Stranger in Strange Land

This just in:  I recently returned from a week-long vacation in New York City.  As a country boy from Wasco, a 29-mile tractor drive from Bakersfield, I expected to be unimpressed.  I expected crowds.  I expected traffic.  I expected noise.

What I didn’t expect was to be impressed….but I was.

How did this happen? 

Let’s start with the sights; things tourist go to take pictures of as proof that they had a good time.  Yes, I saw Times Square.  I rode a subway. I paid my respects at the 9/11 memorial.  I saw Billy Joel (and surprise guest John Fogerty) at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.  I walked through Harlem and peeked into a window at the Apollo Theater.  I walked the grounds of Columbia University and I ate a pretzel as I strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge.

I didn’t hit all of the sites.  I didn’t get a chance to see the Eiffel Tower or the Giza Pyramids.  The Louver was closed that day and the line was too long at the Mount Rushmore ride.

Then, the most extraordinary thing happened in the most ordinary of places.

I was at an intersection.  There were impossibly large crowds at every corner.  My corner army made eye contact with those on the opposite side.  The light was about to turn green.  The stage was set for a middle-ages battle scene.  I reached for my broadsword.

Then it got weird.

The crowds rushed towards and through each other with a practiced fluidity that defies description. There were no “bumps” or “get out of my way!”  We just walked forward and ended up on opposite sides; unscathed.

Something had just happened, and I didn’t quite see it yet.

As time went by, I began to notice two things.  First, it was always crowded and yet didn’t feel that way as people noticed each other and each made small movements to accommodate the other.  Secondly, I noticed that the population seemed diverse.  I’m not talking about some white guys and some brown guys.  I’m talking about dozens and dozens of nationalities.  Men, women, old, young, suits, rags, rushing, coasting, laughing, reading, texting, talking, tall, short, skinny, and… robust. There were business suits chatting with pink leather pants.  Gays, straight and miscellaneous getting on with their lives, free from judgement…or judging.

Languages shifted as one group passed out of earshot and another approached.

I expected white men in suits, rushing off to Wall Street and what I got was a cross section of mankind flowing seamlessly in and out of each other’s lives. 

I watched the Lyft driver and the shop keeper, and the subway rider and the ticket taker, all treat everyone as if they were the same.  That sameness being that they were all different.  All different.  All equal and all part of New York.  Even as a tourist, I was the same.  While I was in New York, I was one of them and they were glad I was there.

I eventually spoke to a few locals about what they liked most about their city.  Without exception, the first comment was, “The diversity.”

I’m not sure how New York pulled this off.  I suppose that if you put few million people into a single city they must choose between peaceful coexistence or self-annihilation.  Whatever happened, it appears to be self-sustaining.  It works for them with such success that they embrace it with seemingly every moment of every day.

I wish I could spread the word.  If the people of the world, just for one day, became New Yorkers, there would be no more wars…ever.

I’m now longing to go back again.  I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps and walk out into a world rich in colors, sounds and voices.  And…if the line isn’t too long, I’m going take a ferry over to see the Rock of Gibraltar.

Up, up and away…

Jim

Note: The title of this post is in reference to a book by Robert Heinlein of the same name. Read it!

I’m Confused

This just in: Every now and then, I’m having a conversation with someone and my conscious mind leaves the room. Then I hear something like “Don’t you agree,” to which I nearly always answer with “North Dakota.”

There are other things that I either don’t understand or can’t quite get my head around.

For example, I see the U.K. and the E.U. as members of “my team.” I want them to succeed just like I want the United States to succeed. Their success is our success. This is why the Brexit thing has bothered me. This is like a lose-lose-lose situation.

Why would anyone in the U.K. want out of the E.U.?

I saw an interview that may shed some light on this.

Reporter: “Why did you vote in favor of the U.K. leaving the E.U.?”

Girl: “Well, I heard that they were trying to tell us what chicken eggs we have to buy.”

That’s it! I actually saw this interview.

Meanwhile, people in the U.K. are asking people in the U.S. why they support a president that ignores intelligence briefings in favor of notes passed to him from Putin or Fox and Friends.

Reporter: “Why do you support Trump?”

American: “He says what’s on his mind.”

It should be noted that the homeless man sleeping on the front porch of Macy’s in San Francisco has the exact same qualifications.

And here is one I came across while learning Chinese. There are about 50 ways to say “chi” in Chinese and they all mean something different.

For example: “Chi chi chi chi….chi, chi” Means “I went to the market today and the fish was old but they had Caramel Ice cream.”

The response to this statement is: “Chi….chi-chi!!!” which translates, as far as I can tell, into “North Dakota.”

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

Food, Dogs and Justice

This just in: I can’t decide if life is supposed to be a tragedy or a comedy.  Is it about the journey or the destination? 

And mostly…Taco Bell or Popeye’s chicken.

Let’s start with the last issue first.

Normally, I’m a Popeye’s chicken guy above all else.  Last week I splurged and bought a Family Pack which is enough calories to feed a college football team for about a week.  Took me an hour to finish.  At first, I thought I might not make it.  I’d ordered two Family Size servings of rice and beans as my 2 sides.  However, I forgot to get a fork or spoon.  So, I’m sitting in my hotel room with no way to eat this.  Then…my eyes landed on my plastic room key.  Turns out, that worked pretty well.  However, it would no longer unlock my door the next day.  I actually complained to the front desk about that.

But wait…Taco Bell, sensing that it’s losing the battle for my favorite food, drew me to a Truckstop outside of Kansas City.  I went in and realized I was in heaven.  Side by side was a Taco Bell and a Dunkin Donuts.  I quickly ordered one of everything on the Taco Bell menu and then, just to pass the time while my food was being prepared, sidestepped over to the Dunkin Donut counter and ordered one of everything that had something stuffed into its middle.  I ate all of this during the next hour of driving; using my pants, shirt and steering wheel as napkins.  It was wonderful.

I can talk about my bad food habits because compared to my dog, I’m a walking book of proper dining etiquette.

Of course, I’m referring to my Lab, Echo.  She adheres to the following motto when it comes to food: “If it fits in my mouth, I can eat it.  If it’s not food, I can always poop it out later.”

This is a dog that will eat her own poop.  We have to make sure there is no poops in the yard before we let her out or else she’ll run out and spoil her dinner.  Just the other day, I was talking with my wife on the phone.  She said, “Uh, Oh.”  When I asked what was going on, she replied, “I’m 15 minutes late feeding the dogs.  Echo just went out back.  I think she intends to poop herself an hors d’oeuvre.”

Next…Journey or Destination

I’ve always heard that “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  I get this but…there is a part of me that thinks this was made up by someone that gave up on trying to accomplish something.  Like, maybe its just a way of saying, “We should all get participation awards because we played the game.”  Now, I have evidence that the “journey” may be right.  I’m learning Chinese; on my own.  I’ve been at it for about 3 months now.  The other day I realized that I will never become fluent in Chinese.  This perspective made me instantly think “I should stop wasting my time.”  However, I really enjoy learning Chinese.  I don’t know why but I like it.  So, I continue the journey knowing with absolute certainty that I’ll never reach my destination.  I’m fine with that.

And now for the tragedy…

Here is how I see our justice system at work.

Judge to Cop: “I see you shot an unarmed black man.”

Cop: “Yes, but he had a phone and I mistook it for a missile launcher.”

Judge: “Completely understandable.  Still, you must be punished.”

Cop: “What!  No fair!   I was following the rules.  It clearly states that if a black man has anything in his hand, I can shoot him until I run out of bullets.”

Judge: “Yes, but you got caught.  Not getting caught is part of that very same regulation.  So, I’m sentencing you to watch a 2-part video.  Part 1 is titled – How to turn off your body camera before shooting an unarmed black man.  Part 2 is titled – How to erase body camera footage if you forgot to turn off your body camera when you shot an unarmed black man.”

Cop: “No fair”

Judge: “Next case”

Lawyer: “Your honor, my client pleads guilt to bank fraud, tax evasion and about 16 other felonies that I won’t bother to list right now as I have a pollo match to attend shortly.”

Judge: “I understand.  Let me ask you this – Is your client an unarmed black man?”

Lawyer: “No, he’s a wealthy white man.”

Judge: “Case dismissed.”

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

The “best” people

This just in: I’m watching the Cohen testimony to Congress and I have reached one conclusion – I will never, ever vote for another Republican for as long as I live.

The hypocrisy of Republicans calling Cohen a liar as they defend Trump is amazing to me.

On another issue: Ivanka Trump has apparently walked amongst the common people and arrived at the following conclusion – “Poor Americans don’t want to be paid a living wage.”

Elsewhere…I actually enjoyed the Academy awards this year. It was very supportive of the idea of diversity on every level.

On Netflix, I just finished watching the series “Wanted”. I really enjoyed this and recommend it highly.

On the international page: Trump and Kim Jong Round-Head are sharing a lapdance in Hanoi. Trump has rewritten history about what he is achieving. Before…it was complete denuclearization. In response, Kim Jong Loaf said “We will not denuclearize, ever. But…we have run out of money so we will put testing on hold.” Trump, seeing this, has redefined a success as “So long as they stop testing, I deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.”

On my Nostradamus Page: I predict that Mueller will release a giant stack of indictments soon. Within hours of doing that, he will turn in his report to the Attorney General.

“A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.” Adlai Stevenson

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

Setting the Bar

This just in: Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Let’s start with this – I absolutely believe that it is physically impossible for anything to accelerate to a speed that is faster than light. Einstein said so and countless others that followed him agree.

Having said that, if the government announced that it was funding a massive research project to find a way to accelerate to a speed faster than that of light…I would stand up and applaud.

Why would I do that? Why would I want to “waste” time and money on a task I believe is doomed to fail?

There are a few reasons; the first being…maybe Einstein was wrong. If he was, then the universe suddenly becomes our playground. We could fling ourselves to the stars and live to see new worlds opened up. The prize would be fantastic beyond imagination.

Another reason is that the offshoots of such a program could also provide benefits beyond our imagination. Do a Google Search for “Things discovered by accident” and you’ll see what I mean.

And finally, there is the hope that it brings. I would love to read daily updates on this type of research instead of daily updates on indictments of Trump’s “best people”. Even if it was hopeless, I would still find hope. I know this because I still buy the occasional lottery ticket even while I’m well aware that I’m more likely to be eaten by a polar bear while shopping in Safeway than winning the lottery.

This same attitude makes me inclined to often say “Don’t tell me that we can’t do this or that.”

For Example:

  • Don’t tell me we can’t have the same level of healthcare at the same costs as other industrialized nations.
  • Don’t tell me we can’t get money out of politics.
  • Don’t tell me we can’t find a way to improve our national security without spending $750 billion a year on tanks and such.
  • Don’t tell me we can’t solve Global Warming.
  • Don’t tell me that we can’t educate or feed our children.
  • Don’t tell me that solving addiction is hopeless.
  • Don’t tell me that we can’t solve racism.
  • Don’t tell me that “truth in all things” is not possible.
  • Don’t tell me that we can’t build affordable housing, effective mass transportation and eliminate poverty.

Yes, these types of things are seemingly unattainable so…I refer you back to Henry Ford’s quote.

I’ll finish with a short story. This was mandatory reading for officers newly reporting to a cruiser I served on while in the Navy.

The USS Yorktown limped into Pearl Harbor after a battle in WWII. This was an aircraft carrier that was so damaged, it had a list that looked like it would turn over in a strong breeze.

The Admiral in charge (I am not sure of his name…Halsey?) asked the base commander how long wit would take before the carrier could go back to sea and launch aircraft. The answer was “6 months, Sir.”

The Admiral responded with, “You have 96 hours.”

Four days later, the Yorktown left port, ready for duty. It’s presence in the Pacific confused the Japanese who thought they had sunk this ship. It played a key role in the U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway.

The lesson here is…you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Perhaps this even applies to passing through the speed of light.

Up, up and away…

Jim

The Hidden Reason for the Trump/McConnell shutdown

This just in: If you believe that Trickle-Down Economics is a sound theory that actually works, stop reading now since this simply written blog is about to fly right over your 3rd grade level of economics.

Let’s set the stage…

When the Republican Party took over the House and the Senate, they changed the way their economic policies are graded.

Under Democrats, a policy would have its outcome predicted in advance. If the results came out different, there would be some “splaining” to do. Congress would have to admit that their actions were wrong and promise to do better in the future.

Under Republicans, this was changed to “Dynamic Scoring.” This means they could make a prediction about an outcome (as before) but now, they could readjust their prediction about the outcome once it actually happened. It allowed them to rewrite history so they would always be right.

Step 2 was to pass a massive tax cut for the rich.

The predictions in advance said everyone would get huge tax breaks and the economy would grow upwards of 5% per year. This is a huge rate of growth. Republicans also said that the increased economic activity would easily pay off the predicted multi-trillion dollar debt that would build up if things didn’t work out.

The result of the tax break is clear. Almost no one got a raise unless they were already rich. The debt is soaring out of control at a record pace. And as every educated economist predicted, our economy is heading into a recession now that the short term benefit of the tax break have passed.

These results are like a billboard on every highway in America that says, “Republicans have no idea what they are doing!!”

Now…let’s get back to that Dynamic Scoring…

I just read a headline that says “Even Republicans are fearing that the economy will have ZERO growth this year…”

But wait! There’s more.

According to Republicans, the reason growth will drop to ZERO is not because of the Tax Scam. No…they are saying, “We were right about the tax break causing huge growth. That is going just as expected…except the Government Shutdown is countering that growth so it will be ZERO. Thank goodness we passed that tax scam/bill.”

See what they are doing? They are acting as if the tax cut worked so the Republicans will bear no blame for the coming recession. Also, by blaming the shutdown, they hope to smear a least of bit of the blame on Democrats.

This also explains why Mitch McConnell is as interested in keeping this shutdown going as Trump. Trump is having a tantrum. Mitch is trying to hide his role in the coming recession.

So there you have it – Why the government is shutdown.

Yes, there are other reasons: (1) Russia told Trump to shut it down, (2) Trump needs a distraction from the Mueller probe.

I was going to add that Trump needed a distraction from the Cohen testimony but witness tampering by the President of the United States put an end to that threat.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

The Unthinkable Has Happened

This just in: Last week I had a momentary lapse and became gullible.

Here is what happened.

Many of you have seen that kid wearing the MAGA hat and taunting the native American.

I saw this and immediately bought into the narrative. I blamed his parents for raising a racist. I blamed Trump for promoting racism in the United States. I wanted to be angry about this because it fit in nicely with my ideas about “the other side of American.”

It turns out that there was more to this story.

I won’t go into the details but this was far from a bunch of high school kids picking on a native American. In fact, their version seems to support the fact that they were remaining passive in the face of instigation in an attempt to diffuse a complex situation.

So…I’m sorry. I fell for the very type of thing I blame so many others for.

Confirmation Bias causes us all to look for things we want to believe in and then, when we find that one thing that fits, we sit back smugly with an “I told you so” attitude.

I was wrong. The good news is, that when the fault is mine, then it’s within my ability to fix it. In this case, the “fix” is to realize that I’m not above the fray. I fell for this and will probably fall for something else all over again.

Damn it!

I thought superheroes would rise above such nonsense. Maybe some actually do. Maybe I’m just one bite from a radioactive spider away from being the perfect representation of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Seems unlikely but you never know.

Up, up and away…

Jim

Illegal Drugs…solved

This just in: I just read where there was a major seizure of illegal drugs at an airport yesterday. It’s time to solve this problem.

Not only the drugs, but I heard a surfer landed in Malibu the other day towing a boat loaded with Chinese prostitutes. Add to this, the “rapist tunnels of Canada” where rapists, and other bad actors are entering our country illegally to have their way with our womenfolk.

We don’t need to put up with this any longer. I have a plan.

I think we should build walls around airports. I’m talking really, really tall walls. Yes, a plane can fly over walls but that’s not the point. The point is that a wall is a symbol that “We don’t take kindly to your kind here.”

On our southern border, we need to build underground walls to stop all of that tunnelling. We can get Canada to pay for it by promising not to build underground walls on our northern border and thus leaving their rapist trade uninterrupted.

As for these Mexican surfer dudes (I assume they are Mexican because of their dark skin, although that may be a tan)…we need something better than a wall. I suggest a moat. A moat around the entire nation’s coastline. This is a great idea for three reasons: (1) building a wall to keep out surfers is just stupid, (2) There is lots of readily available water to fill the moat and (3) Moats kept people out of castles like 2,000 years ago so they must work.

Aside from rapists and non-whites, there are others we need to be protected from. Take the homeless for example. We can wall them in as well; not with a wall that has slates, but a solid wall so we can’t see them and pretend they don’t exist. These don’t need to be tall walls because the homeless almost never have access to quality ladders.

As for those pesky religions that are not correct in their beliefs, we can put them in walled areas with a single exit. For them to get out, they must first get by my church’s greeter who will insist on shaking their hand and then asking if they have let Jesus Christ into their lives yet. This will keep them in with such effectiveness that we won’t even need a gate.

And finally, what to do with the gays. You know who I’m talking about; those people that gave their souls to the devil by acting in one of two ways: (1) a way I find offensive or (2) I way I want to behave but am afraid you will judge me and send me to hell.

I would write something now about lowering taxes for the rich in order to pay for our roads and schools but I can only pander to the Republicans out there so much before my soul withers and dies.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

The right side of History

This just in: I’ve decided to take a look into my crystal ball (all superheroes have one) and let you know what I see.

At some point in the future, hopefully not too distant, I see the following…

  1. People marvel at the idea of discrimination against people due to their sexual orientation. In fact, they rejoice at the variety of choices they freely indulge in without judgement.
  2. Religion as a “matter of faith” has been completely abandoned as a mainstream practice. It is replaced by science-based searches into “who we are” and “why are we here?”
  3. The color of one’s skin is celebrated as a contribution to the highly valued concept of “Diversity.”
  4. All people, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, beliefs, intellect, wealth, education, heritage, location of birth and every other trait, are considered equally valuable to society and welcomed equally everywhere.
  5. Fact-checking is so instantaneous and widely accepted that News Agencies and Politicians have completely abandoned attempts to mislead.
  6. Science matters.
  7. Protecting the Earth’s ecosystem is the top priority of every person; a priority instilled at the time of birth and maintained throughout one’s life.
  8. Hunger and poverty are so far in the rear view mirror that they have become the stuff of scary stories told around campfires; Stories that scare us and then make us laugh because they are so unlikely.
  9. Freedom from fear is a mantra. The people of the world recognizes this as a wind that blows through all of us. We actively work together to help each other through this when it’s our time in the breeze.
  10. There is no more war; no more guns. Disagreements are worked through with thought and integrity. Violence is eliminated as the proverbial “last resort.”

There you have it. Just a peek. Reading back through all of these, I find #9 to be the most likely precursor to the others. So long and we have unbridled fear, we will behave like the barbarians whose DNA is still strong in all of us.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

And the Wall…came tumbling down

This just in: I know it’s been talked to death but I have a few words on the government shutdown and Trump’s wall.

Let’s start with this…”Tell them we will build a wall.” This is how Trump’s handlers got him to remember to talk about immigration during the campaign. It’s like saying, “Remember, a lot of our base is racist so you need to give them something racist to cheer about.”

Trump first said “We are going to build a wall” and then marvelled at how the crowd reacted. He then ad-libbed “And Mexico is going to pay for it” and the crowd went wild.

This reaction imprinted the idea of a wall on Trump’s infant mind.

Some facts:

  1. There is no crisis at the southern border. I won’t go into details. There is plenty of data about this. So, if you don’t believe me, then you are just listening to Trump or Fox News and there is no help for you.
  2. Trump sent Congress a budget, they came back and gave him what he asked for. But, in the meantime, Trump watched some TV and found that a couple of conservative talk show hosts scolded him for not getting a wall. When Congress came to Trump and said, “Here is what you asked for” Trump said…I have decided I also want a wall.
  3. If you want our country to be safe, pay the Coast Guard who is currently not being paid.
  4. If you want our country to be safe, pay TSA agents who are currently not being paid.
  5. The shutdown directly affects 800,000 paychecks from people that work for the government. However, millions are feeling the impact indirectly or as government services stop.

Now, It’s okay for the president to veto a budget submitted to him by Congress. If Congress really wants something but the president vetoes them, then Congress can override his veto with a 67% vote.

Mitch McConnell will not even allow this vote to take place. This, even though they had a nearly 100% approval of the budget sent to Trump.

McConnell won’t hold this vote because it will force some senators to either publicly vote for the government shutdown (in support of Trump) or it will make senators publicly vote against Trump, thus earning them nicknames.

It’s clear to me that the public wants the shutdown to end.

It’s clear to me that the public does not want a wall.

It’s clear to me that Trump is stuck in some alternative reality where he thinks he is actually a great negotiator.

It’s clear to me that if Congress actually represented the public, they would allow an override vote of Trump’s veto.

It’s clear to me that the Republican Party is afraid of Trump.

And sadly, its clear to me that about 38% of Americans are okay with all of this and thus….we are being governed by the minority.

Conclusion: The Republican Party is far more interested in power and keeping their jobs than they are in actually doing their jobs and promoting a true Democratic government.

Just sayin…

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim