Monday, September 18, 2017

Where Was their Encryption? Equifax Was Lax

Equifax Had Patch, Didn't Install It, according to USA Today/
Chicago Sun-Times, 09/15/2017. The fix was available
MONTHS before hackers stole info from the credit-reporting
agency. An industry group discovered the vulnerability, shared
a fix for it, but Equifax never installed it. For four months or more
Equifax neglected to inform authorities and the public about the
biggest hack in U.S. history--to their account holders. Why did
they wait and what sort of safeguards had they employed? The
usual technique is encryption, which is often very effective
but not always impregnable.

The policies of the three main credit reporting agencies and
the banks bear heightened scrutiny, holding our most sensitive
and important information. Some banks have contacted
customers in the wake of the Equifax fracas, others are
staying silent. Lawsuits are in the offing, senators also
threatening official congressional consequences.

Equifax and the other two agencies boast very unfriendly
customer practices and restrictions. Why shouldn't we
check our credit every day if we want to? Try that and
see what  happens to your rating. No penalty should
attach to a customer account simply because the account
holder, whose information IT IS, wishes to check it.

Perhaps some good will eventually result from this dangerous
chaos--policy corrections customers can benefit from, and
applaud.

Until then, we can all see that Equifax was lax.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bombs and Missiles and Threats, Oh My! End the Korean War NOW

Mr. Un set off a hydrogen bomb recently, to the horror and
consternation of the world outside the DPRK. Not particularly
concerned with life or limb or even his legacy, he inches us all
ever closer to WWIII. Simultaneously, Mr. Trump equals Un's
saber rattling in intensity, threats and military exercises off
the Korean peninsula escalating the madness.

Let's delve into these egotistical crazies to see how they
are even their own worst enemies, to say nothing of ours:
if we are brought to war, their legacies will be unalterably
forever trashed. It is difficult to see how either of them
could be pleased by such  an outcome, but I have a
certain solution destined to favorably enshrine them in
the annals of history: Negotiate an end to the Korean War
which dates back to 1953.

North and South Korea are armed to the teeth just
outside the DMZ. There has never been a peace
treaty between these countries or the United States,
merely an armistice or truce. None of these nations
has seriously attempted to end this dangerous state
of affairs, irresponsible and incompetent leaders
apparently content to allow tensions and ill will
to continue for lo these many decades.

This just won't do; do your jobs, leaders
and diplomats, end this ridiculous war NOW
...and bring some sorely needed peace to the
planet.

September 11, 2001 and the Three Who Knew: Nobody Listened

FBI incompetence and personal politics heavily contributed to
the World Trade Center 911 tragedy. Al Qaeda had attacked
the Center previously in 1993, but little follow up allowed the
much  more deadly and ambitious plan to succeed eight years
later.

FBI professionals in three offices, New York City, Minneapolis
and Phoenix reported troubling information that never reached
the highest levels. If the three reports had been put together
we might have saved the over three thousand lives we lost
that early Fall day back in 2001.

Who were the three who knew? In the NYC FBI office,
John O'Neill had warned Al Qaeda might try to finish the
job at the Trade Center it began in 1993. O'Neill had
political enemies at the Bureau who eventually engineered
his firing; he became head of security at the World Trade
Center, dying there on 911. He told friends something
big was coming soon, based on his six years of tracking
terrorists like bin Laden. But at FBI HQ, he was ignored
due to personality conflicts and a few mistakes (leaving
an FBI cell and briefcase unsupervised).

In Minneapolis, Coleen Rowley had good intel regarding
extremist Moussaoui, also ignored. She was an FBI
attorney who had worked in the field for the FBI.
Just three weeks before 911 her office discovered
Moussaoui paid $8,000 for flight school instruction,
specifically, commercial airline plane training. They
arrested him but superiors refused requests to
investigate his laptop. An agent in the Phoenix FBI
office urged his supervisors to investigate Middle
Eastern men who had enrolled at American flight
schools and might be connected to bin Laden...
to no effect.

Think what it may have meant to coordinate
the intel from these THREE offices: flight school
admission policy changed to deny students who
asked for instruction merely to fly large planes
without takeoff and landing training, background
screening stepped up.

Again, it may have meant three thousand lives saved
if the right people had heeded and acted. Since
then, Ms. Rowley has appeared before the Senate,
her testimony resulting in policies and practices
being tightened at the FBI.

Will workers in the field be heard in future? I
wonder: jealousy and incompetence can't be
rooted out by a few policy alterations.

This September 11th marks 16 years of relative
national security since 911...maybe someone IS
finally listening.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Telling Book: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe

For a change of pace if not subject, herewith, a book review:

The Struggle for Mastery in Europe by A J P Taylor takes
Europe from 1848 to 1918. The plethora of multiple treaties,
small and larger wars, meddling in each other's affairs ad
infinitum, not forgetting the constant lying and pride puffing up
is alarming, outrageous and depressing. What strikes the
reader most is how none of the issues which caused such
behavior has been resolved, just as the Civil War here
(-1865!) has not completely brought the races together.

Author Taylor, a British intellectual, provides generous
footnotes, bibliography and an explanatory index. He
also enjoys a sly sense of humor when recounting the
motives and actions of the various monarchs and
ministers of the European nations. It is shocking to
learn how these leaders thought they could simply
take over smaller countries at their whim, haggling
over who got what at whim--who cared about the
hapless millions in their wake? They ventured far
from Europe with adventures in Asia and Africa,
sometimes with little practical to gain except some
illusory prestige.

This is an important book, one I recommend,
with lessons to learn for today's tensions and
actions.

...still struggling for mastery, yet rarely achieving
it, our world leaders really ought to read Taylor's
work. They might be surprised to find themselves
therein.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ever After: Beware of World Wars

The  after effects of both world wars are still with us, many
decades later. WWII directly led to the Cold War and the
Korean War, 70 years ago. The combatants in 1953
signed an armistice, NOT a peace treaty; hostilities have
broken out along the DMZ and the 38th parallel on
occasion, with tensions now at their most inflamed.

The Most Worrying Facts:

(1) The United States has an official first nuclear strike
policy, enacted in 1980 by President Carter as PD 59,
followed by PD 60 and PD 61.

(2) We are technically still at war with North Korea,
have been since 1953.

(3)  Mr. Un has increased his nuclear capabilities.
North Korea's Mr. Un  is unstable and young, a
bad combination in a nuclear-enabled adversary.

...an unholy brew, requiring great deft statecraft which
neither Trump nor Un possesses.

Isn't it high time to sign the definitive peace treaty
ending this last hot ember of the Cold War and
World War Two?


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do North Korea and the United States Want War?

World War III, here we come: one irresponsible statement after
another by Un and Trump, both of whom I regard as sanity
challenged. They seem to find bellicose rants and threats as
a form of fun for them, taking the rest of us along for a ride,
unwilling as we all may be. We must stop these two lunatics
to ensure our own safety and that of the generations to come.

It is time to impeach the Donald and find ways to "deactivate"
Mr. Un, likely through a mechanism in the U.N. Security
Council. It is also the moment for Russia and China to step
up, as they are in danger from Un's nukes as well, even
though they aren't actually being targeted. Missiles gone
awry could well land in China or Russia--as we have seen,
many of North Korea's missiles end up in unexpected places.

Wake up, world! The very future of the planet and all who
live here are in great peril; every adult in each country must
make themselves heard. If we want peace and not war,
ACT NOW..


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Voter Information Trump Desires Does Not Exist

Hey, voters, remember what your ballot looked like?
Has your name ever appeared on any ballot you
have cast? I'm betting the answer is NO. Yet
PBS and other media outlets haven't pointed out
this basic fact--there is no way to know who voted
for Hillary and who voted for Trump, period. The
different states have said they won't surrender their
information, chiefly names and addresses in the judges'
binders--but even if they give up every shred of voter
data they possess, it won't help the Donald.

We have never collected such information. Each ballot
is submitted anonymously, sans name, gender, address.
All that can be known is who was voted for, never by
whom. So why is this voter commission in existence?

What has happened to the sense of the country?
Is everyone high on stupid pills? Let's get down to
brass tacks, which should include the president, who
obviously has forgotten that which he hungers for
does not now exist, and never has.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Clean Sweep: Let's Have Another Election for President

Here's to invalidating the insanity of November 2016--let's
try again, this time choosing a far more qualified person to
take the White House. Every day fresh revelations regarding
Trump and crew show how little able they are to run even
the tiniest town, much less a large country like ours. The
breadth of  their illegal issues cuts a wide swath indeed--
from a moral standpoint to a constitutional crisis to treason.

To heck with simple impeachment, although this option is
legally available--let's go for a "do over"! Let's mount a
replacement election, thus removing the whole White
House bunch including V.P. Pence.

No, it's never been done; so what?

A clean sweep would be welcome right about now.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ways That the Existence of the Electoral College is Undemocratic

How can a nation of over 320 million be ruled by the decisions
of a mere 538 electors? How is the USA a democracy? Sure,
we have a popular vote, but the real power is with these few
Electors--if the will of the people can be subverted, as in the
elevation of Trump, a highly unqualified person who violates
the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution every day,
it is not reasonable to claim we have a democracy here.

The very way electors are selected, each state matching
the number of their congressional delegation with the same
number of  electors underscores a lack of basic fairness;
the more populous states send more reps to the U.S.
House, giving them more electors. The republican and
democratic party officials pick their states' electors, yet
another manifestation of "the fix is in".

Several House Reps and others have moved to eliminate
this outdated and error-prone feature from our hallowed
document, including former Sen. Barbara Boxer, but don't
expect such a sane change anytime soon. Party loyalty
is at bottom of this system, the evils of which were
discussed in the Federalist Papers dealing with factions.
Let's not forget how important position is to those chosen
to serve as electors--few indeed would surrender such
lofty perches.

Meanwhile, we have a president who flouts the Emoluments
Clause and flirts ignorantly with the wily Russians who are
far more experienced than the current crop in the White House.

...All because of the Electoral College.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg Was Right After All: There Is Now No Privacy

Apparently many U.S.  states DO require social security numbers
on voter registration forms, drivers' license numbers and mothers'
maiden names as well. The last illusion of privacy has disappeared
in a puff of smoke-- who knew your state political entities
possessed this vital in formation?--Apparently Zuckerberg did.

Great credit goes to 44 of our fifty states openly defying Trump's
voter information commission, all refusing to release personal,
private data including SSA numbers. Some states say they will
provide public info, nothing more. Research reveals that HOW
one has voted (and for whom) is never kept, so what The Don
seeks has never been available--who voted for Clinton vs. who
voted for Trump. Time, money and hot air grind on, however.

Agent Orange, AKA Trump, looks back rather than ahead.
He knows his presidency is not quite legitimate, as Clinton won
the popular vote by almost three million votes, so he casts
about for "monsters under the bed" to prove the people
really did pick him after all, rather than the few hundred in
the Electoral College.

Meanwhile, our serious issues go unresolved, Trump spending
far too much time in attack and parry on Twitter. Every day,
more and more people mull over a possible presidential
impeachment. The Donald's mistaken moves bring that day
closer with each error.

Our expectation of privacy, other than being protected by
locking our doors and shutting the window blinds, really
has been shunted aside, ignored in  favor of financial and
political interests. When the polity finally finds out what
they have lost, the masses may rise, returning us all
to times of sanity and freedom.

Until then, Mark Zuckerberg is still right.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Morning Woe With Morning Joe

It's official: our president prefers personal attack action to
actually running the country. Invective fired into the twitterverse
characterized the two MSNBC's anchors with unacceptable
salacious, misogynistic low class language. Trump exhibits an
embarrassing lack of  dignity and gravitas at these moments,
which are becoming more frequent, alas.

This man singlehandedly has lowered our standing all across
the globe, a danger to safety and stability.

The Agent Orange in the White House has learned little
indeed in his time there--how long will it take?
Meanwhile, morning ( afternoon and night) woe with
your morning joe  is guaranteed.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cheating Wife Tone Deaf as She is Selfish

About a week ago a woman wrote in to an advice column
complaining that her two best friends "couldn't understand"
why she had cheated on her husband for the past ten years.
She sees the other man twice a week, sometimes travels
with him, while still living at home with the husband and
their children. It is entirely illuminating to all but her that
adultery is not something to be admired or accepted.
It is also ironic that she chose to use the word "cheating"
to describe her own lifestyle.

This cheater plans to avoid her two female friends, thus
escaping opprobrium. She terms her affair something
pleasant, like chocolates and fine wine. This woman
acts and speaks as if she is entitled to anything she
wants--what an unfortunate example to her kids!

I admired the columnists' tactful restraint in issuing
her response, simply stating most people would
not "understand" such a situation either.

The tone deaf of this world number far too many.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Why Travel to Places Americans Are Hated? Heed the "Warmbier Warning"

The sad, inexplicable case of young comatose Warmbier, newly
returned to his Ohio home, underscores a timely warning--do not
travel to sworn enemy countries, via tour group or solo.
Especially do not visit Iran or North Korea, places that hold
hatreds indeed implacable for us...proven by treatment of our
errant young people foolish enough to cross those borders.

The Young Pioneers were not knowledgeable enough to travel
to North Korea, a destination requiring a great deal of  finesse
and sophistication the YP were utterly incapable of, not fully
cautious and respectful; witness the harsh handling of Mr.
Warmbier for pulling down a propaganda poster, a serious
crime in the DPRK--who knew? These "pioneers" showed
hubris and ignorance, and the now dead boy is the result.

For those requiring adventure, there are ~200 nations on
Earth to select from--so be wise, choose to visit those nations
which welcome us; much can be learned from such intelligent
choices. Americans visiting Iran or North Korea will learn
or accomplish very little, authorities there will make certain
of that.

We had the "Iran Warning" case some months back. We
now have the "Warmbier Warning"--let's heed it.

The Doldrums of June When our World's Out of Tune

"The time is out of joint", Shakespeare (he without peer) wrote
in his immortal play, Hamlet, Act One. Odd, how little has
changed in 400 years; the times are more "disjoint" than ever
before. With all America's pressing problems, precious little
effort is being expended in resolving them. All the efforts
appear to be in claims and counter claims, accusations and
denials.

Meanwhile, Flint, MI still hasn't fixed its water supply,
although the water there is "said" to be cleaner. Policemen
accused of murdering suspects without cause have been
released all across the country, although Chicago is hanging
on to Laquan McDonald's killer, a sullen suspect best removed
from the Chicago Police force and jailed for life. Internationally,
North Korea mounts ever more alarming missile tests while our
big boats patrol ominously nearby, tensions mounting, a ripe
scenario for some horrible mistake...

The only positive note is Mr. Trump's noising about
repairing and improving the nations's infrastructure, which
indeed desperately must be upgraded to avoid accidents
like the fatal Minneapolis bridge collapse a few years back.
If he and Congress are really serious here, they do deserve
praise; let's encourage them!

Right now, however,  our foreign relationships are in tatters,
Medicare and Medicaid are threatened, education funds to
be stripped of 18 billions, on and on. Where are the adults
presumably in charge?

Yes, the times they are disjoint and out of tune. Surely
shouldn't  we have matured in the 400 years since
Shakespeare made his trenchant human commentaries?

Would were it so.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Agent Orange, The Celebrity Apprentice in the White House, and His Scorched Earth European Visit

The Donald, AKA Agent Orange, has given legitimacy to this
terrific nickname, evinced by his behavior in Europe and
elsewhere during his first presidential overseas outing, tussling
with NATO, Merkel and others during that leg of his trip.
Here are some of the more egregious high (or low) lights,
well worth repeating:

(1) Harping on the NATO nations who haven't ponied up
sufficient kale for combined military operations, admonishing
them during international press conferences. Yes, some should
contribute more, but this was not the time, place or manner
in which to address the thorny issue. He has even threatened
to withhold  defense of those nations not paying their fair
share...a precedent breaker if there ever was one.

(2) Withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Accords on Climate
Change, when the entire world has joined them, save Nicaragua
and Syria--Nicaragua abstained because the terms were not
stringent enough, not because it wishes to ignore Global
Warming. --Great! We have now officially scraped the
bottom of the international barrel, aligning ourselves
with SYRIA, for Pete's sake. How low can we go??

(3) Leaking  Israel in a backhanded denial which only
served to confirm that ally as the source of the sensitive
info Trump discussed with Russian Foreign Minister
Lavrov in a recent meeting...all while standing next to
Israel's Netanyahu.

Obviously, President Agent Orange won no new
(or old) friends for the USA on his first foray away
from home. Scorched earth diplomacy has historically
proven disastrous for any power pursuing it, a lesson
the Donald better grasp quickly.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Devoted Friend Has Left Me: Gary the Cat

Gary died on May 20th at the ripe old age of 21, about
100 in human years. I wish that realization helped, hasn't
yet. He had a distinct personality, played hide and seek
with me; we raced up and down the stairs at one place
where we lived; he twitched his ear five times after I'd
give him five kisses.

I'll always feel guilty about the times I was impatient
with him, yet he seemed to forgive me, joining me at
night in my bed. He tried to communicate with me, but
as I speak very little "Cat", I didn't always understand.
Did he understand when I would tell him I loved him?
Hoping so keeps me going; this place seems so empty
now. There will never be another like him; I will miss
him and love him 'til I die...

Goodbye, my best friend. May your spirit be content
and at peace, wherever you are over the Rainbow
Bridge.

Illinois State Senator Daniel Biss Only Qualified Current Candidate for Governor

Ixnay, away with Kennedy, Pritzker, and Rauner, the
Three Moneyed Musketeers, not what our state needs
to navigate us all out of the deep morass of ineptitude, of
ego, of  greed. Why aren't these men satisfied with the
wealth and position they already possess? Messrs. K
and P have never served in elective office, so that does
disqualify them in my eyes. Gov. "Rich" Rauner isn't up to
snuff, hasn't ameliorated our entrenched problems.

The alderman from Chicago, Ameya Pawar, boasts
scant legislative experience, so he also seems too big
for his britches. I prefer someone who has a record
in Springfield to scrutinize and reflect on. There is only
one extant candidate who qualifies: Il Sen. Dan Biss.

Senator Biss, out of Evanston, is a reasonable, bipartisan-
oriented legislator. He encourages those with opposing
views to first find a few areas of agreement so as to meet
in the middle, eventually approaching consensus, passing
laws benefiting the whole state. Biss has served in the
state capital for five years; before 2012, he was a math
professor at the University of Chicago. So: smart,
experienced, effortful, balanced, not beholden to the rich
--what's not to like and support? The other four really
should stay in the lanes they now occupy (except for
Rauner, of course!).

Let's hear it for Dan the man, our next governor!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Westinghouse Will Not Continue With Nuclear Projects--Great News!

The best news I've heard all week involves Toshiba-owned
Westinghouse, which has declared bankruptcy after years of
error and criminal accounting asset overstating woes. The firm
looks to be backing out of the southern U.S. nuclear projects
in Georgia and South Carolina, both of which are mired in
huge cost overruns and completion delays.

The new nukes, however, aren't exactly dead yet, as Southern
Co. and Scana Corporation are in embattled negotiations with
Westinghouse over the uncompleted nuclear reactors. Suggested
solutions range anywhere from converting the nuclear technology
to gas,  to abandoning  the projects entirely. Westinghouse
wanted out of their agreements with Southern and Scana via their
bankruptcy filing; some decisions are expected early in June.

This world needs more nuclear reactors about as much as we
need more wars; anything that delays or ends more nuclear
construction should be hailed as very good news for the
planet, excepting those interests profiting from said technology.

Sadly, small contractors and employees may well be hurt in
the ongoing kerfuffle, but they are defending themselves
through legal means...

Here's hoping THEY get good news!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Re: Comey: Obama, Trump and a Missed Opportunity

Timing is important, never more so when controversial
decisions are taken at the national level. Trump once
again appears tone deaf, with respect to his firing of FBI
Director James Comey at the height of investigations into
allegations of  the Trump Campaign's colluding with the
Russians. The Don's timing seems suspicious indeed.

President Obama missed an opportunity in October 2016,
when Director Comey publicly shared his decision to reopen
the Clinton personal email case. I would have fired Mr.
Comey right there and then, because of his public,
ill-timed announcement, against all previous protocols
at the FBI. Comey himself had implied he realized his
reopening the Clinton investigation might affect the
election; but subsequently, no charges were filed.

Both presidents, by not acting and acting too tardily,
missed an opportunity and showed poor judgement...

As Mr. Trump recently remarked, the job of U.S.
president isn't as easy as it looks.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The New World According to Trump: You're on Your Own

Dismantling environmental regulations; changing the corporate
tax from 35% down to 15%; eviscerating the National
Monuments Act; wrecking health care law for the elderly and
those with previously existing  conditions--

Exactly how many more examples should I list before the
inescapable conclusion can be drawn?  We are on our own
out here from now on; a more benevolent society we have
enjoyed for many decades is quickly disappearing in the
interests of the rich and corporate America. Clean air
becomes a privilege, not a right; open natural areas, the
national parks and monuments, the envy of many another
nation, can slowly be converted to development. Good
access to good healthcare will become the rich's right,
God help you if you've had heart trouble or cancer --or--
are simply old.

Well, hear ye, Trump et al., we are not going down easy,
no indeed. We will fight, especially looking toward the
upcoming elections of 2018. If anyone has been watching,
Republicans in the U.S. House are awakening, albeit very
sluggishly, to the realistic threat that they may well lose their
current hegemony there. Some of this has filtered over to
the White House, where somewhat more conciliatory PR
and temporizing on previously  inflexible goals (the Wall and
healthcare) has been heard...

But be ever vigilant: realize we are on our own out here.
It behooves us to study, to be effortful in objecting to the
stripping away of our humane and aesthetic rights and
privileges...

While we still can.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Outed by The AARP: Backroom Deals Threaten the Elderly and the Poor

Yesterday on Chicago's CBS AM Radio, an ad paid for by
the AARP broadcast a concern of great moment to anyone
not blessed by unlimited wealth, health coverage rollbacks
and much higher expenses for the elderly and the needy--
which would mean no health insurance for precisely those
who really require it. Particularly stinging proposals involve
thousands of dollars more to be paid by anyone with a pre-
existing condition, or had reached a certain age. I believe
I heard the figure of $13,000/year mentioned, and an increase
of $8,000/year levied against certain demographic groups,
including low income 64 year-olds.

I am tempted to suspect many of these new-school right-
wingers have so little regard for those not rich that they
are attempting to kill them off by legislating impossible
to meet insurance cost and qualification demands. Today
(04/21/'17) a final version of the new health care bill will
(purportedly) be ready. Interestingly, GOP legislators
have asked for changes that won't alienate Democrats,
realizing their U.S. Republican Senate boasts a slim four
vote majority, not enough to pass certain legislation
requiring 60 votes, not a simple majority.

I predict the dreams of  the uncaring, soulless rich will
not all be realized, although sadly, some shall. AARP's
ad strongly urged voters to contact Congress with
a resounding NO, objecting to the hurtful provisions of
these right-wing backroom deals.

--TSK, tsk, outed by the ever-vigilant AARP again.
Notice that they have enough spending power to buy
time on venues such as CBS...keep up the good
work; keep us in the know, bless you, AARP.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump Wins One With Syria Missile Strike

Surprisingly, President Trump gets my support for his targeted
missile strike at an airbase in Syria last week. Assad's attack
on his own civilians with chemical weapons included children
among the fatalities, universally condemned.  The U.S. airstrike
hasn't completely immobilized Assad's airstrike capability, but
it did reduce his effectiveness while sending a signal that the
USA will not idly stand by, will not permit such atrocities to
continue.

Generally, foreign intervention is a bad idea, but genocide
and/or mass murder of ordinary citizens must not be ignored,
must be halted. Thank God President Clinton stopped the
Slavic genocide of the 1990s; he's said he regrets not also
doing so in Rwanda.

As long as the U.S. judiciously limits its military interventions
to situations like last week's, it merits strong support.

Trump wins one for a change. (-!)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Boycott Unfriendly United Airlines' Skies

The shady but permitted practice of overbooking flights
has hit a new low, according to the New York Times,
April 10, 2017. Yesterday, flight #3411 had overbooked;
officials asked for four volunteers to exit the plane so
that airline employees could embark. One man was injured
by United's private police in an attempt to forcibly remove
him. Hey, airline execs, do you not realize the PAYING
CUSTOMERS must be put first ahead of employees who
ride for free??  Put your people on other flights, dummies.
Memo to Charlie Hobart, United spokesperson: I don't
care how "politely" you all asked people to leave the
plane--your PR statement, policy and practice are as trashy
as they are indefensible.

There are, at minimum, several serious concerns
here:

(1) How is it legal to sell the same seat twice?
(2) Why would employee convenience trump that
of  paying passengers?
(3) What sort of "major" corporation hires police
to remove passengers who have done nothing
wrong?
(4) Why has Congress ignored this problem?
(5)  United Airlines, are you so tone deaf regarding
your image that you will continue to pursue this wrong-
headed policy?

Dear readers, why not teach United Airlines a
telling, bottom-line lesson--boycott their
dangerously unfriendly skies. If sufficiently
outraged, why not call your U.S. Senator and
House Rep requesting this practice be outlawed?

You can bet I will.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Clean Air: Filling Our Lungs Has Priority Over Filling Our Gas Tanks

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It's no mystery--the egg,
for millions of years before birds, the way reptiles reproduce.
Similarly, breathing has existed long before automobiles, is still
obviously a more pressing urgency than our desire to cheaply
fill our gas tanks.

--Still laughing? No joke, the Don has just signed another hair-
brained executive order, knocking out clean air/coal
regulations. Trump, trying to fulfill a campaign promise, thinks
swatting away the EPA's pesky anti-pollution regs will magically
bring back thousands of non-existent mine and factory jobs...

But once again, the president is woefully uninformed. Technology
and economics are the real drivers dooming a return to the  old
days, far more than anything the EPA has done over decades.
Energy independence, a conservative mantra, is actually
becoming a reality with U.S. natural gas supplies and renewables
increasingly available-- we now export energy resources. All this
new policy brings us is dirty air, an unwelcome slide back to bad
old days, but not new (old)  jobs.

The president and his advisers ought to look at our 21st
century realities rather than attempting to resuscitate the 20th--
such an outdated outlook will fail.

Meanwhile, filling our lungs with clean air is more important
and immediate than filling our gas tanks--when will the
Donald get that?

Monday, March 20, 2017

India: the World's "Largest Democracy" is a Sham

If India is truly the world's largest Democracy, get me a ticket
to a gulag in Siberia, I'd probably do better there. It takes more
than merely being able to vote to achieve such a vaunted
politically ethical status. In terms of failures, let me count the
ways:

(1) India still employs the caste system; how is THAT
democratic?

(2) Indians' second daughter is often aborted or killed
shortly after birth--again, is total misogynistic disrespect
for life democratic?

(3) Their society is severely patriarchal, controlling and confining
with respect to women's rights and opportunities. Once more
with feeling: how is this anything to admire?

Finally, therefore, India's social and human rights' fabric is
as full of holes as cheesecloth. No self-respecting Western
woman should visit this place, simply because the sights, the
food and indigenous clothing are praiseworthy.

Thanks PBS' POV, for elucidating the daily horrors female
Indians must endure. This "democracy" is a sham.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Celebrity Apprentice in the White House

Yes, that is what we have there, a celebrity who is merely an
apprentice when it comes to possessing a supple expertise in
matters of governance. Trump clearly can't or won't up his
learning curve; indeed, he has a pronounced resistance to doing
so, if his behavior to date is any guide, which will plunge the U.S.
into many unnecessary crises, difficult or intractable.

Celebrity is clearly what the Don was aiming for; he has
succeeded in becoming  the world's most famous man. But
without substance, Trumps' inexperienced celebrity careers
us with celerity toward  a mere undoing of all things Obama,
silly snipes at one and all via Twitter, Trump-tweeted fake news,
yet the problems of the nation and the world remain ignored and
unsolved.

Will the Republican Party allow this sorry state of affairs to
continue? Will the U.S. House come to its senses and act
accordingly, keeping in mind that they have to look at 2018 in
their futures? Party unity is one thing, but getting re-elected is
quite another, full of a requisite, redolent  exigency. The average
Joe and Joanna eventually get wise to what goes, will vote with
that knowledge; do these House Reps remember that?

Celebrity just can't cut it; it's past time for the "Apprentice" to
evolve into a full-fledged statesman.

                                           ******
 P.S.: Please bear with all my paraphrased repetitions, but until
we enjoy a more cogent and sane governmental effort, this
blog will relentlessly repeat my deep concerns.

The Danger in Accusations Versus Firm, Intelligent Policy

...are too numerous to fully explore here, but we now are enjoying
the horrifying spectacle of President Trump wasting valuable time
and resources accusing our former president of "wiretapping" his
abode, Trump Towers, during campaign season, no evidence
forthcoming. Meanwhile, the enfant terrible of North Korea is
making with the nuclear threats again, at the very time the USA
and South Korea are engaging in joint maneuvers off South Korea.
It is important to realize that the two Koreas are still in a state
of war, merely existing uneasily in a truce-armistice state.

If there was ever a time to proceed with intelligence and
caution, this is it, but the Donald can't or won't be bothered
to get serious, deal with our domestic and international
problems, some of which, need I remind anyone, are very
dire. I guess finesse is not in the Don's repertoire, but he'd
best acquire it, or we will end up like many a failed state.

The media is not doing its job here, but IS quick to quote
his latest Twitter gaffe as well as all the others, without
pointing out we need a steady hand at the national ship
of state's tiller. Facts and reason really are demanded
now; will our government step up, or will it continue in
the partisan warfare politicians have become so comfortable
with? Our very survival is scarcely guaranteed --stop
believing in U.S. invincibility and "exceptionalism". These
philosophies are as worthless as they are dated--say, 70
years out of date. If we are such a superpower, so winning
at every turn, how is it we haven't won any major military
engagement since 1945?

These are inconvenient truths which we all had better quickly
internalize and begin to effectively deal with. To keep on being
the silly state, helplessly mystique-mired in social media's
salvos of back and forth, is to slip ever further into desuetude
and a lesser international status we can ill afford.

Let's stop hurling foolish accusations around and get
down to business--the times urgently require it.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Border Concerns Do Not Trump the Fourth Amendment

Security and other concerns give no United States government
the legal right to ignore the Constitution's Fourth Amendment,
the prohibition forbidding unreasonable search and seizure. Yet
tonight on NBC's evening newscast, Lester Holt revealed that at
the Canadian border, police can demand one's cell phone and
its password, etc., even if the person being searched is not on
any watch list. This, purportedly, is "perfectly legal". Whatever
happened to probable cause?

...AHEM. Just how is any abrogation of our constitutional
rights legal? The U.S. Constitution is the highest law in the land,
therefore, no local, state or federal "law", policy or practice can
overturn  or ignore any of its original seven articles or the 27
amendments, PERIOD. Exactly who is asleep at the switch
here?  The report justifies this practice in part by quoting
Trump's heated campaign anti-terror rhetoric...huh?

Legalities, logic  and sense have evaporated out of
our country, apparently. Whim, paranoia and stupidity
are in. We must get a grip before serious domestic
and international difficulties get the better of us.

Meanwhile, it must be stressed: border security and
other concerns do not trump the Fourth Amendment.
Memo to the authorities: find another, but legal way
to protect us.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017: Even Reluctant Reliance on History Sounds an Alarm

Since Trump, et al., are poorly prepared to engage internationally,
any adventures in foreign  lands probably won't end well. Foggy
mirror or no, it is sobering to recall the USA has not won wars
of any stripe since WWII--unless you wish to cite Grenada,
a tiny kerfuffle if there ever was one. Poor preparation produces
unfortunate results; Trump's business expertise and his
sycophantic inner circle can't cope with the fiendishly complex
planet we now inhabit--to say little regarding Trump's approach
to problem-solving.

True, Trump has had power for only a brief moment, but he
already demonstrates what he intends to attend to, namely,
nothing...nothing of import, that is.

Ignoring serious difficulties around the world while criticising
friend and foe alike, he harps on the U.S. press, tweets madly,
embarrasses greatly, all while distracting himself here at home
with minor matters and impossible plans to create greatness
and security, scant details forthcoming.

I've just finished reading The Assassin's Gate (2005), all
about the incompetent, ignorant prosecuting of the
Iraq War which still holds thousands of our occupying
troops. It is a cautionary tale, one reminding readers of
the usual lack of  prior research politicians engage in
before sending our boys overseas; just another dismal
failure and a black eye disgracing this "superpower".

Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq: the foggy rear
view mirror may be imperfect but it clearly shows
a pattern nonetheless: The U.S. Bull in a China Shop
charges into situations it knows little about, destined
to lose blood, treasure and reputation...

When will we ever learn? Even reluctant reliance on
history ought to sound the alarm.

Friday, February 24, 2017

History Is a Fogged Up Rear View Mirror--We Need New Approaches

We're not much as super powers go: look at the wars in the
Middle East of recent and current vintage in Iraq and Afghanistan.
World War Two, with greater import and consequences, lasted
fewer years with better resolutions than our efforts in the Middle
East. The U.S., unafraid of its ignorance in all Arab matters,
launched the never-ending war in Iraq, still occupying there
with thousands of "supporters and advisers"; more than
8,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan. Two wars
lasting well over ten years, not eliminating the murderous
factions they set out to curtail--some super power.

I thought I had better do a bit of research into our foreign
policies and actions back to the century's change, in the
interest of relying on history as my guide into possible plans
by Trump, et al. What I've read lately has considerably
reduced my reliance on history as "past is prologue", a very
fogged up rear view mirror at best.  The most basic themes
still obtain, verified by thousands of years of conquest,
occupation and assimilation around the world in worrying,
wearing and wearying repetition, without the new approaches
we need to craft a better, more stable world.

So, what, pray tell, is next? --War with Mexico (-again)?
Ill-advised, ill-considered, ill-prepared re-deployments of
our military along with fresh troops to distant shores we have
precious little knowledge of? Previous administrations, far better
prepared than the current incarnation, grappled with long-
standing issues abroad--and failed to resolve them.

Hubris and denial, fueled by ignorance, propel our
foreign policy of late. I shudder to think what is on
the road ahead; even the foggy mirror has warnings
enough to alert us to the urgent need for innovation.


Friday, February 17, 2017

To Russia With Love: Mind Your Own Business

Really, Russia, don't you have plenty of problems there at home
to attend to? Why not solve THEM before embarking on
interfering in another nation's affairs?

You have dangerously miscalculated by meddling in the USA's
recent election; perhaps you were surprised to learn many
Republicans strenuously object to your efforts. Over here
we take matters of our sovereignty quite seriously, irrespective
of political party. Investigations and repercussions will no
doubt continue--despite the Putin/Trump bromance.

So Russia, mind your own business, tend to your own
knitting, etc. You DO risk the United States inquiring
intensively into Russian activities--scarcely a pleasant
prospect, no? You probably are attempting to capitalize
on any perceived weakness of ours--but you are definitely
overreaching and over-estimating, at your peril.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fear of Foreigners Our Foreign Policy, Courtesy of Trump

Bad intel and bad philosophy bring the United States into a
negative world role: rule by prejudice, whim and mistrust.
We are being thrust back to more unenlightened times which
will cost us and others dearly.  How can our new president
claim he isn't being anti Muslim with his current seven country
denied-entry policy? He appears to be making sure that no
radical islamists invade the U.S. by outlawing all from mostly
Muslim nations. His statistics may be in error but his resolve
remains steadfast, even while several judges defy his less-
than legal proscription.

The whole issue struggles under the burden of extreme
complication: although Trump's new immigration policy
may be illegal, it is not unconstitutional, as so many
unthinkingly shrill via  predictable knee-jerk objections.
The U.S. Constitution was written for United States
citizens, both natural born and naturalized; the rights and
prohibitions therein do not extend to other nations' citizens.
Often, however, in the interest of human rights, protections
similar to those in the Constitution have been granted to
non-citizens--but there is no constitutional requirement
to do so. It pays to be clear here.

Perhaps occasionally troubling, a U.S. president does
have wide latitude over immigration issues; many
different groups were denied entry to the USA in the past,
which will no doubt occur again. It is the motivation for
exclusion that bears close examination; prejudice is never
an acceptable reason, nevertheless  engendered previous
rulings.

Fear of foreigners along with protectionism and isolationism
are the three prongs of our international approach which
endanger us and others around the world. Here's hoping
Mr. Trump accelerates his learning curve, catching up
in time to avert disaster.

Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20th, 2017: a New President Trumpets a New Order on a New Day

Newly installed U.S. President Donald J. Trump projected a
serious and calm demeanor at his inaugural, but he has his whole
history to overcome to become a credible president. For now,
today Chauvinism rode a pale horse into the White House,
replete with promises impossible to keep, such as re-opening
"all the shuttered factories". Ever-evolving technologies, married
to the exigencies of profit and loss, long have dictated the changed
marketplace. Those  left behind were unwilling/unable to retrain,
yet demand the world dance to their outdated skill set's tune.
(This reality goes back to the 1950s; I possess a periodical
from that era which discusses "automation", Chicago Magazine.)

Protectionism and isolationism, two themes from the Don's
campaign playbook, still sounded front and center in his
45th Inaugural Address. It would be fiendishly expensive
to bring all outsourced jobs back to the USA, even making
shopping at Walmart a costly expedition. How does that
help the "down and outers" to participate in making America
Great Again?

There they were, by the thousands, smiling in the rain, his
true believers, avidly settling for slogans, Chauvinism and
all the other pablums which seem so exciting until examined
along with a little injection of "fact serum"...

Say, starting MONDAY.

Monday, January 9, 2017

About America: Alexis de Tocqueville, Then and Now

Alexis de Tocqueville published two trenchant volumes
regarding our then new nation after touring here in 1831.
Democracy in America (1835 and 1840) shrewdly analysed
the characteristics that made America different from European
countries, traits that often weren't/aren't always "positive".
Among the more famous descriptions is one of an American
always hungering after novelty, not delving deeply into important
subjects, etc.

Long before nefariously/infamously/selfishly conservative
capitalist "theorist"/fiction writer Ayn Rand, Alexis de T.
noted the rise of the cult of individualism: "...Individualism
is a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen
to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw
into the circle of family and friends; with this little society
formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look
after itself..." (quoted in Rushworth M. Kidder's How Good
People Make Tough Choices, 1995.)

Fast forward to 2017: Closeted in and focused on their personal
lives, far too few adult Americans study the issues, vote, attend
public meetings where they can engage their officials, call up
legislators with suggestions, criticisms and concerns. As Benjamin
Franklin and Alexis de T. understood, these participatory public
practices help insure a stable, democratic republic, one we are in
grave danger of losing, with the cult of wealth and celebrity
overweeningly influencing major events.

Sociologist de Tocqueville's thoughts on our nation are as relevant
today as they were in the 1830s--sadly, even more so. His work
has honesty, observation  and keen intelligence; it inspires
reflection and change among the perceptive.

Let us all be perceptive.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Florida: More Murders Made Possible by Bad Laws: A State to Stay Away From

The latest murderous horror to occur in Florida could have
been averted with rational laws, namely, that no one can carry
weapons on passenger planes, be they unloaded and checked
into the baggage areas of said planes' and airports' debarkation
areas. That must include military and police travelling in civilian
situations as well. People on board the unfortunate flight
seemed safe enough, but were killed once on the ground...
where I come from, dead is dead, no matter the location.

That New Jersey nutcase started out from Alaska, flew to
Minneapolis, then landed in  Florida, where he retrieved his
weapon, killing five and injuring eight. Florida officials' press
conference remarks contained the usual sorrow, bromides
and assurances, but I am not reassured, because...

Right about now the Florida Statehouse is mulling over
a bill which would allow guns on college campuses and
other wildly inappropriate settings, as if mass murders
haven't happened in such places. Say, who ARE these
legislators? They appear to be as insane as the murderers
whose behavior they are facilitating, failing to protect
the public they serve.

Once this country allowed gun carry in public, (whether
concealed or open) shootings have certainly continued to
escalate as statistics prove. --Coincidence? Of course not.
16 hours' practice at a firing range and an FOID card are
not adequate safeguards; abusing the Second Amendment
is the result, causing the loss of many innocent lives.

The USA's current version of the Wild West is even worse
than the lawless West of over a hundred years back--the
weapons are now often military grade. (--Gee, great! Now
even more can get killed!) But there are regional differences,
especially regarding gun laws. It pays to know where
you go, so...

Florida: more murders made possible by bad laws,
a state to stay away from.

Friday, January 6, 2017

National/International Politics: A New Year but Not a New Page

...Except in the calendar. POTUS-Elect Donald better duck
and cover, because the Republicans in Congress know they
are responsible for our nation's safety, even if Trump doesn't.
The Don won't waffle or walk back his antipathy to the highly
inconvenient CIA report regarding Russian hacking of several
important U.S. websites including the Democratic National
Committee's, Hillary's and others. Today's briefing in Trump
Tower with the heads of our security apparatus may be worthy
of pay-per-view fireworks, as Mr. Trump is not known for
apology and/or compromise. He HAD, however, better heed
and read the disturbing, factual reports--

That is, if he wishes to keep America as great as it is now,
never mind making it great again. Being great as a sovereign
nation means ensuring safety from other countries' various
vexing and dangerous machinations, which does not appear
to be on the Don's agenda. Being way too cozy with the
Russians and the Ukrainians because of his business deals
blinds our next president to the threat...

Of slipping back to bad old days here and abroad. A
right-wing wave has overtaken the Northern nations of
the West, which bodes ill for human and civil rights, the
lower and middle classes. Here at home, halting women's
rights, minority voting rights and personal rights are all
seemingly on the table. Have we just entered yet another
negative swing era in world history? It is not enough to have
Hope Float--we must act, reminding Congress that it is only
two years 'til the next election which could throw out right-
wing hardliners. Any legislator more interested in arrogating
more power at the expense of our security and sovereignty
ought to get the heave-ho then too.

2017 looks to be a chauvinistic, chaotic year ahead.
Fasten your seat belts, brother and sisters. This may
be a new year, but scarcely a fresh, new page.