Clueless

This just in: “I need to stop getting into situations where all my options are potentially bad.” 
― Jack Campbell, Dauntless

As a country … We need to stand for something. We need an identity. We need to have an overall Truth about who we are.

And…we need a plan.

Lewis Carroll famously said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

This pops into my head almost daily now; driven by the insanity of what our government has become.

We impose tariffs on China and our allies with no plan. Trump doesn’t know how tariffs work so he makes something up that no economist anywhere agrees with. The bigger problem is that he has no idea what he wants to achieve. Saying “China has been very unfair to us” means nothing. Our entire national economic strategy is created and implemented by the fictitious mind of a D student sitting in the Oval Office.

Now, we are beating the drums of war in Iran’s neighborhood. None of our allies understand why. No one in Congress knows why. Only Trump and a couple of advisers seem to be aware of a threat; a threat that they can’t define or share. So, we go to war because we have nothing else to do on a sunny spring afternoon.

Alabama wants to ban abortions for everyone. Why? Because a bunch of men said so. It doesn’t matter that only 21% of Americans agree with them. What’s next? Women that show too much ankle in public should be stoned? Women than don’t obey their husbands or that dare to drive a car should be burned at the stake?

Let’s take these three issues: Tariffs, Abortion and Iran. Tell me what the endgame is. Tell me how our current actions achieve that endgame. Tell me how these issues directly reflect the wishes of the American public.

The fact is, that we are wondering through the forest and chopping down trees because….Trump likes to be in the news.

That’s it. Trump wants to be in the news.

There is no plan for our economy, our military or our morality. We are all over the map; following a leader with a destructive form of Attention Deficit Disorder. He flitters about, sold on the last idea that passed in one of his ears and out the other. He has no discernable moral position other than, he should do whatever he wants at any time.

We, as a nation, are lost in the woods. We are lost because we are following a leader that has no idea where he is going, much less how to get there even if he did know.

Alas…

I suppose I must go and save the world. But, I must say…I’m losing my motivation.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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Silence = Consent

This just in: Congress has the DUTY of oversight. They are an equal branch of government with the president and a big part of their job is to keep the president from wrong-doing such as criminal activity or ignoring the Constitution. In fact, this is exactly why they are a “co-equal” branch.

However, it appears that the Republican presence in Congress is nothing more than a bunch of Trump puppets.

For example…

Republicans remained silent as Trump decided to spend money on a border wall. Congress gets to control the spending in our government but the president can do so in an emergency. Apparently, a bus load of children and single mothers is an emergency.

Republicans are remaining silent as Trump is refusing to cooperate with subpoenas from Congress. These are legally enforceable requests from Congress. In this case, they are following a pretty obvious trail of criminal obstruction that leads directly to Trump.

Republicans are remaining silent as Trump’s Treasury secretary illegally decided to not provide Trump’s tax records. The law says that these records MUST be provided. This demand is being ignored.

Republicans remain silent as Trump laughs with a supporter about shooting immigrants.

Republicans have remained silent as Trump imposes 25% tariffs on China. These are tariffs that are actually paid by the American public. These are also tariffs that Trump is imposing by saying “National Emergency” when all he is really doing is trying to hurt China (completely ignoring the fact that these really hurt Americans, not the Chinese).

Republican have not only remained silent, but actively worked with Trump to keep the full Mueller report from being released to Congress.

Republicans are silent when Trump actively supports the idea that taxes should be avoided if at all possible.

Republicans have remained silent as Trump’s words and actions scream “I am a racist!”

Republicans have remained silent as Trump’s words and actions have screamed, “I think women are sex object and nothing more.”

Republicans have remained silent as Trump reneges on one treaty or trade agreement after another.

Republicans have remained silent as Trump opens up the United States lands to exploitation by oil companies.

Republicans have remained silent as Trump passes the 10,000 lies mark at just over 2 years into his presidency.

Republicans have remained silent as 15 school shootings this year.

Republicans have remained silent as the NRA is investigated for campaign contribution crimes as well as associations with Russia.

Republicans have remained silent (at the very least) when they actually let Russian sanctions be lifted on a Russian who immediately turned around and invested $200 million in Mitch McConnell’s state.

Republicans have remained silent as Trump has unsupervised and unrecorded meetings with Putin while he is being investigated with regards to his relationship with Putin.

Republicans have remained silent as their tax cut for the very, very rich continues to add $trillions to our national debt.

If Trump wants to do something that the president is not allowed to do, he just claims “National Emergency.”

If Trump doesn’t want to do something that he is legally required to do, like provide requested documents to Congress, he says, “Executive Privilege.”

The the Republican Party, through their complete silence, is allowing this to happen.

I think I could go on and on.

In my view, the Republican Party = Trump. This should scare everyone.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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You tell me if this is ethical

This just in: The New York Times uncovered about 11 years of tax information on Trump (1985 – 1995).

The big deal here seems to be that he lost over a billion dollars.

I have a bigger problem, at least for me.

It turns out that during this time, Trump made a lot of money on the stock market. How, you might ask, does someone with as little business sense as Trump, make money on the stock market?

Good question. Here is what he did…

Trump would buy up a bunch of stock in a company, he would then let it “leak” out that he was thinking of buying the company. People would hear about this and rush to buy some stock in that very company. As they bought more and more stock, Supply/Demand dictates that the price would go up; which it did.

After the price went up, Trump would then sell all of his stock at a profit.

In short, he took money from those that overpaid for the stock in anticipation of Trump buying the company.

Now, this is not illegal.

But…is it ethical. Is it ethical to knowingly convince people to buy a stock that you plan on selling off at a time that only you will profit….at their expense?

Trump, not surprisingly, had no problem with this.

Eventually it became “Fool me once – shame on you. Fool me twice – shame on me.” People figured out Trump’s con-job and quit following his investments. When this happened, Trump quickly lost the money that he had gained.

Call is Karma.

This, to me, seems to be the ethical bar that Trump has used to conduct his entire life. If he can profit from it; if he can get away with it…then it’s fair game.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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Trump is an Economic Moron

This just in: Trump has successfully marketed himself as a Deal Maker. I beg to differ. In fact, his sense of deals, business and the economy are all at a level of what I would suspect is a D level student.

Let’s start with his bankruptcies...

Trump has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy 6 times. That is 6 times more than I have.

Let’s look at his known taxes from the mid 80’s into the 90’s…

Trump lost over $1 billion. One of his ways of making money back then was to buy a lot of stock in a company and then let it leak out that he wanted to buy that company. This would cause the stock price to rise. When it did, Trump would sell at a profit. This worked for a couple of years until people found out he was conning them. Trump then lost all of the money he’d made through this scam.

Let’s look at his deal making...

So far he has reneged on the Paris Climate Accord, the Russian Missile Treaty, the Iran Nuclear Treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA. None of these has been replaced. He claims great progress is being made on all of these….He also claims that he has a plan for great health care so we know what to expect…nothing. How are you going to make a deal when you have a legacy of failure, conning and reneging?

Let’s take a look at his tariffs

Tariffs are taxes paid by the country that is importing goods to the United States. So, if China wants to send us $100 of goods, they have to pay $25 in taxes. Trump claims this is hurting China and making us rich. However, a recent study showed that China is just adding that extra cost on to whatever they sell us. So, what you used to buy from China for $100 is now costing us $125. This means that it is the American Economy that is footing the bill for Trump’s tariffs. At the same time, China retaliates with tariffs on our exports to them. So, American soybeans now cost more in China. what happens? China buys soybeans from someone else. We lose again.

Everyone is welcome to like whatever political person they want. However, If you think Trump is a Deal Maker; if you think he is an economic genius…you are holding the score card upside down.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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Party over Country

This just in: I have been trying over the last few months, to not write blog posts that are overly political. But…I have something to say.

In the last few days, Trump has sided with Putin over his entire security staff and claimed that Russia is not involved in Venezuela because….Putin said so.

In the last few days, Attorney General Barr lied to Congress when he said he didn’t know how Mueller felt about Barr’s position with regards to the Mueller report.

In the last few days, Barr has refused a Congressional subpoena to release the entire Mueller report.

In the last few days, Barr has refused to testify in front of the House of Representatives.

In the last few days, Sec. of Treasury Mnuchin, has refused to follow the law and release Trump’s tax returns to Congress.

In the last few days, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, reported to jail for a crime Trump told him to commit.

In the last few days, Trump has floated the idea that his term be extended by 2 years because the Mueller investigation took all of the fun out of his first two years.

In the last few days, over 500 current and former federal prosecutors have signed a letter stating that, based on the Mueller report, if Trump were not president, he would be charged with several felonies.

In the last few days, Trump has declared that he will not comply with any Congressional demands with regards to data and interviews that are related to the Mueller report.

The Republican Senate, to all of this is: “The Mueller report has exonerated the president and it’s time to move on.”

Enough said.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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Word That Should Exist…but don’t.

This just in: I was playing Scrabble with my wife yesterday. English is her second language so you’d think I would have an advantage. Turns out I didn’t.

She caught me three times trying to use all seven of my letter tiles to make words that don’t exist but should. If you use all seven of your tiles, you get a bonus of 50 points; something I desperately needed as she was crushing me.

Here are my 7-letter words that I tried to use but, for some reason, were left out of the Scrabble dictionary:

Lioning (verb): To be in the process of acting like a lion.

Snorier (adjective): To snore more than other people in a general location.

Boilage (noun): That stuff permanently bonded to the bottom of a cooking pot that you forgot and left on the burner.

These seem like legitimate words to me.

On the Entertainment page…

I saw Hamilton a couple of weeks back. It was great. I understand why Trump tried to tell us it was terrible (without having seen it). All of our founding fathers are played by African Americans. That’s all Trump needed to know in order to give it a thumbs down.

On the Literature page…

I’ve just started reading a book entitled The Second Mountain. It’s a book about life. The first mountain is our ego mountain where we focus on things like money and job. The second mountain is where we go when we surprisingly find the first mountain unsatisfying. The second mountain is about community and helping others. I’m finding it a very entertaining read and can relate to a lot of what I’ve read so far.

On the sports page…

I haven’t blogged recently so I want to shout out to Tiger Woods for his win at the Masters. Yes, he’s had his low points but I’d say that our great president typically does worse by the time he finishes his second helping of McBreakfast. My hope is that Tiger publicly turns down the Medal of Freedom that Trump wants to give him.

Time to save the world…

Up, up and away…

Jim

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No Collusion, No Puppet

This just in: It appears that the Mueller report could not find enough evidence to charge Trump with Collusion with Russia. The report, what we know of it thus far, did state specifically that it did not exonerate Trump from the charge of Obstruction.

Of course, in the face of direct evidence to the contrary, Trump goes on tour and announces “The report completely exonerates me!” And his followers go wild.

I have long suspected that Trump did not have a collusion agreement with Russia. My primary reason for this is that Trump is not intellectually capable of such a complicated plot. What I do suspect is that Trump is what Hillary claimed in the debates – A puppet for Putin. And…Trump is not even aware of this. Putin strokes Trump just right and Trump does what Putin wants.

But let’s forget about Russia. If Russia didn’t exist, would Trump be a good president?

I would argue the following short list off the top of my head makes him unqualified:

Subverting the Constitution to spend money not authorized by Congress to build a border wall.

Statements like “There are good people on both sides” when referring to white supremacists and counter protesters.

When given the choice between compassion and cruelty, he chooses the latter. Note: Families seeking asylum at the southern border or Puerto Rico.

Cutting off aid to Central American countries in an effort to stop immigration. Completely ignoring the fact that this aid was helping to stem immigration to begin with.

Promotes “healthy asbestos” and “Vaccines cause Autism”.

Denies climate change and does everything in his power to promote the carbon industry while squashing the Green industries.

Lies constantly. For example, just before the 2018 elections he announced that they were working on a major tax cut of 10% for middle class families. This only existed in his head. Now he is claiming a great healthcare plan with better coverage and lower costs. To see it, all you need to do is re-elect him in 2020.

Supports brutal dictators around the world in places like Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.

Does not even pretend to be president for All Americans. You are either on his team or you are the enemy.

Supported a tax bill that adds trillions to our national debt while benefiting only the already very rich.

Likes to “grab them by the pussy” because when you’re famous you can get away with it.

Opposes the entire world by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.

Calls members of Congress names in very much the same way a schoolyard bully would do.

Belittles our NATO allies and often muses about getting out.

Turned over our role as an international trade leader to China.

I could go on and on. My point is that the “Russia Thing” is just a small slice of Trump’s complete Pie of Incompetence.

Just a note on his healthcare plan. First of all, there is no plan. The Republicans have had 10 years to come up with a plan and the best they can do is “No, you shut up.” Anyway, Rick Scott has been put in charge of this. When asked how his plan is shaping up, he basically said, “Our plan, that does not exist, would be great except Nancy Pelosi will block it at some point in the future.”

He is actually blaming Pelosi for something she didn’t do to something he hasn’t created.

And yet…there are still people out there that vote for Republicans.

Amazing.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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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!

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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

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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

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