The Beauty of Objective-C?

This is a tech blurble.  If you’re not interested in tech blurbles, you can skip this one.  Sometimes it reaches peak blurble and it flows out over my blog and then the tide recedes for a while.

I really love Ruby.  Something about Ruby does it for me. I’m not clear what it is — the readability, the list comprehensions and lamda functions, the easy way to get things done, the Japanese language syntax to a long line of calls, the ability to shove an entire program into one super long line of code*, or what it is about it. I just enjoy programming in Ruby. It doesn’t fight me. It generally does what I want it to do. Plus yield! Oh yield, you crazy functional programming primitive you. Occasionally, in my Python code, I will write something in Ruby syntax (because it’s completely possible) and leave a comment like:

# Ruby-style list comprehensions FTW yo!

It’s childish.  But that’s what code comments are for — childish things.

My second favorite language is Python. It has the all powerful master of the universe ctypes class that makes it such THE tool for manipulating operating systems. All the power of C, none of the hassle of C! It goes best with Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment.  The two are like a fine peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Toss in C and some assembler and I have a full toolkit to really cause some damage and occasionally write some code.

I have been filling my head with Objective-C for the last two weeks and working through Cocoa Programming from Pragmatic Bookshelf** to learn the beast. In general, I would call this a success, as given 10 minutes I can write a small program now, but I find the language clunky and cludgy the exact same way I find Java clunky and cludgy. I can’t tell if it’s just me. It might just be me.  I feel a bit like I have been driving a nice reliable sedan for a while in Python shape or Ruby shape (depending) and suddenly I’m in a Ford Pinto and any moment it can catch on fire. Essentially, it’s C mashed together with Smalltalk using wacky Simula bracket syntax and mixed up with a huge number of toolkits (legacy and not) to turn this mess into this big development platform for mobile. The wikipedia page does have a decent overview of the programming primitives for the wary.

It’s not so much that it’s like Simula. What is bothering me is the sheer amount of accounting. One needs to remember if the call is a class method or an instance method and call appropriately, remember argument names, mess with properties, set the memory model correctly for all said properties which may be different depending on the nature of the class (mutable, not mutable, copying, etc), remember to manage memory in dealloc() when the class is disposed, create models where the class is properly created and hangs around, manage different forms of class instantiation and other bookkeeping that gets between one and actually doing work. I am vaguely reminded why Java turned me off so badly — but worse.  Toss in that the book I am reading is married to beautiful code — can we eliminate ALL LOOPS and DECISIONS in this application to make it SUPER COMPACT? — and it’s headachy.

From my standpoint, there’s some major pros — one can theoretically consume C-based libraries and packages and even just give up and write the guts code in C — and some cons — getting used to the weird syntax, and having to do all this paperpushing to bring up an application — to working this way. Deep down it just feels slow.

I have this feeling people are going to get tired of working this way and do what they did with Java: make Java implement any other language, please any other language, on the JVM, then Java.  Just make the bad and hurting go away.  Python => JPython.  Ruby => JRuby.  Hell, one can do Grails stack on the JVM with groovy which pretends to be Java with Spring but is more a Ruby on Rails stack then anything else.  Clojure, last week’s toy of the week, is LISP — dear God, LISP!!!!! — implemented on the JVM!  LISP!  Did I mention LISP?

Meanwhile, I am merely whining about the incomprehensibility of Objective-C.  I am getting enough of the hang of it to read through stackoverflow articles which pushes me out of newbie and firmly into “can cause mayhem.”   And then past the language barriers, mastery of the data structures (NSDictionary, NSArray, etc).  And then — the world!

(I found an article on how to do list comprehensions on the NSArray class in Objc-C here.  It is possible.  Thank you magic Internet.)

* Which, arguably, I can do in C.
** I will post an in-depth review.

[Game Review] The Esoterrorists

“The Esoterrorists” by Robin D. Laws from Pelgrane Presss.

I picked up the Esoterrorists from the IPR booth at PAX East. It is a surprisingly slim, non-pretentious volume at 88 pages. It was also the first dead-tree game I have bought for a while, as all my purchases lately have been PDFs through various outlets and read on my iPad.

I was aware of GUMSHOE* because I read Robin Law’s livejournal daily. He posts occasional updates, hints, or little drabbles that don’t make it into books; the link is above and can be added to an RSS reader. I have also made most of my way through his newest book, “Hamlet’s Hit Points” which discusses emotional beats.

I tend to think of Robin Laws written games like Feng Shui and Dying Earth as these tiny, compressed awesome gems of indie games who syphon off the best ideas from the raging community and presents them with clean, easy to comprehend rules that guarantees, at minimum, a very strange gaming experience. I do love them, and I am far from alone.

I read this one cover to cover, so my thoughts…

What the heck is this thing?

It’s a horror gaming system with a thin veneer of setting laid over the top. For many years, those of us who love horror have gone back and forth on the best way to play and run a horror game. The old Call of Cthulhu 5th edition system was the ANSI Standard for Horror Systems**. Sure there was a CoC 6th edition and a CoC d20 and a CoC worn as a hat and a myriad of other horror games of all shapes and sizes and levels of awesomeness and Changlingness. And there was KULT, a Very Special Game. When we talk about horror gaming, we’re talking about CoC 5th edition as a base state and sort of working from there.

The problem with CoC 5th edition is it uses this crappy wargaming system where a single botched roll can bring an entire adventure to a screaming halt. This is terrible. Horror games are games of discovery. Otherwise, how do the characters find the horror? If they’re too dumb to miss it, they’ll never be horrified!*** GUMSHOE attempts to address this core problem in horror gaming… with a very simple system that assumes all investigative rolls succeed automatically.

It’s clever. It works. It fixes the issue. But…

The Overall Package (Organization, Presentation, Readability):

In the days of expensive, glossy, full-color artwork in RPGs, the Esoterrorists feels a little old school with its black and white pages and its sparse layout. Perusing the tables at PAX East, it felt like every book was this full color loving work of art. Esoterrists is back to the 90s.

But it didn’t seem to impede the reading of the text. The text is laid out single width with generous margins, so even the 88 pages of book feels less than 88 pages. A little thread of ascerbic sarcasm runs through the book and its a joy. Yes, this is horror, and yes, everyone is going to die, but that’s okay — here’s a hack to get the next set of chararcters in the mix so the story can go on! Yay! And a bullshit detector skill! Everyone needs one of those!

I’m not knocking a non-glossy-hollywood production here because the text is fantastic and readable. It’s good stuff.

The Setting:

And here is where the Esoterrorists falls down. The book sort of kind of has a setting. You’re in a super secret black ops group and there are bad guys called the Esoterrorists and they do bad things. You need to stop them.

And that’s about all you get. Granted, for the nitpickers out there, the book has 4 monsters. No real stats or anything. But they have pictures! Kind of.

So that’s that.

(Yes, I know there are now supplements that fleshes out the Esoterrorists and books of monsters and all that good stuff.  But still.)

The Rules:

GUMSHOE is a cool system and I found, as I read through it, I like it alot because it is so dead simple. Each character has a set of investigative skills. These never fail. Then the character has a set of more physical and mental skills (SAN is swapped for STABLIITY but it is still SAN) that the character can and will fail. Players have pools. They roll a single d6 against the target. Make it, things are good. Fail it, things are bad.

The system is like thus:

– In doing an investigation, if the character has the right skill and says they are using the skill, it works! Yay! Tossing in a few pool points may make it succeed extra awesomely.

– In doing stuntly things, the GM sets a target. The characters can toss in from their die pools. They can work together. They can support actions. Someone rolls a d6. Points are added together. Either it works or it doesn’t.

There you go, you’re playing the GUMSHOE system. The book does flesh out all the special cases and how to handle health and sanity and those important bits but that, right there, is the core.

Various Bits of Awesome:

I want to call out the adventure at the end of the book. I normally skip adventures at the end of books but it was a full 1/3rd of the book so I felt I should read it. I’m glad I did because it’s amazing.

The investigators start with a ritual murder in a downtown DC and use it to follow a black ops gone bad and people being grabbed and sent to the Dominican Republic for sacrifice and a little cannibalism. I don’t want to spoil the adventure but I want to call out some bits:

– It walks through how to put together a great investigative plot.
– It shows how to make the assumptions that characters will get the clues.
– It also demonstrates the right places to use physical tests.
– The adventure is nicely paced so the horror is contained to the reveal at the very end.
– It’s excellently written and worth the read in general for “how to write a cool adventure.”

Wrapping up my thoughts:

The Esoterrorists is worth the $10 to download it as a PDF. GUMSHOE is a good idea with more good ideas that solves a clear issue: how does one do procedural investigations in an RPG that don’t hang on every die roll succeeding?

I knock it hard because it needs other supplementary material to make this game a full boy. Very rarely do I want more pages in an RPG. Normally they feel overstuffed and bloated from trying to make an esoteric pagecount. NPCs who don’t need to be there, an extra adventure, whathaveyou. This time, I dearly wished for more monsters, more GMing advice, and simply more stuff about the setting. Since the core book came out, several books of supplementary material have been released to flesh out the setting. But it feels a little bait-and-switchy and I would have been happy with a 128 page core book with all the material rather than an 88 page book with extra books to buy.

If you are interested in the GUMSHOE system, by all means, buy it. For me, reading the Esoterrorists has made me want to read Trail of Cthulhu very badly; and that is the next RPG teed up for me to consume because Cthulhu does not lack for setting and the idea of a Cthulhu where people could actually play out a story? Yeah, awesome.

Overall: a 3.5 stars out of 5

* Also, GUMSHOE is the system in Trail of Cthulhu which is a slightly different discussion.

** NIST has lots of time to set standards, you see.

*** This is the CoC Dumb Trackstar hack.

The Grognard Faces Down XCode

My favorite term these days is grognard. I am misusing it terribly, no doubt. But I like this word. It’s evocative. It’s more polite than neckbeard, but only slightly; grognard has a gutteral sound in the back of the throat that makes it a bit more worldly-sounding.

This leads into a technical discussion of sorts. I am trying to learn iPad programming (I will no doubt talk about it at length as I puzzle it out and get things working) and this means moving out of my rather enormous comfort zone and into somewhere new. I’m a UNIX grognard. I haven’t written any Linux kernel mode drivers* but if something needs to be done on Linux or a UNIX variant I’ve probably done it, boostrapped it, duct taped it, or otherwise shouted at it really super loudly.

When I cracked out the books I let loose a mocking laugh for lo, everything started with “NS” for “NeXTStep” and we all know where we are with NeXT. Yeah we know where we are — lost. I work in a text-mode universe** and all the sudden I had… tools… that generate… code… and do… things. And it all mocks me from its NeXTStep past!

I downloaded Xcode 4 and got it all set up and running and was instantly lost in a maze of twisty passages all alike. Swearing happened. So did the throwing of the book. Here I am in a very familiar universe of gcc and gdb and Unix-mode tools and a completely weird world of clicking and dragging and things that refactor code by somewhat magic and, uh, stuff.

I don’t… do… stuff.

I was weirded out.

Two days — two full days for someone who cut C on a mainframe — before popping up a window, creating some controls, generating a class, and having it display “Hello World.” Look! Something approximating success!

It’s kind of funny how things that are old are new again. NeXT. Smalltalk in its cunning disguise as “Objective-C.” Low-level C hacking. Hand-coding memory management. GCC tricks. Trying to fit a ton of code in a very small place. It is all wrapped in a little tiny happy graphical shell.

I have reached grognard.  And I have faced down XCode.  And I am fairly certain it has won.

* Yet.

** I am occasionally okay with Eclipse but even when working in Java I find it annoys me enough to go back to the text mode universe. The only non-nano/vim universe I have ever liked is TextMate for MacOSX. I am, in fact, writing this post in gedit on Ubuntu which is a half step above “putting HEX into memory.”

Knitting is Nerdier than RPGs

I sort of have this long-running argument with myself: What, precisely, is nerdier than RPGs? I have used RPGs* as the ANSI Standard for Nerd for a long time. It’s not so much that it’s fantasy or science fiction and people sitting in a basement pretending to do fantasy and science-fiction things as much as the sheer pointless bookkeeping. Books and stats and monsters and endless rules discussions down to hyper minute.

Now a days, RPGs have taken a step away from that nerdy brink. The rulesets are getting cleaner, the adoption getting wider, and zillions of people play them online in MMORPGs. Popular RPGs are based on even more popular mass media. Even the uninitiated no longer finds that hand of Satan, D&D, to be frightening any more. After all, the ruleset has been streamlined into the core of kill things and take stuff to the point where it is reduced on convenient character class cards.

I began to reposition myself to the definition of ANSI Standard for Nerd (much like NIST I must, about once a decade, revisit my published definitions) and began to settle on a deeper, more grognard activity: Fantasy Baseball. I cannot even begin to fathom the depths of Fantasy Baseball. I can only admire its shining contours: the many websites, the pages of statistics, the arguments over pitching styles, the battle.** I was content that Fantasy Baseball encompassed the dark beer-spilled smells of deep blackness of the Internet forum while RPGs crawled forth from the sewers and burst into mainstream heralded by Big Bang Theory on Prime Time.

Then I hit the dehaired llama yarn review.

Okay, so. It is not enough to shave a llama and make a sweater from its hair. No, one must first shave a llama, harvest its delicious undercoat (and perhaps its meaty brain pods) and then fuse the delicious undercoat with strains of cotton grown on a certain plantation during a certain time of the year to blend to create just the right softness to use in that single skein that cannot produce even a full pair of socks. And the hair must be knitted with just the right steel — not wood, as wood will catch — needles of the tiniest width to create a garment just so. And for added goodness we’re going to throw in strange beasts called cables which no one quite understands except for the cabal that lives in the basement among their walls of books and gear and who cackle in the night and then launch themselves upon internet BBSs to argue for the greatness of the dehaired llama who is, by this time, really cold. This isn’t a hobby — this is a plot of a neo-post-Lovecraftian horror story wherein the dehaired llama hair with cotton blend is used to break through the ether that separates the line between reality and a composite reality full of awesome.

And when knitters come together knitters speak a strange language of nuance and jumbled letters and comments incomprehensible by those on the outside. They squat among their piles of books full of arcane languages of fibers and fibercraft and spinning and dyes and needles and hooks and techniques and stitches all to make, in the end, probably nothing because, much like RPGs, if the pattern is boring it is abandoned for the newer, the stranger, the front page of this season’s Vogue Knitting.

After a year of concentrated researcher and thought, I now can follow the basic flow of conversation on a single knitting forum. And even then! After the initiation of correctly executing a heel turn, even then I can only follow the basic contours! I dare not post to be exposed as… still… a mere newbie.

Much like RPG stores, knitting stores have their own bizarre personalities. Their own lines of yarn, lines of tools, locals who hang out on the couches day in and day out and knit (often the same sock over and over), who either APPROVE of your knitting style or DISAPPROVE of your knitting style and will FROWN at you until you flee with a new book and a skein in hand. Either you pass through the initiation of walking through the door or you do not; but what you never do is ask after crochet because the end of that road lies only doom.

I have been told Quilting is a deeper abyss than even knitting. Quilters are mad, they tell me. They roam the landscape in herds going to shows and symposiums and seek out quilting shops full of odd machines and strange bolts of fabric. I lower quilters below the ANSI Standard — they are beyond comprehension, even beyond dehaired llamas and Fantasy Baseball and even the odd Traveler campaign.

Frankly, I think I own about par of knitting “gear” (skeins, books, bags of tools) as I do gaming “gear.” They both take up about the same amount of space (a shelf on a bookcase, a big basket of stuff under a table) physically and mentally. And I find it about the same talking knitting and gaming — often to the same audience.

But whenever someone tells me gaming is nerdy, I flip through a knitting magazine and say… “If you think so, you should see some of this.”

* Role playing games, not Rocket Propelled Grenades. Although Rocket Propelled Grenades are pretty nerdy, too!
** “It’s all about the battle.” — Sports Night


I am having difficulty forming a coherent and useful opinion on what the US is doing with the UK and France in Libya. I have purposefully kept myself confined to facts and stayed away from opinion but I still can’t really get my mind around it.

On the one hand, enormous massacres of civilian populations by heavily armed militaries defending insane dictators are generally a bad thing from a human rights perspective. Especially when these massacres are broadcast on TV. This creates pressure to “do something.”

On the other hand, I have two major objections. The first is that this isn’t really clear that bombing Libya does anything to further US interests. I am certain it is important from an oil perspective but it’s unclear it is as important as, say, the mess in Yemen or the Saudis invading Bahrain to stop the protests or the rapid militarization of the Iranian government. Second: I have never believed that freedom can be given. I have always believed that it must be earned, even if it means horrible things happen without outside intervention. Freedom forced upon a people from without is just another word for oligarchy.

So what does the US involving itself in a Civil War between a brutal dictator and a bunch of people holing up in several towns with guns in Northern Africa do? I just don’t have a great answer. I’m not sure what the goal is.

I suspect there is no correct answer to Libya. Either you stand by and do nothing and watch the atrocity and listen as people scream that you do something (that ‘something’ being highly undefined) or you ‘do something’ and everyone screams that doing something isn’t the right thing/isn’t good enough/is too interventionist/isn’t interventionist enough. You half do something like firing missiles off submarines and that’s too much/not enough.

And after writing this small blurb on it I realize that there is no answer, it’s a crappy situation, and no matter what happens people who bear no responsibility for the decision are going to sit around and crow and point fingers and scream that so-and-so should do this/not do this/is weak/etc. I find I am personally not crazy about the decision to start bombing the place because either the locals oust Qaddafi or not and find their own way or not. At the end of the day, the locals have to live there tomorrow. It’s their home. And we get to change the channel.

PAX East 2011

PAX East 2011 was awesome.

I have a handy comparison of con styles on hand. I just attended the RSA Conference 2011. I dearly loved RSA but it was a death march. Up at 6am, slog through the rain, be there by 8-8:15am, try to hit as many talks and keynotes and paper presentations as possible, cram in visiting booths and talking to relevant vendors, try to socialize, maybe eat in there somewhere. Do something eveningish, collapse, rinse, repeat. It was a great experience but dear God it was painful.

PAX East is the antithesis of the track-and-talk-and-demonstration-based conventions. It has no real set schedule. Instead it has a huge number of things to do. Want to attend a talk? There are talks. Want to go to an evening concert? There are super cool evening concerts.* Want to play a game? What kind? Many companies run tabletop and boardgame full demos. You can check boardgames out of the library. The console freeplay rooms were huge this year for those looking to play an XBox or 360 game. There was Rock Band and Dance Central. The EXPO floor was enormous and full of playable demos and swag. I really enjoy the loose, not really terribly planned nature of PAX East. It doesn’t feel like a convention. It feels like a huge party where 65,000 of your best friends show up to talk about games and play games and generally hang out together in the bonding of love over all things games.

And this year we spent PAX East meeting new people. My twitter follow list exploded. We had great talks over in the RPG area. We played board games. We played the Leverage RPG. We went to dinner with new people and had a great time. This is what I loved this year: the socialization. Gaming people! Comic book people! Random Internet famous people! We went to only one talk, and it was on Geek Parenting. We were interviewed for a documentary as geek parents. We watched the Old Republic trailer. I played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in the console freeplay room until my hand nearly fell off — and then found the Gauntlet upright and that had to be played. It was a moral imperative.

Save one detail,** the move to the bigger conference center was a massive upgrade. No more crowding in the hallways trying to get somewhere. The EXPO area was cavernous. I’m still not certain we saw everything there — but we saw lots and lots of cool stuff. The tabletop area, crammed into a few small rooms last year, was huge with lots and lots and lots of tables. It even had halfway decent con food that didn’t kill any of us. We even liked the hotel.

I could pick it apart day by day and item by item, and may do so, but suffice to say right now: PAX East is huge fun and highly recommended for anyone who can get themselves to Boston.

We’re totally going next year. April 7-9th. Be there.

* We did the concerts last year to the exclusion of many other things so we did the other things this year.
** Not enough beanbags to crash in.

Review: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Nothing to Envy" is the most depressing book in the world.

Following the lives of six ex-pat North Koreans who, through luck and perseverance, managed to get out through China and to South Korea (where they are automatically citizens), "Nothing to Envy" chronicles the rise and fall of the last Soviet Communist State who has managed, somehow, to hang on when dictators world over are falling. At first, Kim Il-Jong’s make-believe Communist Paradise, established in 1958 and propped up by the Russians, looked like a Korean Miracle. Built on top of left behind Japanese trains, electrical lines, factories, and roads, the Communist experiment looked, from the outside, to actually work: the per capita of those in North Korea was higher than South Korea as South Korea went through its post-Korean War growing pangs. Sure everyone in North Korea was pigeon-holed based on the allegiances of their grandparents and their opportunities in life granted or removed based on some superficial caste almost as harsh as found in India, but the people were fed, everyone had health care, people had jobs and school, and the trains ran on time.

Then three things happened: the Soviet Union fell, Kim Il-Jong died, and Deng Xiaoping’s capitalist reforms in China caused China’s economy to rapidly expand. North Korea never was anything more than a puppet state; it never made or sold anything itself. The moment the money dried up and North Korea’s allies became more interested in money than a Communist experiment, North Korea began to starve. Everyone starved. Hundreds of thousands died. And the government never relented to feed its people, all for ideology.

The six very personal stories chronicles the period of intense starvation and the re-discovery of capitalist markets in North Korea from 1991 to the present day. All of the people featured in the book, some young and some old enough to remember the Korean War, are all survivors, tough enough to survive the famines, cross the border into China, and sneak all the way to South Korea. "Nothing to Envy" chronicles extreme poverty under crushing 1984 conditions where, even while starving, a stray word against the government meant a trip to the Gulag. Televisions are fixed to only one TV station, radios only get the North Korean State station (but easy to hack), cellphones banned, no computers, and the people are sealed in a hermetic bubble. It doesn’t matter, though: electricity is so rare people steal the copper out of the power lines to sell for black market rice. The electricity hasn’t been on in twenty years. Cities crumble, trains die on the tracks, and the factories sit idle. There aren’t any cars. North Korea is a wasteland.

After reading this book, it’s unclear how reunification would work. North Korea is a poverty-stricken nation stuck in the 1960s and reunification would mean retraining some 23 million people in how to exist in the 21st century. Estimates are between $800 billion and $1.3 trillion to rebuild North Korea to a livable, workable standard. It’s not the de-brainwashing as much as the sheer rebuilding.

"Nothing to Envy" is a very sad book about a very sad place run by a madman who would rather his country be ideologically pure than his people eat. It’s unlikely North Korea will survive another change of hands considering how China is leaking in over the northern border and running North Korea’s black markets — the only source of food they have. But when it does happen, it will be a real mess. North Korea is a humanitarian disaster.

Recommended for anyone interested in what life is like in North Korea.

View all my reviews

It’s About the CDOs

Pension plan management is traditionally a very dull job.  A huge group of people in a big corporation or a union contribute a chunk of their* monthly paychecks into the collected pension fund where a normally 3rd party company manages the contributes and tries to make them grow more than the rate of current inflation to ensure a fund is viable for future retirees. Traditionally, the managing companies put this money into blue chip funds and treasury bills. It was not an exciting job but there are many Big Pools of Money.

But in the 2002, 2003 time frame, this changed. Surely by now you have all gone and listened to the Planet Money archives, you have listened to the Giant Pool of Money show from This American Life and you even read Michael Lewis’s the Big Short. Money manager for pension funds received bonuses for growing pension plans over the rate of inflation and Wall Street had brand, swanky new cannot-fail products to sell for big fees. First they sold mortgage backed securities and when all the mortgages there were disappeared the junk left behind was sliced and diced into Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs). Who bought all this crap? State pension fund managers. Obviously someone bought all this garbage — otherwise no one was making any money off sales.

In 2007, the market crashed and the pension fund managers were left with huge amounts of the pension plans being zeroed out. The states were contractually obligated to be on the hook to cover the pension funds mismanaged by their third party fund managers. The Obama Administration swooped in, passed a stimulus, and gave giant block grants to the states to help them meet their obligations. This bought the states a couple of years.

It’s pretty straight forward. State unions entrusted the management of their pension plans to the state to manage. The state outsourced it to a company that bought the Wall Street line of fast, easy money. The market crashed. The money taken from the State unions went *poof*. Now the states have, instead of firing the money managers and pressing the Federal Government to force regulations to protect their future obligations, decided to Union-bust. Which is ridiculous policy.

What galls me most about what is going on in Wisconsin are the lies. The argument is essentially this:

“We have a multi-decade agreement in place with our workers to assist in their retirement that they pay into. We lost it all gambling. But we love gambling on exotic bond instruments we don’t understand so very much we have decided gamble more and fire them all! Aren’t we great civil servants?”

Why not tell people the truth? The state lost the money on a shell game. The money managers were trying to make big bonuses and lost the whole fund investing in crappy developments in Florida. The state has contractual obligations and has to make up the shortfall because that’s how legally these things work. So that means either the unions have to take some kind of cut until the pension plan is repaid in full or the revenue will have to be raised. The holes were somewhat covered by the stimulus but with the Republicans in charge and no second round of stimulus, there’s going to be a change and it will have to come in the form of a raise in gas tax/sin tax/etc. Oh, also, we have new money managers. It’s their fault, they need to own up, and come up with a solution.

But no. “UNIONS ARE EVIL ALL MUST DIE DIE DIE.” In this day in age, our politicians don’t have the balls to tell the simple truth. Instead they grandstand. I would pay good money for a single politician who could be bothered to read a damn newspaper or understand the problem.

It might have helped if the Obama Administration could explain anything they do to people but that is, as they say, another story.

* Yes, theirs.