ReesClark.com
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Blogus clarkensis: Just a few observations and the occasional modest proposal. If you'd like to participate or comment on my mad ravings write to me. If it gets weird, consider that weird attracts search engines, and the site is really a test of search engines and of our system features. (Many images can be clicked for a larger version.)
Ginsburg Legacy is not for Women Only
Reading all the info lately about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I've recalled that my mother (b.1912) by 1947 and as a single woman and school teacher, had saved about $3,000 to buy a lot that became our home. She borrowed $6,000 to build a house from a local woman and later another$3,000 to expand it. As a little child I never thought of or cared about the financial details, but it now occurs to me that a private loan may have been the only way she could proceed. Other men who think this is all unimportant in their own lives need to think again.
Losers & Suckers?
I do not generally hold much of a brief for my father. I saw him twice in childhood, and then not again for thirty years and then nearly ten more. He left my mother for another woman and then abandoned her for a third, promising each in turn his undying love, no doubt. I was lucky to have a good relationship with his parents, who were always loving to my mother and me, and with my mother's family, without whom I might have been in reality the curmudgeon some perhaps find me to be. When 70-ish I was found metaphorically in a cardboard box of 1940s correspondence by my half brother, who turns out to be someone worth knowing and a welcome addition to my world. We often have differences of opinion, but no more than other siblings I know.

I write this in the aftermath of recent allegations against President Trump in the matter of his attitude toward military and other public service. It set off a round of thought about what we all owe one another, whether friends or strangers, as members of a society.

I find myself completely capable of believing—after observing him for these five years—that Mr. Trump does not, perhaps cannot, understand whose who give not only the last full measure of devotion, but any measure at all, full of wonderment that they do or did so and got nothing in return.

My father joined the army in about 1940, having not succeeded in any of the careers that he had tried. When he met my mother in 1942 he was a sergeant in the Air Corps. During the rest of the war he advanced to captain. Much of his service was as an intelligence officer whose duties included relatively hazardous back and forth trips by air from India to China. Before that duty he had also expanded the clan once more. He left the service after the end of World War II, and then absconded once again with woman number three.

So what did he get out of it? For himself, nothing but a bit of postwar prestige, the wife he really wanted, and the uniformed photographs my brother and I have in dresser drawers in our homes. And one more thing or two, my brother Douglas and I have fine children and grandchildren, we live typical American lives in typical American cities. We are not slave workers in some remote Japanese Showa Statist coal mine or German Nazi concentration camp, toiling in never ending global wars. He got nothing; we got the freedom and opportunity America promises its children.

I learned in dealing with the necessary labors that accompany death that he had become well regarded in his later life and had numerous friends, who perhaps saw qualities he never showed to those who had a right to know them.

After my father died, and in ignorance that I had a brother to consult, I let his ashes sit in a cardboard box at the back of my bookcase for several years, until I reflected one day on his army years. I decided then that despite his lack of interest in me, mine or his, he had once shouldered his share of the load. So I took the box to Tahoma National Cemetery, where he took up permanent residence at the address shown in the accompanying image.

My brother and I have agreed that it would have been nice to have a father, just not that one. We have both aspired to do better, and in my admittedly biased judgment we have generally succeeded.

I was once in the USMC Reserve, where I no doubt proved my lack of aptitude for military life. My brother remained in the US Navy Reserve for decades after earlier service in the Air Force, and if we ever find ourselves together in our old uniforms I'll have to salute him, which I do anyway in recognition of his service.

You may have discerned that I do not think my father, my brother or myself to have been suckers or losers. You may have guessed my candidate for the person who has no standing to utter such epithets.

—RC
Don't rub your arm with alcohol any time soon
For those still drinking the White House Kool-aid, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield doused expectations of an early distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine. He told a Senate subcommittee this week he didn't expect a vaccine to be "fully available to the American public" until the middle of 2021 at the earliest.
Don't Destroy US Postal Service
The (R)epublican dominated Administration is pressing forward with plans to make the US Postal Service so inefficient that they can privatize it.

They are savoring the sweet taste of profits from privatization, under which they would allow providers to set rates without governmental oversight and close "unprofitable" routes in the same areas of the country that the Administration touts as success stories in the Covid-19 mess. The whole idea of the post office 250 years ago was to guarantee dissemination of information and commerce to the whole nation and thus to make democracy possible everywhere. The destruction of the USPS stems from the same greedy mentality that gave us Teapot Dome and promotes unnecessary drilling in the Arctic. The USPS financial problems have been manufactu(R)ed with malice aforethought to kill it.

If you live outside a city of 50,000 inhabitants and these (R)apacious plans succeed, plan to pay a "convenience fee" to avoid driving dozens or hundreds of miles to a "service center" to send or receive your mail.
Publishing and film rights available...
A literary scenario: The head of state of a large, heavily armed nation that dominates the world in military and commercial power is losing his grip on reality due to age and an undiagnosed disease. His advisors and sycophants close ranks to hide his disabilities from the public. As his condition worsens he is often trundled off to various governmental or private estates, lodges and other venues, publicly "to rest" and privately to be treated for symptoms of the malady by practitioners sometimes accused of quackery. His family, sometimes suspected of scheming against him, swirls about performing their usual daily routines and when asked about his condition asserts that nothing is amiss. At times he is incommunicado; at other, more lucid times he is presented as the spokesman of the nation, making public pronouncements on issues of the day under close watch of government officials lest he make false, misleading or outright dangerous statements that might lead to civil unrest or even to war.

No, not that head of state! I refer, of course, to the theme of "The Madness of King George III," by Alan Bennett, the book (1992), play and movie (1994). (Slight variations in title.) All parallel scenarios are purely coincidental.
I'm from Comcast; I'm here to help
Situation. We have a standard Xfinity modem, top of their line, recently installed, with two internal routers, to which is connected a private router connected in turn to a small computer with a big disk that we use for (private stuff like sharing family photos and graphics). Before the Xfinity router was installed, everyting was fine, and we took the small computer off line for an upgrade.

We want to access that computer over the Internet, so we need "port forwarding," which lets the router connect to the attached device for users outside the building (all nicely secured, thank you; don't bother trying). When we set out to reinstall the small computer we could not reestablish port forwarding, because Comcast had added a hurdle in its wisdom, apparently to protect us from ourselves.

Xcomcast: Hello.... followed by the men and 8:34 before answer.

We: Trying to enable port forwarding. We've been trying for over an hour using the swell Xfinity Portal on our computer.

None of the links or buttons seem to respond when clicked.

(We open a three-way conversation over the phone with the third party, in a different location, participating over VOIP.)

Xcomcast: (after several more exchanges) ...so there must be something wrong with your computer.

We: (admittedly in in ever less friendly demeanor). That's nonsense; we are doing the same thing with two different computers using different operating. And BTW, we have a combined 70 years of computing experience. Your website just isn't working!

Xcomcast: That's not possible, our app and our portal are synchronized, and I use them all the time.

We: I'm clicking exactly where you say on the home page, but the choices are not as you describe, AND they don't do anything when clicked.

Xcomcast: We: Xfinity: We:... for several minutes, he said, we said.

Xcomcast: Do you have our app? You can control your service from your phone!

(We agree to download it, and do so, on two phones in two different cities. My associate opens the app while mine is downloading and logs in. )

Xcomcast: Now click (label) on the bottom of the app.

Associate: There is no such label. (Xfinity and we are no longer speaking gently.)

Xcomcast: I'm looking at the app and there it is.

(My download finishes. I sign in and my view is the same as Associate's.)

We: The app we just downloaded is different from what you describe.

Xcomcast: That's not possible. Hold on a minute. (Puts us on hold.)

(Associate and I tunnel into the app and find what we had been looking for. We make the setting adjustment and test the function we had been trying to achieve. The port forwarding responds according to normal standards. For practical purposes the problem has been resolved by ourselves. At the same time, we refresh the Xfinity website and click on the links that had previously been dysfunctional. They work.)

We wait. Xfinity: comes back on line.

We report our results.

Xcomcast: (sheepishly) It appears that we have updated the app. I just downloaded the new version; you're right, the control links have been moved. And you also right about the website, the options from the home page have changed. (He can't quite get "I apologize" to clear his tongue.

(Not only moved and changed, but the hierarchy of functions has moved around within the two systems, meaning that the user manual and help files we had been reading from the start were wildly out of date. It appears that Xcomast changed the system during his shift and told no one.)

We concluded that Comcast (I refuse to call them Xfinity, and I still call Verizon GTE and always write their checks—which they deposit—to the former name; it makes them really mad) has a left hand that does not tell the right hand what it is doing.

We part on friendly terms. Agent says he will report the problem to others in the system.

I ask the agent to put a note in our file to the effect that if we call again, we probably know what we're talking about. Agent asks whether we really want him to do that; I reply in the affirmative. My Associate laughs.

I go to the kitchen and take my hypertension meds three hours early.

Elapsed time: 1:03 plus about two hours trying to do it ourselves.

We believe we saved Comcast 1000s of man hours by bringing their MISTAKE to their attention. We will be waiting with bated breath for their rebate on lost services, payment for our time or a simple thank-you. We'll let you know.
George Floyd and White Privilege
A thread on racial privilege on a friend's Facebook page has drawn out a wide range of views, gentle and harsh, in succeeding paragraphs, some less admirable than others. The response has largely impelled most to choose a side rather than to embrace others.

Sadly, racial and ethnic antipathy seems endemic in our species. Ask any Hokkienese or Uygur about the Han. Ask any Tutsi or Hutu, or any Native American or "Settler" about each other. In each case you will get a different answer from each group, always with the pot calling the kettle black. These "ideals" have taken hundreds or even thousands of years to develop, and we seem quite capable of affixing our ancestors' old ideas about whom to hate to new-found neighbors. For example, my Scots, Welsh and Irish ancestors in the US and other countries, used to hate the English and their rulers, but their descendants now speak their language and merrily join other European-descended groups to rule over others and to vote for authoritarian leaders. It's even easy to recruit non-member soldiers to oppress others on behalf of the ruling group; ask the Plains Indians about the "Buffalo Soldiers."

And, of course, there is always a sacred rationale (the Torah or the Bible) and the subsequent rationalizations (the Talmud and the TV preachers). What they all have in common is a clear message: "Don't rock the boat; keep in your place."

For those who want to wax biblical, the applicable text should be Jesus' admonition to succor the least of one's brethren. Who better to make that claim on us than our minority citizens, who are forever and unfairly called to be our conscience? But biblical arguments these days more commonly support clinging to the old ways, which include oppression of persons of low status and increasingly of women.

Most of the social distinctions that so often drive us to antipathy and violence are transient. Our economic system is only a century and a half old. Our modern languages are only a few hundred years old. Our racial distinctions are only a few thousand years old (our ancestors from 40,000 BC would not be accepted as members of our group, though we might recognize their humanity). None of us evolved from the other but from common ancestors lost to memory but discoverable in our DNA. My descendants will not look like my ancestors, and yours will not look like your ancestors, except for those who look with eyes open to opportunity. You, too, shall pass. All these "important" differences are but fly-specks on the mirror of time, so why do so many defend them so vehemently?

In our case, the original sin was certainly black chattel slavery, begun in the early 1600s and raised to its summit in the Antebellum South. It has been said that the North won the Civil War, but the South won the Propaganda War and managed to re-subjugate former slaves in a tangled web of economic peonage. The whole system has been rigged for 150 years to make whites feel good and blacks bad about themselves, both overtly and subliminally. Did I the descendant of British immigrants go to college because I'm so smart and motivated? Or did I get an almost unnoticed pat on the back for looking like most of my teachers? Did my minority peers have to be twice as good to be thought equal? The answer in everyone's case and to both questions is both Yes and No. Overt discrimination is not required. It's all so deeply built in that we rarely notice the often slight advantage conferred, until we have good friends who don't share the experience, friends close enough to expose their feelings to those they've been taught to mistrust. We learn, but slowly, and many are taught to resist the lesson.

Progress in undoing the damage is slow but certain, for example:
* Robert E. Lee Elementary School (Austin, Texas) – Renamed Russell Lee Elementary 2016.
* Robert E. Lee Elementary School (East Dallas, Dallas, Texas) – Renamed Geneva Heights Elementary School 2018.
* Robert E. Lee Elementary School (East Wenatchee, Washington) – Renamed Lee Elementary 2018.
* Robert E. Lee Elementary School (Hampton, Virginia) (closed in 2010)
* Robert E. Lee Elementary School (Long Beach, California) – Renamed Olivia Herrera Elementary School 2016.
* Robert E. Lee Elementary School (San Diego, California) – Renamed Pacific View Leadership Elementary School 2016.
* (After Wikipedia, which lists a couple of dozen remaining institutions that have not got the memo.)
* Of course, some of these districts economized cleverly by retaining the initials, saving big bucks on replacing letterhead, uniforms, etc. One notes these are all elementary schools. The moral courage awards, of course, go to the districts in Texas and Virginia.
* And let us not forget King County, WA, stripped of its paean to 13th vice-president and slavery advocate William Rufus DeVane King and renamed for Martin Luther King, Jr. (which happily allowed retention of the signs at the county line, saving $millions; fiendishly clever, those liberals).

Denial that all this is a problem beggars understanding. Appeals to tradition transcend reason. Demurrers from honest progressivism merely expose support for the status quo or for retrenchment in old ways.

Where do we go from here? We have choice between loving and hating. History shows that hating leads inevitably to war and suffering. Love leads to reconciliation, growth and renewal. The Greeks had a word for it—several, actually—including (ἀγάπη) agápe, (ἔρως ) éros, (φιλία) philía, (φιλαυτία) philautia, (στοργή ) storgē, and (ξενία,) xenia. (Wikipedia). When all these forms merge in the person and the society, all things are possible. Over time we will all love whomever we love. All political power fades, especially where its energy is wasted on preservation of bygone values. Our current differences will fade into the past as we form new families and new societies, and our descendants will not admire our periodic descent into tribalism.


Apologies to unknown graphic artist.
Volunteer Now to Test Tr*mp Hypothesis
You can now volunteer to be the subject of another funeral your friends and family cannot attend:

"Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug President Trump encouraged as a treatment for covid-19 patients, is not only ineffective but significantly increases the risk of death for some, new evidence suggests.

"Alarmed by a growing cache of data linking the anti-malaria drug to serious cardiac problems, some drug safety experts are now calling for even more forceful action by the government to discourage its use,' The (Washington) Post reported. Read about how some of those experts are calling for the Food and Drug Administration to revoke the emergency authorization it granted for use of the drug during Trump's sales pitches.

But hydroxychloroquine has already become a cure-all in the minds of some Americans who hoarded it. This week an anti-quarantine protester in Long Island pursued a local news reporter trying to keep his distance. 'I've got hydroxychloroquine, I'm fine!' the man said."
Mail-in Voting, Secure, Fights Fraud
Gov. Jay Inslee recently distributed the following comments. "Here in Washington state, vote-by-mail has been a spectacular success, so when prominent anti-democratic voices say that vote-by-mail is more susceptible to voter fraud than other forms of voting, they are wrong. Plain and simple.

Washington State has proven that vote-by-mail is the easiest, safest, most reliable voting there is. This isn't a partisan issue -- in both Republican- and Democrat-run states, vote-by-mail has increased voter participation. There is zero reason not to have a mail-in ballot in any condition and certainly not when people have to risk their lives to go physically vote right now during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, I'm calling for vote-by-mail to be a right for every American across this country. Join me in calling for national vote-by-mail: Add your name right now. (Link omitted. —RC)

The photos of mile-long lines -- people in masks forced to either risk their health or give up their right to vote -- should break the heart of every American, regardless of whether they're a Democrat or Republican. And we must not let this happen in November.

You'll never see a line out the door to vote in Washington state. You will never wait in the rain, in the cold, or in the heat to fill in your ballot. Your ballot box should be as close as your mailbox. In fact, we even take care of the postage."

(Note: This could be federally subsidized for national elections. —RC)

"We already knew that too many Americans were choosing between voting and making it to their jobs, or voting and childcare, but now, all Americans are choosing between their health and their vote. That's unacceptable.

All contrary claims -- that vote-by-mail is corrupt and ripe for fraud and never allows Republicans to be elected again -- are not based in reality. Plus, the president actually votes absentee by mail -- so if it's good enough for him, why not anyone else?

Here in Washington, our own secretary of state says that our system is 'accessible, secure, fair, and instills confidence in our voters.'"

(Note: These are not "absentee" ballots. Mail-in voting is intended to replace walk-in voting completely, and it works for Washington. BTW, the only voting scandal in the 2018 election involved a party operative in North Carolina, who was caught and prosecuted for intercepting absentee ballots in a poorly designed system, which is not the same thing; and the election was overturned and rerun. —RC
Hydroxychloroquine, really?
For all my contemporaries who have forgotten, about 40 years ago the actor Steve McQueen was diagnosed with an incurable, terminal disease. He read or heard that an extract of apricot seeds called "laetrile" would help. It was not available in the US, so he went abroad, took the "medicine" and, of course, died, along with the laetrile fad.

Anecdotal tales are NOT and NEVER were medical evidence. Pres. Trump's insistence on "trying" hydroxycloroquine as a cure for what ails ya today is unscientific if not outright moronic. Quelle surprise!

Until double-blind, randomized studies (look it up!) are done, no medicine should be recommended, especially by untrained proponents. Most especially it should not be self-prescribed on the recommendation of known chalatans.

More about laetrile

Abridge the Daily Coronavirus Briefing, Please!
Perhaps someone with better video+sound-editing skills than I could capture the daily COVID-19 briefing and edit DJT out of it, preserving the information disseminated by those who know what the hell they're talking about and speak in complete sentences. A written transcript would be helpful, too.

Today's unsolicited business plan: Put the result in the public domain (let the TV and cable networks sue (demand a jury trial and nothing bad will happen), and other networks would pay to republish it. I give this business plan freely to the world without reservation or expectation of profit, but if it works, I wouldn't mind a kind mention and a free lunch (at a proper social distance, of course).
Etiquette for Trump Rallies and 2020 GOP Convention
On arrival, pack and store medical accoutrements such as gloves and facemasks, as these may cause undue anxiety among TV viewers of the event.

When greeting other participants, shake hands vigorously and depending on your relationship embrace or kiss them. Wrapping a hand and arm around a colleague's shoulders will convey a sense of solidarity.

Wash hands before and after the event.

If questioned by the press, convey sincerely that you perceive no health emergency.
The most important thing you can do in this difficult time is to make Pres. Trump look and feel good. Have confidence that many Republicans will survive, and isn't that what really matters?
Dr. Tr*mp and the warm weather cure
Our self-anointed physician-in-chief has now applied his very good brain to the current global epidemic known as coronavirus, announcing among other things that once spring comes and temperatures rise everything will be juuust fine.

This will be good news in Singapore where most of my immediate family lives. Daytime high temperatures there average 93°F, plunging into the high 80s at night.

One might therefore wonder how sunny Singapore has incurred an infection rate 107 times that of the US and by what miraculous circumstance US median springtime temperatures in the 60s and 70s are going to solve this problem.

Note to trumpeteers: The fools in this scenario are not Tr*mp and his handlers, apologists or toadies; they are instead those continue to believe this man who couples ignorance with incompetence to produce bad judgment more effectively than anyone since Pharaoh detained the Hebrews.

Podcast Episode

It's all Obama's Fault
I await anxiously the FOX News report — based on a shocking exposé by Rush Limbaugh — of how Barack Obama Sr. conceived the creation of the coronavirus way back in 1956 when he was a student in Kenya and later, with the connivance of his wife the junior anthropology professor and his US in-laws the furniture salesman and the branch bank manager and funded by the global Communist menace, conspired posthumously to maneuver his son Barack Jr. into the US presidency, wherein he was able during brief breaks in meetings with Chinese President Xi to arrange for the laboratory formulation of the new virus. Truly diabolical!
Presidential Medal of Freedom? Really?


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