Thursday, August 17, 2017

Have I been hacked?

This morning and afternoon I had a huge spike in usage from five countries.  All my statistics looked "normal".  This evening many of the statistics have gone to zero.  See http://magree.blogspot.com/2017/08/unexpected-spike-in-blog-traffic.html, if it is still there.

Well, rebooting restored my data.  Strange!

Looking at some other data, it looks like the references came from a small number of sites.  I wonder if these sites were hacked to reference my site.

Unexpected spike in blog traffic

Normally I have 20-30 page views per day,  As of 15:00 I had 29,500 page views for today.  The geographic distribution was:

France 10382
Belgium 4189
Philippines 2392
Kuwait 1443
Spain 262
United States 17

On an hourly basis there were 1200-1800 page views since 0900 this morning.

The views of individual pages were from 17 to 27 for a total 203.  That means most of these “users” were accessing the site rather than individual pages.

I made my first blogger entry on 2006-09-15 and I have made 2597 posts.  The most page views of a post - 292 on “Mike Peters ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’”.  Today’s traffic accounts for over 1/6th of eleven years of traffic.

I have no idea why this spike has occurred.  And why only outside the United States.  I do know that I have had a large number of views from France.  I don’t know why.  I have only three acquaintances in France and I’ve lost contact with two of them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hard-working Americans?

The following was inspired by “Washington clichés, fake news and ‘poiticianese’ by Jim Heffernan.

Oops!  That old newspaper guy let a typo get through!  At least he did better than many newspapers do: he used a diacritical mark in the right place.

Politicians of all stripes appeal to all Americans as “hard-working”.  How do they know that all that they appeal to are really hard-working?  Some have jobs that are almost fun.  Some have jobs that the only hard-working part is boredom.  Some have jobs that seem to be one crisis after another.  Some have jobs that not only are hard but dangerous (and interestingly some of these politicians think reducing the danger is “over-regulation”.

I think I’ve had jobs that have had one or more of these features: programmer, consultant, presenter, Santa Claus, line painter, grocery bagger, stocker, and cashier, and many others.

I’ll mention one that had many of these features: bus driver.

I had the stress of being on time. I had the stress of unruly students.  I had the stress of non-working buses. And I had the joy of attending events on the clock.  I had the joy of napping while my riders toured their site.  I had the joy of reading a book while waiting.  I met lots of really nice people and a few that weren’t so nice.  In short, it was a job that I was glad I did that I am glad that I’m not doing now.

Did not voting lead to “the triumph of evil”?

“Every member of Mr. Trump’s advisory councils should wrestle with his or her conscience,” Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and former president of Harvard, wrote on the Financial Times website on Tuesday, “and ponder Edmund Burke’s famous warning that ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”

See “Why Are All These Business Leaders Still With Trump?”. Vikas Bajaj and Stuart A. Thompson, New York Times, 2017-08-16.

Democracy: quote of the day

"Democracy is about majority rule, not majoritarian tyranny."

"Gandhi won't leave India", Gopalkrishna Gandhi, New York Times, 2017-08-14

We do have to be careful even about the phrase “majority rule”.  Does the majority rule about climate change?  If the majority is purple people do they get to rule that all orange people should leave the country?

“Majority rules” should be limited to the majority elects those who govern, not to each and every rule that a government makes.  And in our last election, a minority of those who voted determine who would become president.

Consider also that many corporations want to eliminate many rules that “the majority” made: rules about safety, rules about pollution, rules about…

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thanks to my cardiologist

Today I saw my cardiologist for the sign-off on my heart surgery (see I’m back!, Getting sick is only for the rich or the well-insured, and Modern Medicine and Let Them Eat Cake Politicians).

I told her that I didn’t know whether to be mad or glad.  Mad because of all I went through for the open heart surgery and all the side effects that went with it.  Glad because of what the surgery had repaired.

Between the latest EKG results and what she heard with her stethoscope she was very pleased.  Her delight made me very optimistic for continued improvement.

P.S.  I know that she may well read this, but I still want her to know that her optimism was very contagious.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Laugh in the name of science

In a plea for me to support the Union of Concerned Scientists I received the "2008 Center for Science and Democracy Calendar".  It has 12 hilarious cartoons about those who try to deny the science behind so much: climate change, football head injuries, and more.  Normally I throw solicitations away, but this had a real cool calendar.  I sent the solicitation back with a five-dollar bill and kept the calendar.

I checked the website at http://www.ucsusa.org/ but only found the 2017 calendar at https://store.ucsusa.org/collections/all-products.

“Best Places to Retire”?

AARP http://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2017/25-best-places-to-retire-fd.html and others often publish lists of “Best Places to Retire”.  First, “best” is subjective.  One person’s “best” can be another person’s “worst”.

Second, these “best” lists often include taxes, the higher the taxes the lower the rating.  Tax is one of those things you get what you pay for.  If “high” taxes are paying for subsidizing business to get them to relocate, the taxes are not much benefit for retirees.  If the “high” taxes are paying for infrastructure such as emergency services then they can be of great benefit to retirees.

Even a given area can have great variation in benefit to retirees.  For example, most senior housing is in the “middle of nowhere”: infrequent bus service and very long walks to anything.  On the other hand, when we decide to sell our house, there are several senior residences that are close to bus stops and within walking distance of shops and restaurants.

Comment to Krugman and health care

Don't like paying for health care?  Don't get sick, don't grow old, and don't visit doctors.

I rarely get sick and I couldn't stop growing old, but I do visit doctors regularly to check on how well I am.  For a man my age, the verdicts have been that I am in pretty good shape.  But they have also been concerned about my heart.

This year a cardiologist determined I should be seen by surgeons.  The verdict was that I needed a valve replacement.  Four months later I am slowly getting back to the activity level I once had.

But if had to pay all the costs that have been incurred, I would probably be back in the hospital with a stroke.  If I had to pay all the costs, I would probably have to sell my house.

As it is, I pay a few dollars for this, a couple hundred for that, and on and on.  The max I could pay is $5,000.  I'm not there yet, but I would say that lots of minimum wage workers would have a hard time making those payments.

Posted to http://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/opinion/healthcare-single-payer-children.html?comments#permid=23604618.

North Korea and Washington’s Farewell Address

"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." - George Washington, "Farewell Address" The U.S. Senate has one of its members read this every year. Do most of them stay away or sleep through it?

Posted to http://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/04/opinion/north-korea-nuclear-program-trump.html?comments#permid=23130284.

Instant junk mail

Every so often I receive a letter with no return address but lots of attack printing on the front and back.  I thought that these letters were in response to my “Party of One” columns in the Reader Weekly, but I stopped writing for the Reader over a year ago when I had been bumped one too many times.

But they keep coming every few weeks and every few weeks I put them unopened into the recycle box.  I guess this mysterious writer also reads this blog.  Thank goodness I don’t allow comments on it.

My advice to this writer is start your own blog.  It’s free and you might even earn a bit of ad revenue.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Writer’s block in the modern era

Sometimes when I have a blog idea but don’t have Internet access, I feel l am locked i a cell with reams of paper but no pen.

Trump’s affinity to Russia

Why does Donald Trump have such an affinity to Russia?

Alexander Borodin wrote an opera about him:

Prince Ego!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Foxconn’s foxy con

Foxconn want’s to build a factory in Wisconsin that will employ three thousand workers possibly becoming 13,000 workers.  Foxconn plans to invest up to $13 billion in the  plant.  Gov. Scott Walker said that the Wisconsin will supply up to $3 billion dollars in incentives.  See http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/business/technology/4303440-foxconn-announces-major-new-manufacturing-plant-wisconsin.

Oops!  Aren’t Republicans the ones who believe in standing on your own two feet and not accepting government handouts.

If it makes business sense to build such a project, then shouldn’t business be the one investing its own money.

See “Foxconn’s long con”, John Biggs, TechCrunch, 2017-07-28.  Politicians around the world have been out-foxed by Foxconn.  Don’t these politicians read Adam Smith: “This order of men is not to be trusted.”

Italian commedia dell’arte predicted Trump’s style (White House craziness)

Just in case nobody of the 2000+ responders picked up on Scaramucci's name, it should have been a warning to somebody in Trump's administration.  Didn't anybody pick up that Scaramucci is a stock character in Italian commedia dell'arte.  The name means "little skirmisher".  Check it out on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaramouche.

Published as a comment at http://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/us/politics/anthony-scaramucci-white-house.html?comments#permid=23517145

More update craziness

Somewhere, somehow in all the back and forth about getting my Epson WF-3640 all the presets were many: letter, envelope, and others I’ve forgotten.

The other day I finally got two-sided letter printing to print properly.  For some reason the second side was upside down from the front side.  I finally figured out that I had to have the presets for two-sided printing set to long-edge.  I never had had to worry about that before.  In all this grand “improvement” the preset was set to short-edge.  For the first time ever with many printers, I had to set a preset called “Two-sided printing”.

Next confusion is printing an envelope.  No preset and the preview shows a jumble of printing.  I got the presets for an envelope all set and placed an envelope in the rear tray with the flap on the top pointing to the left.

Nope!  The software printed on the flap side with top pointing to the right.  I had noticed the same misdirection in one of the trays, months ago.

Just another example of  what professors Russel and Vinsel  wrote about lack of maintenance: “Maintenance vs. innovation”
http://magree.blogspot.com/2017/07/maintenance-vs-innovation.html.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Maintenance vs. innovation

Professors Andrew Russell and Les Vinsel wrote an interesting column for the New York Times that addresses the problems of many current Mac users who are trying to decipher how things that used to work are now mysterious black boxes: “Let’s Get Excited About Maintenance”, New York Times, 2017-07-22.

See also "Don’t get cut on Sierra" and "Computers under the control of magicians".

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Glyphosate and free market

I posted the following to
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/dining/ben-and-jerrys-ice-cream-herbicide-glyphosate.html?comments#permid=23415777

"Free marketers" too often ignore two important points of a true free market: buyers have all the information they need and there are no externalities.

If a product has any contamination from peanuts, then any buyer who is allergic to peanuts should have that information.

No externalities means that all costs are paid for in the transaction.  If a manufacturer is putting anything in the air or water that could harm someone, that is an externality.

Don’t get cut on Sierra (Apple's latest OS)

Sierra is Spanish for saw and is the name of Apple’s latest operating system OS 10.12.

However, it is not for everybody.  It has lots of gotchas that will cost the unwary in time and money.

When you upgrade, it moves your entire Document folder to iCloud.  One, the Document folder may contain more data than you have room for in your iCloud account.  Two, you will have to always have access to the web to access your data.

The first is not a big problem in that Apple will ask you to upgrade your iCloud space.  In my case, 50GB cost me 99 cents a month, automatically taken out of my checking account.

The second can be a really big problem if you either work offline a lot or have limited wireless service.  Although I did the upgrade at a coffee shop, I think home usage added a couple of GBs in only a day or two.

My current plan is for 15GB per month and I generally use about 8GB.  It used to be rather simple to calculate total prices, but it seems that AT&T is making calculations even more obscure.  I gave up for now trying to calculate the cost of unlimited service.

At least I have a nearby AT&T store.  I plan to stop by soon for a power-cord gadget.  I’ll ask if they can help me calculate the true cost to a significant upgrade.

I think I have all the really important, current “Document” data moved off iCloud and accessible without an internet connection.  Now the next question is how do I back that data up to iCloud at my convenience.

P.S.  I found out that the latest Epson software for my printer  is valid for older operating systems.  The list only gives the latest two OS’s but another page shows it would work for several older OS’s.  Sigh!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Computers under the control of magicians

How many of you are old enough to remember:
“The computer for the rest of us” and
“1984 will not be like 1984”

These were two of the slogans that Apple used in 1984 when it introduced the Mac.  I loved it with its WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pictures).  Almost everything you needed to know was on the screen.

Many Mac users of that time were eager for the newest operating system or newest Mac: hard drives, multi-tasking, color.

I can’t pinpoint when it all changed, but I stopped looking forward to the latest operating system.  Features that worked fine on OS P were a nightmare on OS Q.  It seemed that the gratuitous changes were made only to keep programmers employed.  Or that a new set of programmers had to do it their way no matter what most long-time customers wanted.

This has been one of those bad years for me.

Sometime in March or April, Apple made a minor update.  It did not seem like a big deal and I installed it.  I found out much to my chagrin that my Epson WF-3640 would no longer accept paper from anything but Tray 2.  I thought the machine didn’t work and exchanged it with Best Buy on a warranty.  The second one did the same thing.

After a couple of calls to Epson I learned that Apple had changed the print dialog to all the information the user needed from being on the screen to being buried under certain choices.  Once I had that info, I could print from whatever tray I chose.

Then Apple provided a gratuitous “EPSON Printer Software Update, Version 3.3”.  I downloaded and installed it.  Now my printer didn’t work at all!

A third person at Epson said it was my cable.  Well, as I talked to him, I did have my external hard drive connected, not the printer.  But when I was off the phone and had the proper connection, it still didn’t work.

I next tried the the friendly folks at Geek Squad.  I described the basic problem and they were ready to set me up with a Geek Squad account.  Each time I got near the bottom of the payment window it would disappear.  What were they ready to blame: my browser (Safari).  What?  There are dozens of payment windows that work just find with Safari.

I had to go elsewhere and excused myself.

Today, I despaired and went to Best Buy to buy another cable.  i also bought a couple of thumb drives to replace those that I “crashed” by taking them out of the USB slot before closing them.  Another story for another day maybe.

I plugged my new cable into my MacBook and into the printer.  Nothing happened.  I couldn’t print.

I didn’t keep track of the buttons I pushed on the printer and the computer, but the results varied widely as to what happened.  Eventually my Mac and my Epson printer connected properly with one another.  I really don’t want to be a scientist who keeps meticulous notes on every step and every observation.  After all, the Mac is the computer for the rest of us.  And after 58 years being involved with computers (from punched cards to rooms full of tape drives) I just want to be an ordinary user.

Then I exchanged the new cable for the old cable.  Everything worked as it should.

As a senior wailed in the computer lab when I was a graduate assistant, “That isn’t what I meant!


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Playing the right game with North Korea

Maybe the best solution is to send a Korean-speaking envoy who plays jang-gi (a strategy board game). Such an envoy could probably get a better dialogue going with Kim Jong-un in a week than a year of huffing and puffing from Washington. Many in Washington would think this a fool's errand, but I think George Washington would definitely approve (see "Farewell Address", https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21/pdf/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21.pdf).

Comment to “Kim Jong-un is not a freakish buffoon”, David C. Kang, New York Times, 2017-07-05
http://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/opinion/kim-jong-un-north-korea-sanctions.html?comments#permid=23152988

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Modern medical care precludes a “free market”

One of the latest to call for a free market in health care is Bert Stephens, one of the New York Times “conservative” columnists.  His latest column, “A Price for the G.O.P.’s Health Care Insanity”. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/opinion/congress-health-savings-accounts.html  He takes on Obama for creating the mess and the Republicans for making matters worse with their “fixes”.

He blames it as the “third party problem”; the consumer of health care does not shop around for the best deal but depends on an insurance company to pay the bills.

There may still be a free market in dentistry, but there cannot be a free market in health care.  Why?  What is one of the criteria for a “free market”: many sellers.  We have long ago lost many of our independent doctors: they are mostly in large clinic/hospital complexes.

In Duluth, Minnesota, we have two choices: Essentia Health or St. Luke’s.  It may still be that if you have company-provided health insurance, then your only choice may be a given clinic.  I know that we have switched clinics when we switched jobs.

Oh, sure, if we can’t get into one of these clinics or decide an out-of-town clinic is a better choice, we can drive a few hours or stay overnight to visit other clinics.  My wife couldn’t get into a dermatologist in Duluth and so drove to the Twin Cities.  We have had several friends who have stayed in Rochester to use the services of the Mayo Clinic.

There are certain specialties that are available outside the clinics, such as eye care.

A clinic may give you a choice of doctors, but you are often limited to those who have current openings in their schedule.  If your doctor leaves the clinic, the clinic may assign you to the next available doctor  I don’t remember if I chose my first cardiologist, but I know I was assigned to another when my then current cardiologist went elsewhere.  When my cardiologist decided that I needed heart surgery, I was assigned all the subsequent surgeons.

Another consideration is our knowledge of the available doctors.  Do we know who is available?  Do we know their credentials and reputations?  A free market includes having all the information to make a decision.  Very few of us will take the time to get the information, or, if we get it, have enough knowledge to make a decision.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Free Healthcare for politicians

I left this comment on “The Blood on the Tax Cuts”, Timothy Egan, New York Times, 2017-06-30.  As of this posting, it had not been accepted.

They don't care about this plan because they get free, unlimited care at Walter Reed Hospital. And the President gets his free, annual check-up by an Admiral or a General.

Quote of the Day: Ideas vs. Ideologies

“What unifies [a large social movement] is ideas, not ideologies.  There is a difference between the two; ideas question and liberate, while ideologies justify and dictate.” - Blessed Unrest, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming: Paul Hawken, ©2007

Unfortunately, we seem to have politicians who have ideologies rather than ideas.  A great deliberative body cannot have ideologies.  How can one deliberate when one has fixed ideas and doesn’t want to be confused with the facts.

Wasn’t it Pete Seeger who sang about the best politicians money can buy and that we elect them again and again.  Not quite: “What did you learn in school today" has “elect them again and again” but not “money can buy”. See http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/Pete_Seeger:What_Did_You_Learn_In_School_Today%3F.  It was Morey Amsterdam who said, "Our Congress is the finest body of men money can buy.”  See http://likesuccess.com/topics/3033/finest.

http://www.blessedunrest.com/ hasn’t been updated since 2008.  However, see http://www.paulhawken.com for current updates about his activities.  The homepage features his latest book: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.  Maybe I’ll read it when I finish Blessed Unrest.

Abraham Lincoln would have been a loser

I've never understood why people who don't give a dime or time to a political party get to choose the party candidates. Good thing we didn't have television or party primaries when Abe Lincoln was nominated by his party to run for president.

See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/29/opinion/sunday/the-problem-with-participatory-democracy-is-the-participants.html.

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!