Words, Part 1

“In the beginning was the word…” so begins the Bible followed by both Christians and Jews.  In Hindu mythology, the word “Om or Aum” is the first sound of creation. The Qu’ran is thought to be the word of Allah by Muslims. Members of the Church of Later Day Saints believe that Joseph Smith of upstate New York was given the words of god on golden tablets.

Words are important. Of all the species still on Earth, it is homo sapiens alone that uses speech to communicate sophisticated ideas. Other animals use sounds to express fear and danger and affection and contentment. Chimps use signs and sounds. Bonobos have been taught to use symbolic language to express complete ideas. Some other primates even use sign language to communicate when hunting in groups. There is something in the DNA of primates that demands communication. We are all social animals.

Words are important.

Primates use body language and words to communicate. The key word is “communicate”. Communication does not necessarily mean that a human or other primate is interested in communicating the truth.

For example, we have evidence that when some Rhesus monkeys see food they call out to others and share it. Once in awhile, however, a monkey will keep quiet or even give a false predator warning cry to distract from the food source. They lie. They communicate something which is false. Then they sneak the food for themselves.

We depend on words. When someone lies to us it becomes very difficult to trust them again. When someone misuses words (that is lies) under oath, we consider them criminals. Even presidents. Bill Clinton was impeached by the Republican Congress for lying.

He was not impeached for having an affair. He was not impeached for any illegal financial dealings. The 4 year long investigation of Bill Clinton and his wife’s finances (Whitewater) found nothing illegal. The Starr investigation after spending mllions of dollars  found no criminal behavior based on the original mandate, which was to look at the Clinton land deals.

Both articles of impeachment against Clinton dealt not with any financial wrongdoing, but the fact that he lied about his sex life when under oath.  You may wonder why the Starr investigation was expanded into his sex life, but that is another matter. A corruption charge was never supported, but his lies about his sex life were considered important enough to expel him from the presidency. So, he was impeached for words he said.

Our current president has , according to the factchecker at the Washington Post, told over 2,000 lies and misstatements in less than his first year in office. Over 2,000 documented examples of intentional miscommunication. Since he is not under oath, none of those lies are actionable under the law. But that degree of miscommunication may be one reason why he has an approval rating below 40% in most polls.

When words are used for miscommunication then the very idea of language becomes damaged. Language is supposed to be a positive force through which we convey ideas and beliefs and emotions in an honest way. When language is exploited regularly to miscommunicate it leads to a general distrust of any communication. When words are used as weapons, rather than tools of honest communication, all language becomes suspect.

We see attacks on the press, attempting to delegitimize the one institution which is based on words. Honest words. ( I deal with this in another post a year ago: https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/lugenpresse-testing-the-waters/)

Politicians, of course, depend completely on words. When they lie by misstatements or omission to intentionally deceive people it is especially disturbing. We see them lie most often when the facts and evidence do not support their assertions. A good example is the reemergence of the supply side economics which failed miserably under Mr Bush. Tax breaks for the wealthy to boost jobs. It just does not happen, but that does not stop the lying.

My own Congressman, Tom Reed, NY 29 is especially adept at the half truth and miscommunication. He miscommunicated not only his own views (as seen by his actions) but impugns his political opponents by lying about their views as well. And he is very good at it. So he gets re-elected.

So, while “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is true on the playground, it is not true in politics. Words are the core of politics because they are used to convince others to act.

We currently live in an era where those with the most political power are determined to stay in power through miscommunication. Not by the power of their ideas.  Not by the benefits to the people derived by their actions. But by miscommunicating to such an extent that even 2,000 lies a year does not bother them.

Next time I will look at the variety and scope of the miscommunication, the misuse of words, by those currently in power.

 

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/06/090615-monkeys-lie-food.html

https://books.google.com/books?id=pEuVe5zT-4cC&pg=PA74&lpg=PA74&dq=rhesus+monkeys+food+lies&source=bl&ots=-A5bfEwk2c&sig=O1nv-XXYhQ78i5HQpx2hrNFXrzc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimo8G74tzYAhWDUd8KHYalBlgQ6AEIUDAL#v=onepage&q=rhesus%20monkeys%20food%20lies&f=false

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/articles122098.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/01/10/president-trump-has-made-more-than-2000-false-or-misleading-claims-over-355-days/?utm_term=.dc90a42256a8

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My Shithole Surgeon

President Trump recently was reported as having referred to people who have immigrated from Haiti and African nations as “having aids” and being from a “shithole ” countries.  They are not welcome here. There were at least 2 independent sources for the statement.

Trump is quoted as saying: Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.

Reached for comment about the article, White House spokesperson Raj Shah did not deny the “shithole” remark, but instead said in a statement that Trump “is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”

http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/11/politics/immigrants-shithole-countries-trump/index.html

Then, this morning, Trump denied he said he used those words.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump on Friday denied describing certain nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting in which he rejected a bipartisan deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

So, take your pick.

Which brings me to my cancer surgery. A few years ago I had an unusally high score on my PSA test (A test for prostate cancer). So, I had a biopsy. A biopsy which found that I did have cancer and it was near one of the walls of my prostate gland.

After careful consideration I decided to have a radical prostatectomy. It would be done with the robotic da Vinci method. The surgeon makes to small incisions and using the robotics is able to perform very delicate surgery. With minimal post operative issues.

Because of where I live, I was able to have a surgeon who is recognized as an expert in this field. He went to Boston University and the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He studied laproscopic surgery at the University College in London (England) and Paris (France). He also holds an MBA.

He is well known as an expert in his field. In 2010, he was one of the only 2 surgeons selected to perform a live demonstration as a teaching video. He has published articles in professional journals and books on the technique and outcomes. He has done thousands of surgeries.

Physically he is imposing. He is tall and has huge hands. (Which becomes apparent when he gives the digital exam we all love) When he shakes hands you can feel the gentleness you would expect of a surgeon. Yet, he is so soft spoken that sometimes you need him to repeat himself. And he has a subtle sense of humor.

So, I am happy with my surgery and my surgeon.

Which leads me back to Mr Trump and his remarks: Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.

My surgeon, you see, is an immigrant. He is one of those immigrants who has come to the USA for a better life for himself and his family. At the same time making life better for other Americans, like me. He is black.  He speaks not only English but also French and probably some Creole.

Too bad Mr Trump has never met my surgeon. My doctor is a “Shithole Surgeon”  from the “Shithole” nation of Haiti. Why do we need more Haitians? To save American lives.

 

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Ask the Homecoming Queen

The US is currently involved in deciding to what extent Putin interfered with the last US election. And how to protect the integrity of the voting procedures in the next election.

Background. After the farcical 2000 election there was a flurry of activity to make voting systems easier to use and tabulate. A number of electronic and computer companies lobbied congress and the individual states to sell their “tamper proof” voting systems. I mean, what could go wrong with a computer? Or what could go wrong with an optical scanner?

For example, in Cayuhoga County, with a population of 1.2 million including the heavily Democratic city of Cleveland a problem was reported in 2010. The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reported that 10 % of the voting machines had FAILED pre-election tests. Upon retesting the machines that had passed originally, even more failed on a second test. These failures included not counting votes and the machines simply freezing. Despite these problems, the state of Ohio recertified this system for use in 2013. (Clinton got 66% of those who had their votes counted).

Here are a few nuggets from the 2016 election. More problems in cities.

“City Clerk Janice Winfrey says some voting machines in Detroit stopped working Tuesday morning and had to be replaced.The delay caused long lines and waits of an hour or more to vote.”

Also in Detroit, a heavily Democratic city:

“The project also reported the only voting machine in Precinct 16 is repeatedly breaking, and that some voters have been waiting outside in the rain before getting into the building, where they are facing a 45-minute wait.

The Detroit Free Press reported that nearly two hours after the polls opened, no one at the Marcus Garvey Academy Precinct 134 in Detroit’s West Village had been able to cast a ballot due to a problem with voting machines. A technician was on the way, the Free Press said, but some voters had to get to work and put their ballots in a box.

Across the city, a voting machine malfunctioned at Detroit’s Precinct 32, located at East English Village Prep. Some voters who registered on the last day it was allowed didn’t show up on voting lists.”

Note: Of the votes that counted in Detroit, Clinton got 95%, Trump 3%. Trump won Michigan by only 11,000 votes. A few more votes from Detroit and Clinton wins the state.

In a heavily Democratic area of Virginia:

“Cortes says several precincts in northern Virginia’s Fairfax County didn’t properly load their electronic poll book data, so some people who likely were registered weren’t showing up. He says those people were given provisional ballots and the elections office will work quickly to process them.” (63% voted for Clinton)

In North Carolina, in heavily Democratic Durham, more voting problems.

“Meanwhile, the Durham County Board of Elections has asked state board to extend voting hours at one precinct, the Bethesda Ruritan Club. It also is gathering information for the state board about whether hours at other locations should be extended. The county board will then determine whether to request extended hours at any other polling location.

The computer problem resulted in at least one precinct running out of authorization-to-vote forms for about 90 minutes. ” 

Note: Clinton won 79% of the vote in Durham, of those that were able to vote.

In Texas, again in the cities.

“Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of the Texas chapter of Common Cause, says some people had to go to three different locations before they could vote.

Other complaints among about 1,400 calls received from Texas on an Election Day hotline set up by nonprofits included scattered reports of voting technology malfunctions and lines longer than an hour in parts of Houston and Dallas.

Gutierrez says many people complained of poll workers being misinformed about changes the state made after a federal court ruled Texas’ voter ID law unconstitutional.”

And on..and on… and on….

  • In Maricopa County, Ariz., Democratic officials asked a judge to keep polls open for two more hours following problems with voting machines and provisional ballots that caused long lines. The request, like that in Colorado, was denied.
  • In Philadelphia, would-be voter Chris Calvert tweeted that both voting machines were broken at his polling place. “No one can vote in our district today. Hundreds of angry voters,” he wrote. Federal law requires election officials to give voters provisional paper ballots in such cases. (Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes; Philadelphia went 85% for Clinton…of those who could vote)
  • Broken ballot-scanning machines and other problems slowed voting at some polling places amid heavy turnout in New York City. Only one of two scanners was functioning at a polling place in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood Tuesday morning, leading to a line of hundreds of people by 8:30 a.m. The same thing happened at Public School 154 in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood, where Megan Arend tweeted the situation was causing “complete chaos and discouraging voters.”

Of course, you can’t do much about voter suppression and changing polling places at the last minute. Those are typical tactics for which there may be no remdy. But you can solve the problem of voting machine errors, voting machine malfunctions, etc.

I am not suggesting any plan to deprive Democrats of voting. However, since urban areas are highly Democratic, when voting machines or long lines prevent or discourage voting, the impact is felt much more acutely in areas of high population density. Democratic strongholds. How do we take back a fair and honest voting system?

STOP using voting machines. Period. Just use paper ballots for national elections. It was good enough for the founding fathers. And for high school kids. Every year high schools across the country use paper ballots for their elections. Homecoming queen. Class president. Just make an X next to the name of the candidate. No computers. No ability of Russian hackers or anyone to manipulate the results. No machine malfunctions. Just honest elections.

Then, at the end of the day, you sit down with the poll workers and representatives of all the political parties and count the ballots. Easy. Why don’t we do that?  It would be accurate and fair. Totally transparent. Why don’t we do that? It would be accurate and fair. Totally transparent. I think I just answered my own question, didn’t I?

It works. It is honest. It is easy. Want to have fair elections?

Ask any homecoming queen.

 

http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2010/04/some_cuyahoga_countys_voting_m.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/live-updates-voting-issues-reported-at-polling-places-on-election-day/

https://patch.com/michigan/detroit/live-2016-election-results-trump-clinton-swing-state-michigan

https://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/north-carolina/

http://edition.cnn.com/election/results/states/pennsylvania

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Time to Do Nothing

In 1949 Mao Zedong and the communists took over China. They instituted communist policies . In response the US cut off all relations with the People’s Republic of China for many years. Mao was a dictator. Harsh. Ruthless. The US would have nothing to do with him. He was an enemy.

Then, in 1972 , Richard Nixon did what was necessary. Mao did what his subordinates did not want him to do. Nixon visited China, met with Mao and started the opening up of trade and cultural relationships. The rightwing in China and the US were outraged by this betrayal of ideals. They wanted conflict, not reproachment.

The world did not end. The US was not defeated. In fact, over time, China has become a major world player and dominant economic force. A major trading partner with the US.

In 1986 the Russian leader, Gorbachev, met with the US leader, Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev had opened up Russia and the Russian people to the possibilities of democracy. Perestroika and glasnost . Reagan, a fervent anti-communists, saw an opportunity to cooperate on arms control. Both men signed the arms reduction deal which helped defuse the 40 years of hostility and tension between the two superpowers. Both men were criticized as “weak” by hardliners at home.

While Russia has fallen back into a dictatorship, the arms deals have held. Billions that could have been wasted by both nations on military spending has been saved. Not to say that both countries still spend way too much on the military. More than either needs for its defense. It was a bold, unpopular move for Reagan and Gorbachev to make.

But Reagan took a step toward an enemy and helped change the world.

Vietnam was a communist nation. The US fought a long war before ultimately admitting defeat. The hatred of many toward the North Vietnamese (and to some extent the South Vietnamese) was overwhelming. They were ruthless. They were despicable. The hatred of Americans by the millions of Vietnamese who had family killed by the “invaders” was also overwhelming.

In 1994, almost 20 years after the US left Vietnam, Bill Clinton lifted the trade embargo. Once again US companies could do business in Vietnam. Vietnam could be brought fully into the world trading system. Trade between the two nations now has reached billions of dollars a year. Former enemies have become trading partners.

Which brings us to Kim Jung -Un. The dictator of North Korea. Yesterday Mr Kim called for talks with his neighbor, South Korea. And South Korea responded positively. Both sides see no reason for increased hostility and increased fear. The president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, has asked the US to postpone joint military operations as a gesture of good will. He wants to open up talks with his enemy to the north.

Would it not be nice if North and South Korea opened up more and more trade relations? Would it not be nice if these two nations could tone down the rhetoric and begin more cultural and economic interactions? Hasn’t history taught us that even the most hated  enemies can, over time, become trading partners? And once nations forge strong trade partnerships they both have a stake in keeping the peace and developing economically.

Nixon taught us that. Reagan taught us that. Clinton taught us that. Have we learned?

Let us hope that the US encourages this new interaction between the 2 Koreas. Or at least does not do anything to undermine the possibility of peace. Then, 20 years from now the people of North and South Korea may be able to freely visit each other and take advantage of increased trade and wealth.

If the US just lets it happen. Sometmes just doing nothing is enough.

 

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New Year Predictions 2018

This is the time of year when we think about the new year and what it will bring.  My new year predictions for 2018. While a couple might be a little off, I remain confident that my overall predictions will hold true.

The Cleveland Browns football team will be allowed to leave the NFL and play against selected college teams. While they do not fair well against Southeastern Virginia Disability Institute and the Outer Waco Texas Girls Ballet School the season is not a total loss. They will end up with a 1-11 record, having eked out a 3-0 victory over the Northern Idaho School for the Blind.

Robert Mueller’s third cousin on his mother’s side, 12 year old Cynthia Woggles,  will be investigated by a Congressional Committee headed by Trent Gowdy. The investigation, which will cost $ 7,000,000 and the calling of 98 witnesses, all of whom are commentators on Fox and Friends, will discover that Woggles  voted for Hillary Clinton in her 6th grade mock election in 2016.  (Not to be confused with the national mock election held the same year) Mr Trump will use this evidence of bias to fire the Republican Mueller. In  his place Mr Trump will appoint Roy Moore to take over the investigation. Moore immediatley calls Woggles for a play date.

Major League baseball will announce that after a study of fan injuries at 6 ballparks they have discovers 14 fans who had died during the game. At first the cause of the deaths was a mystery, since none of these fans were hit by foul balls or bats. Medical examiners confirm that these deaths can be attributed to a cerebral shutdown of the inner brain, caused by intense boredom.

The US will recognize the following new capitals. Scotland. Former capital: Edinburgh. New capital: Trump International Golf Links.  China. Former capital: Beijing, Forbidden City. New capital: Shanghai, Ivanka Shoe Factory.  Iran. Former capital: Tehran. New capital: Jersusalem.  USA. Former capital: Washington, DC. New capital: Mar-A-Lago, Florida. Congress passes a law concuring.

FEMA will announce, sometime in June, that they have devised a plan to bring power back to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has not had full electric power resumed since Hurricane Maria in September, 2017. Despite the fact that the FEMA response was the “best response ever” to a catastrophe (a close second being the FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans) . The new plan calls for running an extension cord from Merida, Mexico to the island to bring power back on line to the millions of foreigners living in Puerto Rico.  As long as Mexico agrees to pay for the cord.

The 1st Annual Scott Pruitt “Global Warming is a Hoax” seminar takes place in a yacht named “The Golden Dollar” off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina in July. Guest speakers include climate experts Sean Hannity, Clint Eastwood’s empty chair and the entire Duck Dynasty family. The conference is cut short when a family of polar bears swims past searching for ice.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis is caught on mike saying that he thinks “this god stuff is a bunch of BS”. Nevertheless,  he speaks out against war, violence, disease, global warming and hatred. He calls on all government leaders of the world to join in peace and harmony. No one calls back.When asked what common people should do to solve these problems he answers: “I tell you, I’m all outta ideas. Reality sucks so you might as well pray to a fantasy. Gets ME through the day.”

The New England Patriots win the Super Bowl, 17-14, on February 4 in a thriller over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have 7 TDs called back by the replay officials in NY, who are nowhere near the actual location of the game in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Days later it is discovered that the league officials in NY had mistakenly been watching the replays of the Bournemouth vs. Stoke City English Premier League soccer match of February 3, in which no one scored. As usual.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announces the closing of all National Parks, except for Mount Rushmore. All parks will be sold to the Koch Brothers at a deep discount and the proceeds, which are tax deductible, will be spent renovating Mount Rushmore. The faces of Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington , Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln will be sandblasted away to make room for giant head of Donald Trump, surrounded by his three wives. The monument will be renamed: Best Monument Ever. Congress concurs.

On a strict liberal vs. conservative vote the Supreme Court approves Executive Order 5,678 on the topic of voting rights. Since the court had previously ruled , under Citizens United, that money equals speech, they extend that ruling to include voting. Under the new ruling “money equals voting”, as well. Based on the principle of “one dollar equals one vote” the 2018 election will be determined by a new voting method. Every citizen must bring in their tax returns to show their gross income from wages and investments. Each dollar will count as one vote.

North Korean leader, professional golfer and all around bozo Kim Jung Un  announces a new building plan. He has signed an agreement with Trump University to open up a “Kim-Donald School For Learning Stuff” in Pyongyang. The school will focus on business related seminars including: How to Get Stuff  For Free; 12 Ways to Evict “Those People”; Tax Evasion 101: Avoiding Those Nasty Import Fees; and, Bankruptcy, The Real Estate Developers Best Friend. Eric Trump attends the ribbon cutting ceremony which is a disaster as none of the Korean made scissors are sharp enough to cut the paper ribbon. Eric calls the “Kim-Donald “school  the “best university ever” and announces at the same time that the US will begin selling nuclear technology to Kim as a gesture of good will.

Finally. Congress votes itself a 50% pay raise for a “job well done”. The legislative branch passed a total of three bills. They were: 1. “The Amazing Trump is the Best President Ever” bill awarding the Trump Medal of MAGA to the best person in America. This year’s recipient? Donald Trump. 2. “The FBI Traitor” law. Which labels all members of the FBI, former and current, official “enemies of the people” and subject to immediate permanent detention and prosecution for doing “bad stuff”. Mueller is the first to be perp walked. 3. “Congressional Vacation Act” which allows Congress to take a vacation for a period including January 2 through December 30, with pay and expenses for fact finding travel.  Mr Trump signed all three bills and praised Congress for their services… which will no longer be necessary.

 

 

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Mr Reed on the Backs of our Children

My Congressman is Tom Reed of NY-29. A staunch Trump supporter and one of the key members of the Ways and Means Committee responsible for the GOP tax bill. I called his office at 10:30 this morning and spoke with one of his staff members for 15 minutes. Here are the questions I asked and the answers I received.

Q. How many expert Congressional hearings has Mr Reed attended?

A. Don’t know exactly. There have been a few. Also he is on Ways and Means which had some hearings.

Q. Has Mr Reed read the entire bill, all 1000 pages ?

A. Yes. He has read the entire bill.

Q. Does Mr Reed gain financially from this bill, in the sense of the “Corker Kickback”? Any specific provisions which help him?

A. Do not know. Thinks not, however.

Q. According to some analyses, over the next 10 years 83% of the tax benefits go to the top 5% of people and corporations. Why does Mr Reed think the top earners need a break more than the bottom 95%?

A. Not familair with that analysis so can’t speak to it. The idea is to be pro-growth which will create jobs.

My follow up: Isn’t that what George Bush tried and it did not create jobs, called supply side?

A. Would not characterize it. Not familiar enough with the Bush plan to respond.

Q. The tax law keeps in place giving tax credits for taxes paid abroad. Doesn’t this discourage companies from creating jobs in the US if they can continue to take an overseas tax credit?

A. Is not familar with this provision. Can’t answer.

My follow up: If you want job creation at home wouldn’t it be better to tie any tax breaks to spending on jobs in the USA? Make job creation in the US a requirement for getting the tax break?

A. Will pass on my idea to the Congressman.

Q. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculated that 10,000,000 lower income  families would get an increase in the child tax care credit of $75 a year. That amounts to an increase of 50 cents a day. Is this a good increase for poor people raising children?

A. The child credit remains and has been increased so poor families get a $2,000 tax credit, which in an increase. And they can get $1,400 in taxes returned.  

Q. On April 15, 2011 when Mr Obama was president, Mr Reed released this statement: “We are borrowing $58,000 per second on the backs of our children and grandchildren… Reducing spending and getting the national debt under control in the single most important issue…. Trillions of private dollars sit on the sidelines waiting to see if we are serious about reducing the deficit and paying down our debt….” Has Mr Reed changed his mind abut the deficit?

A. We are concerned about the deficit and debt. We are pro-growth and Mr Reed is concerned about spending.

Follow up: What specific spending does he want to cut?

A. Can’t answer.

The staff member, who was very polite and patient with me said he would try to contact others who could answer my questions.

Mr Reed used to be concerned about expanding deficits. Evidently he has concluded that our children have strong backs. They are going to need them.

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I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

Many times when I was in 2nd grade there were often various verbal conflicts among the students. Some examples might be : You’re a big dummy. Another good one: You stink. And the classic: You’re ugly and stupid.

It may seem that these rhetorical barbs are impossible to contradict. How can one defend oneself against such succinct and astute accusations? How does one fend off these clever verbal retorts?

Well, other 2nd graders were up to the task. When confronted with verbal abuse (by other students; verbal abuse by Sister Clamidia dare not be challenged) we were armed with the nuclear weapon of rhetorical excellence: I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you. 

OUCH. The attacker slinks off defeated. There is no response to this statement. Anything the attacker says now just ends up applying to the aggressor. The nuclear option.

Which brings me to modern politics.   Politicians sometimes make a claim about an opponent. The opponent is a crook. A sexual abuser. A criminal. You know the drill. And sometimes politicians just make statements which attribute certain other behaviors to their political foes.

Sometimes these accusations and statements end up being true or partially true. Other times the accusations end up being the 2nd grade equivalent of  “I’m rubber and you’re glue…” 

Some examples: Michael Flynn leading the chant at the GOP national convention: Lock Her Up. Lock Her Up. All the while Flynn himself had been secretly breaking the law and taking money from the Turkish dictator, possibly money funneled to him and his son from Putin. Now, Flynn has pleaded guilty and his heading for “Lock Up”.

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

Donald Trump:  “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” March 4, 2017. Now the Mueller investigation closes in, Watergate -style, on Mr Trump. More and more evidence of the conspiracy between at least 9 members of the Trump campaign and Putin’s Russians. The firing of Comey to try to cover up the crimes.  Sounds an awful lot like Nixon/Watergate.

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

“Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia[?]” he ( Trump) asked in a message posted to Twitter. Well, the Congress and special prosecutor are looking into deals with Russia. Trump deals. Even though Trump has denied ANY deals with Russia.

I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away,” Trump said in early January 2017 as President-elect. “We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict. I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals.”  

Except:  “Around the time presidential candidate Donald Trump was touting his real estate dealings at a Republican primary debate, a proposal was in the works to build a Trump Tower in Russia that would have given his company a $4 million upfront fee, no upfront costs, a percentage of the sales, and control over marketing and design. And that’s not all: the deal included the opportunity to name the hotel spa after his daughter Ivanka….”

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

There’s more. A Trump tweet about Al Franken: “The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? …”

Of course, Trump himself has bragged about sexually assaulting women. And at least 13, (the number seems to keep growing) different women over the years have charged that Donald has assaulted them. As far back as 1980. And he seems to really like the Moore-age girls. ” Tasha Dixon, who competed as Miss USA Arizona—not in the teen competition—in 2001 said: “He just came strolling right in. There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless. Other girls were naked.” Some of the contestants in Miss Teen USA were as young as 15. “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before,” Trump allegedly said.”

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

So , next time you hear a member of Congress say that Bob Mueller is a “crook” or we should “lock her up” or that “everybody does it”, remember the second graders at St. Mary School.

I’m rubber and you’re glue. Perhaps that should be engraved on the Capitol Building and White House.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/08/politics/document-trump-tower-moscow/index.html

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/03/27/trump-calls-for-investigation-into-hillary-clinton-russia-connection/22014433/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/all-of-donald-trumps-accusers-a-timeline-of-every-alleged-grope-and-assault

 

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Turkey Tax Theory

For over 30 years I have insisted on cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. I say “insisted”. It is my right as the head of the family. As a man. I decide these things. I know better than anyone else how to cook a turkey, so I take control. End of discussion. (Right, dear?)

I have a very sound theory of turkey cooking. First, you buy a turkey.  Then you cook it. Simple. Common sense.

Of course some folks might look to socalled “experts” when it comes to cooking turkey, but not me. They look in cook books and on line videos and some even ask grandma. But not me. I have a theory and I am sticking to it.

Now, the cookbook “experts” will tell you to cook a turkey at 325 degrees for a certain length of time, depending on the size of the bird. So much for experts. I have been using my own theory for 30 years. Ignoring the experts.

Here’s my theory.  I get a 15 pound turkey. Now, the “experts” say that you should cook a 15 pound turkey at 325 degrees for 3-3 1/2 hours. Balderdash. My common sense theory says  this is a waste of time. I don’t want to wait 3 1/2 hours for a turkey.  So, using common sense and math (Well, a calculator) my theory says this.

Cooking a turkey at 650 degrees will shorten the cooking time by exactly one-half. So, my turkey will be ready at 1 1/2 hours or so. No reason to wait for 3 hours. Simple. To the point. Common sense. A theory any idiot can understand.

I have been cooking Thanksgiving birds like this for 30 years and EVERY year, I mean EVERY year, the turkey ends up charred on the outside, partially cooked on the inside and a smoking mess. There is always a problem with the smoke filling the kitchen and the smoke alarm going off. I solve that easily by opening windows and disabling the smoke alarm ahead of time. Clever. The volunteer fire department is on retainer.

Why does the turkey always burn? For the first 20 years I figured it was a bad batch of turkeys. Not my fault. So I tried every turkey under the sun. I cooked each of the following , in order:

Honeysuckle, Butterball, Jennie-O, Norbest, Shay Brook, Riverside, Foster Farms, Boar’s Head, Plainville Farms, Trader Joe’s , Nature’s Promise, Perdue, Smithfield, Organic Prairie, Carolina, Pilgrim’s Pride, Applegate, Private Selection, O Organics, Cooper Farms.

As fate would have it, every one of these turkeys ended up being defective. They all burned.  They all filled my kitchen with smoke. Sad. Very sad. I thought maybe you just can’t get a decent turkey nowadays.

But then I thought. Wait. Maybe it’s the oven. So, I bought a new oven. Nope. Same problem. No matter what turkey I tried or oven I tried the end product was the same. I know that if only I had the right turkey and right oven my theory would be proven. It is just a matter of time. No amount of evidence can dissuade me from my theory.

Which brings us to the latest Tax Plan.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan had a great theory. A SPLENDID theory. Increase spending on the military. Give money to the rich by lowering taxes and they will create jobs. The economy will BOOM and unemployment will disapper. So, he put the theory into practice.  George H W Bush called it “voodoo economics” and said it would not work. By 1982 the US economy had experienced a recession and unemployment had RISEN to 10.8%. The GDP declined 2.7%. Opposite of the growth expected. Still, despite the evidence, it was a good theory.

In 1990 there was another smaller recession. This time George HW Bush was president. He had run on the slogan of “No New Taxes”. A great theory. Unfortunately circumstances beyond his control led him to abandon that theory and call for “revenue increases” to stabilize spending.  But he still had a good theory.

In 2001 George Bush had a theory. If we cut taxes on the wealthy they will invest in US jobs. GREAT! Wonderful theory. So, Congress cut corporate and individual taxes to stimulate the economy.  And he theorized that we needed to de-regulate big business. Too many restrictions were just strangling these major corporate and financial institutions. So, de-regulate we did. Excellent theory. Of course, it would take a few years for the effects to be felt. But the theory was sound.

And the effects were the biggest recession since 1945. Growth tanked to a negative 5.1%. Unemployment rose to 10%. Big money investors with all that extra capital did not create jobs in the US. Deregulated financial institutions simply made bad loans with investors money and went bust. (Well, they didn’t go bust, they got bailed out. Another theory. Too big to fail… even when they do).

When President  Obama left office unemployment was about 4%. A relatively stable rate. And there were no Obama-era recessions.So, the economy is back on track and continues to chug along. No reason to tamper with it.

BUT, we need to follow theories, not evidence. So, Congress is proposing the biggest tax breaks ever while proposing a massive increase in military spending . In 2015 the USA spent more on the military ($ 597,000,000,000 that’s billion) than the next 10 nations combined. The US spent more than the total spent by China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, UK, India, France, Germany, Japan, S Korea and Brazil…COMBINED). This is not to suggest the US does not need a strong military, but this seems a bit excessive. Spend more, take in less. Voodoo economics, anyone?

So, once again we are following a theory that has been shown to have no evidence supporting it, IF the goal is a stable , fair economic system. But the theory sounds pretty good.

For my part, I continued to use my theory to cook my Thanksgiving turkey. Despite the naysayers. OK, so it got burned again this year. No turkey for Thanksgiving. On the positive side, my wife has made a standing reservation for Thanksgiving at Hop Sing’s Chinese Restaurant.  She is  no theoretician. And I am developing a taste for Mu Shu Pork.

http://www.butterball.com/how-tos/roast-a-turkey

https://www.ranker.com/list/best-turkey-brands/ranker-shopping

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_United_States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Read_my_lips:_no_new_taxes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

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Filed under Budget, Congress, Debt, Democrat, economics, Economy, Free Trade, GOP, jobs, Politics, Republicans, Society, United States

Gillibrand Redux

Yesterday morning I called my senator, Kirsten Gillibrand’s office and questioned why she has not called on Mr Trump to resign, since she has called on Franken to resign for much less. I also called on her to name the other Congressmen who had harrassed her in 2014.  I explained that it seemed “opportunistic” to call for one to resign and not the others.

Her office simply said that she had already commented on the issue. As a result I wrote a blog critical of her.

https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/senator-gillibrand-and-the-death-of-due-process/

Yesterday afternoon Senator Gillibrand finally DID call on Trump to resign.

“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/11/politics/trump-resign-gillibrand-sexual-assault/index.html

Trump responded as expected.

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

I am not saying that my phone call had any influence on the Senator, but I am happy that she has been consistent.

(Your welcome).

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Filed under Constitution, liberals, Politics, Trump

Senator Gillibrand and The Death of Due Process

Roy Moore may or may not be elected to the US Senate tomorrow. He has been accused by multiple women of icky behavior. Of cruising malls looking for girls. Of dating teens. Whether or not this enough reason for the good people of Alabama  to reject him remains to be seen.

Moore’s defenders have, rightly, pointed out that he has never been convicted of violating any woman or girl. I saw an interview (which I personally found disturbing) of Moore supporters in Alabama. A number of them saw nothing wrong with him trying to date a 14 year old girl. One guy pointed out that his grandmother was 13 when she got married and had 2 kids by the time she was 15. Others pointed out that things were different in the past  (they were, but this is the present) and many Alabama moms would have been happy to have their 14 or 16 year old daughter dating an assistant DA. Others were certain that the accusers had been paid by George Soros.  Moore denies all claims and says they are all liars. So be it.

Al Franken posed for a prank picture of him groping a sleeping Leeann Tweeden. When on a USO tour with this sports commentator and former top Hooters girl. The fact that she was a playboy model does not diminish any sexual assault, nor does the fact that she works for FOX. Just sayin’ . Other women have also come out and claimed that Franken touched them inappropriately. His supporters point out that he has not been charged with anything and while he denies many of the complaints he has apologized for others. He has asked for an Ethics Committee hearing. But that was not enough, so Franken, under pressure from Democratic congresswomen  and congressmen, has resigned.

A Republican from Arizona wanted to pay millions to one of his female staff members to be a “surrogate” mother since he and his wife cannot have kids. Doesn’t sound so bad until you learn that his “religion” forbids artificial insemination.  Had to do it the regular way. I see. He resigns.

Old John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, accused by staffers of inappropriate touching, resigns. Like it matters. The guy was old, even for Congress. If he did touch someone he couldn’t remember five minutes later. But that is another topic. He’s gone.

https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/80-is-the-new-36/

Another Congressman owes me $84,000 as far as I am concerned. Farenthold  (Texas Republican) had the Congressional Sex Slush Fund pay $ 84,000 in hush money to a woman he assaulted. I want my money back. Oh, wait, he promises to pay it back. We shall see.  My question: Why is there a Congressional Sex Slush Fund to begin with?

http://time.com/5048265/blake-farenthold-sexual-harassment-settlement/

Which brings me around to one of my New York senators, Gillibrand . Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton by then-Governor Patterson, who had  admitted to numerous extramarital affairs. This did not bother Kirsten at the time. Nor did the money and support funneled to her by the Clintons bother her. Nor does it bother me. She won an election on her own, well, maybe with a little Clinton help. Gillibrand started out as a “Blue Dog” Democrat (conservative) but has “evolved” over the years to become a leading liberal in the Senate. Evolution is a wonderful thing. I confess I voted for her in the last election.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirsten_Gillibrand

Recently Senator Gillibrand was at the forefront of the movement by Democratic congresswomen to oust Al Franken. She called for his resignation and got it. She has also condemned former president Clinton for his dalliances and said he should have resigned from office. For having an affair. (Did I mention she took money and support from the Clintons to help her get elected?)

Now, since Gillibrand is my senator I was concerned with her motives. So, I just called her  Washington DC office and asked a couple questions.

First, I asked why she has not called for President Trump to resign. After all, compared to the allegations against Mr Trump , Al Franken is an altar boy. If Franken’s unproven behavior merited a resignation, why not Trump’s much worse unproven behavior?

The response from her representative  was that Gillibrand has spoken out about Mr Trump. No reason given as to why she has not called for his resignation.

My second question was based on the 2014 claims by Gillibrand that she was sexually harrassed while in the Congress by other Congressmen. She talks about 3 or 4 specific cases, yet refuses to name her harrassers. The answer given to me was that Gillibrand HAS named her harrassers but I can find no evidence of that on any website.  At the time Gillibrand was challenged to name her harrassers but she refused, using this logic:

“So why didn’t she call out the men who wronged her by name? “Because then our conversation would be about the idiocy of any one individual male,” Gillibrand said. “And I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the broader problems that are far more relevant.” For a woman who’s trying to carve out her position as a leader for women, it’s not a bad conversation to own.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/09/kirsten-gillibrand-explains-why-she-didnt-name-her-harassers/439767/

So, now Kristen has decided that the “idiocy of any one individual male”, namely Al Franken, is good enough for her. So, the “broader problem” is more important than “due process”? The end justifies the means? We keep silent about sex harrassers for the greater good?

Gillibrand is a lawyer by trade. She is a very smart person. She understands the Constitution. She understands “due process” and what that should mean. She has been in the forefront to deny that “due process” to one man, Al Franken, while protecting the identity of other sexual harrassers. Even though she claims personal knowledge of sexual harrassment in Congress by other Congressmen she refuses to “name names”, thereby aiding and abetting those who would prey on women not as psychologically strong or powerful as she. Silence is what sexual predators thrive on. And Gillibrand has been silent allowing predators to go unpunished.

Why has she been silent about some and why so aggressive at this time towards Franken? My only conclusion is that Gillibrand has seen a bandwagon and has decided to jump onto the driver’s seat. The bandwagon is a dangerous one. It says anyone accused is guilty. Case closed. No hearings. No trial. It also says that we must always believe any woman who makes a claim. Sorry, I just will not accept that.

Kirsten is not done. She wants to climb higher. She has her eyes on the Democratic nomination for president and is using the current scandals, quite selectively I might add, to propel herself into the national spotlight. How is she any different than any Fox-sponsored politician who tries to use selective evidence for political advantage? To throw red meat to a specific audience? She has shown herself to be a typical member of the elite ruling class…. say anything for political gain. I think there is a term for that: opportunistic.

To think I helped put her in office. Sad. Very sad.

https://www.playboy.com/leeann-tweeden

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/does-gillibrand-have-a-responsibility-to-name-her-harassers

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/16/full-text-al-franken-apologizes-for-allegedly-groping-woman-244978

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Clinton, Congress, Constitution, Democrat, GOP, government, Hillary, logic, Politics, Senate, United States

Booze and Women

Regarding the new GOP tax plan which shuffles billions of dollars from working Americans to the top one-half of one per cent.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley told the Register. “As opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

I am not sure if this is true so I interviewed 2 people. One is a billionaire heiress to a real estate fortune who shall remain anonymous. I shall call her Ivania. The other is a shmuck who worked in factories, sweat shops and as a teacher for over 30 years. I will call him Joe the Shmuck.

Me: Hello, Ivania. Congratulations on receiving a massive inheritance allowance and other tax breaks in the new tax bill.

Ivania: Thank you. No one deserves it more than me.

Me: So, how many jobs do you intend to create with this new found wealth ? Do you feel that you that have earned this windfall?

Ivania: Oh, yes. I have had to work very hard being born into just the right family. It is not easy being wealthy. For example, do we cater in Lobster Newberg or Filet Mignon tonight? Do we open the bottle of “Moet and Chandon Dom Perignon” or the “Boerl and Kroff Brut Rose” ? Would you have any idea which to serve? Commoners just don’t understand the intense pressure I am under.

Me: I see. Back to my question. What do you intend to do with this multi-million dollar windfall? Will you invest it in new jobs in America?

Ivania: Of course. My investment advisor has already begun adding to my investments. I have created thousands of jobs already in my tote bag and high heel shoe factories.

Me: But aren’t those factories in China? And Vietnam?

Ivania: Well, yes. But there is a trickle down effect. Eventually, as we create jobs in China and depress wages in the US, we will be able to bring back jobs to this nation I love so dearly. American commoners must be able to compete with the wages we pay in China. We hope to someday get those wages on par with each other. Right now it is those unions that prevent us from creating more good jobs in the nation I love.

Me: OK. So, you won’t be investing in the USA, is that the bottom line.

Ivania: (chuckling)  I got mine. That is the bottom line. Did I mention how much I love America?

So, after this rather unsatisfying interview I found Joe the Shmuck, retired factory worker and teacher.

Me: Hello, Joe the Shmuck. Can I call you Joe?

Joe the Shmuck: I have spent my entire adult life working for a living and paying my taxes. You can call me Shmuck.

Me: OK, Shmuck. Senator Grassley has made the comment that people like you will just take any tax break and spend it on women and booze. What is your response?

Shmuck: DUH. Of course we will. He is correct.

Me: WOW! So you admit that you will spend any tax breaks on women and booze? Really?

Shmuck: I have in the past, why change now? What choice do I have?

Me: Explain to me then why you should get a tax break if you will just spend it on women and booze?

Shmuck: Look, I worked two jobs most of my life. At least 8 hours a day. Some days 12 hours or more. I have worked in factories, day labor, teaching and coaching and advising students. All for pretty meager wages. So, what do you think? I am not going to come home and have a beer? Of course I spend my money on booze. Wouldn’t you?

Me: Well, ok. but what about spending all your money on women?

Shmuck: I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful daughter. Unfortunately they are money pits. I mean, who needs more than 2 pair of underwear? Women, that’s who. Who needs to get their hair done? Women, that’s who. Not to mention quality food, clothes and  thousands of other items the uses of which completely escape me.

Let’s talk about dental bills and braces, shall we? And schools class trips? And second cars? And dogs and all those expenses? And Xmas gifts? And tuition and fees?

Me: I am not sure that was what Grassley was referring to…

Shmuck: Well, anyone who has a wife and daughter (or husband and son for that mattter) knows what I am talking about. So Grassley is right. All I will do with any tax break is invest in goods and services right here in the US…wait…does that make me an investor?

Me: Sorry. Investors only invest in China. You worked . You supported your family. You drink beer. You are what we call…uh… shmuck.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/12/04/grassley-explains-why-people-dont-invest-booze-or-women-or-

https://financesonline.com/top-10-most-expensive-champagne-bottles-in-the-world/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2015/08/17/trump-the-hypocrite-investing-overseas-fine-for-him/#4d5a62aa1dc8

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Filed under Congress, Debt, economics, Economy, GOP, government, liberals, minimum wage, pensions, Politics, Republicans, Taxes, United States

Incidents of Travel Abroad

Now that we have returned from our 3 weeks in Andalusia (Spain) and a couple days in Dublin (Ireland) I can reflect on some of the experinces and lessons learned.

  1. Andalusia is everything I thought it would be and more. This area of Europe was controlled by Muslims until 1492. For hundreds of years , under Muslim control, memebers of all three religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) lived in relative harmony. Non-Muslims had to pay a special tax, but that was it. They could worship how they wanted. Then, some fundamentalist Muslim leaders started persecuting the Jews and Christians and things went downhill. Eventually the Christians (Ferdinand and Isabella) took over and things went off a cliff. The Spanish Inquisition was instituted and Jews and Muslims were tortured and murdered. End of Al-Andalus.                           https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Andalus

2. The customs official in Dublin. Friendly. Wished us a happy holiday. The customs official in Malaga, Spain. Friendly. When he saw that I had been born in Chicago and my wife in Detroit he decided to have a chat. He had been to the US and we talked about our travels and his travels in his broken English and our broken Spanish. We chatted for about 5 minutes before he stamped our passports and welcomed us to Spain. The customs official in the USA. Unfriendly. Unsmiling.

3. Pants. I bought 2 pair of travel pants which made travel so much easier. Three pockets within the pockets that zipped close. Wallet in front right. Passport in left front. All zippered in. Another zippered pocket in the back and another small pocket for a flip phone. No worries about getting anything lifted . ( I had my passport and money lifted by a very proficient lady on the Rome subway a few years ago).  These pants took the worry out of walking around. Nothing hanging around my neck.

https://shop.bluffworks.com/pages/travel-pants

4. Transportation in Spain. Reliable, clean convenient train service between cities. Fast. Reserved seats. Trains on time. Same with the buses. Clean, comfy.  At least the long distance ones that we took. When I think of train and bus stations in the US I think of the “other side of the tracks”. In Spain they are central and packed with people. The bigger ones have restaurants. It is possible to have decent public transport. Spain proves that.

http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/index.html

5. Taxis. Dublin, Cordoba, Malaga and Grenada were fine. But in Seville the taxi drivers, noticing that we were tourists, always managed to fine the “scenic route” to our destination. Padding 1 or 2 euros to the bill. The fastest distance between 2 points is the one that gave the taxi driver a little more loot!

6. Food. Eat the local food. Ham is big in Andalusia. And “tapas”, those small servings of bread and ham or sausage or cheese that come with your beer. My favorite: Bull’s tail stew. Unlike Mexico, where I get sick for a day or 2 whenever I try to eat, in Andalusia neither of us had any problems. Food was great and fairly priced.

http://awanderingcasiedilla.com/2017/02/03/awc-guide-best-tapas-granada/

7. The reason I went to Andalusia. The Alhambra  in Grenada. The Mezquita in Cordoba. The Alcazar in Seville.  (google them) The ocean in Cadiz. The architecture from the Islamic period was not only monumental, but was decorated without using any human figures. So, intricate geometric patterns  were carved into walls, celings, doorways and tiles. The skill of the craftsmen is awesome.

https://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/nasridpalaces/alhambranasridpalaces.asp

https://mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es/en/

http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/english-version/

8.  Final note. Leaving Dublin heading for the USA. Unbeknownst to us, all travelers to the USA have to go through a double security system. First, the Irish system which is very thorough and relatively pleasant. Empty your pockets, walk through the body scanner, pick up your stuff. OK. But then, there is another sign with a big USA flag on it.

So, walk downstairs and go through a special US security system. Which is the same as the Irish system. Except for one difference. They don’t do a body scan. Now, understand this. We had to go through the Irish system to get into the departure section, then we had to go through a second system just for the USA.  After going through the US system we then got in line to go to the computer terminals. At these terminals you put in your passport. Then you either get on your tiptoes (if you are short) or crouch down (if you are tall) and have your picture taken. This picture then comes out of the machine on a long strip of paper. It gets better.

You now take this picture that you just took and walk 30 feet to the waiting US security station. Remember, you just walked 30 feet to this new station with the picture you just took. The security person looks at the picture  and looks at you. Remember you just took this picture in full view of the security personnel just 30 feet away. He then verifies that the picture you just took of yourself is actually you. To my undying relief the picture I just took of myself WAS, in fact, me! So, I was allowed to continue.

I am not sure what the purpose is of putting people going to the US through this senseless process. You have already been checked by airport security. You passport has been checked. And the silliest part, showing security the picture you just took of yourself. I am guessing in most cases the photo you just took  is usually going to be you. Unless you metamorphasize in the 30 feet between stations. If a would-be terrorist takes a picture of himself will he no longer resemble that photo 10 seconds later? (By the way, you still have to through US security when you land in the US) .

My conclusion: Theater. Adding some processes to play to a fantasy  that this somehow makes travel to the US safer, when in fact it just makes it annoying. Or perhaps the manufacturer of the computer/photo systems made sizable campaign contributions ?

Travel is great fun. Except for the airlines. And security. Can’t wait until they perfect the transporter beams. Beam me to Spain, Scotty!

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Filed under border control, Christianity, government, Immigration, Islam, Judaism, Society, United States

Sex Harrassment Training

“The Senate unanimously approved legislation late Thursday that institutes mandatory sexual harassment training for senators and aides — a potentially meaningful shift amid calls for overhauling Capitol Hill’s system for handling harassment complaints.”

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/09/congress-sexual-harassment-training-senators-aides-244762

I was able to acquire an actual audiotape of the first meeting of the sexual harrassment training for Congress. I have changed the names to protect my congressman.

From the audiotape:

Anonymous Congressman: Hey, babe, is this the place for the sex training?

9 year old girl: Hi Mister, yes, this is the place for your training.

AC: So, who is running this show?

9YO: I am . I was asked by my mommy to talk to you all today.

AC: Aren’t you a little young to teach us how to harrass women?

9YO: No, Mister. I am here to help you learn how to be good.

AC: Oh, oops. I misunderstood. The email  said “sexual harrassment training”. I thought someone would teach me how to  harrass my female  employees and not get caught.

9YO: No, Mister. I am supposed to help you understand that sex stuff is wrong.

AC: Ouch. Boy am I embarrassed. So, what do I need to know?

9YO: Well, you should be nice to people.

AC: But what if I really want to touch a woman. You know, I really want to. I can hardly control myself. And I am the boss.

9YO: You should not touch anyone who doesn’t want to be touched. It’s not nice.

AC: OK. I never knew that ! Wow! So, if I am the boss I should not just like kiss her or grab her by her..uh.. private parts. You know, like President Trump.

9YO: No, that is wrong. That is being a bad man. You should never touch anyone who does not want to be touched.

AC: So, it would be wrong to just grab a woman? Really? I never knew that. What if I say sexy stuff to her? Like Clarence Thomas.

9YO: No. That is bad. You should not say sexy words to someone  in the workplace. You should never say things to make them afraid or sad. That is bad.

AC: Wow. I never knew that. So I should not make commensts to women about having sex with me or force a women to have sex on my desk. Like Matt Lauer.

9YO: NO! That is called rape. That is a bad thing. Do not do that. That is very naughty. Don’t you understand?

AC: What if I “accidently” grab a female on her butt? I mean, what if it is an accident? Like Al Franken?

9YO: NO! You are making me mad ! No. No. No. That is wrong. Don’t touch.

AC: Well, I am trying. But I never knew that was wrong. I am learning so much today that I never knew! Let me see if I understand. I should not touch women or girls  if they don’t want to be touched. I should not say sexy things to women in the workplace. I should not rape women, even if they are working for me?

9YO: Yes. Now you understand. That is called sex harrassment. That is wrong. I learned in Kindergarten that you should not touch others. Didn’t you ever go to Kindergarten? My teacher said to never touch others who do not want to be touched.

AC: OK. I get it. Thank you for this training. I never knew that it was wrong to touch or kiss or rape a woman. This training has really opened my mind.

(The 9 year old leaves the room but the tape is still running.)

AC: (talking to an aide). That girl was really HOT, wasn’t she? I was going to invite her to have dinner with me tonight at Hooters. Think that would be wrong?

End of tape.

Personal aside: The people who we elect to make our laws need to be TRAINED not to sexually harrass other human beings. Please read the previous sentence again. Then try not to cry.

 

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Filed under Congress, Conservatives, crime, GOP, government, logic, Neoconservative, Politics, POTUS, Senate, Society, Trump, United States, violence, workers

The Strange Case of Baby M

I met Baby M a couple weeks ago. She was approximately 2 and a half months old, but she was actually born 6 weeks prematurely.  So, she was still pretty tiny and just starting to grasp with her little fingers.

Baby M was born to two immigrant parents. Legal immigrants. One is working full time.

In the United States approximately 10% of newborns are born  prematurely. The costs associated with a preemie are pretty high. On average about $ 49,000 – $65,000, sometimes much higher depending on the services needed.

https://www.romper.com/p/heres-how-the-new-trumpcare-would-affect-premature-babies-kids-with-pre-existing-conditions-2414543

Under the ACA (Obamacare) insurers are required to cover births and babies. They cannot disregard “pre-existing conditions”. Before the ACA a pregnancy could be considered a pre-existing condition. For example, if a man changed jobs while his wife was pregnant and had to buy a new health insurance policy, his wife’s pregnancy could be considered a “pre-existing” condition. The insurer could legally avoid paying for the pregancy and birth.

In the United States, before Obamacare, it was even possible  for folks with good insurance to be stuck with big hospital bills. For example, in some hospitals the care for preemies is handled by a contracting service, not the hospital itself. So, while the health insurance company may cover the birth, it would not cover the special services needed by preemies. In some cases parents were on the hook for hundreds of thouslands of dollars. That was before the ACA.

The GP wants to repeal the ACA. Mr Trump wants to repeal Obamacare. If we repeal Obamacare we will repeal all the benefits.

The Cost of Premature Birth: For One Family, More than $2 Million

Back to Baby M. Baby M was not born in the United States. She was born in Ireland. To two immigrant parents.

All of the expenses associated with Baby M’s birth and the special care in the hospital under the care of professionals were paid for by the Irish health care system. All of them. (Remember that $49,000- $65,000 estimate).

Baby M needed a medical professional to come to her home once a week for a few weeks.  Typical for preeemies. All expenses were paid for by the Irish health care system.

Baby M will have all of her  health care expenses paid for, by the Irish health care system, up to the age of 6, except for dental. (Did I mention that neither of Baby M’s parents, nor Baby M herself, is an Irish citizen?).

Until she is 18, Baby M’s parents will receive a monthly stipend from the Irish government to help pay expenses for this new human being. This will amount to about 120 euros each month ($142.00 US). I am not sure if everyone qualifies for this or it applies only to couples where one person stays home to raise the child.

Of course, this must be paid for. The Irish do pay high taxes, by US standards. Workers who are married pay 20% of the first 42,000 euros ($ 50,000) and higher income workers pay 40% of whatever they earn above that amount.

http://irishlinks.co.uk/income-tax-ireland.htm

But, there is no income tax filing. The government just takes it all out of your pay each pay period. And there is no health insurance sign up for . No need to wade through dozens of different “plans” to try to figure out what you need.  Or go online to find a deal. When you change jobs your insurance is not impacted. So, no paperwork or research.

The case of Baby M is strange in the US. The automatic benefits she receives would be strange in the US. The idea that she gets free health care without filling out insurance forms is strange. The fact that Baby M will get a stipend to help her parents care for her is strange.

The good news for Baby M? She was born in Ireland where they seem to put their money where their mouth is. Where they put into practice a thing called “family values”. You know, that thing the GOP is always referring to. While they vote to end the ACA.

 

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Fitness for High Office

One of the most laughable statements  by politicians in modern times was made by Mitch McConnell recently. He was talking about Roy Moore, the GOP candidate for the Senate.

“He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate,” Mr. McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.        https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/us/politics/sex-scandals-mitch-mcconnell.html?src=twr&_r=0

Let me say this about Roy Moore. He is, in my opinion, a pedophile. He is a slug. He sees himself as an Old Testament patriarch whose gender and age allows him to do anything he wants to anyone he wants. At the same time, the people of Alabama have the right to send to the Senate anyone they want.

If the people of Alabama want an accused pedophile and a moron to represent them, so be it.  If he committed a crime in Alabama that is for Alabama to determine. Look at the man who he is trying to replace. Jeff Sessions. A man who actively prosecuted black citizens for registering other black citizens to vote. The “high standards” of the Senate dd not see a problem with that. The Senateand House have been seating bigots and racists for over a century and it seems not to violate any ethical standards.

How many of these giants of the Senate have voted over and over to take away heath care for the working poor? How many times have they voted to end the ACA? How many times have these morally superior men noto voted t raise the minimum wage for those “working Americans” they love to talk about. How many of these fine gentlemen have voted to give massive breaks to the wealthy and screw the poor? How many of these fine representatives have supported voter suppression laws?

I would suggest that there is NO ONE who is morally repugnant enough to be excluded from the Senate or the House . And the record supports me.

I could care less if a senator wants to bang a dog. In some states that may be a requirement. Who knows?

That said, let’s look at a number of these sexual accusations and how they played out over the years.

Dwight Eisenhower and John F Kennedy both had affairs . The press never reported them although they were gossiped about  and well-known. But affairs are consensual sexual relations. Which are in a different category than sex crimes. (Although when JFK and Ike were alive adultery was a crime in most states, and is still a crime in 21 states. Should they have been impeached?)  http://www.freep.com/story/life/family/2014/04/17/in-which-states-is-cheating-on-your-spouse-illegal/28936155/

Did Moore commit sex crimes? Seems so. He was in his thirties and went after very young girls. Pedophilia?  His supporters seem to use the Bible as some justification for his proclivities. I think the guy is just sick and needs treatment. He seems to have  along history of this kind of behavior.

Al Franken has just been “outed” as an abuser as well. He forced himself on a woman and kissed her against her will. He took a fraternity-style photo of himself pretending to grope her while she slept. Is this sexual assault? Was this a one time thing ? A jackass trying to be funny? Franken apologized and said he was ashamed. Will other women come forward? If the people of Minnesota want a former comedian who has apologized for his actions to represent them, so be it.

Bill Clinton had consensual sex with Monica Lewinsky in the White House. She was 22 years old. Is a 22-year-old woman an adult who can make those decisions about who to have sex with or not? Is it crass and icky for an old man to use his position of power and have sex with someone who technically works for him (although in a non paid position). Is it illegal or just smelly? Does it make him unworthy to hold the office of president?

Then we come to the Abuser-in-Chief himself. A man who has bragged repeatedly about sexually abusing women. He has said he forced himself on women. Kissed them when he wanted. Grabbed them by the pussy. He has been found guilty of discrimination in housing  against black renters. He has been found guilty of ripping off young people at his phony Trump University and forced to pay $ 25,000,000 in damages. And he has been accused by multiple women and girls of sexual misconduct, including forcible kissing and groping.

How can Mitch McConnell or anyone member of the government DARE claim that Judge Moore or Al Franken or Bojo the One-Eyed Pedophile is not fit for government “service”.The American people have spoken. Well, at least 60,000,000 have spoken.

They spoke in November of 2016 and said unequivocally that ANY PERSON, no matter how low their moral compass is suited to participate at the highest levels of government. No matter what kind of sluggish behavior a human being can engage in, it was evidently not sluggish enough to prevent 60,000,000 from voting for him.

The Congress is not the synod of bishops or the college of cardinals of the Catholic Church. It is not a moral or religious organization. It is a bunch of men and some women who want to tell the rest of us what to do. They want to make laws. They are fallible human beings who should not be held to any standard other than how they vote on issues.

I do not support sex abuse in any form, but let’s be real. The  “standards” of government behavior hardly eleimnate anyone from serving in Congress.

(Please excuse editing errors. For some reason I cannot control my editor today!)

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Bone Spurs Explained

Anyone who has ever read any of my posts knows by now that I usually don’t know what I am talking about. That is why I LOVE the interweb! Any idiot can post anything.

That said. One thing I do know about is bone spurs.  Just yesterday Senator John McCain made a veiled insult to Mr Trump about his avoidance of military service in Vietnam. He implied that folks with “bone spurs” were using that malady to avoid duty.

I confess that I refused to join the military during the Vietnam War. I opposed that particular war for moral reasons and attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain a conscientious objector status.  I actively opposed that war and also the 2nd Iraq War. I stand by that opposition. I don’t think we should put our military at risk without a thorough assessment and public debate.

In my opinion there are some military actions that are/were necessary. North Korea cannot be allowed to expand it’s influence and South Korea and Japan must be protected. The support for Granada was necessary during the Reagan years. The US was right to form a coalition to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait  . The coalition to attempt to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was a proper response to 9/11. The entire world joined us in that effort. The US support for NATO has limited the influence of Russia in Europe, which is a good thing.

But, back to “bone spurs”. As it so happens I have bone spurs. On both heels . They hurt. They can be very, very painful. Some athletes get them. And women who wear high heels. I developed them later in life. They can be caused by age or overuse of your feet.  After all, I have been walking on these feet for over 60 years. They are bound to take offense eventually. So I can empathize with the president and the millions of other Americans who suffer from this malady. But bone spurs are treatable with a wide range of techniques.

However, bone spurs are not cancer . (Which I have also survived) .They are not terribly debilitating when given a little treatment. In my case, my podiatrist took a cast of my feet and made orthotics. These inserts simply create a small “donut hole” around the heel so the bone spur does not rest on anything but cushion. No pain.

When I golf I walk between 6 and 7 miles a day. Often in the woods. No pain.When I walk the three mile loop in my rural neighborhood it is on paved roads. No pain. When I chop wood or saunter behind the snowthrower in the  the driveway or mow the lawn I walk a lot. No pain. I went to work for over 30 years and never missed a day because of “bone spurs”.  ( I did miss a lot of work, but that is another story). There is no job you cannot do with a “bone spur” in you heel, except, perhaps Heel Dancing. (Yes, there is such a thing). A simple orthotic takes care of it.

Unless the US Army incorporates heel dancing as part of basic training there is nothing that prevents someone with heel spurs from serving except for one exception. You would be disqualified from joining the elite  “Dancing 54th”. Their motto :  Stompus Enemus Ouchus. (We Stomp on the Enemy. OUCH).

So, I cannot criticize Mr. Trump for avoiding the Vietnam War, but he and his doctor should have come up with a better excuse. Looking at the current “disqualifying ” factors for joining the US Army I notice that “bone spurs” is not mentioned. However, there is a section that Mr Trump could have used.

Under Personality, Conduct and Behavior Disorders

“b. Personality, conduct, or behavior disorders where it is evident by history, interview, or psychological testing that the degree of immaturity, instability, personality inadequacy, impulsiveness, or dependency will seriously interfere with adjustment in the Army as demonstrated by repeated inability to maintain reasonable adjustment in school, with employers and fellow workers, and with other social groups

Mr. Trump, you just earned your 1-Y. I would like to see Senator McCain try to challenge that one.

 

https://www.salon.com/2017/10/23/john-mccain-calls-out-trumps-bone-spurs-excuse-to-avoid-draft/

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/bone-spur-topic-overview#2

http://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/disqualifiers-medical-conditions.html

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Can Donnie Come Out and Play?

When I was a boy many, many years ago…How long ago, you ask? Before Twitter. Before Facebook. Before the internet. Before Blu Ray. Before DVDs. Before CDs. Before VHS. Before cable TV. Before Fox . Before video games. Before…well…just about everything.

We had a black and white TV and 3 channels. And if you missed the big game or your show, well, you missed it.  If you were lucky you could wait for the re-runs in 6 months.

Where was I? Oh, yes. When I was a boy many, many years ago we did active things for fun. Every weekend and summer we would play softball or touch football. For hours on end. After taking care of a few chores the rest of the day was unsupervised fun.

I learned many lessons from those days. At the time I did not know it. I thought we were just playing ball. But in retrospect the unsupervised hours and days with my friends were filled with life lessons that , unknown to me, stuck. I wonder if Donald ever learned those lessons? I think not.

There was Jack and the Sullivan boys and Joe and an assortment of others. Sometimes Erich. Sometimes Pawlawski. And a few others.

In the summer we would spend all day playing softball at the church parking lot. We knew it was time to go home when the bells rang, I think it was 5 o’clock. Usually 8 of us, sometimes only 6. With that small number of players we devised rules for a pretty decent softball game.

Playing with 3 on a team meant you had a slow pitch pitcher, a shortstop and a left fielder. With only 3 batters you always had to have someone score to take the next slot at the plate. Pitcher’s hands are out. Any ball hit to the right side of 2nd base was an automatic out. No ghost runners. The bases were sometimes pieces of wood, sometimes shirts, sometimes big stones. Never those canvas things used by real teams.

Playing touch football was the same. No first downs. Four downs to score a touchdown. One center, one end and one quarterback. One touch and you are down. No tackling.

No adults to be seen. We played by the rules and had fun. Was Dan safe at the plate or not? Well, Dan knows. If he says he was safe, he was safe. Did the ball get to the pitcher before Joe reached first? Some said yes, some said no. OK. Well, I guess he was out. No arguing. No fights. No instant replays. Someone would just say, OK, I guess you are right.

Did Jack cross the goal line or was he touched at the “one”? Jack said he scored. OK. He must have  scored.  He’s not a cheater. When Doug was touched he  always stuck the ball 6 inches ahead, just like the pro running backs on TV. I always waited until he turned around and pushed the ball 12 inches back.  It worked for both of us.

I can’t recall any serious arguments and certainly no fights. we just figured it all out.

So, what lessons was I learning that I never knew I learned by this unsupervised play?

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Doesn’t really matter because we are playing again tomorrow.

If you don’t own a ball, someone else will. If you don’t own a bat, someone else will. That’s why we let everybody play.

If you have a fielder’s glove, toss it to your opponent as he goes to left field. He doesn’t own one and your not using yours when you are batting.

The guys on the other team today will be on my team tomorrow. It is all fluid. 

Uniforms are not needed. You are still a team even if you aren’t dressed alike.

Some people are better than others. Some are better at some things than I am. I am better at some things than they are. That’s the way it is.

Don’t complain about wrong calls. You know if you were safe or out. That’s enough.

Win “fair and square” or lose. Don’t cheat your friends. There is no future in it.

We need all the players we can get. Everyone is important.

It  doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you can catch the ball.

Donald is only 4 years older than me. I don’t know if he was allowed to play unsupervised with other kids. . To figure out how to negotiate human relationships. To learn to respect others and their abilities. To share his baseball glove. It does not appear to be the case.

It’s too late now, but I wonder if he would have been different had he lived on the East Side with the working class mopes like us. I wonder what would have happened had we been able to ride our bikes to his house, knock on the door and ask:

“Can Donnie come out and play?”

 

 

 

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Witness Tampering

I don’t follow Hollywood so I really have never heard of this Weinstein character. I wouldn’t recognize him. I wouldn’t want to. Evidently he spent years harassing, attacking, abusing, maybe raping women who were his subordinates. Evidently a lot of people knew about it and colluded in covering up what he was doing. Payoffs were made. Hush money to victims.

We saw the same thing with Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Over $13,000,000 paid in hush money. Same with Roger Ailes, also at Fox. Donald Trump even bragged about assaulting women. Who knows how much hush money he has paid over the years. Then there is Cosby. And Bill Clinton.

Who knows how many other men in positions of power have abused women and work for companies that paid hush money. These victims sign “confidentiality agreements”, get paid a lot of money (by the stockholders of these companies) and then are required to keep silent about the abuse. All legal. For some reason.

Which confuses me. Didn’t these men commit crimes? Is it legal for wealthy individuals to exempt themselves from criminal prosecution by paying off witnesses? That seems to be the case.

Imagine this.

A man robs a bank and walks off with $1 million. It turns out that someone in the bank recognized him. So, the bank robber goes to guy who recognized him and says: Here is  $100,000. Sign this “confidentiality agreement” that says you will not turn me in. And if you do turn me in my gang and I will make your life miserable.”

Would that be legal?

Can you make a legal agreement NOT to report a crime in exchange for cash? Especially when not reporting a crime may mean even more people will be victimized and paid off in the future?

I don’t know the law, but it seems to me no different than witness tampering. A criminal paying a witness to keep quiet. The guy with the thicker bankroll walks away. To commit more crimes. And make more payoffs.

Maybe there ought to be a law against all “confidentiality agreements” which involve any illegal activity. Don’t you think?

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Just a little post to see if my tablet is working.IMG_20170726_140028.jpg

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Trump is NOT a Moron

It was recently reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has privately referred to Mr Trump as a “moron”. I OBJECT! It will not stand.

The term “moron” comes from the Greek moros meaning dull. According to the old Binet scale of intelligence a moron has the mental age of an 8-12 year old. Using the more modern terminology a moron would have an IQ of between 51-70. What we used to call mentally retarded and now refer to as mentally challenged or disabled.

Below a moron is an imbecile. Now, an imbecile is someone with an IQ of 26-50. Not very sharp. An imbecile is a term no longer used in the psychiatric profession. So, it would be difficult to scientifically determine whether or not Mr Trump is an imbecile. I am willing to give him the benefit if the doubt and say: NO, Trump is not an imbecile.

Many people refer to Trump as an “idiot”. An idiot traditionally is described as someone with an IQ of between 0-25. The lowest intellect possible. So an idiot would be really low intellectually. A really dull person. Unable to do anything at all. But , let’s look at the word origin.

An idiot comes from the Greek idiotes which means “private citizen” , “individual” or “person without professional skill”. And in Latin idiota means an “uneducated or ignorant person.”

From Wikipedia:

“…An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private—as opposed to public—affairs.[7] Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education.[7] In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education (although citizenship was also largely hereditary)….”

So, an idiot is someone who is completely self-centered. Concerned exclusively with himself. Someone who has no public concerns. The perfect narcissist. An idiot cares only about himself. Period.

So, Mr Tillerson, you are wrong. I will not accept your analysis. Mr Trump is NOT a moron. What is he? You figure it out.

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moron_(psychology)

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/03/the-words-moron-imbecile-and-idiot-mean-different-things/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiot

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A Moment of Silence…Then Re-Load

Another American Tragedy has occurred. Every day 100 Americans die due to guns. About half are suicides and accidents. The other half are murders. Every day. A daily American tragedy.

But some days are more tragic than others. Mass shootings. Mass killings. Or a Congressman or Congresswoman shot. Every day it’s somebody’s baby, somebody’s husband, somebody’s daddy, somebody’s mommy. Every day.

But when the mass killings occur the entire nation stops. Stops for a moment of silence. The president sends his condolences. It is part of the job description. The anti-gun lobby energizes and says: This has got to stop. The gun lobby energizes and says: No, it doesn’t.

In this century.

Red Lake Massacre. Minnesota 10 dead, 5 wounded. Moment of silence.

Virginia Tech Massacre. Virginia. 23 dead, 32 wounded. Moment of Silence.

Binghamton shootings. New York. 14 dead, 4 wounded. Moment of Silence.

Fort Hood Massacre. Texas. 13 dead, 30 wounded. Moment of Silence.

Aurora Theater shooting. Colorado. 12 dead, 70 wounded. Moment of Silence.

Newtown School shooting (Sandy Hook) Massachusetts. 28 dead, 2 wounded. Moment of Silence.

Washington Navy Yard shooting. DC. 12 dead, 8 wounded. Moment of Silence.

San Bernadino shooting. California. 14 dead, 21 wounded. Moment of Silence.

Orlando Nightclub Massacre. Florida. 49 dead, 53 wounded. Moment of Silence.

Las Vegas Strip massacre. Nevada. 50+ dead, 500+ wounded. Moment of Silence.

So much silence. So much silence in the face of regular murders. The moment of silence is no longer special. No longer has any meaning.

So, why have a “Moment of Silence” after these disturbing mass killings of Americans by other Americans?

Perhaps it is to give the NRA the time to re-load.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/

 

 

 

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Condolences to Ray and Elfreda

The election for GOP candidate for the next senator representing the good people of Alabama is this Tuesday. Mr Trump was in Bama campaigning, kind of, for Luther Strange. His opponent is Judge Roy Moore. Whomever wins this primary election is pretty much assured of beating anyone the Dems put up in the special election to fill Jess Sessions seat. I mean the last time Alabama elected a Democrat as senator (Richard Shelby) he immediately switched parties and became a Republican.

So this election is, in effect, the election for the Senate seat.

A little research shows us that Luther Strange is, well, strange. He supports Donald Trump all the way.  He wants to kill trade deals, cut off funding for family planning at Planned Parenthood and of course, “Drain the Swamp” (but that is a different essay).

Luther, as Alabama attorney general, fought to allow Hobby Lobby to keep women from accessing basic medical care, like family planning services. He also supported Exxon’s refusal to reveal the climate change research it had done. As the replacement Senator for Jeff Sessions he has voted to take away health care for 40,000,000 Americans and to gut Medicaid  (which is the primary health insurance for over 1,000,000 Alabamians, mostly children). And Luther is the SANE candidate!

Judge Roy Moore, former Australian cowboy and kickboxing champion, has his own set of abominations. He was the judge who insisted, contrary to the US Constitution, that the 10 Commandments be placed outside his courtroom. (On a side note, the good judge has a personal set of 10 Commandments he carved himself… maybe he thinks he carved the originals as well). When he lost the court case and was told to remove the 2 ton granite boulders , he refused. He put himself above the law and was removed from the bench. Then Alabamians immediately elected him to the state Supreme Court.

He wants to give public money to Christian schools. ( I guess the Alabama public school systems are glutted with cash). He has condemned homosexuals from the bench. He condemns the idea of universal health care. He condemns trade. He condemns immigration, especially from our “northern border”.  (We don’t need no Canucks!) He condemns…well… just fill in the blank with any concept designed to give folks equal rights or make their lives better. You get the picture.

So, what does this have to do with Ray and Elfreda? I went to college with Ray and Elfreda (not their real names) back in the early 1970s.  (OK, Ray and Elfreda ARE their real names. I mean, who could make up a name like Elfreda?). They both live in Alabama.

Now, you could take any rusted pickup truck with a tail light out, stars and bars decals and gun rack (in other words, ANY vehicle in Alabama) and run over 2,000,000 Alabamians. And you would not hit anyone nicer than Ray or Elfreda. I mean, these folks left the relative sanity of the north and gave their professional lives to educating the kids of the Yellowhammer State. They migrated south of the Mason-Dixon Line to help kids in a state whose leaders couldn’t choose between 2 official fish,  so named them both: the tarpon and large mouth bass.

So I send Ray and Elfreda my condolences. Luther Strange or Judge Roy Moore is going to be “representing ” them for the next 6 years. A choice between an idiot and a bigger idiot. Heads I lose, tails I lose.  Perhaps there will be a tie and BOTH candidates can go to Washington.

“Introducing the distinguished senators fro the great state of Alabama: Moore Strange.”

Ray and Elfreda, I feel your pain.

(Actually I DO feel your pain. My “representative in Congress is an avid Trump supporter and all around con artist named Tom Reed, NY -29.)

 

http://www.lutherstrange.com/on_the_issues

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_Strange

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Moore

https://www.roymoore.org/Positions/

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The Rocket Man versus The Dotard

For starters. here is a partial exchange of messages sent between John F Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev during the height of the Cold War. When people of each nations saw the other as the most terrible enemy and the world seemed always on the verge of nuclear war.

“…In your speech of inauguration to the office of President, and likewise in the message to Congress of January 30 you, Mr. President, said that you would like for the Soviet Union and the United States of America to unite their efforts in such areas as the struggle against disease, mastering the cosmos, development of culture and trade. Such an approach to these problems impresses us and we welcome these utterances of yours.

We consider that favorable conditions for the most speedy solution of these noble tasks facing humanity would be created through the settlement of the problem of disarmament. And we would like every country to make every effort for the solution of this problem with the establishment of such a strict international control under which no one could arm secretly and commit aggression.

All agree to the fact that the solution of the problem of disarmament depends to a great extent on agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. If we reached such an agreement, it would be a great joy for all people on Earth and a great blessing for all mankind.

N. Khrushchev”
and Kennedy’s reply a week later….

“…I think we should recognize, in honesty to each other, that there are problems on which we may not be able to agree. However, I believe that while recognizing that we do not and, in all probability will not, share a common view on all of these problems, I do believe that the manner in which we approach them and, in particular, the manner in which our disagreements are handled, can be of great importance.

In addition, I believe we should make more use of diplomatic channels for quite informal discussion of these questions, not in the sense of negotiations (since I am sure that we both recognize the interests of other countries are deeply involved in these issues), but rather as a mechanism of communication which should, insofar as is possible, help to eliminate misunderstanding and unnecessary divergencies, however great the basic differences may be….”

John F Kennedy

 

Fast forward to 2017. Here is are the words used in the exchanges between Kim Jung-un and Donald Trump.

Trump: If you don’t do what I tell you I am going to “totally destroy” your country. Totally!

Kim: Ha . “A frightened dog barks the loudest”. I am not worried.

Trump: Oh yeah, “Rocket Man”

Kim: You are obviously “mentally deranged.”

Trump: Well, you are a “total nutjob”.

Kim: Well, I have the “biggest ever hydrogen bomb”. Biggest! Best !

Trump: You are “obviously a madman” I will destroy you.

Kim: I hear a “dog barking” just a “dog barking”.

Trump: “Maniac”

Kim: “Dotard”

Trump: Your mother wears combat boots!

Kim: So’s your old man.

Trump: Gonna make me?

Kim: You stink!

John F Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev must be swirling like tops in their graves.

(Words in quotes were actually used by Trump and Kim or Kim’s representatives.)

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A Deal at Any Price

Tom Price, the Health and Human Services Secretary, has been criticized for flying on charter jets. He spent about $ 60,000 of HHS money on 5 flights in just one weekend.  The one that has gotten the most publicity was his round trip flight from DC to Philly and back. For $25,000. That is about 150 miles each way or 3 hours by car.

Now, this is the same Tom Price who had the best luck in the world when he was on the Senate committee responsible for Health issues. Just by chance, his broker bought him a ton of stocks in a company called Zimmer Biomet. This happened just two weeks after Tom introduced a bill called the HIP act.

Now for those of you with all your appendages intact that may not mean much. But the HIP Act (which should have been called the SLIP Act) deregulated the the hip and knee joint replacement industry. I mean, really, should an artificial limb replacement need regulations? I guess they are warranted for the life (good luck) of the owner!

Well, it so happens that Zimmer Biomet  is a supplier of….(drum roll)… hip and knee joint replacements. Like I said, when it comes to investments Tom is one lucky guy.

(To be fair, the HIP Act was so bad that even the GOP Congress has not yet taken it up).

But, back to charter flights. This must be a different Tom Price than the Georgia Senator who castigated the Democrats for proposing buying 8 passenger planes. Wasteful. That Tom Price said the US government should not buy any. Zero. Government employees should be flying on commercial flights. Tighten those belts you spendthrifts.

Senator Tom Price meet HHS Secretary Tom Price.

So, some perspective. Perhaps it is worth it to keep Tom flying hither and yon. Keep him out of DC where he can only do more damage. Perhaps his broker has recently bought some stock in the charter plane industry. Gee. I wonder if he wants to deregulate safety inspections on charter planes. It would streamline the industry.

A final note: Tom landed and spent the day in Pennsylvania. Minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $ 7.25 per hour. A full time worker in PA who decided to treat Tom to this round trip airfare would have to work 86 weeks to earn that much. Before taxes.

If he or she started working now and took no vacations they could pay off Tom’s airfare bill by the end of May, 2019. Unless he or she got sick. Because Tom doesn’t believe in the working poor getting coverage under Obamacare. Too costly!

 

 

 

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/20/hhs-sec-tom-price-once-slammed-congress-private-jets.html

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/tom-price-healthcare-stock-conflicts-233823

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Filed under ACA, Budget, Congress, Economy, GOP, government, healthcare, minimum wage, Obamacare, Politics, workers

Re-Fighting the Vietnam War

The US lost the war in Vietnam. The USA bombed and napalmed and bombed  some more. And lost. In the end, the US forces left and the North Vietnamese united the country.

Ever since the US lost the Vietnam War many American politicians and military men of my generation have been trying to win it. In other parts of the world. In Grenada. In Lebanon. In Libya. In Panama. In Haiti. In Bosnia.  In Kuwait. In Iraq. In Afghanistan.

The idea that a superpower like the USA could be defeated by a small Asian country like Vietnam has stuck in the craw of some in my generation for many years. They simply could not understand it. Or accept it. Many still can’t.

And they have been fighting it over and over again in other parts of the world ever since. The military solution is, in their minds, the only solution.

So now we are on the brink of a war with North Korea. Make no mistake, this is a war of choice. Like Vietnam. Like Iraq. It is a war we are being pulled toward simply because those in power want it. They want to be “tough”. And they want simple solutions. Nothing is more simple than war.

Demonizing leaders of nations before attacking them has become par for the course. Ho Chi Minh, an ally in WW2, was suddenly a devil. Noriega, our man in Panama, became evil overnight. Saddam Hussein, who the US supplied with chemical and other weapons in his war with Iran,  was discovered to be a bad guy! And so it goes.

Which brings us to North Korea. Kim Jung -un is the new Ho. The reincarnation of Saddam. In preparation for war.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Kim is a great guy. He has his political enemies jailed or executed. He has poured vast resources into the military at the expense of other forms of development. By most accounts the North Korean people have an extremely low standard of living compared to their southern neighbors.

Kim is a big mouth, a braggart, a complete narcissist and shows signs of instability. No president of the USA could ever be accused of that! He likes to rattle the sabers.  He is certainly no one I would want to invite to dinner.

And, like Saddam and Ho and Noriega he has never attacked the USA. The only reason to attack Kim, like the attack on Iraq, is some theory of a “pre-emptive” strike. Of course, you cannot have a “pre-emptive” strike without a propaganda campaign to convince folks that war is inevitable.  Major powers using “pre-emptive” strikes are not new. Hitler attack the Poles in 1939 before the Polish cavalry could sweep through Germany. And Tojo attacked Pearl Harbor before Americans could attack Tokyo. Bush attacked Iraq before Saddam could unleash all those WMDs, which were never discovered.

The Trump administration seems intent on going to war. The American media is right there with him. Wars sell air time. Sell newspapers. Sell books. Make careers, in both the military and in journalism. So we see various editorials and proclamations about the “inevitable” conflict.

Of course war is with North Korea is not inevitable. The only outcome would be the deaths of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of North and South Koreans, Japanese and Americans.

The only other “solution” to the North Korea-USA conflict, according to “conventional wisdom”, is to close off North Korea and further isolate Kim. That has not worked and will not work . Especially since China and Russia are not about to stop supporting his regime. Has isolating Cuba led to the downfall of the Castro regime?

Only by opening up trade and cultural exchanges, bringing North Korea into the web of international affairs, will catastrophe be avoided. We have done so with characters less savory even than Kim. Stalin and Mao Zedong come to mind. Vietnam is now a trading partner. The world needs to make sure Kim has “skin in the game”, not further isolate him.

It is sad. Very sad. That a man like Dennis Rodman has shown more diplomatic skill than our current president. Rodman has gone to North Korea and tried to open up the doors of understanding. Instead of anticipating (hoping for?) war, he has tried to bring people together.

From a Newsweek article published today, Rodman, just back from North Korea  says the following:

“I’m not defending him, I’m not defending the fact that what he does as far as his country and his leadership. I think he has been passed a throne from his grandfather and his father. A lot of people say that the grandfather was worse than the father and the father is worse than the marshal today. I’ve got to hope,” he said, adding “I don’t love him. I just want to try to straighten things out for everyone to get along together, that’s it.”

“Things can happen if Donald Trump, if they sit down, have some type of mutual conversation, they don’t have to be like a friendship conversation, just a mutual conversation, saying: ‘Hi, I would love to engage in some words and politics and over the history of your country and my country and just try to start some dialogue,” Rodman said, “I think that’ll open up maybe the door just a little bit.”

What a state of affairs when Dennis Rodman seems to be the sane one in the room! When a tatooed body pierced former athlete makes more substantial diplomatic efforts that the US State Department.

But then again, Dennis was not around when the USA lost the Vietnam War. He sees no need to fight it all over again.

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Filed under Foreign policy, government, Politics, POTUS, president, Trump, United Nations, United States, US