Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A response to one troll

While I was preparing tuna fish salad for dinner, a picture in Wikipedia of trolling for tuna came to mind.  That lead to thinking of those who troll on the internet.  That lead to a possible response to the person who left the trolling comment about all Democrat voters being in cemeteries:  Do you have copies of their death certificates?

Why I don't open this blog for comments

I just read "Online, Anonymity Breeds Contempt", Julie Zhou, New York Times, 2010-11-30.  From it I learned the term for people who leave comments like I mentioned in "A couple examples of how some 'discourse'"; these posters are called trolls.  For more on internet trolls, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29.

I've seen some of the off-the-wall comments on other blogs and I've received combative phone calls and letters from complete strangers.  I decided that I'm not going to open the Irregular Blog to any of that.

Besides, I would have to read all the comments, respond when appropriate (including writing thanks), and delete comments that are inappropriate.  That means I would write even fewer blog entries, which are getting too infrequent to attract many readers.

What do you think?  If you know me, drop me a line or say something next time you see me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TSA is wrong target, but the only one we can reach

A major boycott may be forming against the full-body scanners of the Transportation Security Agency.  See "Viral 'pornoscan' protest challenges TSA" and http://wewontfly.com/.

However, the TSA is only a product of decades of foreign policy failures.  The United States has been meddling in other countries affairs at a level and a time span that we would not tolerate if other countries did the same to us.  Our chickens have come home to roost.

Andrew Bacevich has been warning about our military/intelligence failures for some time, but despite the volume and popularity of his writing, he doesn't seem to be making much progress bringing about reform.  See his "The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism" and "Washington Rules, America's Path to Permanent War", and many of his magazine articles.

Maybe a boycott of air travel could bring about a major change in foreign policy.  It may seem like a win for the terrorists, but they keep winning in small ways all the time.  The burden on passengers of airport security is a big win for terrorists; they have disrupted our economy and our sense of well-being.  How long will we have to put up with terrorists before governments figure out how to permanently neutralize them without violence that creates more terrorists.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another business not living within its means

A couple of weeks ago I bought some facial tissue on sale, thinking I was getting such a deal that I bought 2 three-packs.

Last week opened a box because an old box was almost empty.  When I put the new box next to the old box, I discovered that the new box was about 2/3 the size of the old box.  What's going on here?

Neither box contained a count, but the pack wrapper for the new boxes listed it as 132 tissues per box.  132?  What kind of count is that?  Oh, that's about 2/3 of the old count of 200.

So, Proctor & Gamble, the distributor of Puffs has effectively raised its price per tissue by over fifty percent.

I bet the board of P&G would be hollering bloody murder if government raised taxes by the same percentage.

See also http://magree.blogspot.com/2010/10/businesses-dont-live-within-their-means.html.

P.S. Our other favorite fresh-squeezed orange juice producer also went from 64 oz. containers to 59 oz. containers.  Maybe we'll just buy fresh oranges and get more fiber.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Jim Hightower recently asked his readers to give a different name to the Republican Party.  My favorite was Republicants.

This evening I'm at my daughter's watching more TV in an evening than I watch in a couple of months.  She and her husband like watching all the Friday night public TV news programs.  One segment included the Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Emmer, claiming that the Democratic Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, said that there were 20,000 more ballots cast than there were voters.  I'm not sure of the exact figure, but it was large.

OK, don't take anybody's, and I really mean anybody's, assertion as fact.  I looked for "mark ritchie" and "more ballots than voters".  I couldn't find any source other than Republican or "conservative" sites asserting this.  This doesn't mean that Ritchie didn't say it, but it certainly does make one wonder if he did say it.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a conservative strategy to make assertions without proof, repeat them often enough, and hope few challenge the assertions.  If anyone does, disparage their credentials or just ignore them.  We see this with climate change, we see it with the military, we see it with taxes, we see it with …

I am really saddened by these tactics.  First, it is no way to run a democracy or a republic.  Second, I used to be a Republican Party active member.  When Ronald Reagan was nominated for president, I saw that it was no longer my Republican Party.  About the only thing I did after that is support Arne Carlson for governor when the nominated Republican candidate self-destructed in the light of sexual improprieties involving teen-agers.

See also:

Government of whom, for whom, and by whom?
Republicans do not have "people's" support or a "mandate"
A couple examples of how some "discourse"

A couple examples of how some "discourse"

I posted a comment to "American Angst", Jeremy Siegel, Yahoo Finance, 2010-11-17, http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/111333/american-angst, very similar to the webmail I sent to Gail Collins about projecting how some people voted to being what all people wanted, http://magree.blogspot.com/2010/11/republicans-do-not-have-peoples-support.html.

As of yesterday I had two replies.  I'll let you judge how germane they are to the issue of voting.  I chose not to honor them with a reply.

On vote count for Democratic Senators
Yes, but many of these folks were in cemeteries, so they had little choice.

It was not clear to only those with tin ears.
The message to all parties in the recent election was that YOU WORK FOR US. Start doing what you are suppose do or we will come after you.....elephant, donkey, green or whatever.


What neither poster seems to understand is there are a lot of people with differing views, many not in agreement with theirs.  The first demonizes these "others".  The second assumes that all the voters have an agenda that is different than that of the politicians.  What the second poster doesn't understand is that some people were willing to keep an incumbent in office and some people wanted the incumbent to be replaced.  This is true of either party.  Some incumbents of both parties were returned to office; some incumbents of both parties were not returned to office.  And far too many people didn't even care to cast a vote for or against an incumbent.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fair share or share fairly

Many say "the rich" should pay their "fair share" of taxes, but what really is a "fair share"?  I think often the argument is that since the rich have more money, they can afford to pay more taxes, and that they should pay at a higher marginal rate without a lot of gimmicks that allow some to pay even less taxes than some earning less.

I think that this is the wrong approach. What one should add up the "benefits" that the rich get for their taxes.

How often do we consider that those involved in commerce benefit from a good transportation network?  Every part of the network is paid for in full or part by taxes.  Almost all roads are paid for by taxes, local property taxes, state and federal taxes, and probably some by income taxes.  Airports are built and operated partly from landing fees and partly from taxes from all levels.

How often do we consider that those in business depend on a trained work force?  Without taxes we would have far fewer schools and a far smaller trained work force.  Kids could only go to school if their parents could afford it.  We have examples of this imbalance all over the world and even in our own country's past.

How often do we consider that business depends on a court system to settle disputes?  Some say we need "tort reform", meaning reduce the ability of individuals to sue corporations.  But does anybody consider how much corporations sue each other, sometimes resulting in settlements in billions of dollars.

How often do we consider that business depends on public safety, sanitary systems, and many other aspects of tax-supported infrastructure?  Would every business want its own fire department and security department.  If they are going to have their own security department, are they going to have their own courts and detention centers to do something with those who harm people or things on company property?

If businesses need all these government services, shouldn't they pay the taxes for them, either directly or through the income of those profiting from the business?

Many argue that "taxing the rich" limits their ability to invest and create jobs.  But how many of them are putting money into new ventures or expansion?  Or are many of them just moving money around?  The answer is both but I would say more of the latter than the former.

For those of you who have what you consider a good amount of savings, how much of it have you put into helping somebody start or expand a business?  More than likely you have put it into mutual funds, stocks, and bonds.  What happens when you invest.  Directly or indirectly you buy stocks and bonds from somebody who already owns them.  Does that money go into creating jobs?  Probably not, except for the transaction fees pay the salaries and bonuses of those working for mutual funds or brokerages.

The only real benefit of your buying stock and bonds is providing liquidity to the market.  This is necessary but it really doesn't really do that much for creating businesses and jobs.  Liquidity has many advantages but let us look at only one.  You put $1,000 into some investment.  It may go up or down, but let's assume not by much in either direction.  Now something happens to your car or house that you need about $1,000 to pay for.  Assuming you have no other savings, you want to quickly get your $1,000 back.  If there was no liquidity, you would have as much chance of getting your $1,000 back as you would have of quickly selling a film camera on eBay.

I could go on with many more "yes, but" considerations about taxing and investment.  I do hope that this little bit of text does help you consider almost all the arguments in print and on the blogs are over-simplifications of something that needs more than just taking a position.  And taking a position may be a way to invest, but it is not the way to run a country.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Republicans do not have "people's" support or a "mandate"

Gail Collins wrote "Believing in Barack", for the 2010-11-12 New York Times.  She laments that Obama has not come through on many tasks.  In it she makes the statement, "The people of America made it clear in the election that they want something done about the deficit."  I sent her the following email:

Thanks for an interesting column on your ambivalence about Barack Obama.  Much of what you wrote has some basis in what's happened.

However, you fell into the "media-bias" trap of over-generalization with "The people of America made it clear in the election that they want something done about the deficit."

The people of America made nothing clear.  34 million voted for Republican Senate candidates, 31 million voted for Democratic Senate candidates, and far too many stayed home.  If we project an estimated turnout of 40.3% to a count of total eligible voters (165 million), we then have the Republicans coming in a distant second to "None of the above", cast de facto by 96 million eligible voters.  Unfortunately, too few people actually show up to cast blank ballots, and so they are not counted.

BTW, the Republicans 34 million votes were not even a majority of the votes cast for Senate.

I do wish those who have a bigger platform than my little blog would point out more often just how many eligible voters don't show up and just how hollow claims of electoral victories are.

United States Election Project, George Mason University, http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2010G.html
United States Senate Elections, 2010, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_elections,_2010

End of email to Gail Collins

Monday, November 08, 2010

Government of whom, for whom, and by whom?

In the car I generally listen to classical music or podcasts; my wife listens to public radio news.  I had taken my car in for service and she was driving me to pick it up.  On our way, "Talk of the Nation" was on, and Neal Conan was interviewing Chris Hedges, author of "Death of the Liberal Class".

You can find an excerpt of the book and a link to the audio at

Hedges basically says that the Liberal elite has been bought out or co-opted by corporate interests and are no longer really concerning themselves with the plight of ordinary people.

As I listened to and read some of the political advertising and sloganeering in the latest election farce, I wondered can these ideas be coming from average citizens or is some small group orchestrating these ideas.

Republicans said that Rep. Jim Oberstar was out of touch with the people.  But which people - the people that voted against him, the people that voted for him, or the people who didn't even bother to vote?

Republicans said they wanted to limit the government that was encroaching on our freedoms.  Which freedoms?  The freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water?  Or the freedom of large corporations to pollute as they please.  The freedom to have a safe workplace?  Or the freedom of large corporations to cut corners on safety at the cost of workers lives?  The freedom to have safe food and medicines?  Or the freedom of large corporations to use carcinogenic pesticides in factory farms and to limit the testing of medicines?  The freedom to obtain health care at a reasonable cost?  Or the freedom of large corporations to make large profits on health care insurance?  The freedom to have financial institutions safeguard our investments?  Or the freedom of large banks to make unregulated, risky investments and pay themselves huge amounts of our money?

An effective government provides these freedoms to people.  A bought government provides the opposing freedoms to large corporations.

It seems to me that certain corporate interests are doing their best to create a mythology of an intrusive government, both by the propaganda they put out and by the politicians they buy.

If you want a good example of how certain corporate interests are subverting rational public discussion, see "Global Warming: Man or Myth - Global Warming Denial Machine", by Prof. Scott Mandia of Suffolk County Community College.  I was lead to this article by "Scientists Join Forces in Hostile Climate", Andrew Revkin, New York Times, 2010-11-07.

Did the Republican Party die with Abraham Lincoln?  Many commentators think that his "government of the people, by the people, for the people" has already perished from the earth.