Why haven’t Democrats realized their own goals in Democrat-run states?

U.S. states are sovereign, have the authority to impose income, wealth, and consumption taxes, can borrow money, can make it illegal for employees to work for less than a threshold wage (and also illegal for an employer to pay more than a limit wage?), handle law enforcement and criminal justice for most issues, etc.

Why haven’t states run by Democrats achieved at least most of the social justice agenda that Democrats say they want?

Consider income inequality. California, for example, has a top income tax rate of 13.3 percent and a minimum wage of $12/hour. There is no reason the state income tax rate couldn’t be 30 percent with a minimum wage of $20/hour, right? (California Democrat and Presidential candidate Tom Steyer says that he wants a higher minimum wage that is a “living wage,” which would be roughly $50/hour in California to lift a family above the welfare eligibility thresholds.) That would narrow the spending power inequality (can be a measurement challenge) considerably, a goal that is related to the “income equality” goal that Democrats say is important to them.

(Same deal here in Massachusetts. Off-the-charts support for reducing income inequality and, simultaneously, among the highest levels of inequality in the U.S. Nobody in Washington, D.C. could prevent us from establishing a progressive income tax, raising wealth/property taxes, etc. and redistributing the money to poor residents. Yet we don’t do it, nor do we raise our minimum wage from $12 to $15 (or $20!)/hour.)

One objection to high tax rates is that people will move to avoid them. Yet Sweden was comfortable with this during its experiment with high tax rates back in the 1970s. If rich citizens moved to Monaco, the happy middle class Swedes said “good riddance.”

(Swedes experienced with multi-national business on our recent Northwest Passage cruise said that Sweden now has lower effective tax rates than the U.S. The nominal personal income tax rate in Sweden is comparable to Federal+California, but executive or entrepreneur Swedes are generally able to avoid this by turning what would have been ordinary income into capital gains.)

Democrats (e.g., Kamala Harris and Tom Steyer) say that they want a universal health care system. One third of Californians are already on Medicaid (“Medi-Cal”). Californians older than 65 should be on Medicare. Why not use the revenues from the above higher tax rates to automatically enroll everyone else on Medi-Cal and they can use it if they don’t have employer-provided insurance?

California Democrat Kamala Harris says that she wants free four-year public college (PBS). Why couldn’t California’s legislature vote to eliminate tuition at the University of California and Cal State?

Democrats say that they don’t want children to inherit wealth from parents. States have the power to impose estate taxes and a bunch do. Why wouldn’t the Democrats who control California change the state constitution to enable the collection of an estate tax?


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Scale under the floor of a cruise ship cabin to reduce buffet consumption?

The biggest and best helicopter tour operators have scales hidden underneath the floor at the customer service counter. Thus they’re able to quickly capture passenger weights, oftentimes without the customers being aware.

What about the same technology for cruise ship cabins? Put a scale near the door and a display so that the passenger can see his or her current weight. This could reduce costs since a passenger who realized that he or she was gaining 0.5 lbs. per day could cut back at the buffet.

(On our recent Northwest Passage cruise on Hurtigruten, there was no scale in the room and also none in the (small) gym. Due to the challenges of resupplying in the High Arctic combined presumably with people pigging out, the ship ran out of a bunch of items prior to the end of the trip. The poor crew had to go 10 days without fresh fruit. The Germans were not happy that the yogurt had run out.)

Some of our food temptations:

(The French chef, Julien, cannot be held responsible for the poutine. I was the one who pointed out that we needed to celebrate Canada’s greatest culinary achievement and the kitchen crew raided a supermarket in Nunavut for cheese curds.)

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Tale of two children

Photos from a recent visit to a friend’s house in suburban Massachusetts…

The daughter, an elementary school student, baked cookies from “women owned” dough:

(But how can anyone be sure that the owners of this dough company continued to identify as “women” after the package was printed and distributed into grocery stores?)

The son, a middle school student, showed off a home-decorated coffee mug:

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Silver Lining of the Ivy League Admissions Circus

A friend who is a passionate fencer, and a former Ivy League fencing team member, said “Twenty years ago, you could just send a kid to a few fencing lessons and he or she might get into Harvard. Now it is much more difficult and the kid actually has to be great for it to boost his or her chances.”

What’s the silver lining? “So many of these parents, most of whom are middle class, are pouring all of their time and money into fencing lessons for middle school and high school kids that the U.S. is beginning to win international competitions.”

[Separately, one of his friends is a fencing coach at a university. The most recent semester started with “going through the roster and he was being told which pronoun to address two transsexuals and one gender-fluid student on the team.” One of the students who was to be referred to with male pronouns asked to compete with the men’s team, but lost every practice match. He then switched to the women’s team, but continues to insist on being referred to with male pronouns.]

If the U.S. sweeps up medals at future Olympic games, can we thank the elite universities that have made it almost impossible for white/Asian kids to get in? (since being sued, however, Harvard has found that Asian applicants have more merit)

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Greta Thunberg’s climate strike

Today is the big day for protesting climate change. Our virtuous neighbors will abandon their pavement-melting SUVs and ride the commuter rail (service ever two hours, whether you need it or not!):

This Friday, September 20, many members of the Lincoln community plan to attend the Boston Youth Climate Strike at Boston City Hall. We will board the 9:09 am train at Lincoln Station. Around the country and around the globe, young people and their adult allies will be leaving school and work to raise their voices to protect the Earth’s climate from further damage by human caused fossil fuel emissions.

St. Anne’s in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Lincoln, invites anyone who is planning to take the 9:09 train to join us for a brief Liturgy for the Climate at Lincoln Station beginning at 8:45 am. Join our clergy and members of our congregation as we offer prayers of blessing for the Earth and acknowledge the climate emergency threatening the future of humanity. All are welcome!

You can find information about the Boston Youth Climate Strike on the web site for Massachusetts Mothers Out Front.

The school strike for climate, also known variously as Fridays for Future (FFF), Youth for Climate and Youth Strike 4 Climate is an international movement of school students who take time off from class to participate in demonstrations to demand action to prevent further global warming and climate change. Publicity and widespread organizing began after Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, staged a protest in August 2018 outside the Swedish Riksdag.

If you have not experienced Greta’s eloquence, please watch her Ted Talk. Greta recently took a sailboat trip from Sweden to New York City to be present for the strike with youth from New York prior to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Greta Thunberg was the object of derision among Scandinavians on our recent Northwest Passage cruise. She traveled to New York on an “emissions-free yacht” (New York Times) or “zero-emissions sailboat” (CNN). If you read unsanctioned news outlets, however, you’ll learn that eliminating one transatlantic flight required about $5 million in construction cost for the yacht (imagine how many trees could have been planted!) and multiple transatlantic flights for the crew (The Sun and Voice of Europe and Spectator).

Readers: What are your neighbors doing for the climate strike?

Update: Gridlock from all of the climate protesters trying to get home in their SUVs…


  • betterlincolnschools.wordpress.com: Our climate-conscious neighbors vote to bulldoze a school (newly built or renovated 24 years earlier) and spend $110 million on a same-size replacement (the market verdict on this project seems to be negative; neighbors trying to sell their houses are failing and prices are falling relative to other Boston-area towns)
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Greenlanders and Trump

After Trump was elected, a friend said “If Trump proposes any cuts to the military, Democrats will demand a 600-ship navy.” In that same vein, while I was traveling around Greenland in preparation for a Northwest Passage cruise, my Facebook friends were defending continued white European colonialism in Greenland following Trump’s offer to purchase the island from Denmark.

What does Greenland look like? Here’s Sisimiut, one of the largest cities, population 5,500 (10 percent of the island’s total population):

Danish colonial rule was legitimized (at least by the Klaboona) in the 1930s. History from the museum in Ilulissat (posited source of the glacier that sunk Titanic):

What did Greenland residents think of the Trump offer? I asked everyone whom I met during August 2019 visits to Kangerlussuaq, Ilulissat, Sisimiut, and Itilleq. There was a huge amount of enthusiasm for continued Danish rule… among those who were actually Danish, e.g., an art museum director who was born in Copenhagen to Danish parents and emigrated to Greenland roughly 25 years ago. There was zero enthusiasm for continued Danish rule among those whose heritage was “Greenlandic” (Eskimo/Inuit). People of mixed genetic heritage had a mixed opinion.

One Greenlandic gal noted “the Danes never thought about doing anything for us until Trump made his offer.” The Danes living in Denmark with whom I spoke considered the offer in “What can Greenland do for us?” terms, e.g., what were the value of the minerals that could potentially be mined. They did not mention any consideration of whether Greenlandic folks would be better or worse off under the cruel boot of the Trumpenfuhrer.

Thus, based on my sample of roughly 40 individuals, native Greenlandic folks have the same affection for European colonialism that Native Americans do for European-American immigrants.

My notes from watching short documentaries on Air Greenland (nice airline) during the inbound flight:

People want to fight the Danish and be independent. Yet young people move to Denmark. Young people leave smaller Greenland towns for Nuuk. It is a huge waste of time for Greenland kids to learn Danish; they could be a lot more integrated with the world economy if they learned English instead.

Acknowledgement that they are financially dependent on Denmark, but expressed hope that they can be self-reliant as in the past. Why aren’t the fishing rights lucrative enough for independence ? Plenty of cod back in Viking times.

Why do they have alcohol? Much coverage in the tourist promotional videos of the damage done by alcoholism. Young woman beat up a number of other girls at a bar. Had no memory and no reason to have attacked any of them. Sentenced to 70 hours community service. Industrial cheap alcohol in a place where the sun doesn’t rise for 6 months?

Some photos from the in-flight magazine and seatback video:

Note that helicopters are included within the category of “aeroplanes.” In case you were considering signing up for a dogsled ride, “Travelling with dogs is a sensual experience that penetrates travellers – and remains there”. Mira Kleist, a young diplomat, gives advice to teenagers that might not make sense in the digital age: “Just do what you want to, people soon forget.” (But Google, Facebook, and Archive.org remember, as anyone whose Harvard acceptance has been rescinded can attest.)


  • “Greenland’s exit warning to Britain” (Politico), regarding the three-year process (1982-1985) required for an island of 56,000 population to leave the European Union. (one fun thing to do on the cruise, whenever the English passengers started to talk about Brexit, was to ask Norwegians at the table if Norway would like to join the EU, a proposal that was greeted with howls of derisive laughter)
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Drone attack on Saudi Arabia proves we shouldn’t build big expensive Navy ships?

Back in March, I wrote “Robot kamikaze submarines shaped like blue whales render navy ships useless?” and asked “Does it make sense to spend $billions on these Navy ships that could be attacked by robots?”

A reader responded “Forget about submarines, anti-ship missiles probably make every surface ship a sitting duck in a war.”

Does the recent drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities (Guardian) prove this reader’s point?

They had the latest and greatest air defense systems says “Did U.S. Missile Defenses Fail During Saudi Oil Attack?”:

The attack revealed the limits of Saudi Arabia’s seemingly sophisticated air-defense system. Riyadh in recent years has spent billions of dollars building up six battalions of U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles and associated radars. The Patriots didn’t stop the recent attack.

A ship doesn’t have a better air defense system than what the Saudis had, does it? If not, why would we want to spend $10+ billion on a Navy ship when it can be wiped out by a relatively weak adversary, such as the Houthi rebels that are blamed for this attack on the Saudis?

(Also, why should the U.S. fight with Iran over this? Saudi Arabia is not a member of NATO, right? China is not going to deploy its military on one side or the other of this fight. If it doesn’t make sense for China to weigh in, why does it make sense for us?)

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Asking museum visitors for feedback… and getting it

The (awesome) Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark holds five restored 1000-year-old ships:

The museum also features seaworthy replicas on which visitors can travel in the summer.

One fun part of the museum was the feedback wall:

Dressing up is popular:

There is some passion for American culture:

The Vikings had only two gender IDs:

“Send Them Back” stickers in the adjacent parking lot:

I wonder what would happen if American museums allowed this kind of open feedback whiteboard!

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Which president has done the most to fight global warming?

A 5th grader here in Massachusetts relayed some information learned from a (unionized government-paid) teacher: Donald Trump is the worst president when it comes to accelerating global warming.

If we do want to worship presidents as modern-day gods on Earth, which president can be considered to have done the most to fight CO2 emissions and global warming?

How about Jimmy Carter? By presiding over a period of recession, he slowed down economic activity in the U.S. and therefore emissions.

Or Richard Nixon, whose “guns and butter” policies generated the inflation that led to the inflation and recession for which Jimmy Carter got blamed. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, whose regulations have led to reduced emissions compared to the 1960s.

Barack Obama? He raised taxes and thereby slowed the economy.

(Separately, is it fair to say that Donald Trump has accelerated global warming? He has been trying to cut back on immigration from poor countries with low per-capita CO2 emissions. Every time someone from a poor country arrives in the U.S., worldwide CO2 emissions should go up. Wikipedia shows that U.S. emissions are roughly 17 tons per person. In Honduras, on the other hand, emissions are only 1 ton per person. Thus, if Donald Trump were to be successful in reducing migration from Honduras to the U.S., CO2 emissions would also be reduced.)

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Why is it difficult to make a reliable refrigerator?

We had a 7-year-old GE refrigerator that would fail every couple of years, requiring $400-500 in service. We got tired of throwing out spoiled food and living out of coolers for 3-4 days so we invested $2,600 in a KitchenAid (one of the few with the same dimensions as the old GE, which fit into a kitchen recess that an architect thought was a good idea).

The KitchenAid failed after three weeks, unable to keep the refrigerator side cooler than 50 degrees. (It has a separate evaporator on the freezer side, so we can live on microwave pizza.)

Given decades of experience and continuous improvements in electronics, why is it difficult to engineer and build a working refrigerator? A modern Honda or Toyota may run for three years and 36,000 miles without anything failing, despite being exposed to hot and cold temperatures and vibration. The car has myriad systems, each of which could fail independently, and yet generally these all soldier on for 5-7 years before the first failure of any kind.

“Owner Satisfaction” is terrible with all refrigerators, according to Consumer Reports. LG is the only brand that achieves a 5/10. Whirlpool and KitchenAid are down at 3/10. Compare to 9/10 for Bosch or Miele dishwashers or 9/10 for LG washing machines.

What’s the challenge with an apparently simple fridge, sitting in a kitchen that is kept within +/- 5 degrees of 72?

[We discovered during this process why modern McMansions are always built with at least two refrigerators. BestBuy refused to accept a return on the unit, citing that it was purchased more than 15 days previously. Whirlpool/KitchenAid wouldn’t answer the phone on a Sunday, but when I got hold of them on Monday morning they cheerfully described their full warranty. They would be happy to come look at the fridge and begin the process of diagnosing the failure… in October. Was that normal? “Oh yes,” said the agent on September 17, “In a lot of areas I’m scheduling the second or third week of October as the first available visit.”]

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