When Coffee Shops Were Illegal

December 28, 2017 by

Regardless of taste, I’m eternally grateful for Starbucks. During the era of diner coffee slowing boiling into bitterness in glass Bunn carafes, when from coast to coast in America we drank nasty cheap mud, I moved to New Orleans and got used to the real aromatic delicious brew. Not from Starbucks, which wasn’t there yet, but from the centuries old tradition of small coffee houses, from Cafe du Monde to Coffee on Royal. Then I moved to Atlanta and felt thrown back into time. There were no specialty coffee shops in Atlanta. In fact, and this is for real, coffee shops were prohibited by law within the city limits. It turns out that during the 50’s and 60’s coffee shops became synonymous with beatniks, hippies and race mixing and as such were viewed as a danger to decent society and closed down en masse. When I moved there, “Gentlemen’s Clubs” advertised their “heaven and hell dungeons” on giant billboards, but you couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee lest your morals be imperiled. Thank god for Starbucks. With a major metropolitan market and the Olympics on their way, the coffee kings used their quiet diplomacy to convince the city leaders to strike the anti-coffee prohibition from the books. By the time I left there were a half dozen Starbucks and twice that of their competition, and I could walk down the street with my five pound Sunday paper and work through a couple of cups while reading it front to back.


What the “Conservatives” will reap

December 5, 2017 by

Republicans just went all in for Roy Moore, the molester of 14 year old girls. Evangelicals were already there. What does this mean for the future of those institutions?

Think about the generation that is currently forming their political and social viewpoints. For centuries, the overriding assumption in this country has been that minorities are thuggish, incurious, lazy, driven by emotion rather than reason, have poor self control, and can’t stop themselves from a downward spiral because they are slaves to their crudest impulse. This is all hogwash, but my point is that it was a default perception that every successful minority had to overcome. We’ve now had 8 years of a cool, calm and collected thinker in the White House, a minority, followed by 10 months of an old white man who is thuggish, incurious, lazy… well you get the idea. This is the template that anyone over 15 or 16 is going to have as their default.

On the Republican Party side, since St. Ronnie and his Apostle Jerry Falwell, the default assumption is that the Party is fiscally responsible, will protect America from its enemies, will champion moral causes, are champions of the working class etc. But any fresh-eyed observer, anyone who is forming their worldview post 2008, knows this is all crap. Again, their default perspective will have shifted.

And on the religious side, whoa. Let’s just say that the more times a day some phony says “Jesus” the more likely they are to be a supporter of a pussy grabbing racist thug and his child molesting pervert in Alabama.

This shift in perception will feed upon itself. Decent people will move away from the Republicans, the Evangelicals and all the other Christian phonies. And by rallying around the decadent and immoral, the thuggish and the stupid, by actively defending them and promoting them, those institutions will become magnets for perverts, liars and other  bottom feeders.

Don’t get me wrong. As far as I know there is nothing in, say, Evangelical Christianity itself that would make someone more immoral, rather than less. But any institution that becomes known for sheltering wrongdoers becomes attractive to other wrongdoers. And, for example, middle aged men whose primary goal in life is to chase after young teenaged girls or boys (or worse) will have no moral qualms about wrapping themselves in the cloak of Evangelism or Republicanism or whatever else they feel will have the suckers defending them when they get caught.

Using a 2009 iMac as a second display for a 2017 MacBook Pro

October 24, 2017 by

Apple added the ability to use any Mac as a secondary display for any other Mac several years ago.  When I got my MacBook Pro I wanted to try this out, but googling around sowed confusion. The video ports on Macs have changed over the years (Firewire, Mini Display, Thunderbolt, USB-C).  A lot of people commented that various combinations of iMac, MacBook and cable didn’t work for them, so I though I would list exactly what I did and what I used so someone with the same setup could also have success.

  • iMac: Late 2009, 27″ iMac, Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • Cable: Monoprice P/N 24447 USB 3.1 Type-C to Mini DisplayPort Cable 4K@60Hz, 6 ft
  • MacBook Pro: June 2017 w/ Touch Bar, Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra)
  1. MiniDisplay side of cable to iMac, USB-C to MacBook Pro
  2. On the iMac, press Command F2. Both screens go blank, and when it returns, the iMac should now be a secondary display
  3. On the MacBook Pro, go into System Preferences -> Displays -> Arrangement and drag the larger of the two rectangles (representing the secondary iMac display) to a location that mimics where you physically have that monitor positioned




The U.S. Mess in South Korea and Asia

August 10, 2017 by

The US, incompetently led by the Republicans with Trump as their leader, is doing incredible damage to our business interests world wide, but especially in Asia. Of the many bad outcomes of this incompetence, nuclear exchange is only the most extreme. If South Korea is attacked even by conventional means it will do irreparable harm to our interests that will end up costing millions of American jobs. Even the current unease in South Korea is causing people and governments all over the world to second guess their relationship with us. Until now the US enjoyed a position unique in the world because we have been a reliable and dependable voice for de-escalation of military confrontations, a champion for free shipping lanes, a voice for expanded trade and many more things that benefit US jobs to a huge extent. It’s been a tremendous benefit to us that business people (in government or out) all over the world view the US agenda as advantageous to them. Because of this, we are at essentially every negotiating table, sometimes publicly, more often behind the scenes.

But historical benefits are of interest mostly to historians and the movers and shakers wake up every day and ask “But what have you done for us lately?”. If South Korea is attacked or destabilized, it will be a glaring red flag that the US can’t protect their allies, much less innocent bystanders. In fact, in the age of Trump, the US can’t even be depended on to act rationally. South Korea is one of the most developed, richest countries in the world, and the conventional wisdom will be that their citizens died because the US elected an idiot. They will hate us and the rest of the world will distrust us. China will rise, Singapore will become even more the voice of reason and we will be shut out of thousands of negotiations. And remember, when we have a seat, even if it is “none of our business”, our interests are protected.

For seven-five years the US has kept our seat at the table because every year we can say, “look at the countries that have aligned with us most closely – see how they have prospered.” But for thirty years the Chinese have been saying “But the American Pax comes with endless lecturing and interference. Democracy is dangerous for you. Look at China, prosperous beyond all imaginings based on our system. And we don’t care what you do inside your own country, we only care how you interact with us. America is over. Look to us as the next guarantor of Asian prosperity.” And in the past 10-15 years Russia has been whispering “America has overreached. They are seeking to redraw borders and reform alliances that have kept the world’s peace for decades. When will they look at your borders and start interfering there?” This dual track will gain credibility.

The American century will most certainly end 25 years short of the mark.  And American citizens will lose millions of jobs and thousands of dollars in the average persons pocket each year, and the truly wealthy will lose exponentially more.

Up to now, the stupidest move of the Republican leadership has been to push the TPP trade agreement aside. We spent years convincing 28 countries to act together for mutually benefit against other countries, not the least of which was China. And in one day we basically said “now that you are all working together, F* you.  Now that you have all the mechanisms of united action worked out, we’re leaving.  It’s you against us now, chumps.”

That stupidity, however, pales in comparison to what the Republicans are doing with South Korea.

Which Manufacturers Will Thrive In the Era of Self Driving Cars?

June 26, 2017 by

It’s a hard life being a tiny bird…

May 30, 2017 by

A tiny robin takes a snooze while waiting for Mom or Dad to come back and feed her.  One of three in this nest on a deck chair under an overhanging eave…


For the Record: Trump’s statements on Russia

May 29, 2017 by

As of today (May 29th, 2017), Trump has not directly spoken about the Kushner/Flynn contacts with Russia.  But given the number of times he clearly denied contacts with Russia back in the beginning of the year, there are only two possibilities:

  • He didn’t know that his most trusted advisor (Kushner) was attempting to open a back channel to Russia. Further, that advisor never informed he of it, even after Trump started denying Russia contacts publicly. In other words, Trump’s administration is completely out of control.
  • He knew, but directly lied to the public

Choosing Racism: The Southern Strategy

May 2, 2017 by

In 1963, there was a unique opportunity for the Republicans, one that turned out to be poisonous. Despite the strongest of warnings from within, the leadership chose to seize that opportunity, irrevocably damaging their party at its core. What happened?

Before we describe those warnings, a little background is important. Hard to believe as it seems today, the GOP of sixty years ago was a mixture of progressives and conservatives, and had as many champions of civil rights as the Democrats. It was, after all, the party of Lincoln. Ironically, that fact alone was enough to guarantee that in the 100 years following the Civil War, the Southern white electorate in huge numbers voted in opposition to the Republicans, and did everything in their power to keep African Americans from voting at all, lest a Republican creep into power.

This is not to say the Republicans of say, 1950, were all civil rights champions. Any party is composed of all those who choose to join, and the world view of the GOP leaders probably contained as many bigots as progressives.  The Democratic Party was similarly split, and especially in the South the leadership was as bigoted and anti-civil rights as any party in our history. You had to go north and west to find sizable numbers of Democrats who resemble the modern party, fighting against the Jim Crow laws.  So, as hard as it is to believe now, there were liberal Republicans, ultra-conservative racist Democrats, and plenty of moderates in both parties.

This held until through the 1950’s. But by 1960 or so there was a noticeable shift in the Democratic Party towards civil rights. The party was starting to lean, ever so slightly. Perhaps it was the Second World War war and the integration of the troops, led by a Democratic president, and an incredible source of pride for the nation. Or perhaps it was the New Deal that preceded it and which so championed the dignity of the common man.  Whatever the reason, certain Republicans watched as the national Democrats started to speak out for Blacks, Catholics, Jews and in that message these GOP leaders saw an ugly opportunity.  They devised a strategy that focused on those Southern States, a strategy of making it clear to the white voters that the Republicans would stand with them, sometimes publicly, and sometimes with a wink and a nod. And although there were individual Republicans of great power and prestige that stood against that strategy, the leadership as a whole embraced that racist message.  They spread the word: Republicans, unlike the Democrats, could be depended on to keep the minorities down.   That was the strategy of the party leaders and in those days the leadership represented power.  The leadership would see it done.

Hindsight is famously 20-20 and when we talk about the past it is easy to seem wise and describe outcomes as obvious or inevitable. But in this case there was at least one party leader present at that crucial moment whose foresight was 20-20.  He warned of the poisoned cup in the moment before it was drunk and did everything he could to stop it.  That would be Jacob Javits, now known primarily for the Manhattan conference center named after him, but at the time a powerful presence in the Republican Party. And in October, 1963 he published an editorial in the The New York Times that is stunning in its prescience. In “To Preserve the Two-Party System” he predicted exactly what came about: that if the Republicans chose the Southern Strategy they would be ending the era when both parties had the wide variety of world views necessary for the smooth exchange of power. Instead, the Republicans would become the party of endless conservatism, and push away anyone who valued all citizens regardless of race, creed or color.  Let’s take a look at that editorial.

Right up front, he spells it out: “[The] question, as I see it,  turns on the choice between two lines of action the Republicans can adopt as we position ourselves for the 1964 campaign. One line would follow our tradition dating from 1940 of accommodating the whole spectrum of Republican thought from both progressive and conservative wings of the Republican party.  The second line would polarize the party as down-the-line conservative – or ultra conservative – and would also make foreign policy a partisan issue.”

Then, as now, there were those who rebelled against the very idea that true conservatism could only be reflected by the values of the Southern Strategy: Javits said, “I have in mind those Republicans who, in their legitimate desire to make the party the chosen agent of “conservatism” have come to think that the radical right … is the essence of what “conservatism” means… What these Republicans fail to see clearly is the extent to which the radical right is the deadly enemy of the very conservatism they themselves desire.”  He went on: “An authentic conservative would wish to bring to the nation a sense of calm confidence in itself, and to ease its social tensions.  He would insist on the decencies in human relationships, and would spring to the defense of the Constitution and each part of the hallowed Bill of Rights. He would make himself the guardian of orderly growth, and check those who would abruptly overturn all policies in being.  He would resist the howling extremist, set the example of respect for all lawful authority… Above all, he would lead in explaining why the complexities of existence stand in the way of utopian solutions to all problems, and why in so many hard cases, the best we can hope for is to learn how to live with fair compromises and reasonable timing.”

Many of the Republican leaders no doubt saw the Southern Strategy as mere tactics, something to be tried on for a while and then discarded when it became inconvenient.  But Javits saw it for what it really was – a fork in a road that once taken could not be revisited. The “pragmatic” leadership saw it as a convenient way for their candidate to win the nomination in that 1964 race, and probably believed it could be swept aside once the nomination was secured. But Javits knew this was no mere tactic. The Senator realized his party was opening its arms to the bigots and extremists and saying “You have a home here”.  And once let in, they would not be so easily ejected.  Once narrow victories were won with the help of these voters, and in the process creating a new opposition of ex-supporters disgusted at the tactics, there would be no stomach for changing direction. Javits said: “… the radical right will become so structured into the Presidential nomination campaign as to defeat a move to disengage it later on … A candidacy based on the “Southern strategy”, espousing the kind of views I have mentioned, would do more than hazard the party’s defeat in the 1964 contest; it could alienate millions of Americans in 1964 – who could stay alienated for years…”

The leadership acknowledged that they would lose as well as gain voters, but they thought the scales would tip to the positive side.  But if that were to happen, it would also be necessary to hold onto some groups within the Republican Party who might have otherwise been alienated. Therefore they pursued wholeheartedly instilling the idea that the GOPwas the only party for true conservatives. It’s hard for us to imagine now, but in 1963 the Republican’s were generally pro-business but encompassed a wide swath of opinion on social matters.  The decision to use the Southern Strategy was pushed through by the Goldwater supporters, who saw the disaffected Southern voter as easily gulled into supporting their radical conservative agenda. Even though their candidate lost, it started eating away at the supports holding up the Republican big tent. It took a long time. In the 70’s and even in the 80’s there were still “Rockefeller” Republicans who showed up at Planned Parenthood fundraisers and supported civil rights, but by the 90’s these were largely gone. Javits had known that having only one school of thought in the Republican Party was bad for the GOP, but he also knew that it was worse for the country: “Finally there persists in the pre-nomination debate a recurring notion it would be a good thing if the candidacy of a conservative at least produced a fundamental realignment of political parties into a clear cut “liberal” and a clear-cut Conservative party. The experience of Europe with strictly ideological parties says that nothing, in fact, could be worse for the United States. As each party dropped all dissenters, each now free of internal restraints, might fly to an extreme position, carrying millions of Americans with it..with our policies and the nation in this polarized condition, the whole of our democracy could be imperiled … Upon gaining control of the apparatus of government, and pile driving their extremist views through it, such parties could wrench the whole social order out of its socket – when the purpose of conservatism is to keep the social order on an even keel. “

I suspect Javits saw this playing out in years rather than decades, but it is clear that he was right on almost all points.  In essence, the Republicans’ first sip from that poison cup inevitably transformed it into the type of party it is today, a party that is wholly entwined with bigots and extremists, and has adopted a bizarre form of conservatism that, in truth, is as far from a rational conservatism as possible.

The New Puritans

April 28, 2017 by

I suspect that at no point in my life have I had more difference with people whom I nominally share goals than with the people who today are trying to shut down the speech of those they disagree with. I support all kinds of people that the anti-speechers also support: LGBTQ, immigrants, and many others. But their methods, stifling speech and drumming out the unworthy, are 180 degrees opposed to my values. Barring Ann Coulter from Berkely or shouting her down if she arrives, actually rioting to keep someone from talking? This just makes me realize I have little in common with these people.

The wheel of history keeps turning and I suspect this new generation is the one that will become the Puritans of this century. They “know” what is acceptable and will use the full powers they have to punish those they disagree with.   And as they grow older their generational power will increase and they will be able to marshal harsher punishments, and black list more and more people they disagree with.

I imagine that if they think about it at all, they see themselves as the brave counterculture of the 60’s, marching for what is right.  But in my view they are much more representative of the previous generation, the 50’s, with the House un-American Activities Committee and the Movie Morality Codes and the Senate investigations into the sinful Comic Books. I guess the only solace is the knowledge that, since the wheel of history will continue to turn, it is likely that their own children will be their counterculture. They will be the ones who successfully call them out.


April 25, 2017 by

On April 7, 2017 Radiolab put up a podcast on the US Nuclear Arsenal. They pretty clearly demonstrated that the President, one Donald J. Trump, can authorize a launch alone and immediately.  There are no other checks and balances in place. William Perry, former Secretary of Defense, confirms this at length.

A few hours after listening to this I saw a headline that said all 100 Senators will be briefed about North Korea in the White House and I have to admit to a sick feeling in my stomach. Even the mainstream press, which should demonstrate more understanding, makes this out to be a Trump vs. Baby Kim issue.  But what Trump is talking about is starting a war in other countries territory, a war that would instantly put at risk the citizens of China, Japan and Russia, not to mention South Korea. Depending on the wind, nuclear or chemical fallout will drift towards one or more of those countries. According to recent polls conducted in the area, the US, via Trump, is viewed by the residents of those countries to be acting totally on their own, incompetently and belligerently.  We will be seen as instigating or providing the attack, and we will be held to blame. And what country in the world will speak in our defense?