.

Step 3.   Mozeliak signed Mark Ellis, a right-handed hitting second baseman (Gold Glove caliber) to platoon with and/or provide insurance for Wong.   Because Bourjos, Peralta and Ellis are all right-handed, the Cards will be much improved against left-handed pitchers.   And, with Ellis from the right side and Jon Jay returned to his natural role as a left-handed hitting 4th outfielder, our bench is much stronger.

Yes, we lost an aging Carlos Beltran to the Yankees.   But we weren't going to give him $15 million and we weren't going to give him a three-year deal.   And, because Beltran is gone, we've opened up a place for Adams by moving Allen Craig to RF.   Oh, and, ultimately, we've opened up a slot for the best hitting prospect in baseball, 21 year-old Oscar Taveras.

And Mozeliak did it all without giving up Wacha, Miller, Rosenthal, Kelly, Siegrist, Lynn, Marco Gonzalez, Tyler Lyons, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, John Gast... nobody.   I mean... Holy Cow!

Prediction:   the Cardinals win 100+ games next year.  And, of course, that 12th World Series.

Girl of the Day - She Wouldn't Be Caught Dead With Obamacare Footie-PJ Guy (Kate Upton)

It doesn't matter how cold it gets, you drink man-drinks with this girl, not hot cocoa:

Oh, and if you end up wearing footie PJs with her, you're a freakin' idiot.


Sometimes you just have to sit back in awe at the brain trust of the Obama White House.   They apparently thought that this advertisement would persuade "young invincibles" -- the young people without health insurance that the Obamacare exchanges desperately need in order for the exchanges to work actuarially -- to buy over-priced health insurance.  

What?   Huh?   Let me tell you, if my twenty-something son is still wearing footie PJs to sit around the house sipping cocoa, and he has the audacity to try to talk to me about health insurance, I will shoot myself.   Man... did they really think this is a self-image that would appeal to the average young person?   Really?   How out of touch are these guys?   Do they really think the world looks up to and awaits the wisdom of pansy nerds?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Birthday Today - Frank Sinatra

We're more of a rock-and-roll family, but it's hard to say he wasn't the greatest American singer of popular standards ever:

Girl of the Day - Jennifer Connelly

One of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood.   She turns 43 today.

Also, she looks a little like the Regular Wife.   :)

Imagine If George W. Bush Was Still President

I dare you.   The "Bush is a Murderer" stories would be headlining every hour on MSNBC.   But, because a progressive Democrat is President, this sort of thing gets much less coverage:

John Gisler has been trying to buy an Obamacare plan for his sick son since the federal exchange launched on October 1, but after nearly three months, three failed applications, and “maybe 50 or 100” calls exchange’s hotline, he’s given up. Faced with the risk of not having insurance on January 1, Gisler has opted to buy an individual plan from a local insurance broker. 
The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff reports that Gisler and his son are just one story of potential 15 million other people who may fall into the “coverage gap” of people who saw their plans canceled and still can’t enroll in the exchanges. In the case of Gisler’s son, who has a rare degenerative condition, the plan is ending because Utah’s high-risk pool is being shut down at the end of this year. 
Rather than keep trying to enroll amid a series of problems, the family has decided to forgo the $3,000 tax credit they would receive on the exchange, because they worry they wouldn’t be covered in time. 
“We cannot take any chances,” Gisler said. “Not having insurance would, in no short order, lead our family to bankruptcy.” 
The family has filed an appeal with the exchange , according to Kliff, and hopes to eventually get their son covered with tax credits. “It’s a net gain for us, that preexisting conditions no longer preclude coverage,” said Gisler. 
“But in terms of the government’s ability to process us through the system, they’re still working on that,” he said. “We’ve given up. We don’t even try anymore.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fisking Obama's Remarks in March 2010 Upon Signing the Affordable Care Act

As the disaster of Obamacare deepens -- see here and here -- it seems an opportune time to revisit what President Obama had to say during the signing ceremony for his signature "achievement" (ahem).   My remarks with the benefit of hindsight are in red:

President Obama: Today, after almost a century of trying; today, after over a year of debate; today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America -- (cheers, applause) -- today. (Applause continues.)  
Debate?   This was rammed through on a party line vote.   This was pure power politics.   It's amazing looking back that Obama had the chutzpah to act as if Obamacare was passed via persuasion.   He didn't manage to persuade a single Republican.   And now he has to live with the arrogance of what his party did with its one-party rule when it had the chance. 
You know, it is fitting that Congress passed this historic legislation this week, for as we mark the turning of spring, we also mark a new season in America.  
He might wish he had held off on that "new season" talk... particularly when the brunt of Obamacare is hitting in the dead of the coldest winter in memory. 
In a few moments, when I sign this bill, all of the overheated rhetoric over reform will finally confront the reality of reform. (Applause.)  
Again... the balls on this f'in guy.   The King of "overheated rhetoric" who is so divorced from reality that his own autobiographies are fictional has the audacity to play the realist. 
And while the Senate still has the last round of improvements to make on this historic legislation --   
Audience Member: Yes.   
President Obama: -- and these are improvements I'm confident they will make swiftly --   
Audience Member: Yeah! (Applause.)  
I suspect we haven't seen the "last round of improvements" even today. 
President Obama: The bill -- the bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see.  
Have they really?   I don't remember any marches for a government run insurance marketplace that doesn't work.   I don't even remember Obama running on that as part of his platform.   I do remember that every poll showed that most Americans were happy with their healthcare.    
It will take four years to implement fully many of these reforms, because we need to implement them responsibly.   
How's that working out?   Mr. "We need to implement them responsibly" is the same guy who played 150 rounds of golf while never meeting one-on-one with his HHS secretary.  

Deconstructing the Obamacare Numbers

HHS has released its end of November numbers for "enrollments" in Obamacare.   Let's see if we can deconstruct them a little:

  • The release says that a total of 39.1 million people accessed either the state or federal online insurance marketplaces.  
  • Of those, only approximately 3.7 million applied for coverage (again, in either the state or federal marketplaces).   So, less than 10% of those who went to the website actually applied for coverage.
  • Of those, only 2.3 million were deemed "eligible."
  • Of those, only 365,000 have actually "selected" a plan.   So now we're down below 1% of the people who went to the Obamacare websites have actually selected a plan.
  • Of those, only 137,000 did so through the federal exchange, the vaunted healthcare.gov website that Obama and the HHS and Kathleen Sibelius were actually responsible for.  
  • Of those, the best estimates of insurance professionals suggest that fewer than 15% and as little as 5% have actually paid their premiums, which, of course, they have to pay by next week in order to have coverage starting January 1.  If they don't, their "enrollments" are very likely going to be null and void.
  • So, for all of the money we've spent and disruption that Obamacare has caused, the federal government's program may have successfully gotten healthcare to less than 10,000 Americans.   At a cost of $600 million for the website, and as many as 5,000,000 people so far who have lost their insurance.
Can someone explain why these people are so happy?

Girl of the Day - Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno turns 82 today.  

It doesn't get any better than this in American musical theater or movie musicals:

As Expected... Pope Francis is Man of the Year

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Time's "Person of the Year" Finalists

Well, the Time magazine "person of the year" is almost here, and they've now announced the ten finalists:

Bashar Assad, President of Syria

Not going to happen.  He's bad, but he's not quite Adolf Hitler bad.   (Hitler was Time's Man of the Year in 1938.)

Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder

Amazon is a great company and Bezos has had two world-changing ideas -- (1) sell books via the Internet (the 1990s idea); and (2) ship books (and other media) over the Internet (the late 2000s big idea... the Kindle).   But he's already been Person of the Year in 1999, and I doubt a bookseller gets two bites at that apple.   Note: the only people who have been named more than once are Obama (2), George W. Bush (2), Bill Clinton (2), Ronald Reagan (2), Richard Nixon (2), Lyndon Johnson (2), Dwight Eisenhower (2), Harry Truman (2), FDR (3), Stalin (2), Churchill (2), George Marshall (2).   In short, heads of state.   Amazon's not a country, not yet... although Bezos apparently does want some drones.

Ted Cruz, Texas Senator

Just put on the list so they can say snarky things about Republicans.

Miley Cyrus, Singer

Just put on the list so they can say snarky things about sluts.   (And to sell magazines.)

Barack Obama, President of the United States

Unless they really want to try to save his rapidly failing Presidency, no.   He's already got it twice, including last year.

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran

Who?   Maybe, if Time's point is making sure that John Kerry and Obama get applause for sabotaging Israel.   But I don't think so.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

YGTBFKM.   But, actually, maybe, since the failure of Obamacare is probably going to be the biggest story of this decade.  

Edward Snowden, N.S.A. Leaker

Would be an interesting pick, but also a very dangerous one... if he's Time's Man of the Year, doesn't that almost give him license to continue his drip-drip-drip of data damaging America's national security?  

Edith Windsor, Gay rights activist

This would be the apotheosis of the liberal elite stuffing their belief system down our throats if Time named as Person of the Year someone that even well-informed people like me have simply NEVER FREAKIN' HEARD OF!

Pope Francis, Leader of the Catholic Church

Yes.   The obvious choice.   It will sell lots of magazines to Catholics.   And it will give Time the opportunity it craves to criticize conservative Catholics (who supposedly don't like gays and women and want to keep college girls from getting free condoms or something) and celebrate Pope Francis' supposed liberalism (even though he believes the exact same things on the same issues as every Pope before him).  

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Rebellion of the Rest of Us

It's coming.   Middle-class middle Americans are asked to pay extortionate tax rates to subsidize the lifestyles of upper middle-class people who work for the federal government in Washington or, in my case, in the state government in Madison, Wisconsin.   But we're also asked to pay extortionate hidden "taxes" when we purchase everything from a sandwich at McDonald's to a printer cartridge at Walgreens.   (Recently I was at Walgreens and noted to the nice black lady at the cash register that, if people didn't shoplift, she wouldn't have to stop what she's doing to unlock the cabinet to get me a cartridge, and the cartridge itself would cost a lot less.   She not only agreed with me... she regaled me with stories of how much the store gets ripped off for.)  

The minimum wage is one-such hidden "tax."   I wonder if anyone would notice the problem with this photograph of a "raise the minimum wage" protest:

Yeah, me too... I noticed the young man at the protest next to the sign saying "we can't survive on $8.25/hr." looking intently at what appears to be an iPhone.

And there you have the root of the coming rebellion of the rest of us.   We are more than willing to help the poor.   We give money to charity, we work in soup kitchens and church-based lunch programs, etc.   We are even willing to pay a relatively high rate of taxes to help the poor.   But right now there are too many people struggling to get by working 40+ hours a week who are getting taxed like crazy to pay for wealth-transfer programs where the beneficiaries all seem to have... houses, cars, flat-screen TVs, and, yes, cell phones.   When enough people have experienced watching a lady buy groceries with food stamps while wearing a lot of jewelry, and then watch her take the same groceries out to her late-model luxury car, someone is going to start saying, enough is enough.  


Girl of the Day - Dina Merrill

Dina Merrill never became a huge star in Hollywood, but odds are that she's the richest actress ever... the heiress of the Post family fortune, and the daughter of Marjorie Post and E.F. Hutton.   The only movie I really remember her from is a mediocre Cary Grant/Tony Curtis submarine comedy called Operation Petticoat, but she's a lovely lady and apparently more accomplished as a businesswoman (she was a long-time board member for Lehman Brothers), than she was as an actress.   It's her 88th birthday today.

Private Sector v. Government Program

I had an encounter with a prominent private sector company last night.   I was having trouble with their product.   I called their help-line, and was connected with a live person in less than 30 seconds.   She listened to my problem and then connected me with a specialist.   I described my problem again to him and he said that they had recently been getting updates about that very problem and then walked me through a very simple step-by-step procedure to fix the problem.   About a minute, and the product was working good as new.

Oh, I also asked him about a new version of the same product that just came out... did people like it?   Was it working well?

He said they had sold 1.7 million units on the first day it was available, which had been timed for sales before Christmas.

In case you hadn't figured it out yet:

  • The company was Amazon.
  • The product I was having trouble with was the first-generation Kindle Fire.
  • The new product they just brought to market is the new generation Kindle Fire HDX.

1.7 million.   On the first day.

That's what you call a "roll-out."

Now, contrast that with the roll-out of Obamacare.  

And the libs want to convince us that Big Government is the answer when the evidence of how extraordinarily good the private sector and a free economy is at answering our needs is all around us. 

Has anyone in the Democratic Party ever bothered to read Adam Smith?   It's like we have to teach the same basic lessons, over and over again.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Golf 151, Sibelius 0

President Obama has played golf 151 times since he became President.

But he met with Kathleen Sibelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with implementing his most important "achievement" as President, the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare... apparently never!

Amid the Obama administration’s endless rounds of finger-pointing and blame-shifting, scant if any attention has been paid to the amount of time and executive leadership the president personally devoted to implementing his signature legislative achievement. 
“Nothing frustrates me more than when people aren’t doing their jobs,” Obama has said. So, with so much riding on the line, one would assume he held weekly, if not daily, one-on-one meetings with his Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to isolate problems, challenge assumptions, apply executive pressure where needed and successfully manage a project of scale. 
That did not happen, at least not according to Obama’s own official White House calendar. 
A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) analysis finds that from July 12, 2010, to Nov. 30, 2013, the president’s public schedule records zero one-on-one meetings between Obama and Sebelius.

Can someone start talking about impeaching this jerk for gross dereliction of duty?

She Might Be a Waitress or a Bank Teller

Here's a snatch from a Bruce Springsteen song, "Crush on You," from his album The River:

Well now she might be the talk of high society
She's probably got a lousy personality
She might be a heiress to Rockefeller
She might be a waitress or a bank teller
She makes the Venus de Milo look like she's got no style
She makes Sheena of the Jungle look meek and mild

Working glass girls from Jersey (and, frankly, from anywhere else) used to grow up to become, among other things, waitresses or bank tellers or secretaries.  

But ATMs more and more put bank tellers out of business -- my wife and I were in a bank recently looking to refinance our house, and there was literally no one waiting in line at the tellers, and there only two of them on duty.  

And I can tell you in our office that, more and more, secretaries (God bless them) are becoming unnecessary.   I type my own letters, most of which I sign electronically and send via .pdf and file with a drop-and-drag feature, all from my desk and without any help at all -- no typing, no copying, no envelopes, no filing, nothing.   I enter my own time on a computer program.   I do a good deal of filing with courts electronically.    We used to have one secretary for every lawyer.   We now have three or more lawyers for every secretary.   Given the cost of salaries and benefits (especially health care) involved in hiring a legal secretary, I suspect that the ratio will continue in an inexorable approach to a limit equal to zero legal secretaries.   That's sad, but that's what I see happening within the next 10-20 years.

Now there's this, as Jonah Goldberg reports:

On Tuesday, the day before Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, the restaurant chain Applebee’s announced that it will install iPad-like tablets at every table. Chili’s already made this move earlier this year.  
With these consoles customers will be able to order their meals and pay their checks without dealing with a waiter or waitress. Both companies insist that they won’t be changing their staffing levels, but if you’ve read any science fiction, you know that’s what the masterminds of every robot takeover say: “We’re here to help. We’re not a threat.” 
But the fact is, the tablets are a threat. In 2011, Annie Lowrey wrote about the burgeoning tablet-as-waiter business. She focused on a startup firm called E La Carte, which makes a table tablet called Presto. “Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table — making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter. Moreover, no manager needs to train it, replace it if it quits, or offer it sick days. And it doesn’t forget to take off the cheese, walk off for 20 minutes, or accidentally offend with small talk, either.” 
Applebee’s is using the Presto. Are we really supposed to believe that the chain will keep thousands of redundant human staffers on the payroll forever?

This is a gigantic problem for our society.   At the same time that we are making college increasingly and often prohibitively expensive, we are basically making the types of jobs people used to get without a college education obsolete.   I wish the problem were just lowering the minimum wage or eliminating it entirely, something I favor as a way of making unskilled young men, and particularly unskilled young minorities, more attractive to employers.   I wish the problem were just limiting illegal immigration, which adds millions of unskilled workers to an economy where there already aren't enough jobs for unskilled workers to begin with.   But the problem is probably more difficult than that -- Moore's Law keeps on chugging along, and computing power keeps on getting cheaper and cheaper, and building drones and robots and machines to do the work that people used to do keeps getting easier and easier.  

Everytime I go to a city on business, I'm invariably driven in a cab by a cab driver who's a recent immigrant -- in Minneapolis it's invariably a Somali, in Detroit an Arab, in New York a Russian, etc.   At some point, however, there will be drone cars, driverless cars, run by computers.   There will be drone deliverymen (see Bezos, Jeff and his plans for Amazon).   The Internet is already making going to the mall unnecessary, and hence the jobs of the mall security guard, the mall cleaning staff, the mall salesgirls, etc.   We have what amounts to online malls with every shop you could imagine, and no trouble finding parking.  

But, if you're a kid who just dropped out of college because it was too expensive, where exactly are you supposed to go for a job?  

A bit of a rant, and I'm not a Luddite, but there's a lot that worries me out there as a parent of teenagers.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

If I Were a GOP Consultant...

I'd be advising my client/candidates to be running hard against Washington and the "Hunger Games" capitol it has become, and this chart (via Gay Patriot) would be something I'd show on a big screen at every campaign stop:

The mo-fos are getting rich on the backs of the rest of "flyover" country.   They're laughing at us.  

Time for real "change."


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Girl of the Day - Gemma Freakin' Jones!!!

The Duchess of Duke Street is probably the favorite TV program of all time in our household, at least among the triumverate of the Regular Guy-Regular Wife-Regular Son.   We freakin' love Gemma Jones playing Louisa Trotter, the kitchen girl turned chef to royalty turned hotelier in Edwardian England.   Funny, profound, heartbreaking, you name it, it's got it.   They just don't write TV shows this well anymore, and it's not close.

Anyway, happy birthday to Gemma Jones, who turns 71 today.

Just a Reminder... the Economy Under Obama Still Sucks

With all the news about Obamacare, it almost seems that the question of unemployment or underemployment in America are being ignored.   You can understand why this is from Democrats' perspective... they own the problem, since they've been in charge in Congress since January 2007, and in the White House since January 2009.   But why are Republicans so silent?   Obamacare is a colossal disaster, sure, but its disastrous primarily because it's been (and will continue to be) a huge drag on our economy, limiting businesses' abilities to expand, limiting individuals' disposable income, etc.  

Anyway, I thought we needed a reminder of just how dismal the Obama record on the economy has been.   Here's a graph straight from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the employment-to-population ratio:

Hmmmmm... that seems pretty obvious to me... employment crashed in the 2008 recession and, under Obama's policies, has never recovered!   Instead, what this graph shows is that all of the job creation under Obama has been barely enough to keep up with population growth.    Right now, there's a civilian "noninstitutional" population of roughly 245 million Americans.   So that gap between 63% employed and 58% unemployed is about 5%, or roughly 11-12 million Americans who are missing from the employment rolls.   That's a lot of tax dollars rolling out in unemployment, welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, etc.; and that's a lot of taxes not rolling in because these folks aren't on a payroll.   And that's a lot of despair among these unemployed people, our neighbors and fellow citizens.

Remember this the next time someone in the Obama Administration touts how great it is that Obamacare is giving young women free birth control.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Learning Should Be Uncomfortable" for White Boys

This is an interesting story and emblematic of what's wrong with a lot of what passes for liberal arts education in American colleges:

Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). When that’s your job, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. There are also a lot of opportunities to anger students who would rather not learn about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. I presume MCTC knows that; they have an African diaspora studies program.  [But] when Gibney led a discussion on structural racism in her mass communication class, three white students filed a discrimination complaint because it made them feel uncomfortable. This time, MCTC reprimanded Gibney under their anti-discrimination policy...

So much wrong here.   First, if you're living in America as, say, a Somali immigrant (there are a lot of those in Minneapolis), the last thing you need is "African Diaspora Studies."    What you need is learning a skilled trade, learning how to speak English, learning math and science and engineering, in short, learning marketable skills that can get you out of poverty and into the American mainstream and middle-class, which, presumably, is why you came here in the first place.   The problem with Somalia and, increasingly, in America's urban under-class, is not that there's too much capitalism, but that there's too little; in Somalia, not too much imperialism, but, arguably, not enough.  

Second, putting aside the political arguments... what on earth is any of this doing in a "mass communications" class?   Is racism, imperialism, capitalism and history really the appropriate subject matters for a "mass communications" class?  

Which, finally, begs the question... what the hell is a "mass communications" class and why exactly should it be taught at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College?   I can see teaching something like that at a Harvard or a Yale where young people can spend four years being countercultural dilletantes and still get jobs at Goldman Sachs after graduation.   But at MCTC these young people are being gravely disserved if the faculty thinks their job is radicalizing the students.   Their job is to help their students get J-O-B-S, period (as the President likes to say).

But, needless to say, the writer at Slate.com thinks that the Professor is the victim because... well, because of some "speak truth to power" liberal bullshit that you can read for yourself:

If I want to piss off the majority of higher education’s customers, then defying the natural superiority of men by being a female authority figure, countering white oppression beliefs by appealing to structural racism, and making young people feel the emotions of being offended would seem like a good way to go. If, like Gibney, I were a professor hired to teach diaspora studies, doing so would be my job. 
Teaching what people would rather not learn is especially tough if you are a woman or a minority professor. Research shows that our customers rate Asian-American, Hispanic, black, and women professors lower than white male professors across all subjects. Most disturbingly, student evaluations of women of color are harshest when customers are told that the results will be “communicated to a third party for the purposes of evaluation.” Our customers are not only disinclined to like tough subjects; they’re also inclined to take their discomfort out on minority professors, who are the least likely to have the protection of tenure or support from university administration. 
Learning is—should often be—uncomfortable for individuals.

Thought experiment: imagine a white teacher who wants to teach class about "structural racism," but her focus is on affirmative action and systematic mismatching of African-American students with universities and colleges, i.e., 1200 SAT kid at Harvard when he ought to be at UW-Madison, 1000 SAT kid at Madison when he ought to be at UW-Whitewater, 800 SAT kid at Whitewater when he probably shouldn't be in college at all, etc. She lectures about how this practice does a disservice to African-Americans who have higher dropout rates because of mismatching. She also adds how it could be perceived as unfair to whites with high GPAs and SATs who don't get into schools of their choices, and (perhaps especially) to Asian-American kids who are essentially discriminated against in applying to elite schools. The discussion makes the African-American students in class very uncomfortable and even angry.

Do you still think that "Learning is—should often be—uncomfortable for individuals"? If not, why not?

The reality is that liberal professors are all about making learning "uncomfortable" only for white male middle-class students, while coddling young women and, particularly, young minorities in the gauzy softness of liberal arts curricula that cannot possibly provide them the tools to succeed in a competitive marketplace.  

The Trials of Obama

I've been thinking a bit lately about the collapse of Barack Obama's approval ratings.   One thing that helps me explain it is to recall that he's a lawyer.   But, as is all too typical of political lawyers, he's a lawyer who has never tried a case.    What does that mean for explaining why he seems to be failing now?

1. Credibility.   A trial lawyer knows that, from the moment he walks into the Court for the first scheduling conference with the judge, he has to maintain his credibility.   He can't be late to Court, he can't bring frivolous or unnecessary motions, he can't misrepresent case law, he can't elide important facts from his briefs, etc.   He can't lie, period.   For Obama, lying (more charitably, "bull-shitting") is a way of life.   It is the attitude of the lawyer who doesn't actually ever have to go before a judge, the lawyer who just sits around board rooms and talks to other lawyers.

2. Respect for different opinions.   A trial lawyer must respect the positions even of his adversaries, because he must understand them in order to be able to defeat them.   Moreover, the very fact that you're at trial means that someone (the opposing party) thinks your client has wronged him, and has found a lawyer who thinks your client has wronged him, and has persuaded the judge that there is enough of a case that your client has wronged him to go forward to a jury.   When you are a trial lawyer, you realize, not just that there are two sides to every debate, but that both sides have at least some merit and, until the jury comes in, you really don't know which one is right.    For Obama, any disagreement is the sign of mendacity or bad faith on the part of his adversaries.   Because of that, he misses opportunities for compromise and creates a toxic political atmosphere, despite all of his vaunted claims to be "post-partisan."

3. Humility.   When you're a trial lawyer, you lose a lot.   Maybe not a lot of cases, but certainly a lot of motions.   In my last jury trial (which I won), I lost a motion to dismiss, a motion for summary judgment, and a raft of motions in limine.   I was right in the end, but I wasn't nearly as right as I thought, and it was a close-run thing.   Obama's never had a trial that he lost, or a motion that he lost.   He was an academic... he lived in a world where no one loses.   And, in politics, he had a safe seat in the Illinois State Senate, a walk-over election to the U.S. Senate, an easy election to the Presidency (comparatively), and a fairly easy re-election as the incumbent.   When did he ever have to learn humility?

4. Keeping promises.   It is Rule No. 1 of trial practice that, if you promise something to the jury -- if you stand up in opening argument and say that "the evidence will show X" or "the witness will testify that Y" -- well, you had better make good on that promise, or they'll hold it against you.   But Obama's promises on Obamacare -- "if you like your doctor, you can keep him" or "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period" -- haven't come true.  

5. Don't be boring.  Finally, real trial lawyers understand that even Clarence Darrow won't keep a jury's attention for very long.   A ten minute opening that says something directly and forcefully is better than an hour-long opening that bores the jury.   A fifteen-minute cross examination that eviscerates the credibility of a key witness for the other side is better than an hour-long cross that meanders through documents and topics, even if it covers the points better and in more detail.   Don't bore them, don't waste their time, they've got better things to do.   Obama has never realized this.   No one (his mother?  his grandparents?  his teachers?  his professors?) ever told him anything other than how brilliant he is as an "orator."   But juries don't like orators, they like lawyers who get to the point and get them out of the box and home to their families.   Obama is a blowhard.   Juries hate that.

The American people are Obama's judge and jury in this scenario.   And he has proved to be a terrible advocate, even for his own legacy program, Obamacare.  

Girl of the Day - Christmas Time is Here

I am not ready for Christmas, not even a little bit.   But I am ready for Christmas movies.   Like this one, White Christmas, with the great Vera Ellen:

A Perfect Storm for Liberalism?

Well, probably not.   There is something deep in the species that makes people continue to believe that an omnipotent government unleashed to "do good" can transform the grimy realities of life into utopia, if only we "care" enough, if only we "try hard" enough, if only we... well, tax and spend enough and regulate enough and mandate enough.   And they will continue to believe in utopias because they need to emotionally, even in the face of all of the evidence against them.

But you have to wonder whether the confluence of events happening as we speak might be a tipping point for at least the present iteration of the socialist/communist/liberal utopianism embodied in the Presidency of Barack Obama.   Consider this story:

The city of Chicago registered more homicides than any city in the nation in 2012, surpassing even New York — despite the fact that the Second City has only one third as many residents as the Big Apple. 
In new crime statistics released Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 500 murders in Chicago in 2012, up sharply from the 431 recorded in 2011. New York reported 419 murders last year, compared with 515 in 2011.

Or this one:

The struggling metropolis of Detroit, overwhelmed by debt and groping for a path forward, on Tuesday became the largest American city ever to qualify for bankruptcy protection.        
Judge Steven W. Rhodes of the United States Bankruptcy Court, found that Detroit was insolvent and that the pension checks of retirees could be cut during a bankruptcy proceeding, a crucial part of his decision.         
Under the ruling, the vastly diminished city, once the nation’s fourth largest and the cradle of the American auto industry, will now be allowed to search for a way to pay off some portion of its debts and restore essential services to tolerable levels under court supervision. The goal, according to an emergency manager appointed by the state of Michigan, is to emerge next year from court protection with a formal plan for starting over.

Or, finally, this one:

A liberal Democratic government in Chicago cannot keep its citizens safe from murderers.

A liberal Democratic government in Detroit cannot provide basic services and is, now, officially bankrupt.

A liberal Democratic federal government, with essentially infinite resources and three years of planning, cannot create a functioning, secure website.

But we're supposed to let these people tell us what to do in our businesses, schools, churches, neighborhoods, homes?   Why?   More and more people are asking this question, and even more should ask it, if they'd only wake up.

The Obamacare "Tech Surge" Lie

If you've lost the New York Times, you're lost as a liberal Democrat.   Here's a nugget from the "paper of record's" reporting on the Obamacare "tech surge":

But while the contractors were grateful to Mr. Zients for helping to create order, they saw the administration’s “tech surge” — announced by Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden a few days before QSSI took over — as mostly an exercise in public relations.
The announcement conjured images of an army of software engineers descending on the project. In fact, the surge centered on about a half-dozen people who had taken leave from various technology companies to join the effort. They included Michael Dickerson, a site reliability engineer at Google who had also worked on Mr. Obama’s campaign and now draws praise from contractors as someone who is “actually making a difference,” one said.
Even so, one person working on the project said, “Surge was probably an overstatement.”

 An "overstatement" is when you call something a surge when it's only a few hundred people.   When there's only six people and you call it a "surge," what you are doing is LYING.

But, then, we've grown to expect that, haven't we?