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I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president and you’re not.

— Donald Trump

When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

— Richard Nixon

On Sunday, I did a little hike along Lake Hodges. Three years ago, in January 2014, is what the “lake” looked like. It stayed that way through 2015 and most of 2016, until it started raining.

Now, areas like in the picture below, that have been bone dry for more than five years, look like this again:

The wetlands are back. I wonder what the fish think that used to be confined to the deeper waters at the other end of the lake. Now they can come up and dig for yummy grubs in the mud that saw no water for years and years. It must be a fish paradise under there now. All that Lebensraum.

Under the I-15 freeway bridge:

This too, has been dry for many years. Now there is water deep enough for boats to go through.

Here is a view down from the pedestrian bridge.

You can see that during the half decade of dryness, serious trees have grown. The one on the left is at least 30 feet tall. The water is at least 10 feet deep here. There are hundreds of trees in this part of the lake. Over the next few months, they will all die. Their leaves will fall off. Then next season, the will start falling over from rot. In a few years, they will all have fallen, except for the strongest and thickets trunks. For comparison, in my 2014 post linked at the top of this page, I took this picture:

You see the red arrow? That points to the exact spot where I stood when I shot the above photo last Sunday. For years, it was bone dry under that bridge. No trees, as you can see, except those in the foreground. The trees all grew in 2014 through 2016.

Then finally, a shot of the hillsides:

Right now, all the hills are covered with Wild Mustard. The plant in the foreground is representative of all the ones in the back. All the hills are rich in yellow now. For those of you that didn’t know, Wild Mustard is the super weed that the following vegetables are all derived from: Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, turnips and kale. Here is a post about that.

And that’s all I have to say about Lake Hodges.

In the past couple of months, I have done book reviews and reminders on this book here and here.  The book largely tells the story of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer of the British investor Bill Browder, who was tortured and eventually killed by the Russian authorities in what looks like a case of political punishment and retribution instigated by Putin himself.

We have recently seen several stories of Russian dissidents and opponents of Putin getting killed, poisoned, and splashed with die – all to keep Putin in power.

Today I heard a remark in the Rachel Maddow show about the lawyer of the Magnitsky family. Supposedly he fell from the fourth floor of his apartment building one day before he was supposed to appear for a court hearing on the Magnitsky case.

Who falls from a building? The government says he was moving a Jacuzzi and fell. How convenient! He couldn’t appear in court the next day.

Does any of this make you want to start business ties with Russia?

 

This is the cover of the Bloomberg Businessweek of March 6 – 12. There is a lead article about Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s advisors, and it speculates that it’s Miller who calls the shots, as you can see from the subtitle:

Is Stephen Miller speaking for Donald Trump? Or vice versa?

Miller has an impressive resume for a man that’s only 31 years old. My own daughter is only a few months younger than Miller, and I remember vividly the months when she was an infant, carrying her in a snugly for long walks in the evenings to tire her out before putting her into her crib. Right around the same time, Miller’s dad probably did that for him. That time seems like yesterday.

Now, this young man, half my age, appears to wield enormous power in the Oval Office. To find out how that happened, you have to read the Businessweek article.

But what gets me is his picture. I must admit, I don’t know Miller, but the few clips I have seen of him speaking gave me goosebumps, and his looks, his eyes and his demeanor appear outright sinister. He is one of those people I intuitively avoid when I cross paths with them in life.

They say you should not judge a book by its cover. But I am judging here, and I can’t help myself.

I do not have a good feeling about Stephen Miller.

I for one do not agree with your military spending, and the need for increasing it. We spend way too much on the military, and from THAT program, we’re not getting the results we expect. Taking meals from seniors and school children to pay for another fighter jet is ludicrous, despicable, and immoral.

It was immoral under Reagan, under Bush, under Clinton, under Bush, and under Obama.

It is still immoral under Trump.

For those of us who thought that Trump might “clean up his act” once he was president now know: What we saw is what we got. Trump is a boor. Always been one, always will be one.

When he was a businessman in New York, he could trample on others, throw tantrums, sue people, stiff contractors and insult employees.

Now, the whole world is listening to every word that comes out of his mouth. And it’s not pretty. Trump speaks like a fourth grader, and he rambles. Listen carefully and you will notice that he says everything two or three times to fill dead air. A point that could be made with five well-chosen words expands into ten paragraphs of drivel. Only when he reads off paper or a teleprompter does he utter sentences, but they are stiff and wooden. He is not even a good reader, or his speech writers are bad writers so his words don’t ring real.

Here is the problem, though. As a CEO, if you can’t speak, or can’t control what you say, you’re being punished by your business and your customers. When you’re the president of a nation, you have the smartest people in the country paying attention to what you do and say, and the very sharpest foreign leaders and diplomats are at your table or next to you at the lectern.

These people can tell immediately when you don’t know what you’re talking about. Trump’s statements about NATO funding today were utterly ridiculous and simply exposed him as a fool. Every world leader knows that now. And worse, everyone who works for Trump, either his direct reports in the White House or Cabinet, or the people in the EPA, in NASA, in the CIA, FBI and the NSA – all highly intelligent, expertly educated, highly credentialed professionals – all cringe every time our Embarrassment-in-Chief opens his mouth or posts on Twitter.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

— attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and many others.

I know what Angela Merkel is thinking now, and it’s not just because I speak German.

One of my readers (RC) from Australia just shared with me the list of books he has read or will read based on my reviews. He and I have exchanged book recommendations from time to time, and I have never been disappointed. He had recently read City of Dreams based on my recommendation – see the full review below, and reminded me that it was part of a quadrilogy. I didn’t know, Ray, and now I have three more books to read. But for those of you who are interested in New York and its history (you might have guessed that I love New York), here is a book to read.

Norbert Haupt

City of DreamsIn the 1660s, Nieuw Amsterdam was a rough and primitive settlement of a fort and a few houses on the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

Here is what the settlement looked like in 1664, a view looking north toward the tip of Manhattan.

Nieuw Amsterdam 1664 Gezicht op Nieuw Amsterdam by Johannes Vingboons (1664) This is an early picture of Nieuw Amsterdam made in the year when it was conquered by the English under Richard Nicolls. [click to enlarge] In 1625, when the town was founded, there were only 270 people who lived there. The population may have grown to a couple of thousand by 1661, when our story starts with Lucas and Sally Turner, who stumbled off their small wooden ship onto the island. They had spent eleven brutal and utterly exhausting weeks at sea. Peter Stuyvesant, the colony’s director-general, ruled the settlement with an iron fist.

Lucas Turner was a barber and a surgeon. As luck would have…

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I noticed that my license plate on my Missouri rental car had a bird on it. That reminded me of Bernie Sanders.

Then, as I sat in my car, I looked outside, and there it was, looking right at me:

As I researched, I found out it’s the Missouri State Bird, the Eastern Blue Bird.

Nature gave me a coincidental treat. It made my day. There is a bird on it!

Cady McCall is an iOS game programmer who just struck it rich by publishing a hit game which she sold to Apple. As she walks home alone from a meeting at night in Seattle, she is followed and then mugged. A rescuer comes along just as she passes out.

When she wakes up, she is in a moldy and dirty room in London in the 1880s, with a man named Titanic Smith, a U.S. Marshal from the Wild West.

As the two try to figure out what happened to them, they have a number of adventures in time, with one trip even to ancient Rome.

A Girl in Time is a time travel adventure story, and that’s how I came across it. The first third of the book was hard to read for me. The author, an experienced writer of many other books, mostly in the genre of alternative history, uses too many trite clichés that I found distracting. I have this pet peeve about meals always being “washed down” with a couple of beers. Here is another example:

They did not return to her apartment. Not this time. Instead they caught a cab to the Alexis Hotel after she’d grabbed a couple of adjoining rooms on Expedia.

Who “grabs” a room?

Also, the author applies a strange point of view switch, that, if it were executed correctly, could work quite well.

For instance, Cady is a 2016 American hip girl in her early twenties. And she speaks and thinks like one. Smith is a 19th century U.S Marshal from the West. He has a folksy way of talking and thinking. The author switches between the two points of view and gets into the heads of the protagonists, so we hear them thinking, but the switch occurs randomly inside paragraphs or chapters, which results in occasional confusion. Who is telling the story?

Generally, when an author does this, he works using alternate chapters with different view points, and it’s pronounced and clear. Now we’re seeing the story from Cady’s point of view, now from Smith’s.

A little editing of the books structure could have fixed this.

Now here is the cool part, if you’re still reading: About 40% into the book, Smith and Cady land by accident in Seattle in 2019, and a different 2019 it is.

Donald Trump is now president for life. The United States has become a dystopian fascist country. Homeland Security agents are executing brutal raids on citizens, reminiscent of the Gestapo in East Germany. People get arrested for criticizing the government. They get sent to “the Wall” to perform forced labor. Here is Cady talking:

“Oh, you mean when I rescued you from the fucking Fourth Reich run by an angry Cheetos demon and its talking peehole?”

I got a kick out of the Fourth Reich episode, since I found it so timely. I cannot tell when Birmingham released A Girl in Time; the book oddly lacks a copyright page. He must have written it before Trump was elected, and he simply played on the theme. We’re obviously not a dystopian fascist country yet, but some of the things being done now are very scary and Birmingham predicted them in this novel.

Some Amazon reviewers blasted the writer for letting his political views come through and using the book to lecture. For me, it was the opposite.

As far as time travel adventures go, this is a so-so book and I am not sure I’ll be interested in reading the sequel when it comes out – but I might.

As far as the sequence on Trump, it made this book, and therefore, even though I would have only given it a two-star rating, I bumped it up by half a star. It will probably boost Trump’s ego when he finds out he is a character in a novel, even though not a flattering one.

Trump, the angry Cheetos demon!

During the presidential campaign, I used to ridicule Ben Carson and state that he gave brain surgery a bad name. I recently blasted him for his comments on slavery.

So I decided to read up on Ben Carson:

He was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland from 1984 until his retirement in 2013. As a pioneer in neurosurgery, Carson’s achievements include performing the only successful separation of conjoined twins joined at the back of the head, pioneering the first successful neurosurgical procedure on a fetus inside the womb, performing the first completely successful separation of type-2 vertical craniopagus twins, developing new methods to treat brain-stem tumors, and reviving hemispherectomy techniques for controlling seizures. He became the youngest chief of pediatric neurosurgery in the country at age 33. He has received more than 60 honorary doctorate degrees, dozens of national merit citations, and written over 100 neurosurgical publications. In 2008, he was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

— Wikepedia

Now he is the Secretary of HUD.

Dude, what in the world happened to you? Get away from Trump and do some more brain surgery!

Trump’s Management and Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, said that reducing government spending on ineffective programs is “probably one of the most compassionate things we can do.”

Now how is that for a batshit crazy statement from an apparently deranged administration? I would definitely not call it “compassionate.” Maybe frugal, fiscally responsible, socially responsible, responsible — those would all be words that I could marginally accept, since valid arguments can be made. Taking something of significance away from people is not compassionate under any circumstances.

One of my readers (MB) has suggested that it’s not just the meal, but the fact that volunteers deliver the meals, and that this visit by a volunteer is often the only human contact the elderly recipient gets all day, is a huge contributing argument.

Finally, I challenge Mulvaney’s term “ineffective programs” in this context. Who decides whether it’s ineffective? Ask one of the recipients that’s eating. Not a single one of them will call it ineffective.

It has been estimated that an entire year of meals on wheels for a senior costs as much as ONE DAY in the hospital for that senior. The whole idea of the program is to provide nutritious meals for low-income seniors in their homes, so they don’t have to go out in the cold to shop and eat out, and risk hurting themselves by falling.

Supposedly 500,000 veterans are on meals on wheels. In 2016, 219 million meals were delivered to 2.4 million seniors.

The cost of the program is about $1.4 billion, $523 million come from the Federal Government. So we’re saving $523 million dollars.

Every single F-35 fighter plane costs over $100 million. We’re buying 2,443 of them, this was under Obama. Trump is increasing the military budget by $50 billion.

Are we really saying that we can’t live with five F-35 planes less to pay for meals on wheels in 2017?

Hell, in the Yemen raid they abandoned a single Osprey helicopter valued at $75 million due to a poorly planned and executed raid. That’s 15% of the entire annual meals on wheels budget for the Federal Government.

And more hell, Trump has already spent more than $10 million on vacations for himself since he’s been in office. That would have paid for the program for one week. But Trump getting to spend time in Florida is obviously more important.

A society shows where its values are by where it spends its money. Trump obviously has no values other than his own aggrandizement. But I am ashamed for everyone else in the government and Congress who go along with these despicable and senseless changes to a well-working system.

But then, lies are truth, war is peace, and taking meals away from 2.4 million seniors is compassionate.

Crooks, they are.

Missouri State Capitol


I always enjoy visiting State Capitols as part of my job. Here is Missouri’s Capitol building in Jefferson City.

Rex Tillerson used the fake email name Wayne Tracker (his middle name is Wayne) within the Exxon email system for dialogs about global warming and how it could affect Exxon’s business. Of course, we have seen smoking gun documents from within the fossil fuel industry for decades about global warming, just like we saw tobacco documents in that industry in prior decades, before we all got smart.

Now you can’t smoke in public buildings anywhere in the United States. We have come to accept the reality that has been there all along, even though the tobacco lobby obfuscated it for decades and fought against it.

My question is: Why would Tillerson use a fake name? Is it because the CEO of Exxon can’t be seen discussing climate change issues within Exxon?

We have elected a clown president. With every new day it looks like we have also elected a crook president. We are still waiting for the truth to come out. Regarding climate change, Trump’s election may actually be a good thing, in the long run, because there is no way this issue will remain obfuscated with the international flood lights now shining on this issue from all directions. Climate change will be settled once and for all, and if the president and his cabinet are a bunch of crooks, as it is starting to look, they’ll eventually all be thrown out and the country can heal again.

They railed about Clinton being corrupt, and as I learn more I tend to agree, but for Trump to call Clinton corrupt….

Well, we all have heard about the kettle, haven’t we?

 

Yuri Eden wakes up on a starship on mankind’s first voyage to another star, Proxima Centauri, four light-years away. He does not know why he is there, he does not know his destiny, but he knows he is not there by his own free will, and neither are the other 200 or so “colonists” who will be dropped off on an earth-like planet in orbit around the star.

Proxima is the story of forced colonization of an utterly alien world, and the hardships that accompany such an endeavor.

Baxter is a world-builder. He tells the story of first contact with alien life on an alien planet. But he also constructs a political system in the late 22nd century, roughly when Proxima takes place.

I enjoyed the first contact and colonization sections of the book, but I didn’t care about the distracting artificial intelligences and their political machinations, the silly political structure, and the military power structure that seems to dominate society.

It’s like he meant this to be a space opera, but there was too much material, not enough focus, coupled with shallow character building and an almost silly plot, that was distracting from what could have been a good, albeit slightly boring, story of colonization of another star system.

In the end, I enjoyed reading Proxima, but do not have any interest in reading the sequel, Ultima. I don’t care enough for the world Baxter built here, and for its characters.

These men have held political rallies after they were democratically elected:

  • Mussolini
  • Hitler
  • Stalin
  • Castro
  • Berdimukhamedov (Turkmenistan 2007)
  • Kim Jong-in
  • Trump

I will leave it to you to draw your conclusions.

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