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Thoughts on Events the Week of September 19

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 29, 2016

My ignorance is unbounded: If you told me that a presidential candidate from one of our two main political parties had praised a particularly autocratic Russian leader, and compared that Russian’s leadership style favorably to that of our sitting American president, and that the candidate was his party’s nominee and close in the national polls, I would be stunned, which I’m.

Rigged: Ponzi Don is always complaining that things are rigged against him, but that is the opposite of what is true. Ponzi Don wants everything rigged, just only in his favor. If they’re straight up, he doesn’t want to play unless and until they are rigged in his favor.

That said, when I read that Lester Holt, moderator of the first presidential debate, would be proscribed from fact checking, I did not bother to watch the debate. If the candidates are not held to a standard of facts, what’s the point? They may as well be speculating about who will win the Redskins game next Sunday.

Budget Proposal: Since politics and media coverage thereof have been comingled with entertainment, here is a budget proposal with something for everyone. A president could:
1. Hold the defense budget just where it is today but include all the currently off-budget defense items, such as our, you know, wars (someone must one day explain to me why military spending on our current wars doesn’t appear in the defense budget, but on top of it) – something for conservatives.
2. Withdraw from Iraq, Syria and the pile of rocks that is Afghanistan – something for liberals.
3. Hold ceremonies on the front lawn of the White House daily and burn a billion dollars in U.S. currency every day of the fiscal year – something for the media

4. And still have lots of money left over for other budget items before borrowing from the Chinese – something for governance. (Think what we’d be able to do if we had that additional $365 billion dollars.)

Sudden thought: I’m a year older this week than I was last, but I hardly look a day older.

Gun Law Conundrum: Thinking of states that permit anyone to carry a gun – concealed and/or open – just about anywhere, such as, say, Texas: if the police try to stop you sitting in a car with a gun in your lap, which is perfectly legal under such laws, shouldn’t the police no longer have “probable cause?” By that standard, police should not be stopping anyone, including black males, thereby rendering all the stops I’m seeing on TV unlawful, including the, you know, murders.

The Syrian Ceasefire: lasted as long as it took everyone to reload. I’m Sorry, Secretary Kerry, but this was a foolish idea. The only person in America who might like it is Ponzi Don, who seems to like Putin’s approach to things.

Football: The Dallas Cowboys (well, actually the Frisco Cowboys) won a home game in Dallas (well, actually Arlington). But let’s not quibble about details. The Cowboys won and looked pretty good doing it. When a couple more of their players get out of pot prison, their defense should be better still.

Les Miles was fired by LSU. I’ve always thought Miles to be the luckiest coach in college football, because he couldn’t coach an old lady across the street with a green light and a Boy Scout. Last year, however, the odds against his frequent hair brained play calling and just plain dumb luck (he played Oklahoma for the National Championship in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, for instances) started catching up to him, and this year, things got worse still. Somebody will hire Miles, and I wish them good luck, except if/when his new team should play the Sooners.

Status of the States: Oklahoma gets the cup this week. A Tulsa police officer (a female killer this time – Betty Shelby) shot a black man (so, what’s new – Terence Crutcher) under such grievous circumstance that she was even charged with the crime

Coming Events: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; another book review and one on a movie; thoughts on curiosity and entrepreneurship; and the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008.
ootball: The Dallas Cowboys (well, actually the Frisco Cowboys) won a home game in Dallas (well, actually Arlington). But let’s not quibble about details. The Cowboys won and looked pretty good doing it. When a couple more of their players get out of pot prison, their defense should be better still.
Les Miles was fired by LSU. I’ve always thought Miles to be the luckiest coach in college football, because he couldn’t coach an old lady across the street with a green light and a Boy Scout. Last year, however, the odds against his frequent hair brained play calling and just plain dumb luck (he played Oklahoma for the National Championship in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, for instances) started catching up to him, and this year, things got worse still. Somebody will hire Miles, and I wish them good luck, except if/when his new team should play the Sooners.
Status of the States: Oklahoma gets the cup this week. A Tulsa police officer (a female killer this time – Betty Shelby) shot a black man (so, what’s new – Terence Crutcher) under such grievous circumstance that she was even charged with the crime
Coming Events: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; another book review and one on a movie; thoughts on curiosity and entrepreneurship; and the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008.

“The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

Posted in Reviews - of books, mostly by EloiSVM42 on September 23, 2016

In an interview about his new book, David McCullough opined that Wilbur Wright was “certainly a genius,” and that Orville Wright had “mechanical ingenuity as few people had ever seen.“ Read this book, which I recommend of all McCullough’s books, and you will see that he was right on both counts.

At the turn of the 20th Century, few people thought man would ever be able to fly. In fact, most people were certain we would not. There were hot air balloons, of course (Ben Franklin rode in one in France) and some gliders, but neither was hardly the same thing. (The first and best glider engineer – Otto Lilienthal – died in a crash in his own invention, but left behind some observations about flight that the brothers studied.)

Some few cranks and some serious scientists, most notably Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institute, with large financial backing by the War Department, experimented with manned, powered flight. You’ve seen the old film clips of their odd looking machines launching (or not) and crashing quickly to the ground. Some of those were Langley’s efforts.

The Wright brothers – brilliant, though without formal training or even a college degree – approached the problem differently. First, they began with the absolute certainty that flight was possible and the determination to be the first to do it. Second, they approached the task patiently and scientifically, in sequential steps, from research, to designs; to gliders, to manned gliders, to power source, to Voila.

Wilbur’s first, and perhaps most brilliant insight came early on. He perceived, as no others had, after watching birds soar in flight, that the more important aspect of flight was the flyer, not the machine. As a baby bird must learn to fly by practice, starting with merely flapping its wings on the edge of the nest, so the flyer must gain experience on the controls of the plane and how it reacts to changes in the air currents to the point of reflex. Thus, the patient, sequential development of their invention and its flying.

The brothers did their design and construction at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, but they wanted privacy (read secrecy) for their testing. They chose Kitty Hawk, on the outer banks of North Carolina for its seclusion and favorable winds, of which they got both in spades. (The Wrights actually went to Kitty Hawk in four successive years to further their project sequentially. Before their first flight on December 17, 1903, the brothers made over a thousand glides from atop Big Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk, to become true, experienced pilots.)

Having achieved true flight – heavier than air, controlled, power driven, with a pilot – in the isolation of Kitty Hawk, with only a few locals and their own still camera to witness, the word of their achievement got out slowly, and with more skepticism than they expected. The brothers returned to Dayton and put one some exhibitions, and the news began to circulate more broadly.

There were still more skeptics and doubters than fans. The War Department, having sunk a lot of money into Langley’s spectacular, public failures, had no interest in the Wright’s claims or their machine. The two small town boys had to go to Europe for recognition (Wilbur stayed in Paris for more than a year on his first trip, yet never learned French. His sister visited him and in four months became his interpreter. Remarkable family.) In France, England and Germany, the news got the adulation it deserved.

The Wright brothers spent the next several years building better and better machines, and flying higher and faster and farther and longer, setting new world records nearly every time they flew. The possibility of manned flight having been proven, others joined in the pursuit, and progress was made quickly. In less than a quarter of a century, aviation progressed from the first short flight in Kitty Hawk to Charles Lindberg’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927. (Lindberg was born the year before Kitty Hawk.)

The Wright brothers other pursuit – falling mostly on the shoulders of Wilbur – was filing and fighting lawsuits to protect their patents. Wilbur wasn’t interested in the money, but both brothers wanted it undoubted that they had been the first to fly. They won all the suits, and their recognition is undisputed. But the effort wore Wilbur down as flying never had. “It is always easier to deal with things than with men,” he wrote.  The effort destroyed Wilbur’s health. He died in his mid-40s. Orville succeeded him by 37 years.

The story of this most remarkable achievement makes great reading in McCullough’s hands. It’s a must read story of the dawn of aviation. But the most astounding factoid in it to me is that Wilbur – the genius visionary and creator of manned, powered, piloted flight – did not think that the automobile would ever become practical. Too noisy and unreliable, he thought. Orville, on the other hand, loved motor cars, and after Wilbur’s death, and when he could no longer fly, due to a bad crash, drove them all over Dayton at high speeds. The local police cringed and looked the other way.

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of September 12

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 18, 2016

There is no doubt Hillary Clinton is going to win the 2016 presidential election. I believe this in my mind and in my heart. If I am wrong about this, I am wrong about everything I have believed about America my entire life. I admit I am shocked that the two candidates are even within single digits of one another in some polls, so unworthy a candidate is Ponzi Don. Maybe I am the fool here (it would hardly be the first time), but I don’t think so. Below are some thoughts that might explain what the hell is happening here:

The Press: I have never been more ashamed of journalists than I am today. One candidate is a life-long public servant of some distinction and the other is an egomaniacal con man. Yet, not only does the con man get all the coverage, but the press doesn’t even question the obvious con.

Press, allow me to show you how it’s done. In a commercial for Flonase, the copy claims that, “six is greater than one.” This claim is true (6>1). It’s really not that hard when it’s that obvious.

Maybe coverage will improve, if only from shame or embarrassment. The press has been so maligned, and rightly so, for its uncritical coverage of the trivial and untrue (I’m looking at you, Matt Lauer), that perhaps they will do a better job going forward. We’ll see.

Medical Records: I have been made an unwilling voyeur to the candidates’ medical records – real and concocted – that I don’t need or want to see. Unless a candidate has a medical condition that is an immediate threat to his or her life or mental health, I don’t want to know about it. I’ve got medical conditions of my own to worry about.

Here is the obvious solution to this nonsense: each legitimate candidate should, at the beginning of the campaign season, say 90 days before Election Day, have an identical, full medical check-up at the Mayo Clinic, or some other credible facility. If either of the candidates exhibit the conditions mentioned above, those should be made public, but absolutely no other details. Who cares about their sinusitis?

And. remember, good health is not an absolute predictor of longevity, anyway. With a nod to Ron White, if you get hit by a Volvo, it won’t matter if your blood pressure is 120/70 on that particular day.

Birther Lie: I did not expect Ponzi Don ever to deny the birther lie. It will be a bitter disappointment to his base, who went to sleep every night believing it because he said so, and because they wanted to believe it, though they knew it wasn’t really true.  Perhaps he calculates, as he has said before, they will love him no matter what lies he tells. But maybe not. We’ll see.

But, I know this: Ponzi Don said his admission ends the lie, but it does not. His promulgation of this lie, which he perpetuated for five years in the face of overwhelming evidence – remember the “long form” birth certificate he demanded and was produced by the president? – will evoke questions during the upcoming debates.

Ponzi Don did not believe for an instant that Obama wasn’t an American citizen. He was just jacking off his base. But that just shows how smart he is, how dumb his base is, and how willing he is to pander to their deepest wishes and fears, however misguided, and how willing his base is to believe him. It does not speak well for us as voters.

Isms, phobes and ists: Ponzi Don has pandered to racists (I don’t like that word; race is a construct without foundation), homophobes, xenophobes and sexists throughout his campaign. I’m sorry, Ponzi Don, but you cannot win a presidential campaign without these minorities. There are just not that many old white guys left. In fact, when you throw in women, those you have maligned are not a minority, but a majority. Bottom line: you insult everyone except old, white protestant guys, of which I’m one, except for the protestant part. That’s a lot of people. At present, I’m only insulting one – you.

Polls: These are meaningless until very near the election, and in this case perhaps not even then. It’s an odd one. There have been so many polls that many must be having “polling fatigue,” and may just be making things up to get off the phone. Many more are just not answering the phone at all. I’m not.

I’m not sure who this favors, but at present, I think it favors Ponzi Don. I think there are a lot of voters who know they are not making an intelligent choice, but are exercising their impulses. In the long term, however, I expect the polls to widen in Hillary’s favor, significantly. We’ll see.

Syrian Cease Fire: In yet another Middle Eastern farce, Secretary of State John Kerry, a faithful public servant, but another Br’er Rabbit caught in the tar baby that is Syria, announced a “coalition” between Russia and the United States, to concentrate on defeating ISIL, and leaving the rest of the myriad combatants in the country alone, pending a “diplomatic negotiation.” Kerry’s rationale for this decision was that we had tried everything else, so this is the last chance.

The U.S. immediately bombed Syrian army troops, in what may or may not have been an accident, but which gave Russia the opportunity to claim that the U.S. is supporting ISIL. What a dog’s dinner!

I’m sorry, John, but we haven’t tried everything else. We haven’t tried getting the hell out of there and leaving these primitive peoples to themselves. If ISIL becomes part of the mix, so be it. They, and all the other hidebound players, will be so busy fighting one another, they will be no threat to us. We can sit back and watch. Why can we not see that?

Football: The Oklahoma Sooners got rolled by the Ohio State Buckeyes, in Norman. OU could have stayed with OSU, but they didn’t. OSU played flawlessly; OU played hard but not well. Their cornerbacks and linebackers were in a state of confusion throughout the game.

OU’s season is over. They can no longer hope to compete for national attention. We may win the Big 12, which is not as strong this year, but we may not. Several Big 12 teams have looked better than the Sooners, including the Longhorns, I’m sorry to say. But, it doesn’t matter. Regarding OU fans’ expectations, this year is already a bust.

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins (never give up your nickname, Washington) on the road, to be one and one in their division. I liked their play and I feel better about their chances. Note: they won without much contribution from their first round running back, Elliot. He’s a good back; he has an NFL future. It’s just that if the Cowboys had kept DeMarco Murray, they wouldn’t have needed to take Elliot number four in the draft and could have taken another defender. (Murray, by the way, ran for 89 yards in 12 carries, for an average of 7.4 yards per carry today for the Tennessee Titans. I’m just sayin’.)

Status of the States: Who gives a damn? The Sooners lost.

Coming Events: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; two book reviews and one on a movie; thoughts on curiosity and entrepreneurship; and the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008.

 

       

 

The Water Market

Posted in Nature - birding and fishing, mostly by EloiSVM42 on September 16, 2016

Pro Publico has created a documentary about water, or lack thereof, in the West, called Killing the Colorado, about the sad destiny of the Colorado River, an important source of water for seven states and parts of Mexico.

The water problems in the West are huge, and the solutions are far behind the curve. Most of these problems will resolve themselves (read most of the West will return to desert, as forecast in Marc Reisner’s 1986 book, The Cadillac Desert). But one of the proposed solutions, recommended by Wall Street of course, is motivated by pure greed, and it’s dangerous: creating a “market” for water.

What is happening out here, is that speculators are buying up farm land, not for farming (they know farming doesn’t have a profitable long term future in the West), but for the water rights, or just illegal access the farms have to the Colorado.

Once these speculators have cornered enough of the “market” (read river water), they will start selling it at higher and higher rates. Once they have a near monopoly, the prices will skyrocket. Wall Street will milk these markets until they exhaust the financial resources of the region, before the inevitable return to desert begins.

Note: this return will not be immediate, because there are a number of extremely wasteful uses of Colorado River water presently, including government crop subsidies that encourage farming of the most water intense crops, such as rice, almonds and cotton, which, if corrected, as I expect some will be, would slow the decline.

Killing the Colorado contains two cautionary and illuminating case studies – one positive and one disastrous. In the disastrous case, a prosperous farm community sold its water for cash. The buyer immediately removed the water and sold it to the highest bidder, which was not the farm community. The water left and the town went bust.

In the positive study, a town in Arizona – Prescott Valley – went to school on the disastrous case, and wrote a provisional contract with the speculators. When Prescott Valley has a water surplus, they will sell it to the speculators at a good price for them. However, if Prescott Valley needs the water, they keep it and are not obliged to sell any to the speculators. This is a wiser deal, but still a slippery slope to disaster. Sooner or later, the town will get addicted to those payments.

Nevertheless, the long term future for water in the West is dire, while population and farmland continue to outgrow the supply. (Note: at present, the Colorado has an annual flow of 4.7 trillion gallons, but the rights already allocated amount to 5.3 trillion gallons. The future of this upside down deal is clear as a button hook in the well water.

But my point here is that there is an existential need for water to survive, and we can’t afford to risk losing it, or having it priced out of our reach. We are a capitalist economy, but the capitalist model doesn’t fit every situation, and among those it doesn’t fit is for life or death commodities such as water. (Have no doubt that if Wall Street could figure out a way to corner the market on air, they would do it and jack up the price.)

Note: Another product that doesn’t lend itself to the market model is life-saving (and patented) prescription medications. Just look at the two recent cases where a greedy, heartless speculator got control of medications necessary for survival, and jacked up the prices:

Martin Shkreli, the miscreant who jacked up the price of Daraprim, a medication essential to life for a small but utterly dependent number of patients with a rare disease, from $13.50 per pill to $750. This guy should be in jail, and likely will be, for crimes committed even before this outrage.

Or, how about the heartless CEO who, when a competitor’s production line went down, increased the price of her company’s Epi-Pen from $80 to $600.

Would you trust such people with your water supply? May the fleas of a thousand camels nest in the short and curlies.

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of September 5

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 12, 2016

Islamic Religious War. No Americans Need Apply: Saudi Arabia and Iran are at it again over the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, the holiest sites in Islam, both located in Saudi Arabia, which oversees them.

Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khamenei has barred Iranians from the hajj this year, accusing Saudi Arabia of incompetence after a stampede killed 460 or 769 Iranians last year, depending on who you believe. While Saudi Arabia has disputed the total number of Muslims who died in the stampede, ironically, they claim the higher number of Iranians killed, while Iran claims the lower. Like our Congress, they can’t agree on anything.

Iran burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response to the deaths, a sordid tactic they used against the U.S. in 1979, and Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in retaliation. Also ratcheting up the tension between the two countries: they are on opposite sides of the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

But the underlying reason for the centuries old friction, of course, is religion. Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shi’ite) are rivals for religious and regional influence in the Middle East. What makes our leaders think we have any role or influence in an Islamic religious war, escapes me.

Magazine Subscription: Daniel Hayes, the gun control or Second Amendment scholar, depending on your point of view, has written an article advocating smaller magazines for assault rifles; specifically, to their holding no more than 10 rounds. His logic is that mass murderers are usually stopped during the time they have to change magazines, so if they have to change after 10 rounds, there will be two chances to stop him (or her) before he (or she) can fire 30 rounds.

This logic is unassailable, and I salute him for making this step forward. But, it is obviously a small step, and one wholly inadequate to stop mass shootings. As others have already pointed out, smaller magazines will not reduce the number of mass shootings, only the average number of people killed per shooting.

We still need to get guns out of the hands of such shooters, and many other unstable people. But thank you, Daniel (May I call you Daniel, since we have great interest in this subject in common?) for taking this step.

Vladimir Putin: Ponzi Don prefers Putin’s leadership style over President Barak Obama’s, and presumably would like to emulate it should he become president. Ponzi, here’s the thing: Putin seems to lead so well because he doesn’t have some impediments you would face. These include an opposition party, a legislature, courts and a free, albeit pusillanimous, press. Also, though you made a joke about it, Ponzi, you would not be able to have your opponents killed in the streets of our country. I think you might find being president a bit frustrating.

It’s the Constitution, Stupid: Ponzi Don gave a speech on security the morning of the Commander and Chief exercise later that evening. He spoke from a script, in a measured voice, trying, I presume, to sound more presidential. And he might have succeeded, has his closing remark not been unconstitutional. As a last cheap thrill to his bigoted base, he promised to give them, “One nation, under one god.” That’s not what the document requires, Ponzi. Everyone knows that, except perhaps you and some of your voters.

In likely related news, The Dallas Morning News endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Mountains shook, the Moon turned blood red, fish crawled out onto the land, strong men wept and women fainted. Joe Dealey, ultra-conservative head of the paper and notorious hater of President John F. Kennedy, who insulted JFL in person and in the press the day of JFK’s assassination in Dallas, however, is spinning in his bigoted grave, and Republican strategists may be thinking of joining him.

“9/11”: The last day of the week was chock full of memorials, both live and in TV “specials,” and the news was all 9/11 all day. I object to this. I don’t agree with such wretched excess over an event that exposed our naiveté, complacency and incompetence (why did no one’s antennae go out when students wanted to learn to take a plane off but not to land it?), caused us to lose our minds and led to the biggest foreign relations disaster in our history.

Football: The New York Giants are a team that the Dallas Cowboys could be able to beat, but they didn’t. The Cowboy’s rookie quarterback – Dak Prescott  – was impressive. The rookie running back – Ezekiel Elliott – was just OK. He ran for a few more than 50 yards, but on 20 carries, which is less than three yards per carry. Any NFL running back should be able to do that.

What did Dallas in was the Giants’ running game, which had its way with the Cowboy’s defensive line. If the ‘Boys had kept DeMarco Murray, they might have been able to draft a stud interior defensive lineman with their number four pick this year. I’m just sayin’.

I am not being critical of Elliot. He’s an excellent running back and deserved to be a first round pick. I would not have been surprised if he had gone number three, or numbers five through 10, but not later than 10. He just shouldn’t have been needed to be taken at number four for Dallas.

My Oklahoma Sooners pounded a tomato can. The score was 42-0 at the half, so nothing much was learned by the game. Next week, OU gets OSU (Ohio State) at home. If the Sooners win, they will move up in the rankings appreciably. But if they lose, they will be one and two for the first three games of the season, and out of contention for the playoffs before their conference games even begin. If Dallas loses to Washington next week on the road, my cheering season will be over before the leaves begin to turn.

Status of the States: It can’t be Oklahoma this week, because I was just there for three days (I drafted much of this in the OKC airport), and everything’s up to date in Oklahoma City. Kansas, Mississippi, Arizona nor South Carolina have done anything noteworthy one way or the other.

 I was thinking of excusing Texas from the competition, because the Dallas Morning News endorsed Hillary Clinton over Ponzi Don. But then, U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a man so mediocre and unimportant that spellchecker doesn’t even recognize his name (mine either), smeared Hillary, calling her “mentally disabled” and having “special needs,” disgusting lies, and then mocking her alleged diminished capacity like a grade school bully on the playground. So Texas gets the cup, again. (Note: when I think people are stupid, I refer to them as Gohmerts.

Sudden Thought: On reflection, with a nod to A Fish Called Wanda, referring to them as Gohmerts may be an insult to stupid people.

Coming Events: Thoughts on “water markets,” feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; two book reviews and one on a movie; one on curiosity and entrepreneurship; and the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008.

Thoughts on Events the Week of August 29

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 5, 2016

The Grassy Knoll: An erstwhile mother-in-law believed in “all them theories” as to who killed John F. Kennedy – FBI, Labor Unions, Mafia, everybody but the phone company, for whom her husband had been a very senior executive. I told her that if all the theories were true, there wouldn’t have been enough room for all of them behind the grassy knoll. She was not dissuaded. She was a formidable women.

This same thought comes to mind when I think of all that Hillary Clinton has been accused of over the last quarter century. If she had actually done all the things of which she has been accused, including the myriad crimes completely made up, she wouldn’t have had time to be a mother, Senator, Secretary of State, or do all of the other important things she has actually done.

Want to know why so many people don’t trust Hillary? It’s because she doesn’t trust them, and with good reason. The slander and smearing she has endured would sully anyone’s reputation and cause any rational victim of it to distrust everyone’s motives and hold her cards close to her breast.

Rating the Prezes: I read somewhere on “the internets” a ranking of the last 12 presidents. Ronald Reagan tops the list, and Jimmy Carter is at the bottom.

Though I wouldn’t rank Reagan at all, since I think he was not present during his term, or at least the second half of it, I suspect he will remain an iconic president, unless and until, of course, the Republican Party collapses, and takes Reagan’s statutes down with it. Not an impossible thing to imagine just now.

On the other hand, I am confident that the runner up to Carter at the bottom – George W. Bush – will sink to the bottom of this Big 12 list, and to the bottom of the census of all presidents, for that matter. His ruining of the economy and the Louisiana coastline already obtain to Dubbya’s discredit, but the capstone will be the invasion of Iraq, whose consequences will be recognized by historians as the biggest blunder in American history, and the more egregious, since the reasons for it were lies that were told to start a war gratuitously by the neocons who were pulling the president’s puppet strings. (I expect the reputations of Cheney and Wolfowitz will deteriorate over time, also.)

Football: Pre-season NFL games are a scandal. The NFL owners love them, because fans feel coerced into paying full ticket price for meaningless games, inferior ones since many key players are held out to avoid injury. (I say “coerced,” because you can’t buy the season tickets if you don’t buy the pre-season ones.)

The veteran players hate pre-season games because they are risking career ending injury, while being paid less money per game.) Who but the greedy owners needs this?

At most, there should be two pre-season games, at greatly reduced ticket prices, in which only rookies and other players on the bubble of making the team will play. This helps the coaches make decisions which players to keep, though in practice, most of these decisions are made, well, in practice.

The University of Oklahoma Sooners began their season against the University of Houston Cougars in Houston, and I was there to see it with my daughter, a delightful experience.

As for the game itself, let’s just say that OU is unlikely still to be ranked #3 next week. The Houston Cougars beat us like a borrowed mule. Houston exposed some serious Sooner flaws, though only on offense, defense, special teams and coaching.

If I hadn’t had a new granddaughter to return to, I might have been discouraged, even depressed. It’s amazing how dramatically our priorities can change around. But, I am not losing my mind; only my heart.

The Texas Longhorns looked good in their opener against Notre Dame in Austin, damnit.

Sudden Thought: In addition to the separation of church and football, I would like to see a separation of football and prison. How pampered professional players, who have the world by the whiskers, can be so criminally stupid escapes me.

Water: It is always raining somewhere in Houston, Texas. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking with it. Sunday, we had a rain the likes of which I have not seen in a very long time, and never in Arizona. There is not enough water in all of Arizona even to have such a rain.

Status of the States: I’ve been enjoying my very first visit with my very first, only and infant granddaughter, that I haven’t given a thought to the malfeasance, ignorance, incompetence and corruption in the states.

Coming Events: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; one on curiosity and entrepreneurship; the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008, and thoughts on “water markets.”

Thoughts on Events the Week of August 22

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on August 30, 2016

Guns, Jobs, Desperation and “Diffusion of Knowledge:” Daniel Hayes, writer, professor, expert on both sides of the Second Amendment debate, and self-described “Second Amendment Person” himself, has opined that “as the communities like the one I grew in [in Kentucky] lost industry and jobs, and finally dignity and hope,” low end, rural people “cling to guns,” as President Obama correctly, but carelessly said, “because it is the last right they feel they still have: a liberty, as least, in place of opportunity.”

I think there is some validity to this observation, but there is more to it. These people have lost their jobs, and they feel frustrated because politicians from both parties have told them they (the politicians, not the workers, as it turns out), will get those jobs back. This is a flat lie, and the politicians know it. Those jobs are not coming back.

But the politicians, culpable for many other things, but not this, are not the reasons the jobs left and are not returning. Technology and the world’s work forces have caused the losses.
First, technological advances have allowed much work to be done with less labor than previously. Technology will go wherever it can go (call it Stephen’s law), and these advances cannot be stopped, let alone reversed.

Second, other countries’ workforces are catching up, particularly in lower skilled labor, which they can now do as well as ours, and at lower cost, so the jobs are going there. You may call this “globalization,” if you want, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that there are now many people who can do the same work, which has increased the supply greatly, and reduced the cost.

There is a solution for much, though not all, of this problem. It’s what Thomas Piketty calls the most important long term solution to income inequity: “diffusion of knowledge.” We call it education.

So, disgruntled, unemployed, rural people, if you want to improve your circumstances, get more education and skills, then get a  job that has less supply pressure.

This isn’t a perfect solution, as I said. It probably means people will have to move to better job markets, which some people will find less enjoyable. And of course not everybody can do this. Some just can’t acquire the skills, either because they don’t have the capacity, or more likely the time. Many of the job-displaced are older workers for whom the investment in more education may not have time to pay out.

One more thought about this. You are correct that your politicians, and mine, are serving us ill, not by lying about those jobs coming back, but by the anti-intellectual positions of so many of them. In Arizona, my own current personal state, for instance, legislators are strangling budgets for education. We have the fourth lowest spending per student in the nation.

At the national level, the Obama administration has advocated a jobs program to stimulate our economy since 2008, and more training for displaced workers (as has Hillary), both these initiatives have been denied by Republican controlled Congress. Get on these guys, or vote in new ones.

Candidates’ Medical Records (not really): The visage of Doctor Borstein, and the letter he dashed off vouching for Ponzi Don’s heath in superlative terms that Ponzi Don himself might have used, evokes Peter Seller’s role as Dr. Pratt, the disgraced and dissipated physician in the hilarious 1966 farce, The Wrong Box. In his cameo appearance, a heavily wigged, and whacky Sellers sells a blank death certificate to a conniving rascal, which he signs and then blots the ink with the back of one of his cats. His only straight line was, “I was not always as you see me now.”

Football: Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo was injured on the third play of his first preseason appearance, and will be out for six to 10 weeks, with a broken bone in his back. The possibility, even probably of this, and what it might do to Dallas’ season, was obvious, and commented on by many writers, including me. Piss poor planning by the Jones boys.

However, it’s just possible that, absent an injury to another key position player, the owners may have saved themselves with their drafting of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. Prescott shows early signs of being the goods. No NFL team is likely to win the Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback. But with Prescott, the Boys may not experience another complete collapse as they did last year without Romo, for which the Jones were totally, and inexplicably, unprepared.

Sudden Thought: I would like to see the separation of church and football. These wild genuflections after a score, or just about any play for that matter, are ridiculous. Return to your congregation and get ready for the next one.

Water: We have had a near perfect Monsoon season, with rains every day for the last three weeks. It looks like Ireland up here in the high dessert.

Status of the States: I’ve read that a quarter of voting age Americans cannot name our Secretary of State. Pitiful. But worse, 40% of voting age Texans agree with the statement that ACORN, a community service organization, is trying to steal the state’s presidential election for Hillary Clinton. This Fox News Fact is, how shall I say this politely, inaccurate and somewhat out of date, because ACORN has been non existent for six years! Take back the cup, Texas.

Coming Events: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; one on curiosity and entrepreneurship; the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008.

But first, after this, my 375th blog, I am going to take a break for a week or two. We are leaving today for a visit to our first and only grandchild – a beautiful granddaughter named Aria Rose, who arrived July 5. Also on this trip, I will see the University of Oklahoma’s first game of the season against the University of Houston, and also visit old friends.

Thoughts on Events the Week of August 15

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on August 22, 2016

The Middle East: The New York Times Magazine devoted its entire edition (no advertising!) last Sunday to a single, extraordinary article by Scott Anderson entitled Fractured Lands, about the flailing states of Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq. The piece intertwines history with personal stories of six individuals from these countries, whom Anderson interviewed periodically over time, and whose stories begin in 1972.

This piece is available on line, which link my brother-in-law has helpfully provided: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/11/magazine/isis-middle-east-arab-spring-fractured-lands.html  You should read it. If this doesn’t win a Pulitzer, I’ll kiss your ass in Macy’s window and give you an hour to draw a crowd.

The individual stories are raw and poignant, and add humanity to the histories of these states as they descend into war and chaos. They are raw, tragic, but also reflective of the human capacity to strive, survive and at times prevail. Not everyone does, and no ending is completely happy.

Some background from my perspective:

All of Islam has been behind the curve of Western progress since the Siege of Vienna in 1529, but the Middle East’s modern disasters were set in motion as the Colonial period was winding down when, at the end of World War I, the winners – particularly England and France – carved up the Middle East among themselves, like fleas negotiating who owns the dog. They cobbled together countries with no understanding of, or regard for, ethnicities, religious sects, or tribes, in a land where religion is paramount and the culture is tribal.

Most of these countries were held together against their natural order by despots, or puppets propped up by world powers, or both, e.g. Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was a secular modernist, when his conservative, religious population didn’t want any part of it, installed and supported by the U.S. (The inevitable result of propping up puppet despots is that when the puppet is overthrown, as they all eventually are, the new regime hates the puppeteer and becomes its enemy, and rightfully so.)

The worst thing to happen to the modern Middle East, however, was not Colonialism, nor the wars of the 20th Century, but George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.* These countries were bound, ultimately, to sort themselves out along their own lines, with their own borders, governments and names, once left to their devices, though it wouldn’t have been clean and easy.

As Ali A. Allawi wrote in his seminal work on the Iraq War: The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace, The Saddam Hussein regime was already a spent force. The country was already heading towards its destiny of splitting into three pieces – Shia, Sunni and Kurd – even before the invasion. Bush made everything worse for the entire region.

Bush, typically, compounded his mistake with poor, Brownie-esque personnel decisions. Paul Brenner, the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq, made two disastrous mistakes from the get go – disbanding the military, and banning all members of Hussein’s Ba’athist Party, most of whom were not Hussein fanatics, comprised most of the professional class, and in any case the only group with government experience, due to the clannish nature of Iraq – and we have been making such colossal mistakes ever since.

In the Epilogue, Anderson opines: 1) we should not have gone into Iraq, or anywhere else in the Middle East then,  2) we should not be there, or anywhere else in the Middle East, now, 3) only the inhabitants of the Middle East can work out their borders and their governance, and  4) Iraq will, in fact, splinter into three pieces, only now, though it is easier said than done under any circumstances, it will be more messy and violent.

*I write President Bush invaded Iraq, because this decision was his administration’s alone, after not only misreading the evidence and intelligence, but making up the intelligence and lying about it to the American people, during a period of public panic.

Football: The Dallas Cowboys played their second pre-season game, and looked crisp in the first quarter, which is all I watch of the first two preseason games. Romo took some snaps and looked good. Dez Bryant looked like his old self. Dak Prescott again reinforced the wisdom of Dallas’ decision to take him in the fourth round. He will be their best value in the 2016 draft, likely.

Water: Baton Rouge is still under it, and climate forecasters say to expect storms to get worse. The tipping point of climate change will occur when we can no longer travel by air, due to too turbulent weather.

Status of the States: Arizona’s former governor Jan Brewer called Hillary Clinton a “lying killer.” She said later that she misspoke, which is possible, actually, as she is rarely articulate and never prepared. She may just have meant to say “Lying Hillary,” though if she did, it was a hell of a Freudian slip. Arizona gets the cup, due to Brewer, which has happened often before.

Coming Events: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; one on curiosity and entrepreneurship; the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008.

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of August 8

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on August 15, 2016

Presidential Campaigns: It was low tide week for political discourse. Ponzi Don made a number of odious comments. First, he said they were truthful assertions, then sarcasm, then jokes, then back to assertions again. Whatever someone, including Ponzi Don, chooses to call them, they had no business coming from the mouth of a presidential candidate. (Hillary, she lay low.)

Ponzi Don uses two disingenuous speaking devices to deflect his smearing. First, he makes an offensive accusation, which he ends with, “I don’t know,” as if he is just speculating about something, so he is not really smearing, which is, in fact, exactly what he is doing. Secondly, he suggests that many people are saying something hateful about his opponent, as if he is not one of them; he is just reporting it. Both these devices were vividly on display this week, and both elicited revulsion and rebuttal. (Hillary, she lay low.)

For his accusations, slurs and insults to the Constitution, Ponzi Don is said to be dangerous. I don’t think he is dangerous particularly, just risky, that’s all, especially to his party and down ballot candidates. I saw early on he would win the Republican nomination, and just as early knew he would never sniff the White House. (Hillary, she lay low.)

Moral: When your opponent is destroying himself, step aside and be quiet.

“Intentionally discriminatory:” As we near the election, more and more of the blatant voter suppression laws enacted by states are being overturned by federal appeals courts. The Fourth Federal Appeals Court, hearing a case against North Carolina’s odious laws, concluded that they were made with “discriminatory intent.”

This string of judicial rulings should embarrass the Supreme Court, and I think will piss off some of its members. The Supremes, in a stunningly naïve ruling (actually, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote  that opinion, and I don’t think he was being naïve at all), discarded standing voter protection laws with the disingenuous observation that they were no longer needed because states no longer did that sort of thing, despite evidence to the contrary staring them down and with a total absence of common sense.

My guess, in fact my prediction, is that when the appeals of these rulings reach the Supremes again, the lawyers defending the voter suppression laws will find a red faced, chagrinned and irritable Court, with a very different attitude toward them.

Rio Olympics: In my youth, I considered the Olympics – summer and winter – the grandest events in sports. In fact, I aspired to be on the summer Olympic team for the 1964 Games in Tokyo. Unfortunately, America had many better hurdlers than me. I was running 14.1; they were running around 13.6.

Over time, however, I have lost interest in and respect for the Olympics. The corruption, doping, nationalism and commercialization has become so distasteful that, with one exception, I am not even watching the games in Rio. The amateur spirit of the games was lost years ago. With the exception of only a few sports, most of the athletes are paid or government sponsored.

The very idea of our men’s basketball team, made up of multi-millionaire professional NBA players epitomizes how moribund is the Olympic spirit. Living as they are on a cruise ship, completely isolated from the Olympic village and other athletes and countries, coming to shore only long enough to play a game and then return aboard ship, is insulting.

My one viewing exception was opening night. Not the ceremony, but the Parade of Athletes. I enjoyed seeing the athletes marching in together in their respective costumes, smiling, waving and taking pictures. At this parade, every one of them is a winner; they made it to the Olympics!

Football: The Dallas Cowboys played their first pre-season game, to record crowds of fans and press for one of these meaningless events between any NFL teams. Oddly, the turnout was not for America’s Team. They were playing the (new) Los Angeles Rams in their first game since returning to L.A.

For the first two pre-season games, I watch the first quarter, after which the lineups are scrambled as the coaches evaluate players for the final roster. I usually watch most of the third pre-season game, and none of the fourth or fifth, if they play that many.

Dallas’ fourth round rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, looked very good, which is fortunate, because their first back-up quarterback is injured and out. I watched Prescott play for Mississippi State and was impressed. I thought the Cowboys made an excellent fourth round choice. Choices one, two and three, not so much.

Water: Baton Rouge is literally swimming (and boating and drowning) in it, from its highest flood. The flood was unexpected, as it developed out of an unnamed storm. But there is no climate change or anything. These things happen all the time, except they never have before.

Status of the States: I don’t know; I haven’t been paying much attention to state malfeasance, so mesmerizing has been the national scene.  I think both Kansas and Texas were states that had voter suppression laws overturned, so let’s give the cup to them this week in a tie.

Coming Events: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; one on curiosity and entrepreneurship; the three most mistaken judgements of the Supremes since 2008.

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of August 1

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on August 8, 2016

The presidential election is over: Ponzi Don is Ponzi Done. If his campaign (if we can dignify what he is doing and saying with that word) hasn’t toasted him, an even greater obstacle has: the latest jobs report.

New jobs increased by 255,000, much higher than economists expected. Better still, unemployment remained at 4.9%, mathematically possible only because people re-entered the workforce looking for jobs, having become more optimistic they will find one. Better still than even that, average wages, which have been frustratingly flat, grew at a faster rate than inflation. This is the kind of news that keeps incumbents in office and parties in power, and deservedly so.

Now we can turn our attention to the legislative contests, which should be much more interesting. It is highly likely, in my view, that the Democrats will re-take the Senate, a near certainty if Ponzi Don goes down in flames. Some Republican Senators who came into office from traditionally blue states in the off year elections of 2010, are in for a rough time. Also vulnerable, is the senile senior Senator from Arizona, my own personal senator, whose opponent we will be having cocktails with Tuesday evening.

In addition to McCain, the list of most vulnerable Republican Senators includes – even without a Trump collapse:  Kirk of Illinois, Johnson of Wisconsin (I will not miss this sorry piece of pie for a nanosecond), Ayotte of New Hampshire, Toomey of Pennsylvania, I think, Rubio of Florida (wouldn’t that be fun to watch), Portman of Ohio, Burr of North Carolina and Blount of Missouri. These eight would be enough to turn the Senate, even if the Democrats were to lose two Senate elections.

Let’s watch how various GOP politicians respond to the Ponzi Don albatross hanging around their necks. Which legislators will embrace Ponzi Don? Which will treat him like a Zika Virus mosquito? What will their messages be?

One indicator I will be watching is whether or not the Senate, in an effort to save some seats by actually doing their job, will confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. My expectation is that they will, if not before the election, then certainly in the lame duck session thereafter, in hopes of avoiding a more liberal candidate from President Hillary Clinton. (Full disclosure: my interest in this happening is both political and sporting. I have a dinner riding on whether Garland is confirmed during Obama’s presidency. Lame duck session counts.)

My other own personal senator, Republican Jeff Flake, formally described by me aptly named, seems to have seen the light starting to dawn in Arizona. He has refused to endorse Ponzi Don, and has been softening his positions on many issues. If he keep this up for two more years, I might actually vote for a Republican. Just kidding.

Sudden  Though: His handlers could modulate Ponzi Don’s tweets in the way one modulates a pool shark: break his thumbs.

Prison:   Thomas Blanton, the last surviving member of a gang of KKK members who bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four black children in their Sunday School class in 1963, was denied parole again this week, as was Leslie Van Hooten, one of the murderous Charles Manson clan the week before, and these events got me thinking about criminal justice…again.

I’m impressed with the progressive thinking and reforms being introduced in some Scandinavian countries. No death penalty; no solitary confinement; genuine attempts at rehabilitation; and much shorter sentences, based on the years estimated that a prisoner will grow older than the demographic age range within which his type of crime predominantly occurs, in no instance, even for murder, more than 20 years. I agree with almost all of this, pending new data.

That said, however, I believe that some criminals should be locked up for life without parole. In these cases, rehabilitation would not be the goal (the prisoner will never get out). Punishment, deterrence, and expression of moral outrage will be.

Some examples from my lifetime to begin the discussion:

  • Charles Manson himself, of course. Manson doesn’t even try to get out. He knows what a homicidal maniac he is. Same for his accomplices, including Van Hooten.
  • James Earl Ray, who killed Martin Luther King. Ray died in prison, but I would like to see his bones unearthed once a year so I can spit on them.
  • Sirhan Sirhan, who shot and killed Robert Kennedy immediately after Kennedy won the California Democratic presidential primary. California Governor Jerry Brown overturned the state parole board recommendation for Sirhan’s parole. Sirhan’s lawyer says he will try again in “less than a year.” Good luck with that.
  • Timothy McVey, the American terrorist who bombed the Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children at a daycare center for the children of employees in the building. McVey very probably would never have gotten out of prison, but he had the misfortune to commit his crime in Oklahoma, whose citizens caught him, tried him and injected him in record time. His accomplice, Terry Nichols, was given 161 life sentences, to run consecutively, which many in Oklahoma still think is too good for him.
  • Mark Chapman, who shot John Lennon in the back, killed him, and the music died.
  • John Hinckley, who shot President Reagan and wounded four others. Hinckley was declared innocent by reason of insanity, and was released from the nut house August 5, with conditions. No one who shoots, or shoots at, a president should ever get out of prison, but Hinckley is out there, and the Reagan family is upset.
  • Last, but not least, is Richard Speck, a really sick twist, who tortured, raped and then murdered, eight young nursing students in their shared apartment in Chicago one night in 1995. Speck spent 12 of his young and adolescent years growing up in Dallas (because why not?) where he was arrested 42 times. He was given the death penalty just before the Supreme Court outlawed it. (Yes children, the death penalty was outlawed in this country for a time, until the Supreme Court reversed itself.) Speck was given life in prison for “400 to 1,200 years,” depending on good behavior. He confessed to the murders in 1978 while in prison, expressing no remorse. He died after 25 years in prison in 1991.

There are other plausible candidates for exception – Bundy? John Gacy, serial killer/necrophilia (life in prison)? Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killer, necrophilia, cannibal (murdered in prison by another inmate)? Andrew Cunanan, the guy who killed Versace and four others earlier in a murderous rampage (suicide when cornered)?  Son of Sam? The Boston Marathon bomber? The Zodiac Killer? These did not make my example list – they were mostly sexual deviants – but they might make yours. Discuss.

Status of the States: Arizona, which was ranked fourth worst out of 50 state educational systems, actually two steps up from the last ranking period. Note: School started here August 4. Pray for us.

Coming Attractions: Thoughts on feeding the earth – an essay on population, inspired by China’s change in population policy; one on curiosity and entrepreneurship; the three most mistaken judgements by the Supremes since 2008; “Intentionally discriminatory” voter suppression laws being overturned; the Olympics.