Evil and Corruption

Invulnerability corrupts. Power can convey invulnerability, and thus is often credited with corruption of individuals. However, the H.G.Wells story, The Invisible Man, had an intro which pointed out that the invisible man wasn’t specially powerful, but he could get away with things – was in a sense invulnerable, not liable to be taken to account for his actions.

Invulnerability corrupts.

Evil is, imho, the exercise of power without oversight. For a normal individual, that oversight is called conscience. However, many powerful forces in a society are controlled not by the consciences of individuals, but by oversight bodies charged with reining in those powers.

There are checks and balances within governments. Sometimes.

Between powerful coalitions, nations being an example, power versus oversight becomes a challenge for diplomacy. Carrot and stick, deal and threat, gift and sanction.

North Korea is a scary example of power challenging diplomacy.

So is the United States of America under President Donald J Trump. Large bomb in Afghanistan. Missiles in Syria. Trade threats. Walls. Discrimination.

Now for the dumb questions:

  • Is Trump invulnerable?
  • Does that slightly scare you?

Have a nice day.

Bankrupt.

Here you will find a fine article on Donald Trump’s brilliant new tax plan for the United States of America.

It will bankrupt the country. First, corporate taxes are going to be reduced from 35% to 15%. The trillions in deficits that mere economists predict won’t happen, according to Steven Mnuchin, because growth in reported income will cover it. I think a bit of simple math here is in order: 35% divided by 15% is seven over three. That’s more than double. So to make up for the tax break, American companies will have to report, and pay tax on,more than double their current net profit levels.

Sound likely? Guess not.

That this would save the Donald considerable (?? we don’t see his tax returns, eh??) tax money himself seems to trouble him not a whit.

In addition, this tax reform would do the following:

  • some sort of repatriation tax, giving big companies an incentive to bring back money they hold overseas
  • tax breaks for childcare expenses
  • doubling the amount of standard tax deduction
  • a cut in individual rates, although few details expected yet
  • more tax rate cuts for hedge funds, and other enterprises that pay taxes at individual rates
  • easing the tax form process

And in all of this there is no new tax revenue source:

Mr Trump’s blueprint is not expected to include any proposals for raising new revenue.

The much-discussed border tax that would put a tariff on imports – favoured by House Speaker Paul Ryan – will not be in the plan.

When Mr. Trump got in personal financial trouble in the past, he declared bankruptcy and went on living.

There is the odd voice of sanity in the wings, for example:

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown called the 15% rate workable only “if you want to blow a hole in the federal budget and cut a whole lot of things like Meals on Wheels and Lake Erie restoration and then lie about the growth rate of the economy”.

Bankrupt. The US Federal Government is going to be bankrupt.

No dumb questions this time. Have a nice day.

Donald, Duck!

I don’t think he sees it coming.

At some point Trump is going to face facts. The manufacturing jobs are not coming back. Automation has made sure of that.
Global warming is going to happen. Drought in California, floods in New York. More violent weather driven by more power in the atmosphere.
Russia will keep meddling with Ukraine and Syria (and goodness knows what else I’m unaware of.) North Korea will continue to develop missiles and atomic weapons.
Regime change will turn out to be 100 % disaster. Libya. Cuba. Chile. Iran. Iraq. Nicaragua. Will we never learn?
Trading partners can not be shut out by fiat. No automaker makes all the parts of any car. A  simple strike by the manufacturer of, say, dimming mirrors, could shut down GM. Remember that a fire in a single chip factory in Taiwan brought the computer industry to a halt.
Proxy wars end in failure. Yemen, Syria, and ‘Palestine’.
Draining the swamp by employing its owners is the biggest practical joke ever played on an entire country.

It’s called disaster, Donald. Do you see it coming?

Donald, Duck.

Jeff Sessions: a message, eh?

Here you will find a bbc news article about Jeff Sessions and his complaint.

I will tease you with a few quotes. Emphasis mine.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power,” he said on The Mark Levin Show.

Senator Mazie Hirono shared an image of the unanimous Senate vote that confirmed Judge Waston, which “includes a ‘yea’ vote” from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. “Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect,” Senator Brian Schatz continued.

“Please don’t dis[respect] Hawaii as it gives us papaya, coffee, helicopter parts and the last competent president,” another continued.

One Illinois resident added: “We should let @jeffsessions know that New Mexico is a state too. Otherwise the wall might get built in the wrong place.”

Now for the dumb questions. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Has Trump turned much of the US government into a say-anything thoughtless herd?

Does Jeff Sessions know who he is and who he voted for?

Does any of this matter, at least in the rule-by-twitter era?

United we …. have to Stand it?

Here is one page (from BBC News) about United Airlines. It is really about Air Canada too, so I’ll give a few quotes (emphasis mine) and then some snotty comments.

Dr David Dao has said he will sue United Airlines after he lost two front teeth and his nose was broken when the airline called security officers in to help remove him from the plane. He had refused to leave when the airline asked for volunteers to make way for staff members.

In response to the huge backlash the company faced on social media, United said it would allocate seats for staff at least an hour in advance, in future.

What this means is imho this:

In this alternate universe, David Dao would have found the four United personnel already on the plane. United would have had to ask passengers to give up their seats while still in the lounge. What would they have done, had the requisite four booked passengers not volunteered? How would they have kept David Dao from boarding?

Now for Air Canada.

Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada, has apologised after giving a 10-year-old boy’s seat to someone else.

The family eventually made it to Montreal and caught a connecting flight to Costa Rica for their holiday, but have since complained to Air Canada and received an offer of a C$2,500 (£1,500) voucher, along with an apology.

I have (had actually) compensatory travel miles with WestJet in apology for a mess-up. However those miles cannot be used in WestJet Vacations nor in travel booked via an agent. In short, to me they are useless. And, a voucher is only useful if one decides to trust the offending airline again.

I have had an adjustment from Air Canada Vacations after they cut into my travel bag in Cuba, in the Cayo Coco airport (en route to Cayo Santa Maria.) They said the bag was lost, but I saw it through an opened door. They filled out (reluctantly) a baggage damage form that turned out to be

  • a lost baggage form
  • a form with no serial number on it.

My travel agent is excellent, and got Air Canada to admit liability and offer to repair the bag. I will never travel Air Canada Vacations again. Simple as that.

WestJet is not so easy to avoid; we’re flying west this summer and my travel agent chose them as the most reasonable and convenient flight.

So, travel experience in Canada is weird, and overbooking is common.

Should we ‘stand united’ against this practise? that’s the dumb question.

Now the just-for-laughs part.

I knew an individual (ET) who travelled for IBM Canada frequently when he was in technical education. He would learn a new technology (computer, operating system, transaction manager, database engine, whatever) and then create a course and be sent across Canada to deliver that course. Typically he’d be in a city for a working week, Monday – Friday, and return.

Certain flights eastward on Friday were frequently overbooked. (This would have been Air Canada at that time, I’m pretty sure.) Passengers would be offered bribes to take the next flight, and be guaranteed to be on it.

ET would, if reasonable, deliberately book one of these overloaded flights. Then he’d play poker with the rest of the passengers, guessing when to drop his bluff of disinterest and take the offer.

He’d only go for cash. In those days, they’d offer this when desperate.

Today, they drag you down the aisle, remove two teeth, and give you a concussion.

That’s the payoff of progress.

Overbooking is imho a profit-maximizing scheme. Bumping paid passengers for crew is, again imho, a profit-maximizing scheme (they need to get crew from A to B for a business reason.)

So, if the Canadian government (an oxymoron, or is it a sarcastic phrase?) wants to stop this, it has to make it more expensive than behaving fairly to paid, booked passengers.

Is this likely? that’s your final dumb question.

System

We are exploiters. Hunter-gatherers use an area and, if it loses potential, simply move on. Builders exploit regulations, cut down forests, pave farms, sell houses, and move on.
Politicians make promises, campaign, get elected, and move on – by listening to lobbyists and special interest groups.

So it should come as no surprise that nobody often looks at any ‘activity’ as being part of a system. We think we understand ecosystems, but then move to exploit them – by tourism, logging, fishing, mining, whatever.

A simple example is the use of nuclear power to generate electricity. It works. It is clean in the global-warming sense. It is reasonably reliable. It is Not throttle-able: you are either running a nuclear pile, or you aren’t.
And then you need to deal with the nuclear waste. There’s a lot of it, and at a wide range of difficulty when you need to handle it. Brooms and protective clothing at one end; irradiated metals from reactor and generator parts in the middle, and spent nuclear fuel being (I think) the most treacherous.
I submit that the long-term real cost of nuclear electricity is not yet known. Nobody has looked at the entire system over its entire lifetime – which will be longer than the lifetime of anyone reading this post. (Toronto will be underwater due to global warming before some of the radioisotopes are safe to eat.)

Another example is burning fossil fuel, of any kind. Peat, coal, oil, natural gas, tar sands tar – all are sequestering carbon buried long ago when the world was warmer and had a lot of carbon sinks and few carbon sources.
Now we’re going to reverse this process, and be amazed when the predictions turn out to be correct. Ice shelves in the Antarctic melting. Greenland glaciers melting. More power, and more sudden variation, in the weather system.

There is fallout. Britain is monitoring bird species, with more entering the endangered list ever year. It turns out some birds migrate using day length, while some use temperature as a clue. The former are now arriving later than the latter, and losing a nesting advantage they had only due to timing to arrive before their larger competitors. This is one example; there are others. In the north of Canada there are shore birds whose migration and breeding patterns indicate stress, with clear population losses as a result.

Polar bears will either greatly reduce in numbers, or stop eating from sea ice that is no longer there. Changes, changes: in the seal population, and in the safety of large shore mammals, including people.

And then we have transit in Toronto. Our mayor and city council steadfastly refuse to look at basic numbers: expected ridership, expected value.
These are the people who brought us the Sheppard Stubway. Who proudly opened the Union-Pearson Express (UPX) in time for the Pan-Am games, and then found it could not support itself. So they chopped the fare, guaranteeing that every ride will cost the taxpayer about fifteen bucks.
And now the same geniuses are designing a one-stop subway to Scarborough. I think this secures maybe one seat in provincial politics. Let me dwell on this fiasco for a few more words here.
It will cost, maybe, $28 in subsidies for every rider.
It will provide far worse service than the rejected LRT solution.
It will cost far more, and the final numbers aren’t in the ‘system’ yet.
It is not paid for by other governments, as the LRT was.
John Tory, our mayor, thinks he can fund it with magical thinking. Future development along the route will create tax revenue that will miraculously be identified and used to pay down the debt from subway creation.
There is no reason to conclude that this ‘system’ will work. I am not aware of any instances where it has.
Nobody has asked any of the hard questions about safety. This will be the longest tunnel in Toronto. What if there’s a crash like the one on the Spadina line? A couple of red lights were ignored by the driver. A fail-safe device which stops a subway passing a red light, well, it failed. Several people were killed. Many people had to creep out of the tunnel.
How will escape from such an event work, if it occurs in the middle of a very long tunnel? There won’t be any stations nearby, for sure.

From the above examples I have a sad conclusion.

Democracy is a bad system.

  • we vote with our dollars to pave farms, drive wildlife to extinction, ruin the climate.
  • we vote for politicians, whose mere ability to run, guarantees special interests are behind them.
  • we vote for politicians who sound good. They don’t think soundly, they just sound good.
  • we vote with our dollars to send jobs to Mexico, Bangladesh, China.

I have a stupid solution.

  • Bribe or coerce IBM or Google to lease one of their supercomputers to the government. (I’m thinking of the computer that can win at Jeopardy and identify skin cancers from black and white digital images.)
  • Install a benevolent dictator with a small cadre of advisors in all key areas of science, economics, health, and social concerns (inequality comes to mind.)
  • Let the cadre teach the supercomputer everything about their goals.
  • Let the supercomputer suggest actions and predict their outcomes.
  • Do the right thing.

The last part is why we need a dictator.

Now for the dumb questions:

  • Do politicians, especially elected ones, do the right thing?
  • Often enough to warrant electing them?

Have a nice day. As always, garbage responses will be trashed, as will responses with invalid eMails. (I won’t show your eMail, ever.)

 

Gary Beck: Tremors

This is a cut&paste of a review posted on Amazon and GoodReads. I’ve reviewed Beck a few times (books,) and he never disappoints. Here’s the review:

social commentary, experience, and a trace of sex nicely done.

four stars

A review is one person’s view of a work and reflects both the work and the reviewer’s prejudices and limitations. So, as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to Beck’s work, some one hundred and seven poems.

Social commentary is here mixed in with the human condition. For example, Decline, where the wold gets larger because of the amount of it that one may not be able to witness.

For a short experience, turn to Pretty Picture, which ends thus: “then the unexpected rainbow /and the squirrel of evening, /perched on dead sunset limb, /jabbering of sleep to come.”

Again in Loss we have social commentary made personal.

I mentioned sex earlier, and Commerce is a fine example. Beck flips expectations slightly, thus being clever instead of cliché. For example, “proffer perfumed breasts /reaching for my hands.” Again in Detached: “You accidentally shift /on purpose. /Your soft back/ touches my unmoving hand. /I am tempted to pet your belly….”

Beck can rhyme perfectly when he chooses to do so, as in the short neat poem Commuter Line. I’ve been in Norwalk, Connecticut, once and long ago on a one week course. It is a very wealthy bedroom community (four acres to build a house in the suburbs) grown up around a small village. I can’t give you the force of this work without giving you pretty much all of it, so when you get this book, turn to this poem  and see how nicely Beck merges social commentary with personal experience.

For another interesting comment on sex and desire, turn to Woman, which opens thus: “I can do without you no longer….” There are other ‘interesting’ pieces I could mention, but I’ll move on.

For a punch in the gut, turn to Profile of a Failure, which has a surprise ending.

I think the above should provide a decent feel for this book.

Given all that, how do I manage to come up with a star count? My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent. Beck is for sure extremely good. Four stars feels right to me; your personal rating may well be higher. And, there are a lot of poems here to choose from. Your favourites may be different from mine.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

The Bombardier Bonus explained

Here you will find one of the many reports on the excessive bonuses Bombardier top executives have awarded themselves, for ‘outstanding performance.’

They appear to have backed down, but they really haven’t. They’ve ‘deferred’ half of the outrageous bonuses. I’ll bet they’ll still cash in when they retire or are fired.

Bombardier is not well-managed. I’ll give some examples:

  • The C series airplane. It is well behind schedule. The company has lost billions of dollars on it. They are being bailed out by Canadian governments.
  • Incompetence with airplane subcontractors. When you sue each other, you’re not managing the relationship very well.
  • Incompetence with light rail manufacturing and delivery. Metrolinx is trying to break the contract, as the vehicles are not forthcoming.
  • Incompetence with streetcar manufacturing and delivery. The TTC is trying to find another supplier as these streetcars are years late.

Bombardier executives are not managing Bombardier. They are managing their own incomes. I suggest that these huge bonuses are in recognition of these points, imho they are facts:

  • Losses covered by government partial purchases mean the company does not own itself as fully any more.
  • Losses covered by government loans means more money will be needed later, not less.
  • Poorly ‘performing’ boards of directors, CEOs, and top executives eventually have to leave. Sooner or later the shareholders and governments and clients will have their wishes granted. Contracts will be broken. Loans will be called. Subsidizers will be made to look foolish.

So, what would a clever set of self-serving executives do? Give themselves one last, outrageous parting gift: huge bonuses.

Cynical enough? that’s the dumb question.

Too much Trump to pass over

Here you will find a long, interesting, and informative rant about The Donald before he became president.

I’ll content myself with a few quotes. Emphasis mine, as always.

It can reasonably be argued that the presidency of George W. Bush was an eight-year warm-up act for the final stage of a dumbed-down America: a Trump presidency. You can draw a relatively straight line from the Florida recount of 2000, which took Bush into office, right through to the shambolic Trump campaign. The election of Bush led to the invasion of Iraq, which led to the de-stabilization in the Middle East (Libya, Egypt, Syria), which led to the migrant crisis, which led to European nationalism, Brexit, and, at the tail end of all these disasters, Trump.

Novelty guests don’t know they’re novelty guests. They just think they’re guests. That evening in May 1993, Vanity Fair had two tables and we filled them with the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Bob Shrum, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, Peggy Noonan, Tipper Gore, and Vendela Kirsebom, a Swedish model who professionally went by her first name and who was then at or near the top of the catwalk heap. I sat Trump beside Vendela, thinking that she would get a kick out of him. This was not the case. After 45 minutes she came over to my table, almost in tears, and pleaded with me to move her. It seems that Trump had spent his entire time with her assaying the “tits” and legs of the other female guests and asking how they measured up to those of other women, including his wife. “He is,” she told me, in words that seemed familiar, “the most vulgar man I have ever met.”

This summer, The New Yorker published a story by Jane Mayer about Tony Schwartz, the co-author of Trump’s book Trump: The Art of the Deal. Mayer wrote that that issue of GQ, with Trump on the cover, was a huge best-seller. She reported that this sale encouraged S. I. Newhouse Jr., the proprietor of this magazine (as well as of The New Yorker), to urge the editors of Random House (which he also owned) to sign Trump up for a book. Which they did. The trouble with this narrative is that the Trump issue of GQ sold hardly at all. At least in the traditional way. Word was, the copies had been bought by him—Trump had sent a contingent out to buy up as many as they could get their hands on. The apparent intention, in those pre-Internet days, was to keep the story away from prying eyes.

Not surprisingly, it being the 80s, Trump was a recurring fixture in the pages of Spy. We ridiculed not just his fingers but also his business judgment, his jaw-dropping pronouncements, his inflated wealth, his hair, and his marital situations. There was a threatened lawsuit, resulting in a lot of back-and-forth legal letters between him and me. And we printed all of those. At one point we sent checks for $1.11 out to 58 of the “well-known” and “well-heeled” to see who would take the time to endorse and deposit the checks from a firm we called the National Refund Clearinghouse. The ones who deposited the $1.11 checks were sent 64-cent checks, and the ones who deposited those were sent checks for 13 cents. This being in the days before electronic deposits and such, the exercise took the better part of a year. At the end, only two 13-cent checks were signed—and we couldn’t believe our good fortune. One was signed by arms trader Adnan Khashoggi. The other was deposited by Donald Trump.

Are you laughing? or crying? That’s the dumb question.

And, you can have The Donald’s signature for thirteen cents. He’s as cheap as an arms dealer.

Golf facts

Here you will find a page from Independent. I’ll give a few quotes just to whet your appetite. Emphasis mine.

First, let’s quote Donald Trump.

During a campaign rally last year, Mr Trump referred to his golf courses when he criticised Mr Obama. “You know what – and I love golf – but if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again, I don’t think I’d ever see Doral again, I own Doral in Miami, I don’t think I’d ever see many of the places that I have, I don’t ever think that I’d see anything, I just wanna stay in the White House and work my ass off, make great deals, right? Whose gonna leave? I mean, whose gonna leave?”

Now, what is The Donald actually doing?

The White House press office, whose job includes keeping the media informed of the President’s diary, did not comment on this latest golf trip. It has only confirmed that Mr Trump has played golf on a few occasions when he has stayed at a Trump-branded property. The President has visited his own-branded properties approximately once every three days during the course of his presidency so far, according to The Washington Post.

Back to Obama:

Mr Obama is not believed to have played his first round of golf until his 65th day in the White House.

Back to Trump,

Some have complained that Mr Trump’s golf trips are a waste of tax payers’ money, with each trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida estimated to cost the US Government around $2 million, mainly for the cost of transportation.

I suspect golf course scores are subject to Douglas Adams’ distortion field: as in restaurants, math may not always work there. But.

On calendars, it’s not so easy to move numbers around.

My conclusion: the new POTUS is playing more because he’s simply fundamentally more entitled. Or perhaps his ‘ass‘ ‘works off‘ more easily than the previous POTUS.

Comments?