Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Told Ya So!

Yeah, I know it's tacky, but that's the kind of guy I am.

Even reliably liberal media like Politico now recognize Obama's complete inability to manage (not surprising since he had never done it before taking on the biggest management job in the world). Some of us were pointing to his extremely thin resume years ago.
To listen to Obama discuss the rollout through the fall, he was still figuring out some of the finer points, too. If he had known healthcare.gov wasn’t going to work by its launch date, he said in mid-November, “I wouldn’t be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great.” 
“In management circles, that’s an indictment,” said the longtime consultant. “How could you not know? And if no one told you, you’re still culpable for that too.”
America, that's what you get for electing a guy (and then re-electing him) because he's cool, without giving a damn whether he's competent. And it's not like you weren't warned – a hell of a lot of people (including me) were warning you that he had absolutely no experience in management of anything. What has happened with Obamacare was totally predictable.

If any further proof of his managerial incompetence were needed, the fact that Kathleen Sibelius still has a job should suffice. Even George Bush could recognize incompetence well enough to fire the head of FEMA within two weeks of Katrina's landfall.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Vaccination/Autism Fraud

I can't figure how anybody could be so irresponsible as to not vaccinate their children. The study that started the autism link has been exposed as a fraud:
A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday. 
An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible. 
"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."
And yet the BS continues.

Here's a great explanation of why, even if there was a link to autism (which there isn't) -- it would still be irresponsible to not vaccinate your children. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Middle-Aged Barbie

I visited a site called in20years.com, but instead of uploading my own picture (I don't want to know what I'll look like in twenty years, thank you) I used Barbie. Here's the before and after:

Would You Go to a Giants-Redskins Game? How 'Bout in the Rain?

Apparently practically everybody in New York agrees with you. Here are the stands at halftime.

Maybe everybody was taking a bladder-break.

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Duck Dynasty Post

I have never watched Duck Dynasty, and I don't agree with a lot of what this Phil Robertson guy apparently said. But I have gotten great amusement out of watching the rednecks, hillbillies, hicks, and rubes give the Coastal Elite a thorough butt-kicking.

I think A&E is going to show up in biz school case studies of how not to do things.

All they needed to do when he said what he did was, "That's his opinion – we view things differently." But instead they showed the standard cultural insensitivity of people who live in an echo chamber.

Here's a good article, mocking A&E's ineptitude from the viewpoint of their media peers. This is the part that summed up the basic stupidity that started everything – having the guy interviewed by (of all things) GQ:
“Who the hell let them talk to GQ in the first place?” one veteran wondered. “This is their biggest show. Are they going to get a bigger audience by talking to some snarky reporter from GQ? Where is the upside? There is none. Zero.” 
Chimed in another: “GQ is not a Duck Dynasty-friendly place, and [A&E] knew they had talent that talks and goes off the reservation. What the fuck you gonna get from GQ? It’s not going to get you a new audience. Then they left him alone with the reporter.” (A&E had a rep on site, but the reporter nonetheless managed to squeeze in some alone time with Phil, during which he cut loose, according to media reports). 
Robertson, on the other hand, is guilty only of consistent behavior. “He has not flinched. He’s very consistent in his opinion. He has gone off [A&E’s] script, but he’s perfectly on-script for him,” said one TV exec. “There was some sincerity to the show – unless it was all bullshit. Turns out, it wasn’t.”
What a bunch of ignorant schmucks. And the hilarious thing is that they think they're super-smart and the Duck Dynasty folks are a bunch of dumbbells. The next hilarious thing is that they still think so, I'm sure.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are Americans Racist? Well, Duh!

I often hear/read words to the effect of “the US is a racist country.” My response (sometimes aloud, more often not) is usually, “Yeah, it is, so what?”

It's not, I hasten to assure you, that I don't care about racism, but simply that I don't see any way in which racism in the US is any worse than racism or other prejudices just about everywhere else. And thus I see no reason why the US should be singled out for opprobrium.

(“Everybody else is just as bad” is not, of course, much of an excuse. I'm simply noting that when I hear comments about American racism, they are generally made in a context in which it is implied that there is something unusual about US racism).

I was reminded of this when I read this article about Buddhists in Burma killing their Muslim compatriots. As Protestants and Catholics were killing each other not so long ago in Ireland, or as Hutus killed Tutsis in Rwanda, and as Muslims kill Christians in a number of countries, as Serbs and Croats killed each other in Yugoslavia and both killed Bosnians, and so on. In the US, at least the amount of killing is rather limited these days.

As Tom Lehrer put it:
The Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
The Hindus hate the Muslims
And everybody hates the Jews.

Prejudice against 'them' (whether defined by race, religion, ethnicity, class or anything else) seems to be a fact of human nature. I can recall in grade school and high school thinking that the kids in my school were somehow different from (and of course better than) kids in other schools.

I suppose it's possible (but not likely) that someday humans may evolve beyond such things. The best we can do about it in the meantime, I fear, is to be aware of it, so we can be on guard when it creeps into our thinking.

About Feet

This is one of the more peculiar websites I've ever come across – it's called Wikifeet and it is dedicated to
Feet of Amy Adams
(whoever she is)
pictures of celebrities' feet.

Though I pretty much take a 'whatever turns you on' approach to sexual practices, I must admit that I have never understood why some men (is this shared by women as well?) are interested in feet. I suppose when women were totally covered, that flash of a 'well-turned ankle' could have been exhilarating, but today … ?

As Cole Porter wrote sixty years ago:

In olden days a glimpse of stocking 
Was looked on as something shocking, 
But now, God knows, 
Anything goes.  


I recently came across a not-new word, used in a new (to me) way. The word is incumbency, used to mean a personal obligation. In a 1966 Nero Wolfe story, Death of a Doxy*, Wolfe explains his interest in trying to clear an accused man by saying:
Mr. Cather has worked for me, on occasion, for years, and I am under an incumbency. 
It took me a few moments to figure this out, though I'm familiar with the more common form, “It is incumbent upon me ...”

* Doxy is a term I've never heard used, so it must already have been out of date, at least among younger people, by 1966.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chistmas Ain't Very Merry for Retailers

Retail sales were poor for Thanksgiving weekend, and have gotten worse since.
Brick-and-mortar retailers saw no signs of relief last week, as store traffic in the final week before Christmas posted the third straight week of double-digit declines, according to the most recent report from ShopperTrak. 
According to the analytics firm, traffic for the week ended Dec. 22—which included the crucial final weekend before Christmas—was down 21.2 percent year over year. The first two weeks of December saw double-digit decreases, which trailed a 4 percent decline over Black Friday weekend, it said.
Online sales are up, of course, but there's no way online could make up for those declines.

Could it be that consumer confidence is another casualty of the Obamacare fiasco?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Latest Change in Obamacare Rules

The deadline for enrolling for Jan 1 coverage has been extended to tomorrow. Why do you suppose this is?
a) They need an extra day because the website is continuing to crash in spite of the fixes (note: this is the announced reason) 
b) They think lots of people who have already had twelve weeks to enroll will suddenly decide to do so on Christmas Eve  
c) They want to delay announcing the bad news of how few people have enrolled until Christmas Day when hopefully nobody will be paying attention
I think c) is the major factor, but a) probably plays into it as well (and really is no less embarrassing at this point).

Under ordinary circumstances, I would say that b) was an impossibility; but given who we're talking about, Obama and his healthcare advisors, they've demonstrated that they may be delusional enough to believe it.

Jingle Bells Isn't a Christmas Song

Or at least it wasn't intended to be. It was written to be part of a kids' Thanksgiving presentation:
Though, for most of us, "Jingle Bells" has come to be practically synonymous with Christmas, James Pierpont wrote it in 1857 for a Thanksgiving program at the large Boston church where he taught Sunday school. He titled his song "The One-Horse Open Sleigh" and made the rhythm so jaunty and the words so catchy that his 40 little Sunday schoolers learned it almost instantaneously. (A friend of Pierpont's, admiring the song, called it a "merry little jingle," and helped give the tune the name by which we know it today.) The children's first performance was such a success that they were asked to repeat it at Christmastime, whereupon the sleigh apparently took on the identity of Santa's sled, and "Jingle Bells" became a Christmas song forever.

Speaking of Leftist Hate ...

... as we were in the previous post, it manifests itself in interesting ways -- sometimes even a sports event can bring it out. This guy, a Democrat in the Washington legislature, is angry because Seattle lost a football game to the Arizona Cardinals. So he decides to express his hatred of a whole state full of people in a tweet:

I've been upset over losing and said things I shouldn't, but I'm smart enough not to shout it out to the whole world. But this bozo is a bit less bright. He is smart enough to delete the message, so a small bit of credit for that (limited credit because it wasn't in time, of course -- see above), but he's not classy enough to apologize:

Another reminder that every bad loser is ... a loser.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Left-Wing Anti-Semitism

The BBC has an interesting item on the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe.
Many Jews in Europe say anti-Semitism is increasing, particularly on the internet, according to a survey by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). 
The survey of 5,847 Jewish people said 66% of those who responded considered anti-Semitism to be a problem. 
Three out of four respondents, 76%, believed anti-Semitism had increased over the past five years. 
The survey was carried out in 2012 in eight countries which are home to about 90% of the EU's Jewish population.
The full report can be found here.

What I find most interesting, from a historical perspective, about this latest manifestation of European anti-Semitism is that it is most prevalent among those with leftist political views, while such views were once found much more on the political right.

The respondents were asked to describe the political/religious views of those who they had observed involved in anti-Semitic remarks or actions in the past twelve months. The results:

The overall gap between left-wing and right-wing incidents is fourteen points, but it is much greater than that in western Europe – the overall numbers are distorted greatly by Hungary, where there is a strong neo-fascist movement (I believe that fascism is not right-wing, but that is a subject for another day).

When we consider only the six countries from the west, the unweighted averages are Left 58% and Right 36%.
While examining these results at country level, notable differences between EU Member States emerge. More respondents in Hungary, for example, tend to describe the person(s) involved in making negative comments about Jews as someone with a right-wing political view (79 %), while respondents in France (67 %) and Italy (62 %) were more likely than respondents from other countries to mention someone with a left-wing political view.
Historically, as mentioned, European anti-Semitism was found most strongly in the far right, probably the far right’s roots in monarchism created a connection to clericalism, which also tended to be pro-monarchist.

I think this new form of anti-Semitism has several causes.

One is that leftist sympathy for Palestinians has led to a broader embrace of Islam, with all its sense of victimization. As an aside, it has been amusing to see so many leftists studiously ignore, or even make excuses for, the most extreme homophobia in the world, as practiced in Arab countries, while simultaneously advocating for gay rights in the west.

Leftist hostility toward religion, and most especially those religions that represent the traditional Judeo-Christian culture of the west, also plays a major role, I think.

Meanwhile, even the most extreme right no longer has ties to monarchism and clericalism. Though religion certainly plays a major role in many rightist movements in the west, and especially in the US, it’s a different sort of religion than it once was, and one that is sympathetic rather than hostile, for the most part, to Judaism. Among some on the Christian right, I understand that they look at the existence of Israel as an important step in hastening the Second Coming (I'm not sure how big a role this plays).

Beyond religion, hostility toward western culture in general (a curious case of self-hatred) seems to motivate many on the left, and adds to their hatred of Israel, which they see as an outpost of the west. Although they try to differentiate this aspect of their hate as anti-Zionism, in practice it is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism.

That it is more prevalent on the left is in no way meant to minimize anti-Semitism on the right, of course. Nor does the fact that the survey was conducted in Europe mean that anti-Semitism is not far too prevalent in the US (where, I suspect but can't prove, the left/right divide on this point is even greater).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Information Superhighway

What ever happened to this phrase? It was used a lot a few years ago, but it seems to have dropped totally out of usage.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Not to Buy for Christmas

They're selling this at the Democratic National Committee's website. How many do you think they've sold lately?

I suppose somebody really hard-core might have worn it on October 1st or prior, but it's hard to imagine anybody brave (or clueless) enough to wear it today.

Do you suppose your local Democrat congressperson will be showing up at his/her campaign rallies thus attired?

Just in case you're wondering -- no, it's not on my Christmas list.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Unintended (But Thoroughly Predictable) Consequences

Thirty-some years ago, when my wife was newly in the US, we were walking past the construction site of a new high-rise in downtown San Francisco; pausing to watch, Gloria commented on how few workers there were. The site didn't look unusual to me, until I recalled similar sites in Manila, covered with hundreds of workers – and relatively little of the heavy equipment the San Francisco workers were operating.

“In the Philippines,” I commented, “people are cheap and machines are expensive. Here, it's the opposite.”

In the Philippines, a typical wage is under ten dollars per day, with a day often being ten hours or so. In the US, skilled construction workers make at least twenty times that amount, which makes it worthwhile for their employers to invest in machinery to do much of the work.

I was reminded of that when I read this article:
"Would you like fries with that order?"
[White Castle] is taking a step toward the future with its rebuilt restaurant at 1550 Hilliard-Rome Road by taking a step out of the traditional ordering process. 
This new White Castle drops old-fashioned, go-to-the-counter ordering in favor of kiosks that allow customers to punch in their order and take a seat without the inconveniences and pressures of waiting in line.
Advocates of a 'living wage' for fast-food employees should bear this in mind. I imagine White Castle is testing this idea with the possibility of increases in the minimum wage in mind (though of course they aren't saying so publicly; it's being pitched as an effort to improve the customer experience). A store that is open sixteen hours a day would save $7,500 per month for each $15/hour counter employee displaced. I don't know what such machines cost, but it shouldn't take long to amortize them at that rate.

Replacing the kitchen staff won't be far behind -- how tough can it be to robot-ize flipping a burger?

And so youth unemployment will increase. Crappy as such jobs are, they are often the only thing unskilled workers can qualify for, and they can teach valuable life skills that such employees may never have learned in their broken homes or broken schools – e.g., the importance of dressing properly, treating customers and co-workers respectfully, punctuality, etc.

Not having the opportunity to learn these skills at White Castle, McDonald's, or Taco Bell, they will be unable to move on to marginally better jobs, as they now can.

Oh well, I know writing this sort of thing is pointless, because some sort of increase in minimum wage is almost certain to pass – it's a feel-good proposal and people don't like to think about the negative consequences of feel-good legislation. In fact, if I were a politician, I'm just cynical enough to vote for it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Good Move by USSF

The US Soccer Federation just gave Jurgen Klinsmann a four-year extension as coach of the men's national team.

It seems oddly timed to some, because usually the decision to hire/fire/keep a coach comes after the World Cup (assuming the team is in, as the USA is). I think this move may be because of the extremely difficult draw we got for the Cup -- we're up against Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. Being eliminated in the group stage is likely, and going 0-3 is not out of the question.

If that were to happen, there would be calls for Klinsmann's scalp, despite the great job he has done. My guess is that USSF wanted to avoid that scenario and give Klinsmann an early vote of confidence.

I approve.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Is There Such a Thing as Too Corrupt in the Olympics?

Geez, how corrupt do you have to be to be to be too corrupt to hang around with the IOC?
India faces the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the Olympics unless it keeps corruption-tainted officials out of its ranks, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with The Associated Press. 
Bach said the IOC is prepared to withdraw recognition of the Indian Olympic Association if it fails to comply with ''rules of good governance'' by Tuesday, a punishment that would leave the world's second-most populous nation out of all Olympic competitions.
My guess is that India fell behind in their payoffs to the IOC bosses.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sex Sells -- But ... Will It Sell Fertilizer?

This ad from Thailand is a classic in the 'sex sells' category. It may well be the sexiest fertilizer ad in history (though I doubt there's a lot of competition).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Other Shoe Will Drop Soon

People have been quoting President Obama's often-repeated pledge that "if you like your insurance, you can keep it" as an example of his lying. Which is fair enough, I think – it's a pretty clear-cut lie.

What is not as often quoted is the second half of that pledge – "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." When that part is exposed as another lie, things might get interesting:
Meet Chico, Calif., attorney Kenneth Turner. His wife found out that she has breast cancer two days before they received their cancellation notice. She's scheduled for surgery Dec. 20 and will hear the prognosis Dec. 30. Two days later, she loses the doctor who will have operated on her, as well as other doctors she has seen for decades.
I wonder how low Obama's approval numbers will drop when people start being told by their doctors: "Sorry, I can no longer accept your insurance."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Unpopular Opinions

I read an item (by Jim Geraghty of National Review) quoting a bunch of people who had been invited to tweet an unpopular opinion that they hold. Herewith:
Bob Dylan stinks. 
The singularity is not near. 
New Jersey is the greatest state in the history of states. 
Fat Elvis was the best. 
Chris Brown is hot and so is his music and his dance moves. 
Obama looks cute when he's golfing. 
Will Ferrell is vastly, vastly overrated. 
I have an aversion to the Amish. 
Roger Moore was the greatest James Bond. 
Tofu is delicious. 
I don't do "aaaawwww" over animal pics. 
The Electoral College is a good thing that needs to be preserved. 
Hobbit movies are like Ambien. 
A limited nuclear exchange wouldn't be all that bad. 
Higher education is grossly fetishized, overrated, frequently ruins people, and is often wholly useless. 
Five Guys is ridiculously overrated.
I don't know that all of these qualify. I think a lot of people are beginning to question the value of college (or at least its cost-benefit ratio). I disagree about Five Guys -- great burgers. And a few I'm unqualified to judge -- I don't know who Will Ferrell is, and I've never seen a Hobbit movie (and probably never will). But nonetheless, I'll join in with a bit of Baby Boomer apostasy:
The Beatles were an OK band, but really nothing special.
While I'm at it, I might as well add a bit more along the same lines. While I very much enjoy Christmas carols (O Holy Night is, I think, my favorite) there are some that are so obnoxious the composers ought to be drawn and quartered. The Little Drummer Boy is without a doubt the most worthless POS to ever pass through human vocal cords. The Twelve Days of Christmas is not quite as bad, but gets a dishonorable mention for sheer quantity. Whenever it starts, I shudder with the knowledge that, once started it will go on and on and on and ...