Archive for November, 2014

Martin J. Sklar on corporate liberalism

November 30, 2014

The giant business corporation is a type of institution which has made possible economic growth and creation of wealth on a scale never before seen in history.  It also is a concentration of economic and political power that is dangerous to a free and democratic nation.

One of the great issues of American public policy, for more than a century, has been how we the people can get the benefit of the corporate form of organization without allowing it to swallow up everything else in American life.

sklar.corporatereconstructionMarty Sklar, a college classmate of mine at the University of Wisconsin in the 1950s, went on to become a historian whose field of study was this issue.  I didn’t keep in touch with him after college, but I recently read magazine articles paying tribute to him as a historian on the occasion of his death.  I was intrigued enough to get a copy of his major book, which is out of print.

The Corporation Reconstruction of American Capitalism, written in 1988, is about the debate over corporate monopoly and anti-trust law in the era when corporations first came to dominate the U.S. economy.

It covers roughly the same period and issues as Altgeld’s America, but in a very different way.  Ray Ginger’s book is about the hurly-burly, corruption and violence of street-level politics and labor struggles in Chicago, while Sklar’s book is about high-level discussion of public policy.

American statesmen saw that corporate trusts and monopoly represented a dangerous concentration of power, which farmers, laborers and independent business owners could not withstand.  But at the same time, these same corporations increased economic efficiency and productivity and raised the American material standard of living to a level never before seen.

I remember Marty in his college student days as a strongly committed left-wing radical.  But in his book, he seems well-content with the workings of American capitalism and American statesmanship.

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Ferguson prosecutor is a Democrat

November 30, 2014

Maybe you knew that Robert McColloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor who announced the decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, is a Democrat.

Maybe you knew that Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri also is a Democrat, the same political party as President Obama, Attorney-General Eric Holder and Marcia Fudge, the chair of the Black Congressional Caucus.

Or maybe you didn’t know but aren’t surprised.  I admit that I was mildly surprised when I learned these facts, but I shouldn’t have been.  Knowing somebody has a “D” or an “R” after their name reveals very little about them.

How times change

November 30, 2014

marriagevia xkcd

I grew up in Williamsport, Md., a little town on the Potomac River, in the 1940s and 1950s, and was taught by my parents, teachers and Sunday school teachers to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

It was not so far south that expressing this opinion would have caused anybody to be run out of town, but I do remember many arguments in which the supposed clincher was, “Be honest, Phil.  Would you want one of them to marry your sister?”

My answer was, “Well, if I had a sister, which I don’t, I wouldn’t want her to suffer all the grief she would have to go through if she married a Negro.  But, if she really loved him, I guess I would still love her and respect her decision, as unwise as it probably would be.”

In truth, I thought the question was a red herring.  I didn’t think interracial marriage would ever be common.  I thought it was just a talking point to justify the denial of equal rights.

In the 1960s, in Hagerstown, Md., in the same county, I attended the marriage of my friend Jim Yeatts, who was white, to Georgianna Bell, who was black.  A detective from the city police department sat in a police cruiser outside the church when the ceremony was performed.

That night the chief of police phoned the newspaper publisher, who was my employer, and informed him that I was among the guests.  The phone call didn’t have any consequences.  I mention it as an example of something that happened then that would be unthinkable now.

What was unthinkable then was same-sex marriage.  If somebody had asked me a question about this back in the 1960s, I wouldn’t have known that they were talking about.

Chief Tecumseh on how to live your life

November 30, 2014

Tecumseh02Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  Trouble no one about his religion.  Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.  Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.  Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.  Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.  Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.  If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.  Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.  Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

~Attributed to Tecumseh Tekamwthē: “He who Walks Across [the Sky]” 1768-1813, famous Shawnee leader

The cost of sleep deprivation

November 29, 2014
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

Via Barry Ritholtz: The Big Picture

When I was a college student, and on through my years as a newspaper reporter, I was proud of my ability to study and work while going without sleep.  Maybe I did this as a substitute for being macho.

Extraordinary Chinese gymnasts

November 29, 2014

Via Joyce Mummert Ireland and Elizabeth Mummert

I’ve posted a number of videos showing Chinese gymnasts doing remarkable things, but the gymnasts shown in the video above are truly extraordinary.

What makes teachers cry (and laugh)

November 29, 2014

[Update 11/30/14.  Well, evidently these answers weren’t in a GED (see comment below) and, since they’re Internet memes, they may not be from last year.  I hope they’re at least genuine answers from 16-year-olds.]

The following questions were set in last year’s GED examination.

These are genuine answers (from 16 year olds)

Q. Name the four seasons.
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.

Q. How is dew formed?
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed

Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important.  Sex can only happen when a male gets an election.

Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q. What happens to your body as you age?
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

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Why would a city privatize its water supply?

November 28, 2014

Big BadNo community could survive without an adequate and dependable source of water.  I don’t see why any community, or any individual person, with any sense of self-preservation would willingly give up control over something they need to live.

I first read about privatization of water systems as something that was imposed on poor Third World countries by lenders.  The World Bank, for example, has a privatization requirement when it lends money to build water systems.

But I learned from my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey, who lives in Baltimore, that water privatization is big in the United States, and that Baltimore itself is considering turning over its water system to a company called Veolia.  This would be a terrible idea.

Veolia is the world’s largest private water company.  Its headquarters is in Paris, France, and it has long managed water systems in France.  Recently, however, French municipal governments, including Paris itself, have decided they can get better service at lower cost by managing their own water systems.  So Veolia, in order to maintain its revenues and profits, has to expand business elsewhere.

Its track record doesn’t seem good.  Water rates are higher lower on average in public systems than in systems run by Veolia and Suez, the other big international water company, and there are complaints about not enough being spent on maintenance.  Private operators don’t necessarily follow the local government’s priorities for development.   The private company’s incentives may not align with the municipality’s priorities.

There are inherent problems with a private company that don’t exist with a public system.  Funds don’t have to be drawn off for profit and dividends.  And big companies have systems for charging subsidiaries for services, so that a subsidiary could be operating theoretically at a loss while the parent company makes a big profit.  There is an economic incentive to do that because the local water company can simply raise its rates to cover its loss.

And even if Veolia’s record is better than these articles indicate, no local government, unless it was very, very desperate, should surrender control of vital assets and services to solve a cash-flow problem.

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Starting the Christmas shopping season

November 28, 2014

uncle-sam-2

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation

November 27, 2014

Washington, D.C.

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.

To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plow, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,Secretary of State

via Thanksgiving Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.

George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation

November 26, 2014

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor–

And whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

1presNow therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–

That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–

for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–

for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–

for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–

for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–

for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;

and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–

to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–

to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–

to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations especially such as have shewn kindness unto us and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–

To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–

and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

via George Washington Papers: Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation.

If Michael Brown had been accused of murder

November 26, 2014

If Michael Brown had been charged with the killing of Darren Wilson, the grand jury proceedings in Ferguson, Mo., would have been very different from what they were.

Darren Wilson and Michael Brown

Darren Wilson and Michael Brown

The function of a grand jury is not to determine whether a crime has been proved or not proved, but whether the prosecution has enough of a case to justify going to trial.   That is why grand juries hear only the case for the prosecution and not for the defense.  It is up to the judge or trial jury to hear the defense and decide whether there is reasonable doubt of guilt.

If Michael Brown had been accused of murder or manslaughter of Darren Wilson, there would have been no question of hearing witnesses giving conflicting testimony.  The grand jury would only have heard the witnesses supporting the case for the prosecution.

If Michael Brown has been the accused, he almost certainly would not have been invited to testify before the grand jury.  He would have had to wait for the case to go to trial before telling his version of what happened.

I feel certain that if Michael Brown had been the defendant, the prosecution would not have taken this unusual method of presenting the case to the grand jury.

I don’t claim to know what the verdict in the Darren Wilson case would have been if all the facts were known and he had received a fair trial.   What I do claim is that the investigation was aimed at justifying the accused and discrediting the victim—which is a familiar pattern.

§§§

A prominent legal expert eviscerates the Darren Wilson prosecution, in 8 tweets, from Vox news.

The Independent Grand Jury That Wasn’t by David Feige for Slate.

Why whites and blacks see things differently

November 26, 2014

howtobesafeVia Matt Bors

Each time an unarmed black person is killed by a police officer, most of us white Americans see it as an isolated incident while most black Americans see it as part of a pattern.

Why would they see it as part of a pattern?  Robin D.G. Kelley, a writer and college teacher in California, listed some  things that happened while the Ferguson Grand Jury deliberated on whether to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.

As we waited for the grand jury’s decision, a twelve-year-old Black boy named Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police in Cleveland because the officer mistook his toy gun for a real one.  Tamir was playing outside of Cleveland’s Cudell Recreation Center, one of the few public facilities left that provide safe space for children.

As we waited, Cleveland cops took the life of Tanisha Anderson, a 37-year-old Black woman suffering from bipolar disorder. Police arrived at her home after family members called 911 to help her through a difficult crisis, but rather than treat her empathetically they did what they were trained to do when confronted with Black bodies in Black neighborhoods—they treated her like an enemy combatant.  When she became agitated, one officer wrestled her to the ground and cuffed her while a second officer pinned her “face down on the ground with his knee pressed down heavily into the back for 6 to 7 minutes, until her body went completely limp.”  She stopped breathing.  They made no effort to administer CPR, telling the family and witnesses that she was sleeping.  When the ambulance finally arrived twenty minutes later, she was dead.

As we waited, police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, killed a forty-year-old Black woman named Aura Rain Rosser.  She was reportedly brandishing a kitchen knife when the cops showed up on a domestic violence call, although her boyfriend who made the initial report insisted that she was no threat to the officers.  No matter; they opened fire anyway.

As we waited, a Chicago police officer fatally shot 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh.  Despite the officer’s claims, several eyewitnesses reported that McIntosh was unarmed, on his knees with his hands up, begging the officer to hold his fire.

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‘Assembled in the USA,’ but made in China

November 26, 2014

mftg&walmart-v4-1024x839

Walmart is selling TV sets with the label, “Assembled in the USA,” but the Association for American Manufacturing has complained to the Federal Trade Commission that the TV sets are actually made in China.

FTC rules say that a product can’t be labeled as assembled in the USA unless the principal assembly takes part in the USA, and the assembly work is substantial.  Walmart’s supplier, Element Electronics, doesn’t do enough assembly to qualify, the complaint says.

One reason American manufacturers have shifted production overseas is to meet Walmart’s demand for low prices.  Walmart is the USA’s largest importer.  That’s something for American Christman shoppers to think about.

∞∞∞

How Walmart Destroyed U.S. Manufacturing by Molly McGrath and Brad Markell for the Walmart 1 Percent.

Walmart Workers Ramp Up Protests for Black Friday by Diane Krauthamer for Labor Notes.

The Postal Service is not a business

November 25, 2014

Mail delivery is a Constitutional function of government (Article I, Section 8) and Pew Research Center found it was the most highly-regarded of 13 federal government agencies mentioned in a poll.  Yet the Obama administration and Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem determined to dismantle it.

Postal CarrierCongress imposed requirements, such as funding pensions 75 years in advance, that make it difficult for the Postal Service to compete.  But the deeper question is whether the Postal Service should “compete” at all.

There is no need for a government agency to provide services that private companies such as United Parcel Service and Federal Express provide perfectly well.  The reason the Postal Service is needed is to provide mail service for isolated rural communities and poor communities that the private companies don’t serve, and to provide backup in case the private companies falter.

§§§

If Congress doesn’t act in the next month, it could be the end of the Postal Service as we know it by Kira Lerner for Think Progress.

Why Congress Should Not Get Out of the Way of the Postal Service by Mark Jamison, retired postmaster, for Angry Bear.

The most popular areas of government are shedding the most workers by Drew DeSilver for Pew Research Center.

It’s the people’s mail that will be slowed, workers say by Alexandra Bradbury and Diane Krauthamer for Labor Notes.

 

The values of the Old South linger on

November 25, 2014

The Civil War ended nearly 150 years ago, but the underlying attitudes that caused it still exist.

confederate_flagThe planter aristocracy of the Old South were great horsemen and marksmen, had a strong sense of honor and were always ready to fight a duel or a war, while using the gun and the whip to keep a subject population in line.

Their values are echoed in people today who talk of secession and armed rebellion, while abridging voting rights and refusing to accept the outcome of elections as final.  They also are reflected in the automatic defense of any white person, police officer or otherwise, who shoots and kills an unarmed black person.

And in the denial of the obvious historical fact that the South seceded in order to protect the institution of slavery.

I don’t want to stereotype or scapegoat Southern white people or imply that, as a group, they are uniquely bad.  They are not all alike and not all of one mind.  The South has changed profoundly in my lifetime, more than I would have thought possible, and I think credit is due for this.

But having said all that, I think there is a lot of truth in the articles to which I link below.  I recommend them.

§§§

Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

The peculiar institution of American violence by Doctor Science for Obsidian Wings.

The War Nerd: Why Sherman was right to burn Atlanta by Gary Brecher for Pando Daily.

The worst voter turnout in 72 years

November 25, 2014

voterturnout2014

Only 36.3 percent of American registered voters went to the polls this year, the lowest turnout in 72 years.  Fewer than a third of registered voters actually voted in California, Texas and New York, and turnout topped 50 percent in only seven states—Maine, Wisconsin, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota and Iowa.

The New York Times editorial writers blamed the negativity of the election campaign, and changes in election law in some states that discourage voting.  I am in favor of more substantive debate in campaigns, and I am in favor of better election laws, including provision for early voting.

But I don’t think these get to the heart of the problem, which is a lack of a good reason to vote.  There was an unusually large turnout in 2012, reflecting the hopes of many Americans for peace and prosperity.   These hopes have not been fulfilled.

I vote myself as a way of affirming that I haven’t given up on American democracy.  I fear that many Americans, especially young people, are giving up.

§§§

The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years by the editorial board of the New York Times

‘As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

November 24, 2014

This episode of WKRP in Cincinnati is the funniest thing I ever saw on television.

The Koch brothers and the climate

November 24, 2014
Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

The Koch brothers are not causing global warming all by themselves, but they sure are a major obstacle to doing anything about it.

Here is a list of Koch products to avoid.  (Hat tip to Jack Clontz)

War and peace: Links & comments 11/24/14

November 24, 2014

Washington Plays Russian Roulette by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The great threat of nuclear war is not that some crazy Islamic terrorist will someday obtain a nuclear weapon.  The threat is that decision-makers in Russia, the only nation with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out the United States, will think the USA is attacking or about to attack their nation, and their only choice is to retaliate or strike first.

I don’t think that the decision-makes in Washington, wicked and foolish as some of them seem to be, really plan to attack Russia.  But they sure are doing things that give Russians reason to fear.

First, by expanding NATO to Russia’s borders.  Second, by bringing an anti-missile defense system to Russia’s doorstep, which, if it worked (it probably won’t), would negate Russia’s ability to retaliate or defend itself.  Third, by a reckless policy in Ukraine, which Pepe Escobar described pungently in this article.

During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, there were a number of times when American and Soviet defenders received false indications that their countries were under attack, and the decision-makers held back on retaliating.   To count on this happening every time in the future is truly the same as playing Russian Roulette.

Dumbing It Away by “Spengler” for Asia Times.

The Chinese don’t believe in Heinlein’s Rule.  They think U.S. government reduced the Middle East to chaos on purpose, in order to disrupt the world’s oil supply and strengthen the U.S. position as an energy producer.  As evidence, they point out that the Islamic State (ISIS) is led by Sunni Arab officers armed and paid by General David Petreaus during the “surge” in 2007-2008.

David P. Goldman, writing as “Spengler,” would like to send the Chinese leaders copies of Why We Lost: a General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by Daniel P. Bolger.   General Bolger showed that U.S. policy was actually the result of a sincere effort to reach impossible goals by means of an unworkable strategy.

Malarkey on the Potomac by Andrew Bacevich for TomDispatch

Andrew Bacevich, a political scientist and retired military officer, said U.S. policy in the Middle East is based on five false assumptions:  (1) U.S. forces in the Islamic world help stabilize the region and enhance U.S. power, (2) the Persian Gulf is vital to U.S. security, (3) Egypt and Saudia Arabia are valuable U.S. allies, (4) U.S. and Israel’s interests coincide and (5) terrorism is an existential threat.  Bacevich explained clearly and briefly why none of these beliefs is true.

 

SMALL THANKS 2014

November 23, 2014

reasontobethankful.qmI have many things for which to be thankful.  I have never in my life had to worry about where my next meal was coming from or whether I would have a roof over my head.  I have never been without friends.  I have good health for somebody my age (nearly 78).  I can honestly say I have everything I really want.

But this post is not about these things.  It is about small things for which I am thankful.

I am thankful for automobiles that don’t rust out.  When I first came to Rochester, the city and county governments used to spread large amounts of road salt in the winter.  Natives and long-time residents told me it was important to get a good rust-proofing service; I, foolishly, used an inexpensive service instead, to my regret.  Road salt is less of a problem now than it was then, but the plastic body of my Saturn doesn’t rust.

I am thankful for automobiles that always start in the winter.  I can remember when this was a big issue.  I would run my car in neutral when I got home, and before I tried to start the car, in hope of recharging the battery enough to get a good start.  Now, with alternators as standard equipment, that recharging takes care of itself.  I am thankful for automobiles that get good traction on ice-covered and snow-covered streets, for right-side rear view mirrors and for rear-window defrosters.  I am thankful for idiot bells that let me know when I am getting out of the car with my lights still on or my key still in the ignition; this idiot needs the reminder.

I am thankful for ballpoint pens that don’t leak over my shirts when I accidentally put them in the washer.

I am thankful the Barnes & Noble bookstore provides chairs so I can sit and read.

I am thankful for painless dentistry.  As a boy, I once had a tooth extracted without anesthetic.  The dentist used what looked like a pair of pliers.  He pulled and pulled and pulled, then had to stop and catch his breath before going back and finally getting it out.

I am thankful for plastic bottles shaped with grips.

I am thankful for thermostats.  My parents had a coal furnace, and we had to be constantly thinking not letting the fire go out, but also banking the furnace so as not to waste coal.  One of my chores, since both of my parents worked outside the home, was to go right home when school let out and shovel fresh coal in the furnance.  Now I have a gas furnace that doesn’t have to be monitored at all, and a thermostat which I can turn up or down when I feel too hot or too cold.

I am thankful for luggage with wheels.  I can remember walking through airports and, before that, train stations carrying suitcases that felt like they would pull my arms out of their sockets.

I am thankful for search engines since as Google that allow me to find information in two minutes that I would have had to spend an afternoon in library to get, if I could find it at all.  I am thankful for web hosts such as WordPress that allow me to have my own web log, free of charge and without needing to be computer-savvy.  I am thankful for being able to communicate with friends in distant places through e-mail.  Not to mention spam filters which free me from having to continually purge my e-mail and web log comments.

I am thankful for direct-dial long-distance telephone service.  I can talk to people in distant states and even foreign countries at an affordable price and without having to deal with an operator.  And for telephone answering machines.  When I was a boy, telephone service was like Internet service today.  Most people had it, but a large minority didn’t.

And not all telephone users had private telephone lines. Basic telephone service in those days consisted of a party line, networking a number of households; the phones of everybody on the line rang on every call, but you were supposed to recognize the distinctive ring of your own line and not listen in to others’ calls.

Microwave ovens are a great boon to a lazy cook like me.  I do almost all my cooking nowadays, which consists mostly of frozen dinners, in the microwave.

What are your non-obvious reasons, small or large, to be thankful?

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Bush and Reagan on illegal immigrants, 1980

November 23, 2014

During the 1980 Republican Presidential primary campaign in Texas, George H.W. Bush said the children of unauthorized immigrants should have the right to attend public schools, and Ronald Reagan advocated an open border so that Mexicans could work temporarily in the United States.

The video above cuts off Reagan’s statement in mid-sentence.  His full statement is:

I think the time has come that the United States, and our neighbors, particularly our neighbor to the south, should have a better understanding and a better relationship than we’ve ever had.  And I think that we haven’t been sensitive enough to our size and our power.  They have a problem of 40 to 50 percent unemployment.

Now this cannot continue without the possibility arising—with regard to that other country that we talked about, of Cuba and what it is stirring up—of the possibility of trouble below the border.  And we could have a very hostile and strange neighbor on our border.

Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems?  Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they’re working and earning here, they’d pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back.  They can cross.  Open the borders both ways.

This is the only safety valve right now they have, with that unemployment, that probably keeps the lid from blowing off down there.

Republicans have changed a lot in the past 30-some years.

As have we all.

SOURCES

What Reagan said about a border wall by Chris Ladd on GOPLifer.

Ronald Reagan Says ‘Open the Border Both Ways’  by Jesse Walker for Reason magazine.

The naming of Democrats and Republicans

November 22, 2014
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

Here’s an interesting chart showing the most common American first names, and the likelihood someone of that name will be a Democrat or a Republican.

People named Jasmine, Caitlin or Abigail are almost certain to be Democrats, and people named Duane, Brent or Troy are very likely to be Republicans.

Yes, there is a gender gap, with more women’s names on the Democratic side and men’s names on the Republican side.

Men named Dylan are the ones most likely to be Democrats, and women named Tammy most likely to be Republicans.

Vickie (with an “ie”) is on the Republican side of the chart, but Vicky (with a “y”) and Victoria are on the Democratic side.

Men named Philip (who spell their names with one “l”, like me) are near the middle, but slightly on the Republican side, but less so than people named Phillip (with two “ll”s).

I’m not sure of the significance of this—if any.

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Something to ponder

November 22, 2014

Twenty-five years ago, Rick Perry was a Democrat and Elizabeth Warren was a Republican.

via GOPLifer.

The passing scene: Links & comments 11/22/14

November 22, 2014

Whatever Happened to Overtime Pay? by Nick Hanauer for Politico.

Nick Hanauer, the wealthy entrepreneur who wrote “The Pitchforks Are Coming … for Us Plutocrats,” wrote a new article about how the erosion of overtime pay is a reason so many middle-class people are poorer than their parents.

In 1975, the Department of Labor’s definition of eligibility for overtime pay—time-and-a-half for overtime— applied to 65 percent of the American work force.  Now it only covers 11 percent.

President Obama could fix it with a stroke of the pen, Hanauer wrote.  Either millions of workers would get more pay raise through overtime.  Or millions of jobs would be created as employers sought to avoid paying overtime.  But Hanauer said his inside information is that this isn’t going to happen.

Bank of North Dakota Outperforms Wall Street by Ellen Brown for Counterpunch.

The Bank of North Dakota, which is the only U.S. bank owned by a state government, outperforms the big Wall Street banks while promoting the state’s economic development and financing public works.  Ellen Brown said the reason for the bank’s success is that it doesn’t gamble with speculative investments and it plows its profits bank into the state rather than into big bonuses and executive salaries.

How the Government Steals from Citizens by A. Barton Hinckle for Reason magazine.

D.C. police plan for future seizures years in advance in city budget documents by Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Steven Rich for the Washington Post.

 A reminder: The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that “no person … shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”  This is a principle of justice.  It should not be regarded as an obstacle to get around.