Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Stirring with a foreign spoon

Newspapers appear to be having a fine time with “Democrats in Disarray!” as the Dem convention gets underway (not that I've personally seen a newspaper, American or not, in the last few days). But, according to the summary by Melissa McEwen of Shakesville, it is a tempest in a teacup, stuff that's familiar to those thick in politics.

But it is the stuff about Donald Trump that is truly scary. I don't know how much is fact and how much is speculation. I leave it to McEwen to provide the details and links. It appears Trump's business dealings were so bad American banks wouldn't lend to him anymore. One place he could get money was Russia, in particular pals of Putin. We don't know the extent of the debt, but it is enough that Trump is compromised. He'll be dealing with Russia not as a free-world leader, but as a debtor. Putin will use that position to keep America out of his way in such areas as Ukraine and the Baltics. Trump has already said he wants to change the terms of NATO, making Estonia cringe.

So this whole Dem mess is Putin stirring the pot trying to get Trump elected.

Travelogue – a clear day

Friday July 22
As I left Detroit the sky was clear, so I could identify various Michigan cities – Jackson, Marshall, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo – before the plane headed across Lake Michigan. Across the country there were some areas of cloud cover, though some clear areas as well. I had the screen on the seat-back in front of me set to display the plane's location, so I'm pretty sure I identified the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and the Columbia River in central Washington. Mt. Rainier poked up through the clouds with Mt. Hood behind it. I had a good view of Lake Washington as we flew the length of Seattle for the landing.

I took the Link train from the airport. I think this train was in planning stages when I was last in Seattle in 2008. I got off in Chinatown for an inexpensive hotel also close to the train station. The Panama Hotel is considered a historic landmark and is full of antique furniture. The “desk” clerk actually spends a lot of time on the front sidewalk to help carry luggage up the two flights and to warn new guests that the rug was put down in the 1930s, so guests are not allowed to roll their luggage on it.

I guess another way to look at it: For $200 more I could have had a toilet and shower in the room (instead of down the hall), springs that didn't squeak and sag, and a bit of space to turn around. Hotels in Seattle are expensive. But it was for only one night. And about as close as I could get to the train station.

Saturday, July 23
I didn't attempt to try to adjust to local time. I was up at 5:00 to be out of the hotel by 6:50 to walk back down the hill to the train station. The deli I had tagged to supply breakfast was closed for the weekend (a detail I forgot to check) and the hotel didn't serve breakfast until 8:00. So I ate from my jar of peanut butter. The train left at 7:45 with every seat full.

The train from Seattle to Vancouver was pleasant. I was surprised how much of the route is right along the water. One would think such real estate would go for cottages with a view of the water rather than of the water and the train.

At 10:30 I decided the peanut butter wasn't going to be enough and walked nearly the length of the train to the snack bar and bought a burger. That threw off my meal schedule for the day, but allowed me to get from the train (which arrived at noon) to my hotel while not feeling starved.

Because of the number of days of the trip and all the different things I'll be doing I took my big suitcase and packed it full. I think at the airport it came in at 47 pounds. Pushing it along on its four wheels isn't easy because it tends to want to go at an angle to my desired direction. It is a bit heavy for pulling on two wheels. Even so, I pushed it uphill for the 3 blocks to the Seattle hotel and got it on the Link in Seattle and the Skytrain in Vancouver. However, when I get back to Seattle I'll go over a mile from the train station to the car rental. My original thought was a mile on foot, no problem. Given Seattle's hills and this suitcase, I think a cab will be a fine idea.

I'm on the 23rd floor of my Vancouver hotel! That gives me a great view of … other skyscrapers. That includes a new Trump Tower, which will open at the end of summer and is the tallest building in Vancouver. Those who paid millions to buy an apartment in what is now the second tallest (a mere block away) are quite annoyed.

Though it was now afternoon, I wasn't hungry. I walked from the hotel to the Burrard Inlet and around the Convention Center where I'll be spending lots of time starting Tuesday. I also found the bike rental shops and the seawall trail. From there I walked down to Gastown and its famous steam clock. Though I had lunch in the area (at 2:30) it didn't take long to figure out the shops were for tourists. Time to move on.

Nearby was a famous Chinese garden. Right next door is a free Chinese park. I wandered the park and decided not to pay admission to the garden. I guess I won't know whether that was a big mistake.

I walked back towards downtown to Vancouver Lookout a tall building (once tallest, now 6th tallest in the city) with windows offering a full circle of view. I got about 3/4 around when they announced a guide will be explaining some of the sights. See that cluster of tall buildings in the distance? That's not Seattle. That's the suburb of Burnaby, only 6 miles away. Apartment prices are only slightly cheaper than downtown Vancouver.

The guide said Vancouver was holding a fireworks contest. Tonight would be a show put on by the Netherlands (the guide thought it was New Zealand). Wednesday night would be Australia, and next Saturday would be America (with the show created by Disney – want to guess who will win?).

From the hotel I walked towards English Bay where the festivities would be held. I walked along Robson Street and found supper (though it was only so-so). A few blocks farther was Davie Street, which looks to be the local gayborhood. There were rainbow flags in practically every shop window. From there I went on to the bay. Along the way I saw lots of apartment buildings. The older ones were 3-4 stories, newer were 12-25 stories. I saw very few houses and those I saw had historical designations.

I sat on the crest of a hill above the bay – until a test shot showed trees would block my view. So I moved to another hill to get a clear view. Around me were lots of people and there were lots of boats in the bay. The sky still had a glow when the show started, even though sunset had been an hour before. Fireworks were set off from a barge in the bay. Once it was well underway there were almost always streamers shot off in patterns filling the lower part of the sky while the bigger chrysanthemum displays went off above. As each exploded I could hear the same pattern of echoes off the tall apartment buildings. The pattern started to my right, moved away behind me, with a last echo from my back-left.

Traffic was banned for several blocks around the bay When the show was over there were streams of people walking down the streets.

I don't know if I'll be able to see the Australian fireworks display. I won't go to the Disney display because my train leaves at 6:30 the next morning.

Up at 5:00, to bed by midnight. A good day, though 19 hours.

Sunday, July 24
The sky was clear and I could see the mountains across the inlet, so I scrapped my plans to spend the day in museums. Instead I took the free shuttle up to Grouse Mountain. On the way the bus driver talked about the development of the high-rise condos on the waterfront. He said he took his cat to see one. The cat said no – not enough space for the litter box.

I took the aerial tram up to the crest of the mountain. This turned out to be a very good day to go because the visibility was great! I could look over the city and see the silhouettes of the Olympic Mountains in Washington.

From another spot I could see Mt. Baker with a few other mountain peaks nearby, though none of the staff knew the names.

The top of Grouse Mountain is quite a tourist draw. There are the usual restaurants and shops. There are also helicopter rides, ziplines, and parasails. One could also see a few shows, both live (birds and lumberjacks) and on screen (more birds and bears). One could go to the large pen holding two orphaned grizzly bears. One could take guide led hikes (maybe a mile), take a chair lift to the peak, or even go to the top of the wind turbine. I stuck to the stuff included in the aerial tram price.

I did the nature hike. The guide talked about the size of British Columbia (more than twice the size of Texas) and how it is mostly mountains and the western edge is a rain forest. The population of the province is 4 million, with 2.5 million south of where we stood just north of Vancouver. The guide also talked about how the new Canadian Prime Minister campaigned for increased immigration – and won. Perhaps there will be more immigration after November. Canadians think American politics is so strange and fascinating.

I watched the lumberjack show in which Johnnie and Willie demonstrated several lumberjack skills while joking with the audience and emcee. One more character showed up and climbed the 60-foot pole and did a bit of balancing at the top – doing several things that made us think he was about to fall. The whole show was scripted – and they joked about that too (though I'm sure they didn't script who won each little contest, such as throwing an ax at a bulls-eye).

I felt four hours up top was enough, and it seemed everyone else had the same idea. Though the tram could take maybe 50 people at a time and departed every 4 minutes, I stood in line for a half hour.

Not too far from the base of the tram is a famous suspension bridge for walking over a valley (I think). But I was too tired to include that in my day.

Back at the hotel I asked the concierge for restaurant suggestions. Alas, for the one that sounded intriguing she had the location off by several blocks. I'll try that one tomorrow. In my wandering I found a Tesla automobile display room (only one car on display). I also found the local Anglican Cathedral. The signs around it use rainbow colors to emphasize inclusiveness. It uses the slogan, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” I hope they live into that slogan more accurately than the United Methodist denomination, which is also using it.

Monday, July 25
I rented a bicycle by 9:30 this morning. The shop was on the water side of the Convention Center. I rode the seawall route along Coal Harbor (now with lots of fancy condo towers), around Stanley Park, back into the city along English Bay and False Creek to just before the Science Museum at the East end of False Creek. Then I took the seawall route back to Stanley Park to where it was one-way and I could not enter. I took a few trails through the park looking for some of the big old-growth trees still there.

Then I went along Lost Lagoon, to the seawall route along Coal Harbor, and back to the rental shop. Total time about 2:40. I don't know the miles or kilometers.

Vancouver treats its cyclist well. This seawall route was paved and had distinct lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians for almost the entire route. Sometimes these were even separated by greenery. When I got back to Coal Harbor at noon I saw the need for this – both the pedestrian and bicycle lanes were well used.

I had heard Stanley Park is famous for its trees. I hadn't realized that implied much of the park is forest, and old-growth forest at that. Since I listen to Canadian radio when in Detroit (among other listening options) I had heard of the huge windstorm about 10 years ago that blew down thousands of trees. I heard laments that Stanley Park would never be the same. To me the place still looks like a forest. It was hard to see where the downed trees would have been. Then again, I actually saw very little of the park.

The entire distance along False Creek was lined with these high-rise apartments. With a view of the water I'm sure they were pricey. The east end of False Creek was the site of the 1986 World Fair. I attended with my brother and family when his older daughter was a year old. We stayed in North Vancouver and crossed Lion's Gate Bridge every day. We were so busy with the Fair (and traffic) we saw little of Vancouver (I also saw little of Vancouver in 2008 when I bustled through from train station to cruise ship dock with Mom and Dad in tow). False Creek has changed a great deal since that first visit.

I needed a rest before I showered. By the time I was ready to venture out for lunch it was 2:00. I thought of heading to the Space Museum and wasn't so sure of eating museum food. So I got a burger at a restaurant/grocery store near the hotel.

By the time I got back to the hotel and checked with the concierge the museum was just 20 minutes from closing. Next option was Granville Island. I didn't feel up to walking there, so took a cab.

The big thing on Granville Island is the Public Market. It is part Detroit's Eastern Market, with fresh fruits and vegetables and meats for sale, and part artist colony – there's a shop in the Ten Thousand Villages chain nearby. Add in an upscale food court for ready-to-eat meals and live entertainment. I should not have had lunch before I came. Even so probably very little of it fit into my diet, so perhaps just as well. I explored the rest of the island, which was mostly artist shops. One of those was a musical instrument shop with lots of signs saying, “Please ask before you play!” In the window is a sound cradle. It has a place to sit and more than a dozen harp strings to the right on the outside. The person to be comforted sits in the cradle and another plays the strings.

In many previous trips I bought a bell or a pretty or unusual mug. I've now got quite a few of both. There were lots of mugs and a few bells at some of these shops, some quite pretty or cute. It seems spending a year cleaning out Dad's house has taken the charm out of collecting more stuff.

I was tired and done looking a bit after 4:00. I found a shady seat where I could look across False Creek and listen to some of the live entertainment (a guy singing songs from James Taylor and Karen Carpenter) and enjoy the pleasant breeze. I opened my book and read. Around 5:00 I was hungry and found a frozen yogurt vendor. I sat and enjoyed that, then read some more.

Close to 6:00 I took the False Creek Ferry to the downtown side and walked to the Thai restaurant I didn't find yesterday. It was very good, though the waiter didn't ask how spicy I wanted it. I'm sure it was medium, not the mild I usually request.

Tomorrow is the start of the handbell symposium, my reason for being here. I'm not sure when I'll post again.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leaving on a jet plane

I'm starting my vacation tomorrow. I fly to Seattle, then in the morning take the train to Vancouver BC. I'll be there for a week, mostly attending the International Handbell Symposium. Then the train back to Seattle and exploring the state of Washington for a second week. I'll post my adventures as time (and internet connection) permits.

When one is semi-retired, a vacation is when one actually leaves the house and travels.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I need to be Top Dog

A friend (not the debate partner) responded to my post that gave a reason why Hillary Clinton is disliked. He wrote:
I’d like you to review the reasons Hillary is disliked. It’s too simplistic to say “Hillary is polarizing because she advocates eradicating it.”
That "it" being bigotry.

Yes, that is simplistic. But I don't think it is far off the mark.

My friend continued:
She has been hated by some since her term as First Lady.

Note: 60% say “Clinton does not share my values”.
64% say “She is not honest or trustworthy”

To a large extent, these are the consistent charges levelled against her for years by Republicans.
The dishonesty doesn’t need to be proven, just repeated until people start thinking “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” Changes from Whitewater to Benghazi might clear her, but the taint remains.

These explanations for their dislike of Hillary don’t address her stand on issues (or what she advocates). Of course, I think some is a cover for Anti-Woman, just like there is a cover for Racists disliking Obama. More interesting to me is “Why has it gotten worse?” Trump has been relentless with “Crooked Hillary”. That actually has traction with many, ludicrous as it may be.

I think my friend has covered a good deal of the reasons. And I think a good portion of the view of Hillary is "Anti-Woman" as my friend put it. I've been reading a lot of Melissa McEwen of Shakesville (as I've mentioned in this blog many times of late). She traces a great deal of the negative view of Hillary to misogyny (not that I can pull up a specific post of hers).

Over the last couple years I've come to understand the depth of the drive behind misogyny and racism (which have the same root). It is all based on a desperate need to declare oneself to be better than others. This need is so strong that people kill to maintain their status on top (or to try to gain status). So, yeah, I can believe that is a great part of the reasons why Hillary is disliked. She may have had a high approval rating as Secretary of State, but she wasn't much of a threat to male egos there – with Hillary following Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice teenagers began to think Sec'y of State was a woman's job. Now she is running for Top Dog. A lot of male egos can't handle that.

Another big reason for the high disapproval rating is the GOP belief that they are supposed to be in control. I see two components of that. One part leads back to the desperate need to be on top, a place white males are having a hard time hanging onto as the demographics of the country changes. The other part is the GOP corporate backers need to prevent Hillary from winning. But even the need for control by corporate leaders is part of this need to be on top and prevent others from challenging their top status.

My friend provided a link to a New York Times article speculating on why Hillary is disliked. I thought it was lame, so won't link to it. The central idea is that Hillary is disliked because she is a workaholic, always on the job. We are never told how she relaxes.

Back to where we started: Hillary is polarizing because she advocates eradicating bigotry. Yeah, it may be simplistic, but it's about right.

A few days ago I wrote about the new Trump-Pence logo and how many saw gay innuendo. That logo is now gone from the campaign website. Gone within 24 hours.

In that link about the GOP belief they are supposed to be in control, I had written "Keep the fear high -- the masses need the GOP to keep them safe." From what I understand this is what this evening's topic at the Republican Convention is all about – not that I'd would watch it.

Pain level = tiny

Windows 10 has now been out for almost a year. And all that time it has bugged me to upgrade. A couple months ago I heard that the free upgrade would end on July 29, when I'll be traveling. If I'm to upgrade (for free) I would have to do it today.

In the last few months I had heard from users of my music editing program, a major factor in my choice of computer tools. Compatibility of this program is a big concern of mine because the version I'm using is no longer supported and other users aren't big fans of the latest version (which came out 3 years ago). These friends said that an upgrade should not interfere with the operation of that program. The upgrade verification tool said the same thing.

So today I did a backup (yikes! it had been a year (one day short) since my last backup). Then I clicked on the update icon and let it do its thing.

Thankfully, Windows 10 is about the same. Yes, things look a bit different – and I have a taskbar at the bottom edge of both screens – but otherwise things seem pretty much the same. The music program works, and the image I use for background is still there. This had a whole lot less pain than building this system two years ago.

I'm assured that if I don't like it I can go back to Windows 7 if I do so within 30 days.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lesbian bishop!

The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church has elected a lesbian as their new bishop! Details are in my brother blog.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Clarify control = seize control

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as VP to Trump? Melissa McEwen of Shakesville, who lives in Indiana, tells us all we need to know about Pence.
Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, was elected in 2012 to be Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction. She was a huge underdog–but defeated the incumbent because a majority of Hoosiers, both progressive and conservative, supported her willingness to challenge Republican proposals that would destroy public education in Indiana.

Ritz was the first Democrat to serve as Superintendent in 40 years.

Governor Mike Pence was elected during the same election. One of his first acts as governor was to remove Ritz from the union-centered Educational Employment Relations Board. The Republican-controlled House Education Committee then proposed a bill to "strip the superintendent's position as chair of the State Board of Education. …The bill would allow Republican Gov. Mike Pence's 10 appointees to the 11-member board to elect their own chair."

In other words, as soon as a Democrat was elected to an influential state position (with 53% of the vote, higher than Pence received), the Republican governor and legislature set to rendering her office utterly without power and empowering themselves to oust her and prevent the reforms she was elected to champion.

The Republicans claimed their power grab, with Pence leading the charge, was merely intended to "clarify control of education policy."

Which is quite an extraordinary euphemism for "seize unilateral control of education policy, in direct contravention of the will of the voters."

This is how Pence does business.

I won't bother linking to the disaster last year when Pence badly fumbled the hastily passed and signed law that was a license to discriminate against LGBT people.

Many people took one look at the new Trump-Pence logo and saw gay innuendo that Pence would no doubt want to make illegal.

With about 3.5 months to go I've already reached my fill of the prez. campaign. My choice is obvious. So don't be surprised if I say nothing more about Hillary or Donald for the rest of the season. Of course, if something really fascinating is said or done I might make a comment. But there is now a quite high bar on what is considered fascinating.

I'll have recommendations on Michigan races when the state gay newspaper publishes its voter guide.

Government schools

I've been hearing a lot in the news – even NPR does it to some extent – about how high the unfavorable ratings of both Clinton and Trump are. Melissa McEwen of Shakesville strongly objects to the equivalency.
Donald is disliked, in large part, because he is a bigot and a bully. And Hillary is disliked, in some part, because she refuses to alienate the same marginalized people that Donald targets.

I cannot put this any more plainly: Donald is polarizing because he traffics in bigotry. Hillary is polarizing because she advocates eradicating it.
(emphasis in the original)

What I'm saying is that the unique (as we keep hearing) levels of dislike for her are not simply attributable to policy differences. And that the reasons she is disliked to the degree that she is are not at all the same reasons for why Trump is.

And I really wish the media would stop pretending otherwise.

The GOP in Kansas has put such a squeeze on the state budget that funding for public schools has collapsed. The state Supremes demanded the schools be funded, but the "solution" is quite temporary.

But that's OK. Because public schools are being rebranded as "government schools." As in, you know, Reagan's famous phrase, "Government is the problem." As in schools where kids get free or reduced cost meals.

As in those people are given an education. This is a part of that old Southern Strategy where gov't is associated with helping the "undeserving" – anyone who isn't white.

The GOP in Texas passed a new law requiring universities to allow guns on campus, including in classrooms. The day before five police officers were killed in Dallas, three female professors at University of Texas at Austin have files suit in an attempt to block the law. Their reasoning:
In the suit, professors say they teach courses that touch emotional issues like gay rights and abortion. The possibility of guns on campus could stifle class discussion, which is a violation of the First Amendment, the suit says.
I'm reminded of my days of teaching in a college classroom. Though I wasn't teaching emotional issues, such as abortion, I would not want a student questioning a grade while it was obvious a gun was within reach. That would be a reason for me to leave that school or decide it was time to retire.

I mentioned yesterday that the new GOP party platform was more conservative than the 2012 platform. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin says it is the most anti-LGBT GOP platform ever (though, to be fair, back before 1965 the platform didn't need to be anti-LGBT because the whole society was). It is also a lot more anti-LGBT than the party's prez. candidate.

Commenter SharonB summarizes with what must be a tired refrain:
Again, not all Republicans hate me, but everyone who hates me is Republican.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

They're not going

The GOP has been working on their party platform. Yeah, it is as nasty as one would expect. It is more conservative than the 2012 platform – talk of "traditional" family structure, reinstituting the ban on women in combat, describing coal as "clean," declaring porn as a "public health crisis" (not guns?), adding more disapprovals of LGBT people, encouraging teaching the Bible in schools, and demanding that lawmakers be guided by religion. It seems in their efforts to prevent Islamic Sharia law in America they want to institute the Christian equivalent. And don't forget Trump's wall.

Four years ago Wall Street went to the GOP convention and schmoozed, putting perhaps $60 million into Romney's campaign. This year? They're not going.

They Anglican Church of Canada voted whether to allow same-sex marriage. The process required two-thirds approval by each of lay, clergy, and bishops. The clergy category missed getting enough by one vote. Because it was so close delegates asked for a hard copy of the voting records. One clergy vote was counted in the wrong category. So they got their two-thirds! The resolution in favor of same-sex marriage passed.

Twitter user Buxy tweeted:
I've been waiting for Obama to take my gun for 7 years and all I got was health insurance, marriage equality, a job and cleaner energy.

With all the terrorist bombings around the world getting lots of attention someone decided to present a different perspective. Follow the link to a map showing all the car bomb explosions in Baghdad since the USA invaded in 2003.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Taxes and regulations are hurting us

The GOP likes to say that high taxes and excessive gov't regulations are hurting small businesses. David Akadjian, writing for Daily Kos, says that what is hurting small business isn't taxes and regulations. What is hurting small business is big business. He counts the ways:

1. A lot of small towns now look like ghost towns. I noticed this in the town where I was born, 15 miles south of Sandusky, Ohio (still have relatives in the area). Nearly all the storefronts along Main Street have signs saying, "Available." On the edge of these ghost towns or in a neighboring town sit WalMart, Home Depot, Best Buy, or Bed Bath & Beyond.

Not only have the local merchants been run out of business, but the big box store owners don't live upstairs. They are not connected to the community, they have no responsibility to the town, and ignore pressure to pay decent wages and not pollute.

2. Technology improves productivity for the owners. The bigger the company the more they can invest in tech. All the worker gets out of it is the gig economy, one or more part-time jobs without benefits. The company gets increased profits, the worker gets all the risks.

3. Globalization is something big companies can do. Small companies then have to compete against cheaper labor costs. The lack of local wage-earners is a lack of customers for the small businesses.

4. Big businesses can afford to buy Congress and do so routinely. What they want out of Congress is tax loopholes and the end of regulations to benefit themselves, those things they claim are hurting small business.

What big businesses are after is more power, more profits, and less responsibility. It is big business that is hurting small business.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Cleaned out

Last Tuesday evening I got a note from my credit union saying they would be offering a shredding service today at a nearby branch. I've got stuff to shred, so I put it on my calendar. Alas, I had just been to Dad's house so couldn't take a few bags of his shredable stuff.

A few months ago as I realized the extent of what Dad had left behind I began looking at my own files. Over about a month I sorted through the stacks of papers. In doing so I realized how old some of them are. I don't need to follow one trait of Dad's.

So when I got this notice of a shred event I knew I had stuff that could go. I checked online for recommendations on how long to keep stuff. The maximum would be seven years for papers that might be involved in taxes (though many documents could be eliminated a whole lot sooner). I went through those folders I had created a few months ago and pulled out everything dated before 2010. Then I went through a few more drawers of papers and added those to the bags (those drawers are almost empty now). Some of those things, such as pay statements, dated back to (and sometimes before) when I moved into this house at the end of 1991. I'm pretty sure any documents before then never got unpacked from my previous residence and were lost in the basement flood 4 years ago.

Two paper grocery bags of stuff from my files. A third grocery bag of recent stuff, such as checks incorrectly written, that had been sitting there getting full (actually overflowing).

I drove to the shredding site and as I approached I saw a traffic backup. Part of it was people lined up to turn into the collection area. Another part was because a six-mile section of northbound highway I-275 is now closed for replacement and this road is the first major north-south road to the east of the highway. I didn't realize it then. I did realize it when I tried to head north on the first major north-south road to the west of the highway to do some grocery shopping.

It is good to get rid of it all.

I'm annoyed with the Adobe Flash program that is used by so many websites (especially ads). A few weeks ago I was told it was time to update, so I did. I wasn't on top of things enough to remember that Adobe always defaults to also installing the McAfee antivirus program. I already have a security program and don't want another possibly interfering. So when I saw McAfee installing I cut power to the computer. This wasn't the first time.

When that happens I get a notice on my browser that the Flash program was out of date. Do I want to allow for this webpage? For a while I just lived with the notice because most things I wanted to do worked fine without it (even, alas, most ads).

While I do housework I frequently put on a podcast to listen to. Lately it has been the More Perfect series from Radiolab which I've mentioned before (the episode I listened to today was about the death penalty and why lethal injection drugs are no longer available). At the top of that page was a note saying I really should update Flash.

So I did (remembering to say no to McAfee). When I restarted my browser it started reloading the Adobe page. I got an error box that said something like, "A plugin script is not working. Would you like to: Continue | Stop Plugin." This would appear for a moment then vanish. In the meantime the browser appeared to be hung. Then the error box would come back. Maybe after a dozen appearances I got another box that offered the option to debug the script. I clicked on that. I could use the browser again, but no longer do anything with that page. I finally got rid of both Adobe pages, but then had the same trouble on the More Perfect page. I went into my browser controls and shut off Flash. Problem gone and I could hear my podcast. I ended up fussing with that for half an hour. Grr!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Look at the evidence

When Colombia and a few more states in Mexico achieved marriage equality we passed a milestone: more than 1 billion people live in states and countries with legal same-sex marriage. That's pretty good in 15 years (Netherlands began same-sex marriages in 2001). Even so, 1 billion is only 14% of the world's population.

A sweet five minute film in which the dad is getting a boutonniere ready for his son's prom and the son says his date is another guy.

Just before the end of the legislative session, lawmakers in North Carolina fixed the nasty bathroom law. Notice I didn't say "repeal." The original bill blocked those discriminated against from filing claims in state court. Those claims can now be filed in state court, though with a statute of limitations of a year. Before this bill was passed, the statute of limitations was three years. Those affected by this change are mostly straight people. All better now. NOT!

In addition the lawmakers needed a half-million dollars to pay for the legal defense of this nasty bill. They found that money in the state's disaster relief fund. Better hope for no hurricanes.

Bill Maher, in an 8 minute video, repeats a frequently touted phrase that states are laboratories of policy. Try something and see if it works. He then asks an important question: Isn't someone supposed to look at the evidence produced by these laboratories?

Case in point: the experiment to see if cutting taxes on the rich improves the state economy and raising taxes on the rich hurts the economy. Evidence: GOP-run states such as Kansas and Louisiana are "failing catastrophically." Democrats control the state government in California. They raised taxes on the rich and the place is booming. This one state has risen to be the sixth largest economy in the world and closing in fast on the UK for fifth place.

So what was that bit about the definition of insanity is keep doing the same thing and expecting different results...

Another blow

My brother Dan reports his wife Karen is in hospice. Her decline has been rapid and the latest symptom was the loss of the ability to swallow. Her doctor said not to bother with a feeding tube.

Dan works for an international company. His first foreign postings were in London and Paris, where his daughters grew up. After a few years at home and their daughters now grown Dan and Karen took a posting to Malaysia. From there he visited contacts from Australia to South Korea. Karen accompanied him on every business trip, as he worked she explored whatever city they were in. One year my Christmas gift was a donation to an organization in Cambodia dedicated to removing land mines.

Two years ago Karen had a few weird memory incidents, then had a seizure. They were in Singapore at the time so were able to use its fine medical facilities. The diagnosis was a brain tumor, a particularly nasty form of cancer. Karen went through the surgery, the radiation, and the chemo. The doctors pronounced her one of the few lucky ones to survive this kind of cancer. Her hair grew back.

This past winter they accepted a new assignment, a posting to Munich, Germany. They looked forward to exploring Central Europe the way they had explored Southeast Asia. About three months ago, shortly after settling in, Karen began feeling sleepy and showing signs of unsteadiness, first in walking, then in standing. The cancer was back. This time not as a tumor, but as a "fog" through her brain. Surgery was not possible. There wasn't one small area for radiation to strike. And in her frail condition chemo did more harm than good.

Karen was soon in a wheelchair. When they went for a doctor visit and Karen couldn't hold her head up the doctor sent her to the hospital. At the end of her time in the hospital Dan's visiting mother-in-law made it clear Dan would not be able to care for Karen on his own and recommended a nursing home. When Karen couldn't swallow the home said they were no longer able to care for her and recommended a hospital able to handle hospice care (quite close to Schloss Nymphenburg!).

After Dan got past the "Who is paying for this?" he discovered the staff at the various care facilities have been wonderful, providing care well beyond the job. He contacted an English-speaking Methodist Church and their pastor has also come to sit with them. His employer has firmly told him his first priority is his wife.

Dan was quite scared when he realized Karen couldn't swallow. He remembered well my stories from last summer when Dad's swallow reflex was damaged and had a feeding tube installed.

Coming so soon after my brother Tim's death at the end of May (Karen was already unable to travel so they did not attend) and less than a year after Dad's death this is hard to take. My sister Laney said it well: Enough! Stop! We don't want any more deaths in the family for at least 20 years! It is one thing to say goodbye to a father in is late 80s. It is quite another to say goodbye to a brother just a few years older and a sister-in-law who is a few years younger.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Fill your own shoes

The United Methodist Church has a system where pastors in local churches are appointed by the bishop. This saves a congregation from having to deal with an interim pastor while working out what kind of replacement to call. The flip side is our pastors tend to stay less than a decade in one spot.

This year our beloved Pastor Jeff was asked to move on. He had been at the church only seven years (I knew him for two) and because of the great job hew as doing we assumed he would be with us a few more. But the bishop called him last March with an offer of a move (he knew that it would be a really good idea to take it). So through May and June he gave a series of sermons to emphasize the basic messages he had developed with us. The first of the series was, "All means all." When this church says it welcomes all, it really does mean all.

Two weeks ago we said goodbye to Pastor Jeff. We set an attendance record of over 350 people. Last Sunday we had a guest preacher, a retired pastor who has been attending (and had been a mentor to Pastor Jeff).

And today we welcomed Pastor Ben. He'll do just fine. He got a laugh when he told the story of the personal turmoil he went through ten years ago – as a senior in high school – trying to decide what his direction in life should be. Yes, he is that young.

As part of introducing the new guy and his wife to the congregation the leadership team presented them with a few gifts, such as a gift certificate to the diner that has become an extension of the church (I think that's where the men's Bible study meets).

And a gift for Pastor Ben that I thought was very wise and meaningful – a pair of shoes. The leadership explained, "We don't want you to try to fill Pastor Jeff's shoes. You have your own shoes to fill." I appreciated this gift because at my previous church many members grumbled when a new pastor didn't try to fill the previous pastor's shoes. I'm delighted the church leadership understands that and used a powerful symbol to tell both the new pastor and the rest of the congregation (though I doubt this church will do much grumbling).

Saturday, July 2, 2016

High likelihood of winning

I mentioned yesterday that nasty Right-to-Discriminate law in Mississippi was struck down minutes before it was to go into effect. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin has details. What Judge Carlton Reeves did was actually an injunction. This isn't the final ruling on the law; that's still to come. The injunction keeps the law from hurting people until that final ruling.

Reeves did that because he said those seeking to strike down the law have a very high likelihood of winning their case. From the length and detail of his injunction we can see why he thinks that. There's almost enough detail for it to be the final ruling – except he had a deadline. I'll let you explore his reasoning on your own.

Gossip is an authoritarian's playground

The July 1 print edition (not online yet) of The Washington Spectator has an article about gossip columns written by Rick Perlstein. He looks at when gossip columnist Hedda Hopper appeared to rule Hollywood as the Queen of Mean. He mentions how she dissed "social problem" films and labeled certain actors as "homewreckers." Hopper was a pal with J. Edgar Hoover.

Perlstein explains:
Celebrity gossip is a fundamentally right-wing mode of discourse. … [T]he genre's work, fundamentally, leverages the pleasure of titillation in the service of policing "proper" decorum, a threat held above the head of anyone who would traduce the gossiper's arbitrary standards—a cynical manipulation of the mass amygdala, simultaneously enshrining the most conventional narratives of what counts as success in a capitalist society while dangling evidence of its precariousness for those who would dissent from the sanctioned canons of behavior. Ownership of a gossip sheet is an authoritarian's playground.

From there we move to the Trump campaign. Trump is a friend of David Pecker, current publisher of the National Enquirer, the gossip mag that doesn't seem to care a whole lot for truth. How friendly?

A year ago, when Trump entered the race for the GOP presidential nominee, the Enquirer had an article on Jeb Bush. There was another in September. Jeb's campaign seemed to never ignite. In October, Ben Carson briefly passed Trump in the polls. An article about Carson appeared in the Enquirer soon after. Bye Ben. Another appeared about Carly Fiorina after she had a great showing in a debate. Farewell, Carly. And one appeared on Ted Cruz just a couple days before the Indiana primary, after which Cruz dropped out.

Will Hillary Clinton be dragged through the pages of the Nation Enquirer in, let's see, October? Will it have any effect on the election? Maybe not, if the Enquirer readers are mostly Trump supporters anyway. Besides, the GOP has been hammering Hillary for 20 years now and she still manages to be ahead.

Manufactured case

I listened to another episode of More Perfect, a series about cases before the Supremes put together by the same folks as Radiolab. I listened to it online. In 63 minutes this episode tells two stories.

The first is a look at Lawrence v. Texas, the case that went to the Supremes and overturned state sodomy laws in 2003. Though John Lawrence and Tyron Garner say they weren't having sex together, the arresting officer claims he caught them in the act. An LGBT community organizer had been looking for a case to challenge the Texas sodomy law and latched onto this one, even though Lawrence and Garner were not ideal plaintiffs. But by the time the case got to the Supremes five years later there wasn't much of either man in the story presented to the Justices. This was the case in which Justice Scalia dissented and in that dissent predicted it would lead to the Court legalizing same-sex marriage – which it did 12 years later.

The second story is about Edward Blum. When he ran for Congress a couple decades ago he decided he would visit every home in the district to introduce himself. In doing so he realized the district lines were quite weird – specifically including this apartment block and excluding that one. He also realized that a good number of the district residents were black. With a bit of digging he discovered that it was a district created as minority-majority. According to the Voting Rights Act there had to be districts with enough minority residents so they could elect one of their own. This district was one of them.

Though Blum lost that election, he found his life mission. Splitting up neighborhoods on the basis of race wasn't right. So he and friends sued. I'd have to listen to the episode again to remember how this case came out. Blum went on, with significant conservative backing, to guide the case Shelby County v. Holder that overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Blum was also behind the case *Fisher v. University of Texas* on affirmative action that the Supremes ruled on last week – thankfully against Blum. Blum has now guided 20 cases, six of them before the Supremes.

Some people in this episode are aghast that Blum seemed to manufacture the case against UT. To challenge a law there must be someone harmed by the law. It also helps that the situation could not easily be remedied through popular vote, meaning tyranny of the majority. Blum created a website and video asking upset white students if they think they were discriminated against through UT admissions. Out of 170 responses he chose the one he thought would have the best chances.

Feeling bad about conservatives manufacturing a case? Ah, but it was a common tactic in many civil rights cases, a famous one being Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896. Louisiana had enacted a law requiring that blacks and whites must travel in separate cars on a train. Those who wanted to overturn the law hired Mr. Plessy, who was 1/8 black, to get a ticket in the white car. When the conductor asked for his ticket, Plessy announced, "I'm one-eighth black and I'm staying right here." Plessy was arrested by a security guard (also hired by the legal team) and the legal work began. Alas, when this one got to the Supremes, it backfired. This was the case where the Supremes ruled that separate but equal was just fine with them.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Straight pride

As we ended LGBT Pride month there again came a call for Straight Pride events. I've heard two great responses. (1) Straight Pride? That gets celebrated every day! (2) Straight people should be thankful they don't need one.

The Gay Times UK explains that second response:
Pride month is the time we, and our LGBT allies, come together to celebrate diversity, community and unity in the face of oppression and hatred. In the wake of events like Orlando, ‘religious freedom’ laws being passed in the US and countries around the world still punishing homosexuality with the death penalty, Pride month is just as important as it ever was.
Commenter gldstndrd wrote:
dear 'straight pride' people: i'll trade you. you can have the damn parade, and i'll be safe, accepted in society, and have my basic human rights given to me without question.
Commenter JT:
Breaking News: You're not being oppressed when another group gains rights you've always had!
Commenter Rebecca Gardner adds:
Straight people worry about sharing a bathroom. Queer people worry about being murdered for existing.
april lavalle suggests that one can see a straight pride parade at every Trump rally.

In other Pride news, Hillary Clinton marched in the NYC Pride Parade, the first nominee for prez. to do so.

Judicial emergency

The United Nations Human Rights Council has independent experts for various issues. One has now been added for LGBT affairs. This person will keep the international spotlight on LGBT issues and see that these issues are integrated into what public officials and diplomats do.

The resolution creating this post has a few amendments, proposed by Pakistan. One adds respect for local values, "religious sensitivities," or domestic politics. Another condemns "coercive measures" in an attempt to change national values through such things as reducing international aid.

Even with this watering down, it is good to have someone manning that spotlight.

On the one-month anniversary of the Orlando attack the GOP members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have scheduled a hearing on a First Amendment Defense Act. Yup, they've invited several conservative witnesses to testify for the need for a Religious Freedom Act (by another name). At the very least they're tone deaf.

The National Organization for Marriage (theirs, not yours) is lamenting their recent rally was a bust and they're out of money. Even so the GOP still does their bidding.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the guy who is saving the empty seat on the Supremes for Trump to fill, isn't able to answer the question, "Is Donald Trump qualified to be President?" There's a red flag on that play.

Meanwhile the Senate Judiciary Committee has essentially shut down the confirmation of any judge that Obama has nominated. That includes 12 vacancies just in Texas, where the workload has been designated a judicial emergency. Senators Cruz and Cornyn have publicly supported Obama's 5 nominations for Texas courts, but are now blocking the process.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the military's ban on transgender service members has ended. It will take a while to implement the various pieces of the policy. Immediately, transgender service members will not be discharged. Then comes training for doctors in transgender care. Then comes working out how to allow service members to transition while in the military. All that should happen within a year.

Minutes before Mississippi's religious freedom law was to go into effect, US District Judge Carlton Reeves struck it down. This was the worst of the religious freedom laws to be enacted, granting broad permission for discrimination, including against unmarried straight people. Reeves wrote:
The State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others. Showing such favor tells ‘nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and . . . adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.
Therefore the law violated the Equal Protection Clause.

Headline of the day (from a few days ago): "House Republicans Spent Millions Of Dollars On Benghazi Committee To Exonerate Clinton."