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I recently rented a brand-new Toyota Corolla. It had 1 mile on the odometer when I drove it out of the lot.

Since I have Southern California driving habits, which results in 80 mph speeds, I usually apply the cruise control in other states to avoid running into speed traps. New York State Troopers do no look kindly upon California speeders on their roads. So while going down the New York Thruway, I turned it on cruise control and set the speed to 72 mph.

I quickly noticed that it automatically adjusted down its speed when the car in front of me was going slower, and then sped up again when things cleared up. It also warned me with a gentle beep when I got too near the left or right lane markers, unless I indicated a lane change using my turn signal ahead of time. The slowing down went all the way to a full brake and stop when I was on a one lane road and the car in front of me had stopped for a left turn.

What surprised me was how quickly I adjusted my own driving habits to this feature. I would drive with the cruise control on and let the car do its driving. I simply took care of the steering.

Then I remembered that this was a rental car, and in a few days I’d be back to driving my 2011 Prius, which does not have these features. I thought I’d better not get used to the car slowing down automatically, lest I have some surprises rear-ending other cars.

I liked these advancements in this car, and I was surprised that I found them in a lowly car like the Toyota Corolla. I have to admit, though, as much as I liked the driver-assist features, I did not like its steering. The wheel seemed loose and not responsive. It drove a bit like a boat, albeit a small one, and as a result, I would not want to buy this car.

The driver-assist features were great, though.

 

 

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We have all seen it when someone pretends they have done something, or experienced something, but they really haven’t. You might remember the scene in the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin, where he talked about feeling a woman’s breasts. After a few descriptive comments, he says “two bags of sand” and the other guys all stop and frown. “Two bags of sand???”

I am a computer software professional. I may not know all the details of the current new programming languages, but I have done many years of programming. When somebody’s nephew at a backyard BBQ starts talking about his vast experience with computers, and how he is such an expert, it usually takes me about 10 or 15 seconds of listening before I know whether the guy knows what he is talking about, or whether he is faking it.

I am not unique in this. Anyone with special expertise in a given field has had this experience of running into an impostor who is trying to impress all the girls at the party by exaggerating his skills or expertise. To the expert, he just looks ridiculous.

When Trump traveled overseas a couple of weeks ago he met with the heads of state of the G7. Every one of those individuals, whether Trump realizes it or not, is at the very top of their profession and careers. They made it to the pinnacle of power in their own country. They are expert diplomats, savvy politicians and often have advanced degrees. Angela Merkel holds a Ph.D. in Physics, and is in her third term in office as chancellor.

What do you surmise the heads of state of the G7 think of Donald Trump?

 

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I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the kleptocracy for which it stands, one nation, under Trump, divided, with liberty and justice for rich whites.

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Trump, in his first international trip, and with his interactions with the top international leaders, has showcased his ineptness and almost helplessness compared to everyone else.

In geopolitics, Russia is playing chess. China is playing Go, a game that focuses not on a decisive clash of forces like in chess does, but on strategic encirclement through subtlety, indirection, and the patient accumulation of relative advantage. The United States must strengthen its alliances to avoid a Russian checkmate and keep China from encircling a dominant sphere of influence.

ForeignPolicy.com

And there you have it. Russia is playing chess, China is playing go. I play both games, go at the Shodan level, so I understand the elegant complexity and long-term strategy. Trump is playing checkers. One clumsy move at a time, thinking he is getting immediate advantage by asking for money.

On the world stage, Trump is now meeting with the best, the brightest, and the most cunning diplomats from all nations. He cannot match them. He does not even come close. When he talks, they roll their eyes. Watch the eyes of the Pope when Trump speaks. Watch the eyes of Merkel. Hell, watch the eyes of Netanyahu when he sits there listening to Trump spewing drivel about Iran.

We Americans are viewed by the world as a nation of merchants. They think that making money is all that’s important to us, and unfortunately, our actions in the last five decades have reinforced that. We have now elected a glorified used car salesman, and while the rest of the world is trying to move on and forward, Trump is peddling 10-year-old jalopies. “Do I have a deal for you!”

Or “Iran will never have nuclear weapons, that I can promise you,” while Netanyahu rolls his eyes.

The United States, which is now taking massive steps to isolate itself away from the world stage, includes only 5% of the world’s population, but encompasses 22.5% of the world’s gross domestic product. We don’t have tact, or diplomatic skill. We play with checkers strategy against chess and go players. Frankly, we look stupid. The only reason we’re accepted anymore is because we have money, and we have big guns. With the strategy we’re applying now, the money will continue to dwindle, and with it the big guns. Decades hence, the history books will show the Trump administration at an inflection point downward, and they will indicate where the real decline of the United States actually started, and where the American century gave way to the Chinese century.

And Angela Merkel, and Emmanuel Macron, and Theresa May, and Xi Jinping, and Valdimir Putin – they all chuckle.

And I cringe.

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One of Michelle Obama’s signature accomplishments was the institution of healthy school lunches around the country. The Trump Administration has just rolled back that initiative. Here is Michelle’s response to that.

She argues understandably that she doesn’t understand how somebody can actually say they don’t care if our children eat crap. “Who does that?” she asks.

Some of the comments under that video in YouTube are grotesque and offensive. Obviously, the cardinal rule is: Never read the comments under a political YouTube. I could not help it, here are some:

Ok, Tomahawk1775 is pointing out that the school lunches didn’t taste good. But since he can’t make a coherent argument, he tries to make his point by spouting obscenities and insulting Obama. You can say anything about Michelle Obama, but you can’t say she does not have a brain. She has a law degree from Harvard. I wonder what Tomahawk1775’s degree is?

 

Chelsea Roan resorts to a similar strategy, albeit more crass, and more offensive. No actual argument. Just crude personal attacks. But at least she uses her own name and stands behind her assault. She is not hiding behind an anonymous handle.

 

Santacruz474 just makes an observation and interpretation, which appears flawed. I don’t believe that Obama is shallow enough to be just pissed about “her program.” I truly believe Obama is concerned about the future of our country and about the nutrition of our children.

 

Here, CritterOnFire (anonymous) and Amanda Gonzalez (apparent actual name) use deflection because apparently they can’t come up with a logical answer. The deflection on abortion is not only inappropriate in this context, it is illogical and it points out a common fallacy of the so-called pro-life proponents. Pro-life is defined as “opposing abortion and euthanasia.” These two people, and many others in the pro-life circles, are using false logic by labeling the opponents of pro-life, who we call pro-choice, as people who are somehow pro-death. There is, if course, a huge difference.

Then inferring that “Democrats are saying ‘abort all the kids, abortion is great'” is an insult to all Democrats. Not all Democrats are pro-choice, not all pro-choice people think abortion is great. As a matter of fact, I know some pro-choice people, of course, and I haven’t met a single one who thinks abortion is great.

 

Finally, there are tons of statements like this. That’s why we came up with the term “deplorable.” I am sorry, Pana Sonic, but your statement is deplorable.

 

So what have we learned?

  1. Never read the comments below any political YouTube.
  2. Our country is polarized and hateful. We write and comment things about each other that we’d never openly say to each other at a backyard BBQ party.
  3. Pro-choice is not pro-abortion or pro-death.
  4. School lunch programs have serious issues.

Since this is about school lunch programs, we should discuss this in more detail.

I believe that nobody in the country would argue that we want our kids to eat crap, well almost nobody. We agree with Michelle Obama on that. The problem is that it’s not the school’s job to nourish children. It’s the parents’ job. Researching for just a few minutes lays open that the school lunch programs, as implemented by Obama, were a failure. Not because the lunches were supposed to be healthy, but because the children didn’t eat them. They went into the trash. Administrators and school officials everywhere seem to agree that the trash cans were overflowing with unopened and untouched food. Not only did we waste the money spent on the food, but we ended up not feeding the children.

Parents report that they had to pack lunches, since the children complained about the food and went hungry.

Clearly, while Obama’s initiative was admirable, the way the program was implemented does not seem to have been successful.

I do not know what thought the Trump Administration put into the repeal of the program, but I am sure it wasn’t an initiative to start feeding kids “crap” again. It had something to do with the philosophy that it’s not the job of the public to nourish children. It’s the job of the parents. They wanted to stop spending money on food going into the trash.

That leaves us with the dilemma of what to do. Dictating a certain menu to schools nationwide, while it makes sense in concept, didn’t work in practice. Our children eat what they are taught is good at home. That’s what they expect in school. Government is not good at dictating what people eat. That has never worked before, and it’s not going to work in the future.

The problem, of course, is that for a significant portion of our children of poor families, the school lunch may be the only solid, sound and reliable meal they get in a day.

This, too, is not viewed as a government problem. It’s one of education and it’s one of parents acting responsibly. Unfortunately, this is now a generational problem. We have a generation of children whose parents and grandparents never learned the tenets of proper nutrition, who have been nourished by McDonald’s. How could they pass on good nutritional habits?

There is no easy answer to school lunches. Polarizing the issue with hate messages going in both direction is not solving the problem. And the children continue to eat poorly.

I know I have readers who are professional educators. I encourage their comments and insight.

 

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There is this strange discussion going on about Obama accepting speaking fees of $400k from Wall Street firms. Here is an article on Vox about it.

I don’t understand what the big deal is and why it would undermine Obama’s ethics.

I know we railed about Hillary Clinton and her speaking fees with Wall Street, but there is a huge difference between the two.

Obama behaved himself impeccably while we has in office. The main “scandal” we had about Obama was how many executive orders he signed in the latter years of his presidency. Well, Trump has put that concern to rest in just a few months by outsigning all other presidents, including Obama.

Hillary Clinton was running for president, with a message that she would not be bought by Wall Street. And then there were those speaking fees.

Obama is out of office. Obama will never again run for office. Obama has no more policy impact on the U.S. government. Obama is a private citizen and can now do as he wishes.

I can’t believe we have a problem with Obama’s speaking fees of $400k each (sweet if you can command that kind of money for a couple of hours of work), but we don’t have a problem with the Trump clan using government funds to travel the world and promote their businesses, using government resources to promote Ivanka’s products, and paying for the president’s lavish lifestyle at $3 million a pop per weekend in Florida.

Seriously?

Trump is the sitting president and he is using government funds in a lavish, ostentatious and shameless display of corruption.

Obama is the former president who has, as it behooves him, been quiet about the current administration, who is now a private citizen and who can command $400k speaking fees.

Sorry, folks, there is a huge difference. Let’s leave Obama out of this and focus is the unheard of ethical transgressions of our current administration.

 

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Como se dice ‘Cinco de Mayo’ en Español?

So what the heck is Cinco de Mayo about anyway? Americans often think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s equivalent of the Fourth of July, its independence day. However, that is actually September 16, commemorating the Cry of Dolores that started the Mexican war for their independence from Spain. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862, where the Mexican Army scored an unexpected victory over the French forces.

I don’t know any actual Mexicans that care about Cinco de Mayo. Like Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day in America, Cinco de Mayo has taken on its own life as a holiday, and it mostly celebrates Mexican-American culture. Those of us here in the Southwest love Cinco de Mayo. It’s an excuse to go out for tacos, margaritas and happy hour draft beer.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Although, in Trump’s America, can we still safely celebrate el Cinco de Mayo? Or do I risk getting my citizenship revoked if I am caught speaking Spanish?

Hola!

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In eight years under Obama, I never went to bed worrying about some unexpected military escalation. Now I worry every day. Why is that?

It isn’t because Kim Jong Un is all of a sudden crazier than he always was. Trump has just given him more fodder to look more important in the world than he is.

It isn’t because Iran has just gone off the rails. Iran went off the rails in 1979, and many previous presidents, since Reagan, have contained Iran. I believe the “Iran deal” was one of the more stabilizing events in the world and one of the more valuable contributions of Obama. But that’s my subjective opinion. Yet, Tillerson talks about Iran being a new danger.

North Korea is what it’s been since the 1950s. Iran is what it’s been since the 1970s. What changed? The U.S. changed in 2017.

Now Trump is telling us that the world is so dangerous, and we need to spend another $50 billion on weapons, while we cut everything else, including diplomacy. A society’s values are defined by what it spends its money on. Trump has hijacked our country, is telling us that suddenly the world is dangerous, and we need more guns.

I say that the biggest threat to the planet, our way of life, our society, and humanity in general, is the petulant, ignorant, self-absorbed dilettante we have elected into the White House.

We are the problem, not Korea or Iran or ISIS for that matter.

 

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Watch this video and instantly see why immigration does not change world poverty:

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When Joan Baez makes a song about you, you’ve got it made.

Or do you?

You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…..

— Carly Simon

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We already know how this week’s Neil Gorsuch saga will end: Democrats will filibuster, McConnell and Republicans will change the Senate rules so Gorsuch can be confirmed with 51 votes, and then in late April Gorsuch will take his place on the Supreme Court as one of the most right-wing justices in American history – right up there with Clarence Thomas.

In the meantime, I hope Democrats point out the utter hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell not allowing a vote for 8 months on Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland – a moderate, not an extremist on the Left – on the bizarre theory that a president has no legitimate role nominating a Supreme Court justice during his last year in office.

After that, allowing a vote on the pick of someone whose very legitimacy as president is now being investigated by the FBI is the height of hubris.

All the more reason for us to fight like hell to get the Senate back in 2018, and for Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer to stay healthy.

What do you think?

— Robert Reich

We didn’t allow Garland to be voted on because somehow a president, any president, in his last year in office is not legitimate in appointing a Supreme Court justice?

It’s a no-brainer to me: Trump is now in his last year in office. Why should we allow him to appoint a Supreme Court Justice?

 

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I just came home from a neighborhood walk and noticed a Trump bumper sticker on the back of an SUV. I would think that just about now Trump voters might be taking down their stickers. Well, I was a Clinton voter, not because I thought she was a great candidate, but rather because I simple could not vote for Trump. For reasons, simply search “Why I Can’t Vote for Trump” on this blog and you’ll get 25 examples.

About two and a half months into his presidency, I believe things are in shambles.

He said he’d work this ass off (his words) and never have time to leave the Oval Office, because there was so much work he’d do for the American people. Instead, he’s been on vacation in Florida, he’s spent more money on travel in a couple of months than Obama did all year, he’s essentially been a part-time president.

He said he’d repeal and replace Obamacare on day one. On day 64 he threw in the towel. He kept telling his voters that they’d have a “terrific health care plan” which would be much better, at a fraction of the cost, if they elected him. He said he had this plan he could not tell us about. In reality, he had no plan, he didn’t even know “how complicated health care was.” And neither did the GOP in Congress. The repeal part would have been easy. The replace part simply could not get done in 64 days of a part-time presidency.

He said he’d drain the swamp in Washington. Instead he seems to be institutionalizing corruption in the White House. People did vote for Donald Trump, that is correct. But people did not vote for Ivanka and Jared, they did not vote for Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. They did not vote for Donald Jr. and Eric Trump. He practices nepotism on a grand scale. And everyone in his cabinet seems to be mostly engaged in tearing down barriers to getting personally rich or richer.

He said he’d make America great again, whatever that means, but he is degrading the country in front of the world. Leaders the world around roll their eyes when they have to deal with Trump. He acts like a petulant child around them. He cannot communicate with them, and the does not appear to listen to them. On the world stage, he looks like a fool.

He says he is a great leader, but he divides the people. In his rallies, he incites hatred and division between people. In Congress, where he should be building alliances, he insults people personally and tries to bully them. The United States is not a company, and he is not a CEO. Bullying will not work. He is not a leader. He is a bully.

And most importantly of all, with every day that goes by he looks more illegitimate. The noose of the Russian scandal is tightening around his neck. Everyone around him appears to have had discussions and interactions with Russia, a bully nation with a leader running it like an organized crime institution. If any of the activities that appear to have gone on turn out to be true, people will go to prison for treason for those activities. And that would bring Trump down as a traitor. Certainly, if I were caught in such activities, they’d throw me in prison. Now the first person on the team, Flynn, is already asking for immunity. To quote Flynn during the campaign when he talked about Clinton: “If you’re asking for immunity, you probably committed a crime!”

I don’t think Trump will last four years in office. I think it’s time to scratch off those bumper stickers.

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