Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bear with me as I am mad and sad

I went to our cabin last Thursday intending to stay through Sunday, trying to catch up on all kinds of undone tasks, including lots of un-mowed trails.  Although thunderstorms were predicted, I followed my old habits of weather prediction interpretation.  If good weather is predicted for the day, then the weather will be good.  If bad weather is predicted, then the weather may not be as bad as predicted.

My assumptions proved warranted.  I had gray weather but very little rain.  The grass was too wet to mow mostly because of dew, but I did set to on many other tasks.

No, I don’t make our cabin a sweat farm as a DNR forester warned us years ago.  My preferred rhythm is an hour of some wood cutting, brush clearing, or whatever and then an hour of reading, playing SuDoKu, or browsing the web.

My wife didn’t join me partly because she wasn’t so optimistic about the weather and partly because she had a long list of activities she wanted to do in Duluth.  Also we did have a guest but we often let the guest take care of himself.

Well, it was a good thing my wife stayed behind.  The guest managed to clog the toilet and left for his planned activity.  My wife tried the hot water treatment, the plunger treatment, and the snake treatment.  Nothing worked to unblock the toilet.

When she called me to report this, I decided I should come back to Duluth to help her.  One hour later I was home.

I tried the snake and could not get it in as far as I knew it should go.  Then I pushed the snake while my wife turned the handle.  Success!  We cleared it!

My feeling that I had to come back to Duluth was my first “mad” of the day.

I headed back to Brimson.  I declined making coffee at home and opted to get some at Bixby’s.  I had to wait a bit, chatted with the barista, and was on my way.

As had been true most of the last part of the week, Duluth was foggy, but from Glenwood and north it was clear.  I turned off Jean Duluth Road and proceeded east on Hwy 44.  I passed the marsh and drove among the trees where it was darker.

Then a black shape came from the right.  It was a black bear that walked right into my car which slammed into its head.  I stopped as quickly as I could.  Looking behind me, I saw the bear lying of the side of the road, its head over the solid white line.

I called 911 with a non-emergency call.  I reported the incident and was transferred to the state highway patrol.  The state dispatcher said the DNR would be notified.

Several people stopped to ask if I was OK.  I said I was fine and that authorities had been be notified.  Some said the bear was still alive and that I should stay away from it.  One man said he could get his gun and shoot the bear.

Finally I inspected the damage.  There was a small triangular break in the front bumper and a piece of trim was hanging down to the road on one side.  Later I found that the wheel well plastic was loose and the right side of the bumper was loose.

I walked back to the bear, probably about two hundred pounds and three to four years old.  It was breathing with great quick heaves.

I walked back to my car and picked up lots of pieces of auto debris.  These can’t all be mine!  Many were in shapes I didn’t recognize.  There must have been previous crashes here.

A sheriff’s deputy pulled up by the bear and I walked back.  He checked my auto license on his computer and asked for other details.  He gave me a case number for insurance purposes.

I walked back to my car and got out some tools to get the hanging trim off.  While I was doing this, I heard “crack”.  The deputy shot the bear.

This was both a mad and sad event.  I was mad that it had even occurred and I was sad for the bear.

Finally, I called my insurance company while all the details were fresh in my memory.

As I drove off, I got mad again.  The sun was out and I had missed some good working and loafing time at the cabin.

Sunday the prediction for Brimson was more thunderstorms.  Fortunately, that didn’t deter my wife from joining me.  The weather was a mix of clear and cloudy with only a brief bit of pitter-patter when I was reading in the screen tent.  I got lots of grass mowed and she picked rhubarb for next week’s Rhubarb Festival.

On the way back I noticed how dark the area of the incident was compared to the marsh area to the west.

I also had another mad.  Three drivers behind me didn’t want to go the speed limit and were bunched up behind me, the first car being three or four car-lengths behind me.  If this same group had been behind me when I had stopped for the bear, I would have had rear-end damage as well as front-end damage.

Mel's first Reader article was "Bear Stories", published in the September 30, 1999 Northland Reader..

The current article was also published in the Reader Weekly, June 26, 2014 at

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

As seen on the web is as authoritative as seen on TV

“As seen on TV” as an endorsement of a product always gives me a chuckle.  So what if the product was shown on TV.  It was only there because the seller bought ad time.

“I read it on the web” is even more insidious because we have no idea what the source was and how reliable the source is.  One of the latest stories is that a three-year-old girl and her grandmother claimed they were asked to leave a KFC restaurant because the girl was severely disfigured by dog bites; the other customers “would be upset”.

Counter evidence includes no meal as described was on any register, no security camera shows the two, and the named restaurant had been closed for some time.


Of course, all you have to judge this is my little entry and the above web site.

Whatever, investigate a cause before you send money or sign a petition or forward a link.  Always!

“Dollars don’t vote – you do” - David Brat

The full quote is “What you proved tonight is that dollars don’t vote – you do.”  See

David Brat defeated Rep. Eric Cantor in the primary for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House District 7 in Virginia.

What was really proved is that elections are determined by who shows up and who doesn’t show up.

See also Politics: Don Givadam wins again.

I would like to amend my advice about voting with a more positive spin:

Always vote because every vote always counts.  If you stay away you give the election away.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corporations, persons, tools, and fools

Corporations are persons?  Someone said that you know a corporation is a person when Texas executes one.

How did we get to this situation that corporations have “freedom of speech” and many other freedoms granted to actual living individual persons?

Corporations were originally created to give monarchs and other nobility a piece of the economic action.  As the merchant class rose in the cities, the monarch couldn’t tax them because they had no land.  By creating a corporation of a given business, the monarch could insist on a few shares of a corporation and rake in more in profits than he would have in taxes.  Also, by giving a monopoly to a corporation, he protected it from competition.

These monopolies soon expanded far outside the monarch’s country with colonization of other parts of the world.  An example is how British law forbade the American colonies from producing a long list of items or importing goods through any other organization than the British East India Company.  Was the British East India Company composed of Adam Smith’s “order of men” who “were not to be trusted” with proposing legislation?  The Boston Tea Party was an act of defiance against the corporate monopoly enjoyed by the British East India Company.

Is today’s Tea Party a tool of corporations who want to extract minerals without paying the full cost of such extraction?  These corporations are waging legislative, administrative, and public relations campaigns to allow them to operate on corporate terms.  Are these corporations composed of Adam Smith’s “order of men” who “were not to be trusted” with proposing legislation?  Also as the British East India Company was a “foreign” entity, many of the extractors of today are entities from out of state or even out of the country.

Does “Open for Business” or “Business-friendly” apply to locally-owned companies or to large corporations that will move elsewhere whenever they think an area is not bending to their wishes?  Does it mean that large corporations will be given subsidies, including reduced taxes, that aren’t given to locally-owned businesses?  If we want truth in government, maybe we should insist that states and localities that claim to be “Business-friendly” should admit being “Corporation-friendly”.

Can you find “corporation” in the U.S. Constitution?  That was deliberate.  Many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention remembered well the dominance of a corporation over Colonial affairs and did not want a repeat of that stranglehold.  Many of the national politicians of the time had a vision of craftsman and farmers plying their goods in local markets.

But with advances in transportation, the economic situation changed drastically.  To build canals required capital.  To gather capital, groups of people had to organize to buy shares and/or borrow money.  If the enterprise failed, the shareholders didn’t want to be held individually responsible for the losses of the company beyond their own financial contribution.  Wouldn’t you?  Thus, the limited liability corporation came to the United States.

With the coming of the railroads came ever larger corporations.  The Illinois Central Railroad hired a lawyer to get special privileges for it like breaking unions, hiring foreign workers, and gaining privileges not held by people.  Yep, that lawyer was the “of the people, by the people, and for the people” guy.  Apparently, the Civil War opened his eyes to many things.  This excerpt from one of his letters shows this rather strongly:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

My, how political parties morph over the generations!  I think only two Republican Presidents have had similar misgivings.

Many decades later another war-time leader worried about the “military-industrial” complex.  But one of his predecessors pulled a corporate branding trick on the American people.  The Department of War was now to be called the Department of Defense.  Now corporations weren’t in the business of selling war machines but were fulfilling “defense contracts”.

One of the political ironies is the political party the claims the federal government can’t do anything right bends over backward to lavish more money on the military-industrial complex.  Do they not know that snafu and fubar are terms coined by the guys in the foxholes?

So, are corporations the tools of the people or are the people the tools of corporations?  If we let the latter happen then we are the fools.

For a lot more about the abuse of and by corporations, see “Life, Inc., How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back” by Douglas Rushkoff.

Mel owns shares in a few corporations and almost always votes against their overpaid executives and boards.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cars vs. transit - apples and oranges or dollars and cents

Every so often, the newspapers publish a letter or opinion strongly against transit.  The current favorite target is the Green Line between Minneapolis and St. Paul.  At least the critics are writing about the costs and not about “government taking our cars away”.

I would like to turn the last phrase around and say that “government took our street cars, buses, and trains away”.  “Government” did this by building bigger and faster freeways and reducing transit service.  Why take a bus that runs every hour or half-hour when you can arrive at your destination in your car in fifteen minutes?

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and got around by foot, bicycle, street cars, and buses.  I rarely bothered with a schedule because service was rather frequent.  By the time I got to graduate school, most service had deteriorated to the point that I could walk to school faster than I could take two buses.  In bad weather, I drove.

Those who complain about “government taking our cars away” should look at it as “making room for me”.  If more people took the public transit, there would be more room for those who chose to drive.

Think about how a bus makes more space for drivers.  Suppose a forty-foot bus has an average load of twenty-five passengers.  Suppose a fifteen-foot car has an average load of two passengers.  Assuming that all vehicles are traveling at 55mph with a safe-stopping distance between them, then a bus would need less than fifteen feet per passenger but a car would need sixty-eight feet per passenger.  See, government can be efficient!

I use the load of twenty-five passengers above because that was my usual load driving a bus between Maple Grove and downtown Minneapolis.  If buses were carrying forty passengers instead, which some do, then the comparison would drop to nine feet of highway per passenger.  I’ll let you do the comparison for four passengers per car.  However, my first figure is generous in that so many cars have a single occupant.  Using that figure shows us that a single occupant uses almost ten times as much highway space per passenger as a bus carrying twenty-five passengers.

Think about the parking space needed. A forty-foot bus will need about 360 square-feet of parking space at the terminal.  They would all be jammed together.  A fifteen-foot car would need over 200 square-feet of parking space in a lot or garage.  That is around 100 square-feet of parking space per passenger.  On the other hand, if a bus made three runs, it would only need less than five square-feet of parking space per passenger.

It’s a bit of a slog to find CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency figures, but from Wikipedia I found a 2008 Toyota Prius has a rating of 46 mpg and 55-passenger buses in Santa Barbara have a rating of 6.0 mpg.  Using the previous figures of two passengers in a car and twenty-five in a bus, we get 92 mpg/passenger for a Prius (worse if we use some other vehicles) and 150mpg/passenger for a bus.  If the bus had forty passengers, we would get 240mpg/passenger.

In areas where traffic comes to a standstill and buses drive on the shoulder, the buses would definitely be doing better on emissions.

Every time I drive to the Cities, I marvel at all the land gobbled up by that huge interchange of 35E and 694.  How much tax revenue is lost for that land?  I took an easier sample.  Using Hennepin County’s Property Interactive Map, I selected a few residences on Second Avenue South that were south of Lake Street.  Houses on Second Avenue there overlook I-35W Gulch.  The real estate taxes there are about $2,500 per year.  There are about 31 blocks from Lake St. to the city limit at 62nd Street.  I-35W is one block wide.  The city, county, and school district taxes lost for that section of freeway are over $1.8 million.  For this little article, I am not going to make the effort to calculate the taxes lost for all the freeways that scar the Twin Cities.

Sadly, the freeway is probably used more by people that don’t even live in Hennepin County, but counties to the south.

It wasn’t “government that took our buses away”, but land speculators and corporations.  In the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, railroads and land speculators encouraged people to move to the suburbs to get away from “those people” in the city.  Then the car manufacturers lobbied for more roads for their vehicles.  Roads were a subsidy for cars, but to pay for the roads, governments couldn’t afford street cars and buses.

Ironically, now many affluent are moving back to the cities and pushing “those people” out.  First it was land speculators attracting people out from the cities, and now it is building speculators attracting people back to the cities.  Pst, hey buddy, I have this nice New York City condo for you, only $25 million.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Politics: Don Givadam wins again

Many a commentator is making a big deal about Representative Eric Cantor’s loss to a “Tea Party” candidate in the Virginia Republican primary.  But few look at how many actually voted.


Unoffical results 2014-06-11 15:22 EDT
Eric I. Cantor 28,902  44.45%
David A. Brat  36,120 55.55%
Total votes 65,022

However, there are 473,032 registered voters in Congressional District 7 which means that 13.75% of them voted for either Republican candidate.  Assuming that these registered voters are evenly split between “Republicans” and “Democrats”, then we could say that 27.5% of the registered Republicans bothered to show up.  Does that mean that 72.5% of the registered “Republicans” don’t care for either candidate or just plain don’t care to vote. If there are more “Republicans” than “Democrats”, the percent of “Republican” no-shows is even worse.

But, some who voted for Brat consider themselves “Democrats”.  They voted for him to get rid of Cantor.  See these admissions in the comments to  These “crossover” voters are probably a tiny percent of those who bothered to show; still, their votes won’t be there for Brat in November.  Also, how many Cantor supporters will be no shows in November?

I think we should get away from party primaries and have open primaries.  Those who didn’t give time or a dime to a political party should not be choosing a party’s candidates.

No matter your political preference, the lesson here is:

Always vote because every vote always counts.  If you stay away you give the election away.

See also "Dollars don't vote – you do" – David Brat.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

God and fossil fuels

If God put all the fossil fuels in the ground, which of these two might have been his will.

1) God put the fossil fuels in the ground to help people prosper when they developed the skills to use those fuels.

2) God put the fossil fuels in the ground to keep people from squandering them and thus destroying his creation.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Quote of the day: Elevez votre voix, pas le niveau de la mer

“Raise your voice, not the level of the sea” is the title of a podcast yesterday from Radio des Nations Unies.  It is about World Environment Day, June 5.  News of this has been “censored” in Duluth.  I cannot easily find it in the Duluth News Tribune.  My top find in the New York Times was a picture of a worker in India wading through recycled plastic bottles.

Is this “censorship” or lack of interest.  I can certainly find many other references in English to World Environment Day.

My translation of the text that iTunes shows me for this seven-minute podcast is:

“Each year on June 5 millions of people across the planet celebrate World Environment Day, at the levels of community, nation, and region to promote a positive action on the most pressing environmental challenges.  The host of World Environment Day this year is Barbados, …”

The top Google search item I found was, UNEP stands for United Nations Environmental Programme.

Barbados was chosen as the host for this year’s WED  because it is considered a leader in solar power.  See

BTW, WED is not going totally ignored in the U.S. I did see an item that Secretary of State John Kerry did make a statement about WED.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Censuring Project Censorship

Every year the Reader Weekly publishes excerpts from Project Censored, “The News That Didn't Make The News”, and every year I gnash my teeth over at least half the items.  I’ve already read about them someplace else.  If they were censored, how did they get published so that I already knew about them?  If they were censored stories, how did the authors of these items get all their information?  And if they were censored, how did they get public coverage through Project Censored?  Wouldn’t the “censors” have closed Project Censored’ offices?

This year I’ll try a bit harder to find out where all of these items did make the news.

Widespread GMO Contamination: Did Monsanto Plant GMOs Before USDA Approval?

I am not surprised.  Monsanto has had widespread objection to its products and practices for years.

I searched for “monsanto gmo contamination 2000”.  A History Commons article gives citations from the Washington Post and others from 1999 and from the New York Times from 2000

Pennsylvania Law Gags Doctors to Protect Big Oil’s “Proprietary Secrets”

The Philadelphia Inquirer apparently didn’t know that this story was censored.  In December and January it ran stories on this law in its site. The law is being contested in state courts.  That law is even being opposed by local Republican politicians; one even thought all the state Republicans should be turned out of office in the next election.

The Power of Peaceful Revolution in Iceland

I knew that years ago Icelanders turned out the government that let banks run rampant.  The new government did not bail the banks out.  They let the banks take their own losses rather than  “socialize” the losses as so many other countries did.

Food Riots: The New Normal?

I expected that this could happen given global warming and government corruption impoverishing many countries.  But there could also be a bright side.  Education, cell phones, and local electricity are giving many people the power to better their own lives.  And not all live in areas overrun by militant, religious extremists.

Journalism Under Attack Around the Globe

What’s new?  There have been many reports about attacks on journalists.  Reporters without Borders have been working for years to end violence against reporters.  One of the latest was a German photographer shot point blank in Afghanistan.  And an Italian reporter was killed in Ukraine.

The US Has Left Iraq with an Epidemic of Cancers and Birth Defects

This is not surprising considering the amount of toxic junk left by the military.  I’ve seen many stories about the depleted uranium shells left behind and its dangers.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens a Regime of Corporate Global Governance

This title is ambiguous.  Does TPP threaten an existing “regime of corporate global governance”?  Or does it threaten to bring about a “regime of corporate global governance”?

I’ve seen the latter complaint before, many times.  There are many opposed to TPP who have been vociferous in their condemnation of it.  I’ve read many stories about the requested “fast track” authority and the secrecy about what is in the agreement.  Those voting for TPP ought to consider what happened with the PATRIOT Act.  Most did not read it.  I know of one case in which a Senator read the act and refused to vote for it.

What we probably can know for sure is that the “greatest deliberative body in the world” probably won’t deliberate much.

A Fifth of Americans Go Hungry

This headline is a sweeping generalization of the real problem described afterward.  Going hungry once a year is not the same as always being hungry.  Going hungry through no fault of one’s own is bad enough, but generalizations weaken the case for helping those who do.

Another side is that many unwittingly go hungry even though they have plenty of food.  The “American diet” is filled with food that only increases hunger, food brought to you through the “hard work” and “generosity” of big-ag.

Bank Interests Inflate Global Prices by 35 to 40 Percent

There is a simple explanation; it is called compounding.   Most everything we consume or use is produced by a pyramid of suppliers, each paying interest on its loans and expecting profit. 

Mary sells a widget to John.  John uses Mary’s widget to make a thingamajig.  John sells his thingamajig to Carl.  Carl uses John’s thingamajig to make a whatchamacallit. Carl sells his whatchamacallit to Karen.  Karen uses Carl’s whatchamacallit to make “The Latest Great Thing”.

Assuming the value added at each stage was twenty percent and each paid five percent interest on his or her costs, the accumulated interest is 15.5 percent.  The longer the chain of suppliers, the greater the compounding of interest.  And we aren’t including the interest each of these producers is paying for a house, a car, and a credit card.  And all that interest is not going just to banksters.  Many a pension is paid for by interest.  Many colleges, foundations, and charities depend on the interest and dividends paid on invested donations.

Richest Global 1 Percent Hide Trillions in Tax Havens

Many have complained about this.  It seems I see at least one story a week about tax havens.

Bradley Manning and the Failure of Corporate Media

We don’t know the rationale of rejection by the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Politico.  These are only three of dozens of corporate media.  This is a sweeping generalization too much like too many other sweeping generalizations of all X do Y.  The Huffington Post did report in 2013 that Manning did reveal he tried to reach these media organizations, but he received no answers.  The real question is did those at the lower echelons who received his messages have any reason to believe his credibility.

Think about it!  How often has your contact with any large corporation gone past the first person you reached?

As far as “corporate media” shunning the story, I can easily find many articles at the time of his trial.  I do know that I got tired of reading about it.

Manning’s sexual orientation was new to me after his trial.

Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams Faces Environmental Charges in Spain

Wisconsin Public Radio has been publishing stories about the Spanish pollution charges against Bill Williams.  I don’t know how often they have to cover it to have more than “little coverage”.  The Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative has published several stories.  Maybe about 4,000 followers means little coverage, but how many more read these stories without becoming followers?  Other publications reporting these charges include The Daily Press of Ashland, WDIO, Sawyer County Record of Hayward, and Business North (KUWS story),

Police Brutality and Disregard for People’s Rights

These stories are always coming up.  Sadly, these abuses have been going on for a long time.  Joseph Wambaugh, a police officer who became a novelist in the 1970’s, wrote about some of these abuses in his stories.

Protests Everywhere and No One Cares

Who the hell are the Smiley Cyprus and Dustin Peeper mentioned in this section?  I certainly don’t care to read much about their escapades.

I read about the Venezuela protests in the News Tribune or Star Tribune.

Could the Rome protests be about a story in La Repubblica?  La Repubblica reported that the head of the Ukraine Communist Party was accused of being a sniper, beaten, and forced to kiss a cross.  This story appeared in, an online Communist journal.  Contropiano’s story was published March 1, 2014, but La Repubblica ran a correction on February 22 that the party official was not a sniper!

My conclusion

My “censorship” is your “lack of interest” and vice versa.  We would have to spend all day and all night reading all the stories that may have some interest to us.  But we can never keep up with all that others may consider important.

Almost every day I read the Duluth News Tribune, the Star Tribune, and the New York Times.  Do I read everything published in them?  Come on, I would like to do a lot of other things besides read news on a screen, especially news about the doings of Cypress and Beeper.

People are highly selective in what they read.  Some read only the sports; some, the headlines, some, the entertainment, and on and on.  Because you and I take note of economic treaties doesn’t mean everybody else does.

I know this very well! I’ve been beating the drum that Adam Smith has been misinterpreted.  Other than the copy that was in the Reader (“The Invisible Adam Smith”), I doubt if one hundred people have read that article in my blog.  Has my view been censored?  No, it has only been overwhelmed by millions of articles that are more interesting to tens of millions of readers.

Mel is a gullible skeptic.  Sometimes he swallows somebody's line; sometimes he tries to figure out what is really going on.

Published in Reader Weekly, 2014-06-05,

I am a Democratic Party leader?

Way back in 2008 I donated ten or twenty bucks to the Obama campaign.  Ever since then I receive pleas for money and for filling out a “survey” from the Democratic National Party.


The letter, this time “from” Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, includes:

Melvyn, you are one of a select group of party leaders…

I am a Democratic Party leader?  The last time I was an official party leader was in the 70s when I was a Republican precinct financial chair.  Then came Reagan.  I’ve been wandering in the political desert ever since with a couple of forays to support one or another independent candidate.

Now Reagan looks like a liberal and my only choice is pretty much to vote Democratic.  The Democrats are several steps closer to reality and practical governance than the Republicans.  Where are the likes of John Anderson, Arne Carlson, and Bill Frenzel?

I scribbled on a plea for the 2012 Presidential campaign that Obama should depend on his big donors rather than small donors he courted so well in 2008.  I haven’t sent any money since.

Still the pleas come.

The return envelope is labeled:


As with all political surveys, the questions and answer selections are biased toward the bias of the party printing the survey.  They are meant to affirm the party’s beliefs rather than shape them.

Well, I will vote in November.  That is a lot more than I can say about many who call themselves Democrats.