Archive for October 2013

Abby Huntsman – An Independent in Denial She is an Independent

Abby Huntsman has become the spokesperson on MSNBC for the rational Republican.  She is the daughter of Jon Huntsman, ex-Republican presidential candidate who believed in science.  He and his daughter are SPECs, social progressives, economic conservatives of the Republican Party.  Abby was on one of the MSNBC nightly shows and she was explaining as a Republican how mad she is at Ted Cruz and how he has become the focus of the Republican Party.  She wants her party back.

Sadly what we are seeing is denial.  He party doesn’t exist anymore.  She should not be angry at Ted Cruz, she should be mad at the Republican Party that enables Ted Cruz and the other crazies.  It’s not her father’s Republican Party anymore.  That party doesn’t exist.  Ask yourself how Ted could have led us to the brink unless the Party enabled him?  Abby lives under the delusion, commonly held in the Beltway, that most of the party just needs to stand up to a few radicals.  Have you seen the war on women in the states?  That is the Republican Party and Abby is in denial about it.  See the attack of food stamps, it is not rational.

The Republican Party can not rebuild itself until it self-destructs.  There is too much money and base dependent politics to allow it to ever evolve.  It has to fail.  The only way that will happen is if the Abby Huntsmans of the world wake up and leave the party (See Josh Barrow).  Until that happens and they stay within the party to try to rebuild it, they are just enabling all they hate.

For Abby, I kind of get it.  She was raised in a moderate Repubulican household.  So she can believe in science, be socially progressive, but still clings to many failed conservative economic ideas.  It is like being raised Catholic, you learn to ignore some things to hold on to a faith that is dear to you.  But at least Abby is rational and I think facts and data do make difference, so if she and her fellow moderates would become independents, it might be a start to fixing our two party system.  But until she does, what we have is just denial and enabling which turns our politics crazier and crazier.

Let’s Review Republican Insanity

Kathleen Sebilius showed up at the “Hearing” and was treated horribly. Do Republicans think this plays well as they shook their finger at her, interrupted her, and basically brow beat her for all to see how mean, spiteful, and quite frankly stupid they are? You know if I were asking questions, and there are questions to be asked, they would have gone something like this:

  1. What are the top five priorities for getting the site working?
  2. How is the team structured to attack these problems?
  3. What are the metrics and test plan to ensure you are on schedule for 30 November
  4. What are the contract issues the need to be resolve to ensure a working site at a reasonable price?
  5. Is there a backup plan if the site continues to have problems?
  6. What can Congress do to facilitate getting this system working?

Okay, these aren’t gotcha questions you embarrass someone with, they are questions about what is the approach to correcting the problem and how to ensure the process is working. But that wasn’t what was going on here. It was the Wrecking Ball Party (WBP) at their peak.

Okay, so why do they hate Obamacare? Well it is wrecking our economy they tell us, but how is not clear. People are losing their healthcare plans, but that is only a small percentage and the plans they are losing were, well, losers. It will increase the deficit, except the CBO already told us it is reducing the deficit and we are seeing the healthcare spending curve being bent down. But here is the biggie, they should love it.

It is their plan. It is a boon for the market place. The government is simply setting up some baseline requirements and establishing exchanges where, wonder upon wonder, the market place can function almost perfectly and private insurers can compete. The healthcare plans are unaffected by government except establishing baseline requirements so we know what we are getting and can’t be abused as we have been in the past.

They should love it. Oh, and it is working in Massachusetts so it is proven. So why are they screaming and having temper tantrums about a plan that is pure market place?  Because it’s from Obama.  If he proposed deregulating all of the financial sector, it would be the end of the world from their perspective.  Their biggest fear is that he will be successful and get credit for something, hence the WBP.  They must destroy anything that might be successful and compromise is a dirty word because even if they get some credit, so does Obama.

Americans don’t dislike Obamacare, they dislike change, even good change.  Americans hold on to their past and the Republicans are playing to this fear to hold the whole country back. So we get insanity from them. They are against what they were for. They make up an alternate reality to hang on to the past.  But it is destroying America and setting us back years.  The amazing thing is that we are not more amazed by their insanity and seem to take it in stride as partisan politics.  It is not, it is insanity.

I Wonder How Much Longer We Can Go On Like This

Rachel Maddow had a show on last night where she focused a spotlight on the anti-scientific moves of the right to ignore climate science and plan for the future it is telling us is coming.  North Carolina tells planners to ignore climate prediction of rising sea levels.  A study proposed by a Nebraska Senator to study climate variability and change and its impacts on Nebraska got so wrap up in Know-Nothing politics, that they barred any human induce effects and reputable scientists refuse to partake in a purely political document.

If you watch the hearings today, you saw Republicans acting as piranha, trying to destroy instead fix Obamacare.  You saw misrepresentation and brutal attacks on Kathrine Sebelius not to fix the system, but to destroy it.  They have no alternative.

So I guess my question is how much longer can this nonsense go on?  When are we going to stop defending political dogma instead of looking for workable solutions?  When are we going to stop looking for suboptimal solutions in the name of compromise, be informed by science and data, and go for the optimal solution?

Well I picked up the paper today to see that California, Oregan, Washington, and British Columbia has entered into a pact to address global warming.  Maybe we can just wait until bad things really happen to the deniers before they start making sense, or maybe what you are seeing is that those of us who still have working brain cells are going to strike out on our own.  At this point with amount of obfuscation and just plain ignorance coming out of the Republicans and Red States makes the rest of us just want to jettison them.  Maybe we do have to be in it for ourselves as the Crazies self destruct and we can’t save them from their selves.

Oh Good Lord!

I turned on the hearings this morning and quickly turned them back off. The Salem Witch Trials had nothing on this Republican lynch mob and I just hope the American people wake up to the fact that these people attacking the Obamacare Website have nothing but pure destruction in their sights. People need affordable healthcare and Obamacare tries to provide it and all we get from Republicans is another attempt to sabotage it with no alternatives or suggestions. They are a scourge on our planet.

Oh, and why have hearings if you are not going to let the witness answer a question. Actually these are not “hearings” because no one is listening. They are just spraying criticism and scorn, without any concern for correcting the problem or working with anyone.  Some are so rude that this may in fact backfire.

Sabotaging Healthcare

I promise, my last post of the day unless they really get me excited (watching news while I work out).  The Republicans have changed their attack on Obamacare. I think that is because they recognize that the site will be eventually fixed and if enough people enroll, it will work. Their approach is to sabotage it up front by trying first to defund it, then when that didn’t work, keep up the drum beat of it’s a mess so that people won’t bother to sign up.

Recognizing you can only get so far with younger healthy potential candidates with a messed up website, that these younger people understand is a short term problem, it is time to go on full attack of the whole system. The one thing you have wonder here, is why they won’t let the system work, and see if it will work. That is a rhetorical question.

Okay, the new attack is that as the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, said: “Sooner or later the administration needs to admit the law is unworkable. People don’t have access to health plans, they cannot compare coverage options and the true cost is often underreported or completely hidden.”  And their attack point is the fact that the President promised that if you were happy with your insurance plan you wouldn’t have to change.  But people are getting cancellation notices blaming Obamacare and the Republicans are all over this as the President lied.  Except he didn’t, but should have recognized the complexity.

The law grandfathered in all policies issued before the law went into effect, 2010, even if they did not cover the required elements so people would not have to change.  The insurance agency, not the government, is chosing to cancel these policies and issue policies more in line with Obamacare to simplify their administration.  The other factor is that most of these “bare bones policies” are renewed every 12 months* so they do not get the grandfathering of plans issued prior to 2010.  I might also note that people who have these policies probably don’t really have health insurance and would have found that out when they had something more serious than a hangnail.

So the bottomline here is that some policies are going get cancelled, some new policies will be more expensive (but cover a ton more stuff), but overall the effect will be to cover more people with basic healthcare defined requirments, and reduce the overall costs in a marketplace based system.  So if this is so bad, what are the Republicans offering to replace it.  Nothing.  They are terrified it will work.  Oh, how I wish we could just go to single payer.

Note: Sarah Kliff on the Wonkblog explains this much better than I do and she should be everyone’s source for what is really going on instead of the political spin.

*12 month renewal is dependent on both parties.  Either can cancel.  If you came down with cancer, not only would your out of pocket expenses be major, but you can bet your next years policy would have been cancelled anyway.   That is how these companies make money and what Obamacare is designed to prevent.

Sandy Revisited

I listened to a story today about the aftermath of Sandy and the slowness of government to respond.  That is by design.  While we would like a more flexible government to make quick decisions, it is designed by our politicians not to.  For every stupid rule that slows it down, there is some gross fraud or abuse that resulted in that rule.  Thank you politicians who only understand finding someone to blame and then writing rules to tie a bureaucrat’s hands. Instead of giving administrators the freedom to make smart decisions, we have system of rules and an environment of blame that makes rule following king instead of good judgement, even when it is counter productive.

So when you are screaming government incompetence and inefficiency, look to the system you, yes you, helped create with your votes that elected people who play politics with government.  Benghazi anyone?  The hearings on the Obamacare Website?  Just the latest.

As a personal note, I was a government bureaucrat enforcing the Federal Acquisition Regulations and trying to find a way to do smart things in an environment stacked against me.  I know this system.  The thing you should try to remember is that the majority of my fellow workers were doing the same thing I was, getting the job done as best we can with all the hurdles put in front of us.  It is the nature of the beast and you should also thank them, government workers, for their service.

Revisiting Edward Snowden

No, I haven’t changed my mind.  I think he did the country a great service at extreme risk.  I was listening to The Cycle on MSNBC and the consensus was that while he exposed major, maybe illegal, eavesdropping in the United States, now he has caused us damage on foreign surveillance, and as Crystal Ball said sarcastically, Thank you Edward Snowden.  Further, on an earlier Now with Alex Wagner, Jonathan Capehart said that if he felt he was acting as a whistle-blower he should have stayed in the United States and have made that case in our justice system.

Both are wrong.  Yes Edward caused and is causing us major discomfort with our allies.  Some of this is hypocritical on their part, but having said that, he exposed a surveillance program that seems to be totally indiscriminate.  Worse, our President, maybe with plausible denial, stated he did not know Angela Merkel’s cell phone had been hacked.  So who is in charge and who is making these decisions?

What Edward Snowden exposed was an out of control and mindless surveillance program that is growing by leaps and bounds, without any discussion by we the people about what should be the limits.  That in and of itself was a great contribution to this country.  At least now, we are going to have that discussion.  And do not forget this:  Our technological ability to violate privacy grows by leaps and bounds every day and if it can be done, someone will do it.  We as a rational people who purport to love freedom need to have a full an open discussion about those limits, and without Edward Snowden, that would not be happening.

Finally to Jonathan Capehart, are you watching what the Republicans are doing to healthcare?  You think in this highly partisan charged environment, he would not be a political pawn?  Republicans would move to show him as a failure of the Obama Administration and traitor, meanwhile the Obama Administration would move to prove they are tough on leakers.  Everything else would get lost in the spin and posturing.  Fair trial my ass.  Edward read the situation quite correctly and Jonathan is naive to think justice would prevail.  Bradley Manning anyone (sentenced to 35 years)? John Walker Lindh?  The latter got 20 years without parole, and he was a kid.  Stay in Russia Edward.


A Project Manager’s Nightmare

You are given this really complex IT project that involves many moving parts and subcontractors. There are all kinds of unknowns pushed upon you by late delivery of detailed requirements because of a partisan politician environment. Budgets are really tight and in some cases unrealistically small. The requirements continue to grow late in the development process.

Then when bad things happen, contractors start blaming each other, egged on by the customer shifting blame to the contractor, and a media that reports every misstep and questions your competence while you are trying to make corrections. Add to that a whole group of influential politicians who want to see you fail. Yep, you guessed it, Obamacare Website. My favorite is:

The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, said: “Sooner or later the administration needs to admit the law is unworkable. People don’t have access to health plans, they cannot compare coverage options and the true cost is often underreported or completely hidden.”

Hell will seem like a reprieve after this.

Vine/Wine Fri…Whatever


Vine:  The end of another harvest on a very different year than I have ever experienced before. The spring was very dry, one of the driest on record in the region, but warm.  So we have very early and vigorous bud break and shoot growth.  This was a year where because of the sequester, my consulting for DoD contracts were few, so I was field labor.  Prunning and mowing was done by labor, but then thinning,weed control, pushing the vines up through the wires, and spraying in early June for powdery mildew was done by me and keep me busy through mid-July.

Early growth in the Syrah

Early growth in the Syrah

One note here.  Since I rolled my ATV last year with a sprayer mounted on the ATV and saw my life flash before my eyes, I hand sprayed all the vines in the steeper areas. With a Tyvek suit goodles and mask, this is a great weight reduction program, not to mention, keeping my heart rate lower, not fearing for my life.

Plant development and veraison was early and the other really surprising thing was how little irrigation was required even after a very dry spring.  Most blocks got one cycle and that is all.  The plants just never appeared stressed at all, and new growth keep pushing late into summer.  The summer itself was mild with not that many 100 degree days so it was a very good growing season.

Mourvedre Harvest on cool morning

Mourvedre Harvest on cool morning

Upper vineyard Syrah with Viognier mixed in

Upper vineyard Syrah with Viognier mixed in

Usually after veraison there is about 100 120 days until harvest.  Up here that could be longer as we wait for the tanins to mellow.  That was not the case this year as the seeds quickly browned and the tanins ripened.  Acid did not decrease as fast giving us an ideal early harvest.  Usually my last block is the Mouvedre in very late October or early November.  They were picked this year on 30 September.  We usually harvest in four blocks starting with the upper vineyard syrah, lower vinyard Syrah, Grenache, then Mourvedre stretching over about six weeks.  This time everything went in four weeks earlier than ever.  This was an experience across California which put a premeium on vat space for juice in wineries as it was all flowing in at the same time.


Syrah Harvest on another cool morning

Oh, and my yield, even though with the robust growth and we thinned considerably, was the largest I have ever had, at close to 6 tons. Everyone I talked to said about the same thing, remarkable fruit, early development and harvest.  So the year is over and as evidenced by the picture, it is time to enjoy the spoils of harvest and think about next year and a new beginning.

Wine:  On wine, well there are so many good ones, and this area that I live in is getting more and more developed and discovered.  So I will leave with this thought.  Many of us are accused of being a wine snob as we taste, sniff, criticize, and describe our experience.  But the reality is only you know what a good wine is, because in the end all the matters is how it taste to you.  Think of the act of wine tasting not as some competitive activity to prove what you know, but a systemized way to make you stop and smell the roses.  When you really taste and enjoy a wine, you are focused on it, how it feels, smells, looks, and the various compexities it presents.  It is just too bad we don’t do that with many other experiences in our lives.


Glorious Fall and the Watcher. Carpe Diem.

Some Monday Morning Thoughts

Well I don’t know about you, but if I read one more the sky is falling article about the Obamacare website I will scream. Didn’t they say they would fix it by November 30 and they actually seemed to have a plan? Doesn’t data show that nobody signs up until they have to, so we could consider this period as beta testing? Does it not seem reasonable that they will extend the personal mandate depending on when they get it fixed? And were you not paying attention, the personal mandate really isn’t enforceable (The Latest Media Gotcha)?

This week the media focus will be on immigration reform. I don’t think it is going anywhere which is really sad. Does anyone think the crazies will have relented? As Gregg Sargent pointed out this morning in the Plumline, “There is probably nothing that could result from normal governing compromises between Republicans and Democrats that the Tea Party wing can ever accept.” I think once you understand that basic fact, you know that if 2014 doesn’t solve anything, we are stuck till 2016.

More hyperventilating about NSA spying on cellphones in Europe. Again, they can get all excited all they want, and maybe we need some international guidelines, but do they not think China or Russia is not close on our heels, and just how good are they at following international guidelines? Diane Feinstein, she who has never seen a surveillance program she did not like, is writing some guidelines, but judge the source. In the end, we all have to take a deep breath and realize we have created a e-communications network that lacks any safeguards with privacy, and guidelines only work for rule followers.

On the economy, I just don’t know where to begin. Paul Krugman points out for the thousandth time that there is no known mechanism that the debt can force us to be Greece, austerity has failed miserably, and as EJ Dione points out, its about jobs, “The wrong problem is the deficit. The right problem is sluggish growth and persistent unemployment.” But now we are back to economic conservatives (all Republicans some Democrats) and the crazies in the House. Terror of the debt and inflation lives and paralyzes us from fixing the problem and just makes things worse.

Finally there is really an interesting debate between Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald on the two styles of journalism represented by the internet and journalism with an attitude, and New York Times reporting that tries to present unbiased reporting, just the facts. That is a little bit of an over simplification, but I believe Greenwald makes the best point in that in its attempt to be unbiased, reporting has degenerated into he-said/she-said reporting which encourages more and more outrageous lies that simply gets reported without the fact checking for fear of alienating a source. I tend to agree with him here. Biases are simply hidden, not represented.

One last personal thought. Violence in Afghanistan is reaching 2008 levels and contractors and inspectors working on U.S. funded projects are being left unprotected by withdrawal of our own security forces since they can no longer hire private security. I worked as a consultant on some of these projects helping write proposals for these. Americans in general are clueless about the amount of money we have spent on constructing projects the Afghans will eventually destroy. I just wonder what kind of a people we are that we have no problems appropriating this kind of money in a military approriations, yet can’t pass a meager infrastructure bill in the United States. Oh I forgot, be afraid of the deficit and cut taxes. Oh, I just love it. Is it too early for wine?