Sunday, July 31, 2016

2016: The first Presidential election where we have only one choice

Donald Trump keeps digging himself in a bigger and bigger hole.  The latest being his fight with the Khan family over the patriotism of Muslims.  Attacking a Gold Star mother: how low can you get?

He keeps changing his tune on this issue as he has so many times before.  Is a man who can get angry at a small slight a person whose finger we want on the nuclear button?

Hillary Clinton is not my favorite possible person for President, but she now stands as the only possible choice for President.  I don't like dynastic politics, but we have to consider all the government experience that she has had compared to that of Donald Trump.

Staying away is not an option.  If you stay away, you might give the election to Trump.  There are too many people that live in his fantasy world that will be voting.

In addition to voting for Clinton, you can hold her feet to the fire by reminding her of her vision with her 1969 Wellesley College commencement address.  See  Warning, you'll have to listen to a lot of commentary before you get the speech in its entirety. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Parallel to unfairness of open primaries

I have long thought it was unfair for the general public to select a political party's candidates, people who have never given time nor a dime to that party.  Neither Sanders nor Trump are party members, but they both presumed a right to run in party primaries.

Arthur C. Brooks gave a great parallel in his conversation with Gail Collins.  See

"It amazes me how we have come to see democracy in all matters, public and private, as our natural right. Can you imagine if The New York Times had a policy of letting the readers unilaterally decide who writes for the Op-Ed page? It would make the paper into an ideological fever swamp."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Who decides radical design change?

After the dust for "Seamless" settled, I went to the Star Tribune web edition, expecting to see the usual facsimile edition.  Instead I found a clutter with a page occupying less of the screen than before.

Why do management and designers make radical changes that maybe only a few want?  Many users like the way things work and only want tweaks to fix a few things that don't work well.

Apple is notorious for this.  What worked one way well suddenly works in a completely different way.   Way back in the first decade of the Mac, I looked forward to updates, especially new levels.  Now, I won't touch a new level unless I buy a new gadget.  And many times, I wish I had stuck with the old gadget even if the newer is faster and has more data capacity.

I think the problem is "focus groups".  Management pays a few selected participants to attend a meeting while management watches behind one-way glass.  The moderator works and works to get the participants to agree to management's proposal.  Only when the participants agree to management's proposal do they get their honorarium and get to go home.

I know!  I was in a focus group to approve "Comfort Systems" for the Duluth gas and water department.  Few of us were happy with "Comfort Systems".  We didn't know until later who the entity was; we assumed it was a private utility.

Back to technology: "New and Exciting" may mean "Frustrating and Buggy".

To add insult to injury, Google won't let me scroll the text I pasted here.  It moves the window as a block instead of the text in the frame.  It didn't do that for the last post!!!

“Seamless" came apart at the seams

At about three last night, I was woken by constant thunder and lightning.  It was continuous, more continuous than I have ever heard in my life.  Then strong winds and heavy rain were added.

Fortunately, we only had one set of windows open and I was able to close them before much rain came in.

Then the lighted clock went dark.

I tried to sleep, but the light of every lightning bolt went right through my eyelids.  I laid on my stomach and hid my face in the pillow.

I don’t know how long it took the storm to pass, but it did.

At about seven, I woke up and checked Duluth news on my iPhone.  It was quite a wide ranging storm causing outages and deaths.  Trees were toppled blocking roads and damaging houses.  No travel was advised.

All day our cell phone service has been erratic.  Sometimes our phones work, sometimes we can’t even get a signal.

I can see a cell phone pole from our house, but I can’t remember if it had visible equipment at the top or not.

My wife couldn’t even call on her phone.  The call could not be completed.

The strength of signal was one bar most of the day; my phone is now up to four.  But instead of 4G or LTE service, it only shows E, whatever that means.

I was able to get websites, now loading some of them gets stuck.  I wonder how much local data there is.  Just now I could not load Yahoo! Finance, but I could get most of the New York Times.  But going to a different article is going very slow, but maybe that is because convention news is so popular.  On the other hand, the online banking page of my bank is not making any progress loading on my iPhone.  Meanwhile, I started and finished reading a convention article.

So much for the seamless, at-our-fingertips operation of our gadgets we rely so much on.  We are retired and it is only a nuisance.  But there are many people who depend on these gadgets to do their work.

Now, how long will this take to post?  Essentially, quite a while.  As soon as I typed the first sentence, I tried loading  Firefox could not find the page!

Finally!  At 4:30 pm the web seems back to normal.  I have five dots and LTE on my cellphone and Yahoo! Finance came right up!

Can our electricity be far behind?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is Donald Trump the ISIS candidate?

No, I don't mean that Donald Trump is a supporter of ISIS.  But he is certainly doing just what ISIS wants.  His attacks on Muslims bolsters ISIS's claim that the West is at war with Islam.  The more Trump rails against Muslims in general, he helps recruit disillusioned or disaffected Muslims to join ISIS or to carry out attacks in the West.  The more attacks, the more people like Donald Trump will over-react.  The more over-reaction, the more recruits and the more attacks.

The only counter to a vicious cycle is a virtuous cycle.  Probably the best tactic is to out-Qur'an ISIS, especially considering some of their camps don't even have copies of the Qur-an.  Consider that few in ISIS even know "...and you should forgive and overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you?” (Qur’an: Surah 24, v. 22)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Quote of the day: divisive categorizations

"Dehumanisation is a choice. Calling a police officer a ‘pig' or reducing any population to a ‘threat' not only perpetuates stereotypes, it does nothing to temper discontent.”

-Morwari Zafar, Al Jazeera, 2016-07-14,

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

EU Vote and markets: false linkage

Phil Anderson wrote an interesting article in the Duluth Reader about the linkage between the Brexit vote and the reactions of stock markets.  See

I’ve often wondered how the stock markets could turn on a dime based on some event or another.  It seems more that commentators need to justify their salaries rather than provide insight for investors.  Oops!  That should be traders!  Anderson describes investors those who are in for the long haul.  Traders now will sell stocks within seconds of buying them.

I remember crossing the old Broadway bridge over the Mississippi River in the late ‘70s when the market news was a new high on the New York Stock Exchange of 54 million shares.  Today, 2016-07-13, the NYSE volume was 836,762,854 shares; a week ago it was 1,050,701,150 (Wall St. Journal,  That’s about 20 times what it was over 30 years ago.  Probably the big difference is online trading, then you had to call your broker who then placed the order on a teletype.

Still, I agree with Phil Anderson, how can so many people be in lockstep because of certain events?

The bogey man of Sharia law

A letter writer to the Duluth News Tribune claimed that the mayor of London, a Muslim, was banning “the use of women in public advertising.  See “US following England into Sharia law,

This seemed far-fetched to me and I tracked down the article about the London mayor’s action.  it was far different than the comments to a small snippet of the article that was published on a “conservative” web site.  All the commenters assumed the mayor was acting for far different reasons than plain, old-fashioned, everyday good taste.

You can find my response at

BTW, how many of you are old enough when many “Christians” wanted Playboy banned from newsstands?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Quote on voting

"And those not planning to vote, heed the lyrics of the old Rush song: 'If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.'”
Dale Harris, Judge in 6th Judicial District of Minnesota, Duluth News Tribune, 2016-07-11

Judge Harris was writing about not ignoring the judicial candidates in the August primaries, but his words apply to any election: from president to city councilor.

I hope you will pass on my voting mantra:

The only way
You throw your vote away
Is to stay away.

Quote on violence

"The moment any person comes to accept as justifiable an act of violence upon another — whether physical, spiritual or otherwise — that person has already lost the moral battle, even if he is currently winning the somatic one."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times, 2016-07-10

My comment: Several years ago I gave a ski lesson to a retired English policeman.  He told me that in over twenty years he never drew his gun.

What kind of society are we that police in any given U.S. city draw their guns more often than this Brit did in twenty years as a municipal police officer.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Corporate inefficiency

“Conservative” politicians and billionaires keep touting corporate “efficiency”, but I keep finding case after case where they are efficient is inefficiently interacting with their customers.  How many times have you received a satisfactory answer with your first call or email?

I dropped my Republic Bank accounts (including VISA) last year because they blamed Consumer Cellular for the errors I received trying to access my Republic account through my iPhone: both the app and the online account.  Republic said the problem was with Consumer Cellular.  Consumer Cellular said the problem was with the bank.  Neither seemed really interested in pinpointing the problem.

My wife had no problem accessing Pioneer National Bank through her Consumer Cellular phone.

After I opened my Pioneer accounts, I transferred all my funds from Republic Bank to Pioneer.  I wrote Republic to close all my accounts including my VISA account.  I no longer receive monthly statements from Republic.

However, this week I received a notice of a statement from VISA for my Republic card.  Oh, boy!  Did I forget to notify somebody that automatic payments should no longer go to Republic VISA?

When I finally looked at the statement, it was to notify me of my renewal fee!  $0.00!!

I did find a “Contact Us” button that allowed me to call this unneeded statement to somebody’s attention.  I also stated that I had requested Republic Bank to close my VISA account.

Earlier in the week I received from AT&T “Exciting news - your wireless bill from AT&T is now on video.”  Who is it exciting new?  The producers of the video and the advertising department.  It was just a bother to me.  The email didn’t say whether the data for the video was to be charged to my account or was free.  I didn’t bother to find out.

However, I did open up MyATT account, saw the current bill, and paid it, also asking that all future bills be automatically be billed to my credit card.

Imagine my surprise to receive an email today that my bill was ready!  i double checked and the online balance was zero.

I tried to send a message to AT&T and found a page:

Contact Us
AT&T Support - quick & easy support is available 24/7.

I looked and looked for an email form, but I only found two choices: call an 800 number or Online Chat.  I don’t want to wait for “the next available operator",  and I don’t want to wait for the next chat person, type what I noticed, and “hang up”.

I wonder if AT&T uses one of the reputation services, and if so, will the service find this blog post and will AT&T act on it.

Don’t stay tuned!  We may never know if AT&T even read this post.

I think it was the New York Times that had an article this past week that said most telecommunications companies really don’t want to solve your problems: just pass you from one person to another.

“Hello, Melvyn Magree.  My name is ______ and I will be glad to assist you.”  This is generally followed by some generalized gibberish that doesn’t even address the problem, like completely reset your device.

An exception that we’ve found is Apple if you have a device under an Apple Care warranty.  My wife’s iPhone either wouldn’t come on at all or would only get up to 30% charge.  A search of the Apple Support Community came up with over 23,000 topics on this problem.  The only advice seems to be to hold the home and lock buttons together for quite a long time.  For us and others, this did and did not work.

The 23,000 figure does not indicate an efficient corporation, especially when the number of users who have this problem could be ten or more times greater!!

Fortunately my wife’s IPhone was still under warranty.  The Apple Care people walked us through a few steps, and it would work for a while.  After a few calls, they sent us a new phone.  Of course, we didn’t have a backup and had to manually enter phone addresses.  I did manage to print a list from the old phone before we sent it back.

Oh!  And we could never erase the old phone.  It kept asking for a re-something passcode.  It would never accept the phone passcode and we could find no workable answer in the Apple Support Community.  We had to return the problem phone with only the assurance that Apple would erase the data.

How did we get into this mess?  I remember when it was a big deal to have direct-dial long-distance.

Monday, July 04, 2016

What true patriotism is

I’m sitting at my computer listening to all the fireworks, both public at the Bayfront Festival Park and private.  We can see some of the Bayfront fireworks if we look out our front upstairs window at the right angle.  But is enjoying fireworks patriotism?  People all over the world enjoy fireworks.

Is patriotism pledging allegiance to the flag or singing the Star-Spangled Banner.  Anybody can do these as a rote exercise.  In fact, it seems that the more flags behind a political candidate, the more “patriotic” they are.

Is patriotism “supporting our troops” wherever they are fighting at the behest of our politicians?  Many of those wars have led to further wars.

Maybe patriotism is saying that a war is immoral and unwinnable.  Remember also that those on the other side think they are being patriotic to their country or cause.

True patriotism is obeying the laws, paying taxes, voting, and speaking your mind about how government is acting.  Given these guidelines anybody can be a patriot whether they are Republican or Democrat, “conservative” or “liberal”, or none of the above.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Quote of the day: Real Cause of "voter fraud"

"Yet, in many jurisdictions politicians cry potential fraud... when the fault actually lies with underfunded and poorly constructed registration and voting systems."
- "Electoral Dysfunction", Victoria Bassetti, p.138

Could lower taxes be a ploy to discredit voting so that only the chosen few will run the country to the benefit of large corporations?

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Republicans are undemocratic?

Republicans claim to believe in democracy, but they seem to be doing everything possible to limit democracy to only those who have their views.

They want voter restrictions or oppose making it easier to vote because there will be more Democrats voters.

If they restrict voting because more people might vote against them, are not the Republicans opposed to democracy?

What do conservatives conserve?

It seems to me that they only want to conserve two things; their view of the world and the power of large corporations.

They don’t want to conserve resources including clean air and water, the right of people to have needed information, and good, free education for all.

Once upon a time conservatives were those who carefully considered any change but didn’t stand in the way of change.  And there were many flavors of conservatism.

Now, “conservatives” must be in lock step on all issues and cannot question any of the official stances.

Ironically, these “conservatives” are liberal with funds for the military and are liberal with sending people to fight all over the world without any understanding of the countries they are sent to.  A real conservative would be cautious about military engagement and strive to know what the risks are.