Monday, October 31, 2011

Speaking of hypocrites…

I'm one!

I remember going out trick or treating when I was between nine and fourteen. In fact, in Cleveland in the 'forties and early 'fifties, kids went out two nights in a row.

Now I avoid being in town on Hallowe'en and I put on a smiley face if I am in town. I just don't want to keep answering the door and saying something nice.

Is there a name for Hallowe'en Scrooges?

Is it time for new mascots for the political parties?

While reading some book or newspaper, I wrote this note: "Appropriateness of party symbols. Elephants lumber over everything to follow old paths (think of the movie "Elephant Walk"). Donkeys are docile and will follow whoever is jerking their chain, er, pulling their leash.

Maybe the Democrats should adopt a fawn as their symbol. When threatened they seem to roll up and hide in plain sight. See "Fawn hiding in plain sight".

Maybe the Republicans should adopt a hippo as their symbol, as in hippo-crite. They want to cut spending in other districts, but not their own, even when the projects are similar. See "Tea Party Pork Binge: Conservatives Brought Nation to Default & Ask for Govt. Handouts", Daniel Stone, The Daily Beast and Newsweek, 2011-10-30.  They even use some of the same arguments they derided when others used them. Hm! Both elephants and hippos wallow in mud.

Some nuggets found while cleaning my desktop

"The Future Depends On What The Meaning of 'Was' Was", Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa, Huffington Post, 2011-05-17

Al-Matawa considers how Arabic culture has been held back because the Arabic of the Koran is used as the teaching language. This language is effectively a second language to many students who speak modern Arabic. He compares today situation to when Rome kept all the liturgy and detailed knowledge in Latin, which few people in Europe spoke.

"The 'Cheney Brigades': A Second Chance for War Advocates to Fight", Doug Bandow, Huffington post, 2011-06-04

Bandow said these brigades would be available for advocates of war, who like Cheney missed their chances to serve in other wars ("I would have obviously been happy to serve if I had been called.")

War hawks who aren't the first to volunteer are often the first to accuse others of being "slackers". Consider the tarring, feathering, and lynching of Olli Kinkonnen in Duluth, Minnesota in September, 1918. The "Knights of Liberty" took credit this. Shouldn't "Knights" be on the battlefield instead of in the safety of an anonymous mob?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Better computer translations

Since I wrote "Computer Translations", a friend clued me in on an even better on-line translation,

Google Translate has about two dozen languages and even will give the spoken version in the target language.  I tried this for "Good morning" and "Thank you" in Arabic.  I thought I was able to mimic the computer speaker quite well, but did I remember the Arabic phrases?

We thought our Russian guest's baggage might be over the weight limit; I put in the English, asked for the Russian translation, and then pushed the speak button.  She didn't even have to come in the room to get the message.  BTW, her baggage was within limits.

Google translate could be a good basis for a self-directed language course.  Instead of following prescribed texts that seem to have little relevance for one's interests, one could just enter the phrases of interest and have them spoken back.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Are you an optimist? Maybe you shouldn't be!

I read about two-thirds of the way through "This used to be us by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum and felt a bit pessimistic about our future. We have too many jingoistic, short-sighted politicians and citizens.

Then I read the little blurb to accompany the interview with Slavoj Zizek, "Now the field is open" in which he thinks that "the marriage between capitalism and democracy is over".

Consider that China, an autocratic regime, is growing faster than most other countries in the world, and that the United States, a supposedly democratic government, is all tied up in petty squabbles how to unstick a somewhat anemic economy.

China has a government rife with corruption that is trying to define the common good, and the U.S. has a government rife with corruption that is trying to maximize the profits of a few, claiming that it will promote the common good.

Until each of these two countries has a sound understanding of the "civic virtue" called for by the writers of the Federalist Papers, our planet is doomed to be "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" as described by Thomas Friedman in the book of the same title.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Republicans may make Obama one-term president, but…

Many commentators have written that the Republicans are more interested in making President Obama look bad and far less interested in solving real problems.

Many Democrats feel that they didn't get the change that they voted for, and as we've seen in New York's Ninth Congressional District, many are inclined not to vote at all.

Many "independents" are dissatisfied with both parties. What happens if a third party candidate appears who has enough appeal to gain wide support among independents? What happens if this candidate manages to get a plurality in some key winner-take-all states? Given our Electoral College system, that third party candidate could gain sufficient electors to "win in a landslide" with way less than half the general election votes.

One always has to be careful what one asks for.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Short-sighted politicians or visionaries

The Duluth News Tribune editorial board asked for questions to ask candidates. I was fortunate to have two of mine be selected. For city councilors it was, "Is it more important to attract businesses or people to Duluth?" For school board members it was, "Is it more important to have students pass reading tests or read and discuss?

I didn't see all the responses because I didn't read much about candidates whom I could not vote for. What I did see is competing school board candidates answer, "Read and discuss." Hurray! Long term thinking. I was really disappointed to see competing council candidates answer "Business". How short sighted?

Don't they remember all the fiascos of businesses that were attracted with big fanfare and they were going to provide jobs? Far too many of these businesses never provided all they promised, and too many left town or folded.

The "correct" answer is people because people create businesses but businesses don't create people.

I saw some vindication of this in "That used to be us" by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum.

Attracting a big plant is harder because there are fewer and fewer because of robotics. "What a town needs to thrive today is a hundred people starting companies that employ twenty-five people each, and twenty people starting companies that employ fifty each, and five people starting companies that employ three hundred people each."

Taking a different tack, how are you even going to attract businesses or people to Minnesota when many people don't want to move here because they think it is too cold? On the other hand, many people in Minnesota don't want to live anywhere else.

Many people forget that Minnesota once was a hot bed of creativity and still has many large corporations that are designing and manufacturing a wide range of innovative products. But given the political dominance of "no new taxes" and "cut spending" people, we have cut way back on our investment in creating and educating people who will carry on this tradition.

And if Minnesota regains its image as an innovative place to be, it will attract both people and businesses. The computer business in Minnesota and canoeing in the Boundary Waters attracted me forty-eight years ago.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bankers - Foxes guarding the chicken house

I have seen the first name of James Dimon, CEO and Chairman of the Board of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. sometimes spelled Jaime or Jaimes. While reading a Wall Street Journal article on how banks' profits falling, I saw James Dimon mentioned. I decided to check how is name was spelled on the J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. web site. This eventually led me to the names of the board of directors.

How do all these people paid highly by other companies have the time to run another company (or even more)? The list at includes the CEOs, presidents, or chairmen of the board of Springs Industries, NBCUniversal, Honeywell, American Museum of Natural History, GrayLoeffler, Clear Creek Properties, Yum! Brands, and Johnson & Johnson. The only retired executive in the bunch is a former CEO of ExxonMobil. Many of these people also serve on the boards of yet more companies at $100,000 per year plus for showing up at five or so meetings a year - nice work if you can get it.

The real kicker about foxes is that James Dimon is on the Board of Directors of The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I thought the Fed was supposed to regulate the banks.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is "prosperity" worth the cost?

Many are pointing at North Dakota as a low-tax state that is prosperous. If so, why are so many people moving out of the "high-paying jobs" areas. For some of the answers on all the costs on local people who don't have or want those jobs, see "America's Boomtown locals to big oil: We want our town back!", Blake Ellis, CNNMoney, 2011-10-24.

Job creators or job dissimulators?

"Every day lately, we hear politicians intone the term "job creators" when in reality they are referring to the interests of financial hustlers, hedge-fund operators, credit-default-swappers, manipulators, polluters, unsafe employers, and all manner of characters who do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as giants like Steve Jobs and Bob Galvin.

"Let us admire and treasure the real leaders in job creation among us and properly recognize them when they die.

"We need all the Bob Galvins and Steve Jobs we can possibly produce."

- "Business forum: Galvin, Jobs: Visionaries and job creators", Jim Buckman, Star Tribune, 2011-10-24

Buckman's piece was a tribute to Bob Galvin who led Motorola when it created the cell phone that in turn made it possible for Steve Jobs and Apple to create the iPhone. They died about a week apart.

A sour hour

Speaking of cell phones, I spent over an hour worrying about the whereabouts of my cell phone. I didn't think I had left it on the table at a potluck last night. I couldn't find it in any of my pockets, pants, jacket, or shirt. It wasn't in the car. It wasn't on the dining room table or buried in the stack of newspapers. I couldn't find it on our dresser. I couldn't find it on my cluttered desk, even when I moved the clutter around.

I called my cell phone and received immediately the message: "Either my phone is turned off or I am driving. Please leave a message and I'll return your call as soon as possible." Because it answered immediately it was turned off.

OK, I guess I'll suspend service. I went to Verizon's website, signed in, and suspended the service.

For some reason I wondered about the charging unit for the phone. I looked at an outlet on my desk's backboard and saw the charger plugged in with the cord dangling down. At the end of the cord was my cell phone, hidden by one of the freestanding speakers for my computer.

I went to Verizon's website and restored service. I called our home phone with my cell phone and the former rang right away.

As my wife says often, "It's around here someplace."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Is this the time for a new major party?

In 1854, Whigs who were not happy with the party's policies formed a new party, the Republican Party. Not until 1860 did the Republicans win a presidential election. That president, Abraham Lincoln, increased the involvement of the federal government into the affairs of the United States - Homestead Act of 1862 that gave low cost land to settlers, Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 the subsidized the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and Morrill Act of 1862 that gave land for the land-grant colleges.

Now the Republican Party is dominated by people with a narrow understanding of the Constitution and a narrow understanding of how a vibrant economy works, an economy supported by government-provided infra-structures.

I doubt that a new party will be formed by grass-roots action, be it the Coffee Party or the Occupy Wall Street activists. I think a new party will only be formed by a dedicated group of professional politicians. I hope that there are enough "old-school, New England-type" Republicans, tired of being beholden to the corporate-sponsored Tea Party, who will form a new pragmatic party. There are plenty of Republicans who have a broader view of what needs to be done. Unfortunately, many were defeated by Tea Party candidates in 2010. These "losers" could provide a nucleus for such a party. They have small chances of fielding a popular candidate by November 2012, but who knows what could happen in 2014 and 2016.

Founding optimists

"[The electors] will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle."

Federalist No. 64, "The Powers of the Senate", John Jay,New York Packet, 1788-03-07, on the age restrictions in the Constitution for the House of Representatives and for the Senate

Oh, how I wish that Jay had not deceived himself.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Computer translations

Some of you may have heard the joke about the first computer translation from English to Russian and back. Supposedly "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" came back as the "The vodka is good but the meat is rotten."

We have some Russian guests and one of them used, which translates whole sentences rather than just words. Almost everything I asked it to translate into Russian I asked it to translate back into English. If I didn't like the result, I reworded the English and tried again.

When I tried "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." the back translation was weaker but still close: "The spirit wishes, but the flesh is weak."

Note: You don't have to read Russian to use this translator. Use instead.

Libya - how to tell hot news topics

I've been watching Al Jazeera's Libya Blog for several weeks, always hoping that the end of Gaddafi was close. Sometimes the news has been sparse; sometimes the news comes flooding in. Sometimes I have gotten immediate access to the blog; sometimes I have to wait and wait for any items to even show in the window.

Today, after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, is one of those latter times. The little circle is going around and around in the corner of Firefox' window and the lower corner has "connecting to…" I wrote the first paragraph and part of this before the loading of the page was complete.

I assume that is so popular around the world, that its servers must be overloaded.

Whatever, let's hope for a long life for a free Libya.

P.S. A few hours after I wrote the above, access to Al-Jazeera is quicker. It must be because it is past midnight in that part of the world.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another example of the lop-sided "free" market

I recently saw a letter to the editor or an online comment that an employer will pay you what your worth, implying take it or leave it.

But who is deciding "worth"? Is it an employer who has carefully considered the benefits of an employee and what the current market price is for said employee? Or is it a penny-pinching Scrooge who will pay as little as possible, regardless of how much benefit (and profit) the employee will bring to the employer?

If the labor market is truly free, both employer and employee will have sufficient information to judge what a "fair" wage is. If the labor market is truly free, potential employees should be free to enter or leave it. Too often, this is not the case, many potential employees are not free to leave the labor market, unless there is free food, shelter, and clothing for themselves and their families.

The 1% earned their money?

Anybody who reads the news regularly knows that there is plenty of back-scratching in the executive suites and board rooms of large companies. Not only do they provide bribes, er, campaign contributions to OUR supposed representatives, but they reward each other handsomely with no justification other than some mumbo-jumbo about performance in the proxy statements.

There is little mention of all the people who are paid far, far, far less but made all this "performance" possible. It's a bit like d'Artagnan of Three Musketeers fame who kicked his servant Planchet for "poor performance" but the servant did almost all the work except the sword fighting.

For some examples of this over-compensations see "The Most Outrageous Acts of Corporate America", The Daily Ticker with Daniel Gross, 2011-10-20.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Little bucks demonstrations vs. big bucks advertising

Mark Jeneson wrote "Make change with money, not protests" as a local view in today's Duluth News Tribune. Online it's titled "Create change through spending, not Wall Street protests".

Jeneson argues that taking all one's money out of the big banks will bring about more change than protests. However, these little private acts will only be known by a few people and may or may not spread. These little acts have a small chance of making major headlines.

To make headlines, most people need to demonstrate. They don't have the big bucks to advertise like the Koch brothers and their surrogates. Think of demonstrations as middle-class political advertising. If the cause is popular, more people will take part and more headlines about the cause will be made.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let's kick the Koch-Cain habit!

Who decides the government of the United States? We the People or they the money?

Who decides the government of the United States? A well-informed populace of high-turnout voters or a secretive group of manipulators who only want their "people" to vote?

I thought I had a new revelation of how manipulated we are when I read "Pizza Magnate Herman Cain Has Extensive Ties to Powerful Koch Group", Huffington Post, Ryan J. Foley, 2011-10-16.  I started playing around with Koch being the start of Kochaine and then thought, oh, Koch-Cain.

Well, I was late to the party again. I found about 16,800 results for "Koch-Cain" as a single phrase. The first two were "Billionaire puppeteers at it again? Exploring the connection between Koch brothers and Herman Cain", and "Does GOP Cocaine = Koch-Cain? Are Koch bros Buying GOP Pres Nomination by Supporting Herman Cain?"

I haven't seen anyone writing this yet, but I have a feeling that besides Cain being a puppet of the Koch brothers, he is cynically being used as their "black candidate" against Barack Obama.

If you don't like this cynicism and manipulation, if you would rather have democracy than plutocracy, be sure to vote in every election, especially in November 2012. Please put in VOTE in capital letters on your calendar for November 6, 2012. Please ask all your friends and relatives to do so. To avoid any manipulation, be sure you have registered well before and have a valid ID.

Suit with cigar, another update

Was the suit with the cigar at the Occupy Twin Ports demonstration a real counter-protester or was he a spoof? See "Occupy Twin Ports, 12 Oct. 2011" and "The suit with the cigar, an update".

One friend opined that he was a "Colbert", meaning that he was doing a Stephen Colbert skit.

Today another friend said she was sticking her sign in front to the suit whenever she could. She said that he said he had never smoked a cigar before. I guess that clinches that he was spoofing.

BTW, I looked up Stephen Colbert and went to There was a wonderful section with Harry Belafonte. The interview was a good mix of humor and seriousness.

Fable about a king's palace

A fabulously rich king decided to build a fabulously magnificent palace. He got his privy council to agree because he argued that doing this project would create many jobs for the five years it would take to build it and for the years beyond that to maintain the palace.

For starters, he took by eminent domain 10,000 acres of prime farmland by the river. People said it would reduce the food the country could grow to feed itself. The king replied that the project would create jobs.

He had 10,000 acres of prime forest cut down to supply the lumber for his palace. People said it would decrease wildlife habitat and increase flooding. The king replied that the project would create jobs.

He hired 1,000 workers to build his palace. People said it would decrease the number of workers to build and repair houses. The king replied that these workers would be paid high wages.

He had a million gallons of water per day diverted from the river to supply all the fountains, to water his extensive lawns, and many other uses. People said it would practically dry up the river reducing the water downstream for drinking, washing, and irrigation. The king replied that the project would create jobs.

He built no sewage treatment system to handle the garden runoff or the flushing of 1,000 toilets. He said it would cost too much money. People said sewage would make the river downstream unsuitable for drinking and washing, and irrigation. The king replied that the project would create jobs.

And so it came to pass that many people were hungry because there was insufficient farmland to feed them.

And so it came to pass that many people became homeless as the cost of existing houses skyrocketed because no new house were being built.

And so it came to pass that many people became sick because of the lack of clean drinking water.

And so it came to pass that many people migrated to lands where there was plenty of farmland and clean water.

And so it came to pass that tax revenues dwindled because there were fewer people to pay them.

And so it came to pass that the banks foreclosed on the king's palace because he couldn't pay back all the loans he had taken out to build the palace.

And so it came to pass that after an unusually heavy rain, a mudslide from the former forest buried the partially built palace.

What's the point of this fable? It can't happen here. Oh, but we are a nation populated by people who immigrated from lands that did not have good governance. Will we follow as we lack the foresight to rein in the indulgences of the wealthy as they create short-sighted projects using jobs as a justification without regard to all the other costs?

8 things a hand dryer can't do

Hand dryers are replacing paper towels in more and more restrooms. Managements often do this to avoid the litter of paper towels and the costs of refilling the dispensers and emptying the trash containers. However, like many cost savings, these savings can be a cost shift to others. Paper towels can do so much more for the users of restrooms than hand dryers can.

1. Dry hands in 30 seconds. I and many other men dry our hands on jeans rather than wait and wait for a hand dryer to do the job.

2. Dry hands quietly. The noise of some hand dryers probably exceeds healthy sound levels.

3. Wipe up spills on clothing.

4. Wipe a runny nose.

5. Wipe a sweaty brow.

6. Staunch bleeding from a minor cut.

7. Wipe excess water from a sink.

8. Dry hands when replacing a contact lens.

And I'm sure you can think of many more uses for paper towels that hand dryers are useless for.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote of the day – money and Congress

"Money is not evil. Buying and selling Congress to protect Wall Street, is."

Sign carried by Sally Paulsen, Treasurer, Independence Party of Minnesota, at OccupyMN on 2011-10-07. See "IP impressions of OccupyMN".

Her colleague Ted C. Williams gave a more jaundiced view. He thought many of the demonstrators wanted to show they were mad but that they didn't have any answers. How many problems throughout our history have been pointed out by those who were mad before anything concrete was done? Taxation without representation, slavery, women's suffrage, alcohol abuse, labor laws, civil rights, wars…

Business people are demonstrating against business?

I kid you not! "A suited protester from the Occupy London Stock Exchange holds a placard stating 'Time's Up!' whilst business people walk by as they continue their demonstration that started on Saturday outside St Paul's Cathedral, near the London Stock Exchange in London, Monday, Oct. 17, 2011." This was in the notes to photo 6 of 63 from "Occupy Wall Street: Images from the Front Lines", Yahoo Finance!, 2011-10-17.

I read this as "business people are demonstrating as they walk by." "Business people" is the first plural subject in the above paragraph.

I guess I can't complain too much. Today I found a "the the" in a blog entry I wrote five years ago.

The fallacy of ranking states by "tax burden"

It is quite the fashion to rank states by "tax burden" or how "business-friendly" they are. But are these the only criteria for determining where to live or headquarter a business?

CNN published several lists of the Fortune 500, and with a bit of wandering I found the number of Fortune 500 headquartered in each state. I used the "Pick a state" section of "Fortune 500 2011: States: California Companies".

I found tax rankings at "The Tax Foundation - Facts and Figures Handbook: How Does Your State Compare?".

I put this data in a spreadsheet and tried to figure out a correlation. I found this difficult because there is such a wide discrepancy between corporate headquarters and "low tax" states. For example, the Tax Foundation ranks New York third in "tax burden" but it has the headquarters of 57 of the Fortune 500 companies, and Texas is ranked 32nd with 51 companies. The external factors could be that New York is the "financial capital" of the U.S. and that Texas has the most oil and related companies.

I finally sorted them by "tax burden" and then summed the number of Fortune 500 companies per state for groups of 10. Starting with the "worst ten tax states", the totals were 208, 79, 96, 93, and 20.

Other external factors could include that Arkansas has four Fortune 500 companies because Sam Walton lived in Arkansas and the other three companies have a lot of business with Wal-Mart. I don't know. Or what influence do physical geography, economic geography (like rural vs. urban), social environment (cosmopolitan vs. distrust of "outsiders"), and historical factors have. It would take a few volumes to figure all of this out.

Oh, yes, how about a high "tax burden" making a state a better place to live - parks, schools, excellent infra-structure, transparent government, and on and on?

But the "bottom line" is that "tax burden" is only one factor of many in determining the success of businesses and the quality of life in any give state.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Occupy movement shares a goal of the American Revolution

The Occupy movement is demonstrating against the power of large corporations that is backed by the power of the state. One of the complaints of the American Revolution was the power of a large corporation, The East India Company, backed by the power of the British state.

See "American Rebellions" by Thom Hartmann and "Boston Tea Party", Wikipedia.

You might say the modern Tea Party has taken on the wrong target, instead of limited government they should be seeking limited limited liability corporations.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The fallacy of "right" and "left" – A must read

Robert Reich wrote a very interesting blog about his "counterpart" on the "right", David Frum, leaving public radio's Marketplace as a commentator for the "right". Frum didn't think he could "represent" the "right" anymore. Reich wrote that such labels don't lead to what's best for America.

See "The Triumph of Dogma", Robert Reich, 2011-10-14.

The wonders of computers

Many of our computers nowadays will flag spelling and grammar errors. I've found that the Macintosh OS X operating system corrects French and Swedish spelling.

We will have a Russian guest later this month and I sent her a short welcome message, with a little bit of Russian. I was quite surprised to see some of the words underlined in red. For one of the words my computer gave some choices and I selected the one I thought was appropriate. The other I had to look up on Google to get the correct spelling.

Oh, for my Russian readers, the words were русский and извините in Извините! Не понимаю русский язик! (Excuse me! I don't understand the Russian language!) I had an й where I shouldn't and didn't have an й where I should.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Some simple steps to end corruption

1. Show up and vote
2. Choose candidates you believe in, ignore what the polls say about the "front runners".
3. If you don't strongly believe in any, rank them according to campaign contributions. The order is up to you among corporate contributions, total contributions, individual contributions, and location of contributors.
4. Show up and vote
5. Choose the candidates who rank most favorably according to step 3.
6. If you find all the choices for an office equally "corrupt", then consider somebody who you think is not corrupt and write that person's name in.
7. Show up and vote
8. If you can't think of anybody in step 6, then consider "Wright In".
9. Show up and vote
10. The only "spoiler" vote is the vote not cast.
11. Show up and vote
12. If you don't like the outcome of the election and you didn't follow steps 1, 4, 7, 9, and 11, don't blame me. I will have showed up and voted.

Quote of the day - campaign contributions

"What's the difference between a bribe and a campaign contribution?"
- Richard Coates, mostly jobless construction worker who demonstrated outside Bank of America in Boston, quoted in "Can 'Occupy Wall Street' really get money out of politics?", Mark Trumbell, Christian Science Monitor, 2011-10-14.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Let's start our own mass movement

Here's something you can do to change the politics of the country without much time or any dimes.

Remind at least two people to vote and to be the dēmos in democracy. "dēmos" is Greek for people. Ask them to also remind at least two people to vote. Tell friends, send the link to others, write comments on forums, or send letters to the editor.

We will know that we're successful when others pass this message to us. And we will know that we're really successful when the worst turnout in any precinct, county, or state is 75 percent.

Attacks against the "sacrilegious"

I never understand why those who profess a theistic religion feel compelled to attack those who they consider "sacrilegious" or "blasphemous". If their God is so all-powerful and all-knowing, cannot He do something about this problem. Cannot this God just boom down from Heaven to these blasphemers to shape up?

I think the attackers themselves are insecure in their own beliefs and are the "sacrilegious" or "blasphemous" ones. They think beliefs different from their own are threat to their beliefs. They have the hubris to think they know better than God.

They also are the greatest threat to their own beliefs. Why would peaceful people follow their beliefs? Or why should peaceful people of any belief respect and tolerate the beliefs of the attackers?

The suit with the cigar, an update

This morning's Duluth News Tribune had pictures of the Occupy Twin Ports demonstration. The guy with the suit and the cigar sign was "I support Wall Street!" And you can see the cigar in his mouth.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Twin Ports, 12 Oct. 2011

I spent about a half hour today at the Occupy Twin Ports in Duluth. My guess is that about a hundred people showed up, several with home-made signs. I knew about a dozen of the people attending. As far as "the media" ignoring it, there were several reporter/photographers and at least one TV crew. Many people beeped their horns as the drove by and some passengers hollered out encouraging remarks.

When I walked by before the official start, I think there was one police officer. When I participated I never saw a police officer.

There was a Tea Party demonstration on an opposite corner, but I couldn't read their signs.

On our side a suit was smoking a cigar right next to other people. I don't remember the sign he was holding, but if he was an anti-demonstrator, his smoking a cigar in a crowd was indicative of the disdain Wall St. holds for us 99%.

A downpour started about fifteen minutes after the start. Umbrellas came out and then the person with the bullhorn announced a Plan B and marched off toward the banks. After the rain dwindled they came marching back.

Efficiency vs. effectiveness, a simile

Many "limited government" or "low tax" proponents are calling for more efficiency in governments. Unfortunately, efficiency is not a poor metric for any job.

Consider that even with long lines at the post office, the clerks, at least in Minnesota, ask, "Anything else?" The "efficiency" proponents would demand quicker processing of each customer, but the effective clerks give better service to each customer and may sell more stamps and other things.

The "efficiency" proponents would probably buy a heating system that gave the lowest cost per Btu. However, that heating system may not put out enough Btus to effectively heat the building. And if that low cost heating system was in an office building, the office workers may be so uncomfortable that they are neither efficient nor effective.

High and low tax states: All things considered, which is better?

Yahoo Finance often has articles about the taxation as a gauge of where to live, whether a place to work or a place to retire to. The latest was "The Most and Least Taxing States to Live and Retire In", Joel Stonington, Bloomberg, 2011-10-09.

Many early commenters said they'd much rather live in the high tax states than the low tax states because the quality of life was better.

Articles like these never tout up the benefits received, better educated work force, better roads, better fire service, better police, better courts,… In other words, you get what you pay for.

Would you choose a hotel strictly on price? Gosh, for $10/night, you can get a tiny room with bedbugs, dirty sheets, broken springs, noisy neighbors, and no heat or air-conditioning. Or for $100/night you could get a spacious room with clean sheets, quiet neighbors, heat or air conditioning, and a "free" all-you-can eat breakfast.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A great tribute to Steve Jobs

Guy Kawasaki, one of the original Apple Evangelists, wrote a great tribute to Steve Jobs, "What I learned from Steve Jobs".

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Bear season: two shots missed

As I returned to Duluth from our cabin in Brimson, I saw a bear cross the road in front of me. I slowed down, tried to get my camera off my hip, and take a picture. I was too late, the bear had already disappeared into the brush.

A couple hundred yards farther along the road at an intersection, I saw a whole bunch of people on ATVs, some in blaze orange, some not. I don't know if they were a hunting group or just a social group. If the former, I wonder if they knew how close they had been to a bear.

Just what are high-rate balances

One of AT&T Universal Card account holders pages has a little ad: "'I'm finished with high-rate balances.' Consolidate you high-rate credit cards into one monthly payment and save money on interest."

My rate is now 20.030% APY. Gosh, what kind of "high-rates" are they talking of?

I wonder if I'm better off taking money out of a mutual fund to pay this high-rate balance and paying myself instead. But then I'll have to figure out the capital gains and report it on next year's taxes. And the price per share could go up getting me fewer shares when I put the money back. Or the reverse. Decisions, decisions!

Friday, October 07, 2011

"The media" and Occupy Wall St.

I was at a meeting about politics earlier this week, and some people who can be counted on to take a "strong left" opinion complained bitterly that "the media" had not covered the Occupy Wall St. demonstrations.

From the Coffee Party I knew that it was in the planning stages, and I knew when it began, and I knew when major newspapers started covering it.

But is every large newspaper or news network supposed to cover every demonstration anywhere in the U. S. when only a dozen or so people show up. It's sort of like people complaining that their event wasn't covered in the local newspaper. Did any of the event organizers let the newspaper know? What competing stories were covered at that time?

Now the Occupy Wall St. movement has gained critical mass and even editorials are being written about it. As opposed to the Tea Party complaint about "an excessively powerful federal government","an active and angry band of citizens is insisting that the concentrated power most Americans need to fear exists on Wall Street and in the financial system." - E. J. Dionne, Jr., Washington Post, reprinted in the Star Tribune as "The conservative tide ebbs, the progressive tide flows", 2011-10-06.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The ultimate lawn or demonstration sign


Be the dēmos in democracy

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reagan, Gorbachev, and the Berlin Wall

Many credit Ronald Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, citing Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down the wall!" and other actions.

First, Gorbachev was no absolute dictator like Stalin. He had many constituencies to please, both hard-line and open-minded. Gorbachev knew the Soviet Union was not working, but he could not like Stalin or Mao simply declare a change of course. He had to move politically rather than autocratically.

Second, Gorbachev's predecessors had put the Soviet Union in a precarious financial position with an overabundance of subsidies. The only thing that propped up the finances of the Soviet Union was the export of oil at $70/barrel.

Then the price of oil collapsed to $10/barrel, and with it the Soviet Union.

The severe drop in the price of oil was caused by millions of consumers saving energy, something Reagan was not enthusiastic about.

Unfortunately, things have turned around and consumption has gone up, the price of oil has gone up, and petro-dictators have been propped up. But blame Americans only indirectly. Many people in the world want to live like us and now they are - in China, India, South America, and many other places. And to live like Americans, they drive cars, air-condition their houses, and power their proliferating gadgets.

See "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" by Thomas Friedman

Some simple lessons about climate change

One of the many things that climate change deniers don't understand is the non-linearity of climate. That is, as you change some of the factors that make climate warmer or colder, suddenly one factor has such influence on the other factors that the rate of change of the other factors suddenly increases or decreases.

Put some water in a pan with a lid. Turn the heat on high. As the water heats, vapor starts to come up around the lid. Nothing to worry about. Go into another room and forget about it. Suddenly you hear water splashing and hissing in the kitchen. The formation of steam within the water has gotten to the point where the water volume has increased beyond the volume of the pan. Oh, yes, your going into another room had nothing to do with the water boiling over. The water would have boiled over if you had stood daydreaming at the stove.

What will happen to our climate if the amount of CO2 released from the warming oceans reaches a "boiling point"?

Blow up a balloon so that the surface is very tight. Carefully and slowly push a nail against the surface of the balloon. The surface of the balloon will deform. Then you sneeze and push harder on the nail. Bang! Oh, yes, I forgot to remind you to wear safety glasses. Sorry! I originally thought of suggesting a pin, but depending on how full you blew up the balloon, the pin might burst the balloon as soon as you touch the balloon's surface.

At what point will we melt so many glaciers that the sun will heat ground that has not been heated in eons.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The perfect political candidate

I have a perfect candidate for you to vote for.

He doesn't make long-winded speeches.

He tells no lies about himself or his opponents.

He makes no promises that he can't keep.

He solicits no campaign funds from corporations, PACs, or others that can't vote for him.

His name:

Wright In

Sunday, October 02, 2011

How do you pronounce two, too, and to?

If you say that all three are pronounced the same, you aren't listening.

More often than not, to is pronounced tuh. I've heard radio announcers, politicians, and ordinary people of all kinds pronounce to with a schwa (an unaccented vowel) rather than with the oo sound. I've even heard English people use tuh.

It sort of proves my point that there is no "correct" language, only "current" language that people actually speak.

On the consistency of English pronunciation

I ponder as I wander
That ponder rhymes not with wonder.
As through the path I wound
I noticed a tree with a wound.
I shed a tear
For it was a pear.

And, there was no damage to the aged garage after the rummage sale.