Monday, September 30, 2013

Appropriate punishment for Islamic and other terrorists

Many terrorists of any ilk act in the name of an ideology, whether it be religious or political.  They think they are doing their cause a favor by killing as many people as possible who don't believe in their cause or just happen to be in the way as they kill their targets.

Many think these terrorists should be executed if caught, with or without a trial, fair or otherwise.  But this is just what some of them want – to be martyrs to their cause.  An example is former Major Nidal Hassan who has been sentenced to death for shooting and killing thirteen people at Fort Hood.  This probably won't happen and really shouldn't happen.

He probably won't be executed because the military hasn't executed any active military personnel for some time and the appeal process can take decades.  He shouldn't be executed because this is just what he claimed to want – to be a martyr to his cause.

I don't think terrorists should be subjected to forced watching of similar crimes like that in Stanley Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange".  I do think they should be subjected to repeated recitations of the non-violent portions of their beliefs.  For example,

“O People of the Book! [Jews, Christians, Muslims] Come to what is common between us and you: That we worship none but God, that we associate no partners with Him, that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords other than Allah. If then they turn back, say: 'Bear witness that we are bowing to Allah’s will.'" From "The Qur'an and Tolerance of Christianity and Judaism", Islam Online.

The same kind of tolerance can be found in the Talmud and the Bible.

Narrow interpretations or even misinterpretations are found over and over again down through the centuries.  Catholics killed Protestants and Jews.  Protestants killed Catholics and Jews.  Jews killed the worshippers of Ba'al.  Christians killed Christians and Muslims in the Crusades.  Muslims killed Christians and Muslims in the Crusades.  Muslims seem to be killing more Muslims in these times than they are killing Christians.  All this despite the fact that the text they hold in common states unequivocally "Thou shalt not kill"!  It does not state "That shalt not kill any who believe as you do but thou mayest kill those who believe even slightly differently."

So, if terrorists are jailed and subjected to similar recitations, videos of their listening to these should be made widely available.  If the terrorists wish to make any statements recanting their previous beliefs, then these statements should be widely circulated.

I know this is wishful thinking and probably won't happen.  But those of us who believe that these three faiths (and others) have many tenets of generosity can avoid general statements of hate and counter those who do spew hate.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Helpless help desks revisited

Well, for the fourth time this year I've asked for help from a major corporation and for the fourth time I've given them a solution.

The first time was when our DSL from CenturyLink was squirrelly.  It would go on and off.  The first person I spoke with diddled with some settings from her computer and our speed was up again.  The problem returned.  On the next few calls, the help desk insisted that I should get a new modem.  I did not because I was sure the problem was storm related and in CenturyLink's lines.  We still have the old modem and we are getting around 6Mbps on our nominal 7Mbps service.  See "Efficiency (or inefficiency) - generalizations do not apply".  CenturyLink apparently repaired the lines that I insisted were the problem.  Or we haven't had many really windy storms since then.

The second time was when the keyboard locked up on my MacBook Pro.  It was still on warranty from Best Buy and so I took it to the Geek Squad.  They kept if for a day or two and could find nothing wrong.  It wasn't until I had it at home for a day or two that I discovered that it was Microsoft Outlook, which Geek Squad had closed, causing the problem.  My database probably had gotten too big and Outlook had an error that was writing outside its area.  I compacted the database and the problem went away.  See "Computer withdrawal symptoms".

The third time was when the Westinghouse solar shed light would not turn on again after I turned it off.  See "Simple questions don't get simple answers from corporate bureaucracies".  The light is working fine after I put in newer batteries.

The fourth time was when I found out that our improper time on our cabin answering machine was because I needed a firmware update.  None of the friendly folks at Consumer Cellular seemed to understand that the AT&T network was resetting the time.  I found this out when I read the answering machine instructions and learned that telephone networks send the time with caller-ID information.  When we used a land-line we didn't have caller-ID.  Caller-ID is standard with cell phone service.  I found that I needed a firmware update from a search of AT&Ts support forums.  One user responded to another last month with the solution.  I sent email back to Consumer Cellular about this.  I wrote that I was tempted to send them an invoice for two hours of Level 2 support work.

I don't expect to have a response from Consumer Cellular until Monday.  Meanwhile, I searched the AT&T website for instructions on getting the firmware update.  Nada!  First, it gave me over 3,000 hits where the first two pages didn't have anything relevant.  I searched on the web for the model number and found that the original manufacturer has instructions for upgrading the firmware to the latest level, for those with a Windows computer!  I did another peek at the AT&T site and found a page for the "Wireless Home Phone".  It had no information at all on updating the firmware!

There are some economists (and many non-economists) who say that the only objective of a corporation should be to provide shareholder value.  But to provide shareholder value doesn't a corporation need to provide customer value?  At some point a captive customer base may burst their shackles and go elsewhere.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An alternative to Hillary mania

I see two strong opposing notions about Hillary Clinton running for president.  On one side we have all the Clinton haters who think the Clintons are second only to Obama in being the worst thing that could happen to U.S. politics.  On the other side we have those who think we must have a woman for president and that Hillary Clinton is the best choice.

I don't agree with either side.  We have had worse presidents than Clinton or Obama.  Although I'm not opposed to a woman being president, it doesn't matter to me whether it is sooner or later.  And is Hillary Clinton the best possible woman to have as president?

What really bothers me is that we seem to be trending to "elected" hereditary office.  Because George H. W. Bush was president, then George W. Bush and Jeb Bush should also be president.  Because Bill Clinton was president, then Hillary Clinton should be president.

If you want women for president, I have two better choices and I would vote for them over many, many men: Elizabeth Warren and Kathleen Sebelius.  Maybe even a pair - president and vice-president.  Pick your order.  I lean to Sebelius as president because she has been a governor who could work with the opposition.  Warren might be a good campaigner as vice-president because she is being a good "attack dog" in the Senate.

Cable TV: for those who enjoy watching ads

In its wisdom of what clients want, the Essentia Health Fitness Center has put in three large screen TVs.  One is on the track and if it is on at all, few if any watch it.  One is in the lobby and seems to have cooking programs; more women then men sit in the lobby.  The women seem to get ready more quickly than men.  But few women seem to be watching it.  The third is in the weight machine room.  Again few people seem to watch it; thank goodness the sound isn't on.  The bubble gum music on the PA would drown it out like it does the sound in ear buds!

But as I'm forced to "watch" the Sport Center (or is it Sport Central?), I've noticed a pattern.  It seems to have one minute of some sport event, one minute of two people discussing the event, and one minute commercials (or is it two).  My wife looking over my shoulder said it's more like two minutes of commercials.

One insight comes to mind and one question.  Seeing all the food commercials for not very nutritious food, its no wonder there are so many people with health problems.  If people have such "busy lives" how do they have time to watch four hours of TV a day on average?  I grow impatient watching three or four three-minute snippets each day online.

Corporate assumptions or is it presumptions?

Based on the credit card I didn't ask for ("Corporate efficiency - unwanted, unreceived new card"), Visa is emailing me certificates for "FreeMonee Gifts".  "These Gifts are matched to your interests, allowing you to shop at hundreds of stores and restaurants."

The current offer is for $5 off for an online order of Omaha Steaks.  Where do they get the idea that I want to buy steaks online?  That I used my previous card at some restaurants?  How would they know I ordered steak?  More likely I had fish or chicken.  But I started a plant-based diet two-months ago; see "Serendipity leads to weight loss".

Allowing me "to shop at hundreds of stores and restaurants"?  Do I need their permission to shop at any of these stores and restaurants?  If I wanted to, would I need their "gift" of five dollars off to do so?  What it really means is enticing me "to shop at hundreds of stores and restaurants" that I might not visit otherwise.  Oh yes, using my credit card so Visa can collect more fees from the hundreds of stores and restaurants.  Adam Smith is correct again about deceiving the public.

What I really use my credit card for is recurring donations or subscriptions so that I don't get caught with an overdraft using my debit card.  I also use it for expenses that I didn't expect, like a big car repair.  Otherwise, I use cash, check, or debit card, preferring the first two because they save local businesses the card fees.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Helpless help desks

I mean helpless in two senses: they often don't help the customers and they often have no influence on the software or other products.

This summer I bought a Westinghouse solar shed light for the outhouse at our cabin.  It's great when stepping into the outhouse from bright sunlight.

I think at some point I forgot to turn the light off and the batteries were drained.  I bought new batteries and the light was working OK.  But wait a minute.  The solar panel charges the rechargeable batteries and I should be able to use the original batteries again.

That seemed to work, but if the light was turned off and then turned on again just a little bit later, the light wouldn't come on, even though it had been bright when turned on.

I emailed the address on the instructions about this problem.  Instead of agreement with my analysis or another suggestion, the responder wanted date of purchase, model number (which I thought I had provided), my name and address, an emailed copy of the receipt, my name and address, and I forget what else.

I replied forget it, I'll try the new batteries again.

I was right!  The light works much better with the new batteries.

Why didn't Westinghouse International Development Corporation train its people to have a set of helpful answers?

We replaced the landline at our cabin with an AT&T Home Base provided by Consumer Cellular, cutting our phone bill to one-third what it was with Frontier.  It works fine, but the time on our answering machine always seemed to be an hour later than the actual time.  It was EDT rather than CDT.  When we turned on the power and I reset the time, the "spoken" time was given to me as the CDT I set.

I tried resetting the answering machine to have the incorrect minutes.  Later on the minutes would be correct but the hour would be one hour off!!

I emailed the friendly folks at Consumer Cellular.  They suggested that it was the answering machine and I should reach out to the manufacturer.  One person also called me; she was sure that the network didn't set the time.  I thanked her and said I would make some tests the next time I was at the cabin.

Today I was at the cabin.  When I turned on the power, I did not reset the answering machine clock as I normally do.  When the handset had recharged enough to read the screen, the time was a few minutes after midnight; that is, it was the number of minutes since I had turned the power on.

I called the cabin phone with a cell phone.  I don't remember if I answered the cabin phone or not.  However, when I looked at the time on the handset it was the correct time plus one hour!!!  In other words, the network is setting the time, albeit incorrectly.

Since the cell phone is a smart phone, I assume it's time is being set by the Internet.  It's time is CDT.

As most people do not turn their answering machines and Home Bases off very often, I'm not too surprised that Consumer Cellular has not heard much about this problem.  I wonder if any of the owners have checked what the time stamp is on left messages.

I am considering sending these companies an invoice for my consulting fees.  I probably won't find a round tuit to do so, but thinking about it does give me a chuckle.  Oh, yeah!  I also fixed a problem with my Mac that The Geek Squad couldn't find.  See "Computer withdrawal symptoms".

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How do you spell terrorist? C-O-W-A-R-D

A terrorist is a coward who is willing to kill defenseless people because of some grudge he has.

In Nairobi, Kenya, a coward is a member of Al Shabab walking into a shopping mall and killing unarmed men, women and children because he has a grievance with the government of those unarmed people.  Ironically Al Shabab claimed that women were not part of the attackers because they shelter their women.

All over the Middle East, a coward is a member of some sub-group of a religious sect that doesn't like even the existence of a competing sect, be it Shia, Sunni, or Christian.  This coward believes it is OK to drive a car bomb into a mosque or church killing dozens if not hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children.

A coward is member of a faction or a government who is willing to shell or gas an area where some opposing fighters may be.  It doesn't matter if men, women, and children who are not opposing fighters are killed or injured.

A coward is a member of a government who is willing to send drones to bomb suspected terrorists regardless of how many women and children might be in the strike zone.

A coward is a member of government who is willing to send shells or missiles into a populated area to dissuade another government to not do something or other.  Men, women, and children will be killed who have little or no say in what that government does.

A coward is a member of a government who is willing to send nuclear missiles to destroy a city of another government because the first government has some dispute with the second government.  Again, men, women, and children will be killed who have little or no say in what the second government does.

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Simple questions don't get simple answers from corporate bureaucracies

I bought a really nifty Westinghouse solar powered light for our outhouse at our cabin.  It only cost about $30 and keeps us from stumbling in the dark, especially on a sunny day!!

It started acting up by not turning on again right after it was turned off.  I won't give the details of my investigation, but I did send them as email to Westinghouse's distributor, thinking I would get an explanation or an apology for not having an answer.  Instead I got a bunch of bureaucratese:

To process your order, I will need the following information:

* Full Name
* Mailing Address
* Contact Phone Number
* Purchase Location
* Purchase date
* Item/Model Number found on the BOX.
* Specific Part Number/Letter
* Copy of your purchase receipt with your order # on the top, sent via email attachment, by FAX or by mail.

They already have my name from my email.  I don't know why they need my address and phone number to answer a question, or even where and when I bought it.  I threw out the box, the item is essentially one part for purposes of my question, and I threw out or buried the receipt.  I thought I had the proper model number from Menards online catalog.

I think I'll just try new batteries and see what happens.  If that doesn't work, maybe I'll just ask one of the helpful clerks at Menards the next time I go there.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If government is so bad then why… so many companies try to get government business?

Privately run prisons
Military contracts
Highway and bridge contracts
Private schools with government vouchers
Sports stadiums with tax money

And to boot they want government to protect their businesses with

Courts to adjudicate disputes among companies
Courts to protect copyrights with large judgments against individuals (what's this about tort reform?)
Enforcement of patents
Trade negotiations
Employees educated and trained at government expense

I'm sure you can think of many more things that governments want from government without paying any taxes to support their wish lists.

Like a little kid, they want the tooth fairy to leave a quarter under their pillow every morning.  That's a quarter million or even a quarter billion.

Whistleblowers deflate bloated bureaucracies

There are those who think Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning have betrayed trust, and there are those who think they exposed excessive and misguided government actions.

Although an organization depends on all involved following certain rules, what should an honorable person do when he or she feels that the organization is working against the public interest?  Will reporting the problem up through the hierarchy eventually solve it?  Or will somebody block it?

In more mundane terms, think of all the problems you have had with products and services.  If you report them to the company or organization, do you really believe that you will find a champion who will right what you think is wrong?  If you think that the reported wrong will be righted, take a peek at support boards of products.  There are some problems that have been going on for years and haven't been fixed yet.

For a better look at this problem in far worse situations than inefficient software, see "The Banality of Systemic Evil", Peter Ludlow, New York Times, 2013-09-15.

A bureaucracy develops own set of rules to function "smoothly".  Think of the bureaucracy of the Titanic.  From the president of White Star Lines to Captain Edward Smith down to deck hands.  Each person had a certain set of responsibilities, but almost none of them had all the information they really needed.  Were they ready to listen to any warning advice?  Was anybody willing to report upward anything that was amiss for a safe voyage?

Did anybody make a big fuss about forward observers not having adequate lights?  Did anybody question the command "women and children only" in the partly full lifeboats?  Did anyone question the locked doors trapping steerage passengers?

Patriotism is the ultimate "bureaucracy".  Not enough of us question why we are using military force.  It is considered unpatriotic to question the government in times of war.  Amazingly, many "patriots" don't think the government can run a post office or devise regulations to protect the public.  But few of them consider that "snafu" is a military term started by the troops.  See "Military Slang", Wikipedia.

Some have said true patriots are those who resist supporting military action.  I'll leave it to you to decide whether Snowden and Manning are patriots or scoundrels.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Corporate efficiency - unwanted, unreceived new card

I received a letter from Elan that my Visa card had been upgraded with all these new "super" features, none of which I really needed or wanted.  The letter stated that I should have already received my card and all I needed to do was activate it.

The problem was that I never received the card.  If I did, I might have thrown it out knowingly or unknowingly, but I doubt it.

Then I received an email touting all the benefits of the new card.  That was ten days ago.  I sent email to the local branch manager of the bank that issued the card; she replied she would check on it and asked me to call at the end of the week if I still had not received it.  I did not receive the card by Friday

Today I talked with somebody in the main office of the bank and she said they would request a new card for me and I should have it Wednesday.  Elan would charge a $15 lost card fee but the bank would give me credit for it.

Now I'm going to have to go through all the organizations that I have authorized to debit my credit card automatically and change my account number.  What a nuisance!

So, why did Elan decide I should have something that I didn't ask for?  Are they hoping that the "rewards" offered with the card would induce me to spend more?  I suppose lots of people will be overjoyed to be upgraded.

I guess the upside is that I can use the points to pay on the balance.  The mischievous part of me wants to use it every month.  Let's see, a $100 balance would give me 100 points.  Would that be a dollar, a dime, or a penny?  It reminds me of the people who overpaid charge card bills by one cent because they were not getting any response from the store about a problem.  A clerk processing the checks would notice, but a computer processing thousands of electronic payments would probably not notice.

Well, the computer might notice and send a message to somebody, but since so many companies won't allow spaces in a keyed-in card number, would any take the time to put in such a filter?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Quote of the day - liberals will win if they vote!

"Notwithstanding the NRA’s win in Colorado in knocking off two gun control Democratic State Senators for supporting more stringent ‘gun control’, if Liberals vote they will win. In fact if one analyzes the Colorado race, Liberals were disinterested and stayed home, something that must be worked on going forward. Voters must learn that it is their civic duty to vote every time. [My emphasis] Political engagement must be a requirement for effective citizenship."

- Egberto Willies,  "America Is A Liberal Nation. A Liberal Wins On A Liberal Message".

Optimism in the Great War (1917-10-13)

My sister-in-law twice sent me a few letters that my mother's uncle, Myron F. Greed, sent to his brother and our grandfather, Arthur C. Greed.  I think she and my brother were given them by my grandfather or were found by them among his possessions after he died.  He was living in a retirement home near them in central Ohio.   I finally scanned both sets so that I can pass them on to other family members.

Myron F. Greed enlisted or was drafted into the U.S. Army in or before October 1917.  He was in the Sanitary Corps, a group that provided administrative and technical services to military physicians.  Myron spent most of his time in Camp McClellan, Anniston AL.

For the most part, his letters are upbeat and he seems to be enjoying camp life.

I will let his words speak for themselves.  I will only add commentary about people and places he mentions.

Note the postmark is Oct. 17, 1917, Myron wrote what looks like 1915 on his letter.  Note also the addresses of my grandfather on the various envelopes.  My grandfather moved a lot all of his life.

"Mother" is Eva Didham Greed Brainard; a widow, she had married for the second time that summer.

"The baby" is my mother, Martha Marie, born April 7.

Others in this series are:

Optimism in the Great War (1918-04-03)

Optimism in the Great War (1918 Spring)

Optimism in the Great War (Summer 1918)

Optimism in the Great War (1918-04-03)

 I don't know how many letters Myron wrote since October or if any of them are still around.

"Wife" is my grandfather's wife, Marie Schack Greed.  Yes, that is a German name.  She supposedly ran away from home because she didn't want to speak German.  I have some letters to her from a cousin who married a well-off man and lived on Long Island.  The cousin complains about some of the shortages.

"Gertrude" is Myron's and Arthur's sister.  I don't know if she had married yet.

"little Martha" is my mother.

"nigger" - sigh!  What would they think of how multi-hued his brother's descendants have become or may become?  And what would they think of their buddies in future wars?

Others in this series are:

Optimism in the Great War (1917-10-13)

Optimism in the Great War (1918 Spring)

Optimism in the Great War (Summer 1918)

Optimism in the Great War (Spring 1918)

"next Wed - the 11 or 12" - his "previous" letter was written on Wednesday, April 3.  He gives the day of the week for this letter as Tuesday with no day of the month.  I'll let you figure out the actual day he wrote this letter and whether this letter was before or after the letter of April 3.  It's too confusing to explain my own thoughts about this.

The names of the first group of people are not familiar to me, but A.C. Crocker was considered a cousin of my great-grandmother or great-grandfather.  His funeral was the first that I remember going to, probably in the late 1940s.  His longer name is Alfred C. Crocker.  He was born in England in 1896; his wife Minnie A Didham was born in Chagrin Falls in 1873.  She is either a niece of cousin of my great-grandmother.  Her given name may have been Mary, and her father was William Didham.

The name Fred Didham is not familiar to me, but he is probably a nephew of my great-grandmother.  He was born in Ohio in 1886 or 1887.

Martha was his niece who became my mother twenty years later.

Others in this series are:

Optimism in the Great War (1917-10-13)

Optimism in the Great War (1918-04-03)

Optimism in the Great War (Summer 1918)

Optimism in the Great War (Summer 1918)

This is the last in a series of letters that I am uploading.  Previous letters to follow in reverse order.

I have the following letters and cards from Myron F. Greed sent to his brother Arthur C. Greed in the summer of 1918.


Myron died October 6, 1918 in France, probably of flu.

Others in this series are:

Optimism in the Great War (1917-10-13)

Optimism in the Great War (1918-04-03)

Optimism in the Great War (1918 Spring)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Syria: Let's you and him fight

Why is it that Arab states that don't like Syria and some of its actions want others to resolve the problem?  See "Arab League Endorses International Action", David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, 2013-09-01?

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are far stronger militarily than Syria.  Could it be that they don't want to be seen as Arab against Arab?  Turkey is also stronger militarily than Syria.  Could it be that Turkey doesn't want to be seen as Muslim against Muslim?  Or would they rather have a Western power deal with Syria so that if things go wrong then they can blame the outsider?

The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in military sales or aid to several military powers in the Middle East, including "the latest air-to-air missiles and precision-guided air-to-ground missiles" - "U.S. Militarization of the Middle East", Seema Luthra, Fellowship of Reconcilation.  If Saudi Arabia is so concerned about Syria, couldn't it take out whatever targets in Syria that it chooses?  After all, Saudi Arabia's military budget is about 20 times that of Syria.

The attitude of too many in the U.S., that we are a super-power that can police the world, has gotten out of hand.  Too many people believe that we can solve their problems and we are too willing to appear that we can.

George Washington warned us over two hundred years ago: "The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest." - Farewell Address

Syria: Fighting evil with evil?

My following letter to the editor of the Duluth News Tribune was published 2013-09-08.  I also sent it to President Obama, Senator Klobuchar, and Senator Franken.

Thanks to U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and the News Tribune for their opposition to an attack on Syria (“Nolan is steadfast against Syria strike,” Sept. 4, and, “Our View: Nolan listening, leading on Syria”).

I read somewhere that evil is treating people as things. Someone in Syria treated 300 or 1,400 people as things with a poison gas attack. The first figure is from some in the opposition; the second is from the U.S. government.

Now the U.S. government is threatening to be evil by treating several hundred or even several thousand people as things. Will the victims of Tomahawk missiles be those who ordered or carried out the gas attack or will they be office workers and pedestrians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My TicTacToe Hypothesis

I've long wondered about the relation of the size of a TicTacToe grid and the number of squares to the outcome of a game.  For example, a 2x2 grid will always be won by the first player:

The odd numbers are the first player's moves, and the even are the second player's moves.

Part one of my hypothesis is that an n to the nth grid will always be won by the first player.  So far, so good!

If we now try a 3x3 (n+1 to the nth+1) grid, we get the following result:

Many people know that in 3x3 TicTacToe game that either the first player will win or a tie will result, especially if the first player always starts from the center.  In the above example, we have a tie because neither player has any moves that will lead to a win. The red numbers are blocking moves.  The only way player two would lose is by making his or her next move in the lower left corner.

Now let's try a three-dimensional game.  If the grid is 3x3x3, then player one can always win with careful play:

Again the red numbers are blocking moves and the green numbers are the winning moves.  The second player has only two choices for the fourth move (8), as shown or where the first player made the winning move (9).  Neither would have prevented the first player's win.

OK, let's try a 4x4x4 game.  After several tries where the first player won, I found one where the second player won, even though the first player kept trying to take the initiative:

The two red X's are the only choices the first player has, either of which still allows the second player to make the winning move.  Can you find which move by the second player put the first player on the defensive?

And thus goes my hope of a grand theory of TicTacToe crashing to the ground, pulled down by the weight of contrary evidence.  My hypothesis is that I went too long to test my TicTacToe hypothesis and kept getting my hopes higher and higher.

Bye, bye, Democracy!

Today is the primary election for Duluth School Board and City Council.

At 10:30 I was the 36th voter in my precinct.  My wife is an election worker in another precinct.  At about 11:00 she said they had about 45 voters.

In the 2012 election, Duluth had an average of over 1600 voters per precinct, and that was with a turnout of over 70 percent.

If we can't even show up for local elections, do we deserve a democracy?

And this happens all over the world.  George W. Bush was elected because many Democrats didn't show up in Florida in 2000.  Morsi was elected in Egypt because many boycotted the elections.  North Carolina has a Republican legislature because only 44% showed up in 2012, probably mostly Republican activists.

If you don't vote, please don't complain about potholes, taxes, schools, or anything else that government does.

See also "If you don't vote, you have only yourself to blame", Reader Weekly, 2004-10-28.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Gas attack or missile attack: who suffers?

I sent the following webmail to Pres. Obama:

To paraphrase your words: “At what point do we say we need to confront actions that are violating our Constitution?”  “I would argue that when I see 400 children subjected to missiles, over 1,400 innocent civilians dying senselessly … the moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.”

What guarantee do you have that each cruise missile will hit a military target?  What guarantee do you have that each military target will be occupied by those responsible for the gas attack?  Do you know how many civilian workers might be in each target?

A Tomahawk missile has a supposed accuracy of 10 meters.  Many streets in Damascus are less than 10 meters wide.  Will every military target be more than 10 meters from an apartment building?  How far will the debris from a missile explosion go?  How many missile explosions will bring neighboring apartments down?

Assume one apartment building has six floors, each floor has four apartments, each apartment has five residents.  That's 120 residents in a single apartment building.  Do you have any count of how many apartment buildings will be brought down by any misses or near misses or "non-misses"?

If the lethal blast range is 28 meters, then eight neighboring buildings could be brought down. That could mean over 900 residents could be killed by one Tomahawk missile.

If you send ten Tomahawks that could mean over 5,000 Syrians will die for your "message" to Assad.  That is a rather high-price for a message for the deaths of 300 or 1400 people.

Oh, by the way, have you considered the repercussions if any missile damages a mosque?

And if the gas attack was perpetrated by Islamic radicals, you really will have been suckered!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Syria: Popular opinion vs. political opinion

The comments on New York Times articles about Obama's proposal tend to be against any military action with some support for military action.  Apparently popular opinion throughout the country is against any military action.  Apparently the political leadership in Congress seems to be for military action.

Fortunately, some congresspeople are not following the political crowd.  See "Following Classified Briefings, Nolan Will 'Vote and Work Against' U.S. Attack on Syria", Rep. Rick Nolan, 2013-09-03

I added my own little comment to "House Leaders Express Their Support for Syria Strike", Mark Landler, Michael R. Gordon, and Thom Shanker, New York Times, 2013-09-03:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
"[O]nly the dead have seen the end of war."
– George Santayana

No matter what your opinion, be sure to send email to the President, your Representative, and both of your Senators.  They might not read your email, but rest assured their staffs are putting them in pro and con "piles".

Oh, yeah!  Remember that little incident in Sarajevo?  How many millions died because of all the miscalculations?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Syria: world of laws or a world of men?

Letter to

John Adams put into the Massachusetts' Constitution of 1780 "a government of laws and not of men".

In 1945 the United States was a promoter and signatory of the United Nations Charter, which includes "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace".  That is, a world of laws and not of men.

Too many times during my lifetime, almost every U.S. President from Harry Truman to George W. Bush have taken unilateral action against another government who they claimed was a threat to the peace.  Now a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has been beating the war drums to take unilateral military action against another member of the United Nations.

What happened to "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

End of letter

Be sure to send your own view on Syria to the President, your senators, and your representative.  If you are a citizen of another country, be sure to send your own view to the members of your government.