Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who are the bigger fools? Daesh or Islamophobes?

I would say that it is the Islamophobes, especially those who attack individuals just because they look Muslim.  See “'I’m frightened’ after Attacks in Paris, New York Muslims Cope with a Backlash".  Even a Latino was attacked.

Hey, folks, these victims did nothing to you, but you are indirectly creating more recruits for Daesh!  The victims of Islamophobic attacks probably have no thoughts of lashing back at the people the attackers purport to represent, but these attacks are going to make the marginalized more open to the nonsense spewed by Daesh: Christianity is at war with Islam.  And dear Islamophobe, your attacks are not very Christian!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Square pegs do fit in round holes

i am reading No Ordinary Disruption by Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel.  I am in the middle of the chapter “The Jobs Gap”.

The basic problem is that most work has changed from production or transactional to interactional.  That is, most jobs were making something or providing a direct service, such as a bank teller.  Now many jobs are interactional, such as a doctor or lawyer.  Some of these don’t require much training, such as home health aide; others require years to acquire.

Worse yet, too any employers look for overly specialized skills without looking at the person’s ability to learn.  For example, they want somebody who is proficient in Microsoft Word, but they won’t accept somebody who is proficient in Apple’s Pages. Duh! They are both word processing programs.  The skill of writing should have more weight than the tool of writing.  Maybe the person who knows Word has poor grammar, but the person who knows Pages has excellent grammar.  Who will be the faster learner?  Probably not the person with poor grammar.

Thus, the square person with skill in Pages could probably easily fit into the round hole of Word.  Unfortunately, too many people hire on the basis of what an applicant knows than on the basis of what an applicant can learn.

Are “conservatives” the lackeys of Daesh?

One of the ways that people control a narrative is by defining the terms.  The more the terms are favorable to their narrative, the more they get others to “dance to their tune”.  Both Daesh and “conservatives” have been controlling the narrative to their respective audiences.

What’s this Daesh?  It is the Arabic term for the group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), or just the Islamic State (IS).  Keith Ellison, a member of Congress from Minnesota and a Muslim, refuses to use these “Islamic” descriptions and uses Daesh instead.  One, Daesh does not represent the Islam that Ellison and many others follow.  Two, Daesh does not like this name which is somewhat of a pejorative in Arabic.

Look at this another way.  Daesh represents Islam no more than the Coo Coo Clucks Clan represents Christianity.  By the way, many letter writers say that all Muslims should speak out against Daesh; they forget that many Christians did not openly criticize the Coo Coo Clucks Clan.

Many Muslims are speaking out against Daesh.  See the article about Rep. Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, the other Representative who is a Muslim speaking out against Daesh (see CQ Roll Call, 2015-11-17, also published in the Duluth News Tribune the next day).  The article stated that Ellison and Carson shared the same religion as the terrorists; this is way off the mark.  It is like saying those who call for punishment of gays share Christianity with those who believe “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

Also, by the time you read this, my friend M. Imran Hayee should have his own take on Daesh published in the Duluth News Tribune.

Why are “conservatives” the lackeys of Daesh?  Because Daesh wants a war with “Christianity” and anybody else who doesn’t share their corrupted view of Islam.  The “conservatives” think that the U.S. is the Calvary of the movies and will save the wagon train from the bandits or the Indians.  As “Leader of the Free World” with the mightiest army in the world, the U.S. will crush anybody who is not for “freedom”.

But what is the reality of the effectiveness of the U.S. military against a “moral” force such as Daesh?

In 1775, a ragtag army took on a heavily trained army of a distant empire.  It took some years, but with the help of another empire they forced that army to surrender.  Then a much better trained U.S. Army took on lightly-armed groups of a widely-dispersed populace.  In the next century, the U.S. military joined several other countries in defeating an opposing army in a long-drawn out struggle.  That led to the same defeated army being reconstituted under a dictator far worse than the Kaiser of two decades earlier.  Again the U.S. joined several other militaries to defeat this dictator and his army.  Half-way around the world the U.S. military joined several other militaries to defeat an Imperial military.

Then with the confidence from that war the U.S. fought an army that tried to unite a country under its dictator rather than the dictator of the other half of the country.  That other half did move to a democracy that is prospering compared to the invading half which has been living under a brutal line of paranoid dynastic dictators.

These military successes led to a confidence that has not been fulfilled since.

First, the U.S. thought it could fight a guerrilla army that knew the language and had willing and unwilling support from a large portion of the country.  The U.S. could never be sure who was friend and who was foe.  The U.S. had to leave for a variety of reasons.  Ironically, that same country is now a trading partner.  Even though the government is still run by “godless” Communists, it seems to have taken to heart the Christian dictum “forgive those who trespass against you.”

The U.S. did have success in defeating a “ferocious” army that was more bluster than power.  It did leave the dictator in power, but the U.S. did accomplish the goal of getting the dictator’s army out of the country he invaded.

Next, the U.S. took on fighters in a strongly religious country that had a very corrupt government.  The U.S. could never tell for sure who was friend or foe.  That fight still goes on.

Then the U.S. took on the dictator with the “ferocious” army again and sent him into hiding.  However, for a variety of reasons, the country became splintered into several factions and no local politician has made any serious attempt to unify the country.  The U.S. tried supporting the government against its antagonists, but like the army of 1776, the antagonists are scattered throughout the populace.

Out of this chaos has come Daesh.  Who does the U.S. have as allies in the region?  A military dictatorship and the country that promotes Wahhabism, the unforgiving variety of Islam that created Daesh, an Islam that ignores “As Allah forgives you, forgive others.”

Now we have “conservatives” who are “liberal” with dropping bombs in the Middle East.  Are they just playing into the hands of Daesh?  These “Christians” want to keep out Muslims who are fleeing Daesh.  They are afraid that terrorists might come in with the refugees.  But by dropping more bombs and by refusing refugees, might we just reinforce Daesh’s claim that there is a Christian war against Islam?

Also published in the Reader Weekly of Duluth on 2015-11-25 at

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Do we reap what we sow?

 History is filled with “what ifs?”  What if the Normans hadn’t invaded England?  What if Columbus hadn’t sailed across the Atlantic?  What if England had included the colonies in Parliament?

We really don’t know how much different actions would have gotten quite different results.  Several authors have written speculative fiction describing outcomes quite different from actual history.  One example is an author who wrote several books on what if the South had won the Civil War.

I don’t really know how things would have turned out if only…, but bear with me as I join the speculators.

Lincoln went to war against the Confederacy because he felt that an un-United States would have left the States open to foreign intervention.  It wasn’t so much that he wanted to free the slaves, but the South did fear the North taking away its slaves.  Lincoln did take away the slaves, but that left so much resentment that “blacks” still are treated as second class citizens in much of the South, to say nothing of the murders committed against blacks in the South (and in the North too).

If the South had successfully seceded, with or without a war, would the slaves eventually be freed?  Probably not.  For example, textile mills in New England would be eager to buy slave-picked cotton from the South.  And manufacturers in the North would be eager to sell all kinds of labor-saving machinery to the South.  Would that machinery be more efficient than slaves?  Thereby reducing the market in slaves?  We really don’t know.

In Europe empires grew to embrace many people of quite different languages and interests.  The empires in turn were distrustful of each other and made treaties with “friendly” empires to protect themselves against “unfriendly” empires.  They thought a balance of power would create a balance of peace.  Then “one leg of the chair” collapsed.  With a single assassination, one group of empires felt the need to attack another group of empires.

If there had been an alliance of all the nations of Europe to settle disputes in a more peaceful manner, would there have been “The War to End All Wars”?  We do know that most of those countries are now at peace with one another.

But at the end of World War I, some victors wanted to punish the losers.  This punishment had two different serious consequences.

In Europe, the injustices perceived by the Germans led to the rise of Adolph Hitler.  Millions died because they were “other” and millions died because of the wars Hitler started.  Consider that not all these deaths were caused by Hitler and his Japanese allies.  The number of innocent people killed in the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are far greater than the number of people killed in a decade of “Islamic” terrorism.

In the Middle East the Ottoman Empire was broken up willy-nilly without any consideration for the people of the various countries created.  Then oil was discovered and buying countries wanted to make sure they had stable supplies.  It didn’t matter what the form of government was or the what the wishes of the people were.  The buyers supported non-democratic leaders with nary a blink of an eye.  In fact, if a democratic leader tried to change oil contracts to be more beneficial to his country, the buyers sought to overthrow him and replace him with an autocrat.  Remember Mosaddegh and Reza Pahlavi?  Is it any wonder that the ayatollahs took over and had so much animosity to the U.S.?

Then George W. Bush and company decided that they had to do something about Saddam Hussein because of 9/11.  How many Iraqis died because of this war?  It was far more than had died in any number of terrorist attacks before.  And the easy victory that the Bush administration predicted resulted in chaos that still hasn’t settled down either with a stable democracy or a firm dictator.

Into the vacuum came equally hard-nosed militants who believed Allah was on their side.  I find it strange that Allah isn’t booming down from heaven the same message to the rest of us.  And strange that God isn’t booming the same message that George W. Bush received.

All of this religiosity seems to ignore the more gentle wisdom that is in both the Bible and the Koran: do unto others as you would have them to do you, blessed are the peacemakers, the sins of the fathers are passed on to the sons, yea unto the seventh generation, and many more.

“Yet it is in fact militarization that is the cause of the problem in the first place.” - Ben Norton

If you have an hour to spare, read Ben Norton’s “Our Terrorism Double Standard: After Paris Let’s Stop Blaming Muslims and Take a Hard Look at Ourselves”, Salon, 2015-11-14 at The article doesn’t take an hour to read, but you will want to read many of the related articles in the sidebar.

After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush is infamously quoted as advising Americans to “Go shopping.”  I think it was a misguided attempt to ask people to act normally.  My advice to Americans after any of these catastrophes is “Go vote”.  Too often the militant vote and the peacemakers stay home.

Also published in the Reader Weekly, 2015-11-19 at

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bombs only lead to more bullets

In response to the attacks in Paris, many countries are ready to bomb more ISIS territory even more than they already have.  This may work against standing armies, but will it work against a constant recruiting machine that uses the bombing to show how "Islam is under attack."

Put another way: drone bombers create more drone soldiers.

A much better strategy would be dropping leaflets with Koranic verses of charity and forgiveness.  Just like some "Christians" select verses from the Bible to justify punitive actions against those that disagree with them, there are "Muslims" who select verses from the Koran to justify their punitive actions.  Just like many real Christians select verses from the Bible to lead a life of charity, there are Muslims who select verses from the Koran to lead a life of charity.

What would be the costs of millions of leaflets of Koranic verses of charity versus the costs of hundreds of bombs?  Being bopped on the head by a dropped book may change a lot more minds than being bopped on the head by a dropped bomb.

Banks, security, and ease of use

When we cut the cord and went wireless, we had a large number of problems including runaway data and bank access.

We solved the runaway data problem by cutting out automatic downloads and monitoring our usage.

Bank access is another problem.  Some banks put up a huge security wall, others just require an ID and a password from a known computer.  If you change computers, then they will send a text message to a known phone.  The huge security wall can be a real problem if you don’t have the “right” phone and the “right” browser.

You would think as more and more people go wireless, the banks would make it as easy as possible for depositors to access their systems.  Many people really don’t want to do the research to find out why they can’t access their bank.  And it is in the bank’s interest to have people bank online so that they need fewer tellers.

i bank at Republic Bank of Duluth.  I get all kinds of weird results including something like “If this error persists, contact the system administrator."  The long, long error code seems never to be the same and no phone number, email address, or feedback page is provided to contact the system administrator.

I have talked to a branch manager about this and she in turn called somebody in tech support.  The only thing they could tell me was that my provider, Consumer Cellular, was changing the IP address.  Consumer Cellular support says that CC is not changing the IP address.

I did figure out that I had the wrong cellular phone number in my account.  I changed that and things seemed to work for awhile.  Then the phone number went blank on my account!  I reset it again, and I have again sporadic success, more often not.

I have no such problems using Wi-Fi at coffee shops.  Can the banks ensure the security of every coffee shop’s Wi-Fi?

My wife banks at Pioneer Bank of Duluth.  She has no problem accessing her account through cellular data.  That is via Firefox on her Mac and Safari on her iPad. When I accessed her account on my MacBook via Firefox, the web page asked me to select a phone number for a text message.  When the text message came to my wife’s phone, I entered the number on my Mac and gained access to her account.

I might switch my funds to Pioneer if Republic doesn’t have a solution soon.  But as I don’t care for the format of Pioneer’s statements, I am also considering Members Co-operative Credit Union of Duluth (MCCU).  Also, I’m partial to co-operatives over corporations.

I had a long conversation with an MCCU representative and found out that their online banking doesn’t work with certain phones and browsers.  She had no information about access via Consumer Cellular.

I have decades of computer experience and sometimes relish unraveling problems.  Sometimes it seems I know less and less about more and more.  Think about all the people who are afraid their devices might crash if they push the wrong button.

If organizations really want people to access them online, you would think they would bend over backward to make it as simple as possible.  But no, they operate in their own little silo and expect all users to accept their way of doing things.

How many people do you know who would have problems figuring out half of what I have written above?  If I am confused by all that I have learned, how confused would many others be?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

More wireless cost available

I checked Verizon today and found a list of data plans and prices.

It doesn’t provide the detailed information that AT&T provides at, but it does provide an overview.

With unlimited text and talk, Verizon offers a choice of “ice cream cone” sizes from 1GB at $30/month to 18GB at $100.  The fine print reads "Plan cost per month plus $20/month/smartphone purchased on device payment. Taxes/fees apply.”

For more details, you have to call.

Too bad Verizon isn’t available in Brimson, Minnesota.

I wish I could claim credit for more wireless info being available, but I assume thousands of people have been complaining.  Good corporations listen to their customers and prospective customers.  I wouldn’t be surprised to soon find a website that provides all the info you need to make an informed decision.

Sashaying Along with More Clichés

Everybody says: “Everybody” generally is all the persons that agree with the speaker.  Anyone with a contrary opinion is ignored.  A similar expression is “Everybody knows”.  I wonder if those who use this expression have asked everybody, at least in town, or just assume they can speak for “everybody”.

Unwritten law: This is often used as an excuse for using a gun to “defend” oneself, even against unarmed people.  According to Robert Traver in Anatomy of a Murder there is no unwritten law.  There are cases where killing another person are justified by written law.  These deal with cases in which somebody is in grave danger.

We often read or hear of someone claiming their “2nd amendment rights”.  If they are careful readers of the Amendments to the Constitution, they would see that the Second Amendment includes “the right of the people to bear arms”.  If we forgive them the grammatical error of using a plural noun when the Amendment uses a singular noun, we still have to think about their using an individual noun when the Amendment clearly has a collective noun.  Also, we should consider that the Southern States wanted this amendment to keep the Federal government from taking away their slaves.  Being armed did not prevent the loss of their slaves.

Often used with “2nd amendment rights” is the phrase “law-abiding citizens”.  How do we know that each and every “legitimate” gun owner is a “law-abiding citizen”?  We don’t.  How many “law-abiding citizens” go well over the speed limit, tail-gate, and run red lights?  How many “law-abiding citizens” regularly cheat on their income taxes?  Many of us will speed to pass an erratic driver or not bother to put some small item on our tax forms.  But some “law-abiding citizens” make it a practice to ignore the rights of others on the roads and to have large amounts of unreported income.

Worse yet, when these “law-abiding citizens” have a gun in their hands, they ignore the law for their own advantage.  Twice this bird-hunting season we found a shotgun shell by our gate, a gate with a no-trespassing sign, a drive that indicates it is private property, within 500 feet of two dwellings that can be seen from the road.  This is not an isolated incident.  We have had hunters shoot down the driveway with a red truck clearly visible, shoot into the brush by a no-trespassing sign across the road from a house with people outside, and many others who ignore the hunting regulations of knowing where they are hunting and to always ask permission.  Law-abiding hunters I know have asked permission and have gracefully accepted my denial.

“Hard-earned dollars” is one of the most sweeping political phrases.  How hard a person works to be paid can vary by job and by the task of the moment.  Sometimes a job can be so enjoyable that we forget to even look at the clock.  Sometimes a job can be so boring that we are constantly looking at the clock.  Some jobs have a bit of both.  One day everything goes great and seems like play; another day everything goes wrong.  These descriptions can fit both jobs involving hard physical labor and jobs sitting at a desk.

Does Santa Claus get hard-earned dollars?  Some Santas enjoy the job so much that getting paid is just icing on the cake.  Others, like me, were bored and couldn’t wait for the day to end.  I did do my best and was praised by management for my efforts and demeanor.

Does a bus driver get hard-earned dollars?  Depends.  Some drivers are people-oriented and the job is almost playing with a big toy.  Other drivers may have difficult passengers who make the drivers look forward to the end of the day.  I’ve been in both situations.  I had enough unruly students and coaches that I felt every dollar was hard-earned and still not enough.  On the other hand, I’ve been on charters where I napped in the bus, attended plays, or just sat around talking with others or reading.

Self-made man: show me a “self-made man” and I’ll see a self-deluded man.  Did this person never have parents or other care-givers?  Did this person teach himself to read?  “If you can read this, thank a teacher!” is a great bumper sticker that too many ignore.  Did this self-made man build all the widgets in his empire, staff all the stores in his domain, and make each and every decision needed?  Hell no, he depended on the work and ideas of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of others.  And sometimes even government grants.

Where would Google be without the government grant to work on a super search algorithm?

Where would Apple be without the likes of the team that worked on the first Macintosh?  Where would it be today without a super factory manager in Fremont, California.  Steve Jobs and Tim Cook may think of some themes to explore, but could they work out all the details of the user interface or write the thousands and thousands of lines of code?  And they would not have made a dime if there hadn’t been the local dealers and the thousands of UPS and Fed-Ex drivers who put the computers in the hands of the end-users.

And where would all these entrepreneurs be without the government research that created the internet?  By the way, the internet was not created to foster business, but to create a network with redundant routing for our “defense”.

Maybe we should stop electing lawyers and start electing English teachers.  The latter know what words mean, not what they want them to mean.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Misfeasance and malfeasance: corporate and government

It seems the fashion for one group of people to think that government can do nothing right and that corporations always do everything right, and for another group to think that corporations can do nothing right and that the government always does everything right.  Interestingly, many in the first group think the government knows everything about invading other countries, and many in the second group are eager for the latest gadgets from large corporations.  This second group also buys books from Amazon on how bad corporations are!

This second group should consider buying books from local booksellers.  I know Duluth is down to one local bookseller, but it still has a few used booksellers.  If you do want to buy books online, try ABE Books.  It is a consortium of booksellers around the world.  You can find a whole range of prices, sometimes with free shipping.

This column was inspired by a head-banging problem on Apple’s iPhone.  About the middle of the month the weather app started giving the time for locales in the Central Daylight Time zone as five hours later.  How about sunset at 11 o’clock in the evening?

In the Apple Community Support topics, other users suggested various resets, that might or might not be disruptive to proper functioning.  I did a “soft reset” of my iPhone and it did nothing for this problem.  I and many others thought the problem was really in Apple’s own computers because the problem started happening for many users at the same time.  My post follows:

“Don’t touch that dial!

“I lay awake last night thinking about the weather app having the wrong time for the Central Time Zone.

“It occurred to me that the time given is Greenwich Mean Time.  I even got up and looked up the time in London.  It was one hour later than Greenwich Mean Time because Britain is on daylight savings time.  The British time was one hour later than the time in weather app.

“This morning I checked my wife’s iPhone.  It had the wrong weather time, and she is still on iOS 9.0.1.  I asked several people in a fitness center and they reported that their iPhone weather apps had the wrong time.  Some even reported that this started at the end of last week.

“I think what has happened is that whoever maintains the data for Apple’s weather app took off the -5 adjustment for Central Daylight Time.  So, the problem is not in your phone and no kind of reset will fix the problem.  We’ll just have to wait for somebody in Apple to put the correct adjustment on Central Daylight Time.

“Now I have to find Apple’s Feedback page and post the above to it.”

I did send feedback as did several other users.  The problem was fixed in about three days.  The squeaking wheel does get greased!

I have another iPhone problem in that my bank’s online access will not work when I use cellular data.  It either gives a cryptic error message or states that the connection could not be made.  It works fine if I use Wi-Fi.  The bank says that my provider keeps changing the IP address.  My provider states that they do not change the IP address.

How often have you been caught between corporate pointing fingers?  “Not our problem.”

If corporations can do such marvelous stuff, how come there are so many recalls?  The Volkswagen diesel exhaust problem is one of malfeasance:  knowing the problem existed and not doing anything about it.  The ignition problem with Chevrolets was a mix of misfeasance and malfeasance.  It took GM awhile to realize they had a problem and quite awhile before they acknowledged it.

If corporations are so smart, why can’t they figure out that doing something right in the first place is cheaper in the long run than cutting corners now for short-term profits?

I think in too many cases, corporations have become the broom of the sorcerer's apprentice.  They keep working away mechanically without considering the real needs of their customers.

Many who are pro-corporation relish bashing the federal government, especially the Post Office and the Internal Revenue Service.  My experience is that many government agencies, including these two, strive to do the right thing for their customers.  Unfortunately, they are undercut by those who should be supporting them as part of “Promoting the General Welfare”.

Interestingly, some of these same government bashers think that the military can do no wrong.  Have they forgotten the terms SNAFU and FUBAR were created by draftees or enlisted personnel who were fed up with the bureaucracy and the mistakes of generals and other officers?

I think these military worshipers also forget their history.  A bunch of ragtag farmers held off an imperial army for several years, mostly by avoiding combat until their general thought the situation was favorable.  In another country and in another century, a bunch of civilians kept harassing an occupying army until other countries could mobilize for an invasion to push back the occupiers.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, an army of mostly peasants took horrific losses to repel that same occupying army from their country.

In the long run in case after case, it is the local people who, if they don’t prevail, will keep harassing the invaders as long as there are more to take their places.

The secret to the success of any organization is the management.  Does management come up with ideas to make its employees effective?  Does it listen to its employees and support them when they have good ideas?  Or does it “know best” and keep muddling along until another company takes away its business.  In the case of government, do the elected politicians act in a positive way to support government workers?  Or do the elected politicians do their best to belittle the workers?  We certainly are lucky to have so many thick-skinned government employees.

This was also published in the Reader Weekly, 2015-11-04 at