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More than ever now, when I watch Trump, he looks completely clueless. I watch him stand next to people at the microphone, eyes shifting back and forth, empty of empathy, bereft of any visible emotion, other than “what do I look like”? When he talks, he says nothing. Gibberish. No encouragement, no consolation, no trace of any plan, no utterance of compassion. He now counts the dead.

It’s a celebration of ignorance.

In 1995, Carl Sagan published The Demon-Haunted World. What a visionary he was. Here is an excerpt:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agenda or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

— Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

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Biden announced today that his candidate for vice president will be a woman.

Given that I expect that Biden will win the nomination, and given that I expect he will win the general election against Trump, this is pretty significant.

Biden, who will be the 46th president of the United States, is pretty much handpicking the woman who will be the 47th and the first female president.

Since Biden will be 78 years old when he takes office, there is a high likelihood that the person he picks for vice president will be president, either due to his death, or due to his abdication for age, as he will be the very oldest president ever.

As fate would have it, I would never have thought that that would be Biden’s eventual legacy.

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I support Bernie Sanders, because I think his heart is in the right place. However, I have issues with many of his policies or attitudes. Here is a tweet he posted today:

First of all, I don’t think anyone is saying she is committing a crime by being in debt. Her debt is not punishment.

She is now a medical doctor. In that profession, she is at the very top of the income scale, both for entry-level positions, as well as for long-term employment opportunities. We are short of medical professionals in this country, which means she is not likely to ever be unemployed. Her job won’t ever be outsourced and it won’t very soon be taken over by automation. In addition, her profession is highly esteemed by the public and she will enjoy the prestige that comes with it.

When she entered medical school, she knew exactly what was going to happen. Eight to ten years of college, during which he had to live, eat, pay rent, buy books, and – yes – pay tuition. She knew it was going to take many years and she was going to take on much debt to finance that investment in her future.

She didn’t all of a sudden fall prey to a loan shark who gave her $300,000 at high interest rate. She had to apply and qualify for those student loans over and over again, every semester anew. She picked up $15,000 to $20,000 every semester at a reasonably low interest rate, interest deferred, one grab at a time. Nobody forced her, nobody twisted her arm, nobody made her do that. She didn’t make an impulse buy of a medical degree. She worked at it for a decade, and she took loans out to finance her life for that decade.

She also didn’t decide for a lower-cost option. For instance, she could have joined the United States Marines via the ROTC program. She would have been a cadet in the undergraduate years and drawn a salary. She would have been a commissioned officer during her medical studies, and the military would have paid for all her education. She would now be debt-free, she would be a captain in the Marines, and she would be a medical doctor. The only thing the country would now ask of her is to serve as a medical officer for six years or so. She didn’t choose that option.

She chose to finance her education and be saddled with $300,000 of debt when she got out.

We, the country, owe her nothing. We don’t think she committed any crime, we don’t think she is being punished by her debt, and we don’t think her indebtedness is a horror.

Let’s compare this to a young family who bought their first house in California in 2005, right about the same time our young doctor finished her high school. 2005 was at a peak in the housing market. They found a nice place for $330,000. They had saved $30,000 for a down payment and took on a mortgage of $300,000. However, when the housing crisis hit in 2007, the value of the property they paid $330,000 for dropped to $140,000. They were hugely upside down. It would take more than 12 years before the value came back up to a reasonable level. They were saddled with punishing debt and there was no way they could sell their house.

Should the tax payer now bail out that family that made a perfectly reasonable decision in 2005 to buy their first house? Of course not! They had bad luck with timing of their real estate deal. Millions of Americans, tens of millions actually, experienced exactly that. We don’t think we should bail them out. They took risks, there were potential gains, but they ended up with severe losses.

The tax payer is not responsible for that young family’s mortgage.

The tax payer is not responsible for the medical doctor’s student loans.

Bernie Sanders is flat out wrong when he tries to pin student debt on the public. I know many bright young people who chose not to get a medical degree because they didn’t want to be burdened with crushing debt when they were done.

If the young doctor is not happy with her investment today, she needs to deal with it.

And that’s why I think Bernie will have trouble. Some of his ideas don’t even make sense to his own supporters – like me.

 

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Go, Bernie, Go!

Here is some text a Republican posted which I lifted from a Reddit post about Bernie. 

I sent another $27.

Sanders needs to stop talking like an extremist and become the centrist he needs to be. That should not be so hard. He needs to ease off, relax, and start talking like a person who governs, not one who protests.

If the Democratic Party had not sabotaged Sanders in 2016, he would have won the election that year and we’d be looking at a different world now.

Go, Bernie, Go!

 

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Back on July 18, 1963, as the AFS [see below] students who had spent their high school year in the United States, were preparing to go back to their countries, they got to visit the White House. JFK talked to them.

It would be another 11 years before I had the privilege to be chosen as an AFS student. I arrived in the United States two weeks after Nixon’s resignation on August 20, 1974. Our group did not get to visit the White House when we went home in July of 1975.

All my life I have been proud to have been an AFS student and to carry the mission forward of spreading peace in the world, one person at a time.

It’s gotten a little more difficult in recent years.

[AFS stands for American Field Service, today the largest and most famed high school student exchange program in the world]

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Larry David and Bernie Sanders appeared on the Steven Colbert show consecutively. Larry David joked about having a 4-year job appearing on Saturday Night Live impersonating Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders, in turn, told Colbert that Larry David had better get used to it.

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Threatening Iran

Many Americans don’t realize how big Iran is. Iran is about four times as large as California or just about the size of Alaska. Geographically, it is the 17th largest country in the world. With 82 million people, it’s the 18th largest country by population and about the size of Germany, the largest country by population in Europe.

Here is a map showing Iran. It’s almost as large as Saudi Arabia, and it dominates the Middle East. It is a neighbor to almost all Middle Eastern countries.

It’s funny to see the country as it is surrounded by United States military bases. When you look at that map, it makes you wonder who is threatening whom?

What would we Americans think if there were Iranian military bases by the dozens all along the border in Canada and Mexico, as well as in Cuba, all over the Pacific, and in Greenland and Iceland? Would we feel threatened?

I am not a friend of the Iranian regime. It’s a terrible, oppressive, murderous country. But I know Iranian people, and I have a lot of respect for them.

Looking at this map makes me think:

What the hell are we doing messing with a country of this size, so far away, with no chance of making any difference, other than spending a lot of money and risking a lot of American lives (again)?

Can we please leave Iran alone?

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Being from the United States, where we are currently governed by very old men and women, and the “new batch” of Democratic candidates more very old men and women for the most part, it is refreshing to see that the young are taking charge in other places of the world.

Here is a part of Finland’s new government:

From left to right:

  • Li Andersson, Minister of Education
  • Katri Kulmuni, Minister of Finance
  • Sanna Marin, Prime Minister, is currently the world’s youngest head of state, at age 34.
  • Maria Ohisalo, Minister of the Interior

The oldest if the above picture is 34.

These are just four of the 19 ministers of the government. Here is the site that shows the entire team. Some of them are a bit older. 12 out of 19 are female.

There is also one title that caught my attention: Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, held by Krista Mikkonen.

Finland is a country of 5.5 million people, which is about the size of any of these states:

  • Wisconsin
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • South Carolina

Yes, Finland is a different kind of country compared to the U.S., but I’d venture to say we would benefit from some young people in our own government.

Bring in the young!

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Movie Review: Bombshell

Bombshell is a dramatization of the time in 2016 when Megyn Kelly didn’t put up with the degrading behavior of candidate Trump, and when Roger Ailes, the creator of Fox News, fell after a massive scandal of sexual harassment.

It is not clear, of course, how much of the story is dramatized, and how much is real. But it gives a telling view of Fox News behind the scenes.

Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) are the main characters in the drama of the fall of Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). They know something is rotten in Fox News, and they struggle internally and openly between coming forward, telling the truth, and exposing what is going on, or staying quiet and continuing with their lucrative careers. We all know how it eventually ended. Roger Ailes was let go by Robert Murdoch, the owner of the network. Eventually, Bill O’Reilly also fell from grace.

I remember watching Fox News over the years, and I remember wondering why all the women in prominent roles, especially the anchors, looked like Barbie Dolls. Now I know. Management required it, all the way from the top down. All the women knew they’d have to buy into it if they wanted to be on television, it was as simple as that. And watching Fox News now, Roger Ailes long gone and meanwhile deceased, it’s still that way today. Fox News hasn’t changed.

Megyn Kelly doesn’t work there anymore, and many others have gone, too.

Bombshell is a revealing movie about a time in our history that is not over yet. Therefore it is quite relevant right now and watching it was insightful. It was a little odd to have all the characters played by actors. Charlize Theron does an amazing job with Megyn Kelly. She looks just like her, and acts just like her. The same holds true for John Lithgow playing Ailes, where it’s important to remember that Ailes was never on television on the front lines, so the viewers don’t know him that well and therefore cannot judge whether Lithgow got it right.

All the other main characters in Fox News make appearances in the form of actors, including Hannity, Pirro, O’Reilly and many others. Fortunately, when a new character is introduced there is always a caption with the name of the character. In some cases, there was a strong likeness, in others not so much. I didn’t recognize Hannity, for example. The playing of Fox News celebrities in Bombshell is somewhat reminiscent on how it is done of Saturday Night Live – a bit comical. But what else could they do?

Overall a movie worthwhile to watch, particularly if you are NOT a follower or fan of Fox News.

Know thy enemy!

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Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak, and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all His laws. 
—John Quincy Adams
This book was presumably written by a senior Trump administration official, like a cabinet-level appointee, or somebody in a similar situation. The account is not favorable to Trump.

The book tells what it’s like to work inside the White House under Trump as a senior advisor or executive. Trump is shown as a completely unfit person for the presidency. He does not read, he has no interest in opinions other than those of himself, he seeks power and status for himself without regard to what is right for the country or its people. He uses his assistants until they somehow disagree with him, and then they become enemies. All his assistants start disagreeing with him within minutes of any direct interaction. It does not paint a good picture.

It is A Warning – and I mean it.

Trump promised during the campaign that he would eliminate the national debt within 8 years in office. He has done the opposite. The deficit is higher than ever in history, spending is out of control, higher than Obama’s and that  was one of the main points the conservatives had against Obama. Here is an excerpt that discusses spending:

Donald Trump was not interested in penny-pinching. He may try to project the image of a man working to save taxpayer dollars, and it’s true that he can be talked out of stupid ideas if they cost too much. But that’s not because he’s trying to save money so it can go back to the American people. He still wants to spend the money, just on things in which he’s personally interested, such as bombs or border security. Trump recoils at people who are “cheap.” Today he is sparing no expense on the management of the executive branch, spending so freely it makes the money-burning days of the Trump Organization look like the five-dollar tables at a Vegas casino. As a result, the budget deficit has increased every single year since Donald Trump took office, returning to dangerous levels. The president is on track to spend a trillion dollars above what the government takes in annually.

— Anonymous. A Warning (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Here is another excerpt talking about spending and the budget.

Donald Trump has America back on the road to bankruptcy, an area where he has unparalleled expertise for a president of the United States. The small band of fiscal conservatives who remain in the Trump administration warned the president about the eventual dangers of his out-of-control spending addiction. In one such meeting, Trump reportedly said, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.” I never heard him say those words, but it doesn’t come as a surprise. That’s how he thinks. What does he care if the federal government goes belly-up? By then it won’t be his problem.
–Anonymous. A Warning (p. 101). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Trump called the writer a traitor. Trump defenders called him a coward.

Both labels are not fair. Let’s just say the facts stated are true. Clearly, the two excerpts above do not tell us anything we don’t already know. The numbers don’t lie. Trump may not like the fact that someone inside his administration states these facts to the public, but treasonous it is not.

It’s simply the truth, simply facts.

There is obviously no way for a cabinet secretary to write such a book under his or her name and live another hour in the administration, and then not be crucified and smeared for life by Trump supporters in the public and the media. So in order to get this book out, it needed to be written anonymously. Usually I do not like it when writers post anonymous comments in my blog, or anywhere online, but I am making an exception in this case. This book contains valuable information that will help me make my decision when it comes time to vote.

And just because of this, I am going to quote a section at the end of the book that is the most important of the entire message, the Warning. Please read this carefully. If you do not end up  reading the book after this review, at least read this excerpt:

Nevertheless, the counterargument to my point will be strong if the Democratic Party nominates someone deeply out of touch with mainstream America. Then everything changes. If it’s one of the Democratic candidates preaching “socialism,” Trump’s fearmongering will still be persuasive. Republicans will argue that the other candidate, as president, would attack our free-market principles, tax us into economic recession, promote a thought-police culture of political correctness, fan the flames of identity politics, and bring government into our lives like never before. It will be a repeat of 2016. Compared to the leftward-lurching Democratic Party, Trump will seem friendlier to conservative ideals. Discussions about qualifications will give way to emotion and fear, and Trump’s reelection chances will rise.
Democrats reading this book know how high the stakes are. I implore you, if you want a majority of our nation to reject Donald Trump, you must show wisdom and restraint in selecting your party’s nominee. Resist the temptation to swerve away from the mainstream. Trust me. We flirted with extremes in the GOP during the last cycle, and look where it got us. If Democrats do the same, Trump will be that much closer to a second term and better equipped to convince Americans to stick with him. If, however, you nominate someone who campaigns on unity instead of ideological purity, you will have a sizable number of Republicans and independents ready to make common cause.
— Anonymous. A Warning (p. 246). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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Sein Kampf

The German magazine Stern put Trump on the cover with the headline:

Sein Kampf – Neonazis, Ku-Klux-Klan, Rassismus: Wie Donald Trump den Hass in Amerika schürt.

His Struggle – Neonazis, Ku-Klux-Klan, Racism: How Donald Trump stokes hate in America.

Of course, the “Sein Kampf” is a pun on Hitler’s popular book “Mein Kampf.”

The word “Kampf” will mostly be translated into “struggle” in English. But that is not quite the right nuance. “My Struggle” as an English title to a book does not have the same implications as Mein Kampf has in German. Mein Kampf would better be translated as:

The relentless mission and quest of my life.

There you have the meaning. Now you can understand the implications of Stern Magazine’s “Sein Kampf.”

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I was in disbelief. I googled and fact-checked. This really happened.

When Trump was passed over for Time Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year in favor of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student who has risen to international fame for her powerful climate activism, his campaign eventually edited Trump’s head on Greta’s body on a fake cover of Time Magazine, framed in a Trump campaign text message.

I have two questions:

  1. What adult can possibly be jealous of a 16-year-old girl reaching the pinnacle of the media world by promoting a powerful message of world-impact?
  2. What President of the United States would possibly feel good about actually attacking a 16-year-old activist on social media because he was jealous of her?

Why doesn’t Trump invite the girl to the White House, congratulate her on her success, get to know her, and ask her questions about how he could help her with her mission? That is what any president in the history of our country would have done.

Until Trump.

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Nancy Pelosi and John F. Kennedy

Nancy Pelosi at age 20.

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Today I found this ad in my Facebook feed:

There are several current presidential hopeful front runners who routinely vilify billionaires, most notably Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. While I am generally aligned with most initiatives of the Democratic platform, I vehemently oppose this notion that “the billionaire class” is the root of our problems in America, and therefore we need to stick it to billionaires to “get even.” I really believe their type of economic extremism makes them unelectable.

This trend is not just American. Britain’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell during a protest stated that ““No one needs or deserves to have that much money, it is obscene,” during a protest of McDonald’s workers demanding higher wages.

In August of 2015 I wrote a post titled Musings about Vilifying Billionaires. This post is as valid today as it was when I first wrote it four years ago.

One of the best books about business I have read in a long time was Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. Here is my review from April 2018. Phil Knight is now number 16 on the Forbes 400 List with a net worth of $35.9 billion. Phil was a regular guy like you and I in the 1960s when he started selling shoes from the trunk of his car. The story of how he built Nike to what it is today is one of the most powerful stories ever told in business. If you have started and run your own business you will know how incredibly stressful and hard it is it make it work, succeed and survive.

Only somebody who has never had to make payroll, like a politician, will say something stupid like “nobody deserves to be a billionaire.” A statement like that exposes the speaker and is a testament to their ignorance and lack of understanding of basic economics.

Let’s go back to the meme above – Martha Kelly probably thinks it is the responsibility of the billionaires to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and cure the sick. And therefore, we should take the money away from the billionaires and let the government handle giving it to the poor. Yes – good luck with that! The same people that make asinine statements like “nobody deserves to be a billionaire” are the ones whom we’re going to entrust the money they are going to take away from the rich to properly distribute to the poor.

Bill Gates has given away more than $28 billion to charity, and he and his wife have managed how the money is being used. I trust Bill Gates 100 times more that the money is used in the right way and for the right causes than I’d ever trust Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren with the same money. Bill made the money, he knows its value, he understands how money works, and he has an intuitive knack for solving problems. Sanders and Warren do not have any of those skills, and neither do most bureaucrats in government.

When the self-appointed redistributors say they are going to take “a little away” from the rich, who decides who is rich and who is not? Where is the threshold? What’s to stop them from saying that if you make more than $80k in your family you are rich and you have to give your surplus to the poor? Who draws the lines?

I say we need to leave the capitalist system alone.

The workers at McDonald’s can ask about more wages all they want. If they are not contributing more for those more wages, they don’t “deserve” those wages.

If they are envious of the amount of money the CEO makes, why don’t they become the CEO? Problem solved. Oh, it’s hard? Ahh, there lies the rub.

If they want to be rich, why don’t they start a company, like a shoe company (Nike), or a software company (Google, Microsoft), or a rocket company (SpaceX), or a car company (Tesla) or an online retail company (Amazon), or a replacement of all taxis company (Uber), and they can be a billionaires. Hey, any of the people who built the companies I have listed here started from scratch.

Bill Gates was a college student who liked math.

Phil Knight was a jock who liked running and couldn’t find good shoes.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page were math students at Stanford.

Elon Musk came to Canada as a twenty-year-old with no money in his pocket. He shoveled out sewer tanks as one of this first jobs in America, before he started a car company and a rocket company in parallel.

Jeff Bezos started an online bookstore from scratch in 1994.

Read the biographies of these men and then come and tell me they don’t “deserve” to be rich!

The American system works. The tax system should be fair and even for all. But vilifying rich people because they were successful after defying all odds and worked their butts off all their lives does not work and will not get Sanders and Warren elected.

Now I have to get back to work. After all, it’s Sunday night and there is a lot yet to get done.

 

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