Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Quote of the day: Chess vs. Tic-Tac-Toe

"The Chinese are playing chess, while Trump is still trying to master the rules of tic-tac-toe."
Comment from MGB to https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/opinion/trump-china-asia-pacific-trade-tpp.html

Other comments include Trump claiming to be a master negotiator even as he loses on many deals.

At least P.T. Barnum gave his “suckers” something for their money.  All we get from Trump are “yuge” promises, like Trump Care being far better than Obama Care.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Getting sick is only for the rich or the well-insured

See my post "Modern Medicine and Let Them Eat Cake Politicians" about the cost for the medical personnel for my open-heart surgery. It was  $20,280.50 of which I had an out-ot-pocket expense of $50.50.

This week I received the statement for the hospital stay and some of the rehabilitation.  It was $131,088.04.  Insurance paid all but $600 of it.

Without this insurance, somebody earning $9/hour would have to work over 14,565 hours or 1,821 days or 364 weeks or seven years.  On the other hand, Marissa Mayers earned $900,000 per week as she sold off Yahoo!  She could have paid the costs of five open-heart surgeries each week and still have had $150,000/week left over.

I’ll let you judge how a medical bill like this would affect your own finances.  My guess is that without insurance, many of you would have to take out an extended mortgage on your house or sell it out-right.

Heart disease only affects one family.  Consider what would happen if someone who had a communicable fatal disease didn’t get treated because the family could not afford the necessary care.  It has happened down through the centuries and still happens around the world.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It’s around here someplace

This was a saying in my wife’s family about lost objects, and we still use it.

In April I went to our cabin by myself.  I unlocked the cable across the drive and hung the lock from my pants pocket.  I forgot all about it until I was ready to leave.  I couldn’t find it.

I looked every where I had been.  In the the car, in the cabin, in the grass on all the paths I had been on.  Nada!  So, I used a lock from one of the sheds.

Each time I’ve visited since then I’ve taken another look.

I had resigned my self to buying another lock, but just hadn’t been to my favorite hardware store.  When I did, I would have to send a new key to the guy that plows our drive.

I was mowing the grass near the road yesterday and a neighbor stopped to chat.  After several minutes my wife came to investigate why she didn’t hear the trimmer.  As she came near the cable post she exclaimed “Mel!”  I wondered if she had fallen.

No, she had found the missing lock.  It was partially buried where I had run over it after it had fallen off my pocket.  Several passes over it with the car had buried even more.  She was attracted to it because the hasp did not look like any natural object.

The lock was full  of soil and sand.  We had to soak it and swish it in water several times.  By the time we were ready to leave, we could open and close the lock without a problem.

Sometimes he who hesitates finds stuff, around here someplace.

Health care for corrupt governments?

Why is it the Republicans want to cut back on health care for their own citizens but feel it is important to spend billions of dollars and thousands of American lives to care for corrupt governments?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pro-lifers are anti-safety?!?

How is it that the party that puts such emphasis on being pro-life wants to gut safety regulations because the latter are anti-business?

Safety regulations reduce worker injuries and deaths.  How can a pro-life party be so anti-life once a child is born?  It figures.   It doesn't want to provide health care for the already born.  It doesn't want to put any restrictions on gun control; guns are very anti-life.  It wants to sell more and more weapons to other countries.  It wants to increase the nuclear arsenal; nuclear weapons kill thousands of unborn children.

I think many of these pro-life politicians took the hypocrite oath: first do harm.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Global warming caused by warming oceans?!?

A recent argument I’ve seen is that it is not carbon dioxide that is causing global warming but warmer oceans.  See http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/06/23/rick-perry-got-tongue-lashing-from-american-meteorological-society-did-deserve-it.html.

Although the author, Roy Spencer, is a meteorologist, I question his attacking climate scientists for using global warming to get funding.  Spencer defends Energy Secretary Rick Perry for stating that the “control knob is the ocean waters and this environment we live in."

Ocean waters are responsible for global warming?  How do ocean waters get warmer?  Increased under-ocean volcanic activity?  Hotter sun?  Or maybe it is hotter air, caused by carbon dioxide not letting warmer air dissipate!

Could it be that Rick Perry has ties to oil companies?  See http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/perry-oil-industry-energy-department/.

Note also that Spencer is a meteorologist, not a a climatologist.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Quote of the day: Why vote?

"Hillary Clinton didn’t inspire anyone. Why the hell stand in line if it’s just to vote for more of the same?"
- Unnamed union official
"Can the Democratic Party Find New Voters?", Timothy B. Edsall, New York Times, 2017-06-15

The only reason I voted for Clinton was that she was not Trump.  I can name several female politicians I would rather have seen on the ballot.  Maybe we'll see one of them on the presidential ballot in 2020.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Terrorists in haystacks

“Terrorists do not wear a special uniform.. They are like other people, like other youths. They are not easy to recognize. Sometimes, finding a terrorist in the 14 million population of Tehran is like finding a needle — not in a haystack, but in 10 haystacks.”
Mahmoud Alavi, Iranian intelligence minister
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/11/world/middleeast/iran-kurds-terrorist-attacks.html

The Shia and Sunni differences have are similar to the Protestant/Catholic differences of Northern Ireland.  However, some Iranians take a more tolerant view of extremists.  For example, Jalal Jalalisadeh, a former member of the Iranian from Kurdistan takes a stance that many around the world could emulate.  Salafis are an ultra-conservative group in parts of Iran. “They were peaceful. As long as the Salafi groups are not taking arms, they must be tolerated,” ibid.

"A child killed in a bombing while eating ice cream in Baghdad is the same as child killed in a bombing while attending a pop concert in Manchester.”
Shasta Aziz, Globe and Mail, 2017-06-05
https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/countering-extremism-requires-political-honesty-from-theresa-may/article35204868

Do not call terrorists Muslim or Islamic.  They are no more "Muslim" than the Ku Klux Klan is “Christian”

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Hypocritic oath and an ignored reading

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

U.S. Constitution, Article VI

Somehow, we have a Congress that gave an oath to the Koch brothers and made sure they passed the religious anti-tax test of Grover Norquist.

Every year the Senate has a public reading of George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and the next day they ignore what he wrote.  Maybe many of them stayed away during the reading or slept through it.

"Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all; religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.  Who can doubt that in the course of time and things the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it?  Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

"In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations has been the victim."


Who has the U.S. become beholden to either as a friend or as an enemy: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Cuba .

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Modern Medicine and Let Them Eat Cake Politicians

I finally received a bill for my open heart surgery in April.  See I’m back!

The bill for the initial surgeon’s visit and the operation is $20,280.50.  The five days of hospital stay are not included.  My bill for three-plus hours of surgery after Medicare and supplemental insurance: $50.50!!

What I pay monthly for insurance is $178.90 for Medicare and supplemental insurance plus $83.70 for prescription drugs.  This is deducted from my Social Security.  My wife pays the same amount.

According to https://resources.ehealthinsurance.com/affordable-care-act/much-health-insurance-cost-without-subsidy, individual coverage averaged $321 per month and family plans averaged $833.  The annual deductibles were $4,358 and $7,983.

To pay the individual deductible, a person would have save about $84/week or two dollars an hour.  For the premiums, a person would have to save about $74/week.  Together that is $158/week or $3.95/hour.  At a minimum wage of $9/hour, that doesn’t leave much for food and rent.  Without insurance, a year’s wage of $9/hour would not even cover the above bill.

And lots of politicians and millionaires think these individuals should be happy with what they get.  I don’t wish Marie Antoinette’s fate on these “let them eat cake” thinkers, but someday there will be a widespread realization that the people at the bottom of the economic are being taken advantage of.  Let’s hope they find better “champions” than Donald Trump and his ilk.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Muslims Do Speak Out

I was listening to Swedish Radio’s weekly news podcast, “Good Morning World” when I heard a piece on “Arabs got talent” (http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=438&artikel=6700503). It has 100 million viewers, a figure many programs can only dream of.

I thought it strange that I had never heard about it.  Searching the New York Times, I found a recent article that mentioned “Arabs Got Talent”, only because a network official involved in an anti-ISIS program is a “Talent” judge.

The NYT article mentions a series “Black Crows”, a dramatization of some of the atrocities committed by ISIS.  It will be broadcast during Ramadan.  Many families will spend more time watching TV than usual.   Ramadan (in the U.S.) begins begins the evening to 26 May and ends the evening of 24 June.  During this time Muslims fast during daylight hours.

See "Arab TV Dramatizes Life under Isis", Ben Hubbard, New York Times, 2017-05-16,

The only other reference in the New York Times to "Arabs Got Talent” was about an American, Jennifer Grout, who plays the oud (an Arab lute) and has learned many Arabic songs.  At the time she didn’t understand much Arabic, but according to https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/09/195954/jennifer-grout-replies-criticize-moroccan-husband/ she now speaks fluent Arabic

A few other sources for Arabic news are

http://www.aljazeera.com/
www.dailystar.com.lb
https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/

Interestingly, from Morocco World News I found out about a women-led mosque in California.

Muslims do speak out; are you listening?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Deliberate deception from “The Greatest Deliberative Body”

Speak up about the usurpation of legislation by the few.  See “It’s Time to Worry about Health Care in the Senate”, David Leonhard, New York Times, 2017-05-23.

My own letter to HealthReform@finance.senate.gov was
Just over two months ago, the Senate "listened" to Washington's "Farewell Address".  Have you already forgotten his warning about factions?

The Senate has been called "the world's greatest deliberative body".  It has now become the deliberate mouthpiece of the Koch brothers and their ilk.
Be sure to send a copy of your email to your own senators, regardless of their party.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Does the Senate really believe Washington's Farewell Address?

I posted the following to “Will the Presidency Survive This President”, Eric Posner and Emily Bazelon, New York Times, 2017-05-20

Dear Reader,

Every year on Washington's Birthday, the Senate has one of its members read George Washington's "Farewell Address".  You can find a copy at https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/WashFarewell.pdf.

Your homework assignment is to read George Washington's "Farewell Address" and send both your Senators a quote that you feel is appropriate to current events.

You probably can find many quotes that support what the Senate is doing and that chastise them for not following the advice Washington gave.

Two that stand out for me are his warning about factions and the danger of foreign entanglements, both with friend and foe.

Leader of the free world?

Please, let's stop calling the president of the U.S. "the leader of the free world". First, the president of the U.S. is historically elected by a minority of eligible voters in one country. Second, the "free world" includes plenty of dictatorships.

Comment posted to "4-year-Olds Don't Act Like Trump", Alison Gopnik, New York Times, 2017-05-20

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

When the World Is Led by a Child

Comment to New York Times article by David Brooks (note: Brooks is considered a conservative)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/opinion/trump-classified-data.html?comments#permid=22518785

George Washington warned about the abject support of Trump by the Republicans:

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

Every year on Washington's birthday, a member of the Senate reads Washington's "Farewell Address". And every year the Senate ignores his advice by dividing itself along party lines. We now see almost lockstep support of Trump by Republicans and lockstep opposition to Trump by Democrats.

Maybe someday the the voters will grow up and elect grown-ups to political office.

Constitutional Amendments: Government Power Versus Personal Rights

Originally published in the
Reader Weekly
November 25, 2004

I don’t know how many constitutional amendments have historically been before Congress, but in the last two decades it almost seems Congress has been flooded with them.

I did a Google Search and a search of the House of Representatives web site for “constitutional amendment”; both yielded thousands and thousands of results.  I narrowed my search to the House Judiciary Committee and got a mere 6652 hits.  However, I had a hard time finding more descriptive material in them.  I went back to the Google search and looked into several of the first 80 items.  From various sources I succeeded in finding ten currently proposed amendments.

Marriage Protection Amendment (H. J. 106)
Constitutional Rights for Victims (S.J. Res. 1, H. R. Res. 10)
Desecration of Flag (S.J. Res. 4, H.J. Res. 4)
Balanced Budget (H.J. Res. 22)
Religious Freedom (H.J. Res. 46)
Abortion Ban
Continuity of Government (H.J.Res. 83)
Naturalized Citizens for President (H.J. Res. 104)
Natural Born Citizen Act (S.2128)
Direct Election of the President (H.J. Res. 109)

Some readers will think all these amendments should be adopted and some will think some of them are frivolous.  I put the relevant House or Senate bills after most of these.  You can find their text, current status, and related information by searching from The Library of Congress' Thomas by bill number or keywords.

I didn’t put a bill number by Abortion Ban because I could not find a bill that seemed to directly relate to it.  All the bills I scanned seemed either to limit it or limit its prohibition.

I think we should ask four questions about any proposed amendment to the Constitution.

1. Does it define the structure and purpose of government?

2. Does it preserve the checks and balances?

3. Does it extend the power of government or does it extend the rights of persons?

4. Will it really work?

If you read the original Constitution, you will find that it mostly defines how the government should work and defines broadly what functions each of the three branches has.  It doesn’t get into details of what people may or may not do; those are left to particular laws, their administration, and their judicial review.

We who were fortunate enough to take civics and American history learned repeatedly that the framers of the Constitution did not want one branch of the government to dominate the other.  They were especially wary of a king-like executive.  They were divided on how strong the federal government should be.

The first ten amendments (The Bill of Rights) were to correct a flaw many critics felt the original Constitution lacked – protection of the people from an all-powerful government.  Unfortunately, although Congress thought it had a clear vision of what those rights should be, many people have distorted them to either claim a greater right than Congress intended or claim a right does not cover certain situations.

Will an amendment really work?  History gives us mixed lessons on this.  The amendment that flopped the most was Prohibition – it really was interpreted by a large number of people as a restriction of their freedom. On the other hand, the Fifteenth Amendment, the right to vote regardless of race or color, took decades to be enforced.  Some feel that it is still not uniformly enforced in all States.

Let’s take a quick peek at some of the amendments I listed and see how they satisfy my four questions.

Marriage Protection Amendment

It could be argued that this defines a purpose of government, but that is a stretch.  It really is an extension of the power of the federal government at the expense of individuals and the states.

The best comment I found was by Rep. Jim Davis of Florida.  “Personally, I believe marriage should be a bond between a man and a woman; however, I voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment because I also believe the United States Constitution should protect rights, not deny them, and states should have the right to decide whether same sex marriages should be recognized within their borders.”

If it is to be considered an extension of people’s rights and a protection of marriage, then maybe the first sentence should read “Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman and they shall be considered equal partners.”

Will it work?  It certainly won’t prevent two men or two women living together.

Constitutional Rights for Victims

This amendment enjoys bi-partisan support.  It essentially guarantees that victims of violent crimes be informed of proceedings against the accused, be allowed to heard at public proceedings, and be protected from further injury.  It does have a loophole about restrictions “dictated … by compelling necessity.”

It definitely extends the rights of some people though others would say it limits the rights of the accused.

As to preserving checks and balances, the judiciary prefers a statutory approach to victims' rights over a constitutional amendment.

Religious Freedom

This is the wolf in sheep’s clothing of amendments.  In the guise of protecting freedom it extends the power of government to promote religion.  The catch is the use of “people” instead of persons, such as in “The people retain the right to pray…”  Does this mean that if the majority determines that a public gathering will have a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim prayer, then the minority must sit quietly by while a prayer that they find offensive is given?  Is the “people” a local government that will specify the prayers?  Would an evangelical Christian be happy if all local government functions began with a Muslim prayer?

Special Elections/Appointment (Continuity of Government)
Naturalized Citizens for President
Natural Born Citizen Act
Direct Election of the President

These are the only amendments in my list that I think really satisfy all of the questions I posed.  My only caveat is, will they work as intended or will they have some serious unintended consequences?  The Continuity of Government is opposed by many representatives because it doesn’t guarantee quick elections to replace representatives.  The Naturalized Citizen amendment is called the “Schwarzenegger Amendment” but it could apply equally to Jennifer Granholm, the Canadian-born, Democratic governor of Michigan.  The Natural Born act is more limiting in that applies to people whose citizen parents happened to be elsewhere at the time of their birth or to people who immigrated as children.  Direct Election essentially abolishes the Electoral College.

Let’s hope that these four get more attention than the others and that Congress and the State legislatures deliberate them openly and honestly.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Regulations are good: for our competition

So-called free-marketers are constantly complaining about regulations.  Donald Trump claimed he would get rid of two regulations for every new regulation,.  Gosh, do you think he would drop the regulation of concealed-carry in the White House?  But that is a whole ‘nother subject.

What triggered this little outburst of mine was an article in the Reader Weekly from Wisconsin Public Radio ("Trade Dispute May Have Mixed Results for Wisconsin”).  It contained a story “Wisconsin Lawmakers Consider Sales of Home-Baked Goods Once Again”.  You can find the original story at https://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-lawmakers-consider-sales-home-baked-goods-once-again.

“In previous sessions, food industry advocates have brought up concerns about food safety…”

It would be interesting to know who these “food industry advocates” are and if they have ever complained about government regulations for the safety of their own products.

To be fair, many recall articles do state how a company is working with the government to improve.  After all, good companies are always concerned about their reputation for quality.

All's fair in love and war...and politics too!

Republicans are complaining that Democrats are making some points of Trumpcare political.  Gosh, where were they in supporting President Obama with the Affordable Care Act.  Do you remember the charges of "death panels"?  Taking away our "freedom of choice"?

Friday, May 05, 2017

Guns allowed, giggles not

At the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Desiree A. Fairooz said she merely giggled. Prosecutors gave a different account.

See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/us/code-pink-sessions-laughter-trial.html.

Trump Care for Congress and President

Suggested amendment to Trump Care in the Senate:

On passage of this bill, all government health insurance for members of Congress and for the President and members of his Cabinet shall cease.  If the “free market” is good enough for the people, it should be good enough for Congress and the President.

If it is good enough for us geese, then it is good enough for the ganders in Washington!

I sent the above to Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.  If you are a U.S. citizen, I hope you will send something similar to your senators.  You can find their email links via www.sen.gov.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Why Donald Trump has an affinity to Russia

Alexander Borodin wrote an opera about him:

Prince Ego

See also http://focusonthegold.blogspot.com/2013/03/donald-trumps-ego-is-not-worlds-biggest.html

Friday, April 28, 2017

I’m back!

I had an angiogram about two weeks ago to map out the blockages in my heart.  A week later I had open-heart surgery for a bypass and valve replacement.  I stayed in the hospital for about a week and came home earlier this week.

I met lots of interesting and helpful staff.  They stuck by me even when I had some paranoid delusions.

I can’t drive for a month after the surgery and then have limited activities for another month.

My wife has been a great help despite some of my bursts of impatience.

One of those impatiences seems to be that the print on the screen seems to be smaller.

I hope to soon write a blog post "Modern medicine and Let them eat cake politicians”.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Corporate efficiency?

Olive is software to put facsimiles of the newspaper print editions on line.  By clicking on an article, a reader can see a more screen friendly copy of an article.  Both the Duluth News Tribune and the Star Tribune have Olive editions.  I subscribe to both, partly to get the comics rather than the text of some of the articles.

But for years the Olive edition has had a major flaw; a flaw that still exists in the current version rolled out last year.  I don't know where they get o• writing about people like Je•rey.

The Olive edition of the 2017-04-17 Duluth News Tribune converted a USA Today article about North Korea to:

"The secretive state also showed o• a submarine-launched missile that it successfully fired last year.
"Analysts said that the weapons on display raised new questions about North Korea’s capacities going forward. Je•rey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., called the show 'a bewildering array of new missile-related hardware.'"

I did change the quote marks to match the standard for quoting material that includes quotes.

Given all the product recalls, the unfriendly skies of the airlines, and much more, I would say the only efficiency in far too many corporations is move as much revenue as possible to the CEOs and board members.  Gosh, I wish I could get $250,000 or more for showing up for six board meetings a year.  And many of these people, including the CEO's are on the boards of several companies.

Beer, gin, and fact checking

Every so often I visit FactCheck.org or POLITIFACT.  The latter uses “Pants on Fire” for the most outrageous claims.

The FactCheck story that caught my interest was the claim that increased beer drinking reduced the drinking of gin in 18th Century England.  This claim was made by Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana at the confirmation hearing of Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration.  Al Franken was skeptical.  Thanks, Al!  Maybe the “ruling” party should be called Republiars; they certainly aren’t concerned with Res Publica (public things).

My choice of the day from POLITIFACT was “Fake theory that Barack Obama hid millions of taxpayer dollars offshore started on parody site”.  Maybe “conservatives” should be called “connedgullibles”.

Friday, April 14, 2017

All the world is a phage,

And we are but carriers of it.

Phage is short for bacteriophage; it means bacteria eater.  Phages can be beneficial by killing bacteria in wounds.  On the other hand, they can also make other bacteria more dangerous.

Inspired by University of Minnesota, Duluth, University for Seniors class on micro-organisms., 2016-03-06

I thought of this phrase independently, but a Google search for "all the world is a phage" turned up many sites that had used this phrase long before I did.

“How to Stand Up to Trump and Win”

Nicholas Kristof gives several ideas about standing up to Trump in a New York Times article, 2017-04-13.  See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/opinion/how-to-stand-up-to-trump-and-win.html.

When I forwarded the link to my wife, I added the comment "Don’t just hold a sign. Experts share how to resist and get results.”

U.S. Tax Preparation, special interests making our life miserable

I posted the following comment to “Filling taxes in japan is a breeze, why not here?”, T.R. Reid, New York Times, 2017-04-17.

When we lived in Italy and Sweden (1968-1974) we filled out four-page forms for those countries' taxes. And then we had to at least fill out a two-page form for the U.S. But we didn't have much investment income then.

I have tried tax software, but their question format takes longer than doing my own spreadsheet. I tried the Free-Filer that the IRS site links to, but it doesn't provide instant recalculations like my spreadsheet does.

Maybe I shouldn't say this because some lobbyist will get Congress to take this benefit away: the IRS does provide fillable PDF forms that you can fill out offline instead of handwriting the data.

I should have added to my comment the old adage: We have the best Congress that money can buy!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trump, Taxes, and military adventures

Mr. Trump has proudly acknowledged that he fights to pay as little tax as possible so that the federal government cannot waste his money.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/us/politics/democrats-see-opening-in-tax-overhaul-fight-trumps-own-deductions.html

So now he is busy wasting our money with military attacks that didn't do much lasting damage, with increased military spending in a military budget that dwarfs quite a few of the next largest military budgets combined.

Does "Make America Great Again" mean being able to engage in whatever military fiasco Trump wants?  Ah, but he doesn't read history: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria.

And he forgets the American Revolution: a ragtag bunch of locals beat a seasoned army of a superpower of the day.  Ah, they did get some help from an enemy of the superpower, but that superpower was acting under the direction of the American generals.  The American generals were not acting under the direction of the superpower.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Is there a Common Sense Party?

A Google search put a British Common Sense Party at the top of the list.

As far as the U.S. goes, almost every link I found did not find a current Common Sense Party.

https://ballotpedia.org/Common_Sense_Party had a rather hard-nosed idea of common sense, sort of casting blame all over the map.  The “Official website” link gave “Server not found”.

http://www.commonsenseparty.org/home.html has lots of common sense quotes, but the website is for sale.  It is copyright by the Common Sense Party who will consider all serious offers.  It can be reached through its contact page: http://www.commonsenseparty.org/contact-us.html

The Centrist Party seems like a believable alternative.  Its website is http://uscentrist.org/ which is currently active.  The latest blog entry is dated 2017-03-28: http://uscentrist.org/news/the-common-sense-blog-the-ins-and-outs-of-congress

Its philosophy does use unclear definitions of “free market, limited government and individual liberty” but does call for “protecting the common good”.  We should consider that the balance between the two goals will always be unclear.

A Stanford student, Kyle D’Souza, gave a reasonable call, “The common sense party” http://www.stanforddaily.com/2017/01/13/the-common-sense-party/.  This was in January. It only had one comment which I thought was off the wall.

The American Common Sense Party seems to be a one-person party on Facebook, the last entry being 2016-03-09.

The Common Sense Party also is on Facebook.  It’s latest entry, 2017-03-22, was a link to Washington Post article of the same date: “Ex-Colo. GOP leader said only Democrats committed voter fraud.  Now he’s charged with voter fraud.

There are other recent articles about a “Common Sense Party”, but my quick scan showed that some are only local, not national or even state-wide.

Like the then moderate Republican Party arose from the Whig Party, maybe a true moderate party will arise from the current non-Lincoln Republican Party.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Another example of well-functioning goverment

Often when spring comes, many of the pipes on sidewalks for water-shut-off start rising up, providing an annoyance to runners and walkers.

At 8:49 this morning I sent the following message through the Duluth water and gas service website.

Spring has sprung, the ground heaves, and the water-turn-off pipes rise to trip the unwary walker.
Please add my address to your long list of tasks.

At 14:20 I sent the following message.

Thanks for the fast service on tamping down the water-shut-off pipe.  Another fine example of good government service.

If we really stop to think about it, there is a long list of government services at all levels that are provided efficiently and courtesy: Post Office, fire departments, Social Security, snowplowing, parks, and on and on.

I think the government bashing is mostly from those who don't want to pay taxes for any of the many services they receive.  They would rather provide these services themselves and make a profit from them.  How well, does the private sector perform?  Just consider all the problems you have with the device that you are using to read this.  How many help desks have provided prompt and correct answers?  Yes, you can find many corporations that provide quality products and services, but it often depends on management.  Good management is found in the public and private sectors.  Bad management is found in the public and private sectors.


Sunday, April 02, 2017

Religious Americans who believe war is murder shouldn’t be forced to fund it

This my counter to “Religious Americans who believe abortion is murder shouldn’t be forced to fund it”, one of the opinions in “Should the new Congress defund Planned Parenthood”, Duluth News Tribune, 2017-04-02.

It boggles my mind that those who want to ban abortion seem to have no qualms of supporting a party that is all to willing to go to war wherever they think “American interests” are at stake.  War causes many unwanted abortions, abortions the victimized mothers would not want if they had survived the bombing or gunfire.  Even if the mothers had survived, would the stress of war caused spontaneous abortions in some of them.

These anti-abortion, pro-war “religious” seem to forget “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  - Matthew 5:9.  They also seem to have ignored “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” Peter I 3:8.

An avian cocktail party

No tern left unstoned.

What does it take to become an "American"?

Comment to
http://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/why-is-this-hate-different-from-all-other-hate.html?comments#permid=22009533

Many Americans consider themselves to be Swedish or Italian or Polish because of where their grandparents or earlier were born, but are they really?  I have four great-grandparents born in England and four who were born in Germany or in what is now Poland.

But I do not consider myself English, German, or Polish.  I consider myself American.  I grew up here, my parents grew up here, and my grandparents grew up here.  Actually one grandmother was born in Schliesen, now part of Poland, but she went to American schools all her life.

When I went to England, I was not English, but a Yank.  When I went to Germany I was not German, but ein Amerikaner.

We will continue to have people from elsewhere come to the U.S., settle, and adopt many American ways.  Some will keep customs of their parents or grandparents; others will blend in.  Some will keep their religious views; some will change.  Consider the Amish.  Although there may be hostility to them by some, they are accepted by most people.  Can't we treat all newcomers with the same respect?

Oh, it gets more complicated.  My extended family includes people whose ancestors were born in Japan, China, and Africa.  I consider all of these as Americans first, and whatever as a matter of historic interest.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Whose responsibility is it to correct for computer inconsistencies?

It’s obviously the user, who may or may not have an understanding of the problem and its solution.

Once again, no matter what I did, I couldn’t make my iPhone a hotspot.

I would turn on Cellular Data.  The slider may or may not work.  I thought maybe it was the extra hard screen cover I have.  But other sliders don’t seem to have the same problem.  If the slider for Cellular Data came on, then the Personal Hotspot slider may or may not come on.  Sometimes it would; sometimes it would not.  If it didn’t, then the Cellular Data slider would turn off.

If I gave up and asked my MacBook Air to join a network, it might or might not.  I think, but can’t be sure, if I make mistakes twice in entering the password, then I can’t get on at all.

Now, comes the kicker.  How many users know about General>Reset>Reset Network Settings?  You have to be a user who visits the Apple “Community” or can think of keywords to find other sites with the appropriate answers.

But once you reset your problems are not over.  If you ask to join the network on your other device, it won’t work.  Why?  Because the name you thought your iPhone had has now become iPhone.  Either you use iPhone from now on, or you go to General>About>Name and change iPhone to the name you had given your phone.

“The Computer for The Rest of Us” from 1984 slogan has long disappeared.  We are almost back to the nightmare of “1984” in that we don’t really have a clue what Big Brother Apple wants us to do.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Questions for the “Freedom” caucus

Just what is this “Freedom” you lay claim to and who is free to do what to whom?

Is it the “freedom” to own slaves by a few or to make certain people second class citizens?

Or is it the freedom to be have a well-payiing job with respect from your employer?

Is it the “freedom” to gerrymander voting districts to give yourselves an unfair electoral advantage?

Or is it the freedom to know that your vote will count in a fair election?

Is it the “freedom” to be free from paying taxes for all the benefits that have helped you get rich?  Like public schools for educated workers, like roads to move your goods around, like courts to settle any disputes you may have, like police to investigate crimes committed against you, like fire departments to respond quickly to fires or medical emergencies?

Or is it the freedom to have all kinds of resources available that we can only afford collectively by contributing to the best of our ability?

Is it the “freedom” to have wider and wider highways to drive faster and quicker, regardless of the cost to tax bases, to individual families, or to the environment?

Or is it the freedom to be secure in your own house, knowing that the chances are almost non-existent that your house will be condemned to make room for an ever wider freeway?  Is it the freedom to not have to have a car because other forms of transportation are convenient and frequent?

Is it the “freedom" to reduce your own costs by polluting the air and water?

Or is it the freedom to have clean breathable air or to have safe, drinkable water?

Is it the “freedom” to donate large sums to “elected” officials to do your bidding?

Or is it the freedom to know the candidates you can vote for have received “small” amounts of money only from the people who have a right to vote for them.

See also "The false masters of words".

Quotes of the day: Trump and voting

Quote of the day about Trump

"They are also saying there’s an unidentified lying object in the White House."

"The Offender of the Free World", Roger Cohen, New York Times, 2017-01-28, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/opinion/the-offender-of-the-free-world.html

Quote of the day about voting

We must turn out and vote like our lives dependent on it! If we don't vote we turn elections over to the regressive minority!

Ibid: comment by Reader MegaDucks

My comment:
Hear! Hear!

The only way
We throw are votes away
Is to stay away!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The false masters of words

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

We seem to have lots of Humpty Dumptys in politics, their words mean what they choose, not what most people think they mean.

Take the “Freedom Caucus”.  What do they mean?  It certainly doesn’t mean freedom to govern ourselves according to generally accepted rules.  To them it means freedom to do what they damn well please, to hell with whoever else's freedom they tromp on.

Just what are “conservatives” conserving.  It certainly isn’t resources.  It certainly isn’t careful consideration before making any changes.  To too many “conservatives” it means either conserving the power of large corporations or conserving a very narrow view of religion. ironically, the latter don’t hold the former to “you cannot serve both God and Mammon.” - Matthew 6:24.

As I’ve written more times than some of my readers would like, “free market” means, according to the Humpty Dumptys is again, free for the sellers to do as they please.  To them the free market is not providing buyers with all the information they need and is not avoiding externalities such as pollution and worker safety.  These to them are impediments to “free markets”.

“Liberals” misuse words also, but their goals tend to be more friendly to the general populace.  But sometimes their “liberality” works counter to the general welfare or unnecessarily creates opposition to certain desirable goals: like letting people lead the lives they choose.

I think “gay marriage” has lost a lot of otherwise “liberal” votes because many supporters have a different view of marriage.  I’ve always thought this problem should be dealt with by a “granny rule”.  If two grandmothers choose to live together, is it our business whether they sleep in the same bed or in different rooms?  It is “our business” if one of them dies.  Does the survivor have to sell the house to pay the inheritance of the deceased’s children and grandchildren?  To avoid this situation, any group of people who choose to live together should be able to have a civil contract that protects the interests of each member of the group.

Friday, March 24, 2017

There never can be a free market in health care

I submitted the following comment to David Brooks “The Trump Elite. Like the Old Elite, but Worse”, New York Times, 2014-03-24, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/opinion/the-trump-elite-like-the-old-elite-but-worse.html?comments#permid=21912241. (Warning, my comment is buried among several others.)

There never can be a "free market" in health care.  Sure the sellers are free to leave the market, but few of the buyers are free to leave the market.

Let's hope it doesn't happen to you, but suppose you are in a car crash on a rural road.  First responders find you unconscious and decide to send you to a big city hospital rather than the nearest small town hospital.  Depending on the severity of your injuries, they call an ambulance (very expensive) or a helicopter (really expensive).  Oh yes, there is no free market in either because there are not many sellers of either, not many being only one.

There can be a free market in insurance providers, but how free a market is there when only five or six providers in your market?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Health care, RINO's and rhinos

I posted the following to the New York Times article "Yes, Senator, You Wouldn't Want to Lose Your Mammograms – or Women Voters".  See http://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/opinion/yes-senator-you-wouldnt-want-to-lose-your-mammograms-or-women-voters.html?comments#permid=21906167

I think we should stop calling "Republicans" Republicans.  They definitely are not the party of Res Publica (public things).  They either are corporatists or stone throwing sinners.

I always wonder where the party I once was a precinct officer of would have become if John Anderson had won the nomination in 1980.

- End of NYT submission

Around the time Ronald Reagan became President the term RINO started being used heavily: Republican in Name Only.  It was used to cast out those who believed in the "big tent" that both parties claimed to be.

But I often wonder if the term shouldn't be "RHINO", a big, lumbering mammal with poor eyesight and a willingness to attack anything it sees as a threat.  Which is just about anything that moves.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Republican governors’ oxen gored

Republican governors are complaining about the cuts to the Federal grants they received.  These governors include many whose states already receive far more in federal money than their residents pay in taxes.

See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/us/eyeing-trumps-budget-plan-republican-governors-say-no-thanks.html?comments&_r=0#permid=21886125

My comment was “States’ rights to federal funding?”

I also added a comment to Socrates who began "The Grand Old Parasites want everything and systematically refuse to pay for it.  They want something for nothing and refuse to acknowledge that taxes are the cost of civilization.”

Ironically, "taxes are the cost of civilization" supposedly was said by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, appointed by Theodore Roosevelt.  I think both are spinning in their graves at the current status of their party.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Can travelers stop Trump?

I thought I saw an article in BBC News that many people in other countries who could travel to the U.S. are choosing to go elsewhere.  For example, a British professor who received a travel grant decided to use it to travel to a conference not in the U.S.  In addition, travel to the U.S. supposedly is down.  Is this seasonal or because of Trump.

Trump’s travel ban is having an effect on doctors for small towns.  See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/us/doctor-shortage-visa-policy.html.  Many of these small towns depend on foreign doctors because many U.S. doctors aren’t interested in working in low-paying areas.

I wonder how much people leaving the U.S. and people not considering can put a crimp in the support of Trump.

What if all those U.S. residents who are foreign-born decided to go elsewhere?  I have many foreign-born friends, some who are also citizens.  I would not like to see them leave.  But as with the doctors, if large numbers of engineers, professors, programmers moved outside the U.S., would the U.S. economy be hurt enough to get many of Trump’s enablers to abandon him?

What if large numbers of temporary visitors decided to go elsewhere?  Would the travel industry feel it enough to complain to politicians.

If this came to pass, I know who Trump would blame: me.

Actually probably not me, but I’m sure he would find lots of scapegoats other than himself.

An additional thought along these lines.  How much do U.S. travelers enable other anti-democratic leaders?  Could a large enough boycott have an effect on these leaders, or would their countries become another North Korea?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Republicans are all for choice except…

“Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”
Jason Chaffetz, Republcian Rep., Utah

But Republicans don’t want to give people much choice when it comes to transportation.  We should all rely on cars and planes.  Forget trains, buses, and subways.  They would rather build more and more freeways, taking away the tax bases of central cities.

The cost of a cell phone pales in comparison to cost of a car, even a decent used one.  Then there is all the gas, service, and parking places for it.

And the car has destroyed many a downtown because people prefer going where there is “free parking”.  But what is the cost of that free parking: rain runoff (filled with contaminants) and heat radiation.

And what is the cost of health care compared to a cell-phone.    We each pay $238 for medical insurance deducted from our Social Security checks.  We don’t pay anyway near that for our cell phone service.  And the iPhone that is not fully paid for costs only $16.67 per month.

And what is the cost to the rest of us for an uninsured person?  Companies should worry about people showing up sick because they can’t get afford medical care.  All of us should be concerned about somebody who doesn’t get care for a communicable disease.  Did you ever hear about Typhoid Mary who worked in food service?  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Mallon.  Although she never became sick from typhoid, she was a carrier who infected many of the families she cooked for.

Health care for all of us means better health for all of us.  True conservatives would want to keep as many people well as possible.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Good companies benefit from good regulations

The New York Times had an article on a small group of business in Toledo that thought less regulation would help their businesses.

See “The President Changed. So Has Small Businesses’ Confidence”, Landon Thomas Jr, 2107-03-12
2017-03-14'

Many people fail to realize that government makes businesses run more smoothly because it levels the playing field by keeping other businesses honest.  Government is the force that reduces externalities.

Does a quality restaurant want to compete with a sloppy restaurant that has unsanitary conditions, pays extremely low wages, and just dumps its garbage anywhere.  Food inspections have saved lots of lives and protected other restaurants from unfair competition.

Does a trucking company that follows safety laws want to compete with a company that overworks its drivers who are encouraged to speed.

Does a quality manufacturer want to compete with a manufacturer who cuts costs by avoiding a lot of safety practices?

Does a food processor want to face a law suit from a person who has a really bad reaction because the company didn’t follow government labelling regulation?

Does any company want to do business with a bank that doesn’t keep a government-mandated reserves?  It has happened over and over again that people and companies have lost a great deal of money when a bank went belly-up.  The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has certainly reduced the losses of many a company.

If a government didn’t enforce certain standards of safety and fiduciary responsibility, would more businesses be looking at costly law suits?  By showing that they were making every effort to follow the regulations, wouldn’t they blunt these suits, especially if they kept good compliance records.

And well-run companies will also pay less insurance than their slap-dash competitors.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot patents and copyrights.  Boy, lots of companies would be screaming bloody murder if their intellectual property wasn’t protected by government registration.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Poop in the pool" politics

Today's Duluth News Tribune (2017-03-14)  has an editorial "No pay for extra sessions".  It claimed that no legislator should get his or her per diem because they didn't get their work done in the regular session.  This assumes that each and every legislator was responsible for not getting all the bills passed that should have been passed.

But how few legislatures does it take to hold up a bill?

For years I've called punishing the many for the misdeeds of the few as "poop in the pool" management.  I was at a summer camp decades ago when poop was discovered in the pool.  The camp councilors would not let anybody swim in the pool until somebody admitted to fouling the water.  Since probably only the culprit knew who did it,  do you really think he would admit his misdeed and get even worse punishment, like his parents being told?  Meanwhile, all those who didn't see it happen, and most of them were either not in the water or not even in the pool area, get punished for something they had absolutely no knowledge of.

Unfortunately, this attitude is found in all societies.  All schmoos are responsible for one schmoo tripping over one shtoonk.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

“Donald Trump dead from fatal heart attack!”

Wow!  Did I get your attention with this false news!

It is based on an 2007 WrestleMania event.  I’ll let you read the details at http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2017/jan/04/thenewyorkeveningcom/news-trumps-death-fake-his-wrestlemania-appearance/

There are a whole bunch of web sites that put out almost any kind of distorted news.  Politifact uncovers many of them.  This particular item was given a “Pants on Fire” rating.

Politifact is really non-partisan, but some of those who it criticizes don’t like being exposed.  Unfortunately, those who need criticism more often act offended more often.

Another good site for fact checking is FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.  Vanessa Schipani really took a good look at some of the Republican small concessions on climate change: http://www.factcheck.org/2017/03/precision-in-climate-science/.

Whatever you read or watch, be sure to use more than one source for your news.

By the way, the worst I wish for Donald Trump is that he sneak off into the sunset with his tales between his legs.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The truth about Donald Trump’s inauguration

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2017/01/24/the-true-correct-story-of-what-happened-at-donald-trumps-inauguration.

And if you believe this hilarious parody…

Trucks, taxes, and benefits

I don’t drive on freeways much anymore, but are there still trucks that have signs on the back that state something like “This truck pays $4,362 per year in taxes.”

Shouldn’t there also be a sign that says the government provides $x,xxx per year in services to this truck”?

What is the pro-rata cost of highways for each truck?  Snow-plowing?  Police investigation of crashes?  Police protection of auto drivers harassed by tailgating truckers?

It seems more that someone benefits from taxes the more they complain about taxes.  Corporations want well-educated employees, but they don’t want to pay the taxes to educate future employees.  They want to sue those they claim have wronged them, but they don’t want to pay the taxes for courts.  They want laws to protect their interests, but don’t want to pay the costs of enforcement.

Corporations and others want a military that costs more than then next two or three next largest militaries, but they don’t want to pay the taxes to support that military.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Quote of the dayl: Donald Trump and Constitution

"What Trump knows about history (or for that matter the Constitution) would not fill a Post-it note."
Roger Cohen, New York Times, 2017-02-28.

One could say the same about many members of Congress and the Supreme Court.

What I don't understand is that some of these judges are "originalists" and then put a different meaning into the text.  Or all those in Congress who call themselves "conservatives" but are quite liberal with their reading of the Constitution.







Friday, March 03, 2017

Iran: A Cultural Lesson for Americans

The Iranian movie “A Separation” is really about interpersonal clashes that can occur in any country.  However, it is a glimpse into the lives of people in different classes and their hopes and concerns.

The take away for anybody with an open mind is that we are not at war with people in many countries.  People in other countries have their hopes and dreams, jobs and responsibilities, and can care for one another as well as get into unreasonable disputes.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Another job automated away

About 50 years ago, I had to call or visit a stock broker to buy or sell stocks. I would place the call.  A few hours later the broker would call me back with the results of the transaction.  The charge could be $50 or more.

About 30 years ago online trading began.  Place an order and some time later the order would be processed.  The charge was about $25 regardless of the size of the order.

About 20 years ago, the time lapse was shorter and the charge was $14.99.

About 15 years ago, many trades were “instantaneous”.  Place the order and it would be filled.  The charges also dropped down to $9.99.

Today, I was informed that the charge would be $6.99 next week.

Consider that many of these trades are untouched by human hands.  Instead of a local broker calling a New York broker who would pass the order to broker on the exchange floor, each buy-sell order goes to a set of computers which fill the orders within seconds, and with only fractions of cents difference in the offer and sale.

Now if we could only automate CEO jobs.  Think of the billions that could be saved across the economy by replacing these over-paid men and women.  The savings could be passed on to the people who do the real work.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Spending money saves money

Too many “budget cutters” think that taking benefits from one group of people will save lots of money for a few other people.  Actually taking benefits away will just transfer costs elsewhere.

Take for example health care.  “Conservatives” think that spending less on Medicare and Medicaid will save billions.

No, it will just transfer costs to somewhere else.  Corporations will have to spend more on employee healthcare or risk having more sick employees.  States will have to pay more for healthcare, if they so chose.

If people can’t afford health care, they will be less able to work and have less taxable income.  They will also have less money to spend on all the goods and services companies provide.  If there are fewer buyers, then there will be fewer goods and services sold.  If there are fewer goods and services sold, then there will be less profits.

“Conservatives” should be careful what they ask for.  They may just get the opposite.

One thing leads to another

I received an email from the Toronto Globe and Mail offering an introductory $1.99/week offer.  This is because I am a casual non-paying user.  I sent the following to feedback:

Thanks for your persistence in trying to get me to subscribe, but I am "overwhelmed" by the New York Times and two Minnesota dailies.

I only went to the Globe and Mail to point out to some relatives in Bradford how much news they were missing by watching TV news.

I learned about the Muslim father who didn't want his children in music classes because music was "haram".  Then I saw Zarqa Nawaz's commentary.

Oh, she's the creator of "Little Mosque on the Prairie".  I saw some episodes long ago.  Now we have watched five seasons and will watch the final season in a few weeks.

I also looked up military bands in Islamic countries.  The Saudi Arabian band played "The Star Spangled Banner" for Pres. Obama.  I also found a picture of Iranian trombonists marching past Pres. Ahmadinejad.  If music was haram these countries would be the first to abolish military bands.

Thanks for publishing the Globe and Mail.  I just wish I had the time to read it as much as I do the New York Times.
End of Globe and Mail letter

That led me to look up Ahmadinejad, former president of Iran, and I found that he wrote a letter to Donald Trump.  See http://www.politico.eu/article/iran-former-president-mahmoud-ahmadinejad-donald-trump/

That in turn led me to
http://www.politico.eu/article/donald-trump-bans-iran-profits-migration-muslim-ban-isil-terrorism-foreign-policy-middle-east/

When will we ever learn?  It seems OK for the U.S. to meddle in other countries and have military operations wherever we please, but if other countries have military exercises in the seas near their border, the U.S. howls aggression.

Poor George Washington, spinning in his grave whenever his “Farewell Address” is read in the U.S. Senate, and then the Senate and others do exactly the opposite of his advice.

"Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Simple solution to a very annoying computer problem

My iPhone has been getting more and more difficult to set up as a hotspot.  I ignored the advice on Apple to reset the network setting and went to ATT chat.  Daniel walked me through several things, but I couldn’t do any of them without breaking the connection to my MacBook Air which was linked to AT&T via a hotspot.

I did follow his advice to reset network settings, and I am back to quick connection to the hotspot.

After I had things working my wife mentioned defragging, a term from our bad old days on mainframes.  Periodically we would have to move pieces in memory around to have enough big pieces to do what needed to be done.  We never thought of Powder Milk Biscuits to give us the strength to do what needs to be done.

With more and more storage on our devices, it is easy to forget about the problem of fragmentation of memory.  As the pieces of memory get smaller, it takes longer to put together larger pieces.  In "ancient" history, 64KB was a lot of memory.  Now with 64GB we assume we will never run out of memory.  Surprise!

Friday, February 24, 2017

The world’s greatest deliberative body?

I’ve long thought that calling the U.S. Senate was an American conceit.  Now we are seeing it as one of the world’s greatest political games.  It is more fixed opinions than it is deliberative.

The polarization seems to grow by the day.  Have all these Senators stopped reading the Constitution?  Are they even paying attention when they have their ritual reading of “Washington’s Farewell Address”.  Among the many admonitions are his warnings about “overgrown military establishments” and the forming of factions.

If Senators have already declared their positions on almost every issue, they are really putting lie to “deliberative body”.

For more on the Senatorial dysfunction, see “On the death of the world’s greatest deliberative body”, Paul Kane, Washington Post, 2017-01-31.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It can happen here!

Many of us think that the Constitution protects us from a dictatorship.  Unfortunately we are seeing signs of the possibility with Congress almost being in lockstep with the President and the Supreme Court becoming more subservient to the same ideology as the President and Congress.

Kurt Gödel, a mathematician and refugee from Hitler, studied the Constitution thoroughly in preparation for his citizenship.  He saw a flaw that his friends cautioned him not to mention it in his hearing.

The examiner sympathetically mentioned that what was happening under Hitler couldn’t happen here.  Gödel mentioned that he knew how it could.  His friends managed to quiet him down and he became a citizen.  See My Brain is Open by Paul Erdös.

How could it happen here?  The Constitution can be amended.  Could it be amended to give the President a life term, extend to the terms of Congress, abolish free speech,…?

Think of how much of the Constitution has already been corrupted by Supreme Court decisions:  Corporations as people, people becoming persons,…

Think of how Republicans are working hard to suppress voting or dilute the effect of any opposition.

All that is needed is for a hard-nosed party to take absolute control of Congress and three-quarters of the states.  Boom!  There goes our Constitution.

Only you can prevent it.  Vote thoughtfully in each and every election, from city council to state house to Congress to President.  You are our only bulwark against our loss of freedom.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Busy feeling sorry for myself

My wife has had a long-standing cold that just doesn’t seem to go away.  She manages to do some of her chores but spends a lot of time reading.  Meanwhile, I just went on hale and hearty.

Then bam!  Last week I lost all my energy.  I first attributed it to splitting wood. lots of ice chipping, and a heavy workout at the fitness center.  But no, my cough got worse and my nose ran a lot.  I gave up on going to the cabin.  Fortunately, we had a thaw and the snow is almost gone (in February, in Duluth Minnesota?  Global warming is a hoax?)

Wait!  If you don’t like the weather in Minnesota, wait five minutes.  It is raining, the temperature is dropping, and we have snow!

My energy level was just sufficient to read books and newspapers.  Let’s see, I got through both of Aaron James’ “Asshole” books,  I finished another non-fiction book and got half-way through a fourth.  Today, I just had to finish Lisa Scottoline’s Courting Trouble.  Wow!  Does it twist and turn.

Now, I have to gather all the notes I made from reading newspapers, sort out what I have already made blog entries about, and write something that is a different take on what is being published.

I hope i don’t have to shovel snow tomorrow!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Mining landfills better than digging new mines?

Sometime ago I read or heard about landfills being mined for gold in Japan

Looking into landfill mining, I found a large number of sites, mostly positive.  One I found a few weeks ago is Landfill Miners.

A search for “mining gold from landfill” or “mining copper from landfill” turned up a variety of sites about landfill mining, mostly positive.  It seems more recent articles are more positive than older articles.  Many projects reclaim a large variety of materials, many of which can be sold for less than mining the original materials.  Aluminum and copper are major materials in this category.

Be on the hillside when the dam breaks on Trump

Comment to Charles Blow’s “Drip, Drip, Drip”

Aaron James wrote two books about the personality disorder that seems all too evident in many places. Trump is mentioned in the first; Trump is the subject of the second. The disorder can be described as "Me first, everybody else is wrong." "Me first" reminds me of the story told by Marlo Thomas of the girl who claimed privilege by "Ladies first". Do you think Trump will be first when the tigers come?

Blow ended his column with “Drip, drip, drip it goes until the dam breaks and the truth spills.”  I hope those who voted against Trump and those who couldn’t vote are on the hill side when the dam breaks.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Other views on Trump and Washington’s Farewell Address

Just when I think I have an original thought, a quick Google search reveals that many others have written about the same subject, sometimes well over a year ago:(

Here is a sample of some of these writings:

Washington’s Farewell Address: the Trump version,
The Christian Science Monitor, Jack Pitney, 2015-09-23

This is a hilarious parody of Trump’s speeches and tweets.  Too bad few, if any, of the non-voters read this before the election.

How America’s First President Predicted Donald Trump: John Avlon explains why George Washington farewell warning is more relevant then ever." Tina Nguyen, Vanity Fair, 2017-01-13

John Avlon has written other political books including Independent Nation  and Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America.

Is a Trump presidency what George Washington warned us about?”, Eric Black, MinnPost, 2016-11-15

And an indirect reference to Farewell Address is “The Republic Repeals Itself”, Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine, 2016-11-09.

What irritates me about many of these writings is statements that Brexit and Trump were populist movements.  But the number of the people who did not vote for Brexit or Trump far outnumber those who did.  Unfortunately, too many of those in opposition didn’t bother to vote.

Did George Washington warn us about Donald Trump?

When I posted “Does U.S. Senate follow advice it honors?” I didn’t explicitly connect Washington’s warning about one department (branch) of the government encroaching on another: "The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.”

Trump seems to already have a lock-step Congress and will soon have a lock-step Supreme Court.  If we are lucky, Neil Gorsuch will be another Earl Warren!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Does U.S. Senate follow advice it honors?

Every year, the U.S. Senate has a member read George Washington’s Farewell Address.  For more details of this, see https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Washingtons_Farewell_Address.htm.

It is a slog for many of us today to read the Address in its entirety, but it has much that has been ignored, even by those who read it.  For example,
"Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establish-ments, which under any form of government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."
Or, very germane to the current Senate:
"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.  The disorders and miseries which result gradually  incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”
Have the many Republican Senators who have read the Farewell Address already forgotten:
"It is important, likewise, that the habits of think-ing in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another.  The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism."
There is much to agree with and some to disagree with, but the main thrust should be a guide for all of us.  What bothers me is how much those who annually read and listen to the reading of this document soon ignore it.

I ask my readers to select a few key points and write, email, or phone their two Senators if they are honestly following these points or have compelling reasons in the public interest to ignore some of Washington’s advice.

For the text, see https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21/pdf/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21.pdf.

See also "Did George Washington warn us about Donald Trump".

Corporate efficiency?

Forum Communications (owners of the Duluth News Tribune) implemented a new “improved” version of the Olive Edition.  This is a program that allows readers to toggle between a facsimile of the printed paper and individual articles.  I sent the following to the person who responded to my help message:

"I do find the new version a lot harder to use.  I prefer the way the Star Tribune is set up.  For example, the Strib version has a section icon at the top left.  Much easier than using the arrows to go back or forth page by page.  Also, when I first opened it, it didn’t automatically set the page to my screen size.  It took a bit of fumbling before had the page size adjusted properly.

"Olive still can’t translate the text correctly.  Most of the articles that I looked at still drop the first letter of a story.”

That paragon of efficiency, Netflix, sent me email that my next DVD would be arriving three days ago!!  Which it had!  Maybe their email system went down.  And that system was most likely set up by some corporation.

I downloaded Stitcher because iTunes was just getting too difficult to use.  I was finding it being less responsive to downloading and playing podcasts.  Even Stitcher has lots of hidden things that don’t work easily and clearly. Many of the operations don’t work as described in the help articles. I think I finally have my podcasts organized that I can download new episodes and can play them offline without a problem.

I’ve been at two different groceries this week where the register system did not work properly.  Fortunately, each had it come on line quickly or had a workaround.

Good old Apple!  I’m never sure what it will take to get a hotspot from my phone working.  Sometimes our iPads or laptops will recognize the hotspot immediately.  Sometimes it will take several minutes and multiple times turning the hotspot off and on again.  As somebody in a coffee shop loudly proclaimed months ago about gas prices: “It makes no sense!”

In defense of the oil companies and all the corporate and locally-owned stations, it does make sense.  Gas is an auction commodity.  Demand goes up, the price goes up.  Demand goes down, the price goes down.  Of course, there is also the seasonal switching of blends that decreases supply, causing the price to go up.

And those much maligned government agencies.  Working as planned.

Our social security checks are always posted to our bank on time.  (The bank does mark the payments as available immediately, but may take many hours to post them to our “ledger”)

If we order a book or DVD from the Duluth Public Library (either from the system or from MNLink*), they send us email within an hour or two of items being available at our branch.

*MNLink is a consortium of the local government libraries that make their collections available to other libraries in the system.  Often an item is delivered to the requesting library within two days of its being returned by the previous borrower.

And snowplowing has gotten better.  Our local streets are plowed several times after a storm and getting around may be a hassle for awhile and driveways may be blocked.  One thing that has improved is that a sidewalk plow generally comes around a day or two after a major storm.  It even makes up for those residents who rarely shovel their sidewalks.

Finally, the Duluth Transit Authority buses are fairly close to on-time even when the streets are not in the best condition.  And oh, yes, those friendly and courteous drivers are Teamsters.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Talk about Boards with Conflicts of Interest!

Talk about Boards with Conflicts of Interest!
Melvyn D. Magree
Originally published in the
Northland Reader
now the
Reader Weekly
April 27, 2000
Revised October 20, 2006, February 9, 2017

In the last election, some criticized candidates for the school board who were teachers or spouses of teachers.  The critics claimed this was a conflict of interest.  The same criticism was raised during the contract negotiations in January.

The contract that was signed called for an 11.4 percent or 6.4 million dollar raise over two years. (Duluth News-Tribune, Jan. 25, 2000)  Six million dollars seems like a lot of money to most of us, but let’s see what it means to an average teacher.  There are approximately 1,000 teachers in the Duluth Public Schools.  That means the average teacher would get a $6,400 raise over two years or $3,200 each year.  If that is an 11.4 percent raise, then the average teacher got $28,000 per year ($6,400 divided by 0.114 divided by 2 years).  For the second year of the contract, the average teacher will receive $34,400 per year.
Is it any wonder there is a teacher shortage?  Many college graduates can get that as starting pay in some companies, especially those involved with technology.  Why be a math or science teacher?

What does 6.4 million dollars buy in private industry?  How about more than ten times that?  A single CEO!  The CEO of Hewlett Packard, Carleton (Carly) Fiorina had pay of 69.4 million dollars in the fiscal year ending October 1999. (1)  Granted her salary is exceptionally high, but many executives take home 6.4 million dollars or more a year.  Forbes Magazine published the total compensation of fifty executives this month. (2)  Thirty-five of the fifty had compensation for the 1999 fiscal year in excess of 6.4 million dollars.

Well, they earned it because the stockholders decided these CEOs increased the value of the company; at least that is how many justify these salaries.  But is it the stockholders that really decide the executive pay?  The mechanics are that the boards of directors decide the executive compensation.  Who sits on the boards of directors?  The CEO who is often also board chair.  Academics, foundation heads, former politicians, and executives from other corporations.

For example, the board of Hewlett-Packard includes Philip M. Condit, CEO of Boeing, and Patricia C. Dunn, chairman and CEO of Barclays Global Investors.  The board of Boeing includes Lewis E. Platt, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.  Ms. Dunn sits on the Group Executive Committee of the parent Barclays PLC and Barclays Bank PLC.  The chairman of the Executive Team is Sir Peter Middleton who is also on the board of Bass PLC.  Bass PLC owns Holiday Inns. (3)

I didn’t think the Barclays path would lead to as close ties as the Hewlett-Packard/Boeing tie, and so I decided to try some of the largest Minnesota companies.  Wow!  What a community!

I started with http://finance.yahoo.com/ and entered the symbols for several of the largest Minnesota-based corporations.  I looked at the profile of each company then clicked on the link to their home pages.  From the home pages I searched for “board of directors” or worked from investor relations.  The only exception was Cargill which is privately traded.  For it I went to http://www.cargill.com/ and then searched for the relevant pages.  I looked at these pages on March 17-18, 2000 with a few rechecks on April 5, 2000.

Let’s start with Michael R. Bonsignore, CEO of Honeywell, recently merged with Allied Signal.  He was listed on the boards of Cargill, The St. Paul Companies, and Medtronic.  He was on the compensation committee of The St. Paul Companies and Medtronic.  He has resigned from the board of Cargill according to a Cargill press release.  The Honeywell 1999 Annual Report lists him as on the Medtronic board.

William W. George is the CEO of Medtronic.  He is also on the board of Target.  Medtronic’s board includes Richard L. Schall, consultant and retired vice chairman, Dayton Hudson Corporation now known as Target Corporation.

Robert J. Ulrich is the CEO of the Target Corporation.  I didn’t find him listed on any other boards, but Target’s board includes Livio D. DeSimone, CEO of 3M; Richard M. Kovacevich, CEO of Wells Fargo & Co. which recently merged with Norwest Banks; William W. George, CEO of Medtronic; Stephen W. Sanger, CEO of General Mills; and Solomon D. Trujillo, CEO of US West.  Messrs. Sanger and Trujillo are on the compensation committee.

Charles M. Lillis is an executive vice president of US West.  He serves on the board of SuperValu.

Michael W. Wright is the CEO of SuperValu.  He serves on the boards of Cargill and Honeywell.

There are more links than these, but your mind is probably boggled by now.  Maybe an example line of links would make the kind of relations clearer.

Honeywell -> Medtronic -> Target -> US West -> SuperValu -> Honeywell

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this little network and others like it are “old boy networks” (even if they contain some middle-aged women) and “foxes guarding the chicken coop” (as some critics described teachers on the school board) or if it is merely shared expertise to enhance shareholder value.

(1) Many of the original sources are no longer available online.  When I did a search on October 20, 2006, I found only six sites with "fiorina pay '69.4 million'"; only one had much relevant detail -

The Winner-Steal-All Society and the persistence of the CEO-market myth

I also found her employment agreement when she was hired by Hewlett-Packard.  You'll have to calculate her total pay for her first year from all the details.  Interestingly, she was given 600,000 shares of HP stock at a price determined by the 1995 Employee Incentive Plan.  What that price really was is harder to come by.  I accessed these October 20, 2006.

(2) Forbes Magazine, April 3, 2000.  The online article is no longer available.

(3) Barclays has changed much since I wrote this article.  If you would like to do your own tracing, you could start at "About Barclays", https://www.home.barclays/about-barclays.html

©2000, 2006, 2007, 2017 Melvyn D. Magree

An apology to my regular readers

I’m sorry that I have not written much for the last several days.  I have been a bit overwhelmed with snow shoveling and the disturbing news that keeps coming from Washington. On the latter, I often feel like I am railing against the wind.

Then I take heart from Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day:
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

See http://www.bigeye.com/donotgo.htm for the complete poem.

Failing public schools?

“If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.” Falsely attributed to Joseph Goebbels.

"The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.” - Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

For more on both of these quotes, see https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels.

“Failing public schools” is a sweeping statement that implies no public school is doing its job.

But nobody ever turns it around and says much about failing parents or bad peer pressure.  If a family constantly has the TV on, how well can a student do homework?  If peers constantly bad-mouth school, how much grit does it take to ask questions in class?  If a home has lots of lead contamination, how much can schools do to increase a student’s cognitive ability?

I think the “failing schools” mantra is pushed by those who don’t want to pay taxes to educate all the children and those who want to make a profit by taking away students from the public schools.

Well, my parents were products of public schools.  My wife and I are products of public schools.  Our two children are products of public schools.  Our grandchildren are products of public schools.  Two of these are products of Japanese public schools, but they are welcome as visitors to U.S. public schools.

If public schools have failed, it is not teaching enough civics. We have to look no farther than “president” Donald Trump to learn how badly private schools have taught civics.

See also “Charter School Achievement: Hype vs. Evidence”.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Is National Prayer Breakfast Constitutional?

Donald Trump wants churches to speak freely about politics without concern about losing their tax-free status.  Will he apply this to all religious institutions, or only those he favors, like churches, but not mosques?

He is right that churches should have freedom of speech, but he is wrong that their freedom of speech should be subsidized by the taxpayers.

See “How Trump Would Corrupt the Pulpit”, Steven Waldman, New York Times, 2017-02-02.

Interestingly, he was speaking at an “unconstitutional” gathering: the National Prayer Breakfast.  Isn’t this a religious test for public office?  Doesn’t this kind of make those who don’t attend look irreligious?

See also http://magree.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-united-states-is-not-christian.html.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Quote of the Day: Pass law to say science is wrong

“I think this is a brilliant solution, if your science gives you a result that you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved.” - Stephen Colbert

Quoted by Robert S. Young, “A Scientists’ March on Washington Is a Bad Idea”, New York Times, 2017-01-31, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/31/opinion/a-scientists-march-on-washington-is-a-bad-idea.html

His argument is that a march politicizes science and then gives anti-scientists opportunity to denigrate scientists yet again.

Young cited a case in which the North Carolina legislature passed a law “that barred state and local agencies from developing regulations and planning documents anticipating a rise in sea level.”  This was in response to the uproar from real estate and economic development interests.

Let me guess.  All these who supported the law were all for free markets.  That is free to withhold crucial information from buyers who in a true free market have all the information they need.

Call to Sen. Al Franken

I recited the message below to Sen. Al Franken's Duluth office.  Supposedly, a call is more effective than a letter or an email.  Surprisingly, the office worker didn't take my name or address.  Maybe the caller ID on her screen showed that I was local.
I hope you can keep up your opposition to Donald Trump.

I hope you can convince some of your more realistic Republican colleagues that it is not in their interest to give Trump carte blanche.

I enjoyed your books “Lies and the Liars Who Tell Them” and “Why Not Me”.  When I finished the latter I thought that a comedian would make a far better President than a clown.
I hope you, dear reader, can think of something similar to send to your Representative or Senators.

I plan to call something similar Rep. Rick Nolan and Sen. Amy Klobuchar later.  It kind of exhausted me just to say the above.

See also http://magree.blogspot.com/2017/01/thousands-of-phone-calls-are-better.html.

Thanks to my Reader Weekly readers

Every so often I get either a question or an observation:

Are you still writing for the Reader?

I haven’t seen you in the Reader for some time.

To the first I get rather snide: Are you still not reading the Reader?

To the second I thank for noticing I have not written for the Reader for some time.

I wish I could get either of them to regularly visit this blog.  I certainly had more readers in the Reader than I have for this little obscure blog.

As to why I stopped writing for the Reader Weekly, I was bumped one too many times.  Why should I write 800-1200 words each week, submit them before the deadline, and then open the next edition without seeing what I wrote.

I could say more, but I don’t want to mention names.

So, although I get far fewer readers for this blog, I get to write as little as much as I want.  I don’t have to wait until Thursday to see my latest tirade about Donald Trump:)

Thanks, Dave, for asking.  And thanks for your own letter writing to the Duluth News Tribune.  I just read your “Local View” from over a year ago.

Oh, and thanks to those readers of this blog that pass the link on to others.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Thousands of phone calls are better than thousands of protestors

I posted the following to the comments section of “The Alt-Majority: How Social Networks Empowered Mass Protests Against Trump”, Farhad Manjoo, New York Times, 2017-01-30

Anti-Trump demonstrations are shedding harsh light on much of Trump’s arrogance, but my big question is what percentage of the protestors voted.

As stated in the article, the protests are getting attention and making Trump nervous.  But are the protests going to change the minds of those in Congress who enable Trump?

A better way to make a protest is to call your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives, even if they are Democrats.  Calling Democrats will help give them more backbone.

The best way is to call, not send email or a letter.  You can find your Senators phone numbers at https://www.senate.gov/ and your Representative’s number at  http://www.house.gov/.

Keep your message brief: 200 words or less.  Be polite.  If you have a another message, don’t hesitate to call at another time.

Also call your state senators and representatives, especially if you live in a gerry-mandered state.

If you voted in the last election, the American people thank you.  If you did not make sure to vote in each and every election from now on.  And in your phone call, remind the office holder that you intend to vote.

The Trump White House doesn’t list a phone number, but it does have an email form at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.  Gosh, what would happen if every protester filled out this form.  Would it bring down one of the White House servers?