Friday, May 30, 2014

More Money Than Sense - NBA Edition

Like many of the US aristocracy, Steve Ballmer is an rich idiot who have no concept of the value of money. He's buying the LA Clippers for a totally insane $2 billion.

Before Donald Sterling put his foot in his mouth all the way up to the hip, the Clippers were valued at a quarter of that amount, $575 million by Forbes. With operating income of only $15 million, Ballmer's price comes to a rate of return of a microscopic 0.8%. According to Ballmer, the Clippers are worth almost twice their rivals, the LA Lakers, and worth as much as the LA Dodgers.

(Sanity Check: The Dodgers sold 3.7 million tickets in 2013, the Clippers sold just 790,000 tickets.)

What makes sense is that Ballmer is rewarding Sterling for his courageous stand in favor of gross racism. The only other explanation is that while Ballmer has more money than Croesus, he has the rational decision making skills of a kumquat. He is a walking, talking, spending argument for a marginal tax rate of 90%.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Veteran's Administration Perspective

I'm not going to say that the screw up that is the Veteran's Administration isn't horrible and doesn't need major fixes. I will say it's not new. The VA has been for most of its history failing to serve ex-servicemembers.

World War II
Immediately after World War II, President Harry Truman appointed Gen. Omar Bradley to clean up the VA. Bradley was second only to Dwight Eisenhower in the pantheon of American WWII generals. Bradley, in turn, brought in Eisenhower's theater surgeon, Major General Paul Hawley, who described the VA medical care system as "medieval."

Korean War
Many soldiers suffered frostbite during the bitter winter battles. The VA didn't recognize the long term effects of battle related frostbite until 1997, 45 years after the was ended.

Vietnam War
The generals in this war thought it would be easier to fight if they turned the country into a parking lot so they spread the herbicide all over the place. Symptoms of Agent Orange poisoning followed the veterans home but the Pentagon didn't want to admit they had engaged in chemical warfare in Vietnam. Therefore, the VA spent decades denying help to Vietnam War vets. Again, it wasn't until the Clinton Administration that the VA changed.

In the 1980's a close friend was being treated for cancer at a VA hospital. They were doing a royally shitty job of it and she was dying. Then her husband took her out of the VA system and paid thousand of dollars for private treatment and she went into remission.

I don't know what conclusions we can draw from this. But it is true that Pentagon generals and congressmen prefer spending money on fancy new weapons and rather think that investing in wounded warriors isn't very showy.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Five Biggest Fails of the Last Decade

We're not talking your normal cock-ups but fails so monumental it would have been infinitely better to not have tried at all.

1.) The Rapture

Harold Camping was the latest, in 2011, of a long line of religious hucksters to predict the end of the world. He had had used his own propitiatory form of numerology (that wasn't the least bit satanic) to predict the exact date and time of the rapture when Bible believing Christians would be whisked up out of the clothes and carried naked to heaven to be out of harm's way for the end of the world. Camping's church publicized his prediction across his 150 station radio network and bought numerous billboards

advertising the event. Of course, May 21 came and went without so much as a plague of frogs so Camping adjusted his prediction six months to October 21 and tried again. And failed again.

True believers sold off their property and quit their jobs to prepare for Judgement Day. One mother tried to kill herself and two children so they wouldn't have to live through Armageddon. Many committed suicide either because they couldn't face the future or in grief because thought they had been left behind. Camping's Family Radio Network began believing its own con and started spending money like there was no tomorrow (literally). After the failed predictions, donations disappeared faster than a raptured soul. Camping didn't just kill innocent dupes, he killed his own golden egged goose.

2. Operation American Spring
For months, Col. Harry Riley (ret.) has been planning the biggest march on Washington in American history. He predicted 10 to 30 million people, righteous patriots, would gather last weekend (May 16, 2014) to force the ouster of the elected leadership of the United States with a tribunal led by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz taking charge until the Constitution could be restored. Col. Riley wanted at least a million people to stay in the capitol for several weeks until the government fell and freedom was restored

Turn out was a tad light. Only a few hundred, not a few million, showed up. The protesters were outnumbered by tourists.  Excuses abound (although the best have been proposed by liberals). Supporters blame:
  • the weather, claiming millions were trapped in campgrounds in Virginia by rain,
  • that nearly 2 million people were actually there but media censorship blocked coverage. Here are several pictures taken of the actual event,
  • millions would have come but they couldn't get time off work for the revolution,
  • the traitor Glenn Beck sabotaged the event by bad mouthing it,
  • real patriots stayed away because they were told to not bring their guns.
3. Rudy Giuliani's Presidential Campaign
Rudy Giuliani had been humiliated by Hillary Clinton when he ran for the Senate in 2000. But he was rehabilitated by terrorists on 9-11 and by 2007 he was the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination the next year. In March 2007, Gallup polls gave Rudy a 24 point lead over second place John McCain. He had a shitload of money, by the third quarter of 2007 Rudy had more money on hand than Mitt Romney and John McCain combined.

But Rudy didn't want to invest his money in retail politics in places like Iowa or New Hampshire. He preferred big media buys in big states like Florida and California. And his campaign tactics were downright bizarre. For example, he would "spontaneously" interrupt events to take phone calls from his "loving" wife (he was having a not very secret affair with Judith Nathan at the time). He avoided the early primaries and racked up a string of embarrassing single digit results.

Add in corruption scandals (Bernie Kerik), sex scandals (Judith Nathan affair), business scandals (his law firm worked for a pro-al Qaeda Arab royal family), liberal scandals (he was pro abortion), and weirdness scandals (appearing at public events in drag), and Rudy's campaign withered like an orchid in the Mohave Desert.

4. Anti-Gay Marriage Movement
The Family Research Council was founded in 1983. Their raison d'etre is to make life miserable for gay people everywhere. When they started, gay marriage was illegal in all fifty states. Even the concept of marriage-like civil union existed nowhere. Like King Canute, the FRC has stood on the shore and commanded the tide of social change to not come in. And like King Canute, they have failed.

At the beginning of the year, same sex marriage was legal in 17 states. Just this year, judges in seven additional states have ruled bans unconstitutional. Polls indicated that nearly 60% of Americans approve of gay marriage while only one in three stand opposed. The anti-gay marriage movement has failed faster than the pro-slavery supporters and those opposing women's suffrage.

5. Kill Obamacare Movement
Remember six months ago? The Republican Party was united under the leadership of a wackadoodle named Ted Cruz. They proudly shut down the government and proposed collapsing the entire economy to prevent Americans from having access to reasonably priced health insurance. They were going to repeal Obamacare or destroy the nation trying.

That was then. Recent polls show 60% of the public want to keep or improve the Affordable Care Act. While Republicans will still talk the game to their radicals, but only if they are forced to. Mostly Republican politicians have grown strangely quiet on the issue and will admit, in the seclusion of K Street cocktail parties that Obamacare is here to stay.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Operation American Spring

Today, the modern incarnation of the John Birch Society is transporting the entire population of Ohio (at least 10 million patriots) to the 146 acres of Washington Mall to stay there until President Obama is forcibly removed from the White House. (Sanity Check: That's half a square foot per person). By the mass of humanity and the force of their numbers they plan to shut down the government until their demands are met.

Unfortunately, its drizzling today in Washington and brave patriots like these hate getting a little wet so turnout has been somewhat below predictions. The attendance is more like the population of Hoot and Holler, Texas. Their own video. The early "live stream" consisted of one guy webcaming from his RV while his wife is looking for a place to park.
(Sanity Check: If they were bringing 10 million people in town, there would not be a place to park.)

But, Twitter is alive with the voice of the Second American Revolution.

One speaker said he understood if people couldn't get to Washington, but they can go to their state capitol. Or they can go to their county seat. And if that's not possible, they can set up a lawn chair in their front yard. Which means somewhere in our great land there are 9,999,000 revolting Americans sitting in lawn chairs for freedom.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Or, if that's inconvenient, you can use Bud Lite.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fire and Ice Weather

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. ~ Robert Frost
 Weird weather (climate change, anyone?).
But don't worry, everybody. We all know that climate change is a myth, the snow in Denver proves that.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Our Future: Billionaire Blood Banks

Elizabeth Bathory was born into the royal line of Hungary, her father was a baron and her cousin become King of Poland. Upon marrying Count Ferenc Nadasdy achieved the title or countess. She was the more important in the marriage so she kept her maiden name and her husband added Bathory to his surname.

She believed that she could stay youthful and beautiful by bathing in the blood on young virgins. Because she was extremely rich and powerful she was able to act on those beliefs. Countess Bathory would gather young women, the children of starving peasants from the countryside surrounding her Transylvanian castle. She would bring the girls into her household as servants where she would torture and murder the girls after which she would have other servants, and future victims, bathe her in the girls blood.

I bring up that 16th century story because of a brief news story from yesterday. Elderly mice, when injected with the blood of baby mice, are invigorated and behave as if they were much younger. Scientists are, of course, thrilled at the discovery and predict that some time in the future transfusions of young blood could cure ailments of elderly humans. I see a more terrifying near future.
Billionaire Blood Bank
There are a number of amoral billionaires in our modern world - Donald Sterling, the Koch Brothers, quite a few Saudi princes, Vlad Putin and other Russian oligarchs - who are rapidly aging and cannot wait for scientists to develop ethical protocols for using youthful blood to treat the elderly. I expect they will want to develop their own, private supplies of young blood. I foresee billionaires setting up third world orphanages where, in exchange for better lives than they had on the street, young children would be blood taps for their rich sponsors.

We already see this in the black market trade in human organs. In 1999, American billionaire Richard DeVos received the healthy heart of a British woman for the cost of only £60,000. In Mexico there is a thriving criminal trade in kidnapping children to harvest their organs for the American market. Right-wing theorists continually lobby for the total legalization of the human body part market (the Chicago could sell pork bellies along side of human liver futures).

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Justice Scalia's Views on Judical Consideration

 `Write that down,' the King said to the jury, and the jury eagerly wrote down all three dates on their slates, and then added them up, and reduced the answer to shillings and pence.
`That's very important,' the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: `Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,' he said in a very respectful tone.
`Unimportant, of course, I meant,' the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, `important--unimportant-- unimportant--important--' as if he were trying which word sounded best.
`No, no!' said the Queen. `Sentence first--verdict afterwards.' 
Scalia opining from the bench.
Thoughts on learning that Scalia can't even be bothered researching his own decisions before just making shit up. Like the royal couple in Alice in Wonderland, Scalia reaches his opinions before cases are ever heard then set about justifying his positions - facts be damned.