This section of my web site is for unstructured self-expression. Sort of a blog. Your comments are appreciated. In any case, I get to vent. Essays, monographs, poems, book reviews, and comments.
Please visit my separate economics blog.
Who remembers the scepticism that greeted Amazon at is inception? How quickly we moved on. How quickly we began turning to Amazon first. It turns out that convenience trumps just about anything.
There are a number of arguments that favor shunning Amazon, some of them are: (a) they abuse their warehouse workers (for instance, workers are not allowed to unionize, they need food stamps in spite of their wages, they don't get bathroom breaks, and they are forced to run to collect items), (b) they force producers to accept lower prices (this was an issue for some book publishers a year or two back), (c) they avoid paying local taxes and coerce communities to offer them a deal to let them site a warehouse in the community, (d) they rely on warehouse automation instead of employees, meaning fewer jobs. For me, a particularly compelling argument is "local money", or keeping the money you spend in your local community by buying locally.
That said, I started using Amazon to buy books. About the time large chain and small private booksellers faded away. Now I buy most books from Amazon (books are an addiction). I have bought other things from Amazon, things not available in my local community. I live in a smallish town (11,000) in the country, some items I rely on are simply not sold in town, or even nearby. Recent Amazon purchases include a 2019 desk calendar (appointment style) and a travel clock (a worthless POS), a 5x7 inch spiral-bound notebook (what I used to find in a stationery store). Shops in Marin County, CA where I used to live, changed their merchandise to eye-catching items and dropped the basics, so now I buy those basic items from Amazon.
I do believe that we have a responsibility to consider the impact of our shopping actions on others — neighbors and environment. I think there is a place for Amazon, but perhaps we might exercise more thoughtfulness in our use of it. (12-13-2018)
In Northern California, PG&E is the favorite bogeyman. The December 9th issue of the San Francisco Chronicle included an article explaining what caused the fire and that it was the fault of PG&E. The explanation seemed clear and neat: a piece of electric transmission equipment failed and caused a spark, which in turn ignited the dry plant material on the ground below it. A "smoking gun" was found. This explanation was followed by a rant that PG&E was not maintaining its equipment properly.
I have four comments on this article: (1) It is a story. (2) The very precision of the explanation is dubious. (3) It ignores the reality of PG&E's governance by the CPUC. (4) It ignores the reality of PG&E's customers' resistance to rate increases. Were PG&E to implement a comprehensive program of maintaining its transmission equipment in the remote areas of California, it would have to raise the rates it charges for electricity. All proposed rate increases must be submitted to the CPUC for approval. Even were that agency to approve an increase, the public is given an opportunity to comment. PG&E routinely is denied proposed rate increases and the programs they are intended to fund. So, any complaints that the company did not do something must be examined in light of the public's resistance to rate increases. (12-10-2018)
What are the characteristics of a broken healthcare system:
a) Rising rates of illness and debilitation.
b) Rising costs of diagnosis, treatment, and medicines.
c) Rising levels of consumption of medicines — more people are taking more medicines.
d) Underpaid medical workers.
e) Less healthcare dollars go to medical workers, more to businesses that sell insurance.
f) Insurance plans limit the population of healthcare workers who qualify to have their bills paid by the insurer. One basis for the limitation is medical credentials. Essentially, MDs are allowed, but DCs are not.
g) The billing and payment system costs of private insurance are estimated to be 17% of the total medical costs, this is an overhead with no health benefits. The administrative costs for public insurance (Medicare) are 2%.
In other words, the longer we live, the sicker we get. The money we spend, individually and collectively, does not improve our health.
The culture's fascination for technology has not improved the situation.
The theory held by MDs for why people get sick is unreliable — failed. Worse, it is not challenged.
The healthcare system imposes an increasing cost on the country — on the "economy" — with little benefit.
We are proving that while we can exploit technology — consider our manned space program — we know little about the natural world in which we live. The government does not regulate industrial chemicals to which we are exposed, so few, if any, have knowledge and theories about the effects of those chemicals on our health. Our system of governance values corporate profits over human health.
So, perhaps the problem is bigger than healthcare. It has deep roots in the government's perceived obligations to contribute to corprate profits first. We might name the problem "Profit Over People." (12-6-2018)
The un-employed and under-employed whine. They vote for a boorish bully who promises them good jobs without evaluating their candidate's ideas for achieving those jobs. They get nothing.
What they ought to be doing is reading about the frontier settlers of Pennsylvania. They didn't whine. They partnered with each other, raised and prepared their own food, erected their own homes, educated their children, and accumulated wealth by trading. They persevered and succeeded. Each generation built on the achievements of the preceding one.
How is it that they succeeded and we do not?
In 1987 singer Glen Campbell released his recording of the song "Arkansas, Land of Opportunity." Those of us who did not live in Arkansas quickly modified the theme to "America, land of opportunity." Some of us used to believe that. Lately it seems that many of us no longer look for opportunity to find useful, well-paid work. Instead we look to the government, oblivious to opportunities to partner with our families and neighbors.
Is it time to stop enabling the politicians seeking to gain from our misery? (12-5-2018)
"I've been on the ground helping with the #CampFire recovery for nearly two weeks. It's important to remember that these are compounding crises. Butte County is dealing with a mass casualty crisis, on top of a mass displacement crisis, on top of an environmental and health crisis, on top of what was already a housing crisis with 1,000 chronically homeless in Chico. The recovery is going to be long, so please keep up your financial donations to the North Valley Community Foundation. Plan to come up and volunteer in January and February, and hold off on in-kind donations until it's asked for — all the warehouses are full, and people don't need more things until they get into temporary housing. I'm grateful for the incredibly dedicated people I've met and the outpouring of love and support in the face of deep tragedy." (11-24-2018)
Opposition is private. The "media", if they recognize corruption, decline to address it.
The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "corruption":
a: Dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers).
b: Inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery).
Let me remind you, if this definition were not enough, that telling deliberate lies is dishonest. That pursuing actions antithetical to the Constitution violates the Presidential Oath of Office and is thus both dishonest and illegal.
I am likely to overlook some of Trump's egregious statements by ascribing them to an undisciplined mind and loose lips. However, this does not in any way alter the fact that those statements constitute corruption.
Wake up America! Is this who we really are? Is corruption the route to greatness? When has it ever been so? (11-23-2018)
"If a person's behavior doesn't make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context. It's that simple."
"People do not choose to fail or disappoint. No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person's action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details. There is always an explanation. There are always barriers. Just because you can't see them, or don't view them as legitimate, doesn't mean they're not there. Look harder." (11-21-2018)
Thanks guys, who asked you?
Did they not blame Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria? (11-20-2018)
This information proved invaluable to me as my family's genealogist.
The census has been used since the 1800s to collect citizenship information:
Yes, government statistics like GDP and unemployment are essentially meaningless and in no way reflect the reality of life for many Americans. And yes, the money does go somewhere: the personal and family wealth of the 1%, the valuation of the stock market. Graft and corruption are good explanations for why social assets are worthless and personal wealth keeps increasing. (11-17-2018)
One of the aspects of forests of which T is blissfully ignorant is that forests create rain. A second is that burnt trees can regenerate, if only from the subsurface.
So what is a forest? The town of Paradise had trees, but did not consider itself to be located within a forest. Ditto for Malibu. Recently a phrase — "wildland urban interface" — has been adopted to refer to settings that have some aspects of wild, undeveloped lands, such as native plant communities, while also being developed. This describes the Oakland Hills that were devastated by fire in 1991. It also describes the areas of Napa and Sonoma Counties that were devastated by fire last year.
Not every wild fire is a forest fire.
And, surprise, no one is admitting that population pressure exacerbates the possibility of wildfire and disastrous fire.
Wildfires rarely have a natural cause, such as a lightening strike. More commonly, they are started by human activities. At some point finding blame becomes counter-productive, and relying on fire insurance to recreate a community becomes insufficient. All of us need to shoulder responsibility for wildfire prevention, espcially those who choose to live in a wildland urban interface. We need civic programs to raise our awareness of wildfire, and to foster the attitude that if we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem.
Be safe! (11-17-2018)
What we are observing is "electoral fraud" and disenfranchisement where the government deliberately distorts the vote count; this has also been called "vote rigging." The first I was aware of this was in the 2000 presidential election when Florida rejected ballots because of "hanging chads." Now we have the Crosscheck program that deliberately drops legal voters from the voting rolls; it was developed in 2005. We also have state actions to make it difficult for voters to cast ballots, by hindering voters' access to polling stations: closing polling stations, limiting the hours of polling stations, and reducing the capacity of polling stations.
Whatever happened to "let freedom ring"?
Journalists do not challenge the government's claims of voter fraud, and make no effort to clarify what is really happening. In this they sure seem to be the "fake news" that His Orangeness loves to taunt. (11-11-2018)
It may be that our history feeds our violent urges. I have no knowledge of similar violence before 1850. I suspect the Civil War and the racial segregation that followed it fuels our violent inclinations. The Ku Klux Klan inspired a century of racial killing. Add in a little economic bitterness and targets began to include Arab, Muslim-looking victims. And when that's nor enough, we, self-righteous Christians that we are, turn on Jewish people.
What will it take to stop this violence? First, the nation needs a positive focus that does not include a zero sum game. "Make America Great Again" is wrong for a number of reasons, in particular it is no prescription, more the whine of a petulant teenager. "America First" is barely better. "Together We Can" is better, it's positive, encouraging, and not divisive.
Americans have been gifted with the opportunity to live peacefully and cooperatively with strangers. How long will it take us to see the advantages? (10-29-2018)
As a mathematician, I will stand up to this nonsense. "Male" and "female" are two choices, but they are not binary. Confusing "2" for "binary" is so unscientific. Binary is when the choices are "A" and "not A". So, the old-fashioned choices for your biological sex are binary ONLY if they are "male" and "not male", or "female" and "not female."
Now, as much as politicians would love to formalize the meaning of "female" as "not male", and thus less than, it just is not true.
And as far as physiologically evident, ask any new doctor how many babies she has seen with genitals that are not obviously strictly male or female. (10-25-2018)
Consider a different story. In the early 1800s Mexico was willing to allow non-citizens entrance, but only if they had a passport (which was issued by Mexico at different locations; for example, John Sutter of Sacramento had authorization to issue passports to visitors). This requirement kept few Americans from entering Mexican California illegally, as the requirement was largely ignored and California had no infrastructure with which to enforce it. After the discovery of gold, they flooded in, killing and displacing the legal residents (Mexican and Indian) — Forcing the establishment of California as a state in the Union. (10-6-2018)
I found several news stories describing Kavanaugh's performance as "poor judicial temperament." What holds these news media back from wondering what else might be powering his temper? Where is the psychiatric evaluation? Where are the drug test results? Why isn't Kavanaugh described as breaking down?
Yes, Kavanaugh is angry that he isn't going to get an automatic OK on the Supreme Court nomination. That his elite male privilege isn't going to be enough. So he paints it as a political hit. Sayonara Brett. I hope. (9-30-2018)
Monsanto, of course, has been telling us since their product was first sold in 1974 that it was completely safe, that it disappeared within three days of application. All lies.
Yes, the plaintiff had almost daily exposure to the herbicide, usually wearing protective gear. I want you to think of your family's skin contact with glyphosate-sprayed lawns. Your pets walk on them, the poison is absorbed into their bodies through the "soles" of their feet. Your children play on lawns, they roll and walk on them, exposing bare skin all the while. You walk on the lawns while wearing shoes, which you then wear into your home, leaving traces of glyphosate on your floors.
You can expect that your family and pets will get ill from their exposure to glyphosate, even to the extent of acquiring cancer. Myself, I avoid public lawns as I expect they are all sprayed with Roundup. the vast expanses of green grass just look like so much poison to me.
And, do not forget that Roundup is used extensively in agriculture, where it is sprayed on food crops while they are in the ground and, in some cases, after they have been harvested. I think it safe to assume that most foods in grocery stores are contaminated with Roundup. The sole exception is foods labeled "organic." (9-26-2018)
This is a sick fallout of the consumer society: societal ills are the fault of consumers. It ignores the view that the corporation, Amazon in this case, is exploiting the communities in which it has warehouses and the taxing authoriries that it stiffs. Perhaps this ignorance is deliberate, perhaps the commentors are deliberately blind to the treatment of workers and the free use of infrastructure like roads and electricity.
Please quit blaming the victim! (9-18-2018)
Matt Taibbi writes on Rolling Stone
"Taibbi: Why Did John McCain Continue to Support War?"
"But he did have one unshakeable conviction: Wherever America had a foreign policy problem, the solution was always to bomb the fuck out of someone."
This approach to foreign affairs purely horrifies me, and always has. (8-30-2018)
Dior provided interior design and haute couture. And made French classicism great again.
Today, American society is polarized, many of us feel we are losing our identities, and whatever might have been called the American way of life is in jeopardy. Perhaps America needs a design theme to help us re-orient ourselves.
I am not trivializing the ability of design to re-orient a society. It is entirely possible. Let's do it! (8-27-2018)
The government of Romania kept her from leaving the country, aside from the 1984 Olympics. In 1989 she defected with a group of other Romanians. First she went to Hungary. Three days later she contacted a U.S. embassy in Europe to request refugee status. The next day she arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York from Vienna.
She became a US citizen in 2001.
Would she be able to get asylum in America today? (8-20-2018)
What stirs me today is an essay in The Guardian wherein the author claims that recreational consumers of cocaine are responsible for narco-trafficker violence. And that if such consumers quit using cocaine, the narco-trafficker violence would stop. Complete balderdash!
This argument seeks to blame consumers for production/distribution problems. I regularly encounter claims that if I as a consumer avoid a particular product, then that product will eventually cease to be made. This is complete fantasy.
Let's consider the inclusion of genetically-modified organisms in food, which I will call "GM food" for linguistic convenience. I think this is a vile practice, and one that renders the original "food" as "non-food." I choose to not eat GM food. Because the producers have successfully resisted all labeling requirements (another example of the fallacy of consumer responsibility), the only way I can avoid GM food is to buy only organic food.
Not buying food at all in order to protest its production methods is impossible. So there is no way that consumers can, at least in the marketplace, stop GM food production. Alas, ridiculing food producers for resisting labeling of GMOs as being anti-consumer is pointless. This is a great example of the way in which our economy and government ignore and override the wishes of the holy consumer.
Consumers of GM food are not responsible for the horrors of GMOs and their inclusion in our food supply. Similarly, recreational consumers of cocaine are not responsible for narco-trafficker violence. (8-2-2018)
What sense can be made of its refutation by non-scientists? This is commonly done by politicians and citizens, even residents of cities that have been burned out by abnormally strong wildfires in the wake of extended drying heat.
So much of our daily lives is based on science. Certainly all the technology that we consume around the clock, like smart phones and the internet. Tap water, electric lights, air conditioners, automobiles, elevators — they are all based on science.
Much of our understanding of the distant past is based on science: ice ages, dinosaurs, the evolution of homo sapiens.
Do we get to pick and choose which science we agree with and which we do not?
I think not.
What passes for scientific thought is more properly described as scientific theories that have been subject to formal and rigorous validation and accepted by trained scientists. Non-scientists can observe this validation, but may not participate in it.
You are free to hold your opinions on whether ice is simply solid water or something else, whether there is a man in the moon, and whether human activity is affecting climate. Your belief in these possibilities may be satisfying to you, but is of no significance to scientists. Your belief in these possibilities is not the same thing as your agreement or disagreement with scientific theories.
You have no basis for choosing to refute scientific theories. You have no basis for questioning the scientific theory of man-made climate change. (8-1-2018)
The US government determined to extract every dollar from the environment, as if people, the food sources we rely on, and wildlife do not need the environment. (This comment is prompted by an article on searching for oil in the Arctic.)
The endless saber rattling. It's not just the military-industrial complex, as recognized by Eisenhower, it is the corporate 1% intent on more. And to get that more, the rest of the world must be converted into client states, with resources to mine free of limitations. If such conversion can be accomplished by trade agreements, fine, it not, let's bomb the fuckers. The only good Russian is a dead Russian — while I have not found this sentiment (yet), it seems to be lurking silently in the wings.
And so capitalism proves itself to be a ravening beast. (7-24-2018)
Recent water news in California has to do with finding a new balance between supply and demand, a huge challenge given that domestic and agricultural demand has been allowed to expand to the greatest supply levels. And supply these days is significantly less than it used to be, and even expected to continue to decrease.
What if the problems with the Sacramento delta and ocean fisheries are caused by decreased outflows of fresh water from the Sacramento River into the Pacific Ocean? Will we be forced to choose between domestic uses of water and wildlife? Of course! (7-23-2018)
The media falls all over itself decrying Russian intervention in American elections. The media constantly refer to "the indictments."
The facts are hard to find, but they are there: There is only one indictment. An indictment is a story, it is not proof, nor is it legal judgment. There is no evidence that anybody, Russian or otherwise, interfered in American elections; the DOJ admits this.
Wake up America! We are being played by the saber rattlers. Just because the message is repeated so often and with such seriousness, doesn't make it even the tiniest bit true. (What that reflects is corporate ownership of news.) We have solutions to the possibility of unauthorized access to election documents: take them offline and paper backup. Why aren't these solutions being discussed and implemented? Do we prefer the "woe is me" attitude so prevalent today?
A second story has somehow gotten intertwined: that the American president was treasonous in his speech at the July 2018 news conference in Helsinki. I suggest this story has been sold because it plays into the "Russia did it" story. Is the media so short of real news that they deliberately confuse the poor public speaking skills of a man prancing on the public stage with intentional insults? The media have been quiet about these poor public speaking skills all along. What has changed? (7-23-2018)
Kristin Lawless has recently published a book Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System is Changing Our Minds, Bodies and Culture. One of her themes is that focusing eating advice on the individual is ineffective, the better approach is to focus on the corporate producers.
Russell Mokhiber has written a review in CounterPunch titled "Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen". Highly recommended. (7-21-2018)
It's hard to avoid conclusions like (1) the Liberty was set up, (2) US military covered up Israeli aggression, and (3) the US government covered up the story. It also suggests the continuing ties between the Israeli government and the US government are hiding, and that the cover up was in support of increasing sales of American arms to Israel. Was Israel testing America's commitment to an arms customer? Or America's willingness to look the other way?
There is an interesting account on CounterPunch.
This story is worth a review because at this time we are experiencing (1) doubt in the honesty of our government and military officials and (2) Israel is increasing its aggression with its neighbors, aggression that is ignored by the American press.
Trump might be better served asking about the Liberty than Hillary's emails.
This behavior is unlikely based on his continued smiling support of Israel, and disinterest in the Palestinians. (7-21-2018)
There is one indictment, it lists 12 men and cites 6 chapters of the crimes and criminal procedures section of the U.S. Code that apply to the allegations. This indictment is an action of the DOJ, the press release acknowledges "the help of the FBI's cyber teams." There is no indication that the indictment has the support of any national security agency, as has been wafted around the news.
The primary crime is the theft of emails and other documents from servers belonging to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential election campaign (Clinton Campaign). The twelve are accused of money laundering solely on the basis of using Bitcoin to pay for the infrastructure they used to commit these crimes — as if Bitcoin is automatically evidence of money laundering!
My tentative conclusions:
In summary, "Russia interfered with the 2016 election" remains unproven. (7-19-2018)
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.
“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.” (7-15-2018)
What if the government fully staffed embassies, withdrew all military forces from off-shore, cut the military budget to a third, and raised VA (veterans) benefits?
How do we want immigration and immigrants treated? (6-24-2018)
Some Americans today fear strangers. They fear people speaking their own language, following their own native customs. This fear prompts sharp anger towards the possibility of "multiculturism," a situation they perceive as a threat.
Just wait awhile. All immigrants assimilate over time.
And about that fear of strangers. Have you heard the expression "don't be a stranger"? I've had friends and family say that to me, they meant keep in touch, keep in contact, if you cannot meet me face to face, then phone or write. So you can try to meet your neighbors who are strangers to you. Think of it as wading into the shallow end, eventually you may be willing and able to wade in a bit more. But it you are not, don't worry about it. (6-24-2018)
And shift ownership and administration of the internet backbone to public players, including government-sponsored network access organizations. Yes, the internet backbone is a currently a conglomeration of multiple, redundant networks owned by numerous companies. It may be that the redundancy will be sufficient to maintain net neutrality. If not, change it.
Public access can be subject to local and state regulation. Those regulations can include net neutrality. I would like to see end-user access available at a very low cost, even at no cost. Since government agencies have largely converted their public access from telephone and paper to the internet, the public should not have to pay for this access. (6-14-2018)
Korea was split in two in 1948 as a result of a cold war between the USA and USSR, each of the two pieces claimed to be the legitimate government of all Korea.
The Korean War is still alive and well. It began in 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. Both countries quickly acquired allies: The United Nations, with the United States as the principal force, came to the aid of South Korea shortly after its invasion by North Korea. China came to the aid of North Korea, with some assistance by the Soviet Union.
The fighting ended in 1953, an armistice was begun in July 1953 and signed in 1954.
Since then, sanctions have been enacted against North Korea. The UN Security Council enacted sanctions beginning in 2006, inspired by North Korea's nuclear testing. The US enacted sanctions in 2016. South Korea enacted sanctions in 2010. Japan enacted sanctions in 2016. The European Union enacted sanctions in 2006.
About 29,000 US soldiers are almost permanently quartered in South Korea; they have been there since 1953. There are an additional 49,000 in Japan. Military exercises are held jointly by the US and South Korea, aka war games. There are also joint US-Japanese drills each year.
The Korean people live with a divided country, in constrained economics, housing foreign soldiers, tormented by war games. With a Supreme Leader intent on developing nuclear weapons which can only be used aggressively.
Given this history, what sense does it make for the US to encourage North Korea to destroy its nuclear weapons during conversations that do not include the leadership of South Korea? Are we not giving South Korea the finger by ignoring them? Do we not endanger our legitimacy by ignoring South Korea? (6-14-2018)
North Korea's economy is inconsequential. Kim is a strongarm dictator. All he has to tease the world with is his possession of nuclear weapons.
And how did North Korea acquire nuclear weapons? Apparently NK studied with USSR scientists after the Korean War illustrated the value of nuclear weapons. Then they consulted with neighbors like China and Pakistan and attended conferences of European scientists. They acquired European parts through illegal channels. In other words, they applied themselves and improvised.
Trump left the G7 meeting early so he could be on time for Kim. You would think Kim was calling the shots. Trump demonstrated obsequiousness throughout the visit. Hunh? Clearly Trump reacted from personal issues — and not his position as leader of the free world. WTF? Did America pick up the tab for a third rate actor (Trump)? (6-12-2018)
Has anyone actually addressed what the country needs and how it can be accomplished, either individually or in groups? I do realize that "think tanks" do this, from time to time; aren't they usually funded and organized by groups with an agenda? As such, they are not an impromptu meeting of free minds, but an employment of captive minds.
If you find yourself tired of His Orangeness' blather, consider writing a manifesto with emphasis on a vision of the future, not a list of complaints. Let's use our negativity to help us realize now is the time for envisioning our future. (6-10-2018)
American president Trump attended the Quebec meeting in early June 2018, then walked out early complaining about the behavior of some of the members. He refused to discuss issues, key among them being global trade and the tariffs imposed by Trump. He demonstrated his concept of negotiation as take-it-or-leave-it. And he was eager to demonstrate disdain by stalking away.
Oh great. Americans so love giving other nations the finger. We went out of our way to elect a president to do just that.
Odd the disconnect between "we don't need your stinking help" to "I'll bomb your country until you do what I tell you." (6-10-2018)
Now college is not affordable, there are more administrators than professors, and professors are extremely underpaid. With the public discourse that has surfaced since 45's election, it seems clear that many people have an inadequate education, in particular in the areas of history and civics. Apparently that is no accident.
This model seems to be reflected in public grade schools, with the emphasis on school administration and the underpayment of actual teachers (a long-standing practice).
Alternet has an explanation for the deliberate destruction of publc education. Here's How Higher Education Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Steps.
Have we been conned? (6-1-2018)
Yes, I imagine that NK has played Trump.
He undoubtedly thought he was playing them. But his lack of impulse control and his bombastic lies make it hard to believe him. What I now see is that Trump played the American voters, and is still doing so. (5-17-2018)
The Intercept wrote: "Israel has killed more Palestinians at the Gaza border in the past six weeks than East Germany killed crossing the Berlin Wall from 1961—1989."
Israel continues to prove it is the neighbor from hell. Since pushing its way onto land in 1947 that had been owned and occupied by Palestinians for centuries, Israel has fought its neighbors at every turn. And America has bestowed billions of dollars on Israel: Between 2001 and 2018, the US has given Israel $3.1 billion.
American politicians blame the Gazans for their own deaths, in clear support of Israeli themes. The United Nations and Amnesty International deplore the Israeli violence, and continue to demonstrate their ineffectiveness and lack of influence. (5-16-2018)
Post script. In spite of the ineffectiveness of the UN, the US pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 19. I theorize that the US is too fearful of UN criticism of Israel to remain on the Council where they might be pressured to join that criticism. Ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the UN for “its chronic bias against Israel.”
I have been keeping my distance from this "story," as I suspect it may turn out to be just another misdirection by some politicians, including Trump. As a software professional, I believe it is possible to use software to change the vote counts. (Which is why I advocate for a return to paper ballots.)
America has a number of means to mis-count ballots. Including the Crosscheck program (the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program) that simply keeps people from voting in the first place. We don't need help from Russia misrepresenting our election results.
"The Russians did it" has become quite the rallying cry. Frankly, these people protest too much. Apparently America needs to fault Russia more than it needs truth and honesty in its own elections and politicians. Good luck with that. (5-8-2018)
It seems that public acceptance of nudity and semi-nudity (think transparent clothes), as well as revealing bras, has made the slip irrelevant. What a loss! Yes, a slip can add a layer of opacity that can override the transparency of the outer clothes. But it has more to offer. It can prevent or minimize wrinkling. It can absorb perspiration. It can smooth out bodily bumpiness. It can keep delicate dress fabrics from snagging on other underwear (remember girdles and corsets?) including bras. It can cover up panty lines. It can provide a barrier between your skin and scratchy wool clothes. It can add a layer of warmth. And, lastly, slips can extend the lifespan of your outer clothes.
And then there is the petticoat, often with tiers and ruffles, which is strictly not a half slip. It was, and may be again, used to provide some puffy support under a full outer skirt. As full skirts have fallen from popularity, so too pettiNRAs coats. (5-5-2018)
Now here's an intriguing article about spaces which make it seem not so absolute. "One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong." (5-4-2018)
So, what to do? If the feds will not support passenger rail, then it falls to states and multi-state coalitions to establish and maintain inter-city passenger rail, especially long distance rail, through local and regional efforts. As an example, the Coast Starlight runs between Seattle, WA and Los Angeles, CA. If Amtrak dumps this, then WA, OR, and CA can jointly pick it up.
The dissolution of Amtrak is likely to be piecemeal and extended — and painful. So the states can begin to establish their own passenger rail administrative function, and the sooner the better. By "administrative" I mean a mix of strategy, planning, technology, budgeting that addresses routes, schedules, equipment, employees, training.
As it turns out, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which seems to be a partner of Amtrak, specifies state planning in their overview of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA). (4-18-2018)
Why do we as a nation spend money on such a project while we continue to trash our environment? We cannot find money to fund federal clean-up projects nor enforce environmental protection laws. This is truly a bizarre behavior. It seems clear to me that sending satellites into space is really just a subsidy to aerospace corporations. We've got the money, but our values are skewed. (4-18-2018)
How long did Trump practice his announcement? Was he modeling himself on the North Korean leader? Look Ma, complete sentences!
American actions abroad are usually based on incomplete, inadequate, and misunderstood information. That does not deter us. Membership in the UN does not deter us. No, we boldly go where no sane person would.
What if some foreign nation were to judge America as behaving in a dangerous way against its own people? (4-14-2018)
A read of the Constitution finds no mention of attitude and the ever-so-illusive leadership. Mr. Trump is clearly going his own way on this. Of the many things that disappoint me, the one that worries me most is his continued disregard of democracy. He acts as if he is the sole person in the government, that all government actions must originate in him. He is NOT a team member, which is how I thought the Presidency should be. He is equally not inclined to philosophy, hence no tiresome discussion of the unitary executive, with which a previous president plagued us.
So, I long for a president who exhibits benevolent leadership, team spirit, speaks well, and inspires us. That will never be Trump. (4-1-2018)
Mr. Zuckerman has missed the real problem: the availability of the data is a "feature." It is baked into the whole of the Facebook app. It could be argued (by a brave soul) that it is the raison d'être of Facebook. (3-25-2018)
But the question remains: just because the monuments refer to an historical event that is now politically and socially incorrect, is it really appropriate to remove the statues? How denuded our knowledge of history would be if the statues of the ancient world, likely honoring people and events no longer in vogue, had been removed! Can we not find a way to acknowledge: that was then, this is now, we've moved on? Or, at least, some of us are trying to move on? Like the turtle with its shell, how can we move on with our history intact?
Might we, instead of removing Confederate statues, place a plaque in front of them: "This man heroically served the Confederate States of America during its war with the United States of America. His nation went to war to preserve its right to enslave human beings, Africans in particular. Eight months after the end of that war, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was ratified." (3-24-2018)
Meanwhile the media do not ask the truly relevant questions: What is the Constitutional basis for Trump being able to declare war? Why does Congress approve his appointments that the media then disparage so endlessly? What are the constraints on political appointees?
With major "liberal" media so devoted to complaints about Trump, they fail to report on the many things that are happening in DC, the country, and the world. We could be using this moment to better understand the workings of our government. But we are not.
After nearly 14 months of bitching about Trump, I am tired of it all and ready for something else. (3-24-2018)
Constitutional amendments must be (1) passed by a 2/3rds majority in both the House and Senate and (2) ratified by 3/4ths of the states.
History: The ERA was introduced in 1923, three years after women won the right to vote. It was passed by Congress in 1972. Only 35 states ratified the amendment, three short of the number needed to add it to the Constitution. It has been ignored ever since.
Don't you think the ERA is needed more than ever? (3-21-2018)
The comments following the account of the fires and mudslides in Santa Barbara, California became a predictable mix of:
a) the people who doubt climate change being attacked for their beliefs
b) criticism of the government and Donald Trump in particular
c) development has been in areas that have been traditionally subject to fire and flood, which is why they still are
d) forest fire mitigation techniques are wrong or insufficient
e) Humpty Dumpty woes — irreparably broken
f) Chicken Little — the sky is falling in
g) hand wringing
None of the suggested causes include population growth.
Readers are either overwhelmed by predictions or focusing on small details with which they want to tinker.
We still have a shoot-the-messenger attitude. Climate change is taken as a given, doubters are abused.
None of this is helpful. Few are willing to change their way of life, and those that are willing are sanctimonious about it. Many want someone else to do something.
What we are being treated to is a front row seat at a show of interdependence. So many things in Nature are interdependent. And so many things in the lives of modern Californians are interdependent. For example: as the climate is getting warmer, our heating bills may go down. As less rain falls over a year, less water will be available for consumption by humans, animals, and plants. As fires increase, so too will the toxicity of the air we breathe. At some point we may be faced by the option of spending our drinking water supplies on firefighting.
Why now? Because the demands of an increasing human population have exceeded the capacity of the land we occupy.
The engineering efforts of the last century were focused on preventing or controlling floods and impounding water for human needs behind dams. As a result, much less rain is able to sink through the soil and into the water table. Our lifestyles evolved to take advantage of relatively inexpensive resources like tap water, electricity, natural gas, gasoline. As the supply of these resources has dwindled, and the costs risen, we have resisted a new vision of how to live within our means. We feel entitled. If something has to change, let it be someone else.
Have you studied the findings and conclusions of Drawdown? (3-3-2018)
Might we interpret the absence of Neanderthals today as evidence that they were killed off by Homo sapiens? Maybe our school shootings are a reliving of the old myths.
This also renews the question: were Neanderthals their own species or a subspecies of modern humans? A project led by SUNY decided in 2014 that Neanderthals were their own species within the genus Homo. (2-25-2018)
I have a few words of caution. It's good to present an emotional face to the nation, but that will not be enough. Americans are used to tears, and can easily turn away. What you need most now is strategy and understanding the forces that oppose you. Things are rarely simple. The young people of the 1960s (my generation) thought sit ins and marches would do the job, but they failed. A Christian minister and a president were assassinated by the FBI. I admit this is an unproven and likely unprovable explanation, I offer it as an example of hidden agendas.
Read your Machiavelli. Read Howard Zinn's history of America, if only that from 1940 on. Watch what Congress actually does every day. Read the NRA's history of itself on its website, understand why they use the threat of gun confiscation to alarm their membership and arouse it to act in the NRA's favor. Talk with your state politicians and officials to learn their values and agendas.
This will likely (unless miracles happen) be a long project for you. Find ways to sustain yourself. Be good members of your families and of your community, and good friends with each other. Start college if that was your intent last month. Ask for prayers.
My prayers are with you. (2-25-2018)
NRA has a tremendous influence over Congress. While they do pay Congress people, it is their 5 million members who can be directed to vote uncooperative politicians out of office that carries the most influence. In this case the NRA is a non-Constitutional arm of the legislature. Their presence in this position is a direct and present danger to our democracy.
Perhaps we need to rethink lobbying and the non-profit/tax-exempt status of corporations. Perhaps there should be a limit to membership numbers.
Say we limit lobbying organizations to 1000 members. What's to stop multiple such organizations from partnering with each other? The effect could be the same as if there was only one organization with millions of members. So, that's no solution.
Cancelling their tax-exempt status will just cause them to reduce their expenses, by lowering executive compensation and conducting fewer public programs. The NRA will continue its lobbying.
I feel the only alternative that can truly preserve our democracy is to disallow all lobbying. And to make the acceptance of money and other valuable gifts from wannabe lobbyists illegal. Payola was always corrupt. Admittedly, this leads to Public Financing of Campaigns, but is that really a bad thing?
Our Congress should take steps to prove they are not vulnerable to outside influence (outside their own constituency). Certainly, they can solicit background information from experts, but this information should be submitted in writing and made available to all Congress folk and citizens alike. (2-23-2018)
It is clear that the worship of violence in our culture has influenced mass shooters, and will continue to inspire some men to appoint themselves as executioners. We cannot wait for cultural changes to stop these mass shootings that so plague us today. We are unable to effect the mind control needed to prevent anyone from shooting another except in self defense. So we are left with limiting the guns in private ownership. (2-21-2018)
The Guardian reports today on "Shocking hygiene failings discovered in US pig and chicken plants." (2-21-2018)
Kennedy's announcement is news, and I was glad to learn about it. I was also put off by some Guardian attitude in the opening paragraphs. I drafted the next three paragraphs hoping to put them in a comment, but The Guardian is not accepting comments on this article. So I will share with you.
"Spurious theories"? In the caption of the lead photo?
Please keep your skepticism to yourself. We love to point fingers at people with whom we disagree, and then we label them conspiracy theorists to deepen the insult. I am beginning to realize that your "newspaper" relies on this behavior for much of your articles — I'm having difficulty recalling true neutrality in your reporting. I am a bit tired of your judgment. I can make my own judgments, but I do need straight facts.
The problem you, or any other "news" organization, face with regards to "news" related to vaccination, is that the subject is fraught with justified fears, industry pressure, legal rights, health dangers, etc. Best to avoid that swamp. People have written worthy books about the dangers of vaccination, you cannot address that in a few paragraphs. And to dismiss or ignore the wider discussion is not good of you.
And on a slightly different note, have you noticed the great number of photos in newspapers, yours and others, that show a needle pressed to skin? Why is it okay when addressing infectious disease but not "recreational" drugs? (2-21-2018)
I am sure American society has classes. I am also sure that it is divided by wealth into the haves and have nots. The haves are now known as the 1%. They have different values and interests than the 99%. There is no point in our applying our values and arguments to them. Better to look for ways to make common cause. (2-11-2018)
The brothers set many records that have yet to be surpassed; their music occupied the top of the charts for decades. Their musical style combined rhythm-and-blues and country, and forged an early and enduring strain of rock and roll. "Everything we call country rock comes from the Everlys." [Bill Flanagan] Their voices were beautiful and their harmonies remain unmatched. Neil Young inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, with an introduction in which he described his efforts to reproduce the brothers' harmonies — with no success.
They never claimed to be singer songwriters, and while most of their recorded material was written by others, they wrote a considerable repertoire.
Phil Everly, the younger brother, died in January 2014. Don continues singing, at a slower pace. The Brothers are recognized as having significantly influenced music groups, especially English groups like the Beatles (whom Dick Clark once dismissed as being "Everly Brothers imitators"), and the endless groups that attempted vocal harmonies, perhaps foremost being Simon & Garfunkel.
In 2013 Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) and Alison Krauss (a solo bluegrass-country singer) released a cover of the Everly's "Gone Gone Gone" Here is an Everly recording from 1964.
Perfect Harmony, a UK radio program about the Everly Brothers from March 23, 2014 (after Phil's death), is a wonderful compilation of their music!
I think the Everlys exhibited two significant skills:
First, at a young age they had developed their own musical voice. It was composed of the sounds they made with their guitars, their individual voices, and their harmonies. It was also composed of phrasing and tempo. They could make a song their own by transforming it with their musical voice. (A good example of this is "Claudette", a song written by Ray Orbison. Once I heard the Everly's version, I found Orbison's recording to be lackluster and boring. The Everly's version is vibrant.)
Second, they had a refined sense of timing and progression. Near the beginning of their career, they had a highly successful sequence of songs that was followed by a dirth of suitable material for the next song. Instead of taking what was offered and making the best of it, they stood back and wrote their own song. Their recording of that song, "Cathy's Clown", went to the top of the charts, with no complaints about how long music lovers had to wait for it.
Why did I write about the Everly Brothers? And why now? Late yesterday afternoon I ate breakfast in a local café that caters to retired people with simple, affordable food and oldies music — music from the 50s and 60s. I listened to Buddy Holly sing "Rave On" with pleasure, glad to remember his name and the lyrics. And then a faint memory assailed me, the Everly Brothers. I came home and typed their name into Google and spent the rest of the evening reading and listening and falling in love with their music all over again. I hadn't known anything of their lives and work since about 1970, if not 1963. I wrote this ode to remind me. If this is your introduction to the Everlys, I am glad to have been of service. (1-10-2018)
Have we learned nothing?
We cannot articulate how an ideal president behaves. What political goals they advocate and pursue.
We are easily conned. We do not demand political experience, nor evidence of sincerity in a candidate's stated goals and values.
We like, perhaps a bit desperately, a knight on a white horse to ride in, take over, and make America right again — all without our having to do anything, even vote.
More of this attitude is going to destroy our personal lives and our democracy. And yet we seem addicted to it. (1-9-2018)