Monday, September 26, 2016

Not bettter than Ben Franklin

Another of those newsletters my Dad subscribed to (some of which are still coming to the house) is The Hightower Lowdown, written by Jim Hightower. I know he used to be in government, though I don't remember under which president and in what capacity. He now writes this populist movement newsletter.

The September issue, which isn't on the website yet, is about the huge influence that cash from billionaires Charles and David Koch have on our elections. As I read through it I wondered, since I've known about this for years, why is Hightower getting into it now? There are two recent developments.

* A few months ago the Koch brothers made news because they refused to back Donald Trump and thus were not going to spend any money on the prez. election. However, they still have a great deal of money to spend at the state level. How many more state legislatures do they want to buy? And that is related to …

* Article V of the Constitution says that the states can call a convention to revise that document. There has not been such a convention since the Constitution was written in the 1780s, though it has been amended 27 times. But at a convention the whole document is open. To call a convention 34 states must approve such resolutions. Those have already quietly passed in 28 states (including Michigan) and efforts are underway in 10 more. And six of those have the GOP in control of the Senate, House, and Governor.

Of course, the Koch brothers and their minions have particular revisions to the Constitution in mind. Such as:

* Require the federal budget be balanced. And we know who would be harmed by those cuts – and it won't be the Kochs.

* Prevent gov't actions that would restrain corporate abuse of workers and consumers.

* Prevent the gov't from meeting public needs such as health care, voter rights, and infrastructure.

This alarmed even the late Phyllis Schlafly, darling of the right.
Alas, I don't see any George Washingtons, James Madisons, Ben Franklins, or Alexander Hamiltons around who could do as good a job as the Founding Fathers, and I'm worried about the men who think they can.
Donald Trump is scary. These guys are scarier.

Computer in for repairs

For those of you who haven't yet updated to Windows 10 I have one word:


I took my desktop computer in for repair today. As soon as the service guy heard I had installed Windows 10 he grimaced and said that's the problem. It will cost me $125 to go back to Windows 7.

Backing up a bit...

I upgraded to Windows 10 in July (just before vacation), close to the end of the year when it was offered for free. Things went pretty well, though my camera no longer talked to my computer to allow copying photos. Not a big deal. I figured if I had a bigger problem in 30 days I could revert to Windows 7.

The problems began 60 days after the upgrade.

First, the playback cursor on my music program (that's Finale) disappeared. It became awkward for me to listen to the music I wrote. The cursor has since come back without me doing anything.

Last week as I turned off the computer for the night it updated new Windows 10 files. The next morning it took 20 minutes to configure those files before giving up and spending another 10 minutes undoing what it had done.

Yesterday as I was using the computer it shut itself off. It then tried to reboot. It failed after 3 seconds and tried again. And again. And again. I had to turn off the surge protector to get it to stop.

Some of you with computer smarts would say I should check the BIOS. But it didn't get far enough into the boot process to allow that.

After the surge protector was off for a couple hours I tried again. The computer stayed up for the rest of the evening. But after using it for perhaps an hour this morning it shut off and began its rebooting cycle again. Each time I let it rest for a while. After being up for a while it would quit, sometimes saying, “Your computer has a problem and needs to reboot.”

After it was down for the first time this morning, each time it was up I did a bit of backup, copying to my external drive. But it did only 7% of the third set of folders before the copy froze.

I talked to the repair guy for a while, making sure he knew where my email and calendar stuff was. He's pretty sure he can set aside and restore all the rest of my files, though not the programs. I'll probably spend the week rebuilding the system (like I didn't have anything else to do this week).

The repair guy also told me a bit about Windows 10. He says its primary purpose was to go through my system and report what it found back to headquarters. I'm not on Facebook because it routinely violates privacy. Then I find I installed an operating system that is designed to violate privacy.

In addition, said the guy, Windows 10 is quite buggy and Microsoft is being slow in resolving the bugs. I had waited the year in hopes all these bugs would be resolved. They were able to wait even longer.

As for the half-hearted promise that I could go back to Windows 7 within 30 days, well, Microsoft almost always found a reason to delete the files that made that possible well before the 30 days were up, meaning if you didn't like 10 you had to buy 7 again.

So I'm annoyed with Microsoft for: 1) violating my privacy, 2) releasing a buggy system on me, 3) causing me to spend $125 to undo the damage, and 4) spending a week to recover.

I'm writing this on my netbook computer, still running Windows 7.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Doing just fine

A big triumph of the progressive movement is the adoption of Social Security expansion. Democrats from Obama on down have signed on to the idea. Joan McCarter of Daily Kos posed five questions to Nancy Altman, founding co-director of Social Security Works. This is some of what was said.

In spite of those on the right convincing the Millenials that SS system is so broken it won't be around for them, SS is doing just fine. The right has been pushing that idea since about the time SS was signed by Franklin Roosevelt and it hasn't come true yet.

SS benefits are quite modest – we can afford it. And it is well run with administration costing less than 1%. So it won't take any more admin costs to expand the SS system. The expansion issues are:

* Help with the looming retirement income crisis.

* Add paid sick leave, paid family leave, caregiver credits, children's allowances.

* Lower the age to qualify for Medicare, the medical part of the SS idea, until it becomes Medicare for all.

Expanding Social Security can cultivate allies among the young. The SS system works better when the workforce is better educated and has well-paying jobs. So supporters of SS should also support debt-free college. They should also support workers rights, collective bargaining, and raising the minimum wage.

Blocked budget

The Senate has to do its part to pass a government spending bill by Friday of next week or the gov't will shut down. They're expected to manage only enough spending to last until December – so we'll do this again after the election. The GOP is ready to fund aid to Baton Rouge to help after their floods. Funding to help with Zika without also dinging Planned Parenthood has been resolved. So what's the hold-up?


Democrats are insisting that the bill include money to help Flint with its water crisis. Republicans? Not so much. Gosh, it wouldn't be because of the kinds of people who live in Flint, would it? Or maybe it is because of how Flint tends to vote compared to how Baton Rouge tends to vote?

The GOP keeps proposing versions of the bill they know will annoy the Dems. And one of those annoyances is the Flint money is financed by cutting the budget elsewhere while the Baton Rouge money will be added to the national debt – an idea usually forbidden by the GOP.


Guernsey, part of Britain, has voted 33-5 to approve same-sex marriage. Over 90% of respondents declared support for legal recognition of committed couples. The legislation now goes for the Royal Assent and marriages can begin in 2017. Northern Ireland is now the only part of Britain without same-sex marriage.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You play by my rules

Karen Waver, mayor of Flint, MI is so fed up with the state for its role in the cause of Flint's water fiasco and its ongoing unwillingness to help fix the problem that she started the process to sue the state.

The state quickly changed the rules to prohibit Flint from suing the state.

Because Flint went through economic problems and had an emergency manager up to April 2015 the city still has a Receivership Transition Advisory Board. This board declared Flint can't sue Michigan without its approval. So, yeah, the state gets to approve whether the state can be sued. Are we surprised the board is GOP appointed and controlled?

I've got mine

Many pundits have said that with such high unfavorable ratings of both major candidates this is a good year for the alternatives, such as the Libertarian and Green party candidates. I'm pleased that Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party seems stuck at under 9%, though it would be good if he pulled a few more votes from Trump.

The editors of Shareblue take a look at four parts of the Libertarian platform, though it can be summed up rather easily: I've got mine. Too bad you don't have yours.

Taxes: Johnson is saying we should eliminate all income, property, and business taxes and fund the government with a consumption (sales) tax. But the consumption tax is the most regressive tax – the poor have to spend (and be taxed) on a much higher percent of their income than the rich for daily living. For a poor person, about 100% of their income would be taxed. For a rich person that might be 1% of their income.

Minimum wage: Johnson doesn't support it. Want more money? Switch jobs or become an entrepreneur! But some people don't have the education to switch jobs (see below) and there aren't enough higher paying jobs for everyone who wants one. As for being your own boss, because of racism and classism many people can't get a business loan.

Education: Johnson says college should not be free (something Sanders pushed, and Clinton has taken up). As for public schools, Johnson wants to abolish the federal Dept. of Education. Too bad if you're in a state that routinely underfunds its schools and refuses to teach sound science (such as evolution) or demands teaching abstinence-only sex ed.

Healthcare: Johnson has said there is no way a government can have a system that manages health care. He must not have tangled with an insurance company denying coverage. Johnson insists a, "market-based approach should be the foundation of any solution." But it is easy to show that proper health care is incompatible with the profit motive. (Several other things incompatible with the profit motive are here).

The Libertarian Party platform doesn't work for marginalized people – and not even for the young of the well-to-do who are just starting out on their own.

The Libertarians say they are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I'm sure they mean they approve (or at least don't disapprove) of same-sex marriage. But socially liberal means more than that. Just one example: it means everyone gets a good K-12 education and doesn't have huge college debts weighing them down. So fiscally conservative and socially liberal can't mix.