Friday, March 30, 2012

Corporations hate free markets

Many corporate cheerleaders claim that corporations represent the "free market".  Some do, sort of; but too many corporations do everything they can to get around a true free market.

A headline issue is "plnk slime" beef.  Meat processors claim it is lean, finely textured beef and 100% beef.  See "Beef Products Inc. Comeback: It's Not 'Pink Slime'; It's Safe, Nutritious, and 100% Beef".  How can it be "100% beef" if it is treated with ammonia?  Ammonia is not beef.  In other words, the meat companies don't want consumers to have full information on their products.  Full information to make a buy decision is one of the four requirements of a free market.

Many conservatives want "truth in taxation" from all levels of government, but they are often strongly opposed to "truth in lending", "truth in labeling", and "truth in advertising" for corporations.  See above about full information.

Many food and chemical companies don't want products labelled GMO-free or rBGH-free.  If genetically modified organisms or bovine growth hormone are truly safe products, why should companies fight labels that state products don't have these attributes?  If they fight such labels, they must have something to hide, and thus they want to violate the free market principle of full information.

Many health insurance companies claim that the "Affordable Care Act" is against the free market and forces people to buy insurance.  OK, the government is forcing people into the market.  But the current insurance system keeps many people out of the health care market.  And a parent is not free to leave the market when a child is sick.  A requirement of a free market is being free to enter and leave the market.

Three surprising things about this blog

1.  Every day, people read this blog in at least five other countries besides the United States.  These other countries can be located on any of the six populated continents.

2.  More often than I would think, a search for keywords puts this blog on the first page.

3.  Only about 30 people a day read this blog.

If you enjoy reading my whimsey and my "wisdom", or even my rants and ravings, please tell two other people about this blog.

Also, if you're one of my friends who is clicking ads to give me a little more income, please don't.  I have no idea what ads have been clicked on, but you are hurting whoever placed the ad.  These ads could be placed by Mega Corp or by Mom and Pop's corner store.  Many ads only cost a penny or two and some cost two or three dollars.  I appreciate the income, but not at somebody else's unproductive expense.  This holds double if you are a Democrat clicking on Republican ads or a Republican clicking on Democratic ads.  Aren't political campaigns expensive enough as it is?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An interesting blog to follow

I've noticed that a couple of people have been accessing my "Occupy Voting Booths" blog entry recently, like five a day.  I checked Google and found that this entry was in the top ten.

Also in the top ten was "A Teacher's View: Occupy Voting Booths". The author published this entry three months before I published mine and three months before the Facebook page "Occupy Voting Booths 2012" started.

I hope I can visit "A Teacher's View" more often.

The ultimate progressive T-shirt

Proud member of the human race!
Please don't disappoint me.

If you don't vote, don't complain to me

If you're too busy to vote, then you're too busy to complain about the result.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gloom and doom or bloom and boom?

Even among well-off people one hears talk of the bad economy.  Yes, there are too many people without jobs or too many people that are earning far less than they would like.  This is not good.  But not all people are without jobs and not all people are earning less than they would like.  These are not only the one percent.

As I read about manufacturing increasing, about companies not finding enough skilled employees, about all the new brew pubs being opened, seeing so many apps for iPhones being produced, and so, so many people with cell phones, lap tops, and tablets, the economy can't be that bad.

Of course it's bad if you've been kicked out of your house and lost all your equity.  But there are many others still in their houses.

Daniel Gross wrote "Good News for Jobs: Rising Demand", Yahoo Finance, 2012-03-28, giving numbers for increased housing starts, increased remodeling permits, and increased sit-down restaurant business.

As more people are working, more people are spending money, which puts more people to work.

Did Bush's or Obama's stimulus packages lead to this improvement?  Probably not.  Well, stabilization of a bad situation helped, and once things are stable they can improve.  Did high taxes hinder this improvement or low taxes encourage this improvement?  Probably not.  Many economic ups and downs happen independently of the tax situation.

I've often said that the government shouldn't be providing tax breaks for certain industries or subsidizing others.  These often have limited impact and often backfire.  What it should do is increase and target its buying.  Replace vehicles and computers more frequently.  Want higher gas mileage nationally, increase the fuel economy requirement for government cars.  Want to promote alternative energy; put alternative energy sources on government property, even if they are only supplements.  Alternative energy was set way back when Reagan took Carter's solar panels from the White House.

I think the problem is that we expect Presidents to micro-manage, not govern.  That is, favor this group or that group instead of providing a broad, stable framework for people to make decisions.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quote of the day: foreign policy tantrums

"Unfortunately, U.S. policy towards Cuba resembles a 50-year tantrum, rather than a coherent plan for encouraging a transition to democracy. "The Castros, Cuba, and America: On the road towards capitalism", The Economist, 2012-03-24, reprinted in the Star Tribune, 2012-03-27

I am always amazed as to how long the U.S. government holds grudges; these put it in the same play pen as North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran.  I suppose internal U.S. politics has more to do with this silliness than practical diplomacy.  I hope it doesn't take another Nixon to take the initiative like he did with China.

I've been wondering lately why the U.S. doesn't say to Iran, "We are sorry that we overthrew Mossadegh and supported the Shah.  Now would you apologize for the taking over of our embassy?"  Oh, but I forgot internal U.S. politics!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Voter ID laws may be illegal

The Independence Party of Minnesota has an interesting article on voter ID, "Voter ID requires elimination of all license fees and faster service", Peter Tharaldson

That is, if a driver's license is required to vote and a fee is charged for obtaining a driver's license, is that not a poll tax?  A poll tax is prohibited by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Where are the strict constructionists on this issue?

Hunters should oppose "shoot first" laws

Imagine you are hunting on Federal, state, or county land.  You think you know where the boundaries are, but without precise GPS knowledge, you can't be sure.  Suddenly, somebody challenges you claiming that you are trespassing.  You start to protest, but blam!  You're dead.

Your killer was right that you were trespassing, you were carrying a loaded gun, and so he claimed self-defense.

What if you're walking on the road and pass somebody's property.  For whatever reason the person shoots you.  Your killer claims self-defense.  You were carrying a gun and there are no witnesses.

These kinds of shootings have occurred.  There was a case in Wisconsin a few years ago where a group challenged a hunter because they believed he was trespassing.  He shot and killed at least five of them.  He did claim self-defense, but the survivors claimed otherwise.  I believe that hunter is in jail.

But if there are no witnesses and no survivors, who is going to prove that the shooting was not in self-defense?

The "shoot first" laws make it a bit unwise to enjoy the solitude of hunting alone.

The Corp giveth and the Corp taketh away

I thought this parody of Job 1:21 might be original with me.  I found only two references in my first try, both in reference to the Army Corps of Engineers and New Orleans.  When I broadened my search to "the corp gives", I found 17,000 references, some of them with my meaning of Corporation.

I thought of this phrase as I was working with macros in Excel 2011 for the Mac.  Microsoft took away macros in Excel 2008 and put them back in Excel 2011.  But the macros that worked in Excel 2004 don't always work in Excel 2011.

Also, when I plugged my iPod into my Mac, iTunes would automatically be launched.  iTunes would then begin syncing my iPod.  This was true even with OS X Lion.  Then in some version of iTunes the auto load/synch stopped.  I have to start iTunes myself.

This certainly is just an annoyance compared to Job's problems, but one would think the "free market" could provide a more consistent and efficient experience for its customers.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Merci pour votre interesse

Le rapport de Feedburner de Google pour aujourd'hui m'a dit qu'il y avait 36 vues de mon blog hier de France. Souvent la plupart de vues est des États Unies.  Hier il y avait seulement quatre des États Unies.

Christian ou Birahim, c'est vous?

For those who don't read French, I intended to write:

Today's Google Feedburner report said that there were 36 views of my blog yesterday from France.  Often the majority of views are from the United States.  Yesterday there were only four views from the United States.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Manufactured natural versus really natural

I am often amused by all the manufacturers who put "All natural ingredients" on their products.  Excuse me, but poison ivy is a natural ingredient.  Second, if the ingredients have been processed, are they really natural anymore?

We try to eat mostly fresh, unprocessed food.  Exceptions include yogurt, maple syrup, and meat, fish, and poultry.  One of our favorite snacks is about as-natural-as-you-can-get peanut butter – unsalted roasted peanuts that we put through a store grinder ourselves.  Almost every afternoon I scoop a big glob out of the jar with a tablespoon.  Nibble, nibble, lick, lick, until the spoon is almost clean enough to go back into the drawer.

Unfortunately, this peanut butter is a bit too popular, and the peanuts are often back ordered.  I had this problem last weekend.  I didn't want to do without my peanut butter and checked the peanut butter in jars.  I selected one that was labeled "organic no stir peanut butter".

I didn't read the ingredient list until I got home – organic dry roasted peanuts, organic palm oil, organic unrefined cane sugar, sea salt.  Palm oil?  Sugar?  Salt?  I don't need these.

I debated taking the peanut butter back or donating it to a food shelf.  But snack time rolled around and I had to have my peanut butter.  Hm!  This is kind of creamy and sweet, and it has bigger chunks than the self-ground.  It is a bit salty, but not as salty as the pretzels I snack on.  I could get to like this stuff.  It is certainly better than the nationally-branded peanut butters with overdoses of sugar, salt, and other unneeded stuff.

But, I'll be strong and go back to the really all-natural peanut butter as soon as we've finished the jar.  Besides, the peanut butter in a jar costs about two dollars a pound more.

The hoax is that there is no climate change

The real hoaxer is Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla who has been pushing his views for decades that there is no climate change.  He is not above distorting data to prove his point; for example showing only the worst case scenario of NASA scientist James Hansen rather than best, likely, and worst.  Since the worst case wasn't happening, Inhofe claimed that Hansen must be wrong.

I did a search on Hansen, NASA, climatologist, inhofe and found dozens of screeds against the existence of climate change.  Many of these seem to pick on the tiniest shred of information to support their contention that scientists are wrong about global climate change.

Hm, thirty years ago it seemed that every January in the Twin Cities there would a week of temperatures of 20-30 below zero Fahrenheit.  That's about 45 degrees latitude.  In the last few years in Duluth at 47 degrees there have been few days with all day temperatures that low.

I remember skiing on March 30, 1968 on decent snow at Buck Hill, south of the Twin Cities.  For the last few years Spirit Mt. in Duluth has closed by the end of March.  This year Spirit Mt. closed by March 19!

The hardest people to argue with are those who sow discord with misinformation.  It is a real-life Whack-a-mole situation.  Two scientists with the Union of Concerned Scientists attempted to do so in "The Climate Change Hoax", Andrew J. Gunther and James J. McCarthy, Kansas City Star, 2012-03-21.  Among other things they point out is "Does this 'hoax' date back to 1896, when Nobel Laureate Svante Arrhenius presented his findings that human activities releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere could change Earth's climate?"

See also "Mission Impossible: Global Warming Debunking Debunking", Melvyn D. Magree, Reader Weekly, 2008-03-13.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Recycling – What are the tradeoffs?

We recycle just about everything there is to be recycled, including almost all of our food waste.  Is there a point where more resources are used to recycle than there are resources saved?

I think of this every time I rinse a tomato juice bottle.  How much water should I use to get all the dried juice off the lip of the bottle?  Do I use quarts and quarts of running water to get a tenth-ounce of dried juice off?  Do I spend five minutes to do so?  I just make a good effort and assume the recycling process will take care of the residue.  Same with olive containers.  It takes lots of soap and water to get all the olive oil off.

I just thought of this again when recycling a shampoo bottle.  Even with it stored upside down, I wasn't getting any more shampoo out.  The bottle has a fancy snap-lid that I used a letter opener to get off.  Then I saw there was probably a teaspoon of thick shampoo at the bottom that didn't flow very quickly.  How much water do I use to get that residue out before I put it in the recycling bin?  With lots and lots of foam coming out on the sixth try, I said this is ridiculous.  I put the bottle in the waste basket.

Even on food waste, it is almost impossible to recycle it all.  See olive oil above.  We have oatmeal most mornings.  We do our best to put all the oatmeal into the bowls.  We can lick the serving spoon to get some of what's left, but how do you get off all that is still stuck to the pan?  We have to get the residue off before putting the pan in the dishwasher, or it will eventually clog the dishwasher screen.  So, we have to use more water than we cooked the oats in to soak the residue and then run that water through the sink disposer.  Oops!  More energy just to clean up.

Now if we can think of some way to buy newspapers without more advertising inserts than newsprint we actually read.  Inserts and the sports pages go right to the recycle pile (unless the comics or weather are in the sports section).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How many people must die before you show up and vote?

Too many times we have had "wars of choice" where we went in with little understanding of the countries we invaded.  We assumed that all our fancy weaponry would overcome "the enemy" with "shock and awe".  We are really dismayed when the people we are "protecting" regard us as the enemy and can fight for years with far less sophisticated weaponry.

We have forgotten our own history.  There was a well-organized army with advanced weaponry and organization "protecting" us.  But many of the people regarded this army as the enemy.  They formed poorly-armed, poorly-organized militias and fought back.  It took eight years for the "super-power" of the time to admit defeat.

Now we are getting ourselves into the same quagmires as that once world-spanning empire got itself into, not once, but many times.  Thousand of our countrymen are killed and even more are permanently maimed.  The casualties of the citizens of the "enemy" country are even greater.

But less than half of us vote into office our governments that beat the war drums.  The opposition party often goes along with or eggs the other party into the conflict.  Too many of those who dislike both parties or for some reason are unhappy with the less aggressive party don't show up.

Now we are seeing a similar situation within our own borders.  Many people were dissatisfied with the party of their choice and stayed home in the 2010 elections.  The more aggressive party "won" the elections in many jurisdictions and is enacting laws that allow citizens to "protect themselves" with impunity against some unspecified "enemy".  If there are no witnesses, these armed citizens can kill somebody "threatening" them and face no consequences.

Thus was set up the situation that many predicted – an armed white man killed an unarmed black teenager!

How many people must die before you show up and vote?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where, oh where did the moderates go?

For a good analysis of why we have so few moderate Republicans, see "George and Mitt Romney & the Death of Moderate GOP", David Frum, The Daily Beast, 2012-03-19.

As an interesting sidelight, how many current Republicans (or Democrats) would take a subway from the airport and a bus from the subway as George Romney did to visit his son's campaign headquarters?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why I'm not a "full-blown liberal" and never will be

Given our polarized politics, many assume because somebody supports or refutes a given claim of one political party then that person must unconditionally refute or support the other party.  Many assume because I criticize Republicans or "conservatives" so often then I must be a Democrat or a "liberal".

I find it very easy to find fault with current Republican, so-called "conservative" positions.  There are so many inconsistencies and contradictions that it surprises me that any educated person would support the party.  Unless he or she had some personal gain from the corporate line parroted by the current Republican Party.  It is so ironic that Republicans and the Tea Party especially, claim to  follow the intent of the "Founding Fathers".  Well, the "Founding Fathers" were very much concerned about factions working against the common good.  If you have a week or two or three, read the Federalist Papers.  You can find it at and choose your format.

On the other hand, I do not actively or even willingly embrace all "liberal" positions.  I find many people who call themselves liberal rather "conservative", that is holding to a position without consideration of nuance or contradictions.  For example, I have taken issue with the "Unfair" campaign.  Although the proponents deny it, their campaign implies a sweeping generalization, just the kind of generalization that they are fighting against when directed against people who are not "white".  Also, I think the "Occupy" movement confuses "freedom of assembly" with "freedom to camp out".

The latest ruckus that I have been skeptical of is the supposedly ill-treatment of workers at Foxconn plants in China.  It was reminiscent of the know-nothings who claimed that Soviet and Chinese workers were "chained to their benches".   Well, those who reported the claims against Foxconn are now having second thoughts about these claims.  See "'Significant Fabrications': Apple Critic Mike Daisey Under Fire".

A little reason for the high cost of U.S. health care

Some months ago I injured my shoulder with repetitive activity.  After it didn't get better for several weeks, I went to my doctor about it.  As I signed in, I paid my $10 co-pay for the visit.  Even though he decided that it was only stressed tissue, he had me get an x-ray also.  Today, my insurance company sent me an "explanation of benefits".

The "amount you owe" is a $9.22 co-pay for the x-ray.

I have two questions.

First, why wasn't I asked to make a second co-pay at the time of my visit?  This also happens when I have the ultrasound check of my heart.  The cardiology department asks only for a $10 co-pay for the doctor visit, but I always get billed for a co-pay for the ultrasound.

Second, how much does it cost the clinic and the insurance company and Medicare to calculate all this, move the information among themselves, and mail me an "explanation of benefits?  I bet it is far more than the co-pay and probably a good chunk of the total cost.

The good side is that I have been getting this care without "prior approval", from the insurance company or Medicare.  Others are not so fortunate.  Read "Deadly Spin" by Wendell Potter.  Some might die because an insurance company came between them and their doctors.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Patriot Act - have you read it?

Did those who voted for it read it?  You can find the original, H.R. 3162, at  It has 131 pages and 57,796 words.  At 800 wpm that would take 72 minutes to read.  More likely it would be at 300 wpm or 192 minutes.

I scanned 26 pages of the PDF file in about 30 minutes and gave up.  It's very hard to understand because much of it is "strike" and "insert" directions for existing law.  One would have to have be constantly referring to those laws to make sense of it.  I imagine it would take several days to read it and understand it fully.

Somebody challenged the members of the Senate to read it, and only one Senator took up the challenge.  He voted no, a real patriot.  Sen. Barack Obama voted yes.

"[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

Maybe we need a Constitutional amendment that no bill can be longer than the original Constitution (4601 words).  Given all the misinterpretations of the Constitution, that still might be too long.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lack of transit options is a business tax

This entry was inspired by "Southwest light-rail is good for business", Star Tribune, 2012-03-16.

Opponents of light-rail, expanded bus service, and other non-auto transit options claim that we can't afford the taxes to build these.  Some of these same people claim that businesses shouldn't be taxed.

Somehow we do have taxes to build more and more roads.  Somehow we do have taxes to police and repair these roads.  But what do more roads get us?  More congestion.  How many times do you come to a standstill at rush hour (or in large cities, on rush day)?  Do you remember 10 or 20 years ago when the freeways had fewer lanes?  Do you remember coming to a standstill maybe less than you do now?  So more roads were built and more people used them.  A sort of build it and they will come situation.

So people lose time because of traffic congestion and businesses have less ready-to-work employees.  And many employees leaving early "to beat the rush".

But for those who don't want to tax businesses, do you realize the automobile culture levies a heavy tax on them?  If a company has 1,000 employees at a location working a day shift, how many parking spaces will the company have to provide?  What is the cost of those spaces?  Who pays for those spaces?  Could the land be better used for other purposes?

Look at the suburbanization of our shopping areas.  Any business has to provide a certain minimum of parking.  And smaller businesses have to allocate so many handicapped spaces, even when the farthest general parking space is closer to the building than the nearest handicapped space in Sprawl Mall is to the main entrance!

How come the anti-government, pro-business party isn't listening to the pro-transit businesses? Especially when that same party claims businesses can do things better than government?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Oil! Republican dependency on fantasy

Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-MN8, claims to be an independent voice for his constituents but he seems to be sticking to the ALEC and Koch brothers line.  ALEC is American Legislative Exchange Council that is an organization of big businesses to write laws in their interests rather than the public interest.

One is his recent republishing in his newsletter of his op-ed article in the Duluth News Tribune, "Reducing regulations, expanding U.S. drilling will lower gas prices".  He also republished it on his Congressional web site!  See  Hm, I'm supposed to give exclusive rights to the News Tribune for my submissions, and so I do not re-post my submissions on my blog.

Back to the subject.

As to be expected in election year, the opposition gets all the blame for any problems.  Cravaack blames Obama for high gas prices, but he ignores the high gas prices during Bush's terms.  In both cases, there are many more factors contributing to gas prices.

How about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Not only do these create uncertainty in energy markets, they add enormously to the demand for fuel.  Wouldn't it be grand if all those humvees, fighter jets, and drones could run on the hot air coming out of Congress?

How about the cost of drilling?  As the easily accessible oil is depleted, it cost lots more to get the remainder.  And these costs will go up as the oil becomes even less accessible.  Right now it costs $60 a barrel to extract gulf oil (see "Two dollars a gallon gasoline?  No way!").  But will world markets price oil only a little bit above that?  I doubt it.

Reducing regulations won't really change the price of oil; it might if Congress mandated that no oil could be imported or exported.  Do you think the large oil companies would go for that?  Right now, gasoline is being EXPORTED from the U.S.  Oil and gasoline are world commodities.  If somebody in India, say, is willing to pay $3.28 per gallon (today's NYMEX price, not including shipping) to import a tanker of gasoline, do you think any U.S. gasoline refiner is going to charge less in the United States?

Cravaack points out how the U.S. investment in Solyndra and Fisker automotive went sour.  How many energy investments have done well?  He is silent on oil depletion allowances and other tax breaks the oil industry gets.  He is silent on the huge investment in nuclear energy research made by the U.S. Government.  He is silent on the cost of nuclear waste, most of which will be borne by the U.S. Government.  He is silent on the loan guarantees that have gone to nuclear power plants.  He is silent on the huge cost in health and other externalities of burning fossil fuel.

He faults the secretary of energy, Steven Chu, when asked if his goal was to lower gas prices, he said, “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil.”  Does Cravaack live in a bubble?  How many wars are we going to fight to ensure access to oil?  How much are we going to go into debt to finance these wars?  How many people are going to die for "lower gas prices"?  If we can reduce our dependency on oil faster than India or China can, we will be at a huge economic and foreign policy advantage.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Winner takes all and the people lose

"Santorum surges in the South" read a headline in today's Duluth News Tribune for an Associated Press story written by David Espo.  The first sentence begins "A resurgent Rick Santorum swept primaries in Alabama and Mississippi Tuesday night…"

But what does "sweep" really mean?  With partial returns in Alabama, "Santorum was pulling 35 percent of the vote…"  That means that 65 percent of the vote went to other candidates.  To me, a sweep would be 60 or even 70 percent of the vote.  I did not see any turnout figures, but if we assume the turnout was 50 percent, if that, then Santorum had the support of less than 20 percent of the voters.  That is a sweep?

With partial returns in Mississippi, Santorum had 33% of the vote.  That means that 66% of the vote went to other candidates.  That is a sweep?

I do wish election stories would include all this information instead of sweeping generalizations about a particular candidate "winning" with a "sweep" or a "landslide".  If nothing else, it would give the "winners" a bit of humility instead of a feeling of a "mandate".

Beginning of the end of finance as we've come to hate it?

Today, Greg Smith is resigning as Executive Director of Goldman Sachs.  He wrote "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs" for the New York Times.

The Coffee Party Facebook page provided a link to this.  I'm sorry that I can't give you a URL for it.   What struck me about many of the comments was that many seemed to equate finance and capitalism; they are not the same.  Finance is a tool of capitalism, but to mix metaphors, it has become the tail wagging the dog.  See my blog entry "Finance is not capitalism", 2012-12-07.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall put a lot of muscle into the tail, and at the time only a few saw this coming.  Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) warned about this in a Senate speech in 1999.  See "Byron Dorgan's Prophetic Words", Moyers & Company, Lauren Feeney, 2012-01-27.  I recommend watching the full show: "How Big Banks are Rewriting the Rules of our Economy".

For more of the gory details of the collapse of finance, see "All the Devils are Here", by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera.  See also my quote from the book about the plea from Wall St. for more regulation!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

π is an Obama liberal plot to socialize America

Mathematicians tell us that π is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Well, π is the Greek letter for "p" and is pronounced "pie".  See, already we have an attempt by the Obama administration to Europeanize America.  We all know how badly the Greeks are managing their economy.

Instead of using a foreign letter to describe a supposedly scientific idea, we should simply call it pie.

Mathematicians tell us that pie is an irrational number; a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction and whose numeric representation never ends.  Since we all know that liberals are irrational, we can readily see that pie is a liberal plot.  We also know that everything has to come to an end sometime; the Bible tells us so.  We also know that mathematicians are indoctrinated at liberal universities.

The Bible also tells us that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is three.  See 2 Chronicles 4:2.  Claiming pie is this ratio is a liberal attempt to discredit the Bible.

The Indiana General Assembly rationalized pie in 1897, but a liberal mathematics professor intervened when bill #246 reached the Senate and killed it.  These liberal plots to discredit the ability of the people's representatives to properly define truth have continued.  First was the attempt to discredit the Creation and now the liberal attempt to discredit climate stability.  Next thing you know the liberals will claim the world is round instead of flat.

Stand up for American pie!

Monday, March 12, 2012

If you cant spel, dont right!

Actually, even if you can spell, check what you wrote.  Your spell checker may have changed a word that you really meant to write.  It took me three tries to get the title as incorrect as I intended it to be.

For the last several years, John Lescroart has brought out a new Dismas Hardy novel in January.  They are so popular that I gave up trying to get them at the Duluth Public Library.  Instead, I would buy a copy at my favorite book store and then donate it to the library when I finished.

Unfortunately, my favorite book store (Northern Lights Books) has closed, and I have not found its equal yet.  So, I didn't order the latest John Lescroart novel earlier this year.  Today I finally got around to checking the library catalog and didn't see anything new from Lescroart.

I went to his website and saw only a comment about another novel concerning one of his usual characters.  Then I clicked on his books heading.  The top book was "The Hunter" and its page was subtitled "Due out January, 2012".

I went back to the library catalog and looked up "The Hunter".  Hoo boy!  Over 800 hits.  I limited the search to 2012 publication, and Bingo!  The bad news is that all eight copies are out.  I bet the reserve list for each is quite long.  I could read it in large print if I wanted.

What does all this have to do with the title of this entry?  On Lescroart's main page he has a little snippet "Fumblerules of Grammar" and gave five examples.  He also gave a link to a much longer list that was created by William Safire in 1979.  Click here for the complete list of Fumblerules.

Why the rich don't care about anything but lower taxes

If you are a U.S. citizen, imagine that when shares of Chinese companies became available in the U.S. that you managed to buy stocks in 20 Chinese companies.  Five didn't do well and you sold them at a small loss, but 15 did quite well and a few are paying some nice dividends.  Would you really care that much about the U.S. economy?  The only thing about the U.S. economy you might care about is paying lower taxes.

This is precisely what many of the mega-rich are doing and thinking.  As their investments become more global, they care less about investing in the U.S.  Not just in stocks or expanding U.S. operations, but they could care even less about investing in U.S. infra-structure, including education.

They also complain about welfare, but they don't realize they are also on welfare.  They complain about those who need assistance for food and shelter, but they ignore that they are getting assistance from the taxes paid by people in other countries.  They don't need to pay for U.S. education because in China they can "hire 8,700 engineers in 15 days."

It is also amazing that many of them probably pay more in political contributions to support their agenda, including many diversionary tactics, than they would pay in taxes.  And they are probably very happy to sow dissatisfaction among potential voters to further discourage voting.

For more on how the rich have subverted rational politics in the U.S., see "Why is the GOP Suddenly Turning Against College?", James Kwak, The Atlantic, 2012-02-12, via

Afghanistan - Cycle of violence continues

When you reach the end of this entry, you may feel that I could have written more.  I agree, but I felt that anything more would dilute the message.

A single U.S. soldier goes on a rampage in Afghanistan killing 16 civilians.  The Taliban vows to avenge the killings.  When the Taliban attacks the U.S. military, more Afghanis will be killed.  The the Taliban seeks vengeance again, and more Afghanis will be killed.  Each act of violence by one side increases the resolve of the other side to continue the fight.  And on and on it goes.

In the land of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, everybody becomes blind and toothless.

A better strategy to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan would for Afghanis to drop off single flowers at every U.S. base in Afghanistan and simply say, "Please go home."  Every time an Afghani sees a U.S. soldier, he or she should say, "Please go home."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Republicans and reality; the only thing they have in common is starting with RE

As a former Republican party activist, I am so disappointed with the Republicans since Reagan (another name starting with RE).  The latest disappointment was the attitude of Minnesota Republican legislatures towards light rail, specifically the Southwest line out of Minneapolis.  See "Critics rail about state money for Southwest light rail line", Pat Dole, Star Tribune, 2012-03-09.

Despite many businesses saying that light rail aids development, the state Republicans are still opposed to the light rail line.  Hey, I thought Republicans were pro-business.  I think they are more pro-Koch and pro-oil than anything else.

The most egregious comment was by Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, "We like our independence and having our own car to drive where we want and when we want."  He also said. " I think buses…are working very, very well."  Excuse me, is anyone telling him that he can't drive?  Oh, yes!  The Republican Party is not "pro-choice".

He is so wrong on two counts.

Once I drove out of Chicago on I-90 towards O'Hare airport.  It was on a Sunday(!) and stop-and-go.  In the middle was a commuter train.  The highway traffic would stop, and a train would catch up.  The highway traffic would stop, and a train would catch up.  The highway traffic would stop, and a train would catch up.  Eventually the train pulled ahead and was gone.  So much for "when we want".

As for the efficiency of buses, for two years I drove a suburban bus into the Twin Cities from Maple Grove!!!!  Rare were the times it was a steady 55 mph from Maple Grove to downtown Minneapolis.  Sometimes I had to drive on the shoulder.  What was my supposed maximum speed?  35mph!  What does light rail go?  I don't know, but probably better than 35 mph between stations.  And the light rail drivers generally have all the green lights in their favor.  I had to slow down for merging traffic.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Wisconsin's Selective Free Markets

Many in the Wisconsin Senate want to relax the "restrictive regulations" on permits for iron mining.  Others claim that those restrictions will ensure protection for the water and land near the proposed mine. "Updated:(Gogebic Abandons Mine Plans!) Wisconsin Mining Bill Sent Back To Committee", Eric Bau, Daily Kos.

A few years ago there was a big hullabaloo about a high-voltage line in Wisconsin.  Many who lived in the area of the right-of-way were opposed.  I don't remember what setback was required for the line, but many residents felt that it was too little.  There were also strong complaints about property rights.  The project went through and the line was built.

Now a company is trying to put wind turbines in several areas of Wisconsin.  Some landowners object to the size of the setbacks and the amount of access to be granted the wind companies.  Suddenly, the Wisconsin legislature is falling all over itself to increase the setbacks and other regulations on the wind companies.

What is so different about the third case that doesn't apply in the first two cases?  That is, why do large companies' interests trump the rights of individual property owners in the first two cases, but the rights of individual property owners should be paramount in the third case.

I have my suspicions, but I would need a lot more documentation than I care to look for now.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ham's a winner, diners lose at Georgia's restaurant

Georgia's restaurant got a really great deal from her supplier.  It would send her 1000 bulk dinners at a greatly reduced cost.  The only catch was that they had to all be the same item.

So, Georgia took a poll of her customers, giving them a choice of ginger ham, macaroni and cheese, or bean soup.  Her poll received 47.2% for ginger ham, 27.4% for macaroni and cheese, and 25.4% for bean soup.

Based on this poll she ordered 1000 dinners of ginger ham, the clear winner.  She went broke on the order; she only sold a third of them.  First, she neglected that most of the macaroni and cheese voters were vegetarians and most of the bean soup voters were vegans.  Neither group would eat meat of any kind.

Only 13.2% of her regular customers voted.  Those who wanted chili, fish, or spaghetti didn't even participate.

Sources of figures:

47.2% - percentage of votes cast for Newt Gingrich in the State of Georgia's 2012 Presidential Preference Primary as reported by the Secretary of State,

13.2% - turnout in Georgia for the 2012 Presidential Primary as reported by CNN at "As GOP Fight Continues, Turnout Numbers Lag",


In the 2008 election, John McCain received 52.2% of the vote in Georgia with 62.5% turnout, giving him 32.6% of the eligible voters.  Using the same calculation, Gingrich received the votes in the 2012 primary in Georgia of 6.2% of the voters!  And newspaper after newspaper has headlines about Gingrich "winning" in Georgia!  Hey, journalists, the real winner was "none of the above"!

The 2008 vote and turnout figures are from "2008 General Election Turnout Rates" of the United States Election Project of George Mason University.

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but remember to vote.  If you don't vote, you give more weight to those voting for choices you wouldn't have made.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Qur'an burning - Questions for Muslim protesters

Several burnings or other destruction of copies of the Qur'an have been reported recently.  Some, like the burning of the Qur'an at a Florida church were done in stupidity and malice.  Others were done thoughtlessly, sometimes ironically by those who would be very upset by a burning of the U.S. flag.

Whenever one of these thoughtless incidents occur, a story is sure to follow of a riot somewhere protesting these incidents.  What end do these protests accomplish?  They only reinforce the prejudices of those who destroyed Qu'rans.

To Muslim protesters:

Is your faith so weak that it can't take the insults of the ignorant?

How many Muslims are killed when you riot?  How much property owned by Muslims is destroyed?

Have you considered that your riots also reflect on those Muslims who are trying to lead peaceful lives among non-Muslims?  Many of these Muslims state that Islam is a religion of peace.  Are you undermining them when you protest in a non-peaceful way?

I assume every mosque has several copies of the Qur'an.

When a mosque is bombed by Muslims, often killing other Muslims, do you protest that bombing and the destruction of copies of the Qur'an?

There is enough stupidity, intolerance, and violence in this world.  Please don't add to it.

“...and you should forgive And overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you? And Allah is The Merciful Forgiving.”
— Qur’an (Surah 24, "The Light," v. 22)

See also "Muslims do speak out; anyone listening?"

Iran - Questions for American hawks

First, a little history.  In 1914 the Archduke Frantz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, Serbia.  The Austrian government gave an ultimatum to Serbia, of which Serbia agreed to most terms except allowing Austrian police to participate in the investigation of the assassination.  Rather than negotiate, Austria attacked Serbia.  The consequences were as bad as all the participants believed they would be and worse.  We are still living with those consequences nearly a century later.

Now many demands are being made of Iran concerning its nuclear ambitions.  Many in the U.S. and Israel are ready to go to war against Iran if those demands aren't met.  Have these hawks considered ALL the possible effects of such a war?

Let's ask some "trivial" questions first.

Many of these hawks want low taxes.  If taxes are low and kept low, where is the money to come from to wage a new war?

Many of these hawks want low oil prices.  If Iran is attacked, what will happen to oil prices?

Many of these hawks want to protect the unborn.  If Iran is attacked, how many unborn children will die?  Do you really think only soldiers will die in any modern war?

Now let's look at some more global issues.

If Saudi Arabia feels threatened by Iranian nuclear ambitions, shouldn't Saudi Arabia be the country to act?  After all, the U.S. has sold them many, many advanced military aircraft.  Shouldn't Saudi pilots be able to operate these aircraft efficiently and effectively?  If not, why sell the aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the first place?

If the U.S. attacks Iran, this will be the third Muslim country the U.S. has invaded in a generation.  What will be the reaction be of many Muslims throughout the world?  Will there be a rush of Mujahideen to Iran?  What side will various Muslim governments take?

Will a U.S. attack on Iran bring about the fall of many pro-U.S. Muslim governments.  If so, which side will the new governments take?  If the government of an oil-producing nation falls, will the new government continue or cease oil deliveries to the U.S. or to European countries?

What will the reaction of Pakistan be to an attack on Iran?  Will the current generals do nothing?  Will they be replaced in a coup by more hawkish officers?  Officers who will be quite willing to aim nuclear weapons at U.S. forces or even U.S. territory?

There are more Muslims living in India than in Pakistan.  Would Indian Muslims stage a coup and join in resisting a U.S. attack on Iran?  India also has nuclear weapons.

What side will Russia and China take?

If Iran is attacked, what will North Korea's reaction be?  It has been unpredictable and is not known for acting in its long-term interests.

I think it is safe to say that if the U.S. (or Israel) attacks Iran, many people will die who have nothing to do with the current Iranian government or its nuclear programs.  Also, I think it is safe to say that the negative repercussions of an attack will last for at least two generations and maybe even a century.

Meanwhile, for over two generations the U.S. has called the largest offensive military force in the world "defense".  At the same time. those who have been the biggest proponents of the military have done their best to sabotage a true defense - energy independence.  They have opposed many efforts for alternative fuels and for greater energy efficiency.

"When will they ever learn?"  "The answer is blowin' in the wind."  They didn't.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Low cost government leads to higher costs

You can find an interesting examination of the push for less government and what it really costs by listening to  "What kind of country" on This American Life.  It includes interviews with Grover Norquist and government official and private citizens in Trenton NJ and Colorado Springs CO.

My sense is that the anti-government, anti-tax rhetoric has gotten so out of hand that people don't look at the true cost of some of the measures.  Supposedly by privatizing city services you can cut costs because the private company pays less to its employees.  But is anybody counting the profit that the private company expects.  People will be willing to pay $350 per year to have street lights turned back on but are unwilling to pay $200 to keep all city services running.  Because a hotel has a smaller percent of its expenses in wages and benefits, doesn't mean that a city should have the same percent of its expenses in wages and benefits.  Maybe if we compared a city to a software company, we would find that the city had a smaller percentage of its expenses in wages and benefits.

If you have time, I recommend listening to "What kind of country" to the end.  I used the time to finally clean my desk.

Rush Limbaugh with his big mike vs. thousands of little mikes

An interesting campaign has started to get companies to pull their advertising from the Rush Limbaugh show because of his remarks about law student Sandra Fluke.  It is a twitter campaign to get companies to not advertise on Rush Limbaugh's show.  You can find a bit more at "Twitter handles of advertisers still on Limbaugh's radio show; 13 now dropped".

There is a small problem that can be overcome. Many advertisers don't specify placement because their costs are less.  However, they can also request that ads not be placed on certain shows.

If you have time, and you'll need it, you'll find many interesting views in the comments following the above article.

Darn, TurboTax is in the list.  TurboTax didn't send me a free CD this year and I haven't ordered it yet.  Should I choose another program or use one I know?  Dither, dither:(

BTW, I'm sure somebody's dreamed this up, but Rush is in where angels fear to tread.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The party of pluck and luck versus the parties of cluck

I started to read a tribute to Andrew Breitbart, ("Andrew Breitbart's final message to the left" by Star Parker, Scripps Howard News Service, 2012-03-02) a severe critic of the "left", and couldn't read any further.  Like so much writing nowadays, no matter the source, it gives sweeping praise to "our side" and sweeping castigation to "the other side".

We have those who have financial resources claiming that they earned their wealth, and those who feel that many have been left behind have been put there through no fault of their own by those with excessive wealth.

Parker claims that the wealthy have more stable families, et cetera, et cetera; and that the poor have out-of-wedlock births and single parent families, et cetera, et cetera.  Could it be that the more wealthy have more resources to hide their dysfunctional families?  Could it be that the less wealthy have these problems because they are less wealthy?

Parker blames the left for creating all these problems, including the sexual revolution which increased poverty.

I got news for Parker and others who blame those who are trying to solve certain problems for creating those problems.  They have been around for centuries.

I was born in March 1938, supposedly six weeks premature at 8+ pounds.  My parents were divorced in 1943.  When I was in college, my mother showed me her marriage certificate; she was married in September 1937.  You do the math.

Many years later I found out that my great-grandfather left his family in 1904 because he loved women and wine.  Even later I found out that his likely father, born in 1818, probably had a "girl in every port" - one in Brooklyn, New York, one in Baltimore, Maryland, and one in Liverpool, England.  The person with my surname married in Liverpool gave his father's name as Vincent Magree.  Vincent Magree was listed in the 1840 census in Baltimore with a male between 10 and 15 years old.

Well, some of the descendants became college-educated and well-paid, some continued to struggle, and some just muddled.

I can't speak for all my relatives as to how they arrived where they did, but I know my own life has been a crazy stew of pluck and luck.  I had a family that expected me to do well in school.  But many were the times I could have blown it with some stupid act.  I had a teacher who encouraged us to go to a highly-rated engineering school.  I had an assistant principal who found a full-scholarship for me to that school.  I blew that by being unsure of what I wanted to do.  I had a registrar in another college accept me and encourage me to study mathematics.  That got me into graduate school in the school I flunked out of.  That school happened to be buying a new computer.  The manufacturer of that computer was hiring and hired me.  And on and on with ups and downs.  Some of these because I kept trying, some because somebody helped me, some because I kept screwing up.  Pluck and luck, over and over again.

Right now we have two parties of "cluck".  One claims that the wealthy are solely responsible for their wealth without recognizing all the clerks, laborers, and government institutions that supported them.  The other claims that the wealthy are solely responsible for the problems of the poor without recognizing that that some of those problems (not all) are self-inflicted.  These are the factions that James Madison warned about in Federalist No. 10

We really need a party of "pluck and luck".  One that recognizes that problems go beyond blame, that many of these problems have been with our country since before the Revolution, and that we have to keep trying to provide some means of increasing the opportunities for both pluck and luck.  We need a party that truly recognizes the problem of balancing "public good and private rights" - James Madison, Federalist No. 10.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Shale gas - read the fine print

The Polish Geological Institute has published a study that the toxic refuse at a drilling site was reused and not harmful to the environment.  See "Polish report: shale gas extraction not harmful", Monika Scislowska, Associated Press, 2012-03-02.

But then comes the fine print.  The site is a test drilling.  There is no harm if "done in accordance with legal regulations" (and how many U.S. companies complain about or ignore legal regulations).  The study was done at the beginning of exploration and "does not reflect dangers from a long-term activity."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Congress - disciplining all for the sins of some

The "No bill, no pay" bill is gaining traction in Congress.

Essentially, no member of Congress shall receive any pay if some members of Congress refuse to pass all appropriations bills, and none shall receive any back pay once all the appropriations bills are passed.

In other words, if 200 Representatives vote for any given appropriations bill and 235 vote against, then not only will the 235 nays not get pay but the 200 yays will not get paid.

Also imagine the mischief one Representative can do by somehow getting to the floor an appropriations bill that nobody supports.

This makes me think of an incident at a Y-camp that I call "poop in the pool management".  I attended a Y camp when I was about ten years old.  Everyday we got time in the pool.  One day feces were discovered in the pool.  Instead of having pool time, we all had to sit in the dining hall until somebody revealed who left his poop in the pool.

So dozens of kids who were completely ignorant of what had happened had to sit until somebody 'fessed up.  I would guess the culprit didn't care about the rest of us; why do what he did?  Besides, why get a worse punishment by confessing.

So, dozens of Congress people who have been intransigent on getting appropriations passed want to punish other members of Congress for their own sins.