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.
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. (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, administrators exceed 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 pettitcoats. (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 NRAs 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)