Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Immigration and High-Tech Innovation

Webform to Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Immigration Bill to Boost High-Tech Innovation

In the larger picture, I'm all for people moving wherever they want in the world, but when it comes to immigration to increase "high-tech innovation" there are several caveats to consider:

Companies have narrowed their "skill sets" to be check lists rather than overall considerations, thus limiting the number of Americans available for the jobs offered.

Companies seek to pay the lowest wages possible; increasing the number of immigrants allows them to select from a larger pool of workers who will be satisfied with smaller wages.  See "Norm Matloff's H-1B page: cheap labor, age discrimination, offshoring", updated in 2011 or later.  Rep. Zoe Lofgren found that the H-1B wages were $40,000 less than the average wage for computer systems analysts in her district.

Companies are unwilling to pay the taxes to provide the education needed to create a large pool of knowledge workers.  They would rather that other countries pay to educate a significant number of their workers.

[I didn't include this in my webform to Sen. Klobuchar, but see also "Is There a Tech Staff Shortage?"  I wrote it for the Northland Reader in October 1999.]

Adam Smith warned of special interests like this in "Wealth of Nations":

"The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order [capitalists], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

Quote of the day: Law as a game

I am cleaning my desk of many miscellaneous scraps of papers, some over ten years old.  One intriguing one is a photocopy of two pages from "The True Game" by Sheri S. Tepper.  I don't think it is buried in our bookshelves, and it is not in the Duluth Public Library.  It is at the Hennepin County Library, and so I must have borrowed it between 1996 when it was published and 1999 when we moved to Duluth.

The paragraph that I bracketed is:

"We are going to try to do what Windlow would have wanted," he said. "He told us that nations of men fell into disorder, so nations of law were set up instead.  He told us that nations of law then forgot justice and let the law become a Game, a Game in which the moves and the winning were more important than truth.  He told us to seek justice rather than the Game.  It was the laws, the rules which made Gaming.  It was Gaming that made injustice.  We can only try something new and hope that it is better."

How true!  One only need read the novels of John Lescroart or look at the work of the sausage factory called Congress to see how people game the system and ignore justice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Muslims do speak out

Some people, I hope they are few, complain that Muslims don't speak out about terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam.  Did we have a lot of Christians in the South who spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan?  How many southerners were as strong defending the rights of blacks as Atticus Finch of Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird"  How many of us speak out against anybody who unfairly speaks ill of another person or group?

Like any very large group, Muslims have a diverse set of views.  Too often, like in other groups, the rigid dominate any discourse.  Iran under the Shah was a rigid dictatorship that allowed quite a range of freedom in non-political behavior.  Iran under the Ayatollahs is a rigid sort-of democracy that constricts freedoms in many non-political behaviors.  Unfortunately, it has become even more rigid and even less democratic since the election fraud of 2009.

As seen in the riots in Egypt, Muslims have a wide range of opinions of what government should be about, not all think that Shari'a law is a legitimate source of government.  Remember also that more people showed up to mourn the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi than took part in the attack or justified it.

See also "Exploiting the Prophet", Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, 2012-09-22

One group of Muslims has set out to be a more open religious group that allows for more diversity and less gender or other sexual divisions.  It is Muslims for Progressive Values.  Among other practices prayer meetings are not segregated by gender and women do lead prayers.  They were supposedly changing their website on January 25th, but as of this posting it hasn't happened.  If the "Keep It Halal" video is not on the site when you visit, you might find it on YouTube at

Monday, January 28, 2013

Efficiency vs. effectiveness - a pair of similes

Too often we see "efficiency" required of government, meaning government spends more money than the writer thinks appropriate.  We rarely see "effective" applied, meaning that the government did something with the desired results.

This morning's Duluth News Tribune's "Our View" used "efficiency" and "effective" in the same sentence with regard to a study to be commissioned to compare a few cities' expenses and services.  It can be a difficult task because of several variables, like hilly and narrow vs. flat and compact.  See "Our View: Collect data but get proper perspective, too".

While thinking about the article, I came up with a pair of simile's regarding automobiles.  A car sitting in the garage is efficient but not effective.  It doesn't use any fuel at all, but it is not taking anyone anywhere.  A four-wheel drive vehicle plowing through snow is effective but it is very inefficient.  It gets people to their destination but it uses a lot more fuel than it would normally.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Slippery trope, slippery hope

As I was eating a slippery pear wedge after dinner, the phrase "slippery trope" popped into my head.  Did I come up with an original phrase?  Using Google there slipped hope.  Entering "slippery slope" without quotes, gave "Book of the Times: Language Evolution's Slippery Tropes", William Grimes, New York Times, 2007-08-01.

The article is a review of "The First Word" by Christine Kenneally, an overview of the investigation of the origins of language.  Some of the interesting items mentioned are having laboratory subjects create their own language from a few seeds and apes who have learned to sign don't respond to each other's signs but get into a "shouting" match.

This article reminded me of my own thoughts about the Tower of Babel.  I see this story as a fable to explain why people speak different languages.  However, we create different languages all on our own.  Think of how the Romance languages diverged from Latin and how German diverged into several languages.  Think how the English of the Eighteenth century has changed into modern English; styles, words, and pronunciations are quite different today.  Even grammar that was considered improper in the 1950s is used by teachers of today.

From my slippery pear to the slippery trope, I have hope that I can find time in the next year or two to read "The First Word".  I hope the opportunity doesn't slip away.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pronunciation inconsistencies in other languages

English isn't alone in different pronunciations for the same spelling.  Put the following phrase in the left box at

Kerstin kör till kören övning

and click the speaker icon.

If you don't know Swedish, you'll be surprised at what you hear.

BTW, the first "kör" should be translated "drives" instead of "runs".

Where's the "W" in choir?

In English we pronounce "choir" to rhyme with "inquire", but there is neither a "w" in "choir" nor a "qu".

The answer is that English spelling never keeps up with English pronunciation.  See "Two, too, and to are pronounced the same, right?" and "How do you pronounce two, too, and to?"  And sometimes the spelling changes even if the pronunciation stays the same.

"Choir" was once spelled "quer" and an archaic form is "quire".  The "quer" (kwer) was from the then French word for "chorus".

You might think that the spelling and pronunciation of "choir" was also French, but "choir" (kwahr) is a variant of "fall".  The French use "chorale".  Apparently "choir" was somebody's idea of making English spelling conform more to Latin or French.  See "Linguists: why is 'choir' pronounced 'quire'?" for an amusing discussion.  For a more serious discussion of English spelling see "Why not Spelling Reform?"  It is a bit long and I have yet to finish it.

Quip of the day - Mormons and Pythons

You've probably heard about the Burmese pythons are overrunning parts of Florida and maybe about the state government sponsoring a contest for the largest python caught and for the most pythons caught.  One group featured is three Mormon friends from different parts of the country teamed up to catch pythons.  The New York Times story stated:

"Theirs was truly a chance encounter, considering that pythons far outnumber snake-savvy Mormons in South Florida."

"Florida Holds High-Profile Hunt for Low-Profile Creatures", Lizette Alvarez, New York Times, 2013-01-23

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quote of the Day: Republicans, Hagel, and Iraq

"Strip away all the demagoguery and there seems to be one reason and one reason only the neocons loathe Chuck Hagel. He was right about Iraq, and they were wrong."

- "Readers View, GOP has no reason to reject Obama Cabinet picks", James J. Amato, Duluth News Tribune, 2013-01-20

Cartoon of the Day: Political News

Read what the fortune teller in "Wizard of ID" has to say about a future ruler and the media.  Look for the January 22, 2013 strip at

Monday, January 21, 2013

Great speech but erroneous mathematics

President Obama gave an inspiring inaugural speech, but he stated a mathematical impossibility.  He used an incorrect advertising pitch in his statement that "America's possibilities are limitless".

We may never attain all of our possibilities but they are mathematically limited.  We have only a limited amount of people, a limited amount of land, a limited amount of resources, and a limited amount of time.

Let us hope that many good things come about for our country, but, whether we live another ten years or another hundred, we won't see many possible benefits that should happen in our lifetimes.

Quote of the day: Negotiate with who?

"As another defense minister, Moshe Dayan, once observed: 'If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.'”
- Bill Keller, "Chuck Hagel's War", New York times, 2013-01-20

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Moving days - web site articles to this blog

I'll be slowly moving my Reader Weekly articles from my web site at to this blog.  I've heard rumbles that CenturyLink wants to be the ISP for all of its DSL customers.  Rather than do any moving in a rush, I'll just start slowly, and hope for the best.

Just what are conservatives conserving?

Just what are conservatives conserving?
Melvyn D. Magree
Originally published in
Reader Weekly
August 8, 2004

Conservative – another sweeping term that is used as a pejorative by some and as a badge of honor by others.  In many ways both views are wrong, conservatism is not necessarily a bad idea and is not necessarily the best idea.  The problem is that the term conservative is used to describe a grab bag of conflicting ideas and to pretend that all who call themselves conservatives will adhere to all these conflicting ideas.

Both George Will and William Safire have catalogued the factions contained in the Republican party – economic, social, libertarian, idealistic, and cultural (1).  Safire wrote that the economic conservative is against “enforced redistribution of wealth” and for reduced taxes; the social conservative doesn’t like the violence in entertainment and opposes partial-birth abortion; the libertarian “is pro-choice and anti-compulsion”, the idealistic conservative believes it is America’s role to extend freedom, and the cultural conservative prefers traditional to avant-garde and the thoughtful to the emotional.  He offered more complex descriptions but space and copyrights limit my explaining more.  He also offered some stands that “liberals” would agree with – consumer protection from monopolies, right of counsel, and keeping “fundamentalists out of schoolrooms.”

I would make a slightly different catalog: pro-business, religious right, libertarian, and militaristic.  Pro-business is more pro-CEO of larger companies; religious right is enforcing one’s religious views on others; libertarian is as Safire described, and militaristic is projecting power more than defense.  They are all mixed up in a weird dance of support and conflict.  Some very large businesses provide the violent entertainment that the religious right opposes; businesses like military contracts but they don’t want to pay the taxes to pay for the contracts; the religious right supports the militaristic because they believe it is bringing on Armageddon, the battle to end all battles; the libertarians resent actions of the religious right; and the militaristic play on the desires of all to promote “freedom and democracy” even as they run roughshod over “freedom and democracy” here and elsewhere.  Please note: I did not write “military” but “militaristic”.  The members of the military may be behaving honorably  but the “militaristic” have designs beyond “defense”.

The classical definition of conservatism is holding on to what is traditional and making change gradually.  It is hard to find fault with this view, we all have a bit of conservatism in ourselves.  The business owner who doesn’t alter his plans until he has looked thoroughly at what change will bring about.  The religious person who prefers the King James Bible rather than reading the newer translations.  The person who prefers older music or art to the latest trend.  Or the person who eats the same thing for breakfast every day.

However, much of what passes for conservatism is more radicalism – the abrupt change of how things were.  Large businesses destroy smaller competitors or businesses that are in the way of their expansion.  The religious right takes small parts of the bible literally and ignores the larger truths accepted by more traditional churches.  The militaristic ignore traditional international relations in order to act on their own worldview.  It seems to me that what these conservatives are attempting to conserve is their power over others.

One way they attempt to conserve power is to wrap themselves in the flag and proclaim that they are promoters of freedom and democracy.  Freedom is not promoted by telling people how to conduct their private affairs, what they must believe, and what rituals they must perform.  Democracy is not promoted by hiding information in the name of security or by taking checks and balances from voting to promote sales of technology.

One of the characteristics of current conservatism is unquestioning promotion of “approved” beliefs.  Have you noticed that no matter how many news quotes from “conservative” sources, no matter how many letters from “conservatives”, and no matter how many opinion pieces by “conservatives”, if a newspaper or broadcaster has any news or opinions outside of this set of views, it is “liberal”?  Very interesting because many newspapers and broadcasters are owned by “conservative” businesses.

A slogan that captures this mind set is RINO – Republican in name only.  One of the supposed attributes of having only two political parties is that they each will cover a wide range of views – the so-called “big tent” parties.  However, conservatives are increasingly demanding orthodoxy – a strict adherence to a set of beliefs.  You can see this is the writings or hear it on radio shows of conservatives.

Rush Limbaugh is supposedly the master of not allowing anyone to contradict him with a different interpretation of facts.  Ann Coulter hammers away with a repetitious call for orthodoxy.  I’m having a tough time making it through her book Slander because of all the generalizations and selective quotes she makes to show how bad “liberals” are.

This orthodoxy carries over to support for President George W. Bush.  About the only conservative commentators who might question Bush’s actions are William Safire and George Will.  They may point out an inconsistency in something Bush said or did.  Otherwise the President can do no wrong, unless it is not going to the right far enough.

Maybe George Bush doesn’t see himself as the Roman Emperor that Garry Trudeau depicts him as in “Doonesbury” (the empty helmet), but many of Bush’s supporters treat him as if his actions should no more be challenged than those of early Roman Emperors.

Remember, the Roman Republic fell when a general overstepped the limits the Senate set for him.  Could the American Republic fall when a Commander-in-Chief reinterprets the Constitution and oversteps its limits?  If so, conservatives will not have conserved freedom and democracy.

(1) William Safire, “Inside a Republican Brain”, New York Times, July 21, 2004 (Page may be available online only to subscribers)

©2004, 2007, 2013 Melvyn D. Magree

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Low taxes can mean low profits

The Boeing 737 Dreamliner has been grounded by the FAA until several of the recent problems can be fixed.

First question: if private business can do so much right, why is there so much wrong with the 737?
At least, nobody's been seriously injured or killed yet.

The answer is that it is a complex endeavor.  Thousands must work together to get everything just right.  What was missed because certain tests or calculations weren't checked one more time?  One commentator wrote that the FAA inspectors were overwhelmed by the innovations.

This last gets me to taxes and profits.

To have skilled up-to-date inspectors, we need to train them continuously.  If we don't budget for continuous training, the inspectors won't be able to keep up with changes.  If the inspectors can't keep up with changes, then the inspected companies might miss something.  If the inspected companies miss something, then the new products might fail in some way that reduces those companies' profits.  Sort of "for want of a nail…"

Also think of government inspectors as independent auditors.  They are a second set of eyes that sees things that the people directly involved might miss.  Large companies don't blink at paying millions for audits but they seem to balk at paying taxes for government "auditors"; auditors that might save them millions.

But to have skilled designers and skilled inspectors, we have to have a robust education system, going all the way back to pre-school.  If we don't pay enough taxes to have such a robust education system that produces a very large number of skilled adults, then we can't create the innovations that lead to larger profits.

All things are connected - "Home", movie script by Ted Perry.  See "All Things Are Connected".

A clever but off-the-mark sign

"Politicians are like diapers, they need changing often".

This sign has been on a signboard for a business on Woodland Avenue in Duluth for sometime.  I'm not sure if the sign belongs to the auto repair business or to a small office that seems to be attached to the auto repair building.  Google street view is a bit blurry on the details.

I didn't double check, but many references attribute it to Mark Twain with the added phrase "and for the same reason."

We could also apply this slogan to CEOs.  They get entrenched and get the board they selected to give them larger and larger compensation.  Boy, talk about a stinky deal!

The problem with this slogan is that it assumes that a frequent turnover of politicians will ensure new ideas.  It might on occasion, but like all serious jobs, being a politician requires a lot of effort and learning.  If we had the turnover as the sign implies, then the politicians would be at the mercy of their staffs or lobbyists.  The degree that they do depend on these two groups is bad enough, but a greater number of new politicians would make the situation even worse.

Besides, we do get to vote against politicians.  We have a hard time voting against CEOs.  And we want neither our politicians or CEOs to be like diapers.

An afterthought!  A complaint about politicians is a bit of elitism.  The people get to choose the politicians; the plutocrats get to choose the CEOs.  This phrase then implies that the people are ignorant and not to be trusted with governance.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Private vs. Public, No Clear Answer

Many people are calling for the privatization of almost everything: schools, utilities, prisons, armies, and more.  They claim that a private corporation will be more efficient than a government operated entity.  The skeptic should ask what is meant by efficiency and what other values would be lost with privatization.

For example, if a private company operates a prison will a lower cost per prisoner come with a lower cost for security?

If a private company operates something, will it be calling for less regulation, regulations that could be protecting public safety and public health.  For example, BP was state-operated for a long time, and then Margaret Thatcher privatized it.  Apparently the deadly accident rate has gone way up because costs were cut to keep profits way up.

If private schools take away selected students from public schools, will the students left have fewer role models for success?  Many "failing" schools do graduate successful students.

Regardless of the form of an organization, three ingredients are needed for success: clear goals, management that understands those goals, and sufficient resources to meet those goals.

For more, see "When Public Outperforms Private in Services", Eduardo Porter, New York Times, 2013-01-15.  See also the book that he mentions, "The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office" by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cut spending? Whose responsibility?

I can't find a direct quote, but many Republicans seem to be blaming President Obama for "runaway spending".  But is he spending money that Congress did not authorize him to spend?  I haven't seen any such criticism.

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the
Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all
Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

"To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;" - U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8

"No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by
Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money
shall be published from time to time." - U.S. Constitustion, Article I, Section 9

So, if President Obama is spending money or borrowing money for which he had no authorization, I haven't seen any such specific complaint.

Republicans in the House are stating that the people sent them to "cut spending".  But one could also say that the people gave the President another term and elected a predominantly Democratic Senate to "increase spending".  Either case overs implies the myriad of reasons people have for voting for particular candidates.  In fact, I would call any claim of "mandate" or a specific mission hubris.

If the Republicans are really serious about cutting spending they would simply pass a budget to their liking.  One would hope they would also cut Federal spending in their own district, but fat chance of that.  Now the next trick would be to get the Senate to go along.  If they could do that, then there would be a budget bill to send to the President.  If he vetoes it, then the House and Senate will need enough votes to override the veto.  These probably don't exist.

So, adults would determine what they can agree on and get that in the budget.  But many in Congress grandstand to please their "base" rather than do some real work for all of the people.

But we shouldn't complain too much.  The government was designed this way over two hundred years ago.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nuclear weapons: Mything in action

I've long felt an unease about the justification of nuclear weapons, including the nuclear umbrella over Europe and that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks saved lives.

As for the nuclear umbrella, Britain and France had their own nuclear weapons, and so why would they need U.S. nuclear weapons to prevent attack by the Soviet Union?  As far as the invasion of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union, was it not by the same rationale that the U.S. has attacked Iraq and Afghanistan?  After the horrors of the siege of Leningrad, wouldn't any sane leader be sure to provide a big buffer between his country and the attacker?  How many times before was Russia invaded from Europe?

That is not to say the Soviet Union was a benign keeper of the peace; it wasn't.

As for saving lives, whose lives did the deaths of thousands of women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki save?  Invading troops?  Would not a naval blockade of a country that had a defeated navy been just as effective?  Were the bombs to bring a quick end to the war before the Soviets got involved?  The Japanese were just as aware of the possibility and ready to surrender.  It really pays to know your enemy, and too many warring countries have no clear understanding of their enemies.

For a more detailed discussion of the futility of nuclear weapons, see "The Myth of Nuclear Necessity", Ward Wilson, New York Times, 2013-01-13.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I'm still here!

To my loyal readers, I apologize for not posting any entries for the last few days.

My computer-use energy has been sapped by two problems and I've spent hours trying to resolve them.

One is confusion over my Apple ID, that which I need to access iTunes to download apps and podcasts.  Some apps are linked to one Apple ID and some are linked to another.  I won't bore you with the details, partly because I'm not sure of the details myself.  I do know that the Apple message boards have many messages about similar problems.

Two is trying to use the Duluth News Tribune Digital Edition.  The link descriptions are not clear, you need a special browser to use it, and some of the buttons are not very responsive.  I've spent hours trying to make it work.  Ironically, the Star Tribune uses the same software and I have no problem with it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

My wife's gonna kick me out!

My wife does most of the cooking, laundry, and cleaning.  I do most of the finances, long-distance driving, lawn mowing, and snow shoveling.  Given that we haven't had much snow this winter, I don't do much snow shoveling, just a bit of pushing now and then.  So, she figures that if I'm not going to do my fair share…

Sunday, January 06, 2013

If the United States were a Christian nation…

…it would follow the "second greatest commandment", "do unto others as you would have them do to you."

We do not want other countries invading us.
We do not want other countries assassinating our leaders.
We do not want other countries stationing troops in our country.
We do not want other countries dictating our choice of leaders.
We do not want other countries to have nuclear weapons.
We do not want other countries having bigger or more powerful militaries than we do.

And then there is, "for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword".

We can only be considered a peace-loving nation when the State Department has a bigger budget than the War Department.

Daffynition - Vertigo

After I retrieved the paper yesterday morning and shut the door, I bent over to push the rug up against the door for insulation.  As I straightened up I was a bit light-headed.  I told my wife that I had a bit of vertigo – the vertical goes!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Unsafe safety features

Sometimes in the name of safety, designers can create unsafe conditions.

I was reminded of this again in dealing with one of my pet peeves, gas cans that are not easy to use. 

I've written about this issue before in "Misguided safety measures" and "Tired of pouring gas on your shoes?"

I thought that I had found a better solution with No-Spill gas cans from Denny's Lawn and Garden.  Instead of a stopper within the cap, they had a push-button to control the flow out the spout.

In general, the No-Spill cans work as advertised.  Apparently earlier models still dripped through the seal between the spout and the can.  I don't recall having that problem.

However, like all the "safety" cans, they can be very frustrating when filling them.

First, it is a real pain to get the spout off, especially in cold weather while wearing gloves.  The ratchet lock is very difficult to release and can take both thumbs to release.  Last weekend I used a tack puller to get enough leverage to push the lock in.

Second, once the can is full, it takes many efforts to get the spout back on.  It goes on crooked more easily than it goes on straight.  I find this disconcerting and curious.  The threads are rather coarse and one would think the spout should go on with the first attempt.

Frustrations like this lead to carelessness.  Carelessness can lead to improper use.  Improper use can lead to unsafe conditions, creating conditions that "safety" designs were supposed to eliminate.

I still haven't found a gas can design that is better than the 5-liter steel "Jerry can" I bought in Sweden over thirty years ago.  I only stopped using it because I couldn't replace the cork seal.  I still have it in a shed at our cabin.  I can't remember all the details of the design, but the spout was held on with a lever that locked on each side.  Pull up and you could take the spout off.  Push down and you locked the spout in place.

God, civility, and the Golden Rule

Some letter writers to the Duluth News Tribune have recently been calling for God in our lives to solve many of our problems.  Torquemada, the Spanish Inquisitor, believed in God, and he had thousands murdered because they didn’t believe as he did.  The Puritans believed in God, and they had dozens murdered because the innocent victims would not admit to being witches.  Plantation owners believed in God, and they kept slaves who they would whip for whatever cause.

The problem with a belief in God is that too many “believers” are very selective in what they believe.  Too many ignore a central tenet of monotheistic and other religions.

“Do not unto your neighbor what you would not have him do unto you; this is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.” – Hillel, a Jewish teacher in the first century, B.C.E.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” – Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7:12

“...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)

"What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others." – Confucius

“One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him." – Plato’s Socrates (Crito, 49c)

You can find many more variations and sources of the “Golden Rule” at

What these religious and ethical variations call for is for us to be part of communities.  These communities are at neighborhood, city, national, and world levels.  They are as informal as holding a door for a stranger at a public building or as formal as churches and civic associations.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t act as if we are in some of these communities.  We walk out of our houses to our car on the street or in the garage and drive somewhere else without even seeing a neighbor.  We don’t bother to shovel our sidewalks because we don’t use them, completely ignoring all the footprints in the snow.  As we drive we are focused on thoughts elsewhere, whether in our heads, on our radios, or even on our cell phones.  We drive over crosswalks without even looking for pedestrians.  We drive through red lights ignoring any traffic or pedestrians waiting at the cross streets.  We race through parking garages without headlights and without watching for vehicles backing out.

Our first try at building communities should be to consider doing unto others what we appreciate others doing unto us.  Do we want to walk on clear sidewalks?  Do we want other drivers to be attentive to vehicles around them?  Do we want drivers to be attentive to us as we cross a street?  Do we want other drivers to wait for us to back out of a blind spot?

If we start with these small changes, maybe we can look at how we treat others in a larger context.  Do we talk about public employees as “they” or do we consider them our neighbors.  Did “they” make a patch on our street, or did a city crew make the patch?  Did “they” plow our street, or did an overworked city plow driver make our street more drivable?

Remember that the Good Samaritan of the Book of Luke was an “other”.  To build communities, we need to be open to including the “other” as our neighbors.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Immigration - an unattributed good thought

"You Say That Immigrants Threaten Your Way of Life, Man, That Must Be Tough." - a poster with a photo of an older Native American.

A relative posted on Facebook the poster "You Say That Immigrants Threaten Your Way Of Life, Man, That Must Be Tough".  She shared it from "Americans Against The Republican Party" and it supposedly came from "Being Liberal".

Before I posted it on my blog, I wanted to check authorship.  Neither Facebook site gave any such information.  I found with Google, and I had many chuckles with not only the Native American section but some of the others.  Are these designs original with freakyts, are they copyrighted by someone else, or are they in the public domain?

Whatever the case, I'll be back before Christmas.  Our family gives T-shirts, sweatshirts, or books.  I've already picked out two T-shirts.

I sent something similar to the above three paragraphs to freakyts's comments.

In response to my relative's posting, I added:

I always thought the Indians had a lousy immigration policy. Just think how they could have protected themselves if they had more guns.

On a more mundane note, I would like to post this on my blog, but I can find no attribution other than a facebook site. Somebody must have the rights to this.

Finally, Pete Seeger has on one album the following:

Two Indians are standing on the beach when a small boat pulls ashore. A man steps out and says, "Buenos Dias, Señores!"  One Indian looks at the other and says, "Well, there goes the neighborhood!"