Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekend Music Chill

KT tells me I am behind the times, because I just discovered Pandora a few weeks ago, but I don't care.  It reminded me of how much I liked these guys.  Here is Collective Soul with Shine.

Following up with Gel.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deficit Agenda for Obama's Second Term

Obama's re-election is not the end of the world, studies of ancient Mayan calendars notwithstanding.  The Republicans have an opportunity to get their act together in ways that will both improve the country and put themselves in a better position to win future elections.

The so-called fiscal cliff is the first opportunity to shape future policy to their favor.  The Democrats are going to want taxes now in exchange for spending cuts later, which will never come.  The Republicans can easily outflank on this issue.  Offer some revenue increases that also simplify the tax code, but demand spending cuts now.  The following graphic shows why.
Graphic from Senate Budget Committee, with modifications by author.

A majority, but not all of the problem, with the federal budget's current unsustainable path accrues to spending that is too high by historical standards.  The debate on the issue of the debt has trended towards the position that the deficit is high and unsustainable and away from Paul Krugman's fantasy that we shouldn't worry and should be spending more money.  Republicans should take the position that spending cuts are needed now, and that simplifying the tax code by eliminating so many credits and deductions will increase revenue by increasing growth as well as from the additional revenue from fewer loopholes. Benefits of this approach:
1. Appearing "reasonable" by putting revenue on the tabe.
2. Moving towards tax code simplification.
3. Setting the stage to demand spending cuts now as a result.
No spending cuts = no deal.

I think the fiscal cliff has the potential to harm the economy due to the massive income tax rate increases coupled with the payroll tax being restored to its historical trend, all at once.  The only silver lining would be the automatic cuts to the federal budget.

My next post will look at immigration reform.  Blogging will continue to be sporadic until work and school calm down.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekend Music Chill

I'm a little late in posting up music for the weekend, although I had some for Thanksgiving. My son has been playing this artist, and I must admit she is sort of hypnotic. Here is Lana Del Rey with Video Games.

Another nice tune, Bel Air.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Progressives Look to Filner to Whack at San Diego's Economy

Kelly Davis of CityBeat has performed a public service in detailing some areas where Bob Filner's philosophy will have a negative impact on the city's economy.  Of course, Davis doesn't take that view, but a review of potential "progressive" action items doesn't bode well for the local economy.
  • Development. Progressives complain about the city reorganization that saved some money and by moving the planning department to a division in the development department.  The building industry is supposedly in favor of the move, because of the potential to steam line the permitting process.  However, the move seems to draw the ire of progressives for lack of "transparency."  But faster permitting would seem to promote economic growth, so what is the real complaint here?
  • Transportation. Progressives are hoping that Filner will pour even more money down the rat hole of the public transit system.  Our Attorney General, Kamala Harris, supposedly doesn't like the fact that SANDAG's transport plan has too much emphasis on freeway widening.  A shift in emphasis and funding away from freeways to public transport will of course just cause more traffic jams.
  • Housing. The liberal belief is that the way to increase affordable housing is to subsidize the production of low income housing.  Despite the city's budget woes related specifically to the changes Jerry Brown gutted the redevelopment agencies, the left is hoping Filner will divert money to low income housing.  Steven Greenhut details the way in which government run housing projects decrease the stock of housing available to the poor in Reason.  The best way to increase affordable housing is to increase the total amount of housing being built.  The increased stock acts as increased supply, and the laws of supply and demand drive down the overall cost of housing.
  • Electrical Power Production.  Progressives were upset with Sanders' support for two power plant projects and look to Filner to take their side.  How the city is supposed to get less dependent on importing power over "single point of failure links" is not spelled out.  Having lived through the disaster September 2011, I am acutely aware of the risks we face.  The FERC study on that disaster points out that the system is subject relatively too few nodes for transmission of electricity, as I have reviewed.  If this stand is in the name of environmental protection, then how much air pollution occurs when thousands of people fire up their portable gasoline generators, break out charcoal bbqs, and toss out food when we lose power?
  • Tourism.  Look for the hotel tax increase that funds tourism outreach (under the Tourism Management District) to come under assault.  Filner advocated shifting the money to "public safety" in an October debate, questioning the legality of the tax.  I question the legality as well and would propose repeal.  However, Filner reveals his instincts are those of a big government thug, when rather than rescind a tax the hoteliers imposed on themselves, he wants to seize the cash for the city.  Either the tax is illegal and gets repealed or it should stand and be used for tourism.
Kelly's article opened with a discussion of Filner proposing providing subsidies for families of students who couldn't afford the $36 per month bus pass.  It makes a nice sound bite, but I really question how many students fall in that category.  Where is the study?  Where is the evidence?  How many employees will be hired or diverted from other work to run a small bureaucracy to determine which students are truly needy enough to get free passes?  If we base the decision on income, who will audit compliance with federal privacy laws when these people provide their income tax returns as proof of need?  If we don't require proof, how are the subsidies not going to drain the transit system coffers as students line up to collect the free passes?  Will my son, who lives at home, but is unemployed and goes to a community college get a pass?  If so, why? we are relatively well off.  If not, why not? Are we discriminating based on the basis of family origin?  Nobody asks these questions when politicians just announce some fabulous free crap.  Maybe if we always did, they would be embarrassed into working on real issues, like how are we going to implement a budget that works.

A Filner administration may give me ample material for my blog, but that is cold comfort when his policies won't be helping an economy that badly needs it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks for a Great Nation

Any number of headlines popped up this week regarding this or that complaint about Thanksgiving.  Meanwhile, Americans will feast together in record number to celebrate their good fortune.  The few that do not will be in the small minority.  We are truly the most blessed nation on the planet and have much to be for which to be grateful.  We have freedom, a culture that supports freedom and unimaginable wealth.  Even our poor would be considered rich in the third world.  So I am giving thanks for our country and the bounty God has provided.  I do so with a sense of humility, knowing that God's goodness had a great deal to do with our good fortune.  Our rights and our wealth come from His Providence.

In the spirit of the season, I watched the original Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze.  How is it in the spirit of the season?  It captures the film maker's sense of who we are as a nation at our core; which is only revealed in the crucible of grave crisis. I agree with Max Lucado, who said that crisis doesn't develop character, crisis reveals character.  I worry that events will soon reveal the character of the nation; I am not worried that we will rise to the occasion, just that we will be slow to respond at first.

Have some turkey, the ones the President didn't pardon, and enjoy time with family and friends.

Here is my favorite patriotic hymn that I always associate with Thanksgiving, even though it was written to celebrate the 100th Independence Day.  God of our Fathers from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Construction on Clairemont Drive Near I-5

There is significant demolition work going on at the site of the old JR's California Cafe on Clairemont Dr. here in San Diego.  No one seems to know what is going on, or what will be put in place.  I contacted Lorie Zapf's office about the work, and they don't know either.  Shirley Owen, the Clairemont Community Representative for District 6 replied in part:
Regarding your email on the Bay View Plaza property. No, we do not know what is being constructed on the old JR's California CafĂ© on Clairemont Drive. You are correct as the new owners have not filed for any building permits as of yet. Our office did meet with the group of investors when they first purchased the property a couple of months ago as they wanted us to have an introduction to them. Our office has received so many emails, phone calls and letters on this "eyesore to the community" that I was able to give them all of the input from the Community. At this time they have informed me they are working with an Architect to draw up plans to develop the property. They have not publicly disclosed what that is. . . . 
They are presently doing some demolition work . . .
. . . [also] there is a gentleman who has started a Facebook page on Bay Park and is always writing about this site. It is called Bay Park Connection.
Hopefully this helps some of the folks looking for news on this site.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cyber War - Anonymous Risks Gitmo Treatment or Worse

The hacker group Anonymous has apparently jumped into the Israeli-Hamas conflict by releasing the names and personal email addresses of five thousand Israeli officials, along with a message declaring cyber war on Israel.  It is Anonymous who used the term cyberwar; so this is not my interpretation of events.  Additionally, but not necessarily related, the Israeli government is combatting tens of millions of cyber attacks on the country's infrastructure and government web sites.

There is no doubt that future armed conflict are going to be accompanied by a complementary cyber war strategy.  What remains to be seen is how much affect non-state actors, like Anonymous, who are not parties to the conflict will influence the outcome.  Let's be clear, hacktivists groups who engage in cyber warfare are in the same legal category as "enemy combatants" who ended up in Guantanamo.  By engaging in cyberwar, they have become combatants, breaching the sovereignty of another nation, but without the protections that would come from working as a lawful combatant of sovereign nation at war.  Like it or not, international treaty does not protect such actors in the same manner as soldiers.

As a consequence, I expect the Israelis to eventually get annoyed enough to take some action.  Hacker groups are not immune from the detective work that trips up any other criminals.  This year, leading members of LulzSec and Anonymous were arrested.  If the Israelis snatch some members off the streets, don't expect them to announce the abductions any time soon.  Further, they might be within their rights to do so, because of the lack of legal protection afforded unlawful combatants.

The Law of Armed Conflict is intended to clearly distinguish between civilians and soldiers so that civilians may be protected.  Soldiers are afforded certain protections, to encourage proper treatment of prisoners of war on both sides.  Civilians are also afforded protection, both in the conduct of war and when they come under occupation.  By hiding in the civilian population, terrorists and hacktivists undermine the legal framework that protects civilians.  In much the same way that Hamas is responsible for the deaths of Palestinians by placing rocket launchers in civilian neighborhoods, so too do groups like Anonymous damage our rights in cyber space by performing criminal acts and unlawful acts of war.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekend Music Chill

I wasn't a big fan of "The Hunger Games" movie, but I like this music from Arcade Fire that went accompanied the movie.  (I felt like there was a little bit of the whole "occupy" theme going on with the movie, when actually the framework is very fascist.) Regardless, this is very compelling music, this is Abraham's Daughter.

This is their breakout hit, Rebellion (Lies).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Deja Vu - All Over Again

It feels like the election is a distant bad dream, and that nothing happened earlier this month.  Europe is in recession, which will probably affect the U.S. economy.  The economy isn't really healthy, with new jobless claims climbing.  There is always an excuse, this month's is Hurricane Sandy.  More brinksmanship on the budget is expected, with a fiscal train wreck set for January 1, the President has raised the level of partisanship by insisting on even greater revenue from increased tax rates than he did last time.

The stock market is down 5% since the election.  Normally, I would attribute that to noise, but the trend started when the polls stopped trending for Romney.

On the international front, more bad news dogs the President, as his Benghazi story continues to unravel, thread by thread.  Does anyone remember the audacity of hoping that people would believe an amateur video caused the death of the American ambassador?  Another Washington leader is caught in a sex scandal that is distracting attention from pressing matters.  Israel is again faced with a de facto undeclared war.

Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act continues to squeeze businesses, with multiple companies announcing layoffs, reduced hours or price hikes as a result.  Is it just marketing?  I don't think companies would cut hours if it didn't reduce their costs under the act.  It's harder to manage the greater number of part-timers that result.  

Can you honestly tell me anything that seems better because of the re-election of the President?

Didn't think so.

Sorry for the light blogging.  It's not because of the election, but work and school have combined for  a heavy load of late.  I lack prior familiarity/experience with the material in my current course.  Work has been crazy as my employer, the executive branch of the federal government, makes penny-wise and pound-foolish decisions in a frantic effort to cut costs.  One example, restricting who can have mobility solutions like laptops, blackberrys and cell phones.  However, if we had more telework that such devices enable, we could reduce space costs which would more than pay for the mobility solutions.  Alternatively, we could deploy virtual desktop solutions that would allow people to use their own devices, but spending on new solutions is restricted to one program office which is swamped with the pressures of letting a new contract that will basically continue current practice.  This is a microcosm of why government should be put in charge of as little as possible.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day - A View of Mount Soledad

Mount Soledad Veteran's Memorial the morning of November 3, 2012.

Happy Veteran's Day to everyone.  I have been taking a break from blogging and taking it easy yesterday and doing research today.  As a veteran so it seems a little self serving to thank veterans for their service; so I will say thank you to the Veterans who have served in combat.

I met one such veteran of Afghanistan last week at Mount Soledad.  His name is Chad and he told us about a day in 2011 when his unit pushed into Helmund province.  I can't do justice to his story, but to say this, those of us of who have not seen combat cannot understand the fear and horror these men overcome to keep moving and taking the fight to the enemy.  On the day in question, he told us of multiple times that he heard God's voice directing his actions; and in ways to which he objected, but which saved his life three times over.  He also said this, the men and women wounded in our wars who come back to face the reality of living with lost limbs and other damage, appreciate the efforts to help them find jobs, and become a part of society again.  The Wounded Warrior project is one such organization, but there are literally thousands of individual efforts, many run by churches that are working to help the men and women who have suffered harm serving their country.  I encourage everyone to find a way to help.

After Chad talked, we had a chance to look at some of the Veterans plaques on the walls at the memorial. They are generally donated by families of veterans.  I know for a fact that some of the veterans who are so honored are pleased to see their family put a remembrance for them while they are still alive.  My father in law, Ike, who saw service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam was a man of few words, but you could see how proud he was that his service was remembered.

Hope you had a great Veteran's day.  I pray that we have fewer such wars in the future; but I know our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be ready.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weekend Music Chill

Time to celebrate the weekend.  Some of my favorite music from the last decade follows.  These are some of the bands that got me interested iTunes.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thank You to My Readers

This blogging gig is getting lucrative, and I want to thank my readers who have been getting busy clicking through the ads on the right hand side of my blog.  In the year since I decided to put up ads on this blog, I have collected well, let's just say, significant swag.   A picture from my Google adverts page tells an impressive story:

On a more serious note, I was happy to top 1000 page views in a single day on election day and about the same total the day after.  

Since its beer week in San Diego, I think I will spend it all in one place.  The Saison brewed on premise is the best Saison I have ever tasted.

I was pretty upset over the poor showing by conservatives on election day. We lost a lot of close races, its clear that we have to reach out in new ways to change hearts and minds.  I am in a better frame of mind after reviewing how close the voting turned out to be.  Our forebears established the country with blood and privation.  We don't have nearly as daunting a task to save that same Republic.  There are crises looming that will prove the wisdom of our path, let's be ready.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

State and Local Election Results

I was surprised and disappointed by state and local election results.  Filner's victory is really bad news for the city.  I boldly predict he will undermine the implementation of Proposition B.  Most likely, he will block the city's defense of the legal assault on the initiative by the unions.  His victory was not a landslide, but 3% is still substantial.   He doesn't care that the city will be bankrupt in a decade, he'll be probably be addled or six feet under by then.  We will see how well the real fiscal constraints he inherits inhibit his ability to reward his union supporters.  With Filner winning, it seemed inevitable that Bilbray would lose, but its still very close.  We'll see if a principled conservative can defeat Peters in 2014.  Who is ready for that challenge?

Proposition 30's victory also surprised me.  It's victory defied the trend of tax increases not passing when more than one is on the ballot.  It passed well beyond what polling would have indicated.  Make no mistake, these tax increases will not raise the revenue promised, will not be temporary and will hurt the poor more than the rich because of the sales tax hike.  Hard to imagine that it won with 54% of the vote, but there you go.  How soon will the state hit the fiscal wall?

Most of my proposition recommendations went down to defeat.  A couple of exceptions were the revision of the three strikes law and genetically engineered food labeling.

Results from the state office.  Changed the color of the props to indicate how I did, red, I lost and green my position won:

Proposition TitleYes
Yes30Temporary Taxes to Fund Education4,967,03953.9%4,251,55846.1%
No31State Budget, State and Local Government3,376,28639.2%5,229,65960.8%
No32Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction3,983,60343.9%5,094,49256.1%
No33Auto Insurance Prices Based on Driver History4,056,30245.4%4,879,95454.6%
No34Death Penalty4,276,46347.2%4,787,67752.8%
Yes35Human Trafficking7,324,72181.1%1,701,73418.9%
Yes36Three Strikes Law6,193,43168.6%2,832,60231.4%
No37Genetically Engineered Foods Labeling4,285,78746.9%4,845,29153.1%
No38Tax for Education. Early Childhood Programs2,493,39827.7%6,509,12772.3%
Yes39Business Tax for Energy Funding5,305,40060.0%3,530,53740.0%
Yes40Redistricting State Senate6,081,07171.4%2,431,52428.6%

Eventually this state will come to its senses, or run out of money.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Post-Election Video

Last May, I posted a video that was scheduled to run tomorrow, in anticipation of a Romney victory.  However, I pulled that video and I am putting up something more appropriate.

The Weakness of Romney's Campaign

Its clear that Romney will not win a landslide tonight, he might even lose.  Why? Given the weaknesses in Obama's record.

1. Romney never set forth a clear vision for his planned way ahead.
2. He allowed himself to be defined in a negative way early.

It's that simple and I will waste no more time discussing his weaknesses as a candidate.  I am not monitoring results tonight as the combined pressures of school and work have me fully engaged.

Writing this at 7:00 p.m. election night.  I am not publishing until after polls are closed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

No One Will Win

Watching the campaign schedule of both Romney and Obama, I don't think either candidate feels confident in their internal polling.  Romney seems set to win Florida, so wins in Virginia, Ohio and Colorado should make him President.  Obama should be able to win by denying Romney Ohio or Virginia.  But we see some odd campaigning.
That neither Obama or Romney had managed to open a solid advantage over the other in the final hours of the campaign only raised the stakes for the final series of events on Sunday and Monday. Both Obama and Romney — along with Vice President Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan — were set to hit the road for another robust schedule tomorrow. Obama was set to travel to Colorado, Florida, and New Hampshire; Romney's schedule would take him to Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Why would Obama be in Florida, which seems out of reach for him?  Why would Romney go to Pennsylvania when that has been out of reach, seemingly, for most of the campaign.  I think that Obama knows there is a chance that Romney could be the first Republican to win the White House without Ohio, maybe not likely, but a chance.  Romney could lose Ohio, but pick up either Pennsylvania or Iowa and Wisconsin to offset Ohio's loss.  All of those states have become tight enough that this might be the right play for Romney.  For their part, I think the Romney campaign is frustrated by their inability to move the dial in Ohio.  They might even judge themselves ahead, but not by enough to feel comfortable, and have decided to map another path to victory.

Everyone is focused on Ohio, and I have been as well, but look at these two maps.  This is a plausible Romney wins Ohio, but loses the election scenario.

And here are two plausible, Romney loses Ohio, but wins the election scenarios.  First, trade the win in Ohio for wins in PA and NH.

Alternatively, put trade the win Ohio for wins in more western states.

I will admit that this last scenario would make for a long night, as results from Colorado would be the deciding factor.  Given the remarkable fluidity of states polls towards the end of the race and the fact that Obama can't seem to consistently poll above 48% in any swing state, I think this is a very close race. The CW seems to have Obama winning the electoral vote, but I see multiple paths to victory that depend on the nuance of turnout and enthusiasm, which is harder to predict than just reporting preferences.

The behavior of both campaigns indicates a tight race.  Obama seems to be counting on holding to slim leads in CO and NH, and is campaigning in FL because . . . ?  Romney seems to think he has as good a shot of a game changing victory outside of Ohio as in.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekend Music Chill

Its the calm before the storm of a closely contested election, but not so calm in the aftermath of the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, I was looking for some different music to match the challenge.  I also wanted to honor my Christian heritage after All Saints Day yesterday. First, here is Globius with Preliator.

Some of the lyrics:

Fortuna hosana deus 
Legionus ab comae
Fortune fortuna equis 
Ad pugnatoris in veritae 
Blessed Savior God
Legion as the hairs of my head
Blessed, blessed indeed
Are the warriors of truth

And from France here is ERA with Les Templiers.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Last Hurrah for the GOP?

The Last Hurrah is a novel about an Irish machine politician of the 1950s whose final campaign for mayor is his "last hurrah."  He loses because of forces changing the nature of politics that he doesn't master, specifically TV.  In the end he loses the election and dies soon after.  I read the book in my early teens, but still remember its contours.  Today, many on the left are righting a similar obituary for the Republican party through the lens of the changing demographics of the country.  They point to the fact that currently, Republicans draw heavily on white support and whites constitute only about 71% of the electorate, which is declining every four years.  Brookings reports that they will comprise about 75% of actual voters, but that figure is in decline as well.  Here is a graphic of the trend.

One would think that this spells long term disaster for the GOP, but I think not.  Just focusing on group, Hispanics can explain why.  One of the key reasons that Hispanics have been voting Democrat is a misperception that the Republican position on immigration is motivated by race.  It is not, but that is a hard perception to change.  I believe that Mexican-Americans, who are largely Catholic, would not be in the Democratic coalition except for this.  As often is the case, Victor David Hanson lays out the case much more eloquently than I.  The quoted article is explaining why there is hope for California's dysfunctional politics, but his comments have broader implications.
At some point, the state’s southern border will finally be closed, and with it the unchecked yearly flow of illegal immigrants. The economic downturn in the United States, globalized new industry in Mexico, and increased border enforcement have already resulted in lower numbers of illegals. No national support exists for wholesale amnesty or for open borders. And with an enforced border, California will see not only decreased remittances to Mexico and Latin America and a reduced draw on state services but also, perhaps, a change in attitude within the state’s largest ethnic group. After all, illegal immigration warps the politics of the Mexican-American community, which constitutes more than 40 percent of the state’s population. The unlawful entry of Mexican nationals into California not only ensures statistically that Mexican-Americans as a group suffer from disproportionate poverty rates; it also means that affluent third- and fourth-generation Mexican-Americans become part of a minority receiving disproportionate state help.. . .Indeed, the great fear of the liberal Hispanic hierarchy in government, media, and academia is that without illegal immigration, the conservative tendencies of the Hispanic middle class would cost the elites their positions as self-appointed spokespeople for the statistically underachieving.
The Republicans could speed this change by reaching out to Hispanics now, and by actually getting the border under control after a Romney victory.  Control of the border will be the down payment conservatives will require before negotiating a more thoughtful immigration policy.  But once that issue is settled, I see Hispanics splitting between Republican and Democratic leanings in the same proportion as whites.  That will force the Democratic party back to the middle and be good for the country as a whole.