Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Protestantism Began 500 Years Ago Today (Tuesday)

I don't have much to say - meaning, I guess, I have way too much to say - so I'll just mark this event with a few quotes.  First  from Christianity Today:

"Sometime during October 31, 1517, the day before the Feast of All Saints, the 33-year-old Martin Luther posted theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The door functioned as a bulletin board for various announcements related to academic and church affairs. The theses were written in Latin and printed on a folio sheet by the printer John Gruenenberg, one of the many entrepreneurs in the new print medium first used in Germany about 1450. Luther was calling for a "disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light." He did so as a faithful monk and priest who had been appointed professor of biblical theology at the University of Wittenberg, a small, virtually unknown institution in a small town."
If the word indulgences didn't pop out at you in that paragraph, let's try again.  From Crosswalk:
"Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses were particularly focused on the practice (and corruption) associated with indulgences. Specifically, indulgences were being sold for financial gain, as well as giving people a false assurance of salvation. It is not surprising that Luther posted his theses on October 31st, the eve of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, a time which emphasized the distinction between the souls of “saints” and the souls of everyone else, as well as revealed widespread misunderstanding about the power of indulgences (and the afterlife in general).

About a year after the wall came down in Berlin and between East and West Germany, I had an opportunity to visit Wittenberg and the famous church.  I wanted to put up my own picture of the church door in Wittenberg, but I haven't found it.

But this is a good time to ponder what actions stick and what actions disappear into nothingness.  Many were upset with the corruption of the Catholic bureaucracy in those days.  Why did Luther's actions make such a big difference?  I'm not going to answer that question because this isn't something I know all that much about.  But I'm sure he was helped by things that had happened before him.  I'm sure his own personality and skills played a role.  And I'm sure timing was a large part of this.

And we can ponder too, whether his 'solution' has made the world a better or worse place overall.  I don't know the answer to that, but the most interesting take that I've read on the impact of Protestantism was Max Weber's The Protestantism Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

You can read the whole book at this link.  Here's a bit from the 1976 introduction by Anthony Giddens.  It's hard boiling a complex work into a short summery, so consider this only a few notes of of a symphony.  I'll warn you that academic German writing can be hard and the translations are often even harder.  But the content is worth the effor
"What explains this historically peculiar circumstance of a drive to the accumulation of wealth conjoined to an absence of interest in the worldly pleasures which it can purchase? It would certainly be mistaken, Weber argues, to suppose that it derives from the relaxation of traditional moralities: this novel outlook is a distinctively moral one, demanding in fact unusual self- discipline. The entrepreneurs associated with the development of rational capitalism combine the impulse to accumulation with a positively frugal life-style. Weber finds the answer in the ‘this-worldly asceticism’ of Puritanism, as focused through the concept of the ‘calling’. The notion of the calling, according to Weber, did not exist either in Antiquity or in Catholic theology; it was introduced by the Reformation. It refers basically to the idea that the highest form of moral obligation of the individual is to fulfil his duty in worldly affairs. This projects religious behaviour into the day-to-day world, and stands in contrast to the Catholic ideal of the monastic life, whose object is to tran- scend the demands of mundane existence. Moreover, the moral responsibility of the Protestant is cumulative: the cycle of sin, repentance and forgiveness, renewed throughout the life of the Catholic, is absent in Protestantism. 
Although the idea of the calling was already present in Luther’s doctrines, Weber argues, it became more rigorously developed in the various Puritan sects: Calvinism, Methodism, Pietism and Baptism. Much of Weber’s discussion is in fact concentrated upon the first of these, although he is interested not just in Calvin’s doctrines as such but in their later evolution within the Calvinist movement. Of the elements in Calvinism that Weber singles out for special attention, perhaps the most important, for his thesis, is the doctrine of predestination: that only some human beings are chosen to be saved from damnation, the choice being predetermined by God. Calvin himself may have been sure of his own salvation, as the instrument of Divine prophecy; but none of his followers could be. ‘In its extreme inhumanity’, Weber comments, ‘this doctrine must above all have had one consequence for the life of a generation which surrendered to its magnificent consistency . . . A feeling of unprecedented inner loneliness’ (p. 60). From this torment, Weber holds, the capitalist spirit was born. On the pastoral level, two developments occurred: it became obligatory to regard oneself as chosen, lack of certainty being indicative of insufficient faith; and the performance of ‘good works’ in worldly activity became accepted as the medium whereby such surety could be demonstrated. Hence success in a calling eventually came to be regarded as a ‘sign’ – never a means – of being one of the elect. The accumulation of wealth was morally sanctioned in so far as it was combined with a sober, industrious career; wealth was condemned only if employed to support a life of idle luxury or self-indulgence." (pp. xi-xiii) (emphasis added)
Lots to think about there.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Using Nixon To Put Trump's Denials Into Context - What Are They Really Thinking And Doing In The White House

To get some insight into the President's denials of wrong doings and attempts to redirect attention to Clinton emails, we can look at what President Nixon did when Watergate investigations were going on.  (The Dean investigation mentioned in the second half was an internal White House investigation that Nixon hoped could quash any further outside investigations.)

Here, from HistoryCommons:

President Nixon responds to the report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) alleging possible illegal campaign finances in his re-election campaign (see August 22, 1972). Nixon tells reporters, “[W]e have a new law here in which technical violations have occurred and are occurring, apparently on both sides.” When asked what illegalities the Democrats have committed, Nixon says: “I think that will come out in the balance of this week. I will let the political people talk about, but I understand that there have been [violations] on both sides.” The financial director of his re-election campaign, Maurice Stans (see Before April 7, 1972), is an honest man, Nixon says, and is currently investigating the matter “very, very thoroughly, because he doesn’t want any evidence at all to be outstanding, indicating that we have not complied with the law.” Between the GAO’s and the FBI’s investigations, Stans’s own internal investigation, and an internal White House investigation by White House counsel John Dean, Nixon says there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor, as some have requested. Of the Dean investigation: “I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident [the Watergate burglary—see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972]. What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up.” [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 57GERALD R. FORD LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, 7/3/2007] A Washington Post story on the press conference highlights Nixon’s use of the phrase “presently employed,” and notes that several people suspected of campaign wrongdoing—G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, Maurice Stans, Hugh Sloan, and John Mitchell—no longer work for the administration. [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 57] An assistant attorney general is convinced that the Dean investigation is “a fraud, a pipeline to [White House aide H. R.] Haldeman.” [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 206] In April 1973, an associate of Dean tells Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that there was never any such investigation, that Dean had not even discussed anything to do with Watergate as of August 29. “There never was a report,” the associate says. “Dean was asked to gather certain facts. The facts got twisted around to help some other people above him.” [BERNSTEIN AND WOODWARD, 1974, PP. 297-298] Dean later tells Watergate investigators that he never conducted any such internal White House investigation (see June 3, 1973). [WASHINGTON POST, 6/3/1973]

And if you want to know what Trump is thinking and doing, here's George V. Higgins' 1974 Atlantic Monthly account of what happened in the Nixon White House.  I'd note that all things considered, Nixon was a very capable president in many ways and a number of very important policy was made during his administration.  Here's a short excerpt:

"It is impossible, now, to ascertain with any assurance when it was that Richard Nixon first began to practice to deceive. But it is clear that over the years he perfected his art at least to the point of ‘trusting his monstrous craftsmanship completely, and believing it sufficient unto the most anxious of days. He became a virtuoso of deception, a wizard as a manipulator of reality and facts, and of the nation’s trust. Harry Houdini would have been hard pressed to imitate him with a set of handcuffs.
He guarded his ambition closely. A few intimates—Bob Haldeman, for example, who knew for more than two years what whoppers the President was piously reciting to the country on the subject of the cover-up—may have guessed at his prodigious skill in mendacity, but he was enough of an artist, with others, never to confide in them the truth about his fondness for lies, the final conceit of his mastery. It was that which led to Attorney General Richard Kleindienst’s disgrace, and to Attorney General Elliot Richardson’s stunned fury, and to the helpless rage and sorrow of James St."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Blustery, Gray, Fall Day Walk In The Woods

It may not be Yosemite, but it was still very cool and only a 25 minute drive from home.  Here are a few pics from our McHugh Creek hike this afternoon.

Heading up the trail from the parking lot through the leafless cottonwoods.

We could hear the wind roaring above us, but down on the trail, in amongst the trees there wasn't much wind.  And despite the wet streets and rain earlier in the day, there were only scattered drops now and then.

Ripe rosehips provided snacks along the way.

The only wild life we saw were occasional ravens taking advantage of the winds.

At one point there was water runoff crossing the creek.  Some spots had little boardwalks - maybe a few feet over the worst water and mud.  Other spots had slices of tree trunk.  But at one point I realized that my foot had lifted up without my shoe.  The picture is after I got it pulled out of the muck.

Naked trees.

Trail through spruce.  Then through cottonwoods again.  Turnagain Arm in the background.

It felt great to be in the wind and winter ready trees and earth.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

JFK Archives - Poison In Castro's Face Cream, HSCA Cuba And Mexico Trips, What Does It All Mean?

I'm just poking around in these archives to see if that might produce some items of interest, but I suspect that to really do this justice, one has to spend a lot of time so that the connections between documents start to become clear. And it would help to have spent time reading all the conspiracy literature on the Kennedy assassination.

I'm not going to drop everything and dedicate my life to mining these data bases.  I'm just trying to get a sense of what these files look like and contain and share a bit of that with readers so they know a little more about these than references to them in news stories.  The prior post on these files is here.

So first I'm going to give you some observations and tidbits from the archives I've looked at.  Then I'm going to look more deeply at one lengthy, typed set of notes from the House Select Committee on Assassination trips to Mexico and Cuba in 1978, along with an embedded copy of the whole document.

I seem to be getting random bits of information that, on their own, may be interesting, but not important.   Such as this CIA document about setting up contraband business in Paraguay:

Click to enlarge and focus

This document appears to be notes the CIA took on an Inspector General's report.  It's long and has lots about Cuba, assassination attempts on Castro, links with the Mafia.  I'm guessing that all this information has already been made public.  What's possibly new here are what the CIA note taker thought was important.  This note is about a plan to poison Castro:

I'd observe that CIA handwritten notes that I've seen are much more legible than FBI handwritten notes. But if you have trouble reading this one, it says:
"P. 18  NY Daily News - 1976 - story ??? Marie Lorenz in 1960 acted for Sturgis [I'm presuming this was Frank Sturgis, one of the Watergate burglars who was linked to Cuba activities] in an attempt to assass Castro.  this story says that soon after her mission failed the CIA recruited mafia mobsters to kill Castro.
Lorenz claims that the plan included the use of poison pills concealed in a jar of face cream, she said they dissolved and could not be used"

This one is titled "Oswald Soft File" and is made up of what appears to be descriptions of different documents.  But where are the documents?  It does say Box 22.  Here's the beginning:

[At the top, the SECRET stamp is crossed out and there's a stamped number:  11112432]
1) 46-39   [I'm guessing these are page numbers]
2) 1517-1093: [Probably not page numbers since the go from higher to lower]  11/23/63 [day after JFK assassination] Memo for Dir., FBI from DDP;  RE:  Anonymous phone call in Cambridge, England (as in #46-39)  [so 2) refers back to 1)]
You can see from my [bracketed notes] that as you go through this stuff in more detail, you start changing your hypotheses as you see things clearer and see relationships between items, but I still don't know what the numbers refer to.  I'm guessing they are identifiers, but what do they mean?

Again, you have to know a lot more of the whole context to be able to spot something that is new and significant.  Maybe that's how the Committee felt - lots of random bits of information.  What's true?  What's not?  How does it all fit together?

This Deposition of Victor Espinosa looks like there's lots of background information, again, the bigger importance of which I don't know - Espinosa was the son of wealthy Cubans who was somewhat involved with preparing for Castro but then later with Bay of Pigs.  Discusses how he got involved in things and people he knew who were connected to the US Embassy and CIA.  Mentions of a long list of people from Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara, Frank Sturgis and Howard Hunt (Watergate), Meyer Lansky,   Includes index of people mentioned, summary of deposition, and deposition itself.

The House Select Committee on Assassination's trips to Cuba and Mexico

Here's an interesting document.  It's the notes of the House Select Committee on Assassination's trips to Cuba and Mexico in 1978.
Appendix I (p. 82  also stamped 2000414) HSCA Procedural Write-up  Cuba Trip 1
Chairman Louis Stokes and Congressman Christopher Dodd were accompanied by committee staff G. Robert Blakely, Gary Cornwell, and Ed Lopez on this first trip to Cuba.
Appendix II (p. 86 or 2000418) HSCA Procedural Write-up  Mexico Trip
This trip included three committee staffers - Cornwell, Lopez, and Harold Leap.
Appendix III (p. 94 or 2000426)  HSCA Procedural Write-up  Mexico Trip 2
August 7, 1978.  This time staff members Lopez and Leap.
Appendix IV (2000439 - 2000447) is Cuba Trip 2
This Trip included Congressman Richardson Preyer and staffers Blakely and Juan Lopez Soto.
Appendix V  Missing
Appendix VI Missing
Appendix VII (2000448) is titled "Analysis of Lee Harvey Oswald's activities in Mexico City.  Basically looks at the evidence to determine if Lee Harvey Oswald or an imposter was in Mexico City and visited the Cuban and Soviet Consulates.   It's not clear cut.

There were typed page numbers on Appendix I (pp. 82-85)  Presumably these continued from the main document.   Hand written page numbers continue the sequence on Appendix II, but they end  at page 99 in Appendix III.  There are stamped numbers on every page in the lower right corner starting with 2000414.  I note all these things as I try to get my bearings.  I don't know what will be important and what won't.

Each page has this statement:
"(This form is to be used for material extracted from CIA-controlled documents.)"

 I'm struck by the kinds of details that are recorded -

Even with the randomness of my file reading, I'm seeing threads.  In the previous post on JFK investigation, I wrote about Elena Garro de Paz who said that Lee Harvey Oswald had had an affair in Mexico with Silvia Duran.  In this document, both women are on the list of people the committee staffers want to meet.

"Pedro Gutierrez Valencia was interviewed at 2:30 p.m.  Ruban Duran was interviewed at 5:00 p.m.  Horacio Duran was interviewed at 5:30 p.m.  Silvia Duran was interviewed at 6:15 p.m." (88)
"The Mexican officials also offered their observations on the preliminary interviewed conducted the previous day.  They pointed out that they found it strange that Silvia had told Oswald he could not travel while in Cuba.  They wondered what she was trying to tell him and whether she thought that Oswald had some objective in going to Cuba other than that ascribed by the popular version.  They considered the manner in which Silvia obtained employment at the Cuban Consulate unusual.  Generally they noted that Silvia and her brothers seemed to have almost programed responses and a defensive demeanor.  They pointed out, however, that all the Durans had been very interested in talking to us.  In their opinion, Ruben Duran was the most credible of those interviewed by the HSCA the previous day." (89-90)

Mexican Agent Martinez is going to help them find a Mr. Alberue.
"Luis Alberue Suoto lives at Mechelet #7, apartment #301, Colonia Aneura, Mexico City.  His phone number is 545-9947.  The landlady at his apartment explained to the Mexican officials that Mr. Alberue had left town hurriedly on Monday, August 7, 1978.  Mr. Martinez, wishing to know when he returned, had place a piece of scotch tape at the bottom right edge of his door.  Mr. Martines explained that he checked it every four hours and would notify us if Alberue returned before we left." (99-100)

But apparently the Mexicans don't want them to meet with Alberue.  We now have Mexican Agent Martinez, lying to his superiors for the sake of the committee members.  One wonders what was really going on here:
"At 2:30 pm, Agent Martinez [A Mexican agent] telephoned Capitan Ventura to report on his progress, pertaining to his work with the HSCA.  When Martinez told Ventura that he had located Alberue, Ventura asked him if he was alone.  When Agent Martinez lied and stated that he was alone, Ventura told him that he should under no circumstances allow us to interview Alberue.  When Agent Martinez completed his phone call, he said, "I don't understand why nobody wants you to talk to him."
Is Martinez really helping the Americans against his boss' wishes?  Or is this staged to make the Americans trust Martinez more?

Here's more with details that I don't quite understand.  That is, why did the writer think these details were important enough to include?
"Agent Martinez attempted without success to telephone Oscar Contreras Lartigue to inform him of our visit.  At 3:30 p.m., Agent Martinez finally reached Mr. Contreras' child who informed him that Mr. Contrereas was not in Tampico.  He had traveled to Mexico City for a Partido Republicano Institutional convention.  When Agent Martinez asked the child if he knew where his father was staying in Mexico City, he responded that he did not.  Agent Martinez explained to the child that he would call at a later time to speak to his mother."
Here's the whole document.  Fortunately it is typed and reasonably well written with lots of details that may be totally unnecessary or may provide interesting tidbits to people on top of this stuff.

I'd note that in these documents Oswald had only two or three contacts with Silvia Duran. Those would have been when he visited the Cuban Consulate where she worked.  That's very different from Elena Garro de Paz's claim mentioned in documents from my previous post, that Oswald and Duran were lovers and that Garro saw them at a party at Duran's brother's house.

Here's the whole document.  You can look through it yourself:

As I said, I've not gotten involved in the JFK assassination conspiracy materials.  I'm just looking at these documents out of curiosity.  But in trying to figure out the exact name of the HSCA, I did come across a couple of posts online that give a larger context to the HSCA - namely this description of a work of fiction by the former Deputy Counsel to the HSCA Robert Tannenbaum called Corruption of Blood.
The first is by MLK Assassination Special Investigator Gary Revel

The second is by Bill Kelly, an independent researcher who has focused on the assassination.

I don't know how reliable either of these sources is, but they do give some perspective on all this for people who haven't kept track over the years.

"Jeff Flake knew his criticism of Trump would cost him. He couldn’t stop himself." Life Imitates Art

That headline in the Washington Post had more meaning for me this morning than it would have yesterday morning.

Last night we saw a play called "Church and State" put on by a group of folks called RKP Productions.*

SPOILER ALERT:  I don't think I can make my point here about being compelled to tell the truth without revealing a bit too much of this play.  And I'd encourage people to see the play and stay for the discussion. It plays two more times:  tonight (Saturday) and Sunday afternoon at the Alaska Experience Theater.  You can get ticket info here and then jump down to "Spoiler Over"  in this post.

In the play, Southern Republican US Senator Charlie Whitmore is three days from the election, when his New York campaign manager and his wife are asking him what's wrong?  Why is he so jumpy?  They're back stage at some venue where he's due to talk to a large crowd shortly.

He's trying to tell them, but it's hard.  It comes out in dribbles.  He's told a blogger that he doesn't believe in God.  His wife freaks out - how can you not believe in God?  The campaign manager wants to know specifically what he said so she can prepare some damage control announcements, give him a statement for the speech that's minutes away.

Slowly the whole context comes out.  They'd just been, earlier that day, to a funeral for the child (children?) of  family friends, kids who were killed in a school massacre.  The blogger had asked him if he had prayed for the kids and the Senator said 'No' and went on to question the existence of a god who would permit such things to happen.

The debate then ensues among the firmly Christian wife, the Jewish campaign manager, and the Senator about what he's going to say when he gets on the stage.  He tells them he can't lie.  They tell him that questioning the existence of God and mentioning tightening gun laws will cost him the election.  He insists he can't lie.  He'll let God inspire him in his talk.

Will he tell his 'truth' or will he read the prepared speech?

Spoiler Over

People will debate whether dropping out of the election was the right move for Flake.  Clearly Republican primaries are toxic these days plus lots of dark money would be poured into the race to defeat Flake.  Was dropping out now the dignified thing to do?  Is dignity more important than fighting for what is right, even if that doesn't win the election?

Democrats may laud Flake for standing up against Trump's boorishness, but they must keep in mind:
"If anything, [Flake] held on because he is a strong supporter of most of Trump’s policies and personnel decisions. He voted for his judicial nominees, his regulatory rollbacks and the GOP health-care plan."
Church and State, written by Jason Odell Williams,  ran off-Broadway until June of this year and so Alaskans are getting a relatively early look at this play.
Retired Judge Karen Hunt interviewed a representative from Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (MDA) and then moderated a discussion (she emphasized it was not a debate) among audience members.  They've had such discussions after every performance and included NRA reps.

I think it's telling that when someone asked about where the MDA meetings were held, the speaker said that for security reasons, that info is only given out after people sign in to their Facebook page.

*I'd also note that RKP productions was put together by longtime Anchorage theater folks:  Bob Pond, who recently passed away, Richard Reichman, and Audrey and Bruce Kelly.  The program says that RKP
"has achieved what we consider to be meaningful theatre  programs by 'partnering' with other fine organizations:  Anchorage Community Theater, Cyrano's Theatre Company and Out North  Contemporary Art House . . "
Last night's performance was at the Alaska Experience Theater, the new home of Out North, and the large (only in comparison to the small) theater makes a much better space for live theater than it does for movies.  The closeness that makes the screen overwhelming, is great when there are live actors.

While the power of the NRA over gun issues seems insurmountable, it's helpful to remember that no great power exists forever.  As more and more Americans are personally affected by gun violence, extreme Second Amendment rights will be whittled down to a more sensible balance between the right to life and the right to own guns.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Slow, Bumpy Trail From Yosemite To High Sierra - Not The National Park, Rather Apple Operating Systems [UPDATED]

I'm writing this on my old macbook because my newer (2014) MacBook Pro has, it says, 29 hours and 56 minutes to go before it installs the recovery OS X Yosemite.

I've spoken to six Apple advisors since October 23 when i started this venture.  I didn't upgrade from Yosemite to El Capitan because the 'genius' told me, when I asked what it would do to my version of iMovie, to stay with Yosemite.

But I'm getting notices now that my browser is no longer secure and with one bank that means I can't manage my account.  At least not in Safari.  If I go to Firefox or Chrome I can.  The Apple advisors can explain why that is so - because they update independent of Yosemite, while Safari is built in as part of Yosemite, so it can't update independently of Yosemite.  But it still is silly that other browsers work on my MacBook, but Safari, Apple's own browser, doesn't work that well anymore.

The first guy, Steven, helped me with an id/password problem.  It turns out my original apple id no longer exists.  Apparently when i registered my wife's iPhone, they gave me a new Apple id and disappeared my old one.  So we got High Sierra (the new operating system) downloaded.  I decided to install it over night because I knew it would take a while on my slow connection.

But when I tried to install it, it started and then just stopped.  I let it sit a long time before I shut it down and tried the whole thing over again.  It didn't work.

On October 26 I talked to Matt.  He had me shut things down and reload High Sierra and start the install program again.  "Call back if you have any more problems."

So I called back later that day and talked to Gina.  She had me shut down and do a recovery thing.  As soon as I turn it on, I had to hit command + option + r.  That got me a black screen with a grey globe, and time line, and a clock image next to which it said 1:07.  We figured that was how much time was left for it to work when the minute changed about every minute.  I didn't think we should both wait an hour.  She said call back if there were any problems.

There were, but I had something to do out of the house, so I called back this morning and got Kacerra (sp?).  She wanted me to shut it down again and do an recovery opening again.  Again, an hour plus a few minutes.  So she scheduled a callback for 2pm.

Shekelia (sp?).  She had me move along.  Highlight the recover OSX and continue.  Then agree to the terms. And then I get  . . . Mavericks operating system.  Continue.  A popup window that says Since Mavericks is older than what I have (Yosemite), it can't install it.  Shekelia looked in her book and then said to do the recovery reboot again.  She set up a call back appointment for an hour and a half later as I wait another hour for this to happen.  (Fortunately I have other things I can do while I wait.  But I can't blog or anything.  (Well, at that point I didn't really want to pull out my old Mac.)

At 3:30 Nick calls.  I tell him the history again as he looks at the notes on my file.  I've got it ready to install the operating system again, but I'm fearful it will give me the Mavericks option again.  It does.  But he has a new trick.  command + option + r = internet recovery, he says.  We'll do command + r.

It works right away, without having to wait an hour and Yosemite is available.  So, he tells me, download Yosemite.  That's when I got "about 35 hours and 28 minutes left" and it steadily rose up to 72 hours and then back down to 35 hours and slowly, but faster than real time, to 30 hours.

But it was clear that Nick and I would run out of things to talk about before the 30 hours was up, so he told me to try to download High Sierra when Yosemite was back up and call back if there were any problems.  Or, just stick with Yosemite and use Firefox or Chrome if I needed a more secure browser for anything.

So that's where I am - two different Macs open.  Let's see if different parts of the download go faster, or if it goes faster during the night.  I'm just hoping it works at all.

[UPDATE Oct 28, 2017 8:35am:  The recovery download of Yosemite (operating system) was complete this morning when I got up.  Much faster than the 37 hours it was estimating yesterday.  But essentially, I'm back where I started - with Yosemite.  Hopefully, a cleaner version.  But should I start again to try to download High Sierra.  A couple of the Apple advisors I talked to in the last several days have posited that I might be better off keeping Yosemite and using Firefox or Chrome if I needed a web browser that was secure enough for my bank.  Maybe I'll wait until I'm out of town where I can get much faster internet speed so each step doesn't keep me off the internet for long periods.  But then again, maybe that's not a bad thing.  And I have the old Macbook I can use as backup.]

[UPDATE Nov 15, 2017 11 am:  I'm in Seattle now and so took advantage of faster internet speed to complete this process by installing High Sierra.  It was painless.  I have a short follow up post here.]

JFK Files: FBI Report On Mark Lane Talk To Socialist Workers Party, Detroit, Feb 16, 1964

I'm somewhat randomly poking through the JFK files released last night.  

I found some reports about people who have said something that someone thought might turn out to be important.  Perhaps the FBI and CIA just don't want people to know the kind of reports they write about people they befriend or meet.  Or all the meetings they infiltrated and reported on.

One report was about a "Mexican playwright, Elena Garro de Paz",  who said she'd been at a party in Mexico City attended by Oswald before the assassination.

Elena Garro de Paz was married to poet Octavio Paz until 1967.  (See  this obituary.) This report was dated July 1969.

Another report is a lengthy interview with Cynthia Thomas, wife of the Foreign Service employee who had written the original report on Elena Garro de Paz.  By this time Thomas' husband Charles, had been separated from the Foreign Service and had committed suicide.  Among other things, the report says,
"Ms. Thomas said she believed Elena's allegation about Duran being Oswald's lover because Elena was not the type of woman who took part in gossip, "women talk," or stories about other women."
The report by Charles Thomas mentions at first that Elena Garro de Paz met Oswald at a party at Ruben Duran's house, but then Thomas writes that it was actually at another party.  Rebecca Biron's book, Elena Garro and Mexico's Modern Dreams  mentions this story, skeptically, about Oswald and Duran being lovers.  But this book suggests that these revelations aren't anything new.

Another was about a woman, Lillian Fisher of Redondo Beach, California, who'd said that Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren would be assassinated at the JFK funeral.  They concluded this wasn't a threat, just an upset fear.

Another reported, briefly, that the SCDCP (seems to be the Southern California District Communist Party) had a meeting on November 23, 1963 to discuss the implications of the assassination for them. It reports they agreed that no effort should be made to defend Oswald.  They also
"concluded  that CP should expect increased Mc Carren Act and ultra-right activities, but no immediate danger existed for  pick up by Federal authorities of CP members."
Finally I looked through a Feb 16, 1964 report on the Socialist Workers Party meeting in Detroit where Mark Lane raised lots of questions about the official reports of the assassination.
"Detroit, Mich
Feb 16, 1964
The regular Friday night S.W.P. Forum was cancelled and everyone was invited to go to the central Methodist Church located on Woodward and Adams to hear a lawyer named Mark Lane give a talk about Lee Harvey Oswald.
The talk was attended by about 250 people.  There was several male and female negro's in the crowd."

Here's a screen shot of the beginning of the report.

click on image to enlarge and focus

The report is basically notes on Mark Lane's talk, an interesting look at the early thoughts of one of the more well known JFK assassination conspiracy theorists.

[UPDATE Oct. 30, 2017:  I've done a second post on things I've found in the newly released files.  There's a short one that talks about poisoning Castro's face cream and a longer look at the lengthy notes of thee House Select Committee on Assassination's trips to Cuba and Mexico.  Elena Garro de Paz and Silvia Duran come up again.  In these files Duran's contact with Oswald - if it happened at all - is characterized as three trips to the Cuban Consulate in Mexico where she worked.]

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Political Correctness Republican Style: Ban On Term "Climate Change"

Here's a hypothesis I'm proposing:

When Democrats ask people not to use certain terms and phrases, it tends to be words that are demeaning or hurtful to categories of people.

When Republicans ask people not to use certain terms and phrases, it tends to be words that reflect truths they want to deny.

Is it true or not?  I'm guessing it might be, but I'm starting with way too little real evidence.  But here's just one example:  Expunging 'climate change' in government agencies.

From the Guardian:
"Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead."
From Politico:

"A supervisor at the Energy Department's international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction" or "Paris Agreement" in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources have told POLITICO. 
Employees of DOE’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy learned of the ban at a meeting Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump signed an executive order at EPA headquarters to reverse most of former President Barack Obama's climate regulatory initiatives. Officials at the State Department and in other DOE offices said they had not been given a banned words list, but they had started avoiding climate-related terms in their memos and briefings given the new administration's direction on climate change. . . 
A DOE spokeswoman denied there had been a new directive. "No words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the department,” said DOE spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler."
Florida Center For Investigative Reporting:

"The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years. 
But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes. 
DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. 
The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department that has about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget."

Fortunately, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) is a Congressional, not Executive, agency, so it, apparently can still write about climate change.  Their report, dated Sept. 28, 2017 doesn't mince words:
"Why GAO Did This Study
Over the last decade, extreme weather and fire events have cost the federal government over $350 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. These costs will likely rise as the climate changes, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In February 2013, GAO included Limiting the Federal Government's Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks on its High-Risk List.
GAO was asked to review the potential economic effects of climate change and risks to the federal government. This report examines (1) methods used to estimate the potential economic effects of climate change in the United States, (2) what is known about these effects, and (3) the extent to which information about these effects could inform efforts to manage climate risks across the federal government. GAO reviewed 2 national-scale studies available and 28 other studies; interviewed 26 experts knowledgeable about the strengths and limitations of the studies; compared federal efforts to manage climate risks with leading practices for risk management and economic analysis; and obtained expert views.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President (EOP), including the Office of Science and Technology Policy, use information on potential economic effects to help identify significant climate risks and craft appropriate federal responses. EOP entities and the Environmental Protection Agency did not provide official comments on the report."
Actually, they do mince words.  The opening of this overview talks about the research in a way that gives deniers lots of cover:
"The methods and the studies that use them produce imprecise results because of modeling and other limitations but can convey insight into potential climate damages across sectors in the United States."
Maybe that's there for those folks who only read the first paragraph of so.  The rest is pretty alarming, though from what I can tell, they are very conservative in their estimates of the costs of not dealing with climate change - both through lowering carbon emissions and mitigation efforts to deal with the impacts of climate change.

You can see their overviews here and the whole forty page report here.

But I need to keep collecting more examples of what Republicans complain about as 'political correctness' and the words and phrases (and in the case of 'taking a knee' actions)  they don't want others to use.  Will my hypothesis hold up.

I'd note that I've discussed political correctness before and basically it refers to someone or organization using their power to keep people from using certain words or espousing certain ideas.

Most recently I wrote about what I dubbed 'Republican political correctness' and Colin Kaepernick.  Rather than repeat what I said then, I'll just let you go to the link.  That post has links to earlier posts on the topic.

I would note that this climate change example is basically a form of censorship in an attempt to stifle discussion of what I think is the greatest threat to humanity.  And it's similar to the NRA's successful campaign to prevent the Center For Disease Control from doing research on gun violence.  Without data, scientists can't 'prove' anything.  Now that is real political correctness.  "You can't study what we don't want you to study."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Anchorage Heats Up And I Get Myself To The Rock Climbing Gym

We had a bit of snow that seemed to have waited to fall until after we got back in town.  Our street stayed white and sidewalks did too.  It looked like it was going to stick.  I biked to the University library to see how my mountain bike would do.  No problems.

But today it was 47˚F when I checked this morning, with lots of wind.  Sidewalks looking better, our street looking better (from a cyclist's perspective.)  So off to my meeting by bike.

You can see how blustery it was.  The flags waved north, west, and south at different times.

At the meeting I realized that my route home could easily take me by the year old rock climbing gym that I'd never been in, but had decided, watching climbers on El Capitan last week, to check out when I got back.  So here's a look at the Anchorage Rock Climbing Gym.


It started with Aaron who told me about their intro class that meets M,W,F 7-9pm and S 1-3.  For $20 you get rental equipment and two hours of introduction to how to use things at the gym.  He suggested bringing a partner, and there was another guy at my meeting who just been at Yosemite too and was interested.

Here's the big room.  Not exactly El Cap, but still very impressive.  I asked Aaron how this gym ranked nationally.  He said it's not in the top 10, but probably in the top 20.  I also asked about nearby places to climb.  I know people climb ice along the Seward Highway in the winter, but he said that's a very different activity.  Rocks face near Anchorage tend to break a lot.

Still in the big room.

Then I went up stairs where they have smaller walls.

And there were lots of kids climbing here.

And there is lots of equipment to rent.

Here's a close up of part of the wall and some of the climbing holds.  Skyaboveus identifies a number of these ways to stay up on a wall.  They list:

  • Jugs
  • Mini-jugs and incuts
  • Slopers
  • Pockets
  • Pinches
  • Crimps and Chips
  • Edges
  • Side Pulls, underclings, and gascons
You can get specific descriptions of each at the Skyaboveus link.

A nearby eating and drinking establishment even has a sign directed at people walking out of the climbing gym.   If you can't read it, you can click on the picture to enlarge and focus.  

And later today I saw it was 50˚F on our backyard thermometer.  The record high for October 25 is 50˚F in 2002.  So I looked on line to see if our backyard was just a hotspot.  But there it was.  We'll see tomorrow if that's the official high.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The King Of Thailand Cremation Ceremony This Week

The King of Thailand passed away on October 13, 2016.  There has been a year mourning period and the Royal Cremation Ceremony takes place in Bangkok this week.  Below is a photo of the His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Sanam Luang, where the cremation ceremony will take place in Bangkok,  at the royal ploughing ceremony in 1969.  I wrote more about this when the King died last year.  

Below is from an email I got as a member of Friends of Thailand, a group made up of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Thailand.

"Royal Cremation Ceremony of His Majesty King Bhumibol AdulyadejOffering Ceremony of Sandalwood Flowers on October 26, 2017At Wat Thai Washington DC, Silver Spring, Maryland(Foreigners and Friends of Thailand are invited) 
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, widely regarded as Thailand's moral compass and a staunch supporter of Thailand – United States relations, ruled the country for more than seven decades until his passing on October 13, 2016. The country has been in an official year of mourning since then with many Thais choosing to wear black in remembrance of his boundless and gracious kindness.  
Thai Buddhists often wait a week or more before cremating their dead but royal funerals are exceptional and over 12 million Thais have paid their respects to the late King at the Grand Palace in Bangkok since last October.  
The royal cremation ceremony will last from October 25 - 29, with a series of ceremonies and processions transferring the urn and relics to and from the crematorium at Sanam Luang in Bangkok. The actual cremation day is on October 26. For many Thais this cremation ceremony will be their first experience of a royal funeral of a monarch and will allow them to pay a final tribute to His Majesty the late King.  
Throughout the United States, the Royal Thai Embassy, the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations and Consulates-General, Thai communities and Thai temples will observe the cremation ceremony by offering sandalwood flowers on the cremation day of October 26. Ancient Thais believed the sandalwood fragrance will lead the soul of the deceased to heaven.  
In Washington DC area including Virginia and Maryland, the Royal Thai Embassy and other Governmental Offices along with Thai Community and Wat Thai Washington DC (MD), Wat Tummaprateip Washington DC (MD), Wat Yarnna Rangsee Buddhist Monastery (VA), Wat Pa Nanachart (VA), Wat Pa Tesrangsee (VA) and Wat Pasantidhamma (VA) will observe the offering ceremony of sandalwood flowers at Wat Thai Washington DC(13440, Layhill Road, Silver Spring, Maryland 20906)Thursday October 26, 2017From 05:30 am – 06:00 pm 
You may consider attending the ceremony at time of convenience from 5 am onwards, or preferably from 05:30 – 07:00 am. Below are details of the cremation ceremony at Wat Thai Washington DC: 
  • 05:30 am Merit-making ceremony 
  • 06:00 am Watch the cremation ceremony live from Bangkok 
  • 06:30 am Offering Sandalwood flowers begins 
  • 07:00 am Food Offering to monks (breakfast) 
  • 11:00 am Dana / Lunch 
  • 06:00 pm Offering sandalwood flowers ends 
  • 06:30 pm Cremating sandalwood flowers 

Dress code: Full dress / Black or dark dress / Mourning 
Sandalwood flowers : Intricate cremation flowers representing the daffodil made by volunteers will be provided for you to offer at the ceremony on October 26. The daffodil or “dararat” in Thai was His Majesty King Bhumibol’s favorite flower and often presented to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit during their stay in Switzerland. Daffodil or Dararat is offered to loved ones as a symbol of honor, bravery and hope. Dara means star while Rat is a precious gem. This dararat cremation flowers also reflect the love the Thai people have towards His Majesty King Bhumibol remembering his seven-decade long reign and uncountable contributions. 
Food & Beverage : Provided by Team Thailand in Washington DC and the Thai community 

Parking and Shuttle Service : For your convenience, two parking lots nearby Wat Thai are allocated at your own risk with shuttle car services available from 5:00 am to 01:00 pm."

I imagine one of the Buddhist temples in Anchorage will have some ceremony as well, but haven't made contact yet.  

Monday, October 23, 2017

Four Time Iditarod Winner Dallas Seavey Denounces Iditarod Board Over How They've Handled Positive Drug Tests Of His Dogs

Watch the video tape Seavey posted yourself. The jury's job is to evaluate who is telling the truth and who is not.

Seavey certainly sounds sincere here and the facts, as he presents them, logically raise serious questions. But as a former union grievance rep, I learned long ago there are always facts that my client was leaving out and that I had to reserve judgment until I heard from others involved.

I'd also note that everyone denies the charges.  How many years did Lance Armstrong strongly deny the drug charges?  And a series of baseball champions denied allegations too, until they finally admitted them.  

Those things make it harder for someone who is really innocent.  Plus someone does not win four Iditarod races by being timid.  I'm sure Seavey has ruffled a few feathers over the years.  But at this point, I think the Iditarod board is going to be hard pressed to respond as convincingly.

Co-Housing In Anchorage - Six Years Later Ravens' Roost Has Been A Reality For A Year

Back in late 2011, J and I went to some meetings of a group that was starting up a co-housing project in Anchorage.  They were at the stage of announcing what they were doing in public to get other interested folks to join them.  I posted about two of the meetings here.  Here's a definition of co-housing from that post:
"Co-housing is a word coined by Chuck Durrett*, an architect who studied co-housing in Denmark in the mid-80's. Co-housing was his version of the Danish “bofællesskaber.” which his website says "directly translates to “living communities."
[*Not only does it say this on his company's website, but they even have the Oxford English dictionary entry that credits him and his partner with the term.]

I've been aware that this group bought property** (along Abbot Loop Road between Elmore and Lake Otis) and had built units and people had moved in.  A year ago September it turns out.  And I'd been meaning to go to one of their open house events, but just never got around to it.

Yesterday we went to their pumpkin carving event to see the reality of this deliberate housing development by people who want to share a sense of community that is being lost in this faster and more commercialized world.

This looks more like a condo association than a commune.  In a condo situation, people tend to be looking for affordability and perhaps someone else to take care of the landscaping and maintenance.  The condo association meetings and rules are the headache they have to put up with in exchange.

Here's a view from the parking lot.  There are housing units on the left and the big greenish building in the middle is the common room where the pumpkin carving was happening.  (And yes, the snow waited until after we got back home early Saturday morning.)

And here's the inside of the big common room.   The kitchen is that open area in the back right.

And here's a closer look at the kitchen area.  The architect for this project is one of the residents of Ravens' Roost too.

The wood for this counter (with the bins underneath) came from spruce trees (if I remember right) that were cleared to build the property.

Chris offered to be our guide and show us around when Tony, whom we'd met at a couple of returned Peace Corps volunteer events, had to leave for another activity.  It turns out Chris is also a returned Peace Corps volunteer.  I think he said he was in Swaziland.

This atrium is a neat feature.  If you look at the top picture, this is inside the building on the far left.  There are one story units on one side and two story units on the other.  This is in between them.  And this space is connected to the common room as well.  I like the idea of a warm 'outside' where you can go and socialize with your neighbors in the winter time without having to get all your warm clothes on first.  

Chris took us to another building where they have a wood shop.  Since the architect lives here, there are a lot of projects that he does or supervises that helps improve people's living spaces.

One example was lofts in the one story units.  They're one story, but with high ceilings.  He also makes things for the common areas as well.  I'd love to have access to a wood shop like this, especially if there was someone who would guide me a bit on how to use all the tools.  

  Aside from the main building with the housing and common room, there are other units on the property, including some still under construction.   

In co-housing, a key ingredient is to have shared space and community with folks.  Each unit is privately owned by the occupants, but they have common spaces, and there are group dinners four nights a week, though not everyone goes to all of them, or even most of them.  As we talked with Chris and others, we learned that the meetings are often tedious as they work to reach consensus on major decisions.

I don't know what research has been done on the characteristics of people who can get along in group settings like this.  I don't think it's simply something like political orientation.  I think it's more about agreement on levels of civility, ability to abide by rules established for the common good, respect for others as human beings, and an ability to communicate and work out differences.  Tolerance for other views is important.

We were tempted at the beginning, but when they picked their location, we lost interest.  We're too attached to our ability to walk and bike to key places around town and they're just a little too far out to be able to do that.  And we do like our yard.  But as we get older, a community like this with mixed ages - not just other old people - is very appealing.

Most impressive to me is that a group of volunteers, in their spare time, pulled off a vision like this.  No speculator developers did this with the hope of a big profit.  These were just every day folks with the hopes of creating a friendlier and more cooperative neighborhood.

**As I understand it, they bought the property from folks who homesteaded up there and still live there.  They didn't want to sell to a developer who would fill up all the land with houses.  They liked the co-housing idea.  The agreement was the couple could stay in their house until they wanted to move or passed away.  The house is still there separated from Ravens' Roost by trees.

Thanks Chris for the tour and update. I'm delighted to see that this project has made it into reality and I know you've all put a lot of hard work into it.