Monday, February 28, 2011

A butterfly flapped its wings in Tunisia

A student, Mohamed Bouazizi, is selling vegetables in Tunis to support his family.  A policewoman complains that he doesn't have the proper permit.  In the argument, she slaps him.  He is humiliated and sets himself on fire.  This in turn sets many Arab countries on fire.

Many have complained that the U.S. with its vast intelligence network didn't foresee this.  Consider that many didn't foresee the fall of the Czar of Russia.  Consider that Winston Churchill said in the 1920s that he thought war with Japan was impossible.

Other than knowing that kowtowing to dictators is itself playing with fire, I won't pretend to judge the intelligence community.  I'll let you read some short analyses by other commentators.  See "Why Didn't the U.S. Foresee the Arab Revolts?", Room for Debate, New York Times, 2011-02-24.

Here we are at Irregular Blog entry 1000

This is the 1000th blog entry I've posted in the "Irregular Blog".  It's been nearly four-and-a-half years since I posted the first entry at

It hasn't been the most popular blog around; it took a long time to even get to over 20 subscribers per day and to get two followers.

I suppose it doesn't matter in the bigger scheme.  I've gotten some ideas out of my head.  Some of you, if you didn't get new ideas in your head, you might have gotten a little different view of some ideas.  I do hope that long-time readers, if any, have had a few "Ah, hah" moments and a few chuckles.

Almost twelve years ago, newly arrived in Duluth and walking around, I was struck with the urge to write more than letters to the editor.  I told myself, if you want to write, you have to write.

I did join the Lake Superior Writers Group and wrote a few essays.  One was a collection of bear stories, but only Kyle Eller, editor-to-be of the Duluth Budgeteer, was the only one to show up that evening.

I started picking up the Northland Reader, which had ads for writers.  I called Richard Thomas, the editor, and he said I should send something in.  I sent in "Bear Stories".  Lucky me, he published it in the 1999-09-30 issue.

Every few issues, I would send something more and he generally would publish it.  Then I started submitting something for every bi-weekly issue.  Then the Northland Reader became the Reader Weekly, and I started writing weekly.  Then I was bumped down to bi-weekly.  My guess is that I had about 160 fans; that is, something like that many people told me they enjoyed the columns.

I think I wrote over 200 articles until I was bumped one too many times.

I posted many of these at my website, and still have a few buried on my hard drive.  I also started writing a blog at the same site.  Then I discovered Blogger and started writing entries for it.

People often asked me what I wrote about.  I replied, "What I damn well please."

I have continued that attitude with this blog.  But now I don't have to meet a deadline.  Of course, I like to post something everyday, but if I don't, I don't.  However, if I want to write two or three entries, I can.  I have no space limitation except my readers' attention span.

If you like what I write, please tell your friends.

Here's to the next 1,000 blog entries.  No, let's be ambitious, here's to the next 10,000 entries.

Solidarity - an overused word?

When I lived in Sweden in the early 70s, I saw many a poster proclaiming "solidarity" with this group or that group.  Somehow it seemed to me that claiming "solidarity" without doing much more than making a poster or holding a meeting was an empty gesture.

With all the protests, rebellions, and revolutions going on now, especially in North Africa, many people are claiming "solidarity" with the people in North Africa.

I've thought that solidarity as a concept gained currency with the labor movement.  If the union voted for a strike, all members went on strike in solidarity, whichever way they voted.  If one union at a factory went on strike, other unions might go on strike in solidarity with the first.  It was a one for all and all for one attitude.

Now people in many countries go out on peaceful streets and hold up signs of "solidarity" with the people of North Africa.  Where was their "solidarity" when Western countries were kowtowing to these dictators for oil or for "national security"?

Well, better late than never.  These demonstrations do give some hope to those struggling against dictators.  Their struggles are not going unnoticed.

If you really want to show "solidarity", hop on a plane and help get supplies into Libya.  If you can only show "sympathy", attending a demonstration is helpful.  But even more help is to send a check to one of the many organizations that are actually doing something on the ground.  Choices include the International Committee for the Red Cross, Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) , and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Is Gov. Scott Walker following the Wisconsin Constitution?

The preamble of the Wisconsin Constitution states:
We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect government, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, do establish this constitution.
First, Gov. Walker had on his podium at his acceptance speech a sign that that stated, "Wisconsin, Open for Business".

Business generally means a few people, not "the people".  This was clearly shown when Gov. Walker was entrapped into speaking with a resident of Manhattan, New York,  David Koch, Executive Vice President of Koch Industries.

Second, by raising such a contentious issue as restricting the rights of public employee unions, no matter at what level of government, he definitely is not seeking domestic tranquility.

Third, promoting the welfare of business over people is not promoting the general welfare.

Some would argue that this is a case for impeachment.  Whether it is or is not, the Wisconsin Legislature is controlled by Republicans; impeachment is a moot point.

Maybe some Wisconsin dissident would display this version of the Wisconsin Constitution:
We, the corporations of Wisconsin and elsewhere, grateful to the Republican Party for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more pliant government, insure domestic tranquility and promote corporate welfare, do establish this constitution.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The "people" are speaking, but a bit late

This morning's Duluth News Tribune published my Local View contribution with the title "The people (some of them, anyway) have spoken".  My own title was "The people have spoken!  Which ones?"

I was considering changing the opening from Egypt to Wisconsin, but I couldn't see how to replace it without rewriting some of the rest of the article.  Also, if I made a change, it might be delay publication.

My change was:
"[T]he people of Wisconsin chose to switch control of the governorship, assembly and senate to Republicans" according to Newt Gingrich on the website Human Events.  Which people, Newt?

Granted, Scott Walker received 52.25 percent of the votes cast, but the turnout was only 49.56 percent.  That means that 50.44 percent of the eligible voters didn't care for any of the candidates, at least care enough to show up.   Scott Walker received the support of 25.9 percent of the eligible voters.  That is a very poor second to none of the above.  Looked at this way, Scott Walker does not have the support of "the people".
From data published online by the Wisconsin Accountability Board.

"The people" are speaking in another way.  I wouldn't say the protesters against Walker's anti-union efforts represent "the people", but many people from around the world are supporting the protesters.

Last night we heard on MPR about Ian's Pizza going from 300-600 pizzas a day to over 1000 pizzas a day, the increase because of orders from around the world to send pizzas to the protesters at the Wisconsin State Capitol.  Even from Egypt, where they know a thing or two about protest.

If you would like to send a pizza to the protesters, order it through Badger Bites.  The top of the page has ordering instructions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Calls for action from those who can do nothing

Government leaders from around the world are saying that the actions of Gaddafi of Libya are unacceptable, including Hilary Clinton and Ban Ki-Moon.  However, many commentators from bloggers to the Wall Street Journal are calling for more concrete action.

But what can any government do without making matters worse?

First, they have to get all their citizens out of Libya safely.  There are many thousands from dozens of countries who have to not only get to an airport or a harbor, but the countries have to supply sufficient craft at places where they won't be attacked by pro-Gaddafi supporters.

Second, if they did supply limited military forces at these embarkation points, would that very act put their countrymen in even more danger?  When dealing with delusional leaders, one does have to expect the worse.

Third, if they did invade beyond the embarkation points, would that unleash an even bigger massacre of civilians, Libyans and foreigners alike?

About the only military action would have to be from the Arab League, and many of the members have their own upheavals to deal with.

That leaves only the Libyan Army to resolve the problem.  We are starting to see many units join "the people".  How effective they will be outside the areas that "the people" control remains to be seen.

As more and more cities come under control of anti-Gaddafi groups, we may see an acceleration towards a conclusion favorable to these groups.

Meanwhile, really the best others outside Libya can do is keep up the verbal pressure, make sure information flows out of Libya, and make sure some information gets back in.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What a way to run a railroad!!

Given my reluctance to fly and my growing reluctance to drive long distances, my sister-in-law suggested that we take Amtrak to visit them in Colorado in May.

I checked Amtrak for schedules.  The cost for two of us from Minneapolis-St. Paul would be $694, not too bad for two coach seats.  But the trip leaves Minneapolis-St. Paul on May 15 at 11:15 p.m., arrives in Portland OR on May 17 at 10:10 a.m., leaves Portland on May 17 at 2:25 p.m, arrives in Sacramento CA on May 18 at 6:15 a.m, leaves Sacramento on May 18 at 11:09 a.m., and arrives in Denver CO on May 19 at 6:38 p.m.  That is labeled as the "Shortest Trip".

That would be four days of sitting up day and night.  A roomette from the Twin Cities to Portland would be $268 extra, rooms from Portland to Sacramento are already sold out for May 17, and a roomette from Sacramento to Denver would be $436.

I can drive from the Twin Cities to Denver in two days and sleep in a solid bed overnight for less than half the cost of a roomette on the cheapest leg.

Also, the $694 is for one-way.  Even though I clicked Round-Trip, the web site only gives me one-way.

Looking at a route map, the alternative is to go to Chicago and then to Denver.  So I gave that a go with scheduling, giving a round trip itinerary.  The time would be much better with an eight hour and an eighteen hour leg.  Unfortunately, there would be a 22 hour layover in Chicago on the way to Denver and a 23 hour layover on the way back.  Plus, the web site wouldn't process this any further – "Problem with your itinerary".  I gave up.  I don't know the cost of this trip.

It seems that Amtrak has almost been designed to discourage train travel.  I think that only two groups of people would be interested.  First would be those who have time and are traveling between two cities on the same train.  The sold out rooms on a May train between Portland and Sacramento may be an indicator that this group will support the current schedule.  Second would be those who take trains just to take trains.

It doesn't have to be this way.  I took trains as a kid out of Cleveland's Terminal and it was a busy place.  Now the Cleveland stop isn't much more than a siding for a one train a day each way.  I've taken trains all over Europe, both day trips and overnight, and I have ridden the bullet and regular trains in Japan.

Maybe Steve Jobs will start the train "for the rest of us"?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A pun in French that I hope is to your taste

Il y avait un compositeur qui a écrit une chaconne à son goût.
(There was a composer who wrote a chaconne to his taste.)

A chaconne is a musical form; "chacun à son goût" means "each to his taste".

I knew there was an opera which had an aria including "chacun à son gout". I found a multi-lingual snippet of "Die Fledermaus" performed at Covent Garden in 1984.

But I didn't hear "chacun à son goût"!

On a second viewing I heard it at the end of Prince Orlofsky's aria.  I remember seeing a production with Beverly Sills years ago, and I remember hearing "chacun à son gout" several times.

Oh, drat!  "Chaconne à son gout" is not original.  Google gives over 1500 hits including a P.D.Q. Bach Gross Concerto by that name.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Power plays

We have the Republicans in Congress voting in lockstep to oppose Obama and the Democrats.  Well, almost, now we have "Tea Party" Republicans voting in lockstep to defeat spending proposals of veteran Republican legislators.

We have Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate disappearing to deprive the Republicans of a quorum to pass an anti-public union bill.

We have thousands packing the Wisconsin capitol to protest the bill.

I have a couple of questions.

How many of the protestors voted in the last election?  If the turnout of these voters was the same as the general population, they partly have themselves to blame.  If they all turned out, maybe they should work harder at getting a bigger turnout in the next election.

Why the big push to strip unions of power?  Could it be part of a larger corporate strategy to weaken those who question corporate power?

It seems that many corporate executives want everything their own way; governments and unions shouldn't even question their decisions.  It seems that their only goal is to maximize their own compensation, to hell with the shareholders, to hell with the environment, to hell with the public good.

Not all corporate executives behave this way, but enough do and are pushing us down a slippery slope to a very uncivil society, one which really won't be good for business in the long term.  It's another version of Lenin's "A capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What is a "fair share"?

One of the buzz words on taxes is "fair share", meaning that those who have higher incomes should be paying more taxes than currently.  Those who oppose taxes in general think that "fair share" will stifle business.

What we should really be asking is: are people paying for government services balanced according to what they receive in government services and according to what they can afford to pay.

To take a trite example, many theaters offer student and senior prices.  If there are no seat-related prices, the benefit to all ticket purchasers is the same.  The assumption is that students or seniors will be less able to pay the full price and so are given a discount.  Actually it is to the theaters' benefit to entice a few more buyers to fill the seats.

So it is with government services.  Some people really can't afford to pay the taxes commensurate with the services received.  Firefighters aren't going to determine if the occupants have paid sufficient taxes before they turn on the hoses.

On the other hand, some people with relatively high incomes receive far more benefits than others.  Their businesses would not survive without the services provided by taxes.  For example, without an efficient highway system, they could not have goods brought in and goods moved out, they could not have customers come to their stores, and they could not have employees come to work.

How many big box stores went to the outskirts of cities to get cheap land?  Now few customers and employees can walk to these stores, few if any bus lines are available, and almost all customers and employees have to drive on more miles of roads.  What is the fair share of taxes for the executives of these stores who are getting big salaries?

How many oil executives are getting rich because people are driving more miles for their daily business?  What would the fair share of taxes be for them to cover all the costs of the roads, including repair, widening, traffic management, and crash assistance?

Who benefits from public education?  Of course, each of us benefits personally from our education, whether it is knowing how to be a good citizen or acquiring a marketable skill.  On the other hand, would businesses prosper without a good supply of educated people?  Since a good work force makes possible a successful company, what is a fair share of taxes for the highly-paid executives of a successful company?

"Low taxes" and "fair share" are almost meaningless phrases.  I don't have much hope for any serious thinking among politicians or voters to think past these slogans.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This world cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free

I find it very interesting that some members of the party of Lincoln do not believe the above paraphrase of a statement by Lincoln.

They would have some of the world be slaves to dictators in the interest of our national security.  For example, Tim Pawlenty said we need to "get tough on our enemies, not our friends." ("At CPAC, Egypt appears to be an afterthought", Washington Post, 2011-02-11)

Come on, Tim, with friends like Mubarak we create enemies, like the Egyptian Mohamed Atta.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This won't happen in America

As I wandered the world via newspapers, I came across a Rubygate story in Le Monde, a French newspaper.

You may have heard about Rubygate, the charges against the Italian prime minister, Sergio Berlusconi.  He is accused of paying $10,000 to an underage belly dancer.  I'll let you dig out the details.

Back to Le Monde.  It had a video in the middle of all the French text of a "commercial" made for the new Italian women's group "Se non ora quando" ("If not now when").  Essentially, many Italian women are tired of being second-class citizens.  Sympathetic men welcome.  The video is in Italian, without subtitles or dubbing.  See "Le 'Rubygate' fait descendre les Italiennes dans la rue", Le Monde, 2011-02-09.   How often do you would you see this much in a foreign language in American newspapers?

Well, as of a few minutes ago, even the New York Times has not carried much news about the charges and nothing about the million women who have turned out around the world in support of Se non ora quando".  However, see "Ruby, un milione di donne nelle piazza urlano indignate: 'Se non ora, quando?'" Il Messaggero, 2011-02-13  ("Ruby, a million women in the squares shout indignantly, "If not now, when?")  The demonstrations are being held in over 230 Italian cities and 30 other cities.

The New York Times has nothing about "Se non ora quando" and nothing about the demonstration of 200-300 outside Ruby Tuesday's in New York.  I found out about his in Il Messaggero, "New York, la polizia ordina: 'Manifestate davanti al ristorante Ruby'"

Oh, I should point out that my headline didn't mean that thousands of women across the country wouldn't demonstrate for more dignity.  I meant that few, if any, American newspapers would report so much in a foreign languages.  Of course, few American papers report much foreign news beyond wars and politics.

Freedom and democracy: It's not what you believe but what you do

I find it very hard to read Charles Krauthammer; I think he is very rigid in his thinking.  When he wrote in his latest column, "From freedom agenda to freedom doctrine", Washington Post, 2011-02-10, that George Bush and the neo-cons were the only ones interested in promoting freedom and democracy, I stopped reading.

What he ignores is that the neo-cons solution was to bring freedom and democracy at the point of a gun.  We can see how well that is working in Iraq and Afghanistan where chaos is more the norm.  What he ignores is that the Egyptians have started on a path to freedom and democracy, not with guns but with their gums.  They did it not with outside armies but by themselves.

In writing this, I did go back and skim Krauthammer's article.  He does make a good point with the second point of his Freedom Doctrine, but most of the rest is a call for the world being as we think it should be, not as others may want it.

A much better read is "They Did It", Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 2011-02-12, written in Cairo.  One of the best quotes is, "Because the Obama team never found the voice to fully endorse the Tahrir Square revolution until it was over, the people in that square now know one very powerful thing: They did this all by themselves."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A sneaky attempt to convert the U.S. to the metric system

I am watching Al-Jazeera live and just saw the North American web report.  Chicago was warming up with 3 degrees and Havana had a balmy 20 degrees?

Ah!  That is Celsius.

I wonder if Al-Jazeera gets on U.S. cable, if it will be a wedge to finally move the U.S to the measuring system used almost every where else in the world.

Egypt may gain democracy; will U.S. lose its?

The everyday Egyptians rebelled against an elite that was governing without concern for them.  Many of the U.S. cheered them on.  Now we should look to our own house and consider if we are losing our own democracy to a plutocracy.

Remember, democracy means rule by the people.

Consider that the people's schools are being decimated because we can't afford them.  To afford the schools, we all really need to pitch in.

Plutocracy means rule by the wealthy.

Who is making the most noise about needing lower taxes?  Who is contributing more and more to politicians and political campaigns?  Who decided that corporations should not be limited in making political corporations?

For more on our coming plutocracy, see "When Democracy Weakens", Bob Herbert, New York Times, 2011-02-12.

Revolution as spectator sport

"Egypt from 5,000 Miles Away", a cartoon by Domitille Collardey and Sarah Glidden, encapsulates the feelings of many of us who watched events unfold in Egypt.  We could only cheer for our team, we couldn't bat or carry the ball.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do you remember where you were when… learned that Hosni Mubarak resigned as president of Egypt.

6:03pm: He's gone. He's resigned. 30 years of Mubarak rule is over. Omar Suleiman says:
President Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of president.
6:01pm: Omar Suleiman addressing nation now.
6:01 pm Cairo is 4:01 pm GMT, 9:01 am Eastern, and 10:01 am Central.

At 10:35 Central during a break in a University for Seniors French class, I took out my iPod and connected to the UMD network.  Oh, wow!  I interrupted everybody else's conversation to let them know.
The question is did Mubarak "waive the office of the president" or was he pushed out by other ministers or the army.  Do we even know if he is alive?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Either we are for freedom and democracy or we are for realpolitik

The Guardian has an interesting opinion by Slavoj Žižek, "For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square".

It was amazing that most of the comments were ad hominem attacks rather than a critique of his thoughts.

Culture of democracy? Who blocked it?

According to, Omar Suleiman, Vice-President of Egypt said on ABC that he wanted to see democracy, "But when will we do that?  When the people here have the culture of democracy."Suleiman was quoted in an 11:34 a.m. entry at

My question is who has been blocking the development of that culture.

That leads me to make a challenge to the protesters, show him you have democracy.  Organize at the local level, say at Tahrir Square, wherever large number of people have gathered.  Determine the offices that are needed to govern yourselves in your immediate vicinity.  You might start with a rules committee.  Be sure to have more nominations than the members on the committee.  Have everybody in the area vote on the slate.  Let the committee work a day or two.  Vote on their suggestions.  Repeat.  If this process is not real democracy, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Business-friendly policies? Friendly to which businesses?

One of the buzz words in politics is being business-friendly.  Makes me think the Constitution begins "We the Corporations of the United States…"

Businesses run the gamut from über-corporations like Wal-Mart and Apple to local businesses with a few dozen employees to single-person businesses.  One size of politics does not fit all.

One would think that the U. S. Chamber of Commerce represents all businesses, but according to Daniel Gross, "Does the Chamber of Commerce Know What's Best for Business?", Yahoo Finance Tech Ticker, it is "essentially a lobbying group for large businesses".  Well, not all businesses, Apple quit the Chamber in 2009 over climate change.  Pick your story with a search for "Apple Chamber of Commerce".

Gross points out that the Chamber angers "everyone from deficit hawks" to environmentalists.  He also points out that the Chamber got much of what it wanted but that didn't deliver the results the Chamber promised.

To think that the House of Representatives began its year with the reading of the Constitution and immediately forgot "We the People".

Monday, February 07, 2011

I did half of a New York Times crossword in less than a minute

Today I bought my wife a new iMac and proceeded to transfer her files from her laptop to the iMac.  The process itself is worth a blog I may never write.

After finding all the needed cables, the "migration" supposedly took less than two hours.  I'm not sure, it started with "1 hour 59 minutes remaining", dropped to under one hour, bounced up to over one hour, and so on.

Sometimes around "20 minutes remaining" I did the SuDoKu puzzle and the New York Times crossword puzzle in the Monday's Star Tribune.

When I was about half-way through the crossword puzzle, there was "less than a minute remaining" for the migration.  Every couple of clues, I'd look up and see "less than a minute remaining".  When I finished the puzzle, there was still "less than a minute remaining".

So, I must have done half New York Times crossword is less than a minute.

U.S and Iran need each other, to hell with the people

I found an interesting opinion on how the Arab and Muslim people are caught between a rock and a hard place.  Foreign policy of nations antagonistic to each other goes on without consideration of the affected people.  The author of "Green and Jasmine bleeding together", Hamid Dabashi, makes the point that Islamic Republic of Iran needs to demonize the U. S. to hold its power and that the U. S. needs the threat of Islamic terrorism to support autocratic "allies".  Both sides could care less about the people in the affected nations.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Letter on Egypt to President Obama

In November 2008 many voted for "Change".  As far as foreign policy goes, nothing has changed.  It is still the same old "national security" and "national interest" leading to greater insecurity and results contrary to our real national interests.

If you haven't already read Andrew Bacevich's "Washington Rules", please do so as soon as possible.

The U.S. is still propping up anti-democratic autocrats like Hosni Mubarak despite very strong dissatisfaction from a large number of people.  And U.S. diplomats are still supportive of him, buying his line that he is standing between stability and chaos.  Remember the Shah of Iran and his Savak.

Sent via webform at

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Al-Jazeera overloaded?

At about 7:00 CST this morning, I could not get the English edition of Al-Jazeera.  The progress bar would only go partway and the pages loaded indicator said "Contacting" and nothing more.  If I did nothing, my browser said it was unable to contact the site.

I did find, a magazine, but it didn't have he details of

Finally at about 8:30 I was able to get

My guess is that many people on the East Coast were online before going to work or just as they got to their offices.

Today's blog offered hope that the thugs had been pushed back, then it mentions that the army had left one bridge, and finally that thugs crashed through a group of supporters.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Counter-demonstration or government attack

Al-Jazeera and others seem unwilling to call the "pro-Mubarak" demonstrators for what they are without more details.  I think these "demonstrators'" methods speak rather clearly.

If they were counter-demonstrators, they would use the same tactics as the anti-government demonstrators.  They would march, hold signs, and chant slogans.  They would not come in on horses and camels and beat those of another opinion.  They would not drop stones, cement blocks, and fire bombs from buildings.

Proving that these pro-Mubarak people are security police is another matter.  But consider that the security police were outmaneuvered and outmanned by the anti-government demonstrators.  Maybe they disappeared for a few days to regroup and come back in another guise.

Another example of corporate "efficiency"

Yesterday I tried to pay my Verizon Wireless bill online, something I've been doing for more than a couple of years.  It worked fine at the beginning of January.  Yesterday when I clicked the "Submit" button, nothing happened.  Well, the second time I tried, the button enlarged.

Today I tried again.  Same result.  I tried with Firefox instead of Safari.  Same result.

One of the "efficiencies" any well-run organization tries for is cash flow.  Don't let the checks pile up in a drawer, but get them to a bank PDQ and let the dollars work for you.  I don't know how many thousands or millions of dollars Verizon receives each day, but I would think it would review its software changes quickly to get that cash flow back up.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Now I know who should win the SuperBowl

Today a friend asked me who I thought would win the SuperBowl.  I asked who is giving a big bowl as a prize.

Last week another friend asked me who I thought would win, the packers or the bears.  I replied that the meatpackers always win over the bears.

Today I found out a reason to cheer for the Green Bay Packers.  They are the only team owned by the "people" and not by a few billionaires.  There are over 120,000 shareholders of the Packers, and no shareholder may own more than 200,000 shares.  Assuming most of those shareholders live in the Green Bay area, they probably won't move the team to get a better deal.

See "Support the Packers; Annoy the Rich", Brett Arends, Market Watch, 2011-02-01

Keeping up with events in Egypt

If you are a news freak who couldn't get enough news about Iran in 2009, your best source on Egypt is Al-Jazeera.  The English version on the web is at

For the latest, check out the blogs.  There is also plenty of commentary from many sources and perspectives.  One I found particular interesting is "The triviality of US Mideast policy" by Robert Grenier, a former director of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center.  He relates how the headmaster of his school was unknowingly made irrelevant by an anti-Vietnam War protest.    Similarly, events have made most of U.S. Mideast policy irrelevant and outdated.

P.S. Cairo time is 8 hours ahead of Central Standard Time.

A little thing to help the Egyptian people

On June 23, 2009, President Obama made a strong statement in support of the Iranian people protesting against the official election results.

His concluding remark was:
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.

What you can do is send web-form email to the president asking him to speak out more strongly about Egypt in the same way.  You'll find a "contact us" button in the upper right hand corner of most White House pages.

My own message was
Please make strong remarks about the situation in Egypt similar to those you made about Iran on June 23, 2009.

Our quest for "national security" has made us more insecure.