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Racism

Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.

— Will Smith

I don’t understand what makes people do things like this to other human beings.

I don’t like child molesters.

I don’t like child cruelty.

I don’t like things like this being done by my government in my name.

When politicians quote verses in scripture to justify their dirty deeds, the society is usually in trouble.

What distinguishes the blabbering of biblical verses of Jeff Sessions from those of Taliban lunatics or ISIS murderers who quote the Quran to justify their crimes and atrocities?

Nothing that I see.

Our country is not supposed to be based on religious values. I don’t want our so-called leaders to rationalize their crimes against humanity based on religious value systems that many of us do not support or subscribe to.

“Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Steve Doocy on the White House lawn Friday. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

— President Donald Trump

It is obvious that our president is impressed with dictators. I wonder who he thinks “my people” are. I hope the doesn’t think I am “his people.”

It is simple, Mr. President: All you have to do is arrest and execute a few of “your people” when they don’t sit up at attention when you speak, and you’ll quickly see changes.

It was about 2011. Ross Ulbricht was a brilliant young American college student in Austin, Texas. His main area of interest and study was physics. He wanted to change the world. He tried to get accepted to the reality show Amazing Race with his sister but they didn’t make it onto the show. If they had been accepted, his life might have been completely different.

Ross was also a libertarian. One of his fundamental believes was that the government has no right to dictate what a person does with their body or what they put into it. For instance drugs, including illegal drugs.

That belief eventually gave him the idea to create a website called the Silk Road which turned into a highly successful bazar for buyers and sellers of drugs. Within a couple of years the site grew to serve the sale of over $1.2 billion in drugs, weapons, and even body parts and organs. Ross made tens of millions of dollars in commissions for himself.

In American Kingpin, the writer tells the story of how Ross got the idea, how the started the site modestly by selling magic mushrooms he grew in his own apartment, and how it eventually grew into a formidable criminal empire. The story is reminiscent of the rise of Walter White in Breaking Bad. The only difference is, Walter White is a fictional character. Ross Ulbricht is a real person, an all-American young man.

Does this person look like one of the most successful drug dealers of all time? Does this person look like someone who ordered people killed, Walter White-style?

While the reader observes his rise, he is also following the various branches of law enforcement that start closing in on him, one minor step at a time, until they eventually close the trap.

American Kingpin is a very readable book. Once I started I just kept turning the pages, almost like a thriller. I learned much about the dark web and how it works, and while I was following the hapless journey of Ross Ulbricht from innocent college student to drug dealer, I had to remind myself that this was a true story.

Of course, there is a website to Free Ross Ulbricht where you can learn much more about the Kingpin. People argue that his sentence was not fair. There are drug dealers in prison for life for having sold heroin and cocaine on the street. The “dirty” kind of drug dealing. Ross did it from behind a keyboard. Hmmm. People still died from his product.

You get to judge for your own as you read the book.

Trump has tweeted about the witch hunt going on.

Today Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort has been jailed following new charges of witness tampering. He’ll be held without bail until trial.

Trump has complained that due to the witch hunt many “lives have been destroyed.” Really? The lives of criminals like Manafort who consistently enriched themselves by money laundering, making false statements, filing fraudulent documents, bank fraud, and the list goes on?

It may well be that if Trump had never run for president, Manafort would be happily engaging in all those activities now.

It may also well be that if Trump had never run for president, his fixer Cohen would still be out there practicing law, threatening journalists, and palling around with Russian mobsters.

It may well be that dozens of indictments would not have happened, hadn’t it been for Trump running for president.

At the end of the day, those indictments, that will eventually turn most of the recipients into felons, were valid and justified. We have smoked out an empire of what looks like organized crime activity at the cost of the American public. Trump filed bankruptcy every time the criminal deeds of his fixers and followers were not enough to bail him out. Then the public got to pay.

So Trump wants us to believe these people are innocent. There were no crimes.

I say that these people now wish they had never engaged in business with Trump. Everything he touches eventually crumbles, recently more publicly than before. Everybody that works closely with Trump is getting disgraced at best, and cast off by Trump more often than not.

Let’s just hope our country and democracy are stronger than some of his businesses.

Some witch hunt!

Trump and Crimea

Trump Told World Leaders Crimea Is Russian Because Everyone There Speaks Russian.

Maybe that means that the United States and Canada, except for Quebec, should belong to England, since we all speak English!

Yeah! Go Trump!

 

 

In 1939, they called places like this Concentration Camps. What do we call them now?

To be fair, this picture is from 2014, when Obama was still president. We have done this for a while.

I wonder what the conditions are like now?

Tami (Shailene Woodley) is a 19-year-old girl who drifted to Tahiti to get away from her childhood and youth of neglect and abuse in a broken family in San Diego. Richard (Sam Claflin) is an English young sailor who worked in a shipyard and built himself a sailboat. As he enters the port in Tahiti he sees Tami working on the docks and is smitten. The two fall in love. Friends of Richard show up in Tahiti and tell him they have to fly back to Europe for an emergency. Would he do them a favor and sail their boat back to San Diego?

Tami and Richard set sail across the Pacific and eventually head straight into a catastrophic hurricane. Changing course too late, they soon face an impossible sea. Richard gets swept off the boat by a giant wave braking over the bow, and Tami gets knocked out down in the cabin. The boat loses its masts and is severely damaged, but continues to float.

Tami awakens and quickly realizes that there is no hope for rescue.

This movie is based on a true story. It’s a bit disjointed to watch. How do you make a movie that is interesting and suspenseful about sitting in a boat adrift in an endless ocean alone for a month and a half?

When I was in my teen years, sailing the world was also my number one dream. Of course, I never even set foot in a sailboat in the ocean until decades later when I realized that there were risks and dangers associated with sailing on the high seas, and tremendous sacrifices. Adrift reminded me of that. But it did rekindle some of those old dreams.

Scotty, a nine-year-old boy, and his dog, can’t wait to run down to the beach upon arriving at their parents’ summer house on Nantucket. They are never seen again, until they mysteriously reappear 16 years later.

As we learn later, Scotty was abducted by a UFO. The aliens have a noble mission to save humanity from complete destruction due to a massive cosmic calamity, and abducting human children is part of that mission.

I was looking forward to a nice alien story, but I was disappointed. The aliens are called the Vallic and they are 97 percent energy. Viewed by a human they are simply faint blue outlines – of humanoid structure. I was disappointed because, like in so many science fiction books, here are aliens that are humans in costumes.  Not only are they humanoid, they have males and females, and the voices of the females are softer and they have – breasts. To top it off, they speak English. McGinnis is a creative author, with great ideas. Why couldn’t he have been a little more creative with the aliens?

The story employs some interesting concepts, but it was just too crude and simple for me. The author is actually a pretty good story teller, he moves the plot along, but there are too many of these “oh seriously?” moments sprinkled throughout, I never got fully immersed in the story. He kept reminding me that this was not real, with unbelievable fabrications (like aliens in human form who speak English), cardboard characters, caricatures of government officials, crazy magic-like science, and flat and boring protagonists. I was never immersed in the world he created.

I was going to blast the author for using the cutesy word “ginormous” a number of times. I really thought that was a made-up word. Before I complained, though, I looked it up, and sure enough, it’s in the dictionary, with its synonym humongous.

I stayed with it to the end, only to be disappointed that there was no resolution, no end. The book ended from one paragraph to the next, where the author tells us to wait for the next book in the series. I hate books with no ends, especially when I read one where I don’t know there won’t be an end because the author is planning a series all along. My bad.

Sorry, I won’t be reading the next one. After reading this whole book I am just not interested enough in finding out what happens next.

But I did learn that ginormous is an English word, not just slang.

Browsing Facebook this morning I found that there was a Fahenweihe this weekend in Illkofen, my childhood village in Bavaria. The word Fahenweihe means the “ordination of the flag” or “blessing of the flag.” This usually takes place at significant anniversaries of clubs, mostly of the volunteer fire department.

Here is their brochure and program for the weekend. Illkofen, when I grew up, was a little village in the heart of Bavaria with perhaps 250 souls. Today it may be 400 or 500. For a Fahnenweihe they have a serious program of religious services, dances, a parade, and lots of beer and Bratwurst. The celebrations go on all weekend, and as I am writing this post, the beer tent is probably teeming with serious music and drinking.

The beer tent is a tent put up for the weekend, similar to those we’ll find at county fairs in the U.S. They have a band stand at the end, a dance floor in the middle, and rows of picnic tables on both sides.

In the picture above you can see the ceremonial tapping of the first keg. The people in uniform in the back are not soldiers. These are firemen in their dress uniforms. It’s all about the 150th anniversary of the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Illkofen (volunteer fire department of Illkofen).

One of the highlights of the event is the parade, which takes place on Sunday afternoon. The local village invites the fire departments from many surrounding villages for the parade. A small village may send a handful of people. Large villages can send dozens of them. They come with all their pomp and glory, in full uniform. The parade, of course has a marching band, and then, one by one, the clubs march by. Each club brings their flags which are carried in front of the group by one of the members. Then, in front of each club, a boy is assigned to carry the “sign” identifying the club, usually the village name.

And now comes the part about reminiscing about my childhood.

I came about this Facebook post of the 150th anniversary by accident, but in the summer of 1968, when I was just going on 12 years old, the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Illkofen had its 100th anniversary, and I was there.

The interesting and exciting part for the local boys at a Fahnenweihe is this: the boys get assigned villages for which to carry the signs. They are called Taferlbuam, which is a Bavarian slang term for sign boys. You won’t find that in any dictionary. It is tradition that the visiting club tips the Taferlbuam for their services of carrying the sign, and invite them to eat and drink with them after the parade in the festival tent. The larger the club you are assigned to, the larger the likey tip, since they just pass one of their hats around the membership and collect. So if each person of a large club just puts a few bills into the collection, it can make for a massive tip for a 12 year old boy. There was quite some competition amongst us boys for the assignment. Everyone wanted to be assigned to a large club. I don’t know who does the assignment, probably the fire captain, and I don’t remember the name of the club I was assigned to. It was medium sized and I remember having a pocket full of money and being happy.

The sign boy gets to sit with the club in the festival tent and celebrate. Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and a roll are consumed, all paid for by the club. And the beer flows freely.

And now, my American reader, you have to set aside your customary puritan views about alcohol and youth drinking, as it is tradition in Bavaria that the poor sign boy not only walks away with a pocket full of cash, but that he is also completely and thoroughly drunk. In fact, I may venture to say that a Fahnenweihe could well be the first introduction to serious alcoholic consumption to young Bavarian boys.

It was certainly so for me. I don’t remember much about the festival tent. It does not take too much beer to make a 12 year old drunk. I remember somehow making it home, which was only a few hundred yards away. I remember throwing up violently. I remember wallowing and writhing in pain in the grass in the yard of my house in the sunny afternoon, with my sisters and mother looking over me. I remember being so sick, so wasted, that I was sure I was going to die. I remember begging my sisters not to leave me alone, because dying alone would be too frightening.

Eventually, somehow, I got over it and I am sure I slept a long time. I could not even smell beer without gagging for years afterwards. I may have made it to age 15 or so before I took another sip.

Interestingly, an American reader might be shocked and worried about the abuse of alcohol by youth, but I can assure you after inductions like these, there is no mystery about alcohol.  Alcoholic binging that occurs with American young people when they finally reach legal drinking age does no happen there. It’s all too common and by then many have lost interest. As a result, by young people getting acclimated to alcohol as they grow up, the lure is less intense. I am not saying one system is better than the other, but I can say that my experience contributed to very modest alcohol use over the course my own life.

And this was my childhood reminiscence that was prompted by an innoccuous Facebook post about the Fahenweihe in Illkofen 2018 that took me back into my childhood to the summer of 1968.

 

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a hapless silver miner in 1898 in the California desert. One day, completely alone, he falls down a shaft and breaks his leg. By pure chance, he happens upon oil. Relentlessly, he learns the oil business. He raises his infant son, whose mother died in childbirth, by taking him with him to the places where he works. The boy grows up learning the business from his father.

To get the rights to the land where he wants to drill, the sweet-talks the owners to give him permission to drill their land, or to sell the land to him outright. As the years go by, he builds an oil empire, and gradually, power and money consume him.

Over time he makes enemies of all the people around him, and at the height of his wealth and power, he starts battling with his own son.

There Will Be Blood plays in the California desert. After living in California for well more than half of my life, I consider myself a native, and I recognized the natural landscape. Outsiders think of California covered with palm trees. California is mostly desert, completely dry, dusty, rocky, with few shrubs or trees. This movie shows California as it looked a hundred years ago, before suburbs and urban sprawl took over. The hardness and harshness of life comes through, and the frantic search for a way to make a living is in everyone’s eyes.

I found this movie very hard to watch, depressing most of the time, and way too long at 158 minutes. But Daniel Day-Lewis is a master actor, and he carries the film.

I warn you, this is not relaxing or enjoyable, but it is educational.

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