Friday, May 27, 2016

Thanks to my Reader Weekly fans

Often people who know me or recognize my name or face ask about my Reader Weekly column, “Party of One".  I now have to tell them that I no longer write for the Reader.  I was bumped one too many times.  I don’t wish to make a deadline and then not have my column published.  Especially since the publisher asked me specifically to write again; I had stopped writing because a previous editor bumped me one too many times.

If you are one of my Reader Weekly fans, please let me know that you read this blog entry.  It would make my day.

Who is the problem: government or corporations?

The airlines causing long lines with all of their baggage fees; more people are using carry-on luggage rather than checked luggage.  Government is often blamed for not solving problems created by corporations; corporations who don't want to pay the taxes for government to operate efficiently.

Ironically, it was a corporate-sponsored Congress that took money from TSA for other purposes, and then forced the resignation of a TSA official.


I haven’t flown since 2008.  I had had it with small seats, long security lines, and so-so service.

I think the only way the airlines will change is when they lose business.  Unfortunately, more and more people want to fly somewhere for pleasure or business.  Increasing ticket sales and profits just convince the airlines that they are doing the right thing.

Quote of the Day: On Violence

"...but violence only strengthens your enemies and weakens your cause."

- Charles M, Blow, "Violence Is Never the Answer", NYT 2016-05-26,

Thursday, May 26, 2016

We get letters!

If you have a letter published in a newspaper, you may get letters in the mail.  They can be of three kinds:
Supporting you
Disagreeing politely
Disagreeing anonymously
I rarely get a letter or email supporting a letter that I wrote, but I do get personal comments.  I also get many comments about my columns in the Reader Weekly.  Unfortunately, few seem to notice that I stopped writing for the Reader when I got bumped one too many times.

I received a polite disagreement when I had a letter published questioning the assertion that “the People” have spoken by showing up at meetings.  See

The few don’t represent ‘the people’

The letter writer included his name and address on the envelope.  Unfortunately, he only reasserted what I had objected to in my letter to the editor.  He claimed that all have the opportunity to write letters or show up at meetings.  I didn’t respond that many people don’t feel strongly enough one way or another to write or show up.  Besides, all "the people" wouldn’t fit in a hearing room.

Every month or so I get one of the third type.  I think it may be the same person but I’m not sure.  The outside is covered with various diatribes using various sizes of pens and colors of ink.  I just throw these away without even opening them.  One of the latest was ironic: in all caps it had “SHE’S SCREECHY PREACHY” meaning Hillary Clinton.  Isn’t this anonymous letter writer being “SCREECHY PREACHY”?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It makes no sense?

Some weeks ago I was in a coffee shop when one of those who has to talk to the whole room was holding forth.  He repeatedly exclaimed “It makes no sense” with regard to gas prices rising after haven fallen so low.

Rather than going over to his table and joining the conversation, I just stayed where I was and kept quiet.

However, in the true free market sense, it does make perfect sense for more than one reason.

First, the number of producers of oil was way up.  When a commodity becomes plentiful the price goes down.  But when the price becomes too low for some to make money, they drop out.  The number of producers drops and the price starts to climb.

Two, traditionally the price of gasoline rises in spring and fall as refiners switch the blends to match the season.

Three, as the price dropped, more people drove more.  As they drove more, the demand for gasoline increased.  As demand increases so does price.  That’s the “free market”.

I don’t know whether this exclaimer was a “liberal” or a “conservative”, but this is the kind of view that some who call themselves “conservative" hold.  These “conservatives” are ready to blame anybody but themselves for almost any problem.

Ironically, these up and down gasoline price movements are one of the few really free markets we have in our “free market” economy.

There are many buyers and sellers.  Many sellers if we limit sellers to those extracting the oil.  It is not so with refiners where we have relative few; one refinery can be producing gasoline for an entire region.

Both buyers and sellers are free to enter and leave the market.  Many drivers can change their driving habits: make fewer trips or use other transportation.  Drillers do turn their rigs off and on and explore more or less.

Both buyers and sellers have all the information they need to make a decision.  For the most part, gasoline is a price-driven commodity.  Despite what the oil companies say, the product is the same from station to station.  For the station, it’s mostly is the credit card good.

All costs are covered by the transaction.  This is where gasoline fails miserably.  We don’t pay for the pollution and global warming caused by our “freedom” to drive when, where, and how much we drive.

I wish more of what happens made as much sense as the ups and downs of the price of gasoline.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The few don’t represent ‘the people’

Despite a claim to the contrary in the May 11 letter, “Flood of letters makes the answer clear on Central’s fate,” the “people” have not spoken about the fate of Duluth’s Central High property. A large number of letter writers have made their opinions known, but they are only a small minority of all the people of Duluth.

This is like saying the people have spoken because of a large turnout at a hearing on an ATV trail or on clean water.

This is worse than saying a politician won in a landslide with a turnout of less than 60 percent. Even if the vote for the politician was 60 percent, that means 64 percent of the voters either voted for someone else or didn’t make the effort to show up

At least in an election, all the people have the opportunity to show up. In a hearing or in letters to the editor, only a few [can] participate. The few, no matter the view, do not represent “the people.”

Letter to the Editor, published in the Duluth News Tribune, 2016-05-17

P. S.  I didn't think to include "the people have spoken" is about as bad as the "People's Republic of ..."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Taxes: burden or investment?

Yahoo! Finance often has articles about high tax states and low tax states: either in general or for retirees.  But this treats taxes as something extracted from the public for the benefit of a king rather than something people invest in for their quality of life.

I hope sometime I come across an article or two comparing taxes on value received.

For example, does a high-tax state spend more on education and turn out more skilled workers and more involved citizens than a low-tax state.  Does a high-tax state have more responsive public employees than a low-tax state, a state that might have rampant corruption.  Does a high-tax state have better roads than a low-tax state; the poorer roads causing more need for car repairs?

There is so much that we take for granted that governments provide that we rarely think about how it is payed for.  We grouse about taxes, but would we really want to live in a society with no taxes?

I like the quote attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like taxes; they buy me civilization.”

Problem of conservative/liberal labeling

We see too much about liberal bias against conservatives and conservative bias against liberals.  But do we even know what a conservative or liberal is?

Are those who think billionaires should be free to run their companies without any government interference liberals or conservatives?  They are certainly "liberal" in their interpretation of the Constitution.  The true conservatives are those who believe the Constitution's power to the Congress to "regulate commerce among the states".

Are those who think the Constitution starts with "We the People" means persons as a collective liberal or conservative?  It seems that so-called conservatives are rather liberal in interpreting the opening clause as "We the Corporations".

Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about liberals and conservatives in academia.  For some of the letters in response see

If "conservatives" have a problem being accepted into academia it may be because they are not open to change.  A true academic is a liberal-conservative: liberal in open to new views and conservative in evaluating evidence.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Quote of the day: Why Democrats don’t win more often.

"Democrats have traditionally led in voter registration efforts, but have a harder time getting their voters to actually come out to the polls. There's a big factor in this election that could help there: Trump.”

- Daily Kos, 2016-05-13

It was the stay-at-home Democrats in Florida that gave Bush the election, not Ralph Nader.

Remember my mantra: The only way you throw your vote away is when you stay away.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Quote of the day: Congress and public health

"Penny wise, pound foolish decisions will fall quite literally on the heads of the children.  We don't have leaders in positions of Power, we have fools."
- John of New York City, comment to "Congress to People: Drop Dead" by Nicholas Kristof, NYT 2016-05-12,

I wonder how the "free enterprise system" can deal with major health issues and other disasters.  I do know that Walmart provided lots of free bottled water after Katrina, but that was because of the ineptness of the Republican government.  How many companies are going to step forward and meet all the prevention and care needs that could affect thousands?  At a cost each individual can afford?  Can we as a people afford the risk of contagion from the people who can't afford prevention and card?

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Is Donald Trump a black swan?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" in 2007.  Is Donald Trump such a black swan and for whom?  Is he an unexpected creation of the Koch brothers?  Has the intransigence of Congressional Republicans created an opening for the likes of Donald Trump?

Maybe, just maybe, the Democrats can seize this opportunity to increase governance in this country that works for the people, not the corporations or the billionaires. 

Friday, May 06, 2016

Bernie Sanders, second choice after none of the above

I really am not happy with our choice of Presidential candidates this year, but from all that I can read Bernie Sanders is far above being more interested in the people than the special interests.  It really is time we bring government back to "We the People" rather than "We the Corporations" or "We the special interests".

If you are for Bernie Sanders, before sure to vote even if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.  If you stay away because your first choice didn't get the nomination, consider that if you stay away that is one more vote for the party of the plutocrats.

That said, here is one of Bernie Sanders latest pronouncements about bringing government back to "We the People".

In the United States today, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 47 million Americans are living in poverty.

Almost 22 percent of American children are poor and we have the highest child poverty rate of almost any major country on earth.

Let’s be clear. Living in poverty doesn’t just mean you don’t have enough money to buy a big screen TV, a fancy laptop, or the latest iPhone. It goes much deeper than that.

Living in poverty means you are less likely to have a good grocery store in your community selling healthy food. Far too often it means you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from. Living in poverty means you are less likely to have access to a doctor, dentist or mental health care provider. It means you have less access to public transportation, which makes it harder to find a job. It means you are less likely to have access to child care.

In the United States of America, poverty is often a death sentence.

Yesterday, I spoke about poverty in McDowell County, West Virginia — one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states in America. In 2014, over 35 percent of the residents in McDowell lived in poverty, including nearly half of the children. The roads are crumbling and only 6 percent of adults have a college education. Less than two-thirds have graduated high school. It has the lowest life expectancy for men in the entire nation. I hope you’ll watch part of my speech on poverty and share it with friends and family on social media.

\Bernie Sanders Speaks on Poverty in McDowell County, WV [See Video]

Poverty is an issue we must address. In 2011, the American Journal of Public Health found that 130,000 people died in just one year alone as a result of poverty.

This is not an issue we can just sweep under the rug and hope it will go away. Because it won’t.

And when I talk about it being too late for establishment politics and economics, this is what I mean. When I talk about thinking big and outside the box, about rejecting incremental change, I am talking about the millions of Americans who live in poverty who have been tossed out, left behind, and abandoned by the rich and powerful. We need to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.

Here’s what we need to do:

Rebuild our country’s crumbling infrastructure. A $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure will create at least 13 million jobs all over America - jobs that cannot be outsourced.

We must rewrite our disastrous trade policies that enable corporate America to shut down plans in places like West Virginia and move them to Mexico, China, and other low-wage countries.

We can create 1 million jobs for disadvantaged youths through legislation I introduced with Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.

We need to increase the wages of at least 53 million American workers by raising the minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.

At a time when women workers earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, we need to sign the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. Equal pay for equal work.

We need to make health care a right for every man, woman, and child through a Medicare for All single-payer system.

We need to treat drug addiction like a mental health issue, not a criminal issue.

We need to ensure every worker in this country has at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, two weeks of paid vacation, and one week of paid sick days.

We need to impose a tax on Wall Street to make public colleges and universities tuition free while substantially reducing student debt.

At a time when half of older workers have no retirement savings, we’re not going to cut Social Security, we’re going to expand it so people can retire with dignity and respect.

No president can do all of these things alone. We need millions of Americans to begin to stand up and fight back and demand a government that represents all of us. That is the political revolution.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

Paid for by Bernie 2016
(not the billionaires)
PO Box 905 - Burlington VT 05402 United States - (855) 4-BERNIE

Stand against the powerful special interests who are systematically buying our Congress and have their sights set on the presidency.

Helping the help desk

When my old Epson Workforce printer became erratic, I bought a new one from Best Buy (my four-year warranty on the old one paid for most of it).  The Workforce 3640 is similar i many ways, but quite different in others.

The old one would print business cards without a problem.  The new one often chewed them up and jammed.  Today each try jammed.

I looked at the Epson website to see if there was a recommended paper or other solution.  I found nothing.

I asked Best Buy’s Geek Squad (online chat) if there was any recommended paper.  I was told to check with a store.

I did another search and found that there is a rear feed.  This is meant for single feed of paper or envelopes.  See

It took a bit of doing to have the job started and the feed the paper, but I got the hang of it.  When I did a second sheet just now it was a piece of cake.

I went back to the Geek Squad chat and left a heads up for them.  The agent replied “awesome”.

It sometimes amazes me how I find a solution that the “experts” didn’t think of.  Of course, I’ve been solving (and creating) computer problems for 57 years.  It doesn’t mean I could earn big bucks, but I think it gives me a bigger incentive to find a solution somehow.