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Watching the inauguration ceremonies on Wednesday, we kept seeing dignitaries come out the gate of the Capitol, walking down the stairs and to their seats. I have watched these ceremonies all my life.

Here is President Biden getting sworn in, and behind him you can see the door they came through.

Here is a view of the riots at the Capitol exactly two weeks before, showing, as far as I can tell, the same door.

This is where the mob dragged police officers out of the door and down the steps. They were beating them with flagpoles of the American flag.

These are the same people that complained when Kaepernick took a knee at a football game that he was dishonoring the American flag. Apparently there is nothing wrong with using a flag to beat up a police officer, but kneeling during the anthem is dishonoring the flag.

The desecration of the symbols of the oldest democracy in the world, and the very building from which it comes, is being called “patriotic” by this band of thugs. These are the people who say they want to make America great again, with Trump’s name right there.

Some pictures cannot be unseen.

I will always see this in front of me when I see the dignitaries exit this door of the Capitol in the future. It’s as burned into my memory as the twin towers in New York, smoking black into the blue morning sky of September 11, 2001.

Despicable.

I just re-read my review of Nov 6, 2010, now more than ten years ago, of the book New York: The Novel – by Edward Rutherford. It is a remarkably good book; obviously I gave it my maximum of four stars, and since it’s been 10 years, and many of my  readers today were not following me 10 years ago, I thought I’d repost the review here – it’s as fresh as ever, and it’s an extraordinary book.

It may not be the same to you if you have never visited New York. But for me, having been there many times over the years, I never looked at the city quite the same way again after reading Rutherfurd’s book.

And while I am thinking about books about New York, the list is not complete without Forever – by Pete Hamill. I reviewed this in 2009, and it’s another delightfully entertaining novel about the history of New York from the point of view of an – shall I say – extraordinary character. Another four stars.

I highly recommend both for your reading lists.

When I am preoccupied with our small lives, political upheaval, and a raging pandemic, it always helps me when I get some perspective on the my life, the world, and ultimately what really matters.

Invariably, I get drawn to astronomy, and visualizing the amazing distances involved. We even have this saying that when some number is huge, it’s “astronomical.”

At one time I speculated and visualized the size of our galaxy with respect to the sun. I wanted to know the distance to the nearest star if the sun was the size of a red blood cell. I documented that in this post Tangerines and the Size of the Solar System and Galaxy, which you might read again.

Recently I stumbled upon this video by a young man in Switzerland. He used a more humanly imaginable scale of the sun being 1 millimeter in diameter, or about size size of a grain of sand. After all, I am sure you can’t really visualize the size of a red blood cell of 7 micrometers. But we all know the size of a grain of sand. Here is his video. It takes a few minutes, but you will enjoy it.

You must admit, that after he walked away from his yard and got in his car, you were amazed, but then, as he kept driving, it brought it home more and more.

30 kilometers, or about 19 miles, is a huge distance from one to the next grain of sand. There is nothing else in between. Imagine a space ship having to travel that distance, and you quickly realize how unlikely travel between the stars actually is. Then think about that when somebody tells you about UFOs coming from “outer space.”

At that scale, our galaxy would be about the size of the orbit of the moon around the earth. Imagine a disk as big as the path of the moon around the earth, all filled with grains of sand (stars) being some 30 kilometers apart from each other on the outside, and a bit more dense in the center. This also helps with visualizing two galaxies colliding. Would stars ever collide, when they are grains of sand 30 kilometers apart in each galaxy? Not very likely at all.

 

Right now, every minute, THREE Americans die of Covid-19. 

Every minute, day, night, 24/7. 

Are we great again yet? 

William Kamkuamb is a 13-year-old boy in a farming village in the East African country of Malawi. The corrupt leadership of the nation not only exploits its citizenry, it undermines it. Survival for each family depends on the grain they grow. If a harvest fails, either due to a drought, or even due to a flood, there is simply not enough grain to go around to feed the families. Worse, the next crop is also in jeopardy because it takes grain to seed.

Families sit around their barrel of grain, count the number of of cups, divide how much they need by day, and they know how for how many days they can eat. If there is not enough to last until the next crop, they starve.

This is the kind of pressure we in the western world cannot even imagine.

William is a gifted student and very interested in applied physics. He has a reputation of being able to “fix things” around the village. His family has scraped up enough for a down payment for school. He attends as long as he can, before he gets kicked out for non-payment of tuition. But he is creative enough to talk his way into the library, where he finds a few books about electricity and generators.

He believes he can build a wind generator to drive the village water pump and start an irrigation system. Everyone thinks he is out of his mind, including his father.

But the boy’s spirit is steadfast, and he keeps his eyes on the goal. 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is based on an autobiographical story. It brings the hardships of lives of people in rural Africa into our living rooms, and after watching the movie, you will not think about that light switch on your wall quite the same way anymore. It is truly inspiring.

I have not read the book that this movie is based on, but I have a review of the book  written by one of my readers. Please check it out here.

[Picture Credit: Wikipedia]

Lauren Boebert is the recently elected congresswoman for Colorado’s 3rd congressional district.

She is 34 years old, has four children, and with her husband owns the Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado.

The picture to the left shows her at work. She recommends her employees to openly carry arms.

She didn’t graduate from high school, because she had her first child during that time, but later got her GED. She is in favor of eliminating the United States Department of Education.

During the riots at the Capitol in January 6, she was live-tweeting the location of the Speaker of the House to her followers.

Link to Wikipedia

Now that the Trump administration is coming to an end, and Republicans have lost control of the Senate, we can be sure that the political right will all of a sudden start focusing on the national debt, and will blame the Biden administration for spending money like “drunken sailors” every step of the way. I predict that the debt ceiling, a word that never even was uttered in the last four years, will be a continuing battle, and  every time we want to do something for the middle class we’ll be told that we “can’t afford it, look at the debt!”

Here is the reality of the debt:

[Source: ProPublica]

As can be seen from this chart, the debt went from about $10T to $20T under Obama, headed off by the 2008 stimulus bill, and steadily increased over the years.

Then when Trump took over, he promised that he’d eliminate the debt over eight years. That did not happen. The graph, as we can see above, continued right on upward at the same slope as during the Obama years. The Trump tax cut put a little spike into it, but in general, it does not seem to have affected  the slope of the increase much at all.

Of course, then came the pandemic and all bets are off about the long-term result and the slope of that curve.

In summary, Trump did not do anything to reduce the debt, let alone eliminate it. But overall, he didn’t increase it beyond the trajectory that was already underway.

 

 

We need more troops at our own Capitol, the head of our own government, to protect the inauguration of our new administration from domestic terrorists. Four years ago domestic terrorist attacks were rare. Now pretty much every member of Congress in our “homeland” fears for their lives, both in Washington and at home.

Is America great again yet?

National Guard Soldiers sleeping on the floors of the U.S. Capitol. Is America great again yet?

[picture credit: Reddit]

[picture credit: Reddit]

It turns out that there are enhanced mobile phone monitoring systems in the Capitol. The government knows where you were, when you were there, and who you were. So, if you haven’t posted pictures of yourself on social media committing seditious acts or beating up policemen, or ransacking government property, or stealing documents, if nobody has identified you yet – rest assured. Once the FBI finds the time to scour all the mobile phone records, they will know exactly who you are, and then there’ll be a knock on your door.

Here is a link with more information:

How they can track every single cell phone that was carried in the Capitol invasion : CapitolConsequences (reddit.com)

I didn’t think I’d ever quote Sarah Palin, but I could not help myself. Here are the right-hand men of the U.S. president paling around with terrorists:

Today, without explanation, Chad Wolf, the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, resigned. I leave it to you to speculate why he might have done that.

Two points strike me as ironic. First, that the Chad Wolf was only the “acting” secretary, like so many others in the Trump administration. All the “best and brightest” jumped ship early when they smelled all the rats, and only sycophants took those jobs, often people who were not qualified and would not have made it through formal confirmation. That’s why I have been saying that we haven’t really had a government in the last few years. Today was the 642nd straight day of no confirmed Secretary of Homeland Security. This is by far the longest Cabinet vacancy ever in the history of the country. This is doubly ominous, considering that during those 642 days, the White House and the Senate were controlled by the Republican Party.

The second point is that the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to keep the homeland safe, right? What is more homeland than the U.S. Capitol?

After the attacks of 9/11, almost 20 years ago, we formed the Department of Homeland Security. It is now the third largest agency in the U.S. government, after Defense and Veterans Affairs. It has 240,000 employees.

In 2018, 777 million passengers were carried on U.S. airlines. In 2019, it was 925 million. So between 2001 and 2021, we carried about 15 billion passengers in U.S. airlines. And every one of those took off their shoes, because there was one shoe bomber that attempted to light his shoe with a match on an airplane. Because of that, 15 billion people took off their shoes at airport security stations over 20 years, due to the direction and regulation of the Department of Homeland Security.

However, we have one U.S. Capitol, where all our political assets get together and conduct the business of the people. If you have read the 1994 Tom Clancy book Debt of Honor, you will remember that Jack Ryan becomes President of the United States after an embittered Japan Airlines Pilot flies his Boeing 747 directly into the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress, wiping out the entire government at once. I always suspected that the Osama bin Laden had read that book and got some of his ideas about 9/11 from it. After all, 9/11 happened 7 years after Debt of Honor was published. Also, you may have recently watched the more recent Netflix series Designated Survivor which starts on the same premise, an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

So there you have it: We created the Department of Homeland Security to keep the homeland safe, and while Trump is in office, the department is apparently hollowed out, has no confirmed leader, and is apparently AWOL during the only actual, physical, predictable, planned and publicized attack on the Capitol.

This must get investigated relentlessly, and people need to go to prison.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we should disband this behemoth agency that apparently does not accomplish much and start all over with appropriate counter terrorism initiatives. Obviously, we don’t need to worry about too many bin Ladens these days. We need to worry about bartenders in Nashville, unemployed welder/pipefitters in Seattle, ex-Air Force Lieutenant Colonels from Texas, and 34-year-old fathers of five children in Florida as the most series domestic terrorists.

The Final Trumpdown

[click to enlarge]

Here is the front page of a German newspaper. The article on the bottom says that the attempted coup in the USA is not over. On the right of the image you see the “days left” counter as if we were waiting for Christmas. Noch 9 Tage – nine days to go. Germany, and pretty much the entire world, are just as jittery as we are here in the United States. Counting down the hours now.

England’s King Henry IV was a tyrannical monarch who was involved in many wars. His oldest son Hal (Timothée Chalamet), the Prince of Wales, wanted nothing to do with his father and had no interest in the crown. The king had made plans for this second son to succeed him. While the king was on his deathbed, the younger son died in battle, and Hal had no choice but to ascend to the crown, becoming King Henry V. Palace politics and intrigues kept trying to entrap him, but he stood his ground. However, due to the machinations of courtiers, he was deceived into invading and attacking France, particularly as he considered himself to be the legitimate heir to the French throne too. The war in France was not easy, but he was victorious, largely due to the advice and experience of his friend and confidant, Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton). Key to the invasion was the famous Battle of Agincourt.

There have been many history books written about the famed Battle of Agincourt. I always like to read historical fiction, as it provides colorful and tangible detail and makes history come alive. One such book was Agincourt – by Bernard Cornwell, which I reviewed here about a year ago. It goes without saying that you’ll learn a lot more about the battle and the historical details by reading the novel, but movies are good at fleshing out some of the imagery, the costumes, the living conditions and the times in general. The movie The King does that superbly. It is loosely based on the Shakespearean “Henriad” plays, but not specifically any one of them.

The Battle of Agincourt is described in Cornwell’s book from the perspective of the common soldiers and the knights, who were basically at the mercy of the young and inexperienced boy-king. In this movie, the entire story is told from the point of view of the king. A very different story indeed.

King Henry V lived from September 16, 1386 until August 31, 1422. He took the throne of England on March 21, 1413 at the age of 26 and ruled for only 9 years until his death at the age of 35. He died in war, but it is not clear exactly how. Some suspect dysentery, others heatstroke, as he had ridden all day in full armor in terrible heat that day. He is celebrated as one of the greatest warrior kings of medieval England. When he died, his infant son, only a few months old, became King Henry VI of England.

Just watching the movie, The King, would be entertaining, but learning all the historical background around that time in history makes it all worthwhile. So I definitely recommend The King.

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