Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why aren't they supporting us?

A couple times now I've mentioned Donald Trump's overtures to blacks – "What have you got to lose?" – isn't about blacks but trying to convince white voters he isn't racist. Terrence Heath, who is black (and gay and not Christian), explains things from the receiving end of Trump's remarks.

From the black perspective Trump's comments are backhanded (if one is generous) or they drip with contempt (if one isn't). They've already heard so much racist language from Trump that his contempt for them is already obvious.

That contempt has long been part of the GOP outreach to blacks. That is said loud and clear in such messages as Romney's "If you knew what's good for you, you'd vote for me." Or in the general GOP lament, "Why aren't more of them supporting us?"

The question is never, "What can we do so blacks will want to support us?"

The answer to the question actually asked is easier.
They don’t know what’s good for them. It let’s conservatives off the hook, and puts the onus on African-Americans for being too dumb to know what’s good for us, and thus mindlessly voting for Democrats. The contempt plainly flows from there.

If Trump really wanted to reach out to African-Americans, he’d go to where we are and talked directly to us. More importantly, if he really wanted African-American support, he’d listen.
Which means he doesn't care about black voters. He's trying to convince white voters he isn't racist.

Hillary Clinton did a fine speech listing all of the racist things Trump has said and done. What caught Heath's attention is that no GOP politician came to Trump's defense. None denounced him either – none said that they could no longer in good conscience support Trump.

Hillary said Trump is racist. The GOP responded by saying: um, yeah, OK.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Seventeen Solutions – local economy and science

Most years my yard and neighborhood can have mosquitoes so thick I don't want to be outside, which can mean yard work doesn't get done. Some years the pesky things were good at getting into the house. This year there have been no mosquitoes – until a couple days ago. And one just buzzed my ear as I sat in the kitchen. I'm sure the series of August storms had something to do with it.

On to continuing my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.

2. The Local Economy

Local businesses have been largely replaced by outposts of national corporations. But these nationals have no stake in the health of any particular community. Their only goal is to maximize what goes into shareholder pockets. America feels abandoned. Nader delves into the problem, including the disconnect between what corporations create and what we need:
For decades, our corporate economy has been shifting its focus from fulfilling basic human needs (food, shelter, warmth) to fulfilling (and creating!) more trivial wants and whims. From commercial entertainment, video games, and spectator sports, to stylized snack foods, communication gadgets, and even redundant weapons systems, corporations have invested billions of dollars into research and development (R & D) on items that rob consumers of endless amounts of their not-so-disposable income. And this continues even though large segments of the population are suffering from inadequate nutrition, employment, capital ownership, shelter, transportation, and health care coverage.

The disconnect between corporations and the rest of America is documented in many other posts. You can find them here.

What is the alternative? Nader proposes local cooperatives, business owned and controlled by the community. The coop has bargaining power to use against corporations including quality, safety, nutrition, durability and sustainability. It also can determine what products not to provide, such as foods with harmful ingredients. They can search for specialty products including what is made locally. They can branch into insurance, media, travel, and adult education. They can partner with other coops for manufacturing. The power is local and includes issues beyond profit, such as sustainability and the environment.
Are consumers willing to step away from the creeping corporatization of their lives and take the time to empower their dollars by joining economic institutions that will endure and outlast their originators? The internet offers infinite new promise … Yet it will take more than just technology to interest the American people at large in the potential of community-based cooperatives; it will take a new awakening of interest in our shared standard of living.
Lisbeth Schorr discusses successful pilot programs and wonders why they don't survive outside the pilot phase. She provides an answer:
The problems arise when the successful pilot program is to expand and thereby threatens the basic political and bureaucratic arrangements that have held sway over the decades … When effective programs aiming to reach large numbers encounter the pressures exercised by prevailing attitudes and systems, the resulting collision is almost always lethal to the effective programs.
Nader says the solution requires
a concerted effort to educate the people on the benefits of local economic self-reliance – to show how much more secure, enjoyable, safe, and happy their lives can be when they participate in and reap the benefits of decisions about their own communities – decisions that are now being made thousands of miles away by a few powerbrokers who view them as mere subentries on an income statement.
Yes, this is hard work.

3. Science for the People

Back in the mid 1980s there was lots of news (or perhaps lots of mentions in the science fiction magazines I bought) about nanotechnology. I even bought a book about it, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology by Eric Drexler. I never actually got around to reading it and I probably lost it in my move to and from Germany a few years later – or perhaps lost in the basement flood five years ago.

With something that showed so much promise and the potential for being so revolutionary and newsworthy, what happened? Where are the medical nanobots? Where is my replicator?

Nader's answer: Nanotechnology is still being developed, but it has been swallowed by the corporate black hole. We might see the results on consumer products, but otherwise no light gets out.

Over the last few decades corporations have been very aggressive in exerting power of academic science, regulatory agencies, and the tort civil justice system. In the case of academia it means offering joint ventures that tie the hands of academic scientists. The contracts state research is owned by the corporation and turned over before the results are published in scientific journals. Sometimes the corporations appoint faculty.

This is why it is a problem:

* Much university research is subsidized by the US Government. This mean taxpayer money is funding research that benefits only corporations and not the public at large.

* It skews what kind of research is being done. We get research that benefits the corporation, not the general public, such as ecological problems. We don't get enough research into antibiotics, leading to microbes that are now resistant to known ways to combat them.

* It undermines the objectivity of university science while jeopardizing academic freedom.

* Professors face a hostile climate when serving as expert witnesses in product liability cases. Fewer are willing to face down the industry's well-compensated "experts."

* Professors are less able to argue for public safety when new technologies are developed. I had mentioned nanotechnology. If it is done wrong it could cause catastrophic damage to the environment. An example is a nanocritter that "eats" pollution. What if it also "eats" necessary algae? Corporations aren't paying much attention to anything but the profits. Someone needs to be the independent voice calling for proper safeguards and controls.

If academia's independence is corroded,
society loses exactly what President Eisenhower considered the crucial rule of a free university: to be a "fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery,"of "intellectual curiosity, "of "the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society."
What to do?

One part is to encourage and join civic movements. Some already exists. An example is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI). They are challenging the Food Industry and informing citizens about foods that are both nutritious and delicious.

Faulty and fraudulent science must be exposed to the public, not buried in corrections and retractions in scientific journals.

Encourage citizen science. Train citizens how to do such things as measure pollution or the number of salamanders in a region as a guide to environment health. Teach science literacy – how to tell good science from bad.

Stop subsidizing fossil fuels and start subsidizing renewables, especially solar.
The sun is accessible to everyone, everywhere. No one owns it. No one can subject it to a cartel. No one can make it scarce. … And, for the energy companies, that's the problem. … Ordinary people just don't have the wherewithal to find coal, gas, oil, or uranium, or time mine them, or to refine them and transport them to market.

Solar power holds the promise of making our communities self-sufficient, reducing pollution and climate disruption, cutting our dependency on foreign resources, lowering our trade deficits, decreasing our risk of nuclear sabotage and proliferation, eliminating wars over oil, making our economy more efficient, all while demonstrating respect for both our planet and future generations.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Seventeen Solutions – taxes

I usually have a book in my car. I take it with me when I know I'll have time to read – doctor waiting rooms, dentist chairs (while waiting for x-rays to be developed), physical therapy appointments (for the 15 minutes of ice after a workout), movie theaters, restaurants when I'm by myself, concert halls (for before the concert), Ruth Ellis Center (when taking a break), that kind of thing. I tend not to have a fiction book in the car. It needs to be something I can read in short bursts with perhaps several days before I open it again.

The book in my car I recently finished is The Seventeen Solutions, Bold Ideas for Our American Future by Ralph Nader.

Yes, that Ralph Nader. He made his name in 1965 with the book Unsafe at Any Speed about the poor safety record of American cars. He is credited with the passage of several important consumer protection laws, such as the Clean Water Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act. He ran for president six times and is accused of being a spoiler in the 2000 election, siphoning off enough votes in Florida so that George Bush and Al Gore ended up essentially tied.

And this year Nader annoyed some people (like me) with is criticism of Clinton and his (mild) praise of Trump. At 82 is his brain affected by old age?

The book, published in 2012, sat on my shelf for a couple years. My delay was because I thought proposing all these wonderful ideas isn't much good if you don't provide a way of getting the ideas past the GOP held Congress. We're in this mess because the GOP lackeys are beholden to big corporations and they're not going to give up power by nicely asking. So what is the plan in getting these ideas implemented? My skepticism continued while reading the book, especially when I saw how the corporate takeover of America has affected more and more areas of our lives. Corporations have overrun that too?

Even so, I thought the various ideas are what this country needs. Because I think the ideas are so great and explained so well, I'll review them here. I certainly won't get through all of them in one blog post. This, then, is the first in a series.

1. Tax Reform
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has published a brief overview of five principles of sound tax policy.

* Equity evaluates whether the tax system is fair. It comes in two varieties.

Vertical Equity means the poor pay as little or as much as the rich do in relation to their income. This is the classification of taxes into progressive or regressive. Regressive taxes, such as sales taxes and flat income tax rates, take a bigger (higher percentage) chunk out of the lower incomes than the wealthy incomes.

An often cited reason for progressive taxes is poor people feel the pinch when rates are raised, rich people don't. There are two more reasons. First, the rich have economic power. They can hold down the wages of the poor – check the rising ratio between the average worker and the CEO. Second, the rich have political power and can rig the laws to favor themselves. This can be done through corporate subsidies, free tech transfers, non-compete gov't contracts, undervalued mineral and timber licenses, and other tactics.

Horizontal Equity means different forms of income are taxed at the same rate. Currently, income from labor can be taxed as high as 33% while capital gains income is at 15%.

* Adequacy means the gov't has a stable and sufficient source of revenue to fund the public services we need. Our current method meets this goal in principle (though many state legislatures intentionally underfund what their citizens need in services).

* Simplicity allows for enforcement of the tax code. The current system means corporate tax attorneys can run circles around overburdened IRS auditors. Which means the IRS finds it easier to go after the petty violations of the middle class and working poor. A "tax industry" of lawyers, accountants, and consultants thrives on the complexity of our tax system.

* Exportability means preventing people from avoiding taxes by crossing state lines. When you travel to another state, you pay that state's sales tax. Business taxes are based on the amount of business in each state.

* Efficiency means a business is making decisions based on business reasons, not on tax avoidance reasons. For example, a Reagan tax break on commercial real estate prompted an oversupply of office buildings. These unused office towers meant more productive investments didn't happen – and were paid for by taxpayers.

Our current system fails on equity, simplicity, efficiency, and likely adequacy. Nader documents this well. Though we grumble about taxes there is an amazing little serious and thoughtful public discussion of tax policy. What we get instead is outrage and platitudes from pandering politicians. The proposed budgets by Speaker Paul Ryan and Donald Trump perpetuate all these current failures.

By any other name

Kris Kobach, Secretary of State of Kansas, is promoting the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. States can use it to verify that a voter is registered in only one state. Sounds reasonable. The Crosscheck program matches names – first, middle, last – plus birth date and last four of SSN.

Except it doesn't. Greg Palast of Rolling Stone found that the program is matching only first and last names. And 85 of the top 100 most common last names are used by minorities. Meaning minority voters are much more likely to be matched with people in other states and it is minority voters who are most likely to be purged in battleground states such as Ohio and North Carolina. And they're likely to not find out about it until election day.

When I last wrote I mentioned that Trump appears to be wooing black voters. I said he is doing this to convince white voters he isn't racist. I've now heard that reasoning mentioned by several media stories, such as at DailyKos and NPR. No, I did not originate this idea.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Faith in the ballot box

It would be easy to endlessly talk about the latest antics of Donald Trump. A lot of progressive blogs have several articles per day and Trump manages to give them an endless supply of things to write about. But I'll only mention three today.

Last week Trump made a bid for the black vote. You live in poverty. Your schools are no good. Your youth can't get jobs. Most of your men are in jail. Vote for me. What have you got to lose?

Laura Clawson of Daily Kos has a couple observations. First, Trump said this before a white audience. He didn't go to a black audience or meet with black leaders. Second, it gave his new campaign manager a really warm feeling.

Translation. A lot of voters, especially white women won't vote for Trump because he is so nasty to minorities. He is saying to these white voters, I'm not so bad after all.

Just keep in mind the kind of justices Trump will nominate.

Trump has been notable in not releasing his income tax statements. The last prez. candidate to not release was Richard Nixon. The New York Times tried to unravel Trump's financial maze and found the companies Trump owns have at least $650 million in debt. Successful billionaire businessman? Doesn't look that way.

With all Trump's talk about rigged elections it begins to sound like on the day after the election he will refuse to concede.
“If he loses, [he’ll say] ‘It’s a rigged election.’ If he wins, he’ll say it was rigged and he beat it. And that’s where this is headed no matter what the outcome is,” said one Trump ally. “If Donald Trump loses, he is going to point the finger at the media and the GOP establishment. I can’t really picture him giving a concession speech, whatever the final margin.”
Already only 38% of Trump supporters believe their votes will be counted accurately, only 49% of all voters believe the same.

Yes, he is threatening the election process, the foundation of democracy. He is threatening the entire political system. He's threatening the peaceful transition of power, which has been uninterrupted since 1797. We've never had a candidate question the outcome of a national vote.

After Trump destroys the faith of his supporters in the ballot box, how do we restore that faith? What if Trump then issues a call-to-arms? This could take a long time.

We'll open an investigation

The GOP in Congress are opening yet another investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails, or maybe its another one about Benghazi. Because all the previous investigations didn't find anything, dagnabbit! That prompted David Akadjian of Daily Kos to take a look at the history of Congressional investigations.

The Constitution doesn't mention investigations. There is a clause that Congress can make "all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers." So, to legislate effectively Congress needs to be able to gather background information.

There are limits. Congress can't poke into the affairs of a private individual unless it has something to do with the job of Congress. In addition, Congress does not do law enforcement or put people on trial (except for impeachments).

The first investigation was into the 1891 Battle of Wabash, in which 1000 men under General Arthur St. Clair were killed by Indians. Every major military engagement, except for the Spanish-American War of 1898 has led to Congressional investigations.

From about 1870 to WWI there were lots of economic abuses. Investigations led to reforms. After WWII Congress tended to investigate government. On the good side that was of procurement and construction for national defense. On the bad side that was the McCarthy hearings. Starting with Watergate there have been a series of investigations into political actors, including the Iran-Contra Affair.

But lately investigations have been a political tool. Bill Clinton was hit hard with these. Many disappear just after election day. These days it seems political investigations are endless, and usually fruitless.

Blocking transgender fairness

The Obama Administration responded to the nasty North Carolina "Bathroom Bill" by saying Title IX of the Civil Rights Act covers gender identity, and thus transgender people. If schools want federal money they must allow transgender students use facilities and join sports teams that match their gender identity. Texas and 12 other states sued to stop that requirement. A second suit filed by Nebraska was joined by 10 more states (alas, including Michigan).

A federal district judge has ruled on the Texas case. Judge Reed O'Connor blocked Obama's directive. Obama didn't follow procedures in giving proper notice before putting new procedures into effect. Also, Obama's view is an incorrect interpretation of Title IX.

Two little problems with O'Connor's ruling. First, it contradicts what the Fourth Circuit recently said. Second, O'Connor says his injunction to stop Obama's procedures applies nationwide – again, in contradiction of the Fourth Circuit.

Even with the injunction in place schools can still implement policies to protect transgender youth. And parents can still sue school districts for discrimination.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our media is profoundly broken

Big news a couple days ago was that health insurance giant Aetna pulled out most of the health exchange market. The reason given, and which news sources repeated, is that Aetna was losing money through the exchange. A big deal was made of many states or regions were down to one company on the exchange.

What wasn't reported as much is (1) Aetna made a 38% increase in profits in the last quarter of 2015 and saw 2016 looking rosy, and (2) a month ago Obama's Department of Justice blocked Aetna's proposed acquisition of Humana. The DoJ said the merger would reduce competition. Aetna's pullout from the exchange could be a retaliation or an effort to gain a bargaining chip.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has a few things to say about the Donald Trump campaign hiring Stephen Bannon from Breitbart to be the campaign's chief executive. She looks over what the GOP has been doing over the last 30 years and concludes:
Trump is not an anomaly; he was an inevitability.

McEwen was involved in a project as part of Blue Nation Review. They reviewed what the mainstream media has been writing about both Clinton and Trump. In their research going back to August 1, 2015 they found that Clinton's emails were mentioned by the media every single day. This is a story for which Clinton apologized and the FBI has found she committed no intentional wrongdoing.

As for Trump, a week after he suggests Clinton should be assassinated there are only three stories in mainstream media – and two of them were because Yuval Rabin talked about it. Yuval's father, Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, was murdered after someone made a suggestion similar to Trump's about knocking him off.

Clinton's emails are mentioned daily. Trump's call for assassination gets a yawn. And Trump complains the media is biased against him.

Our media is broken. Profoundly broken.

Heather Digby Parton, writing for Salon, takes a look at the aftermath of Reagan Democrats, a well studied bit of the electorate. What was found was a feeling in this group that the Democratic Party was working on behalf of people of color, feminists, and poor people and those who refused to work. They hated paying taxes because it helped all those other people. The lament: What are you going to do for us.

Yeah, there was a large dose of racism and big chunk of white privilege (white working class males were the ones saying this). It seems these white males were saying a majority doesn't count unless we're a part of it.

A lot of these disaffected men are looking to Trump. But this cohort isn't part of the majority anymore. And it looks like Bernie Sanders raised their consciousness. What helps the economic plight of people of color also helps white working class males. If they don't turn to the Dems, perhaps they'll start pushing the GOP to pay attention to them.

The RG & GR Harris Funeral Home in Garden City is near where I live. One of their employees announced she was transitioning to female and would begin coming to work wearing the required female attire. The management fired her, saying he was not conforming to their dress code. They ran through various reasons, finally settling on religious freedom – this is a funeral home and has very religious people coming to it. We must protect those who need our services. The woman, Aimee Stephens, sued.

Judge Sean Cox of the US District Court in Detroit has ruled on the case. He decided the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supremes was appropriate here. That decision said that the religious beliefs of the owners of a company (without public shareholders) must be respected. That allowed Hobby Lobby deny contraceptives in the medical insurance it provided to its employees. Cox said that reasoning applied in this case.

Critics, of course, say this extends the intent of the Supremes to permit any type of gender or race discrimination that a company says is religiously motivated.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin has an excerpt from the Advocate from August 14, 1974. Some elderly women were using binoculars to watch nude gay men on a nearby beach. One said:
You wouldn’t believe the shocking, perverted things that go on. It’s awful. We sit here and watch it all day.

Friday, August 19, 2016

International bells

I went onto YouTube this afternoon looking for performances of music I might buy for my church bell choir. Along the way I found the video of the final concert of the International Handbell Symposium I was a part of just a few weeks ago in Vancouver. It was posted just yesterday. From the video you can see the size of the ringing floor – I've heard 650 to 750 for the number of ringers. I doubt you can see me (though I haven't watched the whole video) because I was way on the conductor's right about two-thirds of the way to the back. The video includes narration for each piece in English and Japanese and they left the cameras running between pieces. My favorites (in case you don't want to watch the whole hour-45 minutes) are Spring Sea, Deep River, and Hishuk Ish Tsawalk. Also in the concert are the Youth Track and the Festival Choir (those who would rather ring than attend classes).

A healing environment

On Wednesday the Diane Rehm had an hour-long discussion of the role of music in medicine. Some of the things she and her panel discussed:

Andrew Schulman is a classical guitarist. He labels himself as a medical musician, not a musical therapist. That's because a musical therapist is a therapist first, guiding the patient through physical or mental therapy using music. A student of MT studies a lot of therapy.

But a medical musician is a musician first. Schulman is a resident musician at both Berkshire Medical Center and Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York. He takes his guitar into the Intensive Care Unit and plays for patients. He does it because his life was saved in the Mount Sinai ICU. While performing in the hospital he can adjust his music to the patient and the needs of the moment. He can also supply music when a patient is dying and the family has come to say goodbye.

Schulman describes his stay in the ICU. He had surgery and went into shock. He was revived and put into a coma. For three days he went downhill. His wife saw his iPod and had an idea. She played a favorite piece of Bach – and he began to stabilize.

Yes, patient-chosen music has a real effect on the body. It reduced the need for pain medication and sedation. It shortens hospital stays. John Powell, musician and author, describes the body as having a built-in pharmacy. Music can affect what the body dispenses out of its internal pharmacy. Music also has a real effect on the brain. Language will stimulate particular parts of a brain, but music engages wide areas of the brain.

Dr. Marvin McMillan is a trauma surgeon and was a part of Schulman's care and saw what music did to Schulman. McMillan now recognizes the ideal environment of an ICU. But that isn't the standard ICU, with its bombardment of machine noises, blasting TVs, and alarms. There are so many alarms that serious ones – like a disconnected respirator – are ignored. This is not a healthy sound environment for a patient. Time to reorganize the ICU with input from the musicians and those who know healing environments.

This page of the Diane Rehm Show includes the prologue of Schulman's book Waking the Spirit. In it he describes playing for the patient that prompted him to write the book. It is worth a read.

With receipt in hand

At the end of May I bought black pants from Sears. A few days ago I saw a hole where the zipper had separated from the garment. This is not a good place for a hole. Today I took the pants and receipt back to Sears.

To my surprise the clerk said I hadn't asked for a return within 30 days. Seriously? I can see that limit applying to garments one decides don't fit or are the wrong style. But a garment that has a hole? One would expect a garment to last more than 3 months. If I wanted a replacement I could get it. But if it doesn't last three months I'm not interested. I asked for a manager. She said the same thing. The policy means (though I didn't say it while there) if a garment falls apart in the wash a mere 33 days after purchase the customer is out of luck. The manager turned me over to another guy. I appealed to higher authority. He said here's the national customer service, but they're going to tell you the same thing. He handed me the phone. Yes, they did tell me the same thing. Why did you bother to call? I asked the local guy to speak to the store manager. He was the store manager. I told him it was a horrible policy and indicates the store sells shoddy merchandise and if I walk out the door without a refund I'm never shopping in Sears again. He didn't budge. It's a two year old policy, he said – which doesn't make it a good policy. I stuffed the pants back in my bag and said I'm not coming back. He was amazingly unperturbed by that idea. Not coming back? Whatever. As I gathered my stuff together he said, "Have a nice day!" Grrr! You've done all you can to ruin it.

So, I'm not going back to Sears.

Yeah, many a gay guy would wonder why I stepped into the store in the first place. Don't I know and care anything about fashion? Know? Perhaps a bit. Care? Not really.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Stroke his worst campaign instincts

Donald Trump expanded? shook up? his campaign staff. The new guy at the head of the campaign staff is Steve Bannon. His most recent job was to run the Breitbart News website. And Breitbart News is a hard-right site that promotes conspiracy theories. It even makes some of them up. Bannon and Trump should get along just fine. Hunter of Daily Kos said the move
is tailor-made to stroke Donald Trump's worst campaign instincts, most ridiculous claims, and most reckless behaviors.
Many conservatives are wondering if this is an admission that the campaign is over and for the next two months Trump will take out as many friends and foes as he can. There will be conspiracy-peddling, hostility towards immigrants, howls of election rigging, and all the rest, carried at a much higher volume.

Ian Millhiser, in a series of tweets, takes a look at GOP myths. First myth: conservatives make up a majority of voters (so who is in the White House now?). Second myth: Speaker Paul Ryan has a mandate to implement his ruinous budget even though he is essentially supported by only corporations. Third myth: The winner runs the show and everyone else is a loser. There is no such thing as a coalition.

Good to see the Department of Justice is recognizing that prisons run by corporations are less safe and less effective in providing correctional services. They also skimp on housing, food, and medical care. In addition the cost savings is a lot less than predicted. Because of all that the DOJ use of corporate prisons will be phased out.

Shares of two corporations that run prisons dropped sharply and became volatile. But don't worry. Most inmates in these places are placed there by the states. And I'm sure a lot of GOP governors are not going to tear up their contracts.

Prisons should not be run for profit. Same for health care and education.

Travis Rieder, a philosopher with the Berman Institute of Bioethics ad John Hopkins University, is working to convince students and other young adults to limit the number of children they have. Zero would be good. He says it is a moral issue. As the climate heats up things will get pretty severe over the next two decades. During that time the human population is expected to grow by a couple billion. The reasons: Do we really want to subject our kids to that kind of a world? We could go a long way towards mitigating the worst effects of climate change simply by having fewer kids. Is it ethical to have an American child, who will use up lots of the earth's resources, when it is a child in a poor country who will face the greater consequences of a world with a hot climate?

It doesn't look good for Americans to tell other countries to not have kids. So some ideas: put family planning ideas in the plots of soap operas. Pay women to refill birth control medications. Replace tax breaks for children with a penalty – a carbon tax on kids.

So what is easier? Engineer clouds and oceans to suck carbon out of the air? Overhaul the global system of capitalism? Make fewer babies? We actually know how to do the last one.

Health for LGBT youth

I've now been volunteering at the Ruth Ellis Center for eight years. I go every Wednesday that I'm in town and don't have a church meeting (and there haven't been many of those lately). The place has, of course, changed, like a new dishwasher about a year ago and a new stove last January. Yeah, I'm most familiar with the kitchen.

My work has always been in the upper floor, what is named the Second Stories Drop-In Center. The first floor was offices and storage, including some furniture for youth setting up an apartment. Last summer (I think it was) the administration staff was moved to another building and stuff was brought upstairs, at least the stuff we could make fit. Then the first floor was gutted. One day so much dust was created the smoke detectors went off and we had to evacuate. There were pauses in the work as more money was raised.

The renovations of the first floor are almost complete. It will open as a Health and Wellness Center, a satellite of the Henry Ford Health System. The HFHS, whose CEO Nancy Schlichting is a lesbian, was heavily involved in planning the renovation and will be in its running. Between the Lines, Michigan's gay newspaper, has a great article about the new facility.

But why not simply send the youth to existing HFHS services? Because regular health providers aren't trained to be sensitive to the needs of LGBT youth, especially homeless youth. For example, what to do with a transgender youth who is not yet 18 who doesn't have a parent willing to sign for them? How do you help an HIV positive homeless youth establish an effective treatment regimen?

The Ruth Ellis Center already provides four areas of service. There is Ruth's House, which provides housing for a few homeless youth. There is the Drop-In Center, where I work. This provides a broad range of services from food, to laundry, to computer and internet access, to discussion groups, to have a place to dance, to simply have a safe space for our youth. I'm sure my list isn't complete. The third area of service is outpatient mental health. I think that has been happening in the Second Stories area and will likely move downstairs. The fourth is the Family Preservation Program, in which caseworkers work with Child Protection and the families of LGBT youth to keep the family together and to teach families what to avoid saying or doing that the LGBT youth would likely see as hostile.

And the new area is this Health and Wellness Center.

I haven't been inside the new area yet. I'll have to ask for a tour. When it does open I'm sure there will be an official Open House. A few months ago I asked if money was still needed for the renovation. I was told it is all paid for. But the BtL article implies they are still raising money.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

He'll empty his pockets for you

Mikki Kendall, a person of color, has put together a series of her tweets of her "rant" (her word) about the difference between the working class and the poor, and what race has to do with it. Two tweets in the series stood out for me (and the second stood out for thousands of others).
This resentment of the success of POC & the myth that affirmative action is unfair hinges on the idea that we're supposed to be poor

The best scam ever run on poor white people was the idea that their financial struggles are the fault of POC & not rich white people.
In reading responses to Kendall's tweets I came across the acknowledgment that this scam is a few hundred years old. And this:
I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man that he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll even empty his pockets for you.
– Lyndon Johnson
So the need to feel superior is stronger than the need to feel economically secure.

Sarah Watts, writing for Salon, defines and discusses, white fragility. First the definition, supplied by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, who coined the phrase. The quoted parts are DiAngelo, the rest is from Watts.
White fragility is "a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves." Most white people "live in a social environment that insulates them from race-based stress," due to their privilege as part of the cultural majority. In turn, whites are infrequently challenged and have less of a tolerance to race-based stress, causing them to be hostile, guilty, defensive, or fearful when confronted. In the end, white fragility ensures that conversations about race are derailed, and the status quo of white supremacy is upheld.
Put another way: Most whites live where they don't have to confront race. When they are confronted by racism they feel uncomfortable. As the privileged class in America they expect they should not be made to feel uncomfortable. Thus they try to get out of the situation.

Watts then outlines several ways an ally can determine if they are feeling fragile.

* They change the subject.

* They use inappropriate humor to deflect. An example, "Black labs matter!"

* They get defensive or angry, usually at the person (of color) making them uncomfortable.

* They go out of their way to not focus on "the negative."

Can't endorse, can't repudiate

I wrote yesterday about the idea that Donald Trump is campaigning to be the hero of an awakened white supremacist movement rather than campaigning to be president. Yesterday, during a foreign policy speech Trump laid out a purity test for immigrants. Which fits with what I wrote yesterday.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville adds that losing the presidency would cast Trump as a white supremacist martyr. He has been laying out the reasons why he should be seen as such. These reasons include rigged elections, a corrupt establishment, and political correctness run amok.

Back to that immigrant purity test. McEwen reminds us of America's history of racial hierarchy when setting immigrant preferences. So the purity test isn't another stupid idea. It is a white supremacist dog whistle.

Whatever Trump is up to it puts GOP politicans in a bind. Endorse Trump and you own the crazy and lose independent voters. Repudiate Trump and lose the GOP base. And that base is big enough to have made Trump the nominee. And many GOP candidates can't win without a big chunk of both base and independents.

Though this is from a month ago and the GOP convention it is still important. During and since then the GOP is overshadowed by Trump and his nastiness. But that doesn't mean the GOP is nice. A tweet from Allison Kilkenny highlights an aspect of the GOP nastiness.
Maddow points out that by the end of the RNC, 10 billionaires will have spoken to the crowd

Another from a month ago: McEwen analyzes Trump's acceptance speech in a series of tweets:
Trump's speech is classic patriarchal strongman authoritarianism transparently veiled in populist rhetoric. If you're not profoundly alarmed by Trump's speech, read a history book. Now. This is the thing about men like Trump: They don't have the capacity to lead a free country w/ good governance. And when you lack the knowledge and competence to lead with good governance, but you nonetheless want power, you become a tyrant instead. Tonight in that speech, Trump is doing the most basic populist-despot bait-and-switch. And millions of people will fall for it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Larger than that little office

Yeah, I know I said I would mostly ignore the presidential candidates...

But what's up with Donald Trump?

He lies, he tells vile jokes. The GOP establishment is appalled.

Let's start with the "jokes." Trump says, in an offhand way, that Hillary Clinton should be taken out. He says Obama is the founder of ISIS (Hillary too) and then claims it was sarcasm.

Jason Steed replies through a series of tweets. He did his dissertation on the social function of humor. Racist jokes, for example, define an in-group, an out-group, and then spread the idea that it is good to alienate people by race, that racism is acceptable. All such jokes do something similar. The out-group is appalled and for that the speaker says, "just joking," defending the joke. The in-group doesn't need the defense, they got the message loud and clear. Thus "just joking" is not is not an excuse. Trump is using humor to define his in-group.

Then there is his comment about Hillary and Second Amendment people. Many media sources decided it was ambiguous enough to let it pass. Melissa McEwen of Shakesville says nope. His meaning was clear. Trump is calling for violent incitement against Hillary using Stochastic Terrorism. Trump's message is vague enough to provide him with plausible deniability because he didn't address a particular person or group. But the message is plain enough that there is a reasonable expectation that someone will do the deed.

The message is plain enough that the NRA bought $3 million of advertising for Trump. Excuse me for a moment while I go turn off the irony alarm. The NRA ad says Clinton is "out of touch" because she lives under Secret Service protection – which is needed because the NRA is pushing such easy access to guns.

McEwen is appalled at the way this is playing out in media. They are debating what Trump meant. But little to nothing is said about Hillary, the target or about the Secret Service agents who have the task of getting between Hillary and a bullet. No one is talking about how Hillary now must campaign under this threat or to debate the guy who called for her to be killed.

Then that thing about Obama being the founder of ISIS. McEwen says this also is incitement. Trump is declaring Obama to be a terrorist. And Trump has already said plenty about what he is going to do to terrorists.

Is the media discussing this? The top story at CNN appears to be Hillary's emails. There is a lot of digging into the email non-issue while little is said about Trump calling for the assassination of his opponent and calling the president a terrorist to be eliminated. Oh, that's just Trump. McEwen, discussing what is acceptable behavior in a candidate, replied,
At this point, we've moved the goalposts so far they're not even in the stadium anymore. They're on Neptune.

Some of Trump supporters are saying don't worry, Trump will have advisors so he won't say and do these nasty things. Pardon me, but he has advisors now and is ignoring them. What makes you think he'll listen to them while in office?

I heard last week that Trump appeals to those who are left out of the current economic recovery (and haven't made much gains in the 25 years before then). We should acknowledge their economic pain while pushing the message that Trump's proposed policies are pretty close to the GOP policies that got the working poor in to this mess. The only way Trump's ideas would impact the poor is to make their situation worse.

But Terrence Heath, in his personal blog, reviews latest polls and says Trump's appeal isn't economic, it is racism.
What appalls the rest of us feeds the ardor of Trump’s base, because at his most crass and vulgar he is saying and doing what they long to, and he’s saying it to the entire country on their behalf — and winning, at least in the primaries. He is their hero, because he gets away with it where they can’t.

Trump may be using racism to sell himself to the GOP base, but that’s only because it works. It works because Republicans spent decades making sure it would.
And if Trump loses? He says he'll go play golf. But Heath doubts that. Trump is energizing these people and Trump will probably continue to do so after the election.

About that losing thing...

Lots of GOP politicians are now disavowing Trump. Many more are being asked if calling for the death of your opponent or calling the president a terrorist doesn't cross the line, the one that causes someone to say you've gone to far, what does? And what does that say about your own morals?

And recent polls, including Fivethirtyeight, say Trump is losing badly.

Back to my question: What's up with Trump?

Peter Daou is a former advisor to Hillary and to John Kerry. He is also the CEO of Blue Nation Review. He has been studying what Trump is doing. And he has an idea.

Trump's campaign isn't about winning the presidency. It is about awakening the white supremacist movement, calling them to arms, and perhaps becoming the leader of the new movement. Win the presidency? That would be great! Lose it? No matter, the real goal is so much larger than that little office. The things he is doing don't make sense for someone campaigning to be president. They do make sense for someone using the platform of a presidential campaign to incite a white supremacist uprising.

Consider all those "jokes" and ...
his meticulously crafted words of incitement and exhortations to violence; his attacks on a federal judge; his description of President Obama as a terrorist (the “founder of ISIS”); his birtherism; his eliminationist language toward Hillary Clinton; his fierce misogyny and indifference to sexual harassment; his feud with the Khan family; his Muslim ban; his use of anti-Semitic symbols; his embrace of torture; his capriciousness about the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons; his praise for dictators; his flirtations with Putin and Russian hackers; his undiluted xenophobia; his racist dog whistles (“look at my African-American”); his infamous border wall and relentless anti-Mexican bigotry; his claims of a “rigged” election; his unconcealed calls for voter intimidation; his refusal to disavow ties to white supremacists.
...use the language of the Tea Party and white supremacists. It is increasingly hard to believe all this is accidental and unintentional. And what that is doing is pivoting us towards his bigotry, making extremism mainstream. The "law and order" candidate is using the language of lawlessness.

And white nationalists here and abroad love him for it.

Is this claim over the top? Has Daou read the situation all wrong? If Daou is right, Trump won't go play golf in November. He'll be quite active in guiding the hornet's nest he has stirred up.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Travelogue – Spokane

I indeed returned home last Tuesday morning. I immediately had a hectic week. First were all the things that weren't attended to while I was gone. Then my performance group is searching for a new Artistic Director and the committee, of which I'm a part, interviewed five candidates. Add to that a trip to handle things at Dad's house – which I hadn't visited since the end of June.

A sister-in-law (the one caring for Mom) asked, "So when are you coming to visit?" Huh? I just got home!

So, uh, where was I? Oh, yeah. The tale of my adventures left off in the town of Chelan, Washington, after a boat trip on Lake Chelan.

Friday, August 5
From Chelan I drove across the Columbia River and through rolling wheat fields to see Grand Coulee Dam.

I wasn't quite in time for the noon tour, so took the one at 1:00. The tour started with a security check, instituted shortly after 9/11. The tour buses (seats for 15) took us around to the other end of the dam to go inside and down to see the huge pumps that pump water up to Banks Lake, the reservoir that supplies water to irrigate western Washington. The water is for 90 different crops, apples to zucchini – but not marijuana.

We went back up and outside and back onto the buses. They took us across the top of the dam. Up until 9/11 anyone could come onto the dam and many fished from the lake side. Now only tours are allowed on the dam. Halfway back we got out to look over the side of the dam. And that was it.

I had lunch in the town of Grand Coulee, then again drove through wheat fields to Spokane. My niece (Dan's younger daughter) has a three-room apartment in an old house. She was on the porch playing her harp when I drove up. We took my stuff up the stairs and she showed me around. She describes the narrow kitchen as "one-butt" – there isn't room for two butts to move past each other. Though the space is tiny she managed to cook a pretty good supper.

We settled in to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony on her laptop. Her internet service isn't the swiftest, so the video frequently froze. By 10:30 we were still not halfway through the alphabet for the Parade of Nations and decided that was enough. I didn't see the lighting of the cauldron.

Saturday, August 6
Niece took me to the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens on the hill south of downtown Spokane. We walked through the gardens, then sat and talked. After a while we got hungry, so got back into the car. We parked it downtown and searched for a place for lunch. It took some doing because so many roads downtown are being torn up and redone.

After lunch we walked through the public areas of the fabulous Davenport Hotel. It was built in the first decade of the 20th Century and has been beautifully restored. There are many photos on the walls of several high-society parties.

As we walked from the hotel to River Park Square, a mall, niece told me that she sometimes put her lap harp in a satchel on her back, hopped on her bike, and set herself outside the main doors to this mall and played. Sometimes she made pretty decent money for an hour or so of effort.

We went on through the mall and into Riverfront Park to see the various falls and rapids on the Spokane River. Then back to the car, a stop at a grocery store, and back to her apartment.

When two people stand side-by-side the tiny kitchen is tolerable. She helped me make a stir-fry for supper. After eating and talking we watched Star Trek Nemesis, again on her laptop. Neither of us had seen it. Perhaps this video supplier was of better quality because it didn't freeze.

Sunday, August 7
I had checked for a reconciling United Methodist church in Spokane. Seattle has maybe a dozen. Spokane has none. Niece suggested a couple churches, one had some encouraging words on its website. This morning she rode her bicycle to her church (of a denomination too conservative for my comfort) and I went to Central United Methodist. I got there at 10:25 for the reported 10:30 service. I glanced into the sanctuary and saw maybe a dozen people. Nobody was at the door to greet me. I decided with a congregation that tiny I didn't want to stay. I doubt anyone saw me during the two minutes I was there.

I went back to Riverfront Park, parked, and took photos of the falls – I didn't have my camera with me yesterday.

I reclaimed my car and met niece in the Davenport Hotel lobby. She had locked her bike outside. We hurried up the south side hill again because she wanted to show me The Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The place was already locked. We got inside through the kitchen door following a woman who had left her glasses in her pew. It is very much in the style of European cathedrals, though not as huge. A moment later another woman politely said she needed to lock up and we needed to go.

We had a lovely lunch at a Thai restaurant a block away. The mood may have been gloomy because we talked about how Dan, her father, is in an in-between place, not yet able to move forward, especially since doing so meant Karen was no longer around.

Niece took me to the Steam Plant. It had been exactly that, a facility in downtown Spokane that burned coal to create steam for downtown buildings. It now houses a restaurant (a bit pricey for her wallet), a bar, offices, and classrooms. What makes this space fascinating is that many of the original fixtures, such as the coal bin near the ceiling, were kept and the useful space was created around or inside these fixtures.

We went back to the apartment, then took a walking tour of the neighborhood. This area is known as Browne's Addition, west of downtown. It has many old houses. To the north is the Spokane River. To the west is Overlook Park and the valley of Latah Creek. This house is not where niece lives.

We had supper in the apartment, then she and I talked until bedtime.

Monday, August 8
Niece was up and out for the first of her two jobs by 7:15. I lingered a bit and soon had my bags into the car. On the way out of Spokane I had NPR on and the news reports had a lot to say about Delta Airlines having a power outage, canceled flights, and a giant mess. I thought to myself I'm sure glad I'm going back to Detroit on Alaska Air.

I took I-90 to Ritzville and the road to Washtucna, then through town and on to Palouse Falls State Park. The park wanted a $10 entrance fee done on the honor system – fill out a form, put part of it in your car, stuff the money into the envelope and put that through a slot. Problem: I had a twenty and six singles. I wasn't about to stuff my last twenty into the envelope (even if I was feeling generous towards a state park system) so put in the six singles – and left my license plate off (I certainly didn't want to get the rental company involved).

The falls are beautiful. I'm surprised at how vertical the canyon walls are.

I went back to Washtunca and picked up Route 26 heading west. There wasn't much until I got to the little town of Othello, where I stopped for lunch. Back on the main road I took it to the Columbia River, where I picked up I-90 again. I went on through Snoqualmie Pass (didn't see much due to low clouds), and on into Seattle – arriving about 4:30 in time for rush hour.

I took I-5 north past Union Lake to the Wallingford neighborhood. There is a little travel shop and Google had told me it had neck pillows. I replaced the one I lost the week before. From there I went to Ivar's Salmon House. In previous trips to Seattle I've had many fine meals here. But when prices are $25-35 I'm reluctant to pay that much and eat alone. So I went to their cafe on the north side of the building. I may have eaten with plastic off paper, but my salmon, wild rice, and cornbread was only $12.

On to the airport to fill up and return the rental car. Once in the terminal I had plenty of time for my 9:50 flight. I checked the departure board for flights to Detroit. Three Delta flights were listed as on time. The fourth, at 5:30 am., was canceled. I was still glad for Alaska Air.

This was a big plane and took a while to board. I had a seat in the back. We pulled away from the gate and sat for several minutes. We pulled back to the gate and sat for a half hour. When we pulled away again the captain said, "We thank you for your patience while we handled the little incident, which you probably saw." No, I didn't see it. I had my nose in a book. I have no idea what the incident was.

I did get a couple hours sleep on the four-hour flight to Detroit. I found my friend waiting for me (he hadn't checked for the half-hour delay so had been sitting there for quite a while). I got home as the sky was getting light. It didn't take long for me to get into bed for some more sleep.

I woke to my sister, the one living in Dad's house, leaving a phone message. When I called her back she said the stove wasn't working.

Welcome home.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The blow strikes

Back in early July I reported that my sister-in-law Karen had entered hospice. Her brain cancer from two years before had come back, this time as a diffusion through the brain rather than a localized tumor. By the time symptoms were clear it was too late for chemo. This news was another blow to us, still grieving the death of my father and my brother Tim.

She died this morning. Thankfully, in the last month she had a string of visitors saying goodbye, her mother, younger daughter, her older daughter with husband and infant son, then both parents and both sisters together.

Back in May of 1979, three weeks before I began my career in the auto industry, I went with brother Dan to the airport when he flew to Seattle to begin work in the airplane industry. I was amused that a part of his luggage that day was his bicycle.

Though I didn't qualify for official vacation that first year I arranged for a long weekend at Labor Day and flew to Seattle. I was amused that a young woman named Karen tagged along with us most of the visit. One day we went off to a park that featured a train and a waterfall (perhaps Snoqualmie Falls?). We rode the train, then took some sort of transport to get near the bottom of the falls. Perhaps that was supplied by a nearby hydro plant. Dan, Karen, and I scrambled over the rocks beside the river below the falls. I slipped and whacked my shin on a rock. It turned a bright purple. We went to Karen's parent's house who helped me wrap the leg in ice and to share supper.

Dan came back to Michigan for Christmas that year and Karen came too. In our subtle (NOT!) way we said that over the Christmas holiday we planned to have a family portrait taken. Was Karen family? So for Christmas Dan gave Karen a diamond ring. And she was included in the portrait. I'm sure Karen had already been involved in the purchase of the ring, though I suspect they planned to present the ring other than during the day's messy gift exchanges.

Dan and Karen were married in Seattle at the end of May of 1980. This was three weeks after Mt. St. Helens blew its top. I flew to Seattle with my grandmother. My parents and sisters and a cousin took a week to get there, camping along the way (I think they encountered snow in Idaho).

After the wedding reception the getaway vehicle wasn't a car, but a tandem bicycle. It made it difficult to give chase because they could shift to the sidewalk and head the wrong way down one way streets. Karen had hidden the bike under the choir loft.

I think Grandma had a different companion for the flight home. The cousin joined a bike tour down the Washington coast. I replaced the cousin for the drive home, this time through the Canadian Rockies. We stopped at Lake Louise, said to be a beautiful spot. But with a low cloud cover there wasn't much to see. Only later did we see photos showing the towering peaks around the lake.

I saw Dan and Karen every few years after that.

In 1985 I had a conference in San Francisco. After that I followed agreed plans, starting with a visit to the new aquarium in Monterey. It was that evening Dan called to say his first daughter had been born. From Monterey I drove north, intending to drive along the coast north of San Francisco. I gave up on that after a day of slow driving. By Friday night I was in Seattle, holding the newborn and trying not to cause Dan and Karen any extra work (I probably didn't succeed).

In 1986 we stayed at a B&B in North Vancouver and attended the Vancouver World's Fair. We had several great days there, though didn't see much of Vancouver itself. Attending the fair with a 1-year-old allowed me to practice patience. Even so, she was a delight.

I think it was 1992 when Dan was asked to visit suppliers across Europe for 7 weeks. Karen went with him. The two daughters, age 3 and 7, stayed the summer with my parents and sister in Michigan. I took several individual vacation days that summer to spend time with the girls (and help Mom and sis).

In 1996 Dan and family took a three-year assignment near London. Of course, I went to visit, which I did in 1997. When that was over they took a three-year assignment near Paris. I didn't visit them there because in 2001 I joined them for a trip across Northern Ireland.

When the Paris assignment ended in 2002 the older daughter did not want to return to an American high school for her senior year. She moved in with a friend and stayed behind.

In both houses they owned in the Seattle area both Dan and Karen did extensive renovations, doing most of the work themselves. Perhaps both of them were engineers needing a project. When I visited in 2008 with Mom and Dad, before and after a cruise to Alaska, the carport was being turned into a garage, the roof was being replaced, and the kitchen remodeled with a skylight added, all a part of one interdependent project.

During one visit, I think after the kitchen was done, Karen served a meal of salmon, sweet potato, and carrots. How interesting! A meal where all the foods were orange! Years later I heard Karen say she had also served a meal of fish, cauliflower, and potato, in which all the foods were white and I didn't notice.

I think it was in 2012 Dan and Karen accepted an assignment in Malaysia. I wanted to visit, but Karen warned me Dan's schedule was so unpredictable and his territory (Australia to South Korea) so large there was a very good chance I would get to their apartment in Malaysia and find they were thousands of miles away. It was here in 2014 that Karen had her first bout with brain cancer. The care she got in Singapore was excellent.

If Dan was going somewhere then Karen was going too, if possible. She carefully researched each new destination for recommended lodging, restaurants, and places to visit. Some places she would see on her own while Dan worked, others they visited together. In four years they saw a great deal of Southeast Asia and the area around it. She was quite the avid traveler.

Dan and Karen moved to Munich in March for another assignment. They had wanted to get back to Europe since leaving Paris in 2002. They had big plans for seeing the continent together. Now he will travel alone. Though I'm used to it (done it all my adult life), he is not.

These were not all the times I saw Dan and Karen. There were other trips to Seattle and time together when they visited their older daughter, living in Kentucky. There was also a lovely time together when we gathered at a fabulous B&B in the little town where Dad and I were born in the days leading up to New Year 2014. By this time Dan had a grandson (he now has two). How did he get to be that old? That's a joke between us – he's almost exactly 18 months older.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Travelogue – slow boat

Tuesday, August 2
As I checked into the Crystal Mountain hotel last night the desk person reminded me of the gondola that would take one to the top of the mountain with a great view of Mt. Rainier (the northeast side, rather than the well-photographed south side). I quickly adjusted my plans to do that in the morning rather than drive to the Sunrise Visitor Center within the park.

I got up this morning and looked out the window … fog. Well, maybe it will lift. So I got ready for the day. Breakfast wasn't great. I was disappointed it was only a continental breakfast, which doesn't fit my dietary needs. And there were no alternatives for 30 miles. At least they provided hard-boiled eggs (better than many chain hotels that provide fake eggs) and I grabbed a half-dozen little packets of peanut butter (though I didn't put the PB on the eggs). It was enough.

The fog did lift … a bit. But not enough. Towards 11:00 I decided to move on. I headed east. There was a misty rain for a while, confirming my decision. Over the rest of the morning the terrain changed from lush green to tan and brown. I had definitely gotten into the rain shadow of the Cascades.

I took the road on into Yakima, where I had lunch at a diner with a '50s car theme. They had several seats made out of the trunks of those cars with the big tailfins. The food was merely OK.

I took I-82 north. After a while I realized it had been a long time since the last exit – then again, there wasn't much need for an exit. I checked a map later and saw the area was a military base. Here is the view from a scenic overview on I-82 looking at the town of Ellensburg.

It was a long drive, but a pleasant one. From the town of Ellensburg I followed US-97 north, then Alt-97, which followed the west bank of the Columbia River. I'm spending tonight in the town of Chelan. I'm in a small hotel. Yes, the room is small – the “desk” unfolds from the wall and I'm sitting on a folding chair.

Wednesday, August 3
I was on the Lady of the Lake by 8:25 this morning to take the 50 mile trip up Lake Chelan to Stehekin (ste-HEE-kin). After the first stop we were told that one of the engines is out, so the boat couldn't go its usual speed, and there will be two extra stops along the way to drop off locals. Instead of getting into Stehekin at the advertised 12:30 we arrived at 1:45. The tours for day-trippers had to scurry to fit into 60 minutes what they usually fit into 90. Here's a view of the northern end of the lake.

I was in line for lunch at 2:00, when lunch service normally ended. They served everyone who was in line.

I dropped my bags (the big suitcase left in my car back in Chelan) in my room. This is what I saw – way too cute. And what does one do with them. I wouldn't consider them clean enough to use after being on the bed.

I went searching for the bike rental shop. There were lots of bikes under the lodge's balcony … with a sign: These bikes belong to residents. The bike rental company is near the yellow house. I headed down the road (there is only one) about what I thought was the distance described in a sign. I passed several yellow houses. No bikes. I went back to the lodge. The staff person said I needed to walk much farther. I eventually found the tent at 3:30. No yellow houses nearby.

The owner told me she closed at 5:00. I could keep the bike as long as I wanted and if that was after 5:00 I could remember the time and come back to pay in the morning. I like her trust.

I went down the road until it was unpaved. I stopped to glance into the original 2-room schoolhouse and see Rainbow Falls.

I followed an unpaved road to the orchard. There didn't seem to be a place to stop in and buy, though the place was kept up (sprinklers watering the grass). I saw lots of deer browsing.

Here is the view down the lake from where the Stehekin River flows in. I took this shot as I pedaled back into town. I turned in the bike at 5:30.

There were a lot more cars and trucks around Stehekin than I would have thought. The one road doesn't connect with the outside world and vehicles have to come by barge. Many of the vehicles are much older than I see in any American town or city. Many are from the 1960s.

After lunch I was asked to make a reservation for supper. I decided with lunch at 2:15 I didn't want an early seating, so chose 6:45.

After the bike ride and supper still an hour away I went into the 2nd-floor lounge and spent some time on a jigsaw puzzle partly assembled on a table. I hadn't worked on one for about 18 months. I used to pull out puzzles when Dad and family came for holidays. Dad was repeating stories – and not even interesting ones. He would gladly work a puzzle with me, which allowed us to be together in companionable quiet. I usually got puzzles of about 750 pieces (fewer seemed to go together too quickly and 1000 or more took too long). I think we finished one during Christmas (or maybe Thanksgiving) of 2014. I had one more puzzle, not yet opened, when he died. That one had a train on it so I gave it to the brother who is into trains.

At 6:45 I was still not hungry, but headed down to the restaurant before 7:00. I had been told they wanted us to choose a time so the diners would be spread out. I learned the reason is they were understaffed. They finally seated me about 7:10, took my order at 7:30, and delivered my main dish at 8:15. By then I was hungry.

I was back in the lounge after supper because there was no desk in the room. Two sisters were sitting at the puzzle and finished it before going to bed. I checked email and wrote part of this post.

Thursday, August 5
Instead of renting a bike again I decided to do a bit of hiking. In Stehekin there is the main road along the lake and the river that feeds it and there are trails that mostly go up. I took one trail until it ended at a washed-out bridge over a creek. The damage was three years ago and I heard there has been no effort to rebuild it. I was warned before I started the trek that the bridge was gone.

I tried another trail, but soon tired of the climbing aspect. Nearby was the start of the Lakeshore Trail, and I took it. But the name did not mean it was at the same level as the lake. I got to an overlook with a bench and decided that was far enough. It was a lovely spot, so I stayed for a while.

The boat's engine had not been fixed, so it arrived in Stehekin at 1:15, instead of the expected 12:30. This time the layover was only 45 minutes, so no excursions for day-trippers. Yesterday, the boat left Stehekin at 3:00 and didn't get back to Chelan until after 8:00, way too late. Today it left at 2:00 and was back by 6:45. I slept about an hour of that time.

As we entered the part of the lake surrounded by houses (rather than National Forest land) several people in jet-skis came out to the boat. They criss-crossed the boat's wake, the extra turbulent water increasing their spray and occasionally making them airborne. I got a feeling this happens regularly.

Back in Chelan I found a Thai-Japanese restaurant for supper. I ordered chicken in a peanut-curry sauce. Tasty! Much to my surprise there were no vegetables. I have enough left over for tomorrow's breakfast.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Influencing the next generation

David Morris of AlterNet reminds us that a central issue of this election season (though one wouldn't know it from the media) is who will appoint the next justices of the Supreme Court. Scalia's seat is still to be filled. Ginsberg, Kennedy, and Breyer are likely to retire or die in the next four years. That's four new justices. Those appointments will affect our lives for the next 30 years (yeesh, Thomas has been on the court for 25 years and could go for another 10). These appointments could solidify either a conservative or progressive majority.

And no, Morris is not making grand statements. He reviews some of the big decisions of the last decade or so that have solidified the conservative hold on America, or just barely approved progressive policies that would be easily reversed. These things include democracy (unlimited campaign spending), voting rights, corporate power (the growing trend of forcing complaints into arbitration, which favors corporations), ability of unions to organize, gun control, immigration, a woman's right to choose, protections against discrimination, justice, and health care.

The system is rigged!

It seem Trump is already claiming that if he doesn't win it is because the voting system is rigged against him. Some thoughts:

* Yes, the voting system is rigged – by the GOP in support of GOP candidates. That's what gerrymandering and Voter ID laws are all about. Thankfully, several voter ID laws were just struck down – see below.

* Yes, many GOP candidates who lost complain about a rigged system. Usually they have the decency to wait until after the election.

* Trump appears to be building on an idea that Bernie Sanders pushed in the primaries. Thanks, Bernie!

* Starting to complain in August that the system is rigged against him is profoundly damaging to democracy in America. He is claiming democracy doesn't work. And there are lots of forces, most of them corporate, who are pushing that same line.

Georgia Logothetis of Daily Kos summarizes the rulings that invalidated various parts of Voter ID laws in Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. In addition, straight-party voting was restored in Michigan. Summary: The laws are discriminatory, which outweighs their use in protecting against voter fraud. Next up on the GOP agenda: purging voter rolls.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Travelogue – general direction of up

International Handbell Symposium
Since this isn't a handbell blog I don't want to bore you with the details of the Symposium. A few general thoughts:

* The number of ringing delegates was about 700 (I heard numbers from 675 to 750). Good turnout from USA and Canada (of course). Also a good contingent from Japan. Korea hosted the Symposium two years ago (I didn't go), but their delegation was a mere handful. That meant translations to and from Korean only happened when the Korean director was on the podium. We still had translations between English and Japanese. There were also participants from Britain, Australia (they host it in 2018), Hong Kong (hosts in 2020), Taiwan, Germany, Puerto Rico, and Singapore. At the closing banquet we heard that Singapore's handbell guild petitioned to join the International Handbell Committee and was accepted. There are now 8 countries in the Committee. I'm wondering if the 2022 event will be in Singapore. More places to visit! Here's a view across the ringing floor (alas, not while ringers are in action).

* The closing concert went well with a pretty good size audience. My favorite pieces were the one from Japan and one of two from Canada. This latter one was influenced by First Nation culture, though had no actual First Nation music.

* We were in the building that also houses the cruise ship terminal. Most days outside our rehearsal hall there was a ship being readied for another trip. A few times we heard blasts from ships signaling their departure.

* On Thursday evening we attended dinner with an Aboriginal Experience. A female trio sang aboriginal songs and a dance troupe performed, each for about 20 minutes. Many times something like this comes across as exploitive, simply entertaining the tourists. This time it felt like an intentional sharing of culture. The dancers included a dance honoring Raven the Trickster (many US tribes see the Trickster in coyote form). The dancers went out into the crowd and snatched up purses and phones, then teasing the owners by offering them and snatching away again. The audience enjoyed the tease. Before returning the phones the dancers took selfies with them. Here are the singers:

* Our closing banquet was in a room facing Burrard Inlet and Grouse Mountain. The room is advertised as the banquet hall in Vancouver with the best view.

Sunday, July 31
I was up at 4:30 this morning, out of the hotel at 5:30 to take a taxi to the train station for a 6:30 departure. Yes, I slept on the train. In contrast to the ride into Canada, on the trip south the train does stop at the border for 10 minutes while border staff collects entry cards and checks ID. That's part of the reason why the it takes 25 minutes longer for the Vancouver-Seattle trip, though I'm not sure of the reason for the other 15 minutes.

My timing was a bit off. Today was Vancouver's Pride Parade. I was at lunch in Seattle when it started. On my way back to the hotel last night I captured the 2010 Olympic Cauldron lit up in pride colors. On the ride to Grouse Mountain a few days ago the bus driver said you can have the Olympic flame turned on for your event for only $5000. For that fee a guy flicks a switch on and then off 4 hours later and about $50 worth of fuel is used.

Now in Seattle I took a taxi to a restaurant near the car rental office near the Washington Convention Center. Just after the taxi pulled away I realized I left my neck pillow behind. Oh well. I knew the restaurant would be open on a Sunday, but it was a bit pricey.

After lunch I pushed the suitcase a block to the rental office. There was some consternation when we got to insurance because I had prepaid for it – but through AAA, not the rental company. Finally on the road. Traffic was thick getting out of Seattle. Though I didn't take I-5, there was construction on that road, so there was extra traffic on the road I took.

The sky was clear and, when there weren't buildings and trees in the way, the view of Mt. Rainier was great. At a scenic rest stop I got a good picture.

I'm now at a little place between the village of Ashford and the Mt. Rainier park entrance. There are three rooms in the lodge (I'm in one of them) as well as several cabins on the hillside. I thought this room was rather charming and with lots more character than the hotel room I was in all last week.

The major task this evening was laundry. No guest facilities in the hotel, so I went back to Ashford. I had directions, but the bar that shared a parking lot (and my reference point) didn't have a sign by the road and is set back a ways. I drove past it twice without seeing it. I stopped for directions. The reply was it's, um, almost directly across the street.

Monday, August 1
Today was my assault on Mt. Rainier. I took over 100 pictures of the journey. I promise I won't inflict them all on you.

I left the lodge after 10:00. On the way up to Paradise I saw signs that said if flashing the Paradise parking lot is full. Whew! They weren't flashing. The parking lot was full. I ended up parking off the Paradise loop road about a mile from the visitor center. I started up a nearby trail, the 4th Crossing Trail. From there I took the Skyline Trail past Myrtle Falls.

This area was beautiful with sun on the glaciers and the wildflowers in bloom.

I went on to the Visitor Center for lunch and a break. After lunch I mostly took the Deadhorse Creek Trail in the general direction of up. I did that one because it was rated as less strenuous (less steep) than some of the others. I took it to where it joined the western side of the Skyline Trail. From that height – about the tree line, or near 6000 feet – I could see over the Tatoosh Mountains to see Mt. Adams...

...and Mt. St. Helens (with wisps of steam).

I descended back to the Visitor Center on Skyline Trail and Alta Vista Trail (though avoiding the climb to the lookout). The Alta Vista Trail was so steep my toes were crunched in the toes of my shoes (for a hint of dancing on point). I was glad I was going down and not up. Back at the Visitor Center the late afternoon sun prompted one more shot.

After a rest, at about 5:00 I walked back to my car along the loop road. I took the winding road east (and if it wasn't so late and I wasn't so tired I might have stopped a few times). Then I took the main road along the eastern side of the park to Crystal Mountain, where I am spending the night.