Archive for June 2012

Who Said It Best Today: Who Else? Paul Krugman

Paul in his blog, Macroeconomics and the Centrist’s Dodge, is bemoaning the “both sides do it” and points out that same problem in economics that we have in our politics, the false wisdom of the centralist pundit:

The macroeconomics equivalent looks like this: a concerned writer or speaker on economics bemoans the state of the field and argues that what we really need are macroeconomists who are willing to approach the subject with an open mind and change their views if the evidence doesn’t support their model. He or she concludes by scolding the macroeconomics profession in general, which is a nice safe thing to do – but requires deliberately ignoring the real nature of the problem…So there’s the trouble with macro: it’s basically political, and it’s mainly – not entirely, but mainly – coming from one side. Yet this truth is precisely what the critics won’t acknowledge, because that would endanger their comfortable position of scolding everyone equally. It is, in short, the centrist dodge carried over to conflict within economics.

You know the truth is patently obvious and we just continue with these arguments and we try nothing new. Hey, here is an idea: Let’s try something new, and not just reject it on ideological grounds, then if it doesn’t perform, let’s just adjust it. Hey! Could we try that with Obamacare instead of rushing to throw the baby out with the bath water? Dr. Sues’s Green Eggs and Ham and “Try it Mikey, You will Like it” come to mind as wisdom of the ages in this time of political parallysis.

Warning! Grumpy Old Man, Friday Afternoon Before Cocktail Hour

I know it is devastating to loose your house in a fire, but it is just a house. People seem to be shattered by the event as though there were some kind of implied guarantee this would not happen to them. Maybe it was your dream home (the one I live in is mine), but my health and my friends and family are so much more important, so I guess my reaction is get over it. I have a little vineyard in the middle of 21 acres of forest and the potential for a catastrophic fire is always there. It is the risk those of us who live in the country or foothills take on (along with our insurance companies). I guess what bothers me is the interview where one gets the feeling that the person is almost incredulous that this could happen to them and they are just devastated and I think, well that’s just life. Shit happens.

I also heard that President Obama was visiting the devastation and offering federal aid and there was the report that he would get an earful from those that have been evacuated. Again I am thinking, about what? They probably voted Republican, wanted lower taxes for themselves and their rich buddies, and are then just shocked, shocked I tell you, when they find the forestry service undermanned, that brush removal has been lagging, that fire fighting equipment is inadequate, the air fleet is from the 1960’s, and one has to wonder what did they expect? Now they want to be bailed out by the feds and they see no connection between their civic dereliction and the result.

Oh, and I would guess this whole group doesn’t believe in Global Warming where the effects are going to make these events more likely in some regions of the country because then you might have to actually plan for this stuff and it cost money (See North Carolina outlawing Global Warming predictions). Isn’t it interesting that the people who think shit happens to other people because they deserve it, squeal the loudest when shit happens to them and then demand help from the government they have expressed so much distain for?

On Obamacare I love the present debate about how it is not a winning issue since the majority of Americans don’t like it. Interesting because the majority of Americans have no idea what is in it. The issue is should the Democrats “relitigate” it, meaning use it as a campaign issue and try to educate the American people on what they really are getting. S.E. Cupp, the conservative on the Cycle, the new MSNBC show made the false point (she always starts with a false premise that makes her conclusion seem logical typical of all Republicans) that the Democrats had tried that before and failed, people just don’t like it.

Of course that is not true and they should be terrified that Democrats might just “relitigate” it because then it forces people who are happy with their insurance to ask what happens in the future if reform doesn’t happen, educates them about how it really does protect them, and oh by the way, asks them what is the alternative offered by the Republicans? In reality most people don’t like it because either it did not go far enough, or they have no clue what they won and are listening to lies by the Republicans. Time to change that.

Finally I listened to the mantra from President Obama on our way forward:

Now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenges of our time: We have to get our people back to work, pay down our deficit, and build an economy where people have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.

Problem with that is that you can’t put people back to work and start rebuilding our economy AND pay down the debt in the depression we are in. See Econ 101. Why not tell people the truth instead of promising them a chicken in every pot. We are going to have to grow our deficit for a while to build an economy that will allow us to pay it off. That is the only way forward and we need to start selling it. See Paul Krugman and others who have got it right so far.

On this Friday I am just disgusted with all of you. Quit whining, looking for a free ride, and get at it. We need to raise taxes, invest in our government and people, start a real stimulus program, and throw science hating and lying Republicans in the ditch so we can move this country forward. If you are an independent at this point and you see the choices in front of you, a hypocritical and lying Mitt Romney or a guy who is not radical, but at least faces reality, what kind of a idiot can not make this choice. More of yesterday or trying something new? Now I will go have a glass of wine, and trick myself that reasonable people can disagree. If only the other side was reasonable.

Update: I was taken to task by one of my friends and readers about how devastating a fire and loss of your home can be. She is right of course and it is a terrible thing. But I am a man who lost a daughter to a drunk driver. Losing your house seems to me like small potatoes and I would give everything I have to get her back. It is all relative. Real adversity teaches us some really important lessons in life about perspective.

Vine/Wine Friday

Lower Vineyard 6/29/2012. No we are not cooking like they are in the East. Global Warming anyone?

Vine: Well…still injured and healing so my time in the vineyard has been limited. But the vineyard doesn’t care and waits for no one. See my cost go out of sight as I hire labor to do what needs to be done. And what needs to be done is more thinning, leaf cover management, and spraying. Remember I damaged myself spraying when I rolled my ATV over on top of me so I am definitely restricted from that activity. I have had three trabajos (dos hombres Y una mujera) working all week thinning and doing leaf cover removal/repositioning. Below are some before and after pictures. The idea is to open up the plant, remove excess growth, allow the grapes to get balanced sun, and help prevent mildew. (Note you can click on the pictures and expand for you want-to-be farmers (have your head examined))

Thinning and opening up in the Grenache with debris everywhere

Thinning and throwing the long shoots over the wires to shade the grapes in the late afternoon and get full sun in the morning. Note the difference in the near and far for what has been done and still to do.

A completed row in the Syrah (trellis system). If you click and expand you can see the grape clusters along the cardon.

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The other thing to report is that I think I have (sadly) a lot of shatter in the Grenache which is common. Shatter is simply the result of a bunch not developing all of the potential flowers into grapes which leaves an asymmetrical bunch, not fully filled out. It is still harvestable, but it reduces production. This can be caused by a lot things, including high winds, bad weather, stupid bugs (not showing up when I need them), or a multitude of other causes, but all the other varieties look fine (Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, and Counoise). See pictures. I still need to mow the vineyard and then things are pretty much done and we just do minor management like irrigate, strip spray for weeds, and maybe some minor cover manage, until we see the real crop load and then drop fruit to balance the vine and force all those good tasty flavoroids into the remaining bunches for outstanding quality grapes. On the issue of irrigation, I grow in red clay and this soil holds a lot of moisture. We have had a couple of showers in June (nothing significant) and this spring was dryer than last, so I am guessing first round in Mid July, and probably only two rounds of irrigation.

Shatter in the Grenache. Note the missing berries that just didn’t develop.

Good berry development in the Mourvedre. As always this plant produces big bodatious clusters that will have to be thinned later.

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I use deficit water, managing the vines until they are really thirsty (near shut down) and then saturate the soil, and repeat the process (drip irrigation). I use instrumentation at 1′, 2′, 3′, and 4′ levels to watch the soil moisture profile and water with the 4′ level is getting dry. The theory is the plant senses the decreasing water levels and pushes nutrients to its babies which enhances the flavors of the grapes. You have to be careful during September to make sure your grapes don’t wrinkle up, but you don’t want to water too close to harvest to dilute the grape with water. Okay, so much for the vineyard

Wine: Last weekend she who must not be mentioned and I attended the Holly’s Hill anniversary event and it was splendid. They were showcasing three wines and pairing them with 3 food groupings. The first was a wonderful barbeque chicken salad (Achiote chicken salad) paired with Viognier. Here is a tip: For high acid foods like salad, you need high acid wines and the Viognier was perfect. Poor Connie, tasting room manager who was pouring, got pestered for many repeat pourings. The second course was a bit of a surprise and that was Scallops w/ salsa verde paired with Mourvedre, and finally Rack of lamb w/ pasilla chile sauce paired with a Cab-Syrah blend. Yes it was a meal and a half and the lamb melting in your mouth. All of the pairings were wonderful and both leveraged the other. Got me craving lamb. That is one of the wonderful advantages of living up here, a beautiful Sunday sipping wine outdoors at one the the excellent wineries near the house.

Anyway, speaking of craving lamb, I am going to slow barbeque two legs of lambs this Saturday, have a few friends over to sit on the patio in the evening and sip some of the magnificent wines that we produce up here (and a few from elsewhere). My daughter sent me a couple of really good Malbecs from Argentina and I will also open them. I haven’t decided on the whole menu yet since I have basil in the garden that is ready to be harvested and I want to work that in. I will let you know next time I write. Carpe Diem.

Final Thought of the Day On Obamacare

Here is the final thought of the day on this subject. I listened to a political strategist today (who I think are all idiots and wallowing in beltway conventional wisdom) explain why the ruling will be an issue with the Republicans and will bring out their base. This is why political strategists are idiots. They are totally out of touch with the real America. The real America knows that affordable health care is almost impossible to find, that more and more of us are being refused, and business and the whole idea of employer based health care is holding us back.

So we have this flawed plan, but an improvement over what we have now. The Democrats have done a terrible job of telling the American people what they get under Obamacare. And now if you follow these political morons, the Republicans are going to give the Democrats another bite at the apple while they (the Republicans) have nothing to offer. And in this election people are going to say, “So you are going to repeal Obamacare. What are you going to replace it with?” How do you think that will play in Peoria. It is just like the economy. It sucks, but Republicans, what are you going to do that is different from what you did in 2000-2008 that got us here?

At least the Democrats are trying something different. So follow the political strategists advice and you will have your hat handed to you as you offer nothing except criticizm of something that just might make our lives easier. Bring it on.

Note: The ruling that the mandate was not Constitutional under the Commerce clause because you can choose not to buy health care is specious (the broccoli argument). Everyone, EVERYONE, uses health care and it is subsidized by the government or us in our rates, so the idea that this is not a commerce issue for the nation is just plain wrong.

Oh God, It Gets Even Better

I did not think it could get better with their tortured thinking. But John Boehner tells us that with this Supreme Court Ruling on Obamacare, the government (those evil fiendish monsters of which he is a part) could order you to eat broccoli every Tuesday if they choose. Umm, John, they fought a war I thought was a total waste of time and I still have to pay for it, how is that any different? Oh, and John, don’t you and your sorry ass party want to regulate women’s bodies?

Oh, and John, they have a right to legislate health care, BECAUSE WE ALL USE IT! IT IS IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST. See a difference here between broccoli and health care. Oh I know you don’t. You people are lunatics. Oh and one other thing John, if everyone was ordered to eat broccoli it would raise the price of broccoli because there would then be a limited supply. If everyone has to buy health insurance, it lowers the cost as we spread it across the sick and healthy. See a difference? I didn’t think so.

Ah, the Chattering Class and the Ruling on Obamacare

Well once again it was a discussion of who won, who lost, and what that will mean to the election, and absolutely no discussion on what it means to most of us out here in uninsurable land. I have to laugh because these young people who are the talking heads have never faced being 60 and by that very fact, uninsurable. They don’t have kids who can’t get a job in the economy the Republicans wrecked and therefore do not have insurance. Apparently, they haven’t lost their job and then found that because they are a woman of child bearing age or had an asthma attack, they can no longer afford insurance that is offered.

Mitt tells us on day one he will repeal Obamacare, but unless we anoint him king, I am not sure how he does that. And then he doesn’t tell us how he is going to fix the broken health care system with more competition. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand why the private sector is not the way to solve the problem. To maximize profits for your stockholders, you only insure healthy people and you deny claims. That is what we have now and why Medicare isn’t just nice, it is essential for our aging population.

Last but not least, look America “IT IS A TAX”. OMG! We might actually have to pay for what we want. And note it is the only way we are going to get control of the costs in this out of control system. Maybe instead of looking at what we might have to pay to cover most Americans, we should do a cost benefit ratio of what we would have had to pay if we had not taken control of the system. Oh, I forgot. OMB already did this and the answer was plenty more.

So bring on the squealing, but in the end, we have a problem and all the Republicans have to offer is that it might be painful to solve so lets look the other way. When you hear the squealing simply ask them why we are the most expensive program on earth (almost double the costs of the most successful countries) with outcomes that rank us 27th in life expectancy? Then while they are jabbering about denying that fact, ask them what their plan is and how will people who age (that would be all of us) going to afford healthcare under the present system. Or those pesky details.

See What You Want to See

Apparently CNN and Fox News (Oxymoron) got the Supreme Court Ruling wrong this morning, by not reading the whole ruling and just saw what they wanted to. From a guy who spent half his life reading contracts and fighting about their meaning, this tells me a whole lot about both our reporting and their bias. About Bias: If you wanted the mandate upheld you would have read the whole ruling to see if there were any special conditions. If you wanted the mandate overturned, you found what you wanted and stopped reading. About Reporting: They are in such a hurray to say anything, that they report erroneously without checking. At least this time they got caught with their pants down. If you want it wrong, get it fast.

Who Said It Best Today: Paul Krugman’s Manifesto

Paul Krugman and Richard Layard have put out a Manifesto for economists to sign to start to turn the ships of state away from failed economic policies and start putting the people of the world back to work. It is a brilliant one page summary of the problems, it’s false diagnosis and our way forward. Here is just a small nugget:

As a result of their mistaken ideas, many Western policy-makers are inflicting massive suffering on their peoples. But the ideas they espouse about how to handle recessions were rejected by nearly all economists after the disasters of the 1930s, and for the following forty years or so the West enjoyed an unparalleled period of economic stability and low unemployment. It is tragic that in recent years the old ideas have again taken root. But we can no longer accept a situation where mistaken fears of higher interest rates weigh more highly with policy-makers than the horrors of mass unemployment.

Obamacare Upheld

Well I am surprised and yet saw it coming. McClatchy News had an article the other day about the grumpiness of the conservative members of the Supreme Court that might predict a ruling coming they did not like. Personally I think John Roberts saw his court going off the rails with Scalia becoming a conservative captured by the blogs and wanted to move the court back toward law and away from politics.

It will now set up some interesting politics as the mantra from the Republicans will be to repeal it. We will see how Democrats start to educate voters on the benefits, or duck it as the gutless wonders they are and in that action define themselves as Republicans. You know the really interesting opportunity here is that the major complaint against this plan is being force to buy health care (the only way it could work) from our flawed health insurance industry, and that would be the opening to offer those who hate our high priced insurance companies a public option. You think?

As an aside, one of my conservative friends was just refused health care coverage for a “pre-existing condition” of having been treated for back pain (who hasn’t been treated for back pain if you are over 50?). So in 2014 this person will now have the opportunity to be covered by the plan of their choice and pay less than they do today. Think that will change their politics? Not a chance.

Could They All Have It All Wrong?

Tonight on Rachel Maddow, Rachel introduced a story printed in Fortune Magazine that says the mainstream media has the whole Fast and Furious (Guns across the Boarder) wrong. The ATF agents did not send or carry weapons across the border, but tried to track and arrest buyers of guns in Arizona who were obviously buying guns to take across the border for illegal purposes. They couldn’t stop it because the laws were so weak in Arizona that even when it was obvious what was going on, they could not get a prosecutor to prosecute. I will research the story tomorrow, but once again the mainstream press goes with conservative nonsense, fails to do any real investigative reporting, and the whole thing is being reported based upon a false premises. Two things to note: Mainstream beltway press is totally captured by the conservatives, and the only real investigative reporting is coming from non-Beltway sources (Slate, Salon, Fortune, Atlantic Monthly). Where does the truth really lie? We won’t find out from our mainstream press, that’s for sure. Meanwhile let’s lynch Eric Holder because it distracts everyone from every thing else that is going on that Republicans have no answer for. Is this a great country or what?