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.
Oh, but news stories casually change the story. They start by criticizing the President's response to requests to do something about the so-called opioid crisis. They then talk about the great number of people dying . . . of what? This is not described specifically. And then the news story changes by referring to "drug overdose deaths", which of course includes but is not limited to opioid drugs. What this appears to be is another open-ended jobs program in search of funds. Now they want to fight drugs and help addicts, opioids are merely the excuse. The Washington Post is particularly egregious. But The Guardian also distorts the facts, presumably to sound important. (10-28-2017)
Certain ideas have had no consensus for a long time, in particular abortion on demand as a woman's right.
But others, like worker protections and environmental protections, that we have long enjoyed and which benefitted us individually and as a group, and which I thought were not controversial, are being abandoned by the federal government at the whim of the President. He promised to do this during his campaign.
Of all the lies told to the public during Trump's campaign, the most despicable was the promise of jobs to unemployed, and unemployable, voters when the lack of jobs was a direct result of previous government actions, actions this President is clearly unwilling to reverse.
So, Trump is stringing his voters along, misleading them into thinking that his actions will eventually provide them with jobs. Yes, that is politically clever of him, but essentially immoral to the country. Do we really want an immoral President? Not me. (10-21-2017)
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word: to make more violent, bitter, or severe.
The new law only exacerbates the problem.
The first article was on the site of NBC News:
But the consensus in the scientific community is that the conditions that cleared a path for the tsunami of flame were made by humans. Decades of aggressive firefighting left too much fuel on the ground. And more than a century of carbon emissions exacerbated the state's drought and the record high temperatures that baked brush and timber to an explosive dryness.
What irritates me the most is the use of the word to highlight causation. There are two causes of these fires: the initial spark and the winds that drove the flames. The word exacerbate is not applied to these two phenomena. Instead, it is applied to aggravating circumstances.
Now, aggravation may be the better word than exacerbation. Aggravation is defined as an act or circumstance that intensifies something or makes something worse.
The day brought no aggravation of the situation.
Conditions that enabled the fire include lots of fuel and lack of fire-proofness in building design and construction. NBC erred by ascribing the plentitude of fuel to the result of human actions. To attempt to connect firefighting techniques of previous years with the amount of fuel for the current fire in one sentence is simply too ambitious and resulted in idiocy. Similarly to attempt to connect scientific consensus with a condemnation of firefighting techniques is beyond absurd, it is insulting. The firefighting experts will be studying these fires for a long time in order to find lessons they can apply to their methods of fighting similar fires in the future.
My point: It is too soon to pontificate on cause, especially when it is the responsibility of Cal Fire to determine cause. It is immoral to connect "climate change" with these fires, in any capacity, but especially as cause. A meaningful exposition on firefighting methods will not be amiss, nor one on how building codes are applied, nor one on how there is no civic policy against fuel close to buildings, or civic policy to facilitate emergency evacuation in rural areas, or how local fire departments are maintained. Any and all of these topics warrant professional analysis and public discussion, and are as such well within the scope of news reporting.
I find myself wishing for a more nuanced approach to "news." (10-20-2017)
Throughout this experience I was impressed, and comforted, by the professionalism of the Sonoma County Sheriff, Rob Giordano. The county is lucky to have him.
His office is publishing some amazing videos, aerial imagery (photos) of properties within some burn areas. These images were captured by authorized drones which received an emergency Certificate of Authorization (CoA) from the Federal Aviation Administration to be allowed to fly under a temporary flight restriction (TFR). The Sheriff's Office is currently combining overlapping photos to generate 2D and 3D data "products."
The county agencies were able to visualize maps for use by other agencies and for residents of neighborhoods. The team created maps of the Coffey Park neighborhood and Journey's End Mobilehome Park with street and address overlays for easier home location.
A full description of what was accomplished and how is at Sonoma County Sheriff's Office notification (10-19-2017)
I am beginning to imagine a drone control that firefighters and sheriffs can use to disable the drone, and remove it from the air space. What appears to be a toy for some actually endangers authorized airplanes.
The FAA has the authority to apply temporary flight restrictions to an area, and to fine a drone pilot who recklessly interferes with firefighting or other emergency response operations up to $20,000 per violation.
Please drone responsibly. (10-16-2017)
The San Francisco news has photos of a city draped in white smoke. People are cautioned about breathing the smoky air.
The wine country will likely be in shock for a long time. Luckily (?) most grapes had been picked, crushed, and settled in wooden barrels. But vineyards, wineries, and wine inventories were destroyed. Winemakers worry about newly barreled wine absorbing smoke odors. Prognosticators are speculating about inadequate grape and wine inventories for the next few years. No one is talking about the future jobs for replanting vineyards and rebuilding wineries.
And then there are the many families who lost their homes, cars, heirlooms, and other possessions. Not to overlook the ten people known to have died. More than 103,000 customers are without electric power due to to the fire. Hospitals and care "homes" were evacuated. My "neighborhood" is in a state of turmoil.
The governor declared a State of Emergency for three counties: Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba. Fire also burned in five other counties: Mendocino, Lake, Nevada, Calaveras, and Butte. The size of the fires is estimated at 73,000 acres.
I hope and pray that the president will spare us his goodwill visit where we will be treated to his self-congratulations. The airport is still closed. (10-9-2017)
A 8-16-2017 press release by the US Fish and Wildlife discussed recent sightings of California condors in their historical territory in the western Sierras. Fish and Wildlife were thrilled.
The condors have been on the verge of extinction for a long time, their population recovered somewhat only after all 27 remaining wild birds were taken into custody for protection in 1987. One "home" of the condors had been the mountains near Newhall Ranch (Los Padres National Forest); birds were released there after their population grew sufficiently. The Sespe Condor Sanctuary is 16 miles from Newhall Ranch.
Preserving the condors as a species and growing their population has not been inexpensive. The California condor conservation project may be one of the most expensive species conservation projects in United States history, costing over $35 million. Allowing development projects to endanger the condor population seems misguided, even cents-less.
In 2011 the US Fish and Wildlife allowed the owners of the Newhall Ranch to capture and relocate one condor in the next 25 years — in lieu of allowing the developer to kill the birds (which had previously been considered).
I am left in little doubt that the Newhall Ranch development will have a detrimental effect on the condors. But maybe that's just me being cynical. (9-30-2017)
A nationalized system is characterized by the reliance on public and/or private medical offices with patient bills paid for by federal funds. The choice of doctor is up to the patient. The choice of medical treatment is up to the doctor(s). The federal funds are provided by federal taxes.
This makes sense from an economic perspective. The current, private insurance-based system costs families more than a nationalized system will. Administrative costs will drop. The costs of applying for private insurance will disappear. The part of the current insurer income that is diverted to corporate profit will disappear. The need for public subsidies will disappear.
This makes sense from a national health perspective. Families will receive the medical care they need when they need it. Our general level of health will improve as will our economic productivity.
It should be no surprise that the insurance industry opposes this idea. Their business model will collapse overnight. Some of the medical industry (doctors and hospitals) can also be expected to oppose this idea — they have long been influenced by the insurance industry to adopt certain practices and reject others, and may not be initially willing to reconsider.
The outstanding problem is the word "nationalized." We have been told for so long that "socialized medicine" is wrong, but this is an artifact of the Cold War during which we were encouraged to hate the Communists and Socialists in order to better support Americans. That was then, and is still, a false dichotomy. Furthermore, a nationalized system is quite different from a "socialized" system.
The fight for privatized medicine based on subsidized private insurance, which describes our current system, is well established. It was certainly in effect when Truman was President. Be cautious about the use of labels to influence you. American politics is full of labels carefully crafted to influence voter behavior. Don't be fooled again. (9-28-2017)
Do young women still get heart flutters when their young man kneels in front of them while asking for their hand in marriage? Men who are knighted by their sovereign always kneel. From early times bending one knee to the ground, called genuflection, was a gesture of deep respect for a superior. It is still common in some Christian religious practices.
Why have we let a crazed politician make us forget this? (9-25-2017)
Schools MAY be able to fix big social problems, but only if they teach a well-rounded curriculum that includes classical history and the humanities. Job-specific training is completely different. What a joke to persuade public school districts to pick up the tab on job training. The existing social problems were not caused by a lack of programmers, and cannot be solved by Big Tech.
I agree with the author that computer programming skills are not that limited in availability. Big Tech solved the problem of the well-paid professional some years ago by letting them go, these were mostly workers in their 50s, and replacing them with H1-B visa-holders from India—who work for a fraction of their experienced American counterparts.
It is all about profits. Big Tech is no different than any other "industry."
There are good reasons to teach coding. Too many of today's computer users are amazingly unaware of the technology that allows them to send and receive emails, use their smart phones, and use websites. Few understand the basic issues involved in computer security, especially as it relates to their personal privacy. Hopefully some introductory computer classes could begin to remedy this, and the younger the students the better.
Security issues persist in tech. Clearly that is not a function of the size of the workforce. I propose that it is a function of poor management and design skills. These are not taught in any programming class I ever took. I learned these on the job and in an MBA program, and because I was determined.
Don't confuse basic workforce training with an effective application of tech to authentic needs.
How can the "disruption" so prized in today's Big Tech do anything but aggravate our social problems? Tech's disruption begins with a blatant ignorance of and disregard for causes, and believes to its bones that a high tech app will truly solve a problem it cannot even describe.
Kool Aid anyone? (9-21-2017)
The destructive impact of these hurricanes continues to illustrate how poorly prepared we are for hurricanes. The federal government knows what to do, but has steadfastly avoided doing it. Ditto the individual states. This pattern of willful ignorance predates the current belief that our changing climate has man-made causes.
People living in the path of hurricanes are at risk regardless if Trump continues to deny climate change. Claiming otherwise, as The Guardian recently did, is absurd. That's akin to blaming Trump for the existence of hurricanes. (9-10-2017)
We’ve looked at the state of Texas and seen a commitment to business people and an abandonment of a population,
and were horrified.
Californians, familiar with land use zoning ordinances, building and fire codes, workplace health and safety regulations, and significant business taxes look at Texas in amazement because Texas has none of these.
And yet, California’s economy is the sixth largest in the world. (9-3-2017)
Interestingly, America's recent most expensive disasters were water-based and property loss was mostly from flooding: Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
NFIP is in the position of encouraging or discouraging development in flood-prone areas. Do they increase or decrease the areas for which they will issue flood insurance and undertake liability? Under what circumstances will they authorize rebuilding? The continued financial viability of NFIP, dependent as it is on federal funding, is up to Congress which is thus essentially tasked with deciding who gets to live on the country's most vulnerable coastlines.
The Intercept has an informative article by Kate Aronoff on the the issues of flood insurance, both federal and commercial. (9-1-2017)
Be thankful there is a national system of weather monitoring, and, in particular, hurricane monitoring. This system allowed us to know Harvey was coming, its size, and how much water it was capable of releasing. Residents of Texas' Gulf coast had warning. What they didn't have is a state government ready and willing to help them in advance by establishing storm mitigation projects. Really, who could be surprised by flooding in Houston given that it is barely above sea level, sits on a flood plain, and has no way for the water to drain? (9-1-2017)
Luck ran out August 19, 2017. Atlantic salmon raised in a farm off Washington state were accidentally released from their damaged net pen. Cooke Aquaculture, the fish farm owner, claimed the net had suffered a "structural failure" which may have been caused by the effects of the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 (blame the moon!) on the ocean.
Cooke Aquaculture was established in 1985 in New Brunswick, Canada. They subsequently acquired many seafood firms, including aquaculture firms (fish farms). They have fish farms in several locations in Puget Sound, Washington. Their website on August 24, 2017 claims that their Washington farmed salmon are not genetically modified.
The Guardian notes "Despite being listed in Washington State as an invasive species capable of preying on native populations of fish and spreading disease, Atlantic salmon are a major aquaculture species in Washington state as well as in British Columbia."
The impacts of such a release on wild salmon are unknown.
On November 19, 2015 the FDA announced they had determined that the AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat as non-GE salmon. This is the first genetically modified/engineered fish to be so-approved, but many more are in the pipeline. In early August 2017 AquaBounty Technologies (of Maynard, Massachusetts), producer of AquAdvantage Salmon, claimed they had sold 4.5 tons of their salmon to Canadian customers; those salmon were raised in tanks in Panama. The company plans to expand production with facilities on Prince Edward Island and Albany, Indiana. The AquAdvantage Salmon sold in Canada was likely not labeled as GMO, and there was no public announcement of plans to sell it. AquaBounty Technologies is, as of 2012, a majority owned subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation, founded in 1998 and headquartered in Germantown, Maryland. Intrexon's business is "synthetic biology." (8-24-2017)
I cannot see that the First Amendment had/has anything to do with the violence. I write this because some of the perpetrators used the First Amendment as justification. Let me say that the way these guys justified their behavior was revolting, the antithesis of civilization. Their universe is peopled with threats, and by God, they are going to kill them all. They must be inhaling a lot of poison, might this be from the so-called alt-right websites? Once they drink the Kool-Aid, can it be reversed? Certainly not when the President encourages it. (8-16-2017)
The flaw exists on chips used by some smart phones. It allows "an attacker to write programs directly on to the chip, seizing control of it." Whether this is an unintentional "flaw" or an intentional "bug" remains to be seen. I am giving it the benefit of the doubt. The flaw is particularly special, interesting and powerful. The victim "doesn’t have to do anything to be infected, the attacker doesn’t need to know anything about the device they’re targeting, and the system being targeted can be taken over without crashing." In other words, you get no advance notice. (7-27-2017)
Excuse me, but the Pacific coast of North America has been in real and constant danger since 2011 when Japan's nuclear power plant at Fukushima had an accident that spewed, and continues to spew, radioactive material into the ocean. What to do? Well, apparently nothing. The military cannot see a way to benefit and the government has no commitment to the actual American people.
How do you like your toast? (7-4-2017)
Why do we fall for these scams? Perhaps it is too easy to accept the claims that experts have supported the scheme. Perhaps we think racketeering only happens in organized crime. Perhaps we think that our government is free of organized crime. Perhaps we are weary of the continual promotion of these claims. Perhaps it is just too demanding to consider at all.
But guess what. Just because when you stand on a train track looking west does not mean a train will not approach you from the east, and run over you. Closing your eyes does not prevent others from seeing you. It just makes it easy for others to victimize you. (5-19-2017)
I hope some are reconsidering the notion that computer security can be adequately implemented on each computer's OS with perhaps the addition of one or move malware protection programs. This aproach just is not working. It's not enough for users to apply OS security patches as soon as they are available, the reliance on the OS is not enough — there is always another security risk (aka vulnerability) that can be exploited by crooks.
I think we need to reconsider the architecture of individual computers and networks. At this moment all networked computers are at risk. Plan B is to limit network connections, to isolate important business databases and personal software, to maintain a history of local network messages so they can be monitored, analyzed, and protections put in service. Yes, some computer processes will take longer while safe connections can be made, but that may be a fair tradeoff.
Protecting a population from contagious disease involves quarantine. Perhaps this should also be a feature of a new model of networking and security. (5-17-2017)
Oh yeah, another blame the victim.
And the other sad aspect to this is the age of the people making these declarations. They are older than 55. There is no way a government employee who has to do a lot of traveling and keep irregular hours is going to be completely healthy at age 55. Hence we have hypocrisy in living color. Clearly these speakers have no intention of being held personally to such a policy. They cling determinedly to their own health insurance package.
We can widen our analysis here. Politicans, especially Republicans, have nothing in common with their constituents. Which is fine by them. (5-4-2017)
Americans withdrew from the Korean War in 1953 (they ran for their lives), after which an armistice between the two Koreas was ratified. No peace treaty was ever signed. But North Korea claimed, in 2013, that they had invalidated that armistice and had entered a state of war with South Korea. They also pursued a nuclear weapons program.
It was through the UN that America entered the fray between the two Koreas. Actually, that Korea had been subdivided into north and south in 1948 was a result of the cold war we had with the USSR.
America must bear some of the blame for the current state of Korea. We allowed our horror of communism to force our intervention into what was primarily a private squabble. Millions of Koreans died in that squabble and our intervention. How can we say that their deaths were warranted? That Korea benefitted?
The man who would be president bragged about his negotiation skills. Where are they now? We need cool heads with sound negotiating skills to calm the waters. We DO NOT NEED braggadocio and threats.
Please stop the madness. (4-18-2017)
Such a violation of international law gives Syria the right to react in self-defense or a legal justification for the use of force. It also gives any other UN Member State the right to act in collective self-defense and to support Syrian action against the US.
And yet the American Congress has not risen up and condemned the strike. All too many seem to have approved of it, if only privately. What were Trump's advisors thinking? Do they know nothing of international law? Or were they just going along? If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," then these people lack critical qualifications for their jobs. Ditto for Congress.
This illegal act has endangered the people of the US.
"America First" is a shifty slogan, but must never be interpreted as denying allegiance to international law.
So, just for you, I wrote an article about what computer privacy and security are and how to protect yourself. It is written for the home computer user and, in particular, for the non-technical user Computer Privacy and Security.
A video was taken of the passenger being dragged, screaming, from the plane; it went "viral" and UAL has received much public condemnation. The CEO offered a weak apology.
Why did this happen?
About 30 years ago the notion that an effective manager could manage any group in any business emerged, probably from business schools and consultants. Over the years many managers have felt this applied to them. I have personally worked for too many such "managers" and found they made a lot of mistakes because they did not understand the unique requirements of their business; and what annoyed me the most is that they leaned on their staff to save their butts, and then never issued a thank you.
Today senior and executive managers, whose previous employers enjoyed big success, think they can manage anything. And boards of directors hire them, regardless of their knowledge of the particular business.
It is my theory that the UAL's CEO is one such man. He was seen as successful in prior positions, was hired at UAL with no airline experience, and then proceeded to hire more managers like him, and now no senior UAL manager knows anything about the airline business.
The CEO of UAL is Oscar Munoz. He has been the CEO and President since September 2015, when the previous CEO quit, effectively immediately. His alma maters are University of Southern California (B.S., 1982) and Pepperdine University (M.B.A., 1986). [I earned a MBA from Pepperdine University in 1979.] From 2010 to 2015 he had been a member of the Board of Directors of parent company United Continental Holdings; that parent company was founded in 2010 in the United-Continental merger. From 2004, Munoz had been a member of the Continental Board of Directors. Munoz previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of CSX Corporation, a company he joined in 2003 and left for UAL; CSX is an international and intermodal transportation company. From 2001 to 2003, Munoz served as the Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Consumer Services at AT&T. Munoz had also worked for Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.
So, was Munoz qualified to run UAL? His only airline experience was as a board member. I doubt that gave him a sufficient operational understanding of airlines. Let's say his understanding of the public perception of air travel is insufficient. As is his direction of the operational staff to handle passenger conflicts.
Ironically, Munoz claimed in a September 2015 interview that he planned to focus on innovation, earnings growth, and most important an improved customer experience; he cited his consumer-based background as helpful for those changes.
At 3pm on April 10th, Munoz issued a much better apology.
And then a second occurrence of abuse to a paying passenger, on April 11 in Kauai. In that case, a paying passenger seated in first class was
told to leave the plane because the seat was needed for someone else with more importance. He was threatened with handcuffs if he refused.
Again, UAL refused to apologize or refund the price of the ticket.
These men have likely reached the pinnacle of their younger self's dreams, and find themselves in need of a new dream. But, instead of turning to a completely different practice, they seek to continue as they have. They see no value in the possibilities and gifts of middle age and older, to explore different dimensions and develop different skills. Instead, they are afraid. And cling to what they know.
In their devotion to electronics, they have failed to develop substantial appreciation for completely different, non-technological, ideas. At the least, they could enroll in a liberal arts program focused on the Great Books at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or a program studying esoteric subjects. (4-10-2017)
Oh, the real explanation is the shift in consumer habits. There is some discussion in The Guardian article about how Brantano fits, or tried to fit, into "shopping habits." The Guardian goes on to say:
"All retailers are under pressure from rising costs because of increases in business rates, the introduction of a minimum wage for over-25s and the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar, the currency in which many products are bought on the wholesale market. Hinton said it was harder for footwear specialists to cut employee costs because floor staff were required to fetch stock and explain shoe sizes to customers."
BS. That is blaming everyone except the executives who are supposed to be steering the ship.
The reality is that their business model and the quality of their product failed, and the willingness of consumers to buy it — changed.
And so we see the power of consumer actions: quit buying a brand of shoe, and down they go. (3-22-2017)
She loved to travel. She told me about trips to Egypt and India, where she returned several times. She studied spirituality. She helped the needy; I'm reminded of a crippled man (whom I never met) who lived in Mill Valley, she used to bring him groceries, prepare meals for him, and massage him with essential oils. She liked to dance, and took dance lessons with much younger people who were amazed at her energy and determination.
I last saw Lynda on Friday, November 4th of last year. She visited me, we went out to dinner, and had a nice catch-up chat. She was ill then.
According to her obituary, she died in Idaho on February 9, just a few days ago. She had been ill. I am sad to lose her. (2-16-2017)