Monday, October 31, 2016

US Election

I was writing about the US election until March, when it all went haywire.

The Republicans said their rule was proportional allocation of delegates to the nominating convention; however, with about 35% of the vote, Trump had 48% of the delegates. Then all his opponents dropped out, and Trump ended up with more than 50% of the delegates and the nomination, even though less than 40% of the voters voted for him.

As people like the author of Dilbert point out, the first task of any politician is to win the nomination, and Trump did that perfectly, saying exactly what needed to be said to win a majority of the delegates and thereby win the nomination.

But then, the politician needs to appeal to those who are not such rabid party members and who vehemently reject the platform planks that appealed to primary and caucus voters. And everything Trump does seems tailored to offend women and Hispanics.

Is Trump running as a favour to Billary, who would have lost to any other candidate?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

From Grade School to Heresy

As an American, I learned in school that Washington never told a lie and that the US of A was the Greatest Force for Good in the World, always fighting evil and protecting the innocent.

The US of A was the only force that could stop the evil Kaiser from enslaving the continent and then maybe the entire world. Likewise, the Nazis, just as evil as the Kaiser, could only be stopped by the US of A after the Nazi Army had completely defeated every other power in all of Eurasia.

Then came Vietnam. The innocent Vietnamese were being attacked by evil Communists, and if the US failed to stop the Communists in Vietnam, it would be worse than Chamberlain at Munich. As Churchill wrote, Chamberlain could easily have defeated the Nazis in '38. Churchill said, 'You had to choose between war and dishonour. You have chosen dishonour, but you will have war.' Sure enough, after Britain and France declared war on Germany in '39, in '40 the Nazi's easily crushed the combined Anglo-French force in just a few weeks. And if the US acted like Chamberlain in Munich, there would be no US of A to step in and save us the way we saved Europe. Twice.

I watched the cartoon Blitz Wolf. President Chamberlain promised the 3 little pigs they could build their houses of straw or sticks, since he'd signed a treaty with Adolph Wolf. Two did so, but the third little pig, Sgt. Pork, built a fortress with anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and an airfield with fighters and bombers, and so he was able to save the other two little pigs and their country.

All the US media confirmed that the Vietnam war was absolutely essential.

And then Johnson quit. And in '73, Nixon managed to destroy his own presidency. And the US media suddenly discovered that almost everything they'd said about the war being justified and necessary had become inoperative.

And then I began reading books NOT on the list of books we were to read in school. Kafka, who made the German Empire under the Kaiser sound more humane and better run than the rest of Europe. Graham Green and Orwell, who reported, with ample facts, proof, and evidence supporting their conclusions, that the British Empire was bad, and the American neo-Empire was much worse.

And  in '69, Seymour Hersh had interviewed a lieutenant who'd been court-martialled, and got all the details of a massacre by US forces of a Vietnamese village with no soldiers, only the women, children and elderly left behind. His report was rejected by every major newspaper, but was accepted by a few minor newspapers and won the Pulitzer Prize, after which the details were news that the major newspapers had to report. It took time for this to spread, but in '73, it was finally part of the accepted narrative of Vietnam: a war started based on a lie, and in which the US forces committed many atrocities.

In 2003, the US media said that the public must NOT hold Bush, jr responsible for Johnson's lies. The Vietnam war had been a mistake, but Saddam had a vast, nuclear arsenal, and if the US did not go in, it would be far worse than Chamberlain at Munich, it would mean a disaster that would make 9/11 seem like a minor fender-bender.

After Bush, jr was out of office, the WMD became a lie, except for the rabid right-wingers who still say many soldiers saw them, but they were classified, since the paternal Bush, jr didn't want to terrify the American public with horrors that were his and his alone.

Now, of course, the US has liberated Iraq and Libya from terrible, impoverished tyrannies and made both peaceful and prosperous. Any problems cannot be blamed on the US, but on the incompetent and corrupt Iraqis and Libyans. The US did as much as could be done, but that was not enough to eliminate every single problem because of the Iraqis and Libyans.

And the US must liberate Syria, Iran, Russia, and China from their evil dictators and make them just as peaceful and prosperous and free as Iraq and Libya.

Every US/UK/European newspaper agrees that the evil Syrian dictator has murdered 300,000 innocent, peaceful protestors.

Before, the UK had an unpatriotic newspaper that did NOT support policies that were in the best interests of the ruling party and its supporters. The old, unpatriotic wrote that, of the 200,000 people that had been killed in Syria, almost all had been killed by the 'innocent, peaceful protestors,' NOT by the Syrian Government. Fortunately, the was shut down and replaced with the that says the evil Syrian dictator murdered all but a few hundred of the 300,000 who have been killed. A very few evil persons who infiltrated the Daesh killed those few hundred, but the Daesh was created by the evil Syrian dictator, so he's really responsible for all 300,000.

The fact that I've spoken to MANY Syrians, who say it's foreign jihadists who killed the 300,000 can easily be dismissed: What do the Syrians know? The US has a free press that always tells the truth. Those Syrians only have the Syrian press, which prints the lies of the evil dictator. And of what they saw for themselves? Read about the psychological experiment where a gorilla crossed the field during a football game and no one saw it. The US has absolutely reliable facts, NOT the Syrians who were eyewitnesses who missed seeing the gorilla.

Ted Rall accepts the Hersh versions of the assassination of Osama, and the fact that the US Ambassador to Libya was asked to work with al-Qaeda to get weapons (including sarin gas) to al-Nusrah in Syria to overthrow the evil dictator. Rall and I are about the only two Americans who accept the Hersh versions.

The US press says Hersh is a racist, sexist, tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist, and most Americans accept that. After all, the US press is free and always tells the truth.

And so I see no way the US will not go to war with Syria in early '17 (it's already at war, but covertly, but in '17, the war effort will cease to be covert). Followed by wars with Iran, Russia, and China.

Just to keep the world safe from evil dictators who want to establish their terrible tyrannies and expand them to the entire world, of course.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A breif history of Zionism

Friday, 22 April, Passover began at sunset. And every Jew prayed, 'Next year in Jerusalem.' But, after being evicted from Palestine by the Romans, and the Jewish Temple destroyed, the prayer was NOT for the Ottoman city of al-Quds, but for the eschatological Jerusalem, the City of Peace (which is what Jerusalem means).


The Zionists would like to have a Jew as the instigator of Zionism, and quite a few people have suggested various Jews, but the first influential person to advocate Zionism was the British WASP Lord Keith.

In the first half of the 19th century, the British discovered mercantilism: raw materials (including food) would be imported from colonies (at below world market prices) and paid for by selling finished products to the colonials (at above world market prices).

If one reads British novels from the 19th and early 20th century, they wanted young WASPs to volunteer as Imperial Officers to supervise the colonies, ensuring that plenty of raw materials flowed into the UK and the colonials bought all their finished products from the UK.

But the UK did not want Jews (or Roman Catholics for that matter) as Imperial officers; however, Lord Keith came up with the idea that all the Jews in the UK should go to Palestine and sell corn and tropical fruits to the UK at below world market prices, and use the money to buy finished products from the UK.


The Ottoman Empire had the notion of property ownership, and the state could not take it away.

In Palestine, most people were tenant farmers. The families stayed on the same plot of land, eating 1/3 of what they grew and giving 2/3 to the owners of the land as rent. The owners sometimes sold the land, but the tenant farmers remained, and just sent the 2/3 they owed as rent to the new owners.

But a very few British Jews took Lord Keith's admonition that they had enjoyed British hospitality long enough, and bought land in Palestine. They evicted the tenant farmers and began farming with modern equipment, producing lots of corn and tropical fruits to sell to the UK. The evicted tenants were annoyed, but no one cared. The Ottomans figured the Jews had purchased the land legally, and could do whatever they wanted with it.

Another feature of the 19th century were some Jews who wanted to change the way Judaism was practised.  Judaism required all practising Jews to be bilingual. The Hebrew language was sacred, the language of the Torah and prayer, and was not to be used to haggle with the greengrocer. For secular use, Jews were supposed to use a language that was not Hebrew. But some Zionists wanted all Jews to be monolingual Hebrew speakers.


In 1918, the Ottomans lost WWI, and their empire was split between the UK and France. The US President Wilson said the US had gone into the war to end all Imperial Empires (except for the tiny US Imperial possessions, of course) but he was ignored by everyone, including the US Congress.

So Britain got Palestine, and, as a colony, they sent British WASPs as Imperial Officers. They also strongly encouraged all British Jews to go there, but they didn't get many takers. The idea was to get a mix of Jews and Palestinians who hated each other, so both would prefer to have Britain keep the peace. In practice, both Jews and Palestinians set off bombs to kill the British Imperial officers, but Britain was too strong, and remained.


In 1933 the German voters gave Adolph Hitler's party a plurality, and the German leadership made him Chancellor. Hitler's platform had been anti-Semitic. At first, this meant that, if a Nazi assaulted a Jew, the law wouldn't do much, if anything, but Jews who could see that things were getting worse and worse, and who had a little money, tried to leave. The ship St Louis tried the countries it could reach that were not in Europe, but all refused to admit them.

In 1938 came Kristallnacht, after which it was perfectly legal to kill Jews in Germany. But no one would allow the Jews to leave. Britain, the US, and many Latin American countries refused to admit them. Britain said Palestine was ONLY for British Jews. So 6 million out of 11 million Jews in Europe were killed by the Nazis, when many could have been saved had the world not been anti-Semitic. The only innocents were the Jews (of course) and the colonials who were subjugated by the Imperial powers, since they could not allow Jews in, even if they wanted to do the right thing, since the Imperial powers banned Jews from entering.

When Europe was liberated in '45 by the Soviets and the Americans, the Concentration Camps became Refugee Camps. Jews were not allowed to return to the properties they'd owned before the war. There still wasn't enough food, but at least, when Jews in the Refugee camps died, they got a proper Jewish funeral instead of cremation.

President Roosevelt had told the British and French they would have to give up their empires after the war. They tried to convince him that that this would be a disaster, but Roosevelt was not convinced, nor was President Truman.

In '47, every poll showed that Truman could not possibly be elected president in '48 (he had been elected vice-president, then became president when Roosevelt died, so it wasn't a re-election).

The British agreed to end the colonies in the Raj and Palestine (they gradually got rid of most of the rest in the '60s, '70s, and '90s, but in '47 they freed Palestine and the Raj).

And Truman ordered every Jew in every Refugee camp in Western Europe, 2 million of them, sent to Palestine (whether they wanted to go or not). And Truman got almost all the Jewish vote in the US, which led to his totally unexpected victory in the '48 election.

The King of Jordan, who had become King of both the Transjordan and Palestine, said he could take 500,000 or so Jews, but not 2 million. But Truman didn't listen to the King of Jordan, and 2 million Jews were sent to Palestine, and they displaced many Palestinians.

Fearing the heavily armed Zionist army, many Palestinians fled Palestine, hoping the Arab armies would defeat the Zionists and give them their homes back. This never happened.

The eastern part of Palestine, including the city al-Quds (the Old City of Jerusalem to the West) remained part of Jordan. The western part of Palestine became the new country of Israel, recognised by the UN (and the US, of course, and many other states).

Every Muslim country, most of which had many, many Jews, up to 1/3 of the population, ordered all their Jews to leave. Or else. And most went to Israel, because no other country would take them.

So Israel had a huge number of Jews, and needed more land. Any Palestinian accused of harbouring anti-Zionist feelings had his house destroyed, and a new house erected on the spot and given to a Jew. Many of the Jews forced to travel to Israel did NOT want to go, they had no choice in the matter. But the ones forced into Israel needed a place to live, and sending the Palestinians to other countries, ANY other countries, seemed like the only choice.

The Palestinians want their old homes back, and some tried to fight (without any success).

Except for Jordan, most Muslims countries say the Palestinians must never be given citizenship, the world must return Palestine to them.

In '67, saying they knew the Arabs were about to attack, the Zionists took over the third of Palestine that had been part of Jordan and Egypt. Those Palestinians are all colonials, to this day, with almost no rights. Those in the part of Palestine that formed Israel in '47 are citizens, but only second class citizens, and are (officially) banned from entering any Muslim country (since they have Israeli passports).

With support, first from France and later from the US, the Zionists have made life terrible for the Palestinians.

Of course, the Zionists ask, 'What choice did we have?' and that is a VERY good question. The world said Jews were not welcome, and the Nazis wanted to exterminate every single Jew. The only place the world would let the Jews go was Palestine.

And the Palestinians still resent losing their land, and only Jordan allows them to become citizens (but second class citizens, with limited rights). So what can they do?

Much of the world is guilty, but it's hard to fault the Zionists OR the Palestinians, since the rest of the world won't give either the Zionists or the Palestinians any other choice.


Passover started last Friday at sunset. Every Passover, every Jew must read from the PASSOVER HAGGADAH. And one of the prayers is:

As our Passover meal draws to an end, we take up our cups one last time.
The redemption is not yet complete. Not everyone in our world is yet free.
This fourth cup reminds us of our responsibility to be G_d's partners in
bringing freedom to all those enslaved, peace to all those at war, food to all those
who hunger. This is our purpose as Jews. May we live to fulfil it.
This prayer was written by a very Reform Rabbi, but it encompasses what the Passover should be: a conviction that, since G_d freed the Jews from Pharonic slavery, all Jews must strive to bring peace and freedom for everyone, including freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from oppression.

It's not at all clear to me how the Zionists can make the required Passover prayers.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The New York Times Magazine on how Hawkish Secretary Clinton Is

The official New York Times policy is that:

a) The evil Syrian dictator has single-handedly murdered 300,000 innocent, peaceful, unarmed protesters, thousands with poison gas, and must be removed; and
b) Secretary Clinton is the only one running for a nomination in this campaign who is qualified to be President of the US of A.

Over and over the 'stories' and columnists and editorials support these two points.

But sometimes the New York Times Magazine runs articles that don't quite fit.

Theo Padnos went to Syria to interview the peaceful, unarmed protestors. He was planning to interview them for a week or two, but was 'invited' to stay for a year or so, during which time the Free Syrian Army he had gone to interview all turned out to be al-Qaeda, and they kept teasing him, saying they planned to sell him to Daesh (ISIS in English) to be beheaded on YouTube. As it turned out, Mr Panos was lucky: al-Qaeda doesn't usually kill unarmed captives who have broken no Islamic law, they follow a less sanguinary version of Islam than the Daesh. So he finally managed to get out of Syria and write his report, and then, miraculously, it made it into the New York Times Magazine.

This week,  the New York Times Magazine has an article about Secretary Clinton, pointing out that she is the most hawkish candidate they have ever seen. Of course, being the New York Times Magazine, they conclude in the very last, short paragraph (of a very long article that is mostly scary) that, in our world with the Daesh threatening an attack on the US much worse than 9/11, with the Soviet Union trying to expand and overrun all of Europe, and with China trying to take control of all of East Asia, the US desperately NEEDS a very strong Hawk who will stand for no nonsense from the Daesh, Russia, or China, but will send as many divisions and fleets as necessary to keep us all safe, and the Republicans (and Sanders) aren't nearly as willing and able to send troops (or nukes, if necessary) to make the world safe for Democracy.

Friday, March 18, 2016

US Election, mid-March

At this point, the best guestimate is that Trump will win about 50% of the delegates to the Republican Convention. Maybe 49%, maybe 51%. Not much difference in the percentage, but, under Republican rules, if he has 51%, they have to make him the nominee, while with a large plurality of 49%, they don't.

Douthat of the New York Times says the Republican leadership MUST change the rules to make it impossible for Trump to win the nomination. Douthat thinks that Secretary Clinton would be rejected if she were running against ANYONE. Except for Trump.

This is, of course, not at all clear. African-Americans love the Clintons. Or at least Bill, and figure Hillary gets them 'two presidents for the price of one.' Of course, a majority of African-Americans preferred Obama to the Clintons (but Secretary Clinton is getting a slightly larger majority of the African-American vote than Obama did).

The great majority of women over 40 think they HAVE to vote for Secretary Clinton. And the great majority of women under 40 won't vote for any Republican (but they'll stay home if Secretary Clinton is the Democratic nominee).

The vast majority of non-Cuban Hispanics won't vote for any Cuban. All Cubans, if they can somehow make it to the US from Cuba, get green cards right off the boat, and a passport in a very few years (even if they haven't learned any English). For Hispanics who are NOT Cuban, it's hard to get a tourist visa to the US, almost impossible to get a green card, and insanely difficult to get a passport (although their children born in the US get passports, and, after the children turn 18, they can try to get their parents a tourist visa, but usually fail). The vast majority of non-Cuban Hispanics vote Democratic.

The demographics mean there's been a change since '04 when Bush, jr won. Today, the Republicans have a lock on most state governments, and the patriotic Gerrymander gives Republicans a near lock on the House, but in the '16 election, odds strongly favour Secretary Clinton and a Democratic Senate (the US Senate is one institution that can still change parties from one election to the next, since they have a unique electorate, one that is less predictable than the presidential or House electorate).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Trump for president?

British newspapers assume the US system works like the British system, where, in each district, the candidate with a plurality wins, and the party that wins the majority of MPs becomes the governing party. But the US system is much more complicated. And so it is not at all clear whether Trump is or is not on track to win the nomination.

In some states, all delegates go to whomever has the plurality. In others, one needs a majority to win all the delegates, with delegates awarded to all those who get a significant percentage of votes.

Trump's support has a floor of at least 30%, and what looks like a ceiling of about 40%. But, with just 35% of the votes in the first four contests, Trump won 64% of all the delegates assigned.

After Super Tuesday, Trump had just 46% of the assigned delegates, and now he has just 44%.

But, on 15 March, two big states will assign all their delegates to whichever candidate has the plurality, so Trump could win both, and, with the votes he's sure to pick up  in the rest of the states, he'll have enough delegates to almost guarantee a majority at the convention and the nomination.

Of course, he could lose both, in which case he'll have a very hard time getting that majority. Without a majority of the delegates, he can't win the nomination.

But the most likely result on the 15th is that Trump will win one and lose one, and his nomination will still be very much up in the air, which is, of course, what all the news media are hoping for, since a continuing contest will sell more page views.

Meanwhile, all the US newspapers are terrified that Trump will actually win. Their columnists say that Trump will definitely start a war that the US cannot win, so no one should be dumb enough to vote for Trump.

This in spite of the fact that Trump is one of the least hawkish candidates (Rand Paul was the most anti-war candidate, with Trump and Senator Sanders tied for second-least hawkish). But US newspapers stopped writing the truth after their unpatriotic truth-telling lost the Vietnam War. By writing that the war was unwinnable and stupid (just because it was), the US news media convinced voters to elect Congresscritters who voted to withdraw. Had the US news media continued to write patriotically that victory was very close, and only a little more effort would prevent a Communist take-over of the US, voters would have elected Congresscritters who insisted the president continue to prosecute the Vietnam War, and US troops would still be in Saigon to this day.

Fortunately, the US media all report that Bush, jr did a great job turning Iraq from a terrible tyranny into a peaceful and prosperous Democracy, and Obama did a similarly great job for Libya. And the US news media are all waiting for President Clinton to bring that same peace and prosperity and freedom and Democracy to Syria, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China!

Monday, February 29, 2016

US Elections: Super Tuesday

Before 1972, thousands of delegates were chosen to go to the party conventions every leap year (plus 1900, which was an election year but not a leap year), but only the state party leaders had a vote, and they cast all the votes for their state for whomever they chose. Once upon a time, they usually voted for a 'favourite son,' on the first vote, i.e., someone from their state who was more-or-less running for president, and after that, they got serious and haggled in smoke-filled rooms. But in '68, the Democrats chose the vice-president (the usual choice when the president was not running for re-election) AFTER the president had resigned since his presidency was NOT going well, and his doctors had diagnosed a fatal illness. The 'usual choice' proved a disaster for the Democrats. So in '72, they actually let the voters choose using the British algorithm, where the person supported by a plurality of the Democratic voters got all of the states' votes. Just 25% of Democrats managed to nominate a candidate who was not supported by many Democrats and almost no Republicans, and he lost almost every state.

This year, the Democrats pick more than 4,000 delegates who get to go to the party called the Democratic Convention, and the Republicans pick more than 2,000 delegates to go to their party's party. As before, the heads of the state party cast all the votes, but (on the first round) they must cast votes for the candidates to which their delegates have been pledged.

And today, 661 Republican delegates will be allocated, and 865 delegates for Democrats. Maybe. Different sites have different numbers. Another site counting delegates at stake today says that 632 Republican delegates … will be awarded…[and] 1,007 … Democratic delegates… are at stake. So it appears that no one is sure how to count the delegates at stake today.
But in any case, today the largest number of delegates will be pledged of any single day during the 2016 nomination process. Of course, the Democratic candidate needs more than 2,000 delegates to win, and the Republican needs more than 1,000, and the process is supposed to be proportional, but, with 30% of the vote, Trump has 64% of the delegates from the first four nomination contests. 

The Democrats are more proportional (to avoid another disaster like '72). After Obama pulled ahead (having counsellors who knew where the smallest amount of money and effort would produce the most delegates), even when Senator Clinton won a state, she only won a few more delegates than Obama, and could not close the gap.

So today, Secretary Clinton will get most of those 865 - 1,007 delegates, and Trump will get at least the plurality of those 632 - 661 delegates, if not the majority. Neither will have enough delegates to win, but Secretary Clinton will be far ahead of Senator Sanders.

Trump is harder to predict. If, after today, all but one anti-Trump Republican drop out, and that sole survivor runs against Trump, he'll probably win. But all four anti-Trump Republicans show no sign of quitting before the bitter end. And a recent poll says Trump's share of Republican voters has risen from a plurality of 30% to a majority.

Of course, that's only one poll, and it's an outlier.

Today's contest is much broader than any we've seen so far, and sometimes actual votes don't tally very well with polls at the state level. The Democratic contest is fairly easy to predict: Secretary Clinton should win almost everything except for Vermont. There will be no surprises.

The Republican contest is much harder to predict. Trump is almost certain to get a plurality of delegates, but is not so certain to get a majority, and he needs a majority to win. So the Republican contest could be very interesting today. If Trump gets more than 60% of the delegates today, he'll be very hard to stop. If he gets only a plurality that's not a majority, it means he will not be the nominee.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

23 Feb: Half-way though Nevada and South Carolina

There was always a good chance that Senator Sanders would win New Hampshire (national coverage0 and Vermont (mostly ignored), and the press were hoping for a New Hampshire win, since a race where Secretary Clinton is the obvious, foregone conclusion won't sell many newspapers pageviews. And so he did.

Next came Nevada, and Secretary Clinton won.

Bill (and the Secretary) have most of the African-American vote, and most of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote (not many of either one in New Hampshire or Vermont). Also most of the working-class Democratic vote. So Secretary Clinton is sure to win South Carolina. And most of Super Tuesday on 1 March. By the end of March, Secretary Clinton may have enough delegates to guarantee herself the nomination. Or Senator Sanders will see that it's hopeless and drop out.

The Republicans have dropped from 17 to 6 candidates. Normally, in a race without a president running for re-election, or a vice-president hoping to 'continue the good work', most of the candidates have almost zero name recognition as the campaign starts. Reagan had 100% name recognition from his film and TV career, and so was a sui generis. Reagan was also very popular with Republicans and many Democrats and quickly secured the nomination and then the election.

Trump is a very different sui generis. Again, 100% name recognition, but only 1/3 of Republicans like him, the other 2/3rds hate him, but the 2/3 were splitting their vote 16 then 12 and now 4 ways.

Trump has gotten less than 1/3 of the votes, but the weird way the Republicans assign electable delegates, he has 62.5% of them. (Of course, there are a LOT of Super Delegates who are appointed, not elected, and few of them support Trump.)

As of now, Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich are the last two mainstream, establishment Republicans. Senator Cruz, Mr Trump, and Dr Carson are single-player 'teams'. The Bush, jr votes will all accrue to Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich, but that's still not enough to give either of them a plurality. It's not clear how long both Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich will stay in the race, but as long as both are in, neither will come close to a plurality. If one drops, the other will probably acquire a permanent plurality and the plurality of the delegates, if not a majority. But neither has shown an inclination to drop out anytime soon. And if both remain until the bitter end, they could give Trump the election (not likely, but possible). Or they could prevent any candidate from having a majority of the Republican delegates, and the winner will get decided in a smoke-filled room (but vape now instead of cigars).

The other three are all different anti-establishment candidates, and it's not clear where their votes will go if any of them drop out.

So, at this point, the odds are very much against Trump, but it is impossible to say who is the most likely winner of the nomination.

(Not that it matters, barring an unforeseen obstacle, Ma Clinton will be the First* Woman President of the United States, and Bill will, once again, have full access to the White House interns, a privilege the US voters agree he's earned and deserves.)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

US Presidential Election 8 Feb 16 (the day before the New Hampshire Primary)

Senator Sanders might win New Hampshire. Every US news agency hopes so. To sell, news agencies need news, and if Secretary Clinton is sure to win, there's nothing worth writing about. So they want a contest. Most want Secretary Clinton to win, but all want a contest that will sell newspapers and ads on broadcast media (and web news sources).

Most African-Americans voted for Bill. If Bill had been able to run in '08, he would probably have lost. African-Americans like Bill. A lot. They liked Obama better. And so Hillary lost.

But there is no Obama in this race. The African-American turnout won't be a big as it was for Obama, who attracted African-American votes even more strongly than Bill, but it will be significant, enough to guarantee Secretary Clinton the nomination.

After which, both Trump and Bloomsberg have said they'll run as Perots to help Hillary win the election.

Senator Sanders is news, but I don't think he's a foil trying to make Hillary look better than she is. He's a pacifist who wants to really end 'enhanced interrogation' and US neo-imperialism.

Bush, jr bragged about what he was doing to the 'proven enemies of the US.' Proved because a) the US offered 100 years median income to anyone who would point out a terrorist; and b) those identified as terrorists all confessed under 'enhanced interrogation.'

Once upon a time, Americans were taught that confessions obtained under 'enhanced interrogation' were unAmerican and unreliable, that they belong to medieval times and the Inquisition. But that was then. Now, Americans are taught that Torquemada knew some of the most advanced forensic techniques, and used them to keep Spain safe from terrorists.

Obama said he ordered that all torture cease, and punished severely anyone who tried to reveal the current interrogation techniques used by the US against suspected terrorists. So we haven't heard much about 'enhanced interrogation' since Obama took office. Of course, most Americans agree that, when the US does it, it's not torture, it's legal 'enhanced interrogation' of heinous villains who would have otherwise set off thermonuclear devices in most American cities.

Secretary Clinton says Obama is a wimp, and she'll be much tougher. So Senator Sanders would be a MUCH better President of the US. Pity he doesn't have a chance.

Friday, February 5, 2016

US Presidential Election (pt 2)

The US press hates that Senator Sanders was close to Secretary Clinton in Iowa. They mostly want another 8 years of Clintons in the White House.

Actually, African-Americans love the Clintons. They liked Obama more, of course, and gave him the nomination in '08.

The Clintons wanted to avoid the Ma Ferguson effect. The Texas legislature voted that Pa Ferguson could never run again for governor of Texas. That only applied to Pa Ferguson. So Ma, his wife, ran on the platform, 'Two governors for the price of one.' She won, and she became the First* woman governor of Texas.

For the US, the Congress voted '47 not to let anyone serve more than two terms of office, and that was ratified in '51. Had Hillary run in 2000, she would have won, and would have been the First* woman president of the US, but the Clintons wanted her to be the First, not the First*. So she ran for Senator in 2000 and won, becoming the first First Lady to run in an election and win.

Then she ran for president in '08. African-American voters had almost all voted for Bill. But Hillary was running against Obama, and she lost the African-American bloc to Obama, and so she lost the nomination. Obama had a bunch of volunteers who understood the American election process. Hillary had a bunch of highly paid 'experts' who had no idea. So Obama spent his much smaller election fund very wisely, while Hillary squandered her huge election fund. This time, of course, she's paying the people who helped Obama win.

Now, almost all African-Americans will vote for Hillary in the primaries and caucuses and in the election. Iowa and New Hampshire have almost no African-Americans, so Senator Sanders came close in Iowa, and might win in New Hampshire. After which, he'll lose almost every other primary and caucus. The US pundits say Sanders could be another Obama. No, he can't. Hillary is a sure thing.

Bill and Trump spoke just before Trump declared. They figured the Republican leadership would block Trump from running, he'd go third party, and it would be like '92, when Bill won because of Perot. Google the '92 election, and the top 10 results are, 'Experts all wrong. Perot did not help Clinton win election.' The 'experts' do not show up anywhere in the first 10 results. But the people who voted for Perot were almost all white men, who usually vote Republican. And Perot got half as many votes in '96 as in '92, but Clinton didn't get any more votes. So the single exit poll that said voters who'd voted for Perot said their second choice was Clinton does not seem very reliable.

In any case, the Republicans weren't that stupid. They let Trump run, and he has held the plurality in the polls ever since he announced. But he still lost the Iowa caucuses. He might win in New Hampshire, but, as the field of Republican contenders gets winnowed, very few of those votes will accrue to Trump, so, by the end of March, he'll be far behind.

Of course, Trump said he really won in Iowa, and only lost because someone cheated. So he might still run as a third party to guarantee that Hillary wins. And Bloomberg is also threatening to run as a third party (and will get mostly Republican votes) to ensure a victory for Hillary.

So President Hillary looks like a certainty at this point.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Foreign Correspondents

Most of us get our information about the world outside the places where we go and can see for ourselves from the news industry. For remote, foreign climes, we get all our information from foreign correspondents.

There are two sources everyone should read about foreign correspondents: Scoop by Waugh, and The Quiet American by Greene (do NOT watch the Audie Murphy movie).

Waugh and Greene were not well paid for their novels, and both worked at day jobs as foreign correspondents and later wrote novels where the main protagonist was, guess what, a foreign correspondent.

Waugh is best known for his depressing WWII novel about Brideshead. But most of his early work was comic novels like Scoop.

Scoop is a farce. It begins when the owner of a major newspaper gets confused and orders the writer of the gardening column sent to cover a war in Ismaelia, a fictional African country. The gardening columnist has no idea how to be a war correspondent, and so observes the pros dashing off after the latest red herring, while he doesn't even know that a major, breaking (but false) story requires everyone to run off to the site of all the action.

The Quiet American is a novel about an old, seasoned pro of a foreign correspondent, covering a war in French Indochina. The protagonist says that he cannot report any of what he sees. First (to get paid) he has to file stories. All stories, before the local telegrapher will send them, must be approved by the French censor, who removes anything that might reveal what is really happening. The wire, when received back in the UK, must be approved by the UK censors. Finally, the editors at the newspaper will only print a version of the story that fits their editorial policy, a policy that refuses to print any of the things that are actually happening.

The old wrote that no one knew how most of the Syrian victims had died, and no one knew who had used poison gas to kill thousands, and the US and UK should not eliminate the Syrian government until they knew whodunit. The UK constabulary shut down that unpatriotic The new and much improved (approved by the governments of the UK and US) note that it has been irrefutably proven that every one of the 300,000 dead, unarmed, peaceful protesters was killed by the evil regime using illegal WMD, and the West has a duty to remove that evil regime and replace it with a good, legitimate Wahhabi government (which will result in well-earned profits for the hardest working and most patriotic members of the US, and EU).

Of course, there are still unpatriotic liars who, instead of telling what the governments of the US and EU have proclaimed is the TRVTH, tell what they've seen with their own eyes. Which is obviously a terrible thing to do, so I hope no one reads the evil reporter who says what terrible things like 'proof' and 'evidence' show are true, that unpatriotic Seymore Hersh:

It's hard to see how anyone can say the US and EU governments are big liars based on nothing but 'proof' and 'evidence' that contradict all their stories. Since the US and EU governments are all Democracies, they CANNOT lie, only dictatorships like Syria, Iran, Russia and China can and do lie about everything. So, if all the facts, proof, and evidence says that the US and EU governments are lying, we must reject every one of those facts, proofs, and evidence.

Fortunately, the next president of the US will almost certainly be Secretary Clinton. She has to show she is much tougher than the wimp Obama (and the Bushes and Bill). Obama did the right thing in Libya, bringing the country peace and prosperity, but then chickened out and allowed the evil regimes in Syria, Iran, Russia and China to continue to destroy democracy (and profits for the biggest donors in those democracies).

Secretary Clinton has promised, as soon as she's elected, to overthrow the evil Syrian regime, then the evil Iranian regime (easier since Obama convinced them to neutralise all their WMD), then Russia and China. After which the world will be VERY peaceful

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

US Presidential Election

The US election matters to the entire world, and this one has been more newsworthy than most, but that's about to end.

Before 1972, a dozen or so old, white, Republican men, and a dozen or so old, white, Democratic men chose the Republican and Democratic nominee for president in late summer of the election year. The campaign started after the nominees were announced, and lasted about three months.

In 1968, a slender majority of Democrats wanted the US to leave Vietnam. So a large minority of Democrats, plus a large majority of Republicans, thought leaving would be worse than Chamberlain at Munich, more like if he'd been PM in '17 and decided the Allies should surrender and turn all of Europe over to the tyrannical Kaiser. (The UK's official position was that the First World War was absolutely necessary and the British senior generals were brilliant in finally managing to single-handed defeat the evil Kaiser's armed forces. And after losing WWII unconditionally, German historians have been forced to write that Germany was the sole aggressor in WWI,  that the Kaiser was evil, and that Germany was very lucky that the Allies liberated them from the Kaiser).

So, in '68,  the Democratic leadership chose Humphrey, who said the US could never win the war, since China and the USSR were supporting the North Vietnamese, but neither could it withdraw, since that would lead to a Communist take-over of the entire world. Young Democrats rioted after the party leadership chose Humphrey (who lost by a narrow margin when many Democrats stayed home for the '68 election), and the Democratic leadership said, beginning in '72, the voters could choose the nominee.

The slender majority of Democrats against the war chose McGovern in '72, who lost to a massive majority for Nixon. But the '72 system is the one we've got. And the campaign for the nomination starts before the mid-term elections.

We've only had 11 elections with the new rules, and so we got a Trump for the first time.

Normally, most candidates are senators or governors, known only to voters in their own state. So the national vote is spread many ways, and the holder of the plurality changes weekly until the voting starts, after which many run out of money, one gains first the plurality and then the majority and then is nominated at the Convention.

Trump was a TV figure, and so had much better name recognition among the voters than any other candidate. And 1/3 of Republican voters really like him and keep telling pollsters they'll vote for him, and so he's kept his plurality for more than 6 months, which has never before happened in any US Presidential nomination campaign.

The first vote is on 1 February. There are only four small states voting all during February, but some of the throng of Republican candidates for the nomination should finally realise that their run is hopeless, donors will realise it and cut them off, and the field should be winnowed. Once that happens, Trump disappears.

Meanwhile, some try to mould the Democratic nomination campaign to fit the Republican one. Which it ain't. Secretary Clinton has a massive majority of those who will vote in the Democratic primaries and caucuses (except maybe the first two). Most African-Americans will vote for the Secretary, as will most Hispanics. The white, male liberal Democrats prefer Sanders, but they are a tiny majority of Democrats (except in the first two states).

So, by the end of February, it should be down to Secretary Clinton against some Republican who is NOT Donald Trump.

After which, it looks like Secretary Clinton will coast to an easy victory.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Peter and John

In school, we were told that, when we started to work, there would be a lot to learn. When we'd gotten to be the best in our group, we'd be promoted to head of the group, so we could teach the others how to be the best. When we'd gotten to be the best foreman of all the groups, we'd be promoted to supervisor, to teach the other foremen. When we'd gotten to be the best supervisor, we'd be promoted to manager, then director, then junior executive, then senior executive.

Of course, everyone learns at a different rate, and some would only get to foreman, or supervisor, or manager. The best and brightest and hardest workers would rise to executive. Or so we were taught.

Then came Peter and his principle. When you promote your best worker to foreman, you lose your best worker and gain a mediocre foreman, since the skills for worker and foreman are not at all the same. Likewise if you promote the best from any level to the next level, you lose your best at the lower level and gain someone who is probably not very good at the next level. No. Never promote. If you need a new foreman, raid your competitors by offering a rise in pay to their best foreman. Likewise for supervisors, managers, directors, and executives.

So I was the best programmer at a firm, and they said they were making me 'acting supervisor,' and I'd be a real supervisor if I proved I could do it. I was given John as my sole subordinate. I gave John an assignment to design and program half of what the two of us had to do. At the end of the day, I asked to see his progress. 'I don't want to show you until I've finished.'

'I have to see how far you've gotten. NOW!' John showed me he had done absolutely nothing. 'I didn't understand what you were asking.' So I wrote the design that night and gave it to John in the morning, saying, 'Code this.'

End of the day, same story. 'I don't want to show you until it's finished.'

'Show me what you've done. NOW!' Nothing. So I wrote the code and asked John to type it. Same thing. Nothing. So I typed the code, ran it, and asked John to pick up the output. Same. He disappeared all day and came back without any output.

I went to the manager and complained.

'We gave you John because none of us has been able to get any work out of him. If you could have gotten him to work, we'd have made you supervisor. But you didn't, so you'll just remain our best software designer.'

But the VP had hired John, and no one could tell the VP that hiring John had been a mistake. Since John couldn't (or wouldn't) do any work, he was promoted to supervisor after one month. Then he sent his CV around, showing that he was a very fast-burner, rising from analyst to supervisor in just one month. Our competitor hired him as manager, and (last I heard) he was a senior VP less than five years out of university.

Talent always shows itself and rises to the top.

Not technical talent, which is worthless, but the great talent that John had, a talent in which I am completely lacking.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Socrates and the square root of two

According to Plato, Socrates taught about twice the square root of two. But I figure, twice the square root of two is just double the fun.

Socrates was visiting Meno, and asked for a young slave. Meno ordered the slave to do whatever Socrates asked.

Socrates drew a 2 x 2 square, and asked the slave to draw a square that was exactly double the 2 x 2 square. The slave drew a 4 x 4 square. Socrates asked, 'How many squares in the 2 x 2 square?'

'Four,' answered the slave.

'And how many squares in the square you drew?' asked Socrates.

'Sixteen,' answered the slave.

'And how many squares in a square that was double the square I drew?' asked Socrates.

'Eight,' answered the slave.

'So how would you draw a square that was double the square I drew?' asked Socrates.

The slave drew a 3 x 3 square. Socrates asked, 'How many squares inside your square?'

'Nine,' answered the slave.

'How many squares would be in a square whose side was the diagonal of the square I drew?' asked Socrates.

The slave drew such a square. It had half of Socrates' square inside, and that was one quarter of the entire square that had as its side the diagonal of Socrates' square. So the square with a side the same as a diagonal of Socrates' square had four halves of Socrates' square, hence it was exactly double the size of Socrates' square.

Socrates noted that he had never told the slave how to solve the problem. Socrates had only asked questions until the slave remembered the solution. This, of course, meant that the slave had already known the solution and forgotten it. Which meant that the slave was a reincarnation of someone who knew the answer, but, when one is reincarnated, one forgets everything until a skilled interrogator recovers your forgotten memories.

So Socrates, a Greek, proved that the Hindu belief in reincarnation MUST be true.

(Or else Socrates proved that asking the right questions can teach a student things the student never knew before at all, in this incarnation or any other.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Square Root of Two (part 1)

Pythagoras taught that every number can be written as a ratio. Consider a man's arm and his height. One can certainly write the ratio of the length of his arm to his height. Can't one?

Pythagoras was, of course, very familiar with the square root of 2, which is the length of the diagonal of a right triangle with sides that are both 1. But then one of his students proved that the square root of two could never be a ratio. Pythagoras figured his student was a) irrational; and b) a heretic.

I'm not sure if it's true, but they say that Pythagoras had the student murdered by his more devoted followers who would never question his teachings.

As it turns out, if one could measure the length of a man's arm perfectly, and if one could measure his height perfectly, the length of the man's arm would NOT be some perfect ratio of his height. A very small infinity of numbers can be written as perfect ratios, and a very large infinity cannot, so the length of a man's arm is never a perfect ratio to his height.

This is an important part of basic logic: one cannot say that something does not exist without a proof (like the one Pythagoras' student gave that no ratio can exist for the square root of two). Some say that anyone claiming that something does not exist has no burden of proof, those who say it does exist have all the burden. This is wrong. If no one cannot prove that something exists, and no one can prove that it does not exist, then logicians are forced into agnosticism: they must agree that no one knows if it does or does not exist.

Of course, the square root of two exists, but there is no way to write it as a ratio. It's the ratio that the student proved does not exist.

That's about all there is to say about Pythagoras and the square root of two.

Socrates used the square root of two to prove that reincarnation is true, but I'll leave that one for another day.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Thrasymachus and the Truth

In grade school, every American child learns that George Washington never lied. Not once in his entire life. The story was written years after Washington died, when no one was alive who knew if he had or did not have a lifelong reputation for veracity, and the author provided no sources for his report, and no sources have been found in more than a century of searching. So it appears the life without a single lie was a posthumous gift to Washington.

Today, things go the opposite way. Thrasymachus came up with a definition of 'Justice' as whatever the strongest power says it is. Socrates found inconsistencies in that definition, and so ruled it out. But Socrates (though he didn't know the term) was looking for a prescriptive definition of justice, one that satisfies some theoretical demands (e.g., absolutely consistency). Thrasymachus (though he didn't know the term) was giving a descriptive definition.

As the most powerful person on earth, the US president can not only define what justice means, but also what is true, so, for the US president, TRUTH is as Thrasymachus would have described it if he'd thought of it.

So, when President Johnson said he hated war, that he did not want to go to war, but the North Vietnamese had attacked, without any provocation, a US Navy ship in International Waters, and this was as bad as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, every American newspaper confirmed that what Johnson said was true, and the US had no choice but to go to war against North Vietnam.

After Johnson died, newspapers reported that, in fact, the well documented attack by the North Vietnamese had never happened.

When Bush, jr said he did not want to go to war in Iraq, but Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction, including a nearly complete nuclear arsenal, all the Western newspapers agreed that their reporters had confirmed the existence of the WMD, including a nuclear arsenal. This was NOT like the faked attack on a US Navy ship by the North Vietnamese, and it would be a horrible mistake to blame Bush, jr for Johnson's lies, a mistake that would lead to an inevitable nuclear attack on the US.

But after Bush, jr left office and was no longer President of the US, most newspapers reported that the nuclear arsenal, the existence of which they reported had been irrefutably proven, never existed. (There are still some Bush, jr supporters who said the US military found those missiles, with nuclear warheads and fuses lit, and they managed to snuff the fuses just in the nick of time, but this information was classified so as not to frighten the American people, and Bush, jr was telling the TRUTH. But where the believers in the nukes were a large majority of Americans while Bush, jr was President of the US, now they are a small minority of Americans.)

Today, when Seymore Hersh wrote that President Obama was less than truthful about Osama, the Libyan Ambassador's death, and Syria, every Western newspaper condemned him as a racist, tinfoil-hat wearing conspiracy theorist. Hersh's impressive credentials and the fact that the official White House releases suffer from internal and external inconsistencies do not matter. President Obama is the President of the United States, so whatever he says is TRUE, by the Thrasymachus definition of TRUTH. Proof and evidence notwithstanding, whatever President Obama says is the absolute TRUTH.

How long that TRUTH will last after Obama is no longer president remains to be seen.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The price of oil

Basic economics says that increased prices reduce demand, and decreased prices increase demand. When things are normal, increasing the price decreases total sales. Not just unit sales, total dollar sales, because demand falls by so much that the increased price does not produce increased (or even steady) sales in dollars (or whatever currency one uses to measure).

Oil is different. A person buys a home in the suburbs with no public transportation, and buys a car to get to work. If the price goes up, it's not possible to stop driving to work, or to sell the house and the car and move to a flat on a bus route. So one muddles through.

And if the price falls, one cannot immediately buy a house in the suburbs and a gas-guzzling SUV.

But, with lower prices, people buy bigger cars and more move to the suburbs and buy cars, so eventually, demand rises, just not right away.

Also, with lower prices, supply is supposed to fall. But, with oil, the cost is in finding the oil and drilling the wells. Once drilled, it costs little to pump, and not pumping causes the well to collapse, losing all the money already spent drilling it. So supply does not drop right away, but there is less exploration and less drilling, so eventually, lower prices will mean less supply and more demand, just not for a year or more.

So, for now, some are predicting a world price of $20 a barrel. Or $15. Or $10. On Friday, oil broke through the support at $30, and looks like it's heading down. If the UN says Iran is in full compliance, it can sell a lot more oil. So lower prices for now.

So more houses in the suburbs, more SUVs, less exploration, and less drilling. But all this will take years before it has any effect on the price of oil.

But when those houses get built and those SUVs get bought and the existing wells get depleted, which will take years, it will mean $100 a barrel. Or $200. Or more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Counting the number of letters in the Arabic alphabet

Since leaving the US, I have met many people for whom English is a second language (if they don't speak any English, that limits my ability to interact with them to just about nil).

I asked many of them, 'How many letters are there in your alphabet?' since I'm always curious. And the answer I always got was '26'. Which seemed strange to me. How is it these alphabets have the exact same number of letters as the English version of the Latin alphabet?

The answer is that, when native-English speaking children go to their first day of school, the teacher always says, 'We are going to learn to read and write English. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, and 5 of them, a, e, i, o, and u, are vowels.' Then the teacher writes the alphabet, and the children all learn the alphabet song.

In English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, the teachers start in a similar way: 'We are going to learn English. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, and 5 of them, a, e, i, o, and u, are vowels.' The students probably don't know the English words 'letters' or 'alphabet' or '5' or 'vowels,' but those who pass the ESL course had better learn that, in the English version of the Latin alphabet, there are 26 letters, of which 5 are vowels.

(The teachers usually don't tell students the number of consonants, but given that there are 26 letters and 5 vowels, simple arithmetic shows there are 19 consonants. And if my maths seems strange, that's because English and maths don't mix: the English alphabet has 26 letters, of which 5 are vowels, and 19 are consonants!)

In most other languages, on the first day of school the teacher says, 'Today we are going to learn to read and write. This is the alphabet:' and then the teacher writes the alphabet and the children memorise the alphabet. But usually, the teacher does NOT teach the number of letters in the alphabet.

So the only language for which many ESL students know the number of letters is English, and, when asked the number of letters, most answer '26'. After all, in their own language, letter isn't 'letter', so just the word 'letter' makes them think, 'English letters, 26.'

When I went to Arabic classes, the teacher was terrible. He said, 'You must learn the Arabic alphabet,' then recited it quickly, and said, 'Now you know it. So you can start reading NOW.'

For more than 1,300 years, children who were fortunate enough to be able to study reading and writing Arabic were taught TWO alphabetical orders for the letters. One was the original order the Phoenicians came up with when they invented the Phoenician alphabet. Then, early Islamic scholars came up with a different alphabetical order, but those who already knew the Arabic alphabet in the Phoenician order found it very hard to learn the new order, so they kept using the old order, and told their students the old order was much easier to learn, so the alphabet they memorised was in the old order. Sometime in the past 50 years or so, most schools in the Arab world stopped teaching the old order. The teacher of my Arabic class gave us the old order (not in the textbook) and said we'd find it MUCH easier to learn the Arabic alphabet in that order instead of the proper alphabetical order (meaning, he didn't know anything about teaching or learning).

Of course, I counted, and there are (now) 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet. But Arabic is nothing at all like English, so there are letters that are not in the alphabet (Arabs use completely different words for letters in the alphabet and letters not in the alphabet, and think English should have different words for the different kinds of letters, but it doesn't).

It gets better. Arabic once had just 18 symbols. Kind of like English carved in stone, where one finds MVSEVMs and COVRTs OF IVSTICE, back when English used just 24 symbols for the 26 letters. In the early days of Islam, some Arabs wrote with marks called 'nukta' which makes it clear which of the 28 letters is intended by the 18 symbols. Without nukta, many different letters, e.g. the R and Z, are identical. During the first Islamic century, some Arab scribes used nukta, and some did not.

By the end of the third Islamic century, to make the Noble Koran as easy to read as possible, scribes started adding nukta and tashkeel, making it much easier to know how to recite the words. And today, Noble Korans for reciting also come with a colour code to show reciters the rhythm and meter of each phrase.

Today, for Arabic writing like newspaper articles, Arabs always write the nukta, but not the tashkeel, and no code for the rhythm and meter. So it's hard for a non-Arab who learned the alphabet to know how to pronounce the words in newspaper articles.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Job Interview

I was invited to a job interview (many years ago) by the University of Chicago Circle (sounds like University of Chicago, but it isn't, it's the university where the author of a book about Zen and Motorcycles was teaching when he decided Zen and Motorcycles would be a MUCH better career).

I was met my an Indian (NOT of the Red variety). He said he had to take me to dinner and watch me eat. I said, 'I can't eat while a hungry person is sitting, not eating, and staring at me.'

'What we do, then?'

'Why, exactly, are you going to take me to dinner and watch me eat?'

'Boss say I must take you to Steakhouse. I Hindoo. I not eat meat. So I watch you eat. OK?'

'No, not OK. Take me someplace we can BOTH eat!'

'My boss say I must take you Steakhouse.'

'OK. I'll say we went to the Steakhouse. Now take me somewhere we can BOTH eat.'

'But place I can eat, you cannot eat.'

'Try me.'

So we went to a Hindoo restaurant. He ordered something bland for me, and bindhi massala for himself. 'Bindhi' is Hindoo (or Urdu) for okra. As it says in the Iowa farm journal (or so I was told by a Texas newspaper article), 'Okra is a very important fodder crop. You won't believe this, but in some very primitive cultures, okra is used for human food.'

As it turned out, I ate most of his bindhi massala, and he had to eat whatever it was he ordered for me.

The next day, I met the staff. I already hated them for the way they'd treated the poor Indian (whose name I've long forgotten). Their Phd in Computer Security made a bunch of statements that, while I'm sure they've been published in bad journals, were 110% false. The usual, 'Make users pick passwords that are random sequences of characters and make them change their passwords every week.' Either the users will forget and lose access to their accounts, or they'll write down their passwords where anyone can find them. Bad idea.

They wanted me to teach Pascal. I went to a lecture by the idiot who invented the Pascal language, and he convinced me no one would EVER use Pascal to write a program that actually did anything. They knew I didn't know Pascal, but needed someone with certification to teach it for a semester (they had to have someone with accreditation, or they'd be in big trouble), and then they planned to lay me off. I declined their generous offer.