Friday, December 30, 2016

Donald Trump came in third, not second

Forrest Johnson’s latest column in the Reader Weekly stated that Donald Trump came in second ("Dear President-Elect Donald the Clown").  The reality is that Trump came in third; the real winner was a de facto “None of the above”.

Wikipedia gives the following figures:

Turnout - 55.3%
Trump -  62,979,879 45.95%
Clinton - 65,844,954 48.04%

Neither received a majority of the votes, but Trump is acting like he has a mandate.  In almost every election (too many) where a candidate doesn’t get a clear majority, the winner acts like he did.  If we didn’t have the Electoral College mucking things up, Clinton probably would act like she had a mandate.

In this year’s election, Trump received the votes of 25.4% of the electorate.  Clinton did only slightly better with the votes of 26.6% of the electorate.  This is not the way to run a “democracy”.

Few candidates have the humility to admit that more people didn’t show up than voted for him or her.  This holds for local elections as well as national elections.

It is far better to show up and leave a slot blank than to not show up at all.  In the first case your vote “counts” because you are part of the electorate.  In the second case your “vote” will never be counted.

The Election Project has slightly different figures, but the result is just as bad for democracy.

Turnout - 60%
Voting Eligible Population - 231,556,622
Ballots - 138,884,632

We will only have a democracy is when all eligible voters truly believe the following:

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Better ads on this site?

Whenever I look at one of my entries as you see them, I am appalled at too many of the negative political ads that are shown.

Indict Joe Schmoe: Vote here
Jane Doe unfit for office: Vote here

I doubt that many of my readers would fall for these push polls.

Well, I think I finally got rid of them by clicking the right choices in some of the background stuff for ads.  I know I’ve been seeing ads instead for a local car dealer and some other local company.

If you see me and like the change, please let me know.

And if you like this blog, please tell your friends.

Thanks, Mel

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I found the grouch picture!

Well, well!  I had a picture in my head that was what I saw before I put the camera to my eye.  After eight years that image was stronger than the actual picture on my computer.

So here is the “grouch that stole Christmas”.  I called it Snowppet.

All things are connected

In a reply to my Christmas letter, one relative noted that her nephew died in the fire at the Ghost Ship in Oakland, California.

I responded with

"Your note about your nephew’s death reinforces my belief that we are all connected, often by far less than six degrees of separation.

“Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
- John Donne

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Belated Christmas Letter (to most who sent me letters and to some who didn't)

Oh, the momentous choices!  What font to use!  I didn’t want to use my usual Helvetica or one that was fancy but hard to read.  So I chose Kailasa, mostly because I tired of looking at all the choices. (Blogger doesn't give me this choice.)

Here I sit on Christmas Day having procrastinated for one reason or another.  The last reason took over two days before I gave up.

The reason: having already put this off, I thought I had the perfect photo.  It was a waist-high stump at our cabin that was coated with snow and was topped with snow that had slid to one side, giving the impression of a head.  I was going to put under the picture:

I am not the grouch that stole Christmas;
I just procrastinate too much!

Problem is: I can’t find the picture!  I spent two days looking at all my devices for the picture.  I looked at some folders two or three times.  NADA!  Why do I have such a clear memory of a picture I can’t find?  I am sure I saw it in front of the printer two weeks ago.

To make up for this procrastination, I am sending this by email.  Otherwise, I might not get the envelopes done until next year!

So, here we sit in Duluth, wimping out on going to our cabin because of a predicted snow storm.  Also we are getting leery of driving in the dark (now at five in the afternoon).  About six weeks ago Jan hit a deer, in daylight but heavy shade.  She looked for the deer but never found it. Her car was drivable, but it took a few days of body work.

Otherwise, it has been a usual year: fitness center, cabin, meetings, plays, concerts, and family visits: in person, by telephone, or FaceTime.

We are slowly growing older, sometimes feeling it, sometimes doing things better than we ever did before!

May your coming year be one of good health and interesting activities, even if it is only lots of good books.

P.S. A sister-in-law has already responded.  She misses my fruitcake of yore.  I replied that the recipe is at

Relevant ads?

If you know me personally, would you let me know what you think of the ads that are attached to my blog entries?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Is climate change God's warning to those who pollute?

The Duluth News Tribune had an article about climate scientists who are worried about Donald Trump's proposed appointments.

"Florida climate scientists worry as Trump picks his Cabinet and sea levels rise"

"These choices dismay Dan Weiss, a clean-energy consultant who has led climate change programs for several major environmental organizations.

“'Nominating climate science deniers to head EPA, Energy and Interior is the same as appointing an arsonist to head the fire department,' he told McClatchy. 'South Florida should get used to higher floods than it has today.'”

- Duluth News Tribune, 2016-12-22.

Maybe global warming is "fire the next time"?

Adam Smith warned "Don’t trust Donald Trump’s appointees!”

 "The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." - pages 142-143, Adam Smith, PDF version of "Wealth of Nations" transcribed by the Gutenberg Project.  You can download a text copy from

Who are this "order of men”?  Those who live by profit.

Who has Donald Trump appointed to be in his administration?  Billionaires who have lived by profit many times over.  Is this a populist government?  Do pigs fly?

Given my small readership, I doubt you can make much influence.  But who knows how much influence you might have by passing this on to your Senators and Representatives?

The above quote originally appeared in “The Invisible Adam Smith”, 2012-10-25 Only 146 have viewed this page to date.  I feel like I’m just blowing in the wind.  But, Bob Dylan wrote, “The answer is blowin’ in the wind, my friend.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Liberal/conservative misnaming

Ross Douthat gave a long selection of books for “liberals” to read given that Donald Trump “won” the election.

Boy!  Did readers take him on, including the false dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative, or even it the labels are accurate.

My own contribution was:

The problem is not the division between "liberalism" and "conservatism". They are both misleading labels. For example, "liberals" can be very conservative about reigning in corporate power and "conservatives" can be very liberal about increasing corporate power. The real problem is the disinterest of too many people in voting at all. Lost in all the hoopla of Trump's "victory" is that he came in third to a de facto "none of the above”.


Whatever happened to real Republicans?

Once upon a time we were active Republican Party members at the precinct level. Then Reagan won the nomination instead of John Anderson, and Republicans became more rigid in their beliefs. It was about this time that the term RINO was coined: Republican In Name Only. And the Republicans stopped being a big tent party. This rigidity should not be mistaken for conservatism, a thoughtful consideration of change.

There have been a few bright spots like Bill Frenzel, Representative of 3rd Minnesota district, and Arne Carlson, Gov. of Minnesota after the Republican candidate imploded because of inappropriate behavior with teen-age girls. So much for the "moral" party. BTW Carlson still writes a blog:

Since then, there have been more and more rigid stances, including eight years of obstruction of a Democratic President. Bi-partisan legislation happens too infrequently.

I would say the only thing "conservative" is to "conserve our world view" despite plentiful evidence to the contrary.

Comment to New York Times article "On Where the Republican Party Went Wrong", Charlie Sykes, 2016-12-15

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Paean to true free market holdouts

As my regular readers know (probably too well) that I object strongly to the misuse of the term “free market”.  Too often it means that corporations should be free to do what they damn well please without pesky regulations like providing buyers with full information or air and water pollution reduction.

Well, there are a few markets where there are many sellers, not enough, but they seem to be holding their own.  These are locally-owned
hardware stores,
barbers and stylists
liquor stores
coffee shops
co-op groceries
book stores (only one locally owned new-book store left in Duluth)
We’ve been doing our best to patronize all of the above, but sometimes one has no choice but to patronize the large corporations
building supplies
computers and other electronics,
cell phone service
drug stores
automobiles (but most dealerships are locally owned)
gasoline (but a few stations are locally owned)
Hm!  I know we need a new political party that represents all the people instead of a bunch of special interests.  Maybe it should be called the True Free Market Party!

New, beautiful, design?

Companies keep changing their web sites in the interest of “improvements”, but they more often make them more complicated and user-unfriendly.

I’ve been using Yahoo! Finance for years to get daily quotes for a small list of stocks.  I made the request from a very obvious text block on the home page.  Then either Firefox or Yahoo! Finance stopped allowing drag and drop, a very long-standing feature of the Macintosh.  Then Yahoo! Finance moved the quote text block somewhere else.  All in the name of improved interface for the users.

Boy!  I never did make it through all the user complaints about the changes.  I gave up on Yahoo! Finance and used TD Ameritrade instead.

Even with Ameritrade and its constantly changing home page it took me awhile to figure out how to consistently get the quotes I wanted.

But Ameritrade’s news page is a humble-jumble of hidden information

Where are the numbers in

Net Investment Income
Net Realized ST Cap Gains
Net Realized LT Cap Gains
Return of Capital or Other Capital Source

They are off the screen and can only be gotten by copying the area and pasting into a text document.  Even then, the lines are all a humble-jumble.

Google’s Blogger has also been “re-designed” by making text alignment non-workable.  I think I’ve sent feedback twice on this, but I guess Google is too busy on more “beautiful improvements”.

Even that great promoter of user-friendliness gives great features and takes away great features.  Once upon a time Apple worked very hard on ease of use.  Now they seem more concerned with “beautiful” document and spreadsheets.  I’m sorry I don’t want charts with bubble points; I want a chart with connected dots.

Monday, December 19, 2016

If a clown can be President, why not a comedian?

Now that Trump with all of his distortions of truth has officially become the next President, we should consider having a comedian as President.  A comedian shines truth on the antics of the powerful.

Think Jon Stewart.  He got Obama to laugh at himself.

Better yet, how about two comedians on the ballot in 2020?  What about pairing Jon Stewart with Al Franken?

Republicans skewered Franken as a comedian, unfit to be a U.S. Senator.  Now they have turned around and supported a clown for President.  I think Republicans disliked Franken because he exposed their hypocrisy.

We just dug out of our bookshelves “Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”, Al Franken, 2003.

Oh, yeah, he is still married to his first wife.

In 1999 Franken wrote “Why not me?: the inside story of the making and unmaking of Franken Presidency”.  I have ordered it from the Duluth Public Library.

When I had a telephone modem with unlimited access, I watched a lot of Jon Stewart on Facebook, I think.  Although his twirling his paper was tiresome, I found his skewering of the powerful, no matter their politics, delightful.  He used their own words to reveal contradictions.

If you want a sample how thoughtful Jon Stewart can be, watch his appearance on “CBS This Morning”, I think it was November 17, 2016.  See  Also look up on You Tube  his Twitter war with Donald Trump.

See also "Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?"

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The perfect gift?

Where do all these vendors get the idea that something is the perfect gift for me to give or get?

My mail box and the newspapers and the store shelves all point to “The perfect gift”.

A new phone is not the perfect gift for someone who is satisfied with the one they already have.  A gift card for a store the recipient will never visit is not a perfect gift.  EBay, Apple, your local hardware store, Walgreen’s, on and on goes the list of purveyors of “the perfect gift”.

The only true perfect gift is world peace and no crime.  And we have far too many people that would rather kill people they don’t like or even know for world peace to be close at hand.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote an article with the above title that was published in the New York Times, 2106-12-16 at

I was surprised that a day later it was still open for comments with 1667.  I just had to put in my two cents with my the following comment.

"Let's stop blaming the system for the embarrassing low turnout, among the worst in the world, especially for a nation that regards itself as the greatest democracy in the world.

"Sure, many blocks to voting have been put up by corrupt, self-serving politicians. Sure, the "media" has spread many distorted stories that have discouraged many potential voters. But too many people willingly choose not to vote.

"What would the result have been if half the no- shows had actually voted? We really don't know. Maybe Clinton would have won. Maybe Trump might have done better than third to a defacto none of the above.

"Whatever elections come up next where you live, remind your friends and neighbors 'The only way You throw your vote away Is to stay away!'”

After I posted the above, I searched for “The only way You throw your vote away.  One of the top hits was  Justine posted a lot of right-on comments:

“If you fail to vote, you have only yourself to blame."
“Bad politicians are elected by Good People who don’t vote”
"If 99% of America showed up to vote, it wouldn’t matter what the 1% wanted.”
“Vote as if the future depends on it.  It does.”

She had a link to “HP Lovecraft Historical Society — Why settle for the lesser evil?”  As I had recently listened to a “To the best of our knowledge” podcast on HP Lovecraft  I thought I would check the link out.  Unfortunately, it was broken.  But I did find  Among the pictures is hooded figures holding signs for “Cthulhu for President 2016, Vote best evil”.  Cthulhu was a deep sea monster in one or more of Lovecraft’s stories.

What would have happened if there had been a massive vote for Cthulhu?  If Cthulhu won, the election would have to go to the runner-up because Cthulhu doesn’t exist?  But what if somebody had adopted that name?

I think this kind of tomfoolery indicates that we should have far better candidates running: people who truly want to make the U.S. a country for all of us rather than stoke their own egos or be in the pockets of the 1%.


Seven-no-trump is a winning bridge hand.  What can we do to make sure we have can win to have no Trump as a President?

The figures below are just out of my hat for effect.  We may need more or less of any of the figures below to actually to have no Trump as President?  Actually, with his thin skin he may bring about his own removal from office.

We need 70 electors to switch their votes from Trump to Clinton?

We need 7 Supreme Court members to declare his election void?

We need 70 Republican Representatives to impeach him?

We need 7 Republican Senators to try his impeachment?

This article was inspired by Elizabeth Renzetti, “Go ahead, laugh: Humour is the weapon in the fight against Trump”, The Globe and Mail, 2106-12-17.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

TrackR comment to Best Buy

My wife lost her key to our RAV4 and after many inquiries has not found it yet.  Getting a new key is rather pricey.

To avoid a repeat I decided to buy some tracking devices.  Based on some reviews, I chose TrackR over Tile.

The results so far have been mixed.  My main question is why do so many manufacturers make their product hard to use.  There is a large amount of literature about human interface design.

After having one round-about success with one TrackR and a bust with a second, I wrote the following review on the Best Buy website.  I also left some comments on the TrackR website but have yet to hear back from them.

My comment is also posted at

I found the iPhone App somewhat unresponsive and confusing to use. For example, it was several minutes before the app would respond the first time I opened it.  Then buttons didn't seem to work until I had maneuvered over the screens a bit.

The main screen is not intuitive.  It is divided into three overlapping parts: A summary of four items, a display with a map for where the the device is located (or the iPhone), and a summary of devices.  The selection of the overlapping parts is a stack fo three lines to go between the first and second part and three vertical dots to go between the second and third parts.  Why not double arrows?

The second TrackR I installed worked OK, but it would not respond after it left the house and returned.  Bluetooth settings don't recognize it inches away.

Also, the iPhone settings give tkr as the name of all TrackR devices installed.

Back to the workbench to get this straightened out, hopefully in a day or two,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

More on Russian skullduggery on the internet

Views from Russia of this blog swamp views from all other countries combined.  I’ve known that reverse spammers visit low volume blogs, hoping the hapless blogger will click on the source URL to get who knows what result.  Takeover of my computer as a ‘bot for their nefarious activities?

Well, I got a peek at one URL from!.  After a redirect command it has a long string of characters that get truncated on my screen.  Since I never learned more than a rudimentary java script, I haven’t the foggiest idea what it all means.  And I won’t copy it here so that one of my loyal readers doesn’t fall into this nefarious trap.

See also

Monday, December 12, 2016

Movement afoot to “unelect” Trump


According to this article, in 14 of states where the voters that showed up favored Trump, the electors can vote for someone else without penalty.

I wonder if any of these petitions are limited to the people who actually showed up, or can those who didn’t bother to vote also sign the petitions?

Do I jest?  Not quite, the de facto winner of the 2016 election was “none of the above”.  Over 40% of eligible voters stayed home. See Voter Turnout Data - United States Elections Project.

231,556,622 voting eligible population (VEP)
137,297,086 ballots counted
59.3% turnout

94,259,536 didn’t cast a counted ballot
40.7% of VEP

65,476,535 votes (48.1%) Clinton
28.3% of VEP

62,821,935 votes (46.1%) Trump
27.1% of VEP

8,998,616 votes (6.6%) Others
3.9% of VEP

Over half of those who showed up voted for someone else than Donald Trump.  That certainly is not “the people” deciding for Trump.

But when you consider that over two-thirds of the eligible voters did not cast a vote for Trump, you would think Trump would have a bit more humility.  Don’t hold your breath.

If you were one of the no-shows, remember,

The only way
To throw your vote away
Is to stay away!

Friday, December 09, 2016

Donald Trump in mourning?

Donald Trump cancelled all of his appointments when he learned his favorite wig-maker had died.

If you believe the above, then you suffer from anoesis.  Thanks for the heads-up to Eddie whose Anoesis News Service is featured in Wiley Miller’s "Non Sequitur” from and on.

Anoesis is defined in the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary as "consciousness that is pure passive receptiveness without understanding or intellectual organization of the materials presented.”  See

If you quote the first paragraph without the following paragraphs, then you are perpetuating false news.

A more common term for anoesis is gullibility.  And gullibility knows no political party, religious or political belief, or social standing.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Religious freedom and commerce

Much is being written about serving gays violating a merchant’s freedom of religion.  But what is the real question here.  Is the merchant being forced to serve people he or she doesn’t like or being forced to participate in activities that he or she doesn’t like.

The latest case I’ve seen is about a photographer being forced to photograph a gay wedding.  In this case, the photographer is being requited to participate in something he or she does not approve of.

On the other hand, if two men showed up at the studio can the photographer deny them service?  Not if they act as any two buddies might having their picture taken.  If they put their arms on each other’s shoulders the photographer should not have a complaint.  But if they insisted on a picture of them kissing each, then the photographer would have a complaint.

Similarly with a baker being asked to bake a wedding cake.  If two men showed up to order a wedding cake, then the baker should provide it, even if he knew they were gay.  However, if they asked him to put two male figures on the top of the cake, then the baker now becomes a direct participant in the choice of the two men.

Suppose a neo-nazi asks a Jewish baker to make a cake with a swastika on top. The baker has every right to refuse on both religious and ethical grounds.  However, if the neo-nazi just asks for a cake off the shelf, then the baker should serve him.

Suppose a Roman Catholic grocer is asked to deliver groceries to a nudist camp.  He has every right to refuse.  However, if one of the nudists comes to his store fully clothed to buy groceries for the camp, then the grocer should serve him.

Essentially, we should not be expected to participate in activities of which we disapprove, but we can’t refuse to serve those of whom we disapprove when they are acting in a socially acceptable manner.

A good case in point is the shock jock, Fred Tupper, in “Little Mosque in the Prairie”, who spreads all kinds of misinformation about Muslims.  He is welcome in Fatima’s restaurant, as long as he doesn’t spout off too much.


Jim Heffernan, a former Duluth News Tribune editor, posted in his blog about being left-handed.

I sent the the following email to him.

I’m belated catching up on your blog.  The left-handed entry really caught my interest: I too am an overhanded left-handed writer.

But writing is almost the only thing I do exclusively with my left hand, except scratch my right arm:)  I use tools with my right hand.  If fact I can hardly pound a nail straight or saw a straight line with me left hand.

I have a hypothesis on why left-handers write over-hand.

It's how we imitate others.  If we learn something side-by-side, we will imitate our teacher’s handed-ness.  If we learn something face-to-face we might mirror our teacher’s handed-ness.   If we watch somebody write across from us, we will place the pen in the mirror hand.  But then it breaks down because we place the paper in the same direction.  It is very awkward to write left-hand and underhand with the paper slanted “counter-clock-wise”.

I have noticed that fewer people say “Oh, you’re left-handed!”  My inclinations is to say “But when people say that I punch them in the nose with my right hand!”

Pollution hurts stock returns

"Higher pollution leads to worse returns for stock prices. Specifically, a usual (meaning greater than one standard deviation) increase in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) leads to an 11.9% reduction in the performance of the S&P 500 index. To be clear, this is not an 11.9% drop, but an 11.9% decline in relative returns."

For more, see

Fox guarding the EPA chicken coop?

See "Trump names climate change skeptic, oil industry ally to lead EPA  in Duluth News Tribune, 2016-12-08.

This definitely is having the fox guard the chicken coop!

Shouldn't a "populist" be in favor of the people being free to breathe rather than the corporations being free to pollute?

See also "China to become the leader of the free-breathing world".

Fake news exposed in the comics

“..most people who get their news on social media can’t tell the difference between fake news and real news…”

Wiley Miller, Non Sequitur

This applies to the “right” and the “left”.  I have had friends get all excited about an issue our of all proportion to the real problem.

Want to discredit Donald Trump? Show his base he's part of the elite

Trump is stocking his cabinet from the establishment. Democrats should reiterate his betrayal of the ‘drain the swamp’ campaign promise like a mantra.  See

Samantha Bee takes down Trump claims: 'Massive voter fraud is a lie'

The late-night host talked about the president-elect’s shaky transition and fabricated allegations about illegal voting practices.  See

If you have an iPhone with iOS 10, "The Guardian U.S." is one of the many newspapers in the News App.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

To my Russian “visitors”

I don’t know what you see in my little blog that you have more visits than all the visits from all other countries combined.  Your probably automatic visits just skew my statistics.

Please go away unless you are actually reading my posts.


Sunday, December 04, 2016

Software: automobile or yard equipment?

Software behaves more like yard equipment:  one has to continually add fuel and oil, tighten bolts, and clean many parts.

And it seems every time we turn around there is a new update.

With cars, we go months without any service other than adding fuel and maybe a wash.  And maybe we get one update a year on some warranty part.

An op-ed on the too short history of Pakistan's religious tolerance

My friend M. Imran Hayee wrote a op-Ed in the Duluth News Tribune, 2016-12-04 warning about a slide to religious intolerance under a Trump government.  He notes how intolerant religionists destroyed Pakistan's thriving, tolerant democracy.


Trump gives new meaning to "political" science

Trump's staff is toying with taking climate research responsibility from NASA and giving it to another agency.

That is, those with business and law degrees know more about science than those with physics and chemistry degrees.

See "Earth, the Final Frontier", Adam Frank, New York Times, 2016-12-02