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?

"Strict constructionist judges”?

"'Strict construction' is a manner of interpreting the U.S. Constitution using a literal and narrow definition of language in the document without regard to changes that have occurred in American society since the 18th century document was written.”
- "Trump to Nominate 'Strict Constructionist' to Supreme Court", New York Times, 2017-01-26

I find that it strange that “strict constructionists” manage to interpret “We the People” as “We the Corporations”, to interpret that Congress has no right to regulate commerce among the states, and to interpret that “the people” in the second amendment means persons.

Will one of these "strict constructionists" strike down any anti-Muslim actions by Trump?  Remember all those "Christians" who want their freedom to discriminate.  If these judges were “strict constructionists” they would rule that people are free to believe what they want, but they can’t practice whatever they want when it impinges on others.

Will one of these “strict constructionists” stop Trump if he goes to war without the approval of Congress?

If you read George Washington’s “Farewell Address”, you will find a lot about the “intent” of the Founders and how much governments (of whatever party) have not followed the “intent” very well.  See “George Washington: Ignored Father of His Country".

If you can, watch a movie on John Marshall, an early Chief Justice, who struggled with many of these questions.

I live in the best house in the world

Originally published in the Reader Weekly 2004-06-03.

I live in the best house in the world.  What?  You think your house is better?  Your house has a warm basement; your house is bigger; your house is on a lake?  Oh well, my house is my house, I like it, and I’ll probably stay in it for many more years.

I live in the best neighborhood in the world.  What?  You think your neighborhood is better?  Your neighborhood has block parties every season; your neighborhood has no thoroughfares running through it; and your neighborhood has a convenience store two blocks from your house? Oh well, my neighborhood is my neighborhood, I like it, and I’ll probably stay in it for many more years.

I live in the best city in the world.  What?  You think your city is better?  Your city has more frequent bus service; your city has fewer potholes; and your city has a warmer climate?  John Lescroat, detective fiction writer, thinks that “San Francisco [is] the best city in the world”  (The Mercy Rule).  Oh well, Duluth is my city, I like it, and I’ll probably stay in it for many more years.

I live in the best state in the world.  What?  You think your state is better?  Your state has mountains or is on the ocean; your state has a lower crime rate and a better education system; and your state has lower taxes? Oh well, Minnesota is my state, I like it, and I’ll probably stay in it for many more years.

I live in the best country in the world.  What?  You think your country is better?  Your country has a better transportation system; your country has free health care for everyone; and your country has less pollution. The Swedish National Anthem exclaims “I will live and die in the North.”  Sounds like many Swedes think Sweden is the best country.  Or Bedrich Smetana wrote “Ma Vlast (My Country)” about Bohemia, now the core province of the Czech Republic.  Oh well, the United States is my country, I like it, and I’ll probably stay in it for many more years.

Why is it that so many people have to have the “best” whether it is a car or a country?  The Ford-Chevy divide is one of the most ridiculous of the “best” arguments.  Why is it that some Ford owners have to put down Chevy owners or vice versa?  Can’t they accept that people make choices for a wide variety of reasons, both logical and illogical?  I have owned one Chevy (my first car) and five Fords.  I can’t tell you why I never bought another Chevy or another GM car or never even considered them.  I have rented GM cars many times and they have performed satisfactorily.  But to purchase Ford has been my choice and I shouldn’t feel a need to put down Chevy’s or their owners.

Sports teams are another “best” that so many get caught up in.  The emotional involvement that some people have can be destructive, both personally and socially.  They feel like the world has come to an end if their team loses, and a few of these feel like they have to go on a rampage.  I know, I got all excited when the Twins were in the Series in 1987.  But I cheered some of the Cardinal players, and I felt sorry for them when they left the field as “losers”.  But hey, they won the National League playoffs and for the most part played quite well.  The 1987 World Series did not make Minnesota a better state than Missouri.

Countries are the “worst” of the “best” attachments.  Not so much that it is wrong to take pride in one’s country, but that the idea that one’s country is “best” can lead to exclusion of other ideas, bad foreign policy, and even war.

One exclusion of other ideas that I’ve always marveled at was that the “best” medical system in the world did not have many computerized patient records until recently, except financial records.  When I worked for Univac in Sweden in the early ‘70s, Univac had a special group that worked with hospitals; this group helped European and South African hospitals implement systems that kept track of patients’ medical records.  My colleagues in that group joked that the only thing that American hospitals kept track of on computers was how much the patients owed them.

Many think that the U.S. is the bastion of freedom and therefore knows “best” how to export it to other countries. "We need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts -- a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy -- by force if necessary.... Liberty cannot be laid down like so much Astroturf."   - Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kans., quoted by George Will, Duluth News Tribune, May 30, 2004.

Let us remember that Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss was wrong, this is not the best of all possible worlds (or countries or cities or neighborhoods or houses).  But let us make the best of what we have and work to make it better.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Corporate runaround

For the second time this month, my MacBook Air started emitting a lot of static.  I pushed the on-off button on the keyboard and the screen went dark, but the static didn’t stop.

I restarted the computer, gave my log-in info, and shut down the computer from the Apple Menu.  The static stopped.

I also went to Apple’s Support Communities to look at what others have said.  Apparently this problem has been going on for three or more years.  One user suggested resetting a VRPRAM or something like that.  Even though I have a long computer background, I don’t like getting into the guts of a computer anymore.

I tried to post my observation, but Apple wanted me to sign-in first.  I did sign in and when I came back to the page to respond, Apple asked me to sign in again.  Other pages recognized that I had signed in, but this particular page wanted me to sign in again and again and again and...

Apple gives me two choices to contact support: telephone or chat.  I don’t care for either.  In this particular case, I don’t want to do more than report the problem of multiple signing-requests.

I know, I know, I probably spent more time writing this than I would have following through on Apple’s contact protocols.  But I have found both methods unsatisfactory.  I much prefer leaving a note and being notified of a response.  I don’t have to think fast because the clock is ticking.

I think that Apple’s introductory slogan “Why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’” has fallen flat.  Someday’s I feel like I am working with the PCs that the Macintosh would replace with simplicity.

What I Like in a City

Originally published in the Northland Reader now the Reader Weekly, March 16, 2000

As a newcomer to Duluth, I’m not quite familiar with all the plans for changes to Duluth, for example Vision 2001, but I appreciate many of the things Duluth offers and hope to see these features improved.

Duluth offers some transportation choices that makes a city great and to human scale.  Namely, if one is so inclined, one can easily choose to go by foot, bus, or car, in that order.

These choices are not easy everywhere in Duluth, but in Chester Park where I live, I have used all three choices to reach UMD, Mt. Royal, Kenwood, the lake, and even downtown.  I much prefer to walk unless time is a factor.

Walking not only provides exercise and fresh air, but it gives me time to observe and experience an area.  Walking by parks, houses, and shops, there is much to see that is only a blur when seen from a vehicle.

Taking the bus is a second choice if time is short or the weather is bad.  Walking downtown is good exercise but only if I want to spend an hour or more doing so.  With a bus, I can be downtown in one-quarter that time.  Taking the bus provides conveniences that many don’t consider.  First of all, I don’t need to worry about parking.  Secondly, even if parking is easily available, a bus may get me closer to the door.

Taking a car is a third choice if time is important, if I have a lot to carry, or if the bus doesn’t go to my destination.  Time can be important in two ways.  It can take longer to do an errand or the buses aren’t running at that time of day.  I often drive downtown for evening events because they might run past the last bus or because I might just miss an hourly bus.  I take a bus to church downtown but my wife has to drive; choir practice starts before the buses do.

I do have a historical bias for this opinion.  I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio (not one of its suburbs).  I walked to school until I was in high school, then I took three buses.  The buses were frequent enough that I never had to worry about how late practice lasted.  Even when I started college I took a bus and a rapid transit train.  We did most of our shopping in walking distance of our home; otherwise we hopped a streetcar to go downtown.

Since then I have lived in Minneapolis, Rome, Stockholm, exurban Philadelphia, and exurban Minneapolis, I have had extended stays in New York, London, Paris, Helsinki, and Basel, and I have visited many other cities from Leningrad to Los Angeles to Osaka.  (What’s “exurban”?  So far out from the center that there are no sidewalks.)  Many of them offered both walking and public transportation opportunities.  In fact, those I enjoyed the most were those that had vibrant centers where people walked, shopped, wined, and dined until late in the evening.  New York, Rome, Paris, Stockholm, Osaka, and Tokyo are full of lights and activity well past a Midwesterner’s bedtime.  Their centers are accessible until midnight or beyond.  But my favorite was Basel, Switzerland.

Most of the time that I was in Basel I worked evenings.  I could either walk or take a streetcar from my hotel to the customer site and back.  Streetcars ran until one in the morning.  If I walked, it was not past monolithic buildings and parking lots but past parks and shops with interesting displays in their windows.  Within walking distance of the hotel were dozens of restaurants, a couple of grocery stores, many, many shops, an outdoor swimming pool, several parks, and the zoo.

I don’t think Basel was designed; too many of the streets intersect at other than a right angle.  I think Swiss efficiency made the best of the situation over the centuries.

Duluth will never be like Basel for a variety of reasons and many of us would not want that.  But in our vision for Duluth, we can adapt some of the elements that made Basel interesting.

First, we should make existing sidewalks more user friendly.  We could encourage homeowners to cut back overhanging branches and keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice.  We could ticket cars that are parked across crosswalks or even in drives but over the sidewalk.

Second, we should have a more aggressive program for sidewalk replacement or repair.  We should also examine funding; is it fair to make a homeowner pay for a sidewalk?

Third, we should keep streets drier by repairing potholes and low spots.  Why should a pedestrian have to run past a puddle, like on Woodland south of Mt. Royal?

Fourth, we should have more frequent buses and more coverage.  Should our only ways to get to the DECC be by driving, walking over a freeway bridge, or walking a long, monochromatic skyway?  We should have shuttle buses from DECC to downtown at event times, including Omnimax.  We have no skyway to Canal Park but bus service is limited to daylight hours.  We should be able to go by bus on a Saturday night to a downtown restaurant or theater.

Fifth, we should plan new development based on how people will get there.  Should people have to walk across a windy, dusty parking lot dodging drivers more concerned about looking for a parking space?  Should buses have to go in and out of parking lots so that passengers need not walk across said parking lots?

Sixth, we should consider more mixed use like that which some people would like to see on Fourth St. E. between Fifth and Sixth Avenues;  that is, shops at street level, residences and professional offices above.

In other words, let’s remember that cars are only a means, not an end.  Let’s design for people, not just one of their means.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Best Congress money can buy

An example of how Congress is the best that money can buy is “Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule."

In other words corporate profits are more important than clean, safe drinking water for people downstream of mines.

It is ironic that the party who claims to be “originalist" concerning the Constitution completely ignores anything that hampers corporate profits.

For example, Congress has the power to regulate commerce among the states.  Hm! Streams turn into rivers that go through many states.  Isn’t polluting a stream that goes into a river in another state “commerce among the states”.

Stop using "leader of the free world", a contradiction

If the President of the United States is "leader of the free world", shouldn't all the citizens of the "free world" be able to vote for him or her.

It is a bit of puffery to call the President of one country, too often elected by a minority of the citizens of that country, as a leader of many other countries.


Donald Trump seems incapable of sitting down and setting priorities for a sensible government.  He seems more interested in castigating anyone who questions his priorities or gives him the least slight.  He blames “the media” for his problems rather than look at his own easily distracted ego.

See a sampling readers’ view of “How the Media Handles Trump”.

Create jobs! Bring back whaling!

"In fact, his approach may be even more antique: Fixating on Canada’s tar sands — where the economics of extracting low-quality crude have driven one big company after another out of that oil patch — is roughly equivalent, in its energy logic, to planning a sperm whale expedition."

Bill McKibben, "On Pipelines, Donald Trump Looks Backward", New York Times, 2017-01-25 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/opinion/on-pipelines-donald-trump-looks-backward.html.

McKibben also points out that more people are employed in solar energy than in extracting coal, oil,  and gas.  When the Keystone pipeline is completed, it will only employ 35 full-time workers, most of the work being done with sensors.

I recommend reading the full article.  McKibben has many more ideas that are worth quoting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Some sane advice from one pair of communication directors to another.

"Here’s the first rule: Your job is not to suck up to your boss. We know he probably gave you marching orders to go out there on Saturday and say stuff you (and everyone else) knew was not only false, or even demonstrably false, but jarringly, alarmingly, monumentally false.”

"Dear Sean Spicer: A few tips to maker your job easier",  Peter Donolo and Jason MacDonald, former communication directors to Prime Ministers of Canada, to Sean Spicer, Donald Trump’s Press Secretary, The Globe and Mail, 24 January 2017.

A sane counterpoint to the "Women’s March"

See “Washington march: Women’s solidarity is a mirage”, Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail, 2017-01-23.

A good quote is "And the secret of defeating Mr. Trump is not more identity politics, but less.”

Corporate hyperbole: "Strike Anywhere Matches"

“Diamond Strike Anywhere Matches”
“Lights Quickly and Easily”

Hah! in our just finished box of matches the tips scrape off, the sticks break, and often it takes two or more matches before one lights.  And forget striking anywhere; nothing happens when I scrape one on our fireplace rim.

They may be made from “responsibly managed forests” but using three matches when one should need only one doesn’t seem responsible.  Granted two extra matches isn’t going to decimate any forest, but it certainly decimates my patience.

Seeing the corporate layers listed on the box (see labels below), I can easily imagine those who wrote the slogans for the box rarely if ever use the matches to light a fire.

Hey!  On the plus side they have firelogs made from recycled coffee grounds.  Ah, but that takes all the fun and exercise out of cutting one’s own trees, cutting them to lengths, and splitting the lengths.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Denying Donald

Yes, the title has three meanings.

The first was inspired by all the denials of the Trumpistas of facts, like the size of the Women's March vs. the size of the Inaugural crowd.

The second is a play on Trump's still ranting about "Lying Hilary”.

The third is that we should do all we can to deny the legitimacy of Trump's election.

For more on comparison of the crowds at Trumps inauguration and the Women’s March, see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/us/politics/president-trump-inauguration-crowd-white-house.html

Denying Donald said that the rain stopped as soon as he started speaking.  According to the NYT the rain continued throughout Trump's speech.  Could this be a message from God expressing disapproval of Trump as President?

Not really, if Clinton had won, she would have had the same weather.  “Conservative” “Christians” would have been certain the rain meant God’s disapproval of her.  Liberal Christians would say “The rain falls on the just and unjust alike."

Remember the perspective, Trump came in third to a de facto "None of the Above”. One would think he would have a bit of humility.  Too many people liked Trump even less than Clinton and stayed away, thus giving the election to Trump.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thanks to the Marchers Who Voted

I posted the following comment to “‘We’re Not Going Away’: Huge Crowds for Women’s March”, Anemona Harocollis, Yamiche Alcindor, and Niraj Chokshi, New York Times, 2017-01-21.

If you were a marcher and a voter, your country thanks you.

If you were a marcher and not a voter, your country hopes you make sure to vote next time.

Remember, Trump came in third to a de facto "none of the above".

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

Quote of the Day: “Leaders Lead. (Twits Tweet)”

See “Women’s March Draw ‘Duty-Bound’ From Wall Street”, Kate Kelly, New York Times, 2017-01-19.

These women are Wall Street types who could lose a lot of money by opposing Donald Trump.  Many of them think the stakes are a lot higher if they don't protest.

The Emperor’s speech had no close

"Trump remained a singular man on a singular mission — a legend in his own mind."
- Frank Bruni responding to Trump's inaugural speech, New York Times, 2017-01-21, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/opinion/sunday/the-president-who-buried-humility.html.

Many of the reader comments are worth reading.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Activist right-wing judges

Thanks for "activist right-wing judges". First "people" became "persons" (Second Amendment) and then "corporations became "persons" (Preamble). Will "four-year term" become lifetime next?

Comment to scottluack’s comment on “The Supreme Court’s Next Gun Battle”, Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, 2017-01-19, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/opinion/the-supreme-courts-next-gun-battle.html?comments#permid=21145325:21147064.

Trump and Nuclear War

I am worried that Charles M. Blow is a Cassandra.  He speaks the truth but nobody believes his warnings of doom. See Charles M. Blow, “Are You Not Alarmed”.  See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/opinion/are-you-not-alarmed.html

I left the following comment, but as far as I know, it was not approved.

After a nuclear war, will Donald Trump have become the last President of the United States? Sad!

“Picked just for you”

Feedback to eBay about constant barrage of email

Stop the nonsense of "Picked just for you".  Sorry, but I found what I wanted, bought them, and don't need much more in computer equipment for many a moon!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ode to Obama

"Great ode! It's too bad that the Dixiecrats couldn't tolerate a ‘black' man being President. Let's just hope that what goes around comes around and that Trump is soon replaced by an articulate president who considers all legitimate views."

Comment to Charles M. Blow, "Ode to Obama", New York Times, 2017-01-11

What I didn’t explain to younger readers was that Dixiecrats were Southern politicians who were in the Democratic Party because that was not the party of Lincoln.  They hobbled the Democrats on many issues.  Then Richard Nixon played his Southern Strategy and its been into the swamp for Republicans ever since. 

I thought  the last sitting great Republican was Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.  But alas, she is far from being an independent thinker.

See “Susan Collins Just Disgraced Herself at Jess Sessions’s Confirmation Hearing: The senator proved once and for all that she’s no moderate.

- John Nichols, The Nation, 2017-01-10

Belated Quote of the day: Trump and Putin

"Well, yes, of course Russia said that. But why should anyone believe what Mr. Putin says? The fact that Mr. Trump seems to give greater credence to the Kremlin than to United States intelligence agencies is precisely what has set off so much speculation about his real motives in cozying up to Mr. Putin."

"Yet the speculation, which was gaining currency even before the publishing of the dossier by BuzzFeed, isn’t going away. The reason is obvious: Mr. Trump appears to be infatuated with the autocrat in the Kremlin. As the Russian dissident and chess champion Garry Kasparov noted: “Trump has criticized: Republicans, Democrats, the pope, U.S. elections, C.I.A., F.B.I., NATO, Meryl Streep. Trump hasn’t criticized: Vladimir Putin.”

"Donald Trump: A Modern Manchurian Candidate”. Max Boot, New York Times, 2017-01-11

Thanks to U.S. readers (and others)

The readership of this blog from the United States is increasing, and it is often exceeding views from Russia.  Many have said that Russian views are targeting low-readership blogs like this one.  They hope that the blog writers will click on the links which often are to sites that will corrupt the target site.  You can often tell some of these when the link has a long string of characters after “.com” or whatever.  This devious trick is called “reverse spam”.

I don’t know what has caused this increase.  My complaints about Trump?  But other articles get as many view or more.  Is it the cards that I’ve left in a Perk Place in Duluth?  Is it the readers of my former column in the Reader Weekly of Duluth, “Party of One”?  Is it more frequent posts?  Could be!  Though as the name of this blog states, they are still irregular.

BTW, I would have called this blog “Party of One”, but somebody else had already taken it.

If you do correspond with me or see me, please let me know how often you read this blog and what you think.

Another country whose readership has increased is France.  I only have three correspondents in France, and I’ve lost contact with two of them.  To the one left, “Merci encore pour ‘Astérix’!”  What am I writing that gets so much interest from France?

One surprise is that I get practically no readers from Canada.  Canadian readership once was second to U.S. readership.  And my wife has several relatives in Canada.

BTW, to them I say don’t watch TV, read the Globe and Mail.  You’ll get more information per minute.  This advice holds for anybody who has access to free and independent newspapers (printed or online).

Shall we call him “President” Trump?

"You have scorned our intelligence agencies — you tweet “intelligence” in quotes the same way that we should eventually use quotes around the word “president” when it precedes your name — and you have continued your assault on the press.”

See “Donald Trump and the Tainted Presidency”, Charles M. Blow,
New York Times, 2017-01-09.

Whose “free speech”?

Amazing how many critics who say “political correctness” is limiting free speech on campuses, but then want to restrict what is taught, like climate change.  To quote somebody who we really hear too much, “Sad!"

See http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/opinion/whos-really-placing-limits-on-free-speech.html.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Political labels = political misdirection?

I would distrust any political labels, whether applied to fellow travelers or political opposition.

“Liberal” is flung about as if “liberals” were irresponsible.  However, those flinging this epithet without thought are rather liberal with giving power to corporations.

And those who call themselves “conservative” are more conserving power for corporations than being thoughtful about change.  I haven’t studied Edmund Burke, but I wonder if he would approve of the actions of those who call themselves conservative today.

Maybe we should call them CONservatives because so many of them are con-men.  “Con” being short for “confidence”, that is the con-man gains the confidence of his mark as he takes the mark's money (or in too many cases both money and votes)

See “The Betrayal of Fiscal Conservatism”, David Leonhard, New York Times, 2017-01-09.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

More jobs that never returned

And they are not riding beneath the streets of Boston.

Film processors and film manufacturers.

Once upon a time, it was easy to get a job at Kodak in Rochester making film.  Now it is hard to even find a place that sells film.  The new jobs, but not many, are converting slides and photos to digital images.

Parking lot attendants

Parking meters on streets have been around for decades, but often parking lots had attendants who either parked your car or took your money when you left.  At least on parking garage in Duluth is fully “automated”.  You take your ticket when you enter, go to a machine to pay when you leave, and insert the ticket at the gate.  Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport has more automated exit gates than attendant gates.


One hundred years ago there were 40,000 longshoremen in New York Harbor.  Now most of the work is done by less than 3,400 longshoremen in New Jersey operating cranes and straddle carriers.  You have to read “Along New York Harbor, ‘On the Waterfront’ Endures” to get an idea how big some of these straddle carriers are. http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/nyregion/new-york-harbor-on-the-waterfront.html

Shoe shiners

How do you shine “athletic” shoes?  It is rare to see a man wearing glossy dress shoes.  If you wear glossy shoes you will either have to polish them yourself or go to a major airport.  I know there is no shoe shine stand in the Duluth airport.

Movie ticket sellers, ushers, and projectionists

Once upon a time ushers found a seat for you, then they only took tickets, now there are hardly any neighborhood movie theaters.  Until I was in high school, I could walk to a movie theatre.  Then I had to go downtown to see a movie.  Now there are only four movie theaters in Cleveland proper.  Surprise, two neighborhood theaters that I had walked to still exist, but there is only one downtown theater.


A well-crafted watch, even for middle-class people was a pride to wear.  And if it had a problem, there were several watch repair shops in any major city.  In Duluth, Google lists four watch repair shops.  None are downtown and one is Batteries Plus.  I think the last, and probably the others as well, offer only battery replacement.  There are two downtown jewelers who sell watches and change batteries.

You can probably see ads for fine watches on sites like the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/, but few of would consider them.

I think the reduction in watchmakers started with Timex.  Just looked at my wrist: I have a Timex.  $50 at a downtown jewelry store, after the buttons on my previous, more fancy Timex, became inoperative.  Was there anyone to repair it for less than $50?

See also "No, the jobs never returned”.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Charles M. Blow on the fall of democracies

Charles Blow is deeply worried about Trump’s presidency and what it will do to American democracy.  See “The Anti-Inauguration”, New York Times, 2017-01-05.

"Spend part of the day reading about the rise and fall of empires and how it always seems far-fetched and inconceivable until it actually happens. There are many books that address this topic, but if you want something shorter, try Andrew Sullivan’s 'Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic,' a counterintuitive meditation on how tyranny can spring from populism, or my colleague Paul Krugman’s 'How Republics End.’"

These two articles do take time to read, but if you care about a democracy for the many as opposed to a kleptocracy for the few you will be rewarded with some thoughts for protecting and enhancing democracy.

Quote of the day: corporation interest in strong dollar

"The reason that our government doesn’t intervene to push down the value of the dollar is that powerful U.S. transnational corporations like Wal-Mart prefer a strong dollar because it makes imports and overseas labor cheaper for them.”

“Will Trump outdo Obama in handling US-China: No: Even before taking office, Trump has made a mess”
- Mark Weisbrot, Duluth News Tribune, 2016-01-07

The “other side” is “Yes: His policies will protect our allies, economy, citizens from Chinese bullying”
- Pete Hoekstra

Why does so much writing, politics, and whatever have to be either/or?  There are so many more considerations than “either side” puts forth.

In support of Weisbrot, I’d cite “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  Also, Republicans have turned the Constitution upside down so many times; in this case they have replaced Congress has the power to regulate commerce among the states to commerce having the power to regulate Congress!!

I wonder if any other democratic nation has as many “pariah” states as the United States: Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.  Yet we support many broken or rigid states far worse than Iran.

Governor Walker's addiction?

The Duluth News Tribune, Saturday, January 07, 2017, had a misleading headline about an initiative of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

"Walker takes action to combat addiction."

My immediate reaction was whose addiction?  His?  I didn't think so.  It was an initiative to reduce heroin and even prescription opiates.  For the third year in a row, opiate deaths have been greater than traffic deaths in Wisconsin.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Cherry-picking religious texts to validate hate

Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge (TTBOOK) recently replayed an episode about building a new mosque in the Chicago area (http://www.ttbook.org/book/building-mosque-america).

One of the anti-mosque people quoted the Q’ran about killing idolators.  Knowing that Mohammed and his followers were constantly harassed by idol worshipers (who made a lot of money selling statures of idols, I knew there was a larger context.  Rather than offer my own explanation, I suggest you read “Does the Quran Really Sanction Violence Against ‘Unbelievers’?” by Kabir Helminski, Huffington Post, 2010-09-24, updated 2011-05-25.

One could cherry-pick the Bible and show that Judaism is a religion of hate: “But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.” King James Bible, Deuteronomy 20:16.

History is filled with “Christians” who tortured and killed those they even suspected of not being Christian enough: Torquemada and the Spanish inquisition, burnings at the stake, and more.  Even in our recent history many who call themselves Christians feel no remorse in lynching or burning churches.

Buddhism is supposed to be a religion of peace, but “Buddhists” are killing Muslims in Burma and Sri Lanka.  Do you really think the Buddha would approve of such hateful actions?

Security vs. customer service?

I want to close a Fidelity mutual fund account and put the funds in an Ameritrade account.  In this day and age one would think it would only involve a a few minutes of typing on each company’s website.  It sure would beat having a check mailed (3 days minimum), taking the check to a bank, and writing another check to the other company.

One, Fidelity would not recognize the routing and account numbers of my local bank account.  Although Fidelity would allow a transfer to another brokerage, it wanted a routing number.  I could find no routing number for Ameritrade.  Of course, using Google I found it as I was writing this paragraph.  The Google summary gives the routing number.

Two, Ameritrade wanted me to print out a form and fill it in by hand.  And of course, include a copy of my latest statement.  Given all that paper, I would probably take it to the Post Office to get the correct postage.

Three, I went back to the “horse and buggy days” and asked Fidelity to mail me a check.  When the check arrives, I’ll take it to my bank.  When the check clears than I will send the fund electronically to Ameritrade.

So, I could have saved myself much time and hair pulling if I had gone with plan three instead.

And some people have the gall to complain about government inefficiency.  Many government organizations are far more efficient than many corporations.  The government will get the check to me quite well, thank you.

Quote of the Day: Hardworking?

Over 2,100 comments were posted to "Why Rural America Voted for Trump", Robert Leonard, New York Times, 2017-01-05.

One of my favorites was submitted by Cam Chapel Hill, NC

"I'm sick of the expression "hardworking". Who doesn't consider themselves "hardworking"? I suspect being homeless and unemployed requires a great deal of 'hard work'.

"Be all this as it may: voting for Trump is like trying to lose weight on a diet of ice cream and cookies-you may enjoy the experience but you won't reach your goals."

Other commenters pointed out that agri-business has reduced the number of family farms, that Trump's billionaires are only posturing about their wanting to help rural America, and that one relative was working 60-hour weeks in New York City.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

No, the jobs never returned

First, an aside.  The above is a parody of “No, he never returned.  He’ll ride forever beneath the streets of Boston.”  I often wonder why Charlie’s wife gave him a sandwich but never another nickel to pay his fare.

Trump’s claim about getting manufacturing jobs back made me think of an old Walter Reuther/Henry Ford anecdote about robots not buying cars.  For more on this story, see “How Will You Get Robots to Pay Union Dues?” “How Will You Get Robots to Buy Cars?"

Think of all the jobs that have been lost during my life time: elevator operators, typists, secretaries, gas jockeys, telephone operators (both telco and company in-house), ice men, shoe repair, and dry cleaners.

Think of all the jobs that have been made more efficient, reducing the number of people needed to do them.

Trash collectors: the trucks are bigger and semi-automated.  The driver often doesn’t have to get out of the cab to dump the cans in the truck.

Mail carriers: the carrier doesn’t have to keep walking to a storage box to get another sack of mail.  He or she fills the SUV with probably a whole day’s worth of mail.

Cashiers: When I was a grocery cashier years ago, I had to look for the price on every can or package to enter it in the cash register.  Also, we had to get approval from the head cashier for a check.  Now, the cashier takes a check without question. .  Many stores also expect customers to bag their own groceries.

Billing department clerks:  Many people pay online with the whole transaction untouched by human hands.  The statement is posted in email, the customer submits a credit card number, and Voila!  All done in a few minutes without having put a check in the mail or without having a clerk open the envelope and enter the check in a ledger.

Bank tellers:  Much of our income is deposited directly to our accounts, even while the remaining tellers are asleep.  If we need cash, we go to an ATM.  Many of us may never set foot inside a bank.  About the only reasons to go into a bank are to open an account, get a loan, and access a safe deposit box.

Stock brokers: forty years ago we had to call in our buy or sell orders and wait for the broker to get back to us with the price of the transaction.  On top of that, we had to pay several dollars varying according to dollar amount of the transaction.  Now we get on our computers, type in a transaction, and often have it completed within seconds, and pay a flat, known fee for each transaction, whether for a few hundred dollars or for thousand dollars.

Carpenters: when I was in high school, many craft unions had clauses restricting the use of power tools.  Now many carpenters have so many personal power tools that no way do they want to use hand tools when a power tool is faster and easier.

Truck drivers:  I remember when auto carriers had space for four vehicles.  Now many have space for six or more vehicles.  I don’t remember the length of trailers in the 50s, but I do remember how trucking companies successfully lobbied for 53-foot trailers and “double bottoms” (two trailers pulled by one tractor).

Farming: equipment has gotten bigger and more efficient allowing farmers to have much larger fields.  Automatic milkers.  In Iceland we saw an automatic milk machine.  The cows lined up to take their turn, being enticed by some food.  The machine would wash the teats. put the milkers on them, and when the cow was dry, release her for the next one.  Also, the floor had an automatic sweeper for all the droppings.  The cows just stepped over it as it came by.

Dry Cleaners: how many of us wear suits that have be dry cleaned?  Once upon a time, men always wore suits to the office, church, or restaurants.  Now many wear blue jeans as a matter of course.  Wearing slacks to many is being formal.

Corporate accuracy?

I've been fiddling around with synchronization problems.  Notes on one device are not being updated on other devices.  While working on this problem, I've had to give a password.  Of course, I used the wrong password.

As part of resetting the password, I've been told by Apple that someone has been using another device to reset my password from such and such location.  On one device, I was told that the location was near St. Cloud MN.  I'm in Duluth MN.  Later, on a different device, the location was near Chicago IL.

Gosh!  What if I lose my iPhone?  Will Find My Phone tell me its in Chicago?

This is corporate accuracy or efficiency???

Just who are the 3% of climate scientists?

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the science of global warming.

One, carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas.

Two, carbon dioxide is created by burning carbon: wood, coal, oil and its by-products.

Three, if wood is used and replanted, we have a virtuous cycle.  Wood is burned and trees take up the carbon dioxide, making more carbon

Four, if coal or oil are burned, they are taking carbon from under the ground, but there seems to be few ways to convert this carbon dioxide into underground carbon.
Five, geothermal on a large scale is not an answer.  It may not be adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but it is taking heat from underground that is not put back underground.

Six, nuclear energy is not the answer.  First, it generates a lot of heat that must be dissipated somewhere.  Second, what do you do with the very hazardous waste?

That leaves only with wind, solar and tidal power.  It is bad enough that there are naysayers about global warming, but each of these energy sources has problems with storage for when they are not available.  No wind, no sun, or no nearby tides.

The way technology is changing, the storage problems may be solved in the next ten years or so.  Battery technology is improving in power and cost.  Will dynamos or capacitors be far behind?

Oh, by the way, who employs the three percent who claim not enough evidence has been gathered to confirm global warming.  Could it be polluters?  Even EXXON scientists are saying that global warming exists.

"Eppur si riscalda!” - “And yet it warms”, a variant of “Eppur si muove” - “And yet it moves”, incorrectly attributed to Galileo after he recanted his findings to the Pope.

Monday, January 02, 2017

97 percent of astronomers say Earth orbits Sun

Three percent claim that not enough evidence has been collected.

True Fact has discovered that these "astronomers" are in the employ of the Flat Earth Society.  True Fact has also discovered that Flat Earth Society has been primarily funded by John Bigbucks, a billionaire who has been denied contracts with NASA repeatedly.

Although some sites use “True Fact” as part of their name, as far as I know, this pretend news organization is a figment of my imagination

If you would like a primer on separating real news from fake news, see

Al Franken prescient about Trump?

"I think he's a joke, but maybe he's exactly the kind of joke the American people would like to see in the White House for the next four years."

- fictional Bill Kristol on fake "This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts"

"He" is Al Franken whose only issue is ATM fees in "Why Not Me? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency".

He followed "Kristol's" statement with one by "George Will": "Well, if he's a joke, he's a very bad joke."  And more about sex and drug use.

Franken's book is a very off-the-wall take on a very disorganized campaign in which he says what he wants and does what he wants.  He wrote it in 1999.

It is rather obvious that Franken didn't take himself seriously.  Sometimes Trump doesn't either, but that was early on.

See also "If a clown can be President, why not a comedian?"

Trump installs coal furnaces in the Gray House

To carry out his promise to bring back coal, Donald Trump has promised to install coal furnaces in the White House.

Republicans, especially from gas-producing states are in an uproar.  They have been promoting gas as a clean energy for decades.  Republican budget hawks are angry about the cost, both of the retrofit and the cost of union coal stokers.

Democrats are just snickering, calling the whole fiasco Gray-House-Gate.

Driverless cars on ice?

Auto manufacturers warn about using cruise control when roads are slippery, even with rain.

Then how are driverless cars going to react with ice on the road?  Go five miles per hour?