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Germany’s president is Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The president of Germany is a largely ceremonial position, with the chancellor serving as the chief executive. In the U.S., our president serves as both. In Germany, these duties are spread over the two positions. At the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, when the U.S. president made a serious faux pas by “congratulating” Poland and stating it was “a great country,” Steinmeier asserted at a ceremony:

I Affirm our Lasting Responsibility

— Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Germany did a lot of damage in the world during the last century and it still as an inferiority complex as a result to this day. Contrary to what the U.S. president currently often does when world affairs do not go right, namely blaming his predecessors, blaming his staffers and appointees, or blaming other nations and their leaders, the president of Germany took responsibility for the brutal and unprovoked attack on Poland on September 1, 1939 that started World War II.

Steinmeier and I have a few things in common. His mother was born in Breslau, which is in now a part of Poland and called Wrocław. She was a refugee after the war. My father was also born in Breslau, and he was a refugee. Steinmeier was born in 1956. I was born in 1956. When I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, World War II was ancient history to me. I only know the Germany of the economic miracle of the 1960s. Due to his age, the same would be true for Steinmeier. I am certainly not personally responsible for the atrocities committed by the people of Germany in World War II, even though my grandfather was a German soldier of low rank serving in the Wehrmacht during the war, and several of my uncles from the maternal side were reportedly members of the SS, even though I never had a chance to actually talk about this with them. It was not talked about then.

There are very few Germans alive today that were alive during World War II. Those who are still with us were children then. Nobody of any position of responsibility or authority is still alive. Nobody who has personally committed atrocities is still alive. And yet, the German president affirms the country’s lasting responsibility for damaging the Polish nation, resulting in the deaths of about six million Polish citizens, about a fifth of the country’s pre-war population, both by the occupation by Germany and then the Russians when they attacked from the eastern front. Six million Polish civilians were killed by war crimes, crimes against humanity and by starvation.

The U.S. president congratulates Poland for this.

The German president affirms his country’s lasting responsibility, even though he himself was born 17 years after the event.

Nations carry responsibility for their actions. The United States is currently responsible for millions of civilian deaths due to wars it started in Afghanistan and Iraq, which triggered conflicts all over the Middle East. That responsibility will remain with our nation. I wonder, in the year 2099, when a U.S. president, who is today not even alive yet, gives a memorial speech for the victims of these wars, whether he will exhibit the same sense of responsibility and grace for those victims?

Countries are bigger than people. They can do more good, and they can do more damage. Where does our country rate today? Will we be proud of our actions today come 2099?

 

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Freud is known for the following statement:

“America is a mistake, a gigantic mistake it is true, but none the less a mistake.”

— Sigmund Freud

In his youth, we was reportedly enamored with all things America. He had the Declaration of Independence hung on a wall in his room. He had memorized Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and often recited it. But all that changed when he came to America one time. He never returned after his first visit.

He regarded Americans as poorly educated, uncultured, and backward, and he resented the fact that he had to take on more and more of them as patients in Vienna. He disliked the American system of consumption, and he didn’t respect American wealth and rich people.

He also had trouble with the egalitarianism we practice at America. People of all walks of life called him Sigmund, rather than Herr Dr. Freud or Dr. Freud. Most German speakers have a difficult time in America at first with the apparent familiarity and egalitarian social structure. They like their ranks and class distance as it is built into the language. They have trouble, at first, calling everyone “you” in the familiar form. In the English language, we address each other with you, no matter what the relationship is. We talk the same way to our doctors, our supervisors at work, the president of the country, teachers, relatives, parents, students, playmates, buddies and our dogs. Not so in German, French, Spanish, or Japanese, to name just a few major languages which differentiate the common address based on relationship and status.

Dr. Freud didn’t like the American way.

Is what we commonly call here “the greatest country in the world” really a mistake?

Let’s not ask Freud.

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Vons Supermarket: “Would you like to donate five dollars for people in need?”

Panda Express Chinese Diner: “Would you like to donate your change to Children’s Hospital?”

Carl’s Junior Fast Food Restaurant: “Would you like to donate a dollar to help veterans?”

My answer to each of them: “No.”

Not “No, Thank You.” Not “I have already donated.” Just “No.”

I have no problem with charity for people in need, for sick children, and for veterans. But I have a problem with retail organizations hustling money from their customers, who, in the majority of cases, cannot afford those donation and probably need help themselves. I have always said simply “No” not because I don’t have the money to give, but because I do not believe in the principles applied.

In the case of Vons, who are “people in need?” How do I know my five dollars go there? Who are they accountable to? Where do they determine who is in need, and how?

In each of those cases, they prey on the person in line being embarrassed about saying “No.” Others standing behind or next to them in line can hear the conversation. People will say “Yes” just to get past the embarrassing moment. The young man in front of me at Vons was with his girlfriend. They bought just a few things. He donated more money to “people in need” than his total purchase value, just because he didn’t want to look like a miser in front of his girlfriend.

Why does our healthcare system need to beg for money for the Children’s Hospital in restaurants? Can’t we have a system that pays adequately for healthcare for children?

And what about or veterans? I believe the government that sends our young men and women overseas to get maimed and emotionally crippled owes those people adequate and quality healthcare. We should not need to beg for money in fast food lines for our veterans. Our politicians talk about how fine our military is, and we honor our service men and women by thanking them when we see them at the airport. But when they come back with limbs missing or drug addicted, we discard them. And we can’t figure out how to pay for their healthcare. That is – to me – repulsive.

I resent that we resort to collecting money for their care from those that can least afford it – people eating in fast food places. Our president has spent over $100 million of taxpayer money on golf vacations in just two years, and we beg customers in Carl’s Junior for money for veterans!

Screwed up, we are.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the King of Thailand:

The King of Thailand – [click to enlarge]

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn was officially crowned last week. The coronation represents the renewal of the monarchy’s power after the death of the king’s father in October 2016. The new king placed the crown on his own head. In Thailand, kings are regarded as almost divine. Like kings before him, Vajiralongkorn is protected by one the world’s strictest lese majeste laws, which make criticism of the king and other royals punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

It turns out, I published a post about the king in October 2016 in this blog. You want to check this out, as it contains some pictures and videos of the king and his consorts that are not very flattering. I just have to make sure that I don’t travel to Thailand now, lest I get arrested at the port of entry and thrown in a Thai prison for 15 years for being critical.

I am fortunate that I am protected as a citizen in a country that cherishes free speech and allows the people to criticize their leaders – at least that’s what it’s been up to this day and age.

 

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With all the press we are now getting about the devastating results of the fire at Notre Dame, I have been thinking more about cathedrals and why they inspire us so. More than 10 years ago I wrote a post about the Cologne Cathedral and the awe I have of it – religious building or not – and what the building of a cathedral meant – and today means – to mankind.

Here is that old post about the Cologne Cathedral – der Kölner Dom

If you have any interest in learning more about the building of cathedrals in medieval times, you might want to read Follett’s series of books starting with Pillars of the Earth. It takes you right into the world and the hearts of the people that built these structures.

And I remain in awe.

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You can judge the character of a person by what the person spends his or her money on.

You can judge the character of a nation the same way.

Our military budget is larger than that of the next 10 nations COMBINED.

The U.S. military is planning on buying a total 2,443 F-35 jets. Since the pricing of each jet is not clear, because they are sold in “batches” where the costs of development are sometimes wrapped into the planes, I find it difficult to figure out how much individual planes actually cost. I have come up with up to $200 million each, but on the low end around $100 million each (source).

Let’s say we’re on the low end at $100 million for each plane.

Trump and DeVos just suggested we cut the entire budget of the Special Olympics – about $17 million a year. We know Trump caved after the public outrage that announcement created. Two billionaires, two kleptocrats, trying to take the Special Olympics out of the government’s budget – in our name!

Let me suggest the following:

I don’t think we need 2,443 F-35 jets. I think 2,442 will do just fine. And we’ll take the $100 million we saved and fund the Special Olympics for about six years straight.

We can live with one less F-35, right?

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When you elect a clown, expect a circus.

The Ukraine is suffering from massive corruption at the top of the government. After Paul Manafort’s protector in the Ukraine was ousted, near-billionaire Petro Poroshenko took over. Most of the candidates for the upcoming election are oligarchs. The voters don’t like it.

41-year-old television comic Volodymyr Zelenskiy is the host of a show called Servant of the People. He makes fun of the political elite. Ukraine is a large country with a lot of resources, great agricultural potential and a highly educated population of 42 million. They are not happy, and the comedian is the front-runner in the election.

Sounds familiar?

Steven Colbert for President!

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This is really hard to watch.

Watch!

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  • The stock market is tanking.
  • GM is shutting down plants.
  • We have no White House Chief of Staff.
  • We have no long-term Secretary of Defense.
  • We have no Attorney General.
  • The president and Congress are shutting down the federal government today.

Happy longest night of the year.

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Hillary Clinton, when you go to prison for defrauding American and perjury, your room and board will be free!

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Trump, and now Nikki Haley, are telling us that “the world” respects the United States and Trump. America is “respected again.”

That’s baloney.

Here is a chart that shows confidence that the U.S. president will do the “right thing” regarding world affairs. The countries shown are Spain, France, Germany and the U.K.

Clearly, Obama was respected, and Trump is lower than Bush. It says nothing about how Americans feel, or what’s good for America. It says something about how other countries “respect” the American president. This must irk Trump, to whom it matters so much what others think. This is probably why he denigrates Obama so much. He is obsessed with Obama and does not understand why he cannot garner the same respect and admiration.

Respect must be earned. It can’t be gained by making outrageous – and false – claims.

Trump lives is a world of his own wishful thinking.

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[click to enlarge – you must]

The picture above shows Alex Honnold, the world’s most awesome rock climber, with El Capitan in the background, the world’s most awesome big wall.

All my life I was an avid hiker and mountaineer, but rock climbing has always scared me. I could never understand what possessed people to climb vertical walls. I was paralyzed by fear just thinking about it.

Then, at the age of 36, I bought shoes, a harness, a few carabiners, a chalk bag, and signed up for a class in technical rock climbing. I learned how to build anchors, to rappel, to belay and to climb.

Once you get off the ground just six feet on a vertical wall, and you look down, it looks far, and it is potentially deadly. You don’t need to go very high to forget all petty thoughts, all worldly problems or issues. You leave the entire “gross national product world” behind, and you focus on what really matters – the next foot or handhold.

Before making that reach, letting go with one hand to reach up to the next handhold, switching from four-point contact with the wall to a temporary three-point contact, you think about your harness and whether you remembered to double-back the buckle properly, you can’t remember if you locked the carabiner that ties into the rope. Could it have a hairline crack? You look down and check your figure-eight knot and make sure it’s done right. How old is that rope anyway? How about the anchor? Is it really going to hold if I fall?

Panic sets in. Hands start slipping. Time to make the reach. Go! Reach!

Whew. It worked. Next step.

Your mind is singly focused on nothing but you, your equipment and the wall.

I probably haven’t been on a rock wall 20 years now, but I still have a passion for the sport, and I have followed the career of Alex Honnold over the years. I have written about him a few times. Here is an example: Look, Ma, no Rope!

In June of 2017, Honnold finally completed his lifelong dream of doing something nobody has ever done before in the history of climbing: free soloing El Capitan, the hardest, most bad-ass big wall in the world. This put Alex on the pinnacle of the climbing world. This feat is celebrated as one of the greatest athletic achievements of any kind, and it sets an impossible standard: Perform perfectly, without a single mistake, for a 3,000 foot climb, or die. It stretches our understanding and appreciation of the human spirit and the power of mental concentration.

The movie is masterfully done. It chronicles Honnold’s life, and it builds the tension, so when we finally watch the climb itself, we are prepared for the various tight spots and challenges, and we sit at the edge of our seat. It is, in the truest sense of the word, a cliffhanger.

My palms started to sweat at the beginning of the movie, and my hands did not dry up until the closing credits played.

Free solo is a documentary you really, really should watch!

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If I was a guest at your house for a backyard BBQ party and

  • I mocked your father or grandfather who was a prisoner of war?
  • I mocked your disabled child by making spastic movements?
  • I mocked your neighbor’s family who lost a son in Afghanistan?
  • I mocked your daughter who had been sexually assaulted?

You would throw me out and I would likely no longer be your friend – at best.

And yet, here is our president doing exactly those things on national TV, and the people standing behind him laugh and applaud and act like this is funny.

It would be horrendous if I did it as a private citizen. You would throw me out and beat me up.

But here is the man who holds the office that we teach our schoolchildren they should look up to as a role model, and we accept it.

It destroys the dignity of the presidency, and it may take generations before the image and decorum recovers.

I don’t know exactly what the people standing behind Trump laughing and applauding really think deep inside. But I know that I think that Trump is a despicable human being, one that I will try to forget about quickly once he is voted out of office.

I also don’t know exactly what the Republican leadership, all those men and women that ran against Trump in the campaign, are thinking. I remember Rubio and Cruz saying that it was our duty to make sure that Trump never got anywhere near the Oval Office.

Really – damn their careers – one or more of these cowards need to stand up, man up, and do what they know is right, and do what they are really thinking inside, and end this national disgrace of a reality show of a country.

We need to take our country back.

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Rich old white men, and apparently corrupt men, are in the process of destroying our country, and we’re letting it happen, like the proverbial frogs in the boiling water.

Thousands of years ago Socrates stated that democracy cannot be maintained without a well-educated citizenry. Today, we’re not a well-educated citizenry. Just watch the people cheering Trump at rallies and tell me what you think. Somebody cheering Trump when he is making the alleged rapist and his family the victim, and the victim coming forward the perpetrator, I equate that to Orwellianism in the highest degree. Make America great again, long live the stupid.

We have a president who is obviously and blatantly corrupt, who is systematically consolidating his power as a dictator.

We have a president who is obviously working on inserting corrupt justices into the judiciary. The way I see it, Kavanaugh lies under oath like Trump lies in press conferences.

We have a Congress that is supposed to oversee our government and provide checks and balances. Congress is not doing that job.

The way I see it, rich old white men are working on destroying our country, and we’re sitting there watching.

It’s one big con job, conducted like a reality show on TV, just like Trump has run his private and business life all along.

The well-educated citizenry must stand up on November 6th and vote the thugs out of office, all of them, before it’s too late.

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When the Soviet Union collapsed almost 30 years ago, the assets of the country, its industrial base that had been neglected so long, was grabbed up by a few young, enterprising, creative and possibly criminal individuals. Some say there were less than twenty of them. They, and their successors, are now called the Russian oligarchs. The majority of the economic power of the Russian nation is consolidated by very few people, all under control of the central government, which is headed by an apparently corrupt and possibly murderous leader: Putin. Russia, in my opinion, is a nation state run by organized crime.

In the United States we were better than that. However, in the recent couple of years I see very similar developments. Radical deregulation is fueling the stock market, which is not a surprise. The Obama regulatory environment had throttled the economy. One can argue one way or the other. I personally believe that while we’re riding high on the economy right now, and while the super rich are getting richer, the middle class is doing “just ok.” A tax saving of a few hundred dollars funds one more trip to Costco, which is not a huge improvement for the middle class. But eventually our children and their children will regard the Trump era as a time when their fathers enriched themselves forcing them to pay the bills. The reckoning for today’s boom time will come.

We’re also massively adding to the national debt now. The debt payments are about to exceed our military expenses. While the conservative world was furious when Obama added to the debt, now it does not even get mention. All of a sudden, the debt is not important. After all, the economy is so great, it’s going to pay for it all. I do not believe this is going to work, but only time will tell.

Meanwhile, the buffoon in the White House is overloading us with so many scandals, we can’t even focus on them anymore. When Obama wore a tan suit, the media went crazy for a few days. When Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress, she was castigated. There are nude pictures of our current First Lady on the Internet and nobody seems to take note. We were not numb to scandals, and the media needed something to write about.

Trump does outrageous things every day that my moral compass that does accept. However, there is so much, the list is so long, it’s drowned out. While we’re not able to pay attention, the billionaire class, some of them in the White House and Cabinet, are openly lining their own pockets with corrupt activities, every day. The country is being looted and polluted. The American tax payer is being raped. And we are numb.

An oligarchy is quickly forming, where a very small number of very rich people control the entire economy and the political system.

Is that making America great?

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