Earth Day

The planet doesn’t care whether we’re rich, poor, run a global conglomerate or a septic service, are conservative, liberal or other. In fact, the planet doesn’t care at all.

It’s all up to all of us. Living together is not always easy, but human life itself should be everyone’s priority.

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The Axiom of Political Promises

It is quite right to be distrustful of any politician who promises to gut programs designed to support and foster health, education and the general welfare, and it is quite unwise to trust that same politician who also promises what, on the surface, sounded like a good deal benefiting us personally.

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Modern Capitalism In a Nutshell

I don’t understand all the fuss about the new President-Elect who refuses to relinquish personal control over his corporate empire. Critics call it a “conflict of interest.” This shows a basic lack of understanding of the finer points of “evolved” modern capitalism.

  • You can’t make money off of other people’s money. They have to consent to give it to you.
  • If they won’t give it to you, con them out of it.
  • If they won’t be conned, pass laws so you can legally just take it from them.

There are corporate exceptions, of course. They stand out like shining beacons on a rocky, stormy shore.

What happened?

Modern “Capitalism” scarcely resembles that “laissez-faire” Capitalism originally envisioned by Adam Smith and early followers, who saw value as the product of labor, not money and influence. They saw economic prosperity as the result of free trade within the same fabric of existing laws and courts that we live under, not as an end-run around them. Most of those pioneer economists would undoubtedly have been horrified to see what we have done in their name.

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Liar’s Poker

Barack Obama got us out of the Great Recession. He increased jobs, got the economy on track, defended civil rights for all Americans, and reportedly became the most admired President in US history.

Republicans didn’t like that; they wanted change. They voted in a candidate who ran on a platform of equal-opportunity hate for the full laundry list of target groups, promising to un-do all the achievements of the Obama administration.

That man won, and the world sees him now installing officials who are fiercely dedicated to do even more than the president-elect promised.

Most Republicans say they didn’t and still don’t believe he would actually do that, while Democrats took him at his word and treated his candidacy and platform accordingly.

So now we have the result that those who voted for the president-elect are the ones who believed he was a liar, and those “thin-skinned” others who voted against him are the ones who believed him.

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“Around the corner” in the Mideast?

We had a Facebook discussion yesterday on the mistakes of 9/11, who “started it,” and whether it’s going to go on forever. Here was my prognosis:

I think, in some very unpredictable future, the Mideastern people themselves will get sick and tired of being pushed around, raped, murdered, incinerated and told what to do on pain of death by every warlord in the region (and by some foreign powers). At that time, they will, somehow, have to forge a better way that works for everyone instead of dividing and fighting. I call that “democracy” but they can call it anything they want. Democracy cannot be imposed, forced, rushed, or peddled like snake oil. It has to be chosen freely, and that is one thing no foreign power can do for a people. They have to do it themselves.

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“The Media”

[] “WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four in 10 Americans say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. This ties the historical lows on this measure set in 2014 and 2012. Prior to 2004, slight majorities of Americans said they trusted the mass media, such as newspapers, TV and radio.”

Trusted the mass media is an oxymoron:

“The media” is a catch-all term which includes an unholy gamut from NYT, WaPo and WSJ all the way down into the subterranean morass of People magazine, and National Enquirer. This means nothing, however, to people who think “vetting” is a recreational activity for cats and dogs, never fact-check, and believe everything they read.

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Phoenix or Bust

I gave up my Bay Area apartment and now live full-time in my home in Phoenix. The house is full of Bekins Boxes. I’ve been on the go 24/7 since June 3. This is the only post for July 2016, unavoidably a record low.

First, a note to my phone caller who left a message on my machine while I was out of town. You were interested in asking the owner of a question, but forgot to say what it was. (The domain is not for sale.) You forgot to leave your name. You asked me to please return your call, but for some reason the call terminated without leaving the number. Your message was polite and courteous. I probably would have called you back, out of curiosity, as you sounded like you are about the same age as me.  You evidently did not find the Write Us links on this site, so you resourcefully found a phone from a lookup service. I have updated the contact instructions in the WELCOME header on this HOME page. Sorry, there is no way to contact without using the security forms.

It is hotter than billy in Phoenix. The pool requires a lot of maintenance in the summer. There are a thousand and one other things to do – the joys of home ownership! Out of a piece count of 131 Bekins cartons, I have about a hundred to go, and I’m not going to kill myself deciding where things go, or by setting a deadline, All I ask is a carton a day.

As we swing into August, I have several new photos from Swan and other friends waiting to be published, and one or two of my own. Regular readers, if there are any, will have noticed I do not do “political” posts as much as I used to, and most of those are here on the HOME page (rather than in a Department). We are either preaching to the choir these days, or pleading to deaf ears.

Enjoy the summer heat. We will have to suck it up and get used to increasingly wild temperature swings. I am looking forward to October here; October and May are the two months where the weather in Phoenix is generally the equal of any paradise in the world.

Adios until the next time, Amigos.



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The Sanders Legacy

I probably spend too much time on Facebook. I also put huge blocks of my retirement hours into Perl projects, and yes, I’m still writing my book. Readers rarely respond to posts here, in part because the anti-spam interface makes it a pain. On my Facebook page, a good post will usually get a few “Likes,” sometimes maybe a dozen. I got 53 “Likes” on a New York Times post on another issue. This one on Bernie is well on the way., so I thought I’d get off my butt and share it. The rather snide NYT article is “What Is Sanders’ Endgame?” and you can read it there. My reply follows.

“At the end of the day, is his ethos greater than his ego?” There was no call for this small-minded NYT conclusion. Sanders has been a game-changer from the beginning. He forced [almost] all the other candidates of both parties to either address or pay lip service to important national issues they’d rather ignore. If he cashed in his chips tonight and retired to a remote cabin to contemplate his long decades serving the public, he has already made more of a difference than many presidents-elect. Bernie has raised our expectations.

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Something Old and Something New

I’m declaring our site conversion to WestHost 4.0 to be officially over. I’ve pretty much run out of known bugs to fix and enhancements to older programs.

I was looking for a certain photo in my graphics collection and I found this screen shot instead, from 2002:


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Pussy Riot Band

Rumor is, Vladimir Putin will consider releasing the jailed Pussy Riot band member Maria Alyokhina. They just have to agree to change the group’s name to “Mildly perturbed Kitties Feeling Slightly Out of Sorts.”

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Readers Push Back on Ads and Blocking

This week, I’ve followed a couple of threads on ubiquitous internet advertising and why we block ads. Some of us find all ads inherently intrusive, but most of us just reserve the right to decide when ads become obnoxious or outright offensive.
The dilemma is that our free content providers depend on this ad revenue to pay their writers and their bills. “Not our problem,” some say. I disagree; I think it’s a problem that belongs to all of us, and I think we CAN do something constructive about it. From my posted comment to “Destructoid,” a gamer site with an interesting editorial:

I got here via a Slashdot link. Don’t use game sites but I wish you the best solving this dilemma. If a user posts abusive and offensive comments in this window, you’d be entirely justified in editing or deleting it. In fact, you might have an obligation to do so to protect the editorial integrity of your site.

So why do we have a different standard for offensive web ads? It’s time for content providers to push back against advertisers and exercise some plain old content control. You don’t see dating services, nose pickers and and “pictures of horny men” in the National Geo. Does anyone else remember when advertising was actually informative and – gasp – interesting?

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The Economy and The Dam

CATASTROPHE: To the right of the steep Interstate 5 grade that takes us out of the Los Angeles basin and over the Sierra Pelona Mountains of northwestern Los Angeles County, toward Gorman Pass, looms a massive concrete and earthen dam high above the freeway. When traffic slows up the grade, I often get the creeps pondering the fact we are all sitting ducks here. If this dam forming Castaic Lake were ever to burst, there is no place to turn around and flee, no place to go, and we and everything around and below us would all be swept away by a wall of water nearly 200 feet high. Of course the communities below would be wiped out.

They would build a new dam, and they would wait for it to fill up.

But as it turns out, this already happened before.

In 1928, one year before the 1929 Great Depression, the old St. Francis Dam failed catastrophically, killing 600 people in the flood.

When an economy breaks completely as it did in 2008, there are only a few things the government can do to stimulate demand, promote hiring, and get businesses going again. It is a slow process. And most of those things are against the political philosophy of half of the country, anyway. Like that new dam filling with water, there is just so much engineers and hydrologists can do to increase the flow of the water that fills the dam. You can dredge the feeder creek.  You can try to remove obstacles to smooth water flow. There’s no magic wand to boost the flow of water that gradually refills the dam. Most of it is up to processes that occur naturally. An economy works the same way.

But you can bet the folks in the wealthy homes high above the dam were anxious to see their Lake Castaic Reservoir refilled. “Make the river flow faster!” they’d have shouted. “Make it rain!” And they’d vote for the magician who promises he can wave his magic wand and make all that unpleasantness go away.

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On Honoring the Opinion of Others

It is a fine thing to honor the opinion of friends with whom we disagree, and it is just and proper to recognize and defend the right of others of any walk of life to disagree with us.

But, no one has a moral right to call for the oppression or destruction of others whose greatest offense may be to try to live their own lives in peace. Expressing opinion must always be a protected right, but advocacy for the legal disenfranchisement of others is never an opinion — it is a call to force in disguise.

When we encounter such attacks on the edifice of rights, either individually or through the vote, it is always wrong to remain silent. It’s moral and spiritual treason to acquiesce to prejudice and oppression by pretending it to be mere ‘opinion.’

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More on Science Denial

My first comment post on the Huffington editorial From a Boy Who Loved NASA: How 49 Heroes Lost the Right Stuff and Sullied Their Names by Shawn Otto:

Thanks, Shawn Otto, for an exceptionally well written, interesting and well documented article. I know many cases where science denial is politically motivated, but many more where folks who are not fundamentally interested in science developments, and don’t follow science news, are genuinely confused about who to believe. For former NASA astronauts to pander to the political spin is absolutely shameful. We can debate how fast the ice sheets are melting, how high the oceans will rise, what species will be at risk first, how and where human food and water resources will be impacted, and what parts of the world may become uninhabitable first, but not the direction and implication of those trends. To an unknown extent, our planet is self-healing, but to gamble on inexhaustibility is suicidal.”

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On Science Denial

My comment on an editorial about the astronauts who came out against climate change:

huffingtonpost entry
From a Boy Who Loved NASA: How 49 Heroes Lost the Right Stuff and Sullied Their Names
Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 13:42:54 in Green

Even more pointedly, Earth (the planet) isn’t registered to vote, doesn’t care, isn’t listening to the debate, and just keeps doing her own thing based on chemical and thermodynamic equilibriums we “choose” to ignore.”

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Affordable Health Care

It’s time to rethink the whole individual mandate business. I still think conservative objections based on a distinction between taxation and the individual mandate were self-serving, convenient and artificial. Still, the codeword “individual mandate” set off alarm bells for me from the very beginning. The Supreme Court, playing Solomon splitting the baby, will be the last straw in a series of crippling setbacks for Affordable Health Care.

The Administration’s original proposal at least seemed comprehensible and containable. Compromise, lobbying and bill riders spawned a three-headed monster, mostly favoring the health care lobby at the expense of the individual citizen. It’s time to formally dump what’s left of “Obamacare” and start over.

Of single-payer health care (medical care funded from a single insurance pool), Forbes Magazine said,”The constitutionality of single payer is basically uncontroversial (Medicare is single payer health care) and the politics of it would look a lot more appealing to moderates than they did before.”

Health care costs have hit 20% of US GDP and for this we’re getting third-world care. Let the debate for a serious single-payer begin.

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“Social Conservatism”

To my knowledge this term first crept into the news around the beginning of the 2012 Presidential campaign. Everybody “sort of” knows which candidates are “social conservatives,” everybody “sort of” knows what political positions are entailed, and I have yet to see anyone explain to us what  a “social conservative” is.

So I looked up “Social Conservatism” in trusty ol’ Wikipedia. Their answer is more explicit than I feared. And it seems to directly contradict the stated GOP theme of scaling back government restrictions on of our lives.

Social Conservatism is primarily a political, and usually morally influenced, ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. Social conservatism is a form of authoritarianism often associated with the position that the national government, or the state, should have a greater role in the social and moral affairs of its citizens, generally supporting whatever it sees as morally correct choices and discouraging or outright forbidding those it considers morally wrong ones …

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Boehner Out of Touch

Every time we begin to think of House Speaker John Boehner as one of the more level-headed new-breed conservatives, he leaps at the opportunity to discourage such hasty, ill-advised conclusions. We found another example of this in the Wall Street Journal:

Despite the outreach, Russia hasn’t fully cooperated with the U.S. on key global challenges, most notably international sanctions against Iran and Syria. “We should do more to compel the Kremlin to curtail its relationship with Iran, particularly related to its nuclear program and missile technology,” Mr. Boehner said.

Compel? What was he thinking? It goes without saying the West doesn’t want to see Russia in bed with the psychotic Iranian government or its nuclear program. “Compulsion” didn’t work with the cold-war USSR. We’d never attempt it with allies or with neutral countries with whom we want to continue to cooperate. It won’t work any better with modern Russia. If Boehner fears a Russian return to old-style KBG diplomacy under Putin, what better way to push the Kremlin in that direction than “gunboat diplomacy” talk like Boehner’s? He’s out of touch.

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La Tuna Canyon

La Tuna Canyon reposes in the foothills about fifteen minutes east of the I-5 on Pasadena Freeway I-210. It is one of the landmarks I pass every month. It has personal significance for being a place name of special interest to a very special cat, and also because it’s the halfway point on my road trips between Castro Valley and Phoenix.

Given that this curiously named canyon lies about thirty miles northeast on a shortest-distance line to the Pacific, between San Fernando and Angeles National Forest, I was always puzzled by the ‘Tuna’ place name. The Spanish-English dictionary says the English translation for ‘Tuna’ is also ‘Tuna.’ Possibly there was an old cannery here at one time? No, it makes no sense to truck a tuna catch so far from the ocean up several hundred feet of elevation gain. There’s a local ‘La Tuna’ park up there, but I still never found my answer in Google searches. So the name remained a mystery for a couple of years.

On a PBS special Wonders of the WestSonoran Desert tonight, an expert on native food preparation was showing us how to prepare the traditional fruit of the Prickly Pear. That fruit is called a Tuna.

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