Friday, May 10, 2013


Last night John Boehner choked up over his victory and his achievement of the American Dream. And he promised that the new Republican Congress will listen to the voice of America.
That's great. Will you even listen to the voices that you don't normally pay attention to?
Because, for your information, John, there is no such thing as the American Dream for most Americans. Lots of people think there is. But it really doesn't exist. Not only for the people normally named in this kind of exposition, Blacks, Indians, Hispanics/Latinos. But also for most whites in America, the poor and not the middle-class. When a person works into their fifties then gets laid off and can't find another job, then the American Dream is dead.
And when big money interests pay the bills to elect politicians who will most likely make new laws to help the rich get richer, then the American Dream is dead.
When we cheer the rescue of miners in Chile and continue to allow whole mountains to be stripped to extract minerals and refuse to enforce the safety rules for our own miners, then the American Dream is dead.
I could go on and on, but that would merely be beating a dead horse.
But here's one final comment. People work all their lives and finally reach the point where they can just survive on Social Security and Medicare and dream of improvements in their medical coverage. Then we hear people like Boehner who have achieved their American Dream say they want to repeal the new health care plan, and their friends want to totally eliminate social security and Medicare, then they are themselves killing the American Dream for the rest of us. And that puts them in the same group as the big money interests that are buying our democracy from under us.
Oh, gee, do I sound bitter? Maybe it's fear that my wife and I may become destitute at the hands of these self-centered politicians and lose the tiny bit of the dream that we have achieved.

Friday, November 12, 2010




Old(er) people still need to drive. They continue to like movies, television and conversation with friends. They truly love to talk to grandchildren and great grandchildren.

But to do all those things they need to hear.

Now my hearing is only marginally degraded, and right now I would not have to do without any of those things I mentioned. But I was told my marginal hearing will - not might - will get worse.

I went to get tested and fitted for hearing aids the other day. Like I said, it was marginal and noticeable worse at the "high" frequency (eight kilohertz - eight thousand cycles per second - not really very high). By the way, when I was young, in my early twenties, I could hear from 30 hertz to 30 kilohertz). Now my hearing is noticeably worse at eight kilohertz. And both ears are equally bad. The doctor told me it was a nerve problem, and they have no cure for it. No surgery. Nothing. I simply have to get hearing aids.

And the constant ringing in my ears?

Ditto. They can't do anything at all to help.

So I ordered two hearing aids. One for each ear. Not the cheapest ones because they don't help at all to hear in shopping places, restaurants, concerts, meetings, large social functions or during travel times. The best hearing aids that help with all these situations were prohibitively expensive. So I ordered the next best. Nice compromise. I get to hear my friends and family in a restaurant. I get to hear a symphony. I get a little help with meetings. Quiet conversations, television, telephone conversations and family at the dinner table will seem normal.

And the hearing aids only cost $2275.00.

For each one.

That's the cost so that I'm not relegated to a future life of silence all around me. (Remember, my hearing WILL get worse over time.)

Now, I have medical insurance through my wife's employer, a clinic which likes to think of itself as the Second Mayo Clinic. So, nothing to worry about, right?


They won't pay one cent for hearing aids. And neither will Medicare. The coverage is nothing. Nada. Zip.

I'm lucky. I inherited some money from a second cousin, so I won't have to burden my credit cards.

But what about the folks who don't have any kind of nest egg at all? And have truly bad hearing? And can't afford to charge this on a credit card?

They get to give up their mobility. Quit driving. Sit silent and watch grandchildren, television, movies, whatever, with no accompanying sound.

That would be a great life, wouldn't it? Just because their medical coverage doesn't cover hearing aids. Not even Medicare, which is the medical savior for old folks.

Great way to treat your elders, America! Thanks for the promising future.

By the way, if you have to ask if I want to see a single-payer government medical plan, you're not thinking very well.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


The name of this group automatically shows their ignorance. We have very low taxes compared to those in the past. Look at the 1950s! See at data below, gleaned from the National Taxpayers Union website (


1950 = 17.4% up to $4000 - Truman

1951 = 20.4% Truman (3% higher)

1952-53 = 22.2% Truman (2.2% higher)

1954-63 = 20% Eisenhower (1.8% lower)

1964 = 16% Johnson up to $1000 - (4% lower)

1965-80 = 14% but in 1979 up to $2100 - Johnson (2% lower)

1981 = 13.825% - Reagan (.175% lower)

1982 = 12% Reagan (1.825% lower)

1983-87 = 11% in 1987 up to $3000 - Reagan (1% lower)

1988-2001 = 15% but up to $29,750, - Reagan (4% higher - highest since1965!)

"Up to" level raised by G. H. W. Bush, Clinton, G. W. Bush until $45,200

2002-10 = 10% up to $12000 - G. W. Bush (5% lower)

Federal income tax rates went down with Eisenhower 1954, Johnson 1964 and 1965, Reagan 1981, 1982, 1983. Effectively down with G. H. W. Bush, Clinton and G. W. Bush due to raising the "up to" level. Down with G. W. Bush 2002.

Up with Truman 1951 and 1952 (Korean War), Reagan 1988 to a rate higher than when he took office.


1950-63 = over 90% Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy

1964 = 77% Johnson (13% lower)

1965-67 = 70% Johnson (7% lower)

1968 = 75.25% Johnson (5.25% higher)

1969 = 77% Nixon (1.75% higher)

1970 = 71.5% Nixon (5.5% lower)

1971-80 = 70% Nixon (1.5% lower)

1981 = 69.125% Reagan (.875% lower)

1982-86 = 50% Reagan (19.125% lower)

1988-92 = 28-31% Reagan (average 20.5% lower)

1993-2002 = 38-39% Clinton (approximately 9% higher)

2004-10 = 35% Bush (4% lower)

The highest tax bracket went down with Kennedy (20% lower), Johnson (14% lower), Nixon (5.25% lower), Carter (another 20% lower), Reagan (approximately 20% lower) - but only for a while, Clinton (approximately 8% higher), G. W. Bush (4% lower).

Up with Johnson 1968 and Nixon 1969 (Vietnam War), and with Clinton (to reduce the national debt).

Then there is the deficit and national debt. The Republicans look horrifyingly bad there in comparison to the Democrats (and to their own tax behavior). A lot of the national debt came from the Reagan and G. H. Bush tax relief - but somehow not with the tax relief provided by the Democrats. Better budget management? Can we afford to turn the government back over to the Republicans now?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Well, President Obama's school speech succeeded in two ways. First, he made sense to the kids and urged them to keep some good attitudes about school and studying. Second, he did make the far right look like total fools for their reaction. Glad to see it happen.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dumbest Thing I Ever Said

In 1966 I owned an old, decrepit Chevrolet Corvair, a small American car with the engine in the rear. It was not a good car. Evidently, it was either too old or previous owners had never taken care of it properly. But I had bought it for very little money, which had been my objective.

This car's major problem was that it burned more oil than gasoline. I used to pull into gas stations and quip: “Fill the oil and check the gas.”

I had a theory that this engine was so clogged up with gunk that if it ever got cleaned it would leak ALL the oil directly into the cylinders and totally smoke out the surrounding twenty yards. So I would fill the oil with a very specific type.

One day I pulled into a gas station and asked the attendant (1966, remember?) for a quart of non-lubricating oil. I had not realized what I said so I really wondered when he looked at me VERY strangely and asked: “What kind of oil?”


Holding back his snickering, he turned to the other attendant in the garage and shouted as loudly as he could: “Hey, Joe! We got a guy here that wants non-lubricating oil!”

Only then did I realized what I had asked for. I leaned against the car’s roof and tried to hide my face with my arms. I’m sure I was quite red when I finally turned back to the attendant and corrected myself. “Oh, shit! I meant to say non-detergent oil. What the hell was I thinking?”

But the damage was done. I got the oil I wanted, but I suspect those attendants are still joking about me, and that all of Newport, Rhode Island, knows that there’s a guy out there that once ordered non-lubricating oil!

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Kwanzaa is an African American cultural holiday (i.e., not a religious holiday) which was invented to celebrate and amplify family, community, and culture. The name of the holiday comes from a Swahili phrase for “first fruits” – “matunda ya kwanza.” The extra “a” in Kwanzaa is there to distinguish the American festival from the Swahili word. People emphasize a different one of the Seven Principles on each of the seven days: Umoja or Unity, Kujichaguliya or Self-determination, Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics, Nia or Purpose, Kuumba or Creativity, and Imani or Faith. For full details of the holiday, you can Google “Kwanzaa” or go to the History Channel:

This year we celebrated the first night of Kwanzaa with some very dear friends. Many different kinds of people were part of this evening’s observance: Blacks, Whites, American Indians, Latinos, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and who knows what else. Along with the pouring of libations and the lighting of candles, we went around the room so elders could share their ideas on Unity with the children present. As we ate a wonderful feast afterward, I continued thinking about the principle of Unity and the things people said, and decided to write something concerning unity and diversity.

The reason I choose to emphasize “unity and diversity” is that we celebrated and discussed unity, we were such a diverse group, and a number of the comments blended that diversity into the remarks about unity. The first speakers talked about maintaining the unity of the African American community and of the family. I mentioned that I believed that unity was also beauty. After all, all people are beautiful. I believe that the Creator deliberately made us all different, with our tremendous variety of skin colors, religions, cultures and points of view. I believe this is part of the challenge the Creator gives us: to enjoy - no to embrace - this variety, to glory in such diversity, and to learn to live in unity with our differences. This is the challenge given to us; the promise given to us is that living in unity adds an even greater beauty and meaning in our lives.

But the purpose of diversity is much more important than the fun and the beauty of being able to get along with each other. The challenge/fun part is the bait for a crucial aspect of life. In every endeavor, the greater the diversity, the greater the number of options we have and the greater the probability of success. It boils down to this: when you have more options, you have a better chance of finding something that works. For example, if your only option is to go naked, then you can only live in a very restricted area of the planet. But if you can build shelter and make clothing, your inhabitable area jumps to be several times larger.

Can you see where I’m heading?

Biologically, the greater the gene pool, the better the chance the human race has for finding combinations of physical characteristics that enhance survivability. In this respect, our tremendous physical/racial diversity is a great gift. It practically guarantees that we can survive - unless, of course, we outsmart ourselves and ruin the whole planet, then we don’t have much chance at all. But in just about all other scenarios, our diversity guarantees that the human race can live in various environments, can find someplace on the planet to survive. That’s the physical side of this gift.

Along with physical evolution, we have also been given the gift of socio-cultural evolution. We have developed a thousand times as many cultural variations as we have physical. This unfathomable diversity of social options gives us so many opportunities to do things differently, that we ought to be able to find many, many possible ways to do things. But we have to be smart enough to realize that all this cultural material is out there for us to embrace, to learn, to adopt and adapt, to use.

This socio-cultural diversity also gives us the means to see ourselves and our world(s) with different eyes, to imagine a great variety of possible worlds and a tremendous number of potential solutions to each of our problems.

But if we insist on living only as we are, we are doomed. If we never wake up to realize that there are thousands of ways of doing things other than our present white, male, raging capitalist, international corporate enslavement, then we might as well hang it up and slit our throats right now.

To survive, we must try embracing-learning-loving our neighbors, with their different races and cultures and attitudes and perspectives. We must finally grow up enough to accept all that the Creator has given to us. Only then will we be able to unify ourselves enough to learn from each other about our diversity, and then to combine unity and diversity to create beautiful new worlds and vibrant new lives.

By the way, we should do this not for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren, and THEIR…. You get the idea.

And this is just one of the different perspectives most of the other cultures on the planet give us.

Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The First PCs Ever – NOT

Control Data Corporation was a very good place to work. Even though it was a gigantic corporation, it kept all work groups small (no more than 15 or so people to a manager). The pay was decent. The benefits were great. And everything was fairly loose. I was a technical (hardware repair) instructor for most of my 20 years with CDC, and when we were not in the classroom teaching, it was very easy to get part of a day off without having to take vacation or sick time.

In 1975 I was selected to be part of a special group within Engineering Services (our repair division). CDC and the University of Illinois had created the PLATO Computerized Education system. This consisted of a number of gigantic (for those days) Cyber super-computers feeding specially-developed software using the TUTOR programming language. Students took lessons at PLATO terminals, huge boxes with red plasma screens and rear-projection slide projectors for photographic displays, connected via modems or audio-coupling devices to the mainframe. Illinois, then Delaware and a number of other universities had been using PLATO lessons for a long time. Illinois’s chemistry department even had a simulation of lab work which drew clouds of smoke and printed a large “BOOM!” on the screen if the student performed an incorrect chemical operation. Then he/she could press the NEXT key on the keyboard and try the lesson again. When the student finally got it right, he/she could move into the actual lab.

CDC decided that they wanted us to utilize this technology to train our repair people in the field, thus reducing the costs of having folks come to Minneapolis for school. A number of us were sent to learn how to program in TUTOR, and we set to work creating two technical training courses. It was highly successful. Everyone was so pleased that a few of us were chosen to develop more courses in an ongoing program.

As we worked with this system, it seemed that it was ideal technology for public school systems. But there were a couple drawbacks. Either the school system had to get their own local Cyber system (EXPENSIVE!) or they had to pay long-distance telephone costs for a line connecting each and every PLATO terminal in their school (perhaps 15-20 of them?) going to the Cyber mainframe located elsewhere (also quite expensive).

In 1976, we geniuses came up with a great solution. CDC already had what was then classified as “intelligent terminals,” small systems that could perform a lot of operations independently, collect data, then automatically call the mainframe to upload data for processing and hang up. We suggested that CDC create intelligent PLATO terminals that could call the mainframe, have a student sign in for their personal assignments, collect their data, and hang up the phone line. Then the student could work for 45 minutes or an hour at their lessons. When the lesson was complete, or the class time was over, the student could sign in once more and upload their work, test results, etc., and sign off again. Thus a school could get by with considerably less on-line telephone time, saving money, and still allowing their kids to use this great new technology.

Hindsight says that in time, in a very short time, we would have developed the first desktop personal computer (perhaps by some other name) on which students could run a program to study. We would have beaten Apple on the market by a couple-three years!

Management at Control Data wouldn’t buy the plan. Their response was: “We can’t do that! We’re trying to sell super-computers!”

Within ten years, around 1985, CDC was using Zenith PCs as the user interface on their newest super-computers. So the technical types had been smarter and more far-seeing than management. And in my opinion, this was a major reason why CDC went out of business in 1990.

Ah, the clarity of hindsight!