Saturday, December 31, 2016

Russia Hacking Our Election:
The Year's Biggest Fake News Story

Tancredo: Biggest Fake News Story of the Year Is Russia Hacking the 2016 Election
[...] So, pardon me if I consider President Obama’s moral outrage over alleged Russian interference in 2016 the height of political hypocrisy. Sadly, the only surprising thing about this manufactured ruckus is how many Republicans in Congress have joined the charade. Obama has his political axe to grind, and so do Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, political losers who have not let up on their criticism of Donald Trump since November 8.

United States government sponsorship and funding of interventions in foreign elections has been official government policy for at least 50 years since the Cold War began in the 1950s, and it has had bipartisan Congressional support. Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent ANNUALLY on such activities.

Hacking into computers to steal sensitive data, email messages and other information is simply the use of new technologies to pursue traditional foreign policy goals. It is not news that the Russians do it, and Obama has known it for eight years since the day he walked into the Oval Office. He also knows his own government is doing it on a massive scale.

So, I must ask: What is so different or so shocking if Russia was somehow involved in assisting the WikiLeaks theft and subsequent publication of the highly embarrassing DNC emails that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign? The New York Times and Washington Post showed no moral scruples when publishing other WikiLeaks-obtained information embarrassing to American politicians and national security interests. Why are the DNC emails more sacrosanct than Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails?

The brazen dishonesty and hypocrisy of the allegations of “Russian hacking of the 2016 election” is made even more grotesque by the sophomoric media bait and switch: While Russian hacking of both industrial secrets and government agency data is widespread, as is hacking by Chinese and North Koreans and others, there is no evidence of hacking into election machines or any attempted compromise of 2016 election tabulations.

Simply put, there is yet to be any evidence of Russian “hacking” of the 2016 election. And yet, the White House and the media establishment is intent on planting that idea in the American political conversation as if it were a proven fact. Trying to influence American public opinion is not the same as manipulating the election results and the attempt to confuse and confound the two is an insult to the American people.

The whole fabric of this fake news story is a fiction intended to mislead the public and cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the electoral victory of Donald Trump. Yet, when we look beyond the screaming headlines and examine the facts of the matter, we find there is no evidence the Russians have done anything that the US government isn’t doing TODAY in a dozen places around the globe. But somehow, we are supposed to believe they have engaged in impermissible interference in our politics. [...]
Read the whole thing. The facts are there, for anyone who bothers to pay attention.

As I said in another post, are they lying now or were they lying then? Either way, they ARE lying. And their biggest concern is that scandalous activities of the DNC were exposed by the Russians, not that the DNC was engaged in scandalous activities that could be exploited. We are supposed to be upset because DNC dirty laundry was exposed? And only now, because they lost the election, not before, when the same people blaming the Russians now, insisted before that Russian hacking was not a problem and everything was safe and under control.

It's time for a change. Throw the liars out.

Why Apps Won't Matter in the Future: Aggregators

... and smart bots and personal assistants:

Oh, and streaming. As technologies quickly change and evolve, so will the many ways we use them. Today's solution is tomorrow's history. The video also points out why these developments and trends are both exciting and scary.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Modern Russian Dance Music

File this under "Not your grandfather's Russia". I was perusing foreign radio stations on my Alexa app, when I came across this song on a Russian radio station. It sounded so modern, so ... "un-Russian", and it made me curious to know more. Here is a clip of the song being performed on a TV show. I think the song is in Russian, but I'm not sure, I think the couple performing are Ukrainian, and the Russian and Ukrainian languages are very similar, but the song and the dance are great, here it is, at what looks like Christmastime:

When I looked for the song, I found the Original Music Video on Youtube, where at one point it was the most watched video on Youtube by Russians. Clearly, some of my concepts about Russia need updating!

The duo's website:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Russian cyberhacking, and our election.
What's the most important lesson?

Russia Today: Not your grandfather's Russia. At least, not in every way. Some things haven't changed much, others have changed a lot. Check out Moscow's new business district:

Financially things are changing rapidly. With the end of the cold war they now have access to much more technology, science and information resources than before. So, could the Russians have hacked our election, to influence the outcome? This NYT hit piece tries to establish that. Much of it is quite irritating:
[...] Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor.

“I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call,”
Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo, obtained by The New York Times, that detailed his contact with the F.B.I. [...]
No way of differentiating the call? What complete and utter Bullshit. You ask the caller for their phone number, and tell them you will call back. Then you check the number on-line to see if it is a number from the place they claim they are calling from. You can even call the FBI and ask them if it's one of their numbers, and if the caller works for them. Even idiots and morons know this.

The article is full of shit like this. The truth is, they couldn't be bothered to take it seriously. Not until AFTER they lost the election. Rather than blame the unpopularity of their candidate and numerous other factors, they are looking for any excuse they can find to put the blame elsewhere, AND try to invalidate the election because they didn't get the result they wanted. And look at this BS:
[...] By last summer, Democrats watched in helpless fury as their private emails and confidential documents appeared online day after day — procured by Russian intelligence agents, posted on WikiLeaks and other websites, then eagerly reported on by the American media, including The Times. Mr. Trump gleefully cited many of the purloined emails on the campaign trail.

The fallout included the resignations of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the D.N.C., and most of her top party aides. Leading Democrats were sidelined at the height of the campaign, silenced by revelations of embarrassing emails or consumed by the scramble to deal with the hacking. Though little-noticed by the public, confidential documents taken by the Russian hackers from the D.N.C.’s sister organization, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, turned up in congressional races in a dozen states, tainting some of them with accusations of scandal. [...]
So the problem was not that the DNC was involved in activities that led to scandals, it was that Russian hacking exposed the scandalous activities to the American public?

Before the election, the Democrats in power assured us that Russian hacking was not a problem, that our election was secure and fair. Now that they have lost the election, they are saying the exact opposite. So were they lying to us then, or are they lying to us now? Either way, they are lying.

No matter what the Russians did or did not do, the fact is the Democrats are weak on national security issues, and people are sick of their lies, including people in their own party. The more these articles go on about how bad the hacking was, the more incompetent those in charge would appear to be.

Is the most important lesson from all this, that the Russians influenced our election, or that the people in charge of our government are incompetent liars that will say anything to stay in power, and need to be replaced? You decide.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

My New Mountian Dulcimer

I'm getting a Roosebeck Grace Mountain 5-string Dulcimer:

I've always wanted to play a musical instrument. The string dulcimer is one of the easiest to learn, so I'm choosing it as my first. Here is an excellent video about dulcimers:

And here at this link is a brief but excellent history of the instrument. And last but not least, a short video showing how easy it is to learn to play:

If all goes well, perhaps I'll take up the Psaltery next. Have you ever heard one? It sounds heavenly, sort of like a cross between a violin and a harp.

My Samsung Galaxy S4. Too Old Yet?

Verizon is nagging me to upgrade my phone to a Galaxy S7. But I haven't even learned all about my S4 yet. This video shows a bunch of things it can do, several of which I didn't know:

I'm sure the S7 has it's charms, but the S4 is more than filling my needs, and it's paid for, which means I'll be sticking with it for a while yet. Probably at least until I've got it all figured out ;-)

Also See:

Galaxy S 4 Camera: Everything You Need To Know

25 Samsung Galaxy S4 Tips and Tricks in Under 10 minutes!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

What's up with the vote recounting?

Something shitty I'm sure. Here is one theory:

Yes, I know, an anonymous youtube post that makes fantastic sounding claims. Serious allegations against the Clintons and others. Claims that Trump will be blocked, and that congress will "appoint" a person who is not Trump or Clinton, but who will actually be a surrogate for Clinton. Still, in 10 days, we can see if all or part any part of it has any traction.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Trump Win; how we got here

It was a combination of many things, but primarily Hillary's mistakes and weaknesses, combined with shifting demographics and political concerns that transcended party politics:

The Improbable Demographics Behind Donald Trump's Shocking Presidential Victory
[...] The Revolt of Middle America

America is a nation of many economies, but those that produce real, tangible things — food, fiber, energy and manufactured goods — went overwhelmingly for Trump. He won virtually every state from Appalachia to the Rockies, with the exceptions of heavily Hispanic Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, and President Obama’s home base of Illinois.

Some of his biggest margins were in energy states — Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wyoming, North Dakota — where the fracking revolution created a burst of prosperity. Generally speaking, the more carbon-intensive the economy, the better the Republicans did. Many of his biggest wins took place across the energy-producing regions of the country, including Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, Idaho, and especially West Virginia, where he won by a remarkable margin of 68% to 27%. The energy industry could well be the biggest financial winner in the election.

The Green Trap

Clinton’s support for climate change legislation, a lower priority among the electorate than other concerns, was seen as necessary to shore up support from greens threatening to attack her from the left. Yet the issue never caught on the heartland, which tends to see climate change mitigation as injurious to them.

This may have proven a major miscalculation, as the energy economy is also tied closely to manufacturing. Besides climate change, the heartland had many reasons to fear a continuation of Obama policies, particularly related to regulation and global trade, which seems to have been a big factor in Trump’s upset win in normally moderate to liberal Wisconsin.

Trump either won, or closely contested all the traditional manufacturing states — Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and even Michigan, where union voters did not support Clinton as they had Obama and where trade was also a big issue. Trump did consistently better than Romney in all these states, even though Romney was a native of Michigan. Perhaps the most significant turnaround was in Ohio, which Obama won with barely 51% of the vote in 2012. This year Trump reversed this loss and won by over seven points.

Agricultural states, reeling from the decline of commodity prices, not surprisingly, also went for the New Yorker.

Premature Epitaphs For The White Voter

Race, as is often the case, played a major role in the election. For much of the election, commentators, particularly in the dominant Eastern media, seemed to be openly celebrating what CNN heralded as “the decline of the white voter.” The “new America,” they suggested, would be a coalition of minorities, educated workers and millennials.

To be sure, the minority share of the electorate is only going to grow — from less than 30% today to over 40% in 2032 — as more white Americans continue to die than be born. Just between 2012 and 2016, the Latino and Asian electorate grew 17% and 16%, respectively; the white electorate expanded barely 2%.

In Colorado the new minority math was seen, with a strong showing among Latinos, the educated suburbs around Denver and millennials.

That may be the future, but now is now. Exit polling nationwide showed Trump won two-to-one among people without a college degree, matched Clinton among college graduates, losing only those with graduate degrees, a group that has voted for the Democrats since 1988.

But there’s simply more high school graduates then those with graduate degrees. And for now there are a lot more whites than minorities. As we look into the future, these groups will fade somewhat but right now they can still determine elections. Nowhere is this clearer than in Trump’s decisive win in Florida, a state that is home to many white retirees, including from the old industrial states.

Latinos may be the one group in the “new America” that made a difference for Clinton, not only in Colorado, but also in Nevada. Republicans paid a price for Trump’s intemperate comments on immigration and about Mexico.

They also made states like Texas and North Carolina closer, and may have helped secure Clinton’s win in Virginia. In contrast, neither African-Americans or millennials seem to have turned out as heavily, both in numbers and percentage terms, as they did for President Obama. Trump appears to have made some modest gains with both groups, contrary to the conventional wisdom.

Class Warrior

Class has been a bigger factor in this election than in any election since the New Deal era. Trump’s insurgency rode largely on middle- and working-class fears about globalization, immigration and the cultural arrogance of the “progressive” cultural elite. This is something Bill Clinton understands better than his wife.

Trump owes his election to what one writer has called “the leftover people.” These may be “deplorables” to the pundits but their grievances are real – their incomes and their lifespans have been decreasing. They have noticed, as Thomas Frank has written, that the Democrats have gone “from being the party of Decatur to the party of Martha’s Vineyard.”

Many of these voters were once Democrats, and feel they have been betrayed. And they include a large swath of the middle class, whose fury explains much of what happened tonight. Trump has connected better with these voters than Romney, who won those making between $50,000 and $90,000 by a narrow 52 percent margin. Early analysis of this year’s election shows Trump doing better among these kind of voters.

At the same time, however, affluent voters — those making $100,000 and above — seem to have tilted over to the Democrats this year. This is the first time the “rich” have gone against the GOP since the 1964 Goldwater debacle. Obama did better among the wealthy, winning eight of the 10 richest counties in 2012. In virtually all these counties, Clinton did even better.

What does this mean for America’s traditional middle class, whose numbers have been fading for a generation? Long the majority, notes Pew, they are no longer, outnumbered by the lower and upper classes combined. Yet like the Anglo population, in this election what’s left of America’s middle class has shown itself not ready to face the sunset.

Now What?

Given the unpredictable nature of Trump, it’s hard to see what he will do. Although himself a businessman, he was opposed overwhelmingly by his own class. Clinton won more support from big business and the business elite. If you had a billionaire primary, Clinton would have won by as much as 20 to 1.

Initially many of those business interests closest to both Obama and Clinton — Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood — will be on the outside looking in. Their advantages from tax avoidance could be lessened. Merger-mania, yet another form of asset inflation, will continue unabated, particularly in the tech and media space.

The clear challenge for (I can’t believe I am writing these words) President Trump will not be so much to punish these enemies, but to embrace those people — largely middle class, suburban, small town and white — who are not part of his world, but made him President. If he embraces his role as a radical reformer, he could do much good, for example with a flatter tax system, restoring federalism, seizing the advantage of the energy revolution and reviving military preparedness. [...]
If you read the whole thing, I think you will sense that the author does not like Donald Trump. Which rather makes his astute observations about Trump all the more interesting.

The long and short of it is, the elites in both the Republican and Democrat parties miscalculated a number of things. The Donald spoke to the people most neglected by the elites, and they selected him as their champion. We now have a Populist President, who is not really a Republican or a Democrat, by the standards used up until now.

Is The Donald prepared to lead? He has never been elected to any position, so we can't know how he will govern. Where will he take us, what will he do? We shall see...

Also see:

Doggedness and Defiance: How Trump won


Tuesday, November 08, 2016

OMG is The Donald Going to Win?

I predicted it would be Hillary, and said I'd have to eat crow if he won. Anyone got a good recipe for crow?

I had almost done a post about this article from the Atlantic Monthly:

Hillary Has No One to Blame but Herself
Despite all the advantages she enjoys, the Democratic candidate could lose the election in November.
If Donald Trump becomes president, the world will have Hillary Clinton to blame.

On the day her campaign released an ad that makes a brutal and effective case against a Trump presidency—“Our children are watching”—a New York Times poll revealed the cost of her squandered credibility.

Clinton and Trump are tied nationally, each supported by 40 percent of voters, in a survey taken after FBI director James Comey undercut Clinton’s shifting and deceptive explanations of her email practices at the State Department. A month ago, she held a six-point lead in the same poll.

While this is just one poll, virtually all statewide and national surveys suggest the race is tightening despite a number of factors weighted in Clinton’s favor. These include: [...]
You can read the whole thing. The many reasons. It's starting to look prophetic now. And it was one of many, from The New Yorker and more. For all the reasons these articles state.

I live in a Blue State, in a Democrat town. I've seen lots of signs for Trump/Pence. Lots of signs for local Democrats. None for Clinton. In the last election, there were tons of signs and bumper stickers for Obama. But this time, none for Clinton. I thought I saw one Clinton bumper sticker the other day, but when I got close, it didn't say "Hillary Clinton for President 2016". It said "Hillary Clinton for Prison 2016".

In so many ways, she was an unpopular choice for the nomination. So many Democrats who were younger and more qualified, who never got a chance to even try in the nomination process. This is what happens, when you try to push an unpopular candidate on people. Of course there are other factors as well. Read the articles I linked to for details!

Anyway, it's not over till it's over. We shall see.

Monday, October 31, 2016

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

And I think I wanna. The title of this song by Lesley Gore could easily be the motto for both Republicans and Democrats in this election. What a choice. The Devil or the Deep Blue Sea. I will refrain from saying who is which. ;-)

I stopped voting when I lived in San Francisco, because I eventually realised after 20+ years of voting that no matter who I voted for, the Democrat Parties choice for candidate would get in. Every time. So it didn't really matter if I voted or not. I'm feeling the same way about this election. Also, look at this photo of the USA from space at night:
Clearly, the majority of the people in the USA live in the Eastern half of the country. They are also in an earlier time zone. I predict that, like every other presidential election I've seen since living on the West coast, they will be announcing the winner hours before the polls have even closed in the West. Causing many voters in the West not to bother to vote. THEY, the Eastern half, choose the president.

I also predict that Hillary will win, because... the "choice" has been made for us. The "election" is just a side show distraction, to keep us busy thinking we actually have a voice in what happens.  I'm sorry if that sounds cynical, but I've been around for 50+ years.  I call it like I see it.

I'll have to eat crow if I'm wrong, but I doubt I will be. I don't know by how big a margin Hillary will win by, but I predict the media will call it a "Landslide", regardless. Anyway, we shall see. Meanwhile, the dissatisfied in both Parties have their motto. Thank you Ms Gore.

It is what it is. And we will have to live with it. For better or worse.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why the Republican Party is Going to Die

It may still have a pulse, but how long will it last? Could there be an Elephant in the room they have refused to deal with? Read on:

A Republican intellectual explains why
the Republican Party is going to die

CLEVELAND — Avik Roy is a Republican’s Republican. A health care wonk and editor at Forbes, he has worked for three Republican presidential hopefuls — Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio. Much of his adult life has been dedicated to advancing the Republican Party and conservative ideals.

But when I caught up with Roy at a bar just outside the Republican convention, he said something I’ve never heard from an establishment conservative before: The Grand Old Party is going to die.

“I don’t think the Republican Party and the conservative movement are capable of reforming themselves in an incremental and gradual way,” he said. “There’s going to be a disruption.”

Roy isn’t happy about this: He believes it means the Democrats will dominate national American politics for some time. But he also believes the Republican Party has lost its right to govern, because it is driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans.


His history of conservatism was a Greek tragedy. It begins with a fatal error in 1964, survived on the willful self-delusion of people like Roy himself, and ended with Donald Trump.

“I think the conservative movement is fundamentally broken,” Roy tells me. “Trump is not a random act. This election is not a random act.”


Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He himself was not especially racist — he believed it was wrong, on free market grounds, for the federal government to force private businesses to desegregate. But this “principled” stance identified the GOP with the pro-segregation camp in everyone’s eyes, while the Democrats under Lyndon Johnson became the champions of anti-racism.

This had a double effect, Roy says. First, it forced black voters out of the GOP. Second, it invited in white racists who had previously been Democrats. Even though many Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act in Congress, the post-Goldwater party became the party of aggrieved whites.

“The fact is, today, the Republican coalition has inherited the people who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the Southern Democrats who are now Republicans,” Roy says. “Conservatives and Republicans have not come to terms with that problem.”


“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”

Conservative intellectuals, for the most part, are horrified by racism. When they talk about believing in individual rights and equality, they really mean it. Because the Republican Party is the vehicle through which their ideas can be implemented, they need to believe that the party isn’t racist.

So they deny the party’s racist history, that its post-1964 success was a direct result of attracting whites disillusioned by the Democrats’ embrace of civil rights. And they deny that to this day, Republican voters are driven more by white resentment than by a principled commitment to the free market and individual liberty.

“It’s the power of wishful thinking. None of us want to accept that opposition to civil rights is the legacy that we’ve inherited,” Roy says.

He expands on this idea: “It’s a common observation on the left, but it’s an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true — which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

This, Roy believes, is where the conservative intellectual class went astray. By refusing to admit the truth about their own party, they were powerless to stop the forces that led to Donald Trump’s rise. They told themselves, over and over again, that Goldwater’s victory was a triumph.

But in reality, it created the conditions under which Trump could thrive. Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism — labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists — succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights.

“[Trump] tapped into something that was latent in the Republican Party and conservative movement — but a lot of people in the conservative movement didn’t notice,” Roy concludes, glumly. [...]
So what does this mean for the future of the GOP? Read the whole thing. It has embedded links and video to back up what it's saying. I've heard portions of this argument over the years, but the author here has done his homework and tied the facts together nicely. The way he ended the article speaks especially well to what we are looking at today. Sad, but true.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Many Contexts of Gun Control

How Leaving America Changes What People Think About Guns
When you live abroad, you start to see your home country differently. I speak from experience: After moving to Switzerland in 2006, I began to see American policies for what they were—one country's way of doing things, but not necessarily the best way of doing things.

There are few examples that ring truer than America's obsession with guns. While the US leads the world in mass shootings, with 372 in 2015 alone, there has only been one mass shooting in Switzerland in the last 15 years. The Swiss rank fourth in the world in guns per capita—behind the US, Yemen, and Syria—but the ownership is rooted in a sense of safety and responsibility.

The recent shooting in Orlando, Florida, is a reminder that the United States has some of the loosest gun control laws in the developed world and the highest rate of gun-related homicide—about 15 times higher than 23 other high-income nations combined. And while news of mass shootings has sadly become normal in the United States, moving abroad can show how differently Americans view guns. We asked several American expats about how moving to another country changed their perspective on gun control. [...]
This is an interesting, thought provoking article. It has many embedded links to back up what it says. The comparisons with various other countries were interesting, especially with Switzerland, Israel and Mexico.

I support the 2nd amendment, but I don't believe it has to pre-clude responsible gun ownership. We strictly regulate the ownership and use of automobiles, because they are dangerous if not used properly. Should we not do the same with guns? I for one don't want to see assault weapons in the hands of mentally ill and unstable people.

Yes, it's a slippery slope. So aren't many things in life, yet they still need to be pondered and dealt with. On a slippery slope you tread carefully and take precautions when you have to. It can be done.

In the US, gun control tends to be a push-me pull-me of two extremes, an all or nothing argument, allowing no compromise. Yet, this article shows how some other countries have approached this issue; as a right, that comes with a responsibility. We don't have to do exactly what other nations do, but we can learn from their experiences, and perhaps adapt some of their better ideas to our own unique circumstances. Can we not find a better way for US?

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Reading to change your life...

... for the better. From a Personal Development blog:

12 Good Reads that Will Change the Way You Think, Live and Love
[...] As readers, we not only learn more, but we are also more proficient at deciphering misinformation – our habit of reading gradually improves our judgment. And being able to correctly size up a situation is crucial for being effective at whatever we’re doing.

Speaking for myself, I know my reading habit has sharpened my edge. I’m always enamored when I’m working on a puzzling issue and some out-of-left-field piece of information comes to mind from something I’ve read that helps me put all the pieces together.

So with the importance of reading in mind, it’s time to read or re-read our 12 most popular posts (based on the number of reader views, social shares and comments) from this past year. If you give them a chance, each one of these quick reads has the power to change the way you think, live and love, so you can stay on track to living at your greatest potential… [...]
Some good topics covered here. The authors are Life Coaches. Excellent content, good food for thought. I will be referring to this list again and again.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit: Could it break up the UK?

That is just one of many concerns:
Could the UK hold another Brexit vote?
London (CNN)The UK made a historic decision to leave the European Union on Thursday -- but has so far hesitated on pulling the trigger to go.

Now questions are being asked as to whether it has to happen. Here are the scenarios in the conversation. [...]
The whole article is worth reading, but this may be the most relevant point:
[...] In Scotland -- where 62% of voters cast a ballot to remain in the EU -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested the devolved Scottish Parliament could attempt to veto a Brexit.

She also said Scotland could pursue a second referendum on leaving the United Kingdom in the event of a Brexit. Scots voted by 55.3% to stay in the UK at an earlier referendum in 2014.

Similarly, in Northern Ireland, where 56% of voters want to remain in the EU, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called for a poll on a united Ireland.

Cameron said Monday that Scotland's Parliament did not have the legal power to veto the referendum result, a position backed by Mark Elliott, professor of public law at the University of Cambridge.

As Elliott explains in a blog post, this is because the UK Parliament in Westminster is sovereign, and has not given away any of its powers to devolved legislatures like those in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

But Jo Murkens, an associate professor of law at the London School of Economics, argues that while Scotland and Northern Ireland may lack the legal power to veto a Brexit, the threat of the breakup of the UK presented a "political and moral" veto.

It is incumbent on Westminster MPs -- who were not just there to "implement the view of the people," but to "exercise political judgment" -- to block the Brexit to prevent the fracturing of the kingdom, he told CNN.

"It's not 52 percent to 48 percent -- it's 2 to 2," said Murkens. "Two nations have voted to remain and two nations have voted to leave. And if the overriding objective is to keep the United Kingdom together and intact, then MPs have a duty to read this referendum result differently and say in order to preserve the UK we will not leave the EU."

Pro-Remain MPs outnumber Leave backers in the House of Commons by about 3 to 1.

Armstrong agreed that the sentiments in Scotland and Northern Ireland could play a major role in how Britain's political class navigates its way out of the crisis.

"Once that politics starts to play out a bit more, and it becomes clear that it's not just a case of the UK withdrawing from the European Union but the UK itself falling apart, that again may crystallize minds in terms of what the future looks like," he said. [...]
Read the whole thing for embedded links and video. It will be... interesting to see how this unfolds. I think that the powers that be will not be in a rush to break up the UK. How they will avoid it, is another question. I expect there will be a lot of negotiating and compromising attempted, but who can say where it will lead to? Time will tell.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Retirement: a thing of the past?

For growing numbers of Americans, yes:

The new golden years? Work, work, and more work
During the economic crisis, some Americans worried that they'd never be able to retire. Now there's evidence that may be playing out, given that older workers are hitting 65 and increasingly staying in the labor market.

A record number of Americans over the age of 65 are working, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A decade ago, about 5 million senior citizens continued to work, a number that had swelled to more than 9 million last month. In 1994, slightly more than 1 out of 10 senior citizens was still working. Now, about one out of five Americans over the age of 65 remains employed.

While some seniors are likely putting off retirement because they want to continue working, it's likely that the shift reflects the economic instability that Americans of all ages are experiencing. More than half of people over 50 years old say they plan to or already have worked past their 65th birthday, with the majority of those saying it's linked to financial reasons, according to survey published this month from The Associated Press‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The ranks of elderly workers are likely to only keep growing, given that about 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 years old each day, a trend that's projected to continue through 2029.

Yet many of those boomers are woefully unprepared for retirement, at least when it comes to their financial health. In an annual survey conducted by investment firm BlackRock, baby boomers said they wanted to have about $45,500 in annual retirement income, although the average boomer had only saved up enough to produce slightly more than $9,000 in annual income.

Of course, Generation X and the millennial generation aren't likely to be in any better shape. The typical Gen Xer has far fewer retirement assets as someone of the same age had 25 years earlier, according to a J.P. Morgan study. Millennials, many of whom are just starting their careers, are hobbled by increasingly high student debt loads as well as an uneven job market.

The share of seniors in the workforce will most certainly continue to rise, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that almost 22 percent of the 65-and-older set will be working in 2024. [...]
Read the whole thing for embedded links, videos and more.

The answer for some may be to leave the country, for somewhere they can afford to retire to. It's a more attractive option to ending up like this.

Elites in Both Parties Created Trump's Triumph

Here are three articles from that make interesting observations:

We can’t vote for either one: On world stage, Clinton and Trump present different, but serious, dangers
It is pathetically impossible to determine which one would be worse, the only metric we have left. It's OK to pass
[...] The best that can be said of this political season is that the fixed framework of American politics appears to be fracturing. This will be a fine thing if it proves to be so, and I view this development as especially important in its medium-term potential on the foreign policy side. The question is whether things will truly fall apart, or at least begin to do so. Two policies hang in the balance above all others—the relationship with Israel and our fomented confrontation with Russia—and I will return to them.

For now we must accept that the process of coming apart, while desirable, could never be other than messy. And neither could we rightly expect to define its form. Political irruptions of the kind we witness are almost always uncontrollable during certain stages. Nobody knows where the water will go when the river overflows its banks. In this case, we have an egregious candidate who stands outside the political superstructure, apparently prompting paroxysms within the policy cliques and what we call the deep state, and an egregious candidate whose priority in all spheres is to reinforce both. I leave readers to assess the implications here as they might, but there is no denying it is a hard call.


Clinton, we have to conclude without qualification, holds out zero promise of an altered direction in American foreign policy. So far as I can make out, she has never once in her decades of public service evinced any modicum of imagination or original thought on a foreign policy question. This applies to means as well as ends. Clinton is shoulder-to-shoulder with Defense Secretary Carter on every question wherein their views have intersected and aired: NATO’s eastward thrust, the power transformation in the western Pacific, Syria, Iraq, the Middle East altogether. She could comfortably reappoint Carter as President Obama reappointed the hawkish Robert M. Gates (to the astonishment and dismay of many). There has been talk she could name Vicky Nuland secretary of state—more feminist progress, we would be advised in such an eventuality.

Clinton famously declared a “reset” in Russian relations during her early years as Obama’s secretary of state—amateurishly sending Sergei Lavrov some cutie-pie button so marked. (The Russian foreign minister must have looked at the ceiling half in despair.) We understood—or the Russians did, anyway—what this meant quickly enough: Let’s get back to the Yeltsin-era subservience. Vladimir Putin’s sin lies solely in his refusal; the rest is Washington’s expertise in crowd control—we being the crowd—and the Pentagon’s desire to keep defense contractors in double-digit profits.


My starting point with Trump is his position on American exceptionalism. It is implicit but discernible. He plainly considers America the greatest of great nations, fine, but he runs on the premise that it is great no longer. As the TomDispatch web site pointed out Thursday, “The Donald is the first American presidential candidate to openly campaign on a platform of American decline, while Hillary is still stuck in a world of too-many-superlatives for the waning American century.”


Here he is last Wednesday on the O’Reilly Factor, the Fox News program, when asked about the Pentagon’s recent allegations that Russian jets flew imprudently close to American ships in the Baltic. I would have said American ships sail imprudently close to Russian waters, but never mind:

“If it were me, I will tell you, I would call him [Putin] and say, ‘Don’t do it. Just stop it. Don’t do it.’ … Let’s go. Come on. We’re going to have a good relationship. Don’t do it.’”

“Don’t do it,” as an Irish journalist named Danielle Ryan has since pointed out, “is not some revolutionary position on Russia.” Of course not, and one would never select The Don to quarterback any genuine reset in Washington’s relations with Moscow. But it is impossible, simply impossible, to ignore the core thoughts: Trump takes us back to the pre-Bush II era, that time long ago when American presidents and State Department secretaries did not refuse contact with adversaries or those with alternative views. Trump would talk, not bomb, shell, sanction or subvert. He is not phobic with regard to the Russians. He does not demonize others with other perspectives. This is a positive value out of anyone’s mouth. Excellent he has introduced it into the conversation.


Hillary Clinton derives from a tradition from which American policy must break. Donald Trump by definition derives from no tradition. One cannot vote for the former, but it does not follow one therefore votes for the latter. Sanders supporters and various stripes of Hillary-haters who now contemplate voting for Trump—and one hears of many—should take note. Too many problems attaching to Trump.

To call Trump’s foreign policy thinking inchoate is too indulgent, given it implies he is doing his thinking and is not yet finished. I do not see that he has or is. In my read he still draws from the raw instinct that has propelled him in business, wherever that may be. He is a seat-of-the-pants man as yet. So we do not truly know what he would do in any given case.

He does not grasp the reality of complexity, let’s say. As noted in a previous column, there is some likelihood that the policy cliques will shove him into a crash course on the orthodoxy and the deep state’s protocol now that he is unambiguously the Republican candidate. But we do not know this yet, either.

We do not know much, in short. I confess to liking Trump’s capacity to connect with undercurrents in American society and culture that the elites of both parties have ignored with impunity for decades now. Deprivation and abuse among muddled-thinking people—political, social, economic—is no different from deprivation and abuse among the clear-minded. But this is not the same as elevating ignorance, xenophobia and “America First” nationalism to a position requiring respect.

All this puts him well beyond the pale. No vote for Trump, then.[...]
So don't vote at all? Usually I say, vote for the one who would do the least damage. Is it impossible to tell? Difficult, I concede, but I'm not entirely convinced that not voting is the answer. Though living on the West coast as I do, I have to say that I have lost any confidence that my vote has counted in any presidential election ever. Before the polls even close in the West, the Media is on the air announcing the winner. People East of the Mississippi pick the president, the rest of us... not so much.

I believe Governor's make better Presidential candidates, because they have held elected office and you can see how they chose to govern. But where are they in this election cycle? Gone. Which leaves us with:

Our awful elites gutted America. Now they dare ring alarms about Trump, Sanders — and cast themselves as saviors
Both parties ignored workers, spewed hate, enriched themselves, hollowed out democracy. Now the problem's populism?
[...] Elites on both sides insisted on not addressing the root causes of economic dissatisfaction, hence the long-foreseen rise of Trump. Paul Krugman, a Hillary acolyte, is nothing more than a neoliberal, whose prescriptions always stay strictly within orthodox parameters. Yet he was construed as some sort of a liberal lion during the Bush and Obama years. Not for him any of Bernie’s “radical” measures to ensure economic justice and fairness. Oh no, we have to stay within the orthodoxies of the economics profession. Now he’s all offended about Trump!

The worst offenders of all are the American left’s cultural warriors, who daily wage some new battle over some imagined cultural offense, which has nothing to do with the lives of normal people but only the highly tuned sensibilities of those in the academic, publishing, and media ecospheres.

The Hillary supporters have the authoritarian mentality of small property owners. They are the mirror image of the “realist” Trump supporters, the difference being that the Trump supporters fall below the median income level, and are distressed and insecure, while the Hillary supporters stand above the median income level, and are prosperous but still insecure.

To manipulate them, the Democratic and Republican elites have both played a double game for forty years and have gotten away with it. They have incrementally yet quite comprehensively seized all economic and political power for themselves. They have perverted free media and even such basics of the democratic process as voting and accountability in elections. Elites on both sides have collaborated to engineer a revolution of economic decline for the working person, until the situation has reached unbearable proportions. The stock market may be doing well, and unemployment may theoretically be low, but people can’t afford housing and food, they can’t pay back student loans and other debts, their lives, wherever they live in this transformed country, are full of such misery that there is not a single word that an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush says that makes sense to them.

This time, I truly believe, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them. When they did have a difference to choose from—i.e., the clear progressive choice, Bernie over Hillary, who consistently demonstrates beating Trump by double the margins Hillary does—the elites went for Hillary, even though she poses the greater risk of inaugurating Trump as president. And now you want us to listen to your panic alarms?

The game, for the elites, is over. This is true no matter what happens with the Sanders campaign. The Republican party as we have known it since the Reagan consensus (dating back to 1976) is over. The Democratic party doesn’t know it yet, but Bill Clinton’s neoliberalism (and what followed in his wake with complicity with Bush junior, and the continuation of Bush junior’s imperialist policies with Barack Obama) is also over, or well on its way to being over. The elites are in a cataclysmic state of panic, they don’t know whether to look right or left, they have no idea what to do with Trump, they don’t know what to do with the Bernie diehards, they have no idea how to put Humpty Dumpty together again.


The election of Trump would end the Republican party as we know it, but more refreshingly it would also end the Democratic party as we know it. The limits of the academic left’s distracting cultural discourse in keeping economic dissatisfaction in check would be fully exposed. Trump threatens the stability of the fearmongering discourse of Sullivan and his like. The threat to their monopoly of discourse is the real reason for the panic.

Oh, and Hillary, good luck fighting Trump with your poll-tested reactions. Your calculated “offenses” against his offensiveness against women or minorities or Muslims are going to be as successful as the sixteen Republicans who’ve already tried it. You won’t be able to take on Trump because you do not speak the truth, you speak only elite mumbo-jumbo. Trump doesn’t speak the truth either, but he’s responding to something in the air that has an element of truth, and you don’t even go that far, you speak to a state of affairs—a meritocratic, democratic, pluralist America—that doesn’t even exist. [...]
The election of Trump ending BOTH parties as we know them? In a way that does sound good... but what would they be replaced with? A Viking Raider, perhaps? Read on:

It’s not about sexism: Camille Paglia on Trump, Hillary’s “restless bitterness” and the end of the elites
We don't know if Trump can morph into a statesman. We do know the media/political class fears his threat to Hillary
[...] In our current campaign, the obvious strategy by Democratic operatives to disrupt Donald Trump’s rallies and link him to brewing fascism (via lurid media images of wild-eyed brawlers) has backfired with a bang. The seething demonstrators who blocked Trump’s motorcade at last week’s state GOP convention in Burlingame, California, forcing him and his retinue to ditch their vehicles and sprint to a rear entrance on foot, managed to alienate mainstream voters, boost Trump’s national momentum, and guarantee his sweeping victory in this week’s Indiana primary. With the withdrawal of Ted Cruz, Trump is now the presumptive GOP nominee. Great job, Dem wizards!

The helicopter TV footage of Trump and his Secret Service detail on the move was certainly surreal. All those beefy men in shiny, dark suits rapidly filing through narrow concrete barriers (like cattle chutes at a rodeo) and then scrambling up a grassy knoll! [...] The optics of the aerial photos made Trump look like a late Roman emperor being hustled to safety by the Praetorian Guard, which over time had become a kingmaker, supplanting the authority of the Senate and the old patrician class.

Trump has knocked the stilts out from the GOP establishment and crushed the pretensions of a battalion of political commentators on both the Left and Right. Portraying him as a vile racist, illiterate boob, or the end of civilization as we know it hasn’t worked because his growing supporters are genuinely motivated by rational concerns about border security and bad trade deals. Whether Trump, with his erratic impulses and gratuitous crudities, can morph toward statesmanship remains to be seen.


The aerial view of Trump at Burlingame gave me a moment of gender vertigo. His odd, brassy blonde hairdo, which I normally think of as a retro Bobby Rydell quiff, looked from behind like a smoothly backcombed 1960’s era woman’s bouffant. Shelley Winters flashed into my mind, and then it hit me: “It’s all about his mother!” I had never seen photos of Mary MacLeod Trump (who died at 88 in 2000) and immediately looked for them. Of course, there it was—the puffy blonde bouffant to which Trump pays daily homage in his impudent straw thatch.

In their focus on Trump’s real-estate tycoon father, the media seem to have missed that the teetotaling Trump’s deepest connection was probably to his strong-willed, religious mother. Born in the stark, wind-swept Hebrides Islands off the western coast of Scotland (the next North Atlantic stop is Iceland), she was one tough cookie. She and her parents were Gaelic speakers, products of a history extending back to the medieval Viking raids. I suddenly realized that that is Trump’s style. He’s not a tribal Highlander, celebrated in Scotland’s long battle for independence from England, but a Viking, slashing, burning, and laughing at the carnage in his wake. (Think Kirk Douglas flashing his steely smile in the 1958 Hollywood epic, The Vikings.) Trump takes savage pleasure in winning for its own sake—an attribute that speaks directly to the moment, when a large part of the electorate feels that the U.S. has become timid and uncertain and made far too many humiliating concessions to authoritarian foreign powers like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Despite their show of bravado, most savvy Democratic strategists have surely known for months that Trump was by far the most formidable of Hillary Clinton’s potential opponents—which is why they’ve been playing the race and riot cards against him to the max. Hillary has skimmed along in her bouncing gender bubble, virtually untouched by her too chivalrous Democratic rivals. Far from Hillary (in this election cycle or the last) having a harder time as a woman candidate, she has been habitually shielded by her gender. At the early debates, for example, Martin O’Malley was paralyzed by his deference to her sacred womanhood and hardly dared raise his voice to contest her brazen untruths from three feet away. Meanwhile, in debate after debate, unconstrained by the sycophantic media moderators, Hillary rudely interrupted, talked over both O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, and hogged airtime like it was going out of style. Not until CNN’s April 14 debate in Brooklyn on the eve of the New York primary did moderators forcibly put a lid on Hillary’s obnoxious filibustering.

The most pernicious aspect of this Democratic campaign is the way the field was cleared long in advance for Hillary, a flawed candidate from the get-go, while an entire generation of able Democratic politicians in their 40s was muscled aside, on pain of implied severance from future party support. It is glaringly obvious, given how well Bernie Sanders (my candidate) has done despite a near total media blackout for the past year, that Hillary would never have survived to the nomination had she had younger, more well-known, and centrist challengers. Hillary’s front-runner status has been achieved by DNC machinations and an army of undemocratic super-delegate insiders, whose pet projects will be blessed by the Clinton golden hoard. Hillary has also profited from Sanders’ too-gentlemanly early tactics, when he civilly refrained from pushing back at key moments, such as the questionable Iowa and Nevada caucuses, which he probably would have won had there not been last-minute monkey business by party operatives. [...]
And so it grinds on. I do agree with the one author though, that Trump's success is a direct result of the actions of the political establishment that is attacking him. In a sense, they created his success by the things they have done over the past decades. Are the majority of Americans turning against the political establishment "Elites" in both parties?

Perhaps we shall see in November. Meanwhile, people on both sides can sing "It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To".

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Oregon, the 5th BEST state to grow old in

That's what this article says:

The 5 best and worst states in which to grow old

[...] 5th best: Oregon
Oregon scores well on the quality of care available in the state, although its assisted living and nursing home costs tend to be in the middle of the pack. The state's population is rapidly aging, with its over-65 age group growing by 18 percent from 2010 to 2014, as the Baby Boomers hit retirement age.

The average cost of a year in an assisted living facility in Oregon is almost $47,000, according to, while a nursing home will require almost $96,000 in annual costs. [...]
And the 1st best? South Dakota. Who knew?

Saturday, May 07, 2016

What a real spaceship would look like

Or could look like, based on technology we already have or have within our grasp:

The video is from 2011, so no doubt there have been many revisions since. A similar, but more advanced looking ship was used in the movie The Martian. No doubt based on this design.

So when are we going to see this ship for real? Not in my lifetime, I expect. In a world where industrialized, technologically advanced nations are over budget, bordering on bankruptcy and/or currency collapse, I don't realistically see funding for projects like this for a long, long time. If ever. It may remain just a dream, only fulfilled in movies. CGI special effects are so much cheaper than reality.

For more photos from the movie, and commentary of the science, follow this link: SCIENCING THE MARTIAN

Um... Trump's Trump card?

Could it be political advisor Roger Stone? Check out this interview:

Donald Trump's Donald Trump
[...] Stone, Trump’s most influential and seasoned political adviser at the time, says he quit after the do-it-myself billionaire rejected his plans to create a traditional campaign structure and a suggestion that he seek to broaden his pitch beyond working-class whites. Instead, Trump put his mouth where he wouldn’t put his money, opting for an on-the-cheap one-man road show, fortified by monster debate ratings and an unavoidable-for-comment approach to cable and network TV interviews.

“You don’t manage Donald … you can't deal with him on that basis,” Stone, nursing a mild martini hangover the morning after celebrating Trump’s blowout win in the New York primary last week, explained. During an hourlong sit-down for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast, the 63-year-old former Dick Nixon dirty trickster offered a candid assessment of his longtime boss’s strengths, blind spots and daunting path to the presidency.

“He envisioned a campaign which was all communications,” said Stone — who has bounced back in recent weeks to re-emerge as a key adviser to Trump as the tycoon faces a dangerous new phase of his storybook 2016. “But the notion that you could combat — let’s take Florida — $40 million worth of negative television simply by going on ‘Fox & Friends’ and responding, I rejected that idea.”

Stone doesn’t have a formal relationship with the campaign (his role is limited by his stewardship of a pro-Trump super PAC) and he wouldn’t tell me how often he talks with Trump or his top aides. But the campaign’s shotgun reorganization (his former lobbying partner Paul Manafort has layered over Stone’s rival, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski) — and germinating kinder-gentler general election pivot — bears Stone’s fingerprints.

“He’s going to have to better articulate himself on issues that are of concern to women,” Stone said of Trump, stating an obvious truth that, until recently, wasn’t all that obvious to a candidate who prides himself on political incorrectness. “He is going to have to define a pro-growth, more aspirational message for African-American voters, for Hispanic voters, where I actually think he can make inroads.”

When I asked Stone how Trump could possibly do that — and whom he should tap as a running mate— he threw out John Kasich’s name almost by rote. Then he settled on a choice that seemed to better capture his imagination: “Little Marco” Rubio.

Stone, who worked as a dark-arts political type for Nixon and later Ronald Reagan, is a paradox in wide pinstripes and oval 1930s movie-star shades. He’s known for scorched-earth muckraking (he co-authored a book dredging up Clinton scandals and recently emailed me to say that the Clintons should “be worried” about him because “I know exactly how to take them down”) but he desperately wants Trump to make his peace with women and minority voters. Stone’s the ultimate Donald insider (he’s been on Trump’s payroll, on and off, for 40 years) but his habit of telling Trump what he thinks has created an arm’s-length distance. He’s infamous for his profane tirades and crass Twitter outbursts (he once mocked Al Sharpton — a onetime friend — with a fried-chicken joke) but he’s a charming conversationalist who speaks authoritatively about political biographies and pines for lazy Saturdays lost in the stacks of Manhattan’s famous Strand bookstore.


“Without telling tales out of school, because I have a nondisclosure, ... I envisioned a campaign that used the more traditional tools of polling and analytics and targeting and paid media, and a greater depth of organization,” said Stone.

But organization isn’t what Trump is about, and Stone offered tantalizing behind-the-scenes glimpses of a gifted self-taught politician still learning a new trade, a creature of habit who “doesn’t surf the Web” ever, and still gets much of his news from tabloids. The presidency is a drinking-data-through-a-firehose job, but Trump, Stone told me, is reluctant to even sip the water fountain; he finds even minimalist policy briefings to be eye-glazing, Jeb Bush-level bores. Stone loves Trump — he says he’s one of the funniest people he knows — but conceded it’s “an adventure” trying to counsel a reality-TV billionaire who refuses to be scripted or stage-managed.

Stone paused when I asked him how he — or any other adviser — could change the developer’s mind once Trump had been set on a course of action. Tread lightly and keep it punchy was his best advice.

“When you know somebody that long, you get an understanding about how to affect their thinking without being, you know, without being insulting or overstepping a line,” he said. “Nobody puts words in Donald’s mouth. He is his own conceptualizer. All you can do is present information and let him either assimilate it or not. When you write something for him, keep it short and staccato. He’s not going to read a 40-page white paper on the economy; zero chance of that. ... Reagan was a big-picture guy. Trump is a big-picture guy.” [...]

Lots of interesting insights. Read the whole thing. It's excerpts from an interview that was an hour long podcast, which you can click on and listen to near the top of the page when you follow the link. The podcast is even more revealing, it's quite an education.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Russia: Returning as a World Power?

Looks like it:

Thinking the Unthinkable: Russia Has Re-Emerged As a Great Power
The Western image of Russia and Putin in recent years has been very negative. President Obama has publicly called Vladimir Putin a “schoolboy who slouches in his chair in the back of the room“ and derided his country as a mere “regional power.”

This begs the question: how Russia could again become a major power after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991? How could Putin do this without an agrarian or consumer revolution and with the massive drop in the price of oil? If Putin is a terrible leader, then how can you explain successful interventions in Georgia (2008), Crimea (2014), Ukraine (2014-2016) and Syria (2015-2016)?

Putin, however, is actually a very shrewd leader with a brilliant Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who relies on a capable Foreign Ministry. Putin has rebuilt Russia’s military capability by spending $49B a year on security. Russia retains 1,790 strategic nuclear weapons. With over 140 million people and 13 million college graduates, Russia has nearly a million first-class scientists, engineers and technicians, most of whom work for the military.

Many former great powers are now no longer major powers. [...]
The article goes on to show the many ways that formerly great powers -including the United States- have declined in military and economic strength, leaving the door open for Russia to fill the void, as it is now doing. Read the whole thing, the article has many embedded links as well.

As I posted previously, while American policy in the Middle East is unfocused and confused, Russia seems to know what it wants, and how to go about getting it by leveraging what they have to work with and using it to maximum effect.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Are there relatively "Safe" places to live?

Here is a list of five, with reasons why:

5 countries with the lowest risk of disaster
Watching the events unfold in Japan and Libya has probably given a lot of people reason to consider their own safety, wherever they live. “What if that happened where I live?” is a perfectly natural question to ask when faced with wall-to-wall coverage of horrible devastation.

It’s true that no place is perfect, and there are always going to be some risks wherever you are in the world, whether it’s California, Indonesia, or London… but if you’ve been thinking about a move overseas, and the events in Japan and Libya have you wondering which countries run the lowest risk of destruction, read on.

* To be clear, what follows is not an exhaustive list, just a few countries that stand out as being particularly low risk for destructive natural disasters, nuclear meltdown, terrorism, or Qadaffi tactics. [...]
Follow the link to read about the five. Some of them may surprise you. The first one has been a favorite of mine for a while.

Do you speak Singlish?

They do in Singapore:

The official languages of Singapore
[...] Most Singaporeans speak a localized dialect of English called Singlish or Singaporean English, which can be difficult for foreigners to understand at first. Singlish is based on standard English with influences and loan words from Chinese, Malay and Indian languages. Singapore is a multilingual society, which is why Singlish developed over time. Singlish phrases are most common in the informal aspects of the English language, such as casual conversation. In school, every student learns English and a second language of their choice. Mandarin is the second most popular language, with over 70% of the population speaking it as a first or second language.
Wikipedia has more details on the Languages of Singapore.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

States people are migrating to...

And of course, those they are leaving...

The states people really want to move to — and those they don’t
When the U.S. economy slowed during the recession, so did one of the major demographic shifts of the last several decades. For a brief respite, the Northeast and Midwest stopped shedding quite so many residents to the burgeoning Sun Belt. That trend, though — which has big consequences for politics, among other things — has been picking back up.

New census data shows the trend accelerating back to its pre-recession pace. Florida, which actually lost more domestic movers than it gained right after the housing bubble burst, picked up about 200,000 net new movers between 2014 and 2015 (this number includes people who move between states, not immigration into the United States from abroad). Illinois, meanwhile, had a net loss of about 105,000 residents, its largest one-year population leak in the 21st century.

The District of Columbia, perched between the North and South, has been a winner, too.

The other big gains over the past year were Texas (170,000 new migrants), Colorado (54,00o), and Arizona and South Carolina (both with more than 45,000 each). Not a single state in the Northeast or Midwest gained domestic movers over the last year. [...]
I think much of it can be explained as people retiring and looking for a comfortable, affordable place to retire to. Younger people are likely going where the jobs are, and where there is affordable housing. Read the whole thing for more details, lots of embedded links, and more graphs showing stats for the regions of the US, and more.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pioneers of Hospice: Changing the Face of Dying

I saw this video recently. Here is the first 18 minutes on Youtube:

The full video runs about 50 minutes. It's very informative, well worth watching the whole thing. I've been looking for a copy, but the DVD seems to be out of print, with no indication of when it might become available again. Does anyone know? offers it for $249.00, but that's way beyond my budget.

I'm surprised the video has not been re-released and made more readily available. IMO, Hospice is a much misunderstood concept. This video does a lot to clear up those misconceptions. I hope that whoever owns the copyright will release the video for publication again, or else release it into the public domain, where it could do a lot of good.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

An amazing photo of the U.K.

I love this photo:
It's from this article: The Brexit Won't Happen, Buy The British Pound, which is about whether or not the U.K. will exit the European Union:
[...] Although the Brexit vote is some way off, we still feel an exit from the European Union is not going to eventuate. Because of this we have taken advantage of the lower pound and increased our long position.

Boris Johnson may be charismatic and popular with the people, ourselves included, but he is also considered quite wacky, so to speak. We feel many of the British public will take his view that the United Kingdom should exit the European Union with a pinch of salt, and don't consider him to be a true threat here. [...]
But the photo is amazing. Click on it to look at it in it's full size. You can still see the sky above the horizon, so I suspect it was taken from the very upper reaches of the outer stratosphere. So beautiful.


When are we going to STOP the insanity that is the useless Daylight Savings Time?

I'm serious. It seems to do more harm than good:

Daylight Saving Time is hot garbage
End the madness!
When Benjamin Franklin proposed Daylight Saving Time — he invented it — it was a joke. These days, it's more like a practical joke we play on ourselves every single year. It's time to end this dumb prank once and for all.


Proponents of DST will tell you that it saves energy. This is because a study in the 1970s found a 1 percent benefit to energy use in Daylight Saving Time. You may notice, though, that the 1970s are now 40 years ago, and energy consumption has changed somewhat in the interim. More recent research shows no difference in energy usage in places where it doesn't go into effect, compared to places observing DST. A few studies suggest Daylight Saving Time actually means more energy is used, rather than less. Take, for example, this 2008 paper that looks at southern Indiana: DST actually increases electricity demand to the tune of $9 million a year in Indiana alone. [...]
The article goes on to describe the affects of sleep deprivation, and the spike in the number of car accidents and accidents at work that occur for six weeks after DST kicks in. There are many, many embedded links to support what she says; the author really did her homework. Read the whole thing for embedded links, the history of DST, Ben's joke, and more.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Buy your own portable island...

And a submersible yacht to go with it:
This man-made private island has a penthouse, helipad, and shark-feeding station
For about $40,000, you can purchase a private island in Maine. Of course, barring any natural phenomenon, you and your piece of land will remain residents of the Pine Tree State, because islands are pretty stationary … unless they’re man-made and mobile.

Submarine company Migaloo will custom-make you a private island with ridiculous amenities. Named the Kokomo Ailand (presumably after the island in Maui), the island is moveable, but forget about getting there fast and then taking it slow; the Kokomo only reaches speeds of eight knots (roughly nine miles per hour).

At 384 feet long and with a penthouse 262 feet above sea level, it’s no wonder you don’t want to zip around like a speedboat. The island is really customizable, and the features owners decide upon will determine its price, Christian Gumpold, Migaloo’s managing director, tells Huffington Post. Some of the add-ons include pools, decks, spas, helipad, waterfalls, outdoor movie theater, and a shark-feeding station. [...]
It's a pretty cool concept. I say concept, because I don't see and pictures of an actual one. The price tag and maintenance costs must be... well, certainly beyond my budget! And I have to say, the idea of "shark feeding stations" sounds a bit disturbing. I mean, WHAT do you feed them? Homeless people? The unemployed? I've heard that the rich are different, but, really... it sounds like a plot for a horror movie.

Follow the link for more pictures and videos, of the "Island" and the submarine/yacht. And embedded links and more info. It is cool. And the shark feeding stations are an optional feature. ;-)


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Death rates rise for middle aged white Americans

Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds
[...] The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

“It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude,” wrote two Dartmouth economists, Ellen Meara and Jonathan S. Skinner, in a commentary to the Deaton-Case analysis to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Wow,” said Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on mortality trends and the health of populations, who was not involved in the research. “This is a vivid indication that something is awry in these American households.”

Dr. Deaton had but one parallel. “Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,” he said.

In contrast, the death rate for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics continued to decline during the same period, as did death rates for younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups.

Middle-aged blacks still have a higher mortality rate than whites — 581 per 100,000, compared with 415 for whites — but the gap is closing, and the rate for middle-aged Hispanics is far lower than for middle-aged whites at 262 per 100,000.

David M. Cutler, a Harvard health care economist, said that although it was known that people were dying from causes like opioid addiction, the thought was that those deaths were just blips in the health care statistics and that over all everyone’s health was improving. The new paper, he said, “shows those blips are more like incoming missiles.”

Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case (who are husband and wife) say they stumbled on their finding by accident, looking at a variety of national data sets on mortality rates and federal surveys that asked people about their levels of pain, disability and general ill health.

Dr. Deaton was looking at statistics on suicide and happiness, skeptical about whether states with a high happiness level have a low suicide rate. (They do not, he discovered; in fact, the opposite is true.) Dr. Case was interested in poor health, including chronic pain because she has suffered for 12 years from disabling and untreatable lower back pain.

Dr. Deaton noticed in national data sets that middle-aged whites were committing suicide at an unprecedented rate and that the all-cause mortality in this group was rising. But suicides alone, he and Dr. Case realized, were not enough to push up overall death rates, so they began looking at other causes of death. That led them to the discovery that deaths from drug and alcohol poisoning also increased in this group.

They concluded that taken together, suicides, drugs and alcohol explained the overall increase in deaths. The effect was largely confined to people with a high school education or less. In that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.

It is not clear why only middle-aged whites had such a rise in their mortality rates. Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner, in their commentary, considered a variety of explanations — including a pronounced racial difference in the prescription of opioid drugs and their misuse, and a more pessimistic outlook among whites about their financial futures — but say they cannot fully account for the effect. [...]

Read the whole thing for more details, embedded links and more.

I think key to this is the fact that it's affecting whites with only a high school education or less. The job market is particularly tough for them, and their coping skills are likely less resilient. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. The article goes on to talk about physical pain issues rising in this demographic, also. The combined health and financial problems, with a pessimistic attitude and substance abuse issues, may be proving lethal.

Of course there are those who are quick to say it's merely the Death of White Privledge; Whitey is finding out what it's like to be poor, and can't cope. That authors' agenda isn't mine, I prefer a bit more scientific objectivity. I include the link merely because it's a narrative we are going to hear more and more, as everything continues to get more and more racialized and radicalized.

I think the article about Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case that I've excerpted from here is more objective, and therefor more balanced.

Here is a link to readers comments about the study:
Readers React to Rising Death Rates of Middle-Aged White Americans.

Since the same demographic in other industrialized countries is NOT dying at such an increased rate, I would suggest that the difference is, that many other countries have a permanent unemployed class, that receives better, permanent unemployment benefits and health care. The same demographic here does not, which explains why they gravitate to Bernie Sanders: They want the government to take care of them, European style. Is that the same as the "End of White Privledge"? You decide.

This will be a growing issue as the automation of job tasks continues and jobs continue to disappear. What is to be done with the growing pool of unemployed people, not just here, but globally? It's one of the major challenges we face in the coming Brave New Word.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Push to upgrade to Windows 10

It continues:

Microsoft Makes Windows 7 And Windows 8 Support Worse
Think your copy of Windows 7 is supported until 2020? Think your copy of Windows 8 is supported until 2023? You might want to think again because Microsoft MSFT -6.00% has just announced radical changes to how it will treat users of both operating systems…

Talking on its Windows Blog, Microsoft has announced it will now stop support for installations of Windows 7 or Windows 8 if they are on new or upgraded computers running the latest chips from Intel INTC -10.34%, AMD or Qualcomm QCOM -4.44%. Specifically these are listed as ‘Kaby Lake’ (Intel), ‘Bristol Ridge’ (AMD) and Qualcomm’s ‘8996’ (the base for the Snapdragon 820). Between them these chips will dominate sales of all new desktops, laptops, hybrids and tablets in 2016.

In fact Microsoft is going even further than this by also refusing to support Windows 7 and Windows 8 on Intel’s current generation ‘Skylake’ processors, with the exception of a “list of specific new Skylake devices”. This list includes the Dell Latitude 12 and XPS 13; HP EliteBook Folio and G3 and Lenovo ThinkPad T460s and X1 Carbon. Even then support on those devices will only last 18 months ending on 17 July, 2017.

Yes, you read this right: Microsoft is breaking from 31 years of Windows history by refusing to honour its promised Windows lifecycles unless users stick to old hardware. Upgrade your existing Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer to these chipsets or buy new hardware and install Windows 7 or Windows 8 on it and the official Windows Lifecycle dates don’t mean a thing.

All of which begs the question…

Why Is Microsoft Doing This? [...]
Read the whole thing for embedded links, and the links at the end to related articles. I've posted previously about Microsoft plans to
force the Windows 10 upgrade. This also is pressure in that direction.

I've been using Windows 10 on one of my machines. It's not absolutely horrible, and even has some nice features. It is thus far proving to be about 95% stable. Unfortunately, the unstable 5% can kick in when I'm trying to get serious work done. I find such unreliability intolerable to try and run a business with.

I need a RELIABLE computer platform to run business software like QuickBooks. If Windows 10 does not improve it's stability, I will most likely migrate to Apple, because it's a mainstream OS that can provide that stability. At least I hope it is. Can anyone tell me differently? No OS is without some problems, but a certain degree of stability is necessary for business. I use a computer to get work done, not so I can work on the computer to try to get it to work.

Is this what successful foreign policy looks like?

Yes. Successful for Iran:
This humiliating Iran photo says it all
The Obama administration, the mainstream media and Democrats more generally vastly underestimate the potency of the photos and videos showing our Navy sailors on their knees with hands behind their heads as they are taken into custody by the Iranians. It is the perfect embodiment of what many Americans see as the humiliation suffered by the United States under this president as our adversities defy us and take advantage at every turn. To then have the utterly tone-deaf Secretary of State John Kerry insist that we did not apologize, but then publicly thank Iran, is even worse. And to top it off, we have film of our sailors held captive, compelled to apologize. The sole female sailor apparently was compelled to don a head covering.

This, according to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, is what a successful Iran policy looks like. No wonder Donald Trump, who speaks to the rage Americans feel about our declining respect in the world, is striking a chord.


The White House won’t dream of making a fuss, not when it so desperately wants to lift sanctions on Iran and push forward on the Iran nuclear deal, the very deal that has emboldened Iran to engage in stunts like this one. Oh, the administration is going to be “looking into the videos and would respond if the U.S. determined that the sailors were treated inappropriately.” Don’t hold your breath.

This is a propaganda bonanza for Tehran, one that it will exploit to the hilt to make clear to its allies and those it seeks to intimidate that the United States is weak, unreliable and useless. It furthers their ambitions in the region and demoralizes those resisting Iranian aggression. For countries and individuals on the fence (e.g. the Sunni tribes), the message is clear: You really want to stick your neck out for the Americans?

Bizarrely, Kerry thinks this shows how terrific our new relationship with Iran is because, you know, we got our people back. By continuing to act in effect as a PR flack for Tehran, Kerry invites further aggression and endangers our own troops and those of our allies. Be prepared to see Iran’s conduct become infinitely more audacious once it has pocketed more than $100 billion in sanctions relief. [...]
Read the whole thing for links and more. And get used to it. It's the Democrats Foreign Policy, and it's not going to change anytime soon.