Wednesday, November 30, 2016

True Love

Mitch McConnell truly loves his wife, Elaine Chao. She has been nominated by Trump to be Transportation Secretary. She's probably a good choice as she has served as Deputy Transportation Secretary and, I'd wager, she is a shoo-in to be confirmed. Her husband will be one of the people voting on that confirmation. He is truly an odd guy.

George Washington's teeth

Courtesy of a Duncaster resident


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stop our wars

That's a message that Andrew Bacevich has been preaching for a while. While we may have the strongest and best military in the world, we have not won a war since WWII. Yet, there is very little talk about the recurring shortcomings of our military leadership. And we've had a lot of generals; 11 in Afghanistan and 9 in Iraq. Maybe it's time to cut our losses.

Bacevich has some comments about the 21st century view of war.  "War empowers Washington. It centralizes. It provides a rationale for federal authorities to accumulate and exercise new powers. It makes government bigger and more intrusive. It lubricates the machinery of waste, fraud, and abuse that causes tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to vanish every year. When it comes to sustaining the swamp, nothing works better than war."

No privacy in England?

That's what seems to be in process in the form of the Investigatory Powers Bill. The bill has been called "worse than scary" by the IN's privacy chief. The cornerstone of the bill is a government database that stores the web history of every citizen in the country. The government will be able to hack individuals, internet infrastructure, and even whole towns — if the government deems it necessary. There will be no judicial oversight.

The UK government will keep a record of every website every citizen visits for up to a year, with this information also including the apps they use on their phone, and the metadata of their calls. This information won’t include the exact URL of each site someone visits, but the base domain. Each Internet Service Provider (ISP) and mobile carrier in the UK will have to store this data, which the government will pay them to do. Police officers will then be able to access a central search engine known as the "request filter" to retrieve this information.
Furthermore, any discussions between tech companies and the UK government will take place in private. Any warrants issued to a company to decrypt users’ data will come with a gagging order, forbidding the firm from discussing it.

A little boy

I've had the sense that Trump is a 9 year-old spoiled brat. 

Now he wants the media to print only flattering photos of him. What manner of adult is he? Why does he spend so much time on trivial matter?

Monday, November 28, 2016

An interesting quote from Virginia Woolf - how true it is

Novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand.

Nessun Dorma

"Stand Your Ground" Results

It's been eleven years since Florida passed the “Stand Your Ground” law. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that killings across the state increased by nearly a quarter over the next decade, “the implementation of Florida’s stand your ground law was associated with a 24.4% increase in homicide and a 31.6% increase in firearm-related homicide.”

Life in Denmark

The government encourages a 37-hour workweek, a designated lunch break, a minimum five weeks of paid vacation, extended and paid parental leave, and flexible schedules with the option to work from home as well as incentives for child care. On average, Danes spend less than one-third of their time working — and yet, they're still more productive than most of the European Union or the United States

She is now 98

She teaches yoga. 

Tao Porchon Lynch 93 Year Old Yoga Instructor from dantv on Vimeo.

She's a ballroom dancer.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Is this something the president should be doing?

A friend of mine received this e-mail from the Official website of Donald J. Trump for President.  I was unable to copy it, so the following is not exact.
Make America Great Again Christmas Ornament
This collectible ornament commemorates Trump’s commitment to the Christmas spirit and will be a great addition to your family’s tree this year.
Contribute $99 or more now and get yours before Christmas!
Proudly made in the USA.


I can see the president of Macy's doing something like this. But the President-Elect of the United States?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Standing Rock

1 comment: Links to this post

A moment in time

Cockatoos at work

Drug policy

Have you heard of an organization known as the Global Commission on Drug Policy? I never had. Well, it's a 23-person body comprising nine former presidents or prime ministers, plus leaders like former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It has just released “Advancing Drug Policy Reform: A new approach to decriminalization.” As you may gather from the organization's name, the report calls for the total abolition of all penalties—criminal, and also civil—for possession for personal use.

Here's what it recommends:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It's a business, not just a college

Your child has a better chance of getting into the university from which you graduated than a child with no connection to that university; the child is characterized as a legacy. Conclusions of some studies: being an alumni child means 160 points on the 400-1600 SAT scale; the odds of a legacy being accepted at his or her parent’s alma mater are more than seven times better than an ordinary applicant’s. Legacies make up 22 percent of this year’s freshmen at Notre Dame, 13 percent at Yale, and between 18 and 19 percent at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The rate of legacy preference is getting worse. UPenn admitted 37.9 percent of alumni children in 2005, as against 20.8 percent of all applicants. This year, it took 22 percent of legacies, versus 9.4 percent overall. So legacies were accepted at more than twice the average rate this year, a bigger proportional advantage than in 2005. Georgetown admits 29 percent of alumni children, as against 16 percent of applicants overall.

Here's a real marketing effort. About five years ago, Hanover College in Indiana began sending onesies to newborn legacies, pencil pouches when they start kindergarten, and keychains when they turn 16. Once enrolled at Hanover, every child, step-child, sibling or grandchild of a graduate receives a T-shirt and a $3,000-a-year scholarship. This courtship is paying off: alumni children make up 17.3 percent of Hanover freshmen this year, far above its norm.

The decline of the mall

Here is a list of 14 companies each of whom is closing at least 100 outlets: Aeropostale, American Eagle, Chicos, Children's Place, Finish Line, Hancock Fabrics, Macy's, Men's Warehouse, Office Depot, Sears, Sports Authority, Walgreens,  Walmart, Wolverine Worldwide.

Is this because of on-line shopping?

A rare Rainbow

The above rainbow appeared in Scotland over the weekend. I've never seen such a rainbow. Have you? In the words of the photographer, "It is a colourless rainbow that is made up of tiny water droplets that cause fog."

A good first step

Trump has laid out his plans for his first 100 days. And in a calm, unemotional manner. While I disagree with most of them, some actually make sense and are necessary.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thinking of leaving the country?

Going down the wrong road

It’s only been a week but I’m starting to worry that the Trump presidency will be like his campaign. He’s wasting time and energy getting incensed about unimportant issues, such as the Saturday Night Live spoof and the Hamilton talk. And, of course, his proposed nominees for his administration’s leading roles do not inspire confidence. I hope I’m wrong and he does more thinking than condemning.

More waste in Afghanistan

Change to be made

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Arctic Is Warm

It's 36 degrees F (20 degrees C) above normal. Sea ice levels are at record lows and temperatures are far above normal. A climatologist said on his blog, “It is amazing to see that the warmth has become even more pronounced since the end of October.”

Scientists say that a number of factors contribute to the unusually warm polar temperatures. The jet stream is pushing warm, moist air in from the south and showing greater variations from its usual path for longer amounts of time This leads to an increased number of severe weather incidents that last for longer periods of time. It also causes more warm, moist air to move into the northernmost parts of the northern hemisphere, which melts Arctic ice, slowing the Jet Stream down even more.

Trump and Berlusconi

This video was made earlier this year but Zingales was right on target then. He thinks that Trump will be just like Berlusconi, i.e., not a very good president but having some worthwhile ideas that can and should be supported by us.

Truth or Consequences

The presidential election did not help the media except in raising their profits. There were a ton of stories purporting one "fact" or another to damage a candidate. It seems as though this reporting of "the news" is continuing. Supposedly Yale made a mid-term economics exam optional. Some high schools and colleges have made "therapy dogs" available to students. UPenn has passed out coloring books to students. Classes have been cancelled because of the number of distraught elementary school students. Yes, there have been protest marches by some college students. But I have not seen anything about violence at these protests. Why can't the media simply do its job and report? Why need it sway people to buy their paper or watch them on tv?

While I was away some of us did not behave like good Americans

From Harper's Weekly Review:

Donald Trump, a real-estate developer endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, was elected president of the United States. Following the election, the Canadian government's immigration website crashed, the Dow Jones temporarily plummeted, two LGBT suicide hotlines reported a spike in call volume, and more than 4.3 million Americans signed a petition asking state electors to pick as president former candidate Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote by a margin of at least a million but failed to win a majority in the Electoral College. "The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy," Trump tweeted in 2012. 

Trump appointed the editor of an alt-right news site as his chief strategist, and more than 400 hate crimes were reported across the country. The mayor of Clay, West Virginia, resigned after commenting favorably on a Facebook post that compared First Lady Michelle Obama to an "Ape in heels"; the deputy director of a corrections center in Memphis, Tennessee, resigned after writing on Facebook that "the KKK is more American" than Barack Obama; a school-board member in Little Rock, Arkansas, was investigated by the superintendent for wearing blackface; 

students in Indiana, Michigan, and Texas chanted variations of "Build a wall!" during their lunch periods; middle-schoolers in Oregon shouted "Go back to Mexico!" at an 11-year-old Colombian American; a banner that read "Death to Diversity" was hung in a Colorado library; a high-school student in Redding, California, handed out fake "deportation orders" to his minority classmates; a Maryland elementary-school bathroom was vandalized with the message "KILL KILL KILL BLACKS"; 

a Maryland Episcopal church sign advertising Spanish services was vandalized with the message "Trump Nation Whites Only"; an LGBT-friendly Episcopal church in Indiana was vandalized with a swastika and the words "Heil Trump"; a note reading "You can all go home now" was posted on a Muslim family's front door in Iowa City; a Muslim teacher in Atlanta found a note in her classroom telling her to hang herself with her headscarf; Muslim girls in San Jose and Albuquerque reported having their hijabs forcibly removed from their heads; a Muslim student at the University of Michigan was threatened with immolation; swastikas were drawn on the dorm-room doors of Jewish students at the New School in New York City; "Trump!" was written on the door of a Muslim prayer room at New York University; a college student in Oklahoma threatened in a group messaging app to lynch black students at the University of Pennsylvania; a boy in Pennsylvania carried a Trump sign through the halls of his high school shouting "White power!"; signs advising white women not to date black men appeared on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas; a teacher in a Tampa Bay high school was placed on leave for allegedly threatening to "call Donald Trump and get you sent back to Africa"; 

a neo-Nazi blogger declared New Balance the "official shoes of white people"; and a neo-Nazi leader of the alt-right movement enjoined his followers to make "brown people ... feel that everything around them is against them." In Orlando, a bald eagle flew into a sewer and died.

Swans on the Rhine

Cat prevents house fires

Based on a Norman Rockwell painting

From a Duncaster correspondent

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

There will be a tomorrow

A good beginning

The following is only the beginning of Trump's acceptance speech. Let's hope he keeps the tone.

It was a beautiful sunrise today

The world's history shows that all empires eventually fail and they fail at a faster clip as time moves on. The Roman Empire lasted for 400 years; subsequent empires lasted much shorter. The United States Empire is less than 100 years old and it has been falling for perhaps 25 years. The election of Donald Trump will not slow down its demise; it will just be faster than if Hillary Clinton had won. While empires fail, we still can appreciate the occasional beautiful sunrise as was the case today.

As my friend RJ of Sparrowchat says, Obama had a fair amount to do with this failure, "You never kept your promises, Obama. You let your country down. You didn’t close Gitmo; you failed to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; you pandered to the corporations with your TPTPs and TTIPs. You promised ‘medical coverage for all’ and gave a handout to the insurance companies; you bailed out the banks with taxpayer’s money then allowed them ‘business as usual’; you failed to punish corruption by the wealthy; most of the jobs you managed to create were poorly paid, service jobs, that forced well qualified Americans into menial employment; you failed to restrain the military-industrial complex and allowed it to expand twenty-fold under your presidency; you became the ‘assassination-president’ who rained down terror from the skies on innocent human beings, while expanding the number of wars America is presently engaged in (there are currently U.S. Special Ops in 70% of the world’s nations!). Your parting gift to your political opponents – a vacant Supreme Court post you’ve left open for them to fill…"

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

More from Der Spiegel

"How could the entire country have allowed the democracy for which it stands to fall into this degree of decline? Years ago, two ranting men emerged at the margins of society with a format called "talk radio": Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Americans have always been addicted to entertainment and that helped allow these two stars to enter the mainstream. And little by little, mainstream society began resembling them. Hateful. Self-righteous. Intolerant. Frightened. Loud. And disdainful of all that seemed too distant: education, ideas, industriousness. The US became a dysfunctional country that was no longer capable of debate, barely capable of making or sticking to decisions and one that had lost that which had once been its source of strength -- and it found nothing new to replace it, at least nothing novel and good. Were this a company, the diagnosis would be as follows: management has abandoned the core brand and botched the restructuring process; bankruptcy is around the corner."

"The entire American democracy has also become an endless show, because CNN and other broadcasters are thirsty for breaking news every hour to ensure good ratings and advertising. Even lies pay off and are thus desired -- the result being that, after 18 months of campaigning, 50 percent of those eligible to vote, 100 million people, still do not know today where Trump and Clinton stand on policy. Instead, people scream "Lock Her Up" and "Build the Wall" as soon as Trump takes the stage. Good politicians don't play along with such nonsense."

"On Tuesday, voting will finally be complete, but there will be no solace -- only, we can hope, the lesser of two evils. Things won't automatically return to normal. Indeed, the American pendulum theory was always naïve because history never starts over from scratch. The 2000 election, decided by the Supreme Court, gave us George W. Bush who, after Sept. 11, attacked Afghanistan and later Iraq, leading to the destabilization of the Middle East, the fall of Libya, Iraq and Syria, to Islamic State, to Turkish and Egyptian dictatorships, to the refugee crisis, Brexit, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Frauke Petry and Trump, to the weakening of America and Europe. To the weakening of the West and liberal democracy."

Checking facts

From the Washington Post

Aging eyes

4 days travel, $3.6 million spent

The GAO analyzed the costs of a trip by Obama to Chicago and Palm Beach in February 2013. It reported $2.8 million in costs "by DOD and $0.77 million by DHS (specifically, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Secret Service). These costs consisted of the (1) operating expenses of the President’s aircraft, supporting aircraft, and U.S. Coast Guard small boats; and (2) travel expenses, which include per diem (lodging and meals), commercial airfare, and rental cars for DOD and DHS personnel supporting the trip. They exclude certain classified DOD costs."

Is it worth it?

The Feds spend close to a billion dollars a year on advertising and PR.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Der Spiegel comments on our election

"For the last year, American democracy has become a circus, one in which the most outlandish gag gets the most applause. And it won't be without consequences: The country will have to live with the scars of this ugly campaign for quite some time to come. Make no mistake: When the advances of civilization are set aside, even if only temporarily, fractures are the result and they aren't easy to repair. When arguments don't count and lies are accepted as truth, when politicians have entire teams working to spread disinformation, democracy as we understand it ceases to exist."

"Clinton and Trump have managed to drag US politics -- already not the purest of spectacles -- into the muck. With the help of the hysterical media, they have transformed the race into a soap opera, and this time, reality has far exceeded even our wildest imaginations."

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Why Tuesday?

Should you support Louise Nolley?

Nolley has filed for an injunction in U.S. District Court hoping to delay the Nov. 8 election until “serious, qualified, trustworthy persons can be sought and elected”. She filed the lawsuit with the United States District Court for the Western District of New York; it has been assigned to one of the judges. She said, "I’ve been writing on it and thinking about it and praying. I was just waiting for an OK from God.” 

You shouldn't consider that this is the first time she can cast a ballot for president as she is a convicted felon and heroin addict. 

Harvard cancels the soccer season

Although they are in first place in the Ivy League, Harvard University has suspended its men's soccer team for the rest of the season. Why? Because the players made sexual comments about members of the women's team. Comments were written, as well as verbal. One document rated the attractiveness of female players and included sexually explicit comments. This rating is not the first. In the past male soccer players at Harvard circulated documents with pictures of their female counterparts, rating their attractiveness from one to 10 and giving reasons for their decisions. They also noted which sexual position they thought the women in question would prefer.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Gross or Net Income

I would think virtually all business men and women know the difference between gross and net income. And I would count Donald Trump as one of these businessmen. But the NY Times claims that he sometimes confuses the two.

The Times has studied some of his financial disclosure forms and compared them with his appeals re property taxes. It concludes that on the disclosure forms he counts gross revenue with no offset for expenses. On the appeals he includes both revenue and expenses. An example: He reported $50,000,000 of revenue for Mar a Lago in 2014 but in his appeal of property taxes he also reported expenses of $52,400,000, or a loss of $2,400,000. There are other examples in the article.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Making soap, Saving lives

A few years ago Samir Lakhani, a student at Pittsburgh University, was spending the summer building fish ponds in a Cambodian village when he saw a mother scrubbing a young child with laundry detergent. He didn't think that was a good idea as detergent can harm the skin, and contains toxic chemicals that can cause itchy eyes and vomiting. He decided to try to do something about it. Even at his young age he realized that a lot of soap was wasted, particularly by hotels. So, he experimented and developed a technique for combining discarded bars of soap into a new composite bar of "eco-soap".

When he came back to the States, he started crowdfunding. Then he succeeded in obtaining sponsorship from major hotel chains, to enable him to train and pay soap makers. Now his Eco-Soap Bank organisation employs 30 staff in three hubs across Cambodia, collects soap from 170 hotels, and has supplied 650,000 people with a safe way of getting clean. Women sell eco-soap in villages, a "couple of hundred" schools are given it free of charge, and "hygiene ambassadors" from partner NGOs train the schoolchildren to wash their hands properly.

Not a long marriage

The couple had signed a prenuptial agreement, one term of which was that the bride would not post photographs of the marriage on social media. She did and two hours after the marriage ceremony he divorced her. Under the Wahabi faith men have a lot of power vis-a-vis their wives and since the couple may not have even met each other, you get divorces for reasons such as the wife removing her veil and he seeing her for the first time. In another case, after being married for two years the husband divorced his wife after she failed to respond to his WhatsApp message.

The divorce rate in Saudi Arabia is high with over 50 per cent of marriages falling apart. Around half of these divorces occurred among newlyweds, according to one Saudi legal expert.

Is Azalea addicted to smoking?

It certainly looks that way.

Azalea, a 19-year-old chimp, smokes about a pack a day. She doesn't inhale. Normally, she uses a lighter but lights up from  a lit cigarette if one is tossed her way.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Watch what you say

Chance is important in your life

Guantanamo Inaction

What does "Ethnic Affinity" mean?

When you place an ad on Facebook. you can specify that the ad not be shown to those of a specified ethnic affinity. Facebook does this as "it’s important for advertisers to have the ability to both include and exclude groups as they test how their marketing performs." The problem is that you violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 because the ad can be used in a racist manner.

Woody Allen on life

From a Duncaster correspondent.

Syrian Refugees in Connecticut

Some residents from Duncaster are involved with this project. If you want to read the story, click here.