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None of us elected 36-year-old Jared Kushner for any position, but Trump has just elevated him to what I’d call co-president. At inauguration night he told him that if “you can’t bring about peace in the Middle East, nobody can.” Aha, a 36-year-old smartypants with no government experience who may have met a Muslim or two is going to do what Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama could not do in two generations. Easy! Why didn’t we bring in Kushner long ago?

According to Bloomberg:

Kushner is chipper about his new assignment, and, given that his entire experience in public administration can be counted on two calendar pages, a wee bit precious as he dispenses advice.

“We should have excellence in government,” he allowed. “The government should be run like a great American company.”

Kushner and his father-in-law haven’t run the White House like even an average American company thus far, but with the Trumps, hope springs eternal.

Kushner’s new Office of American Innovation will reportedly showcase a number of corporate titans, including Apple’s Tim Cook and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, all of whom, among other things, will make recommendations about how to make government more tech-savvy and more data-centric.

It’s hard not to get behind any plan that makes government more effective and tries to use data instead of, say, raw ideology to help craft better policy decisions. So let’s wish the White House success.

Ah, there it is again, the government should be run like a great American company, like Trump Airlines, perhaps, that went bankrupt, or Trump Wine, or… And I keep saying it, these guys really believe a government is a company. A company is an autocratic institution where the CEO can do anything, as long as it’s legal. And if the CEO doesn’t know what he’s doing, the company goes under. That’s not how a democracy works. Democracy means “governed by the people.” Not by the CEO! These guys don’t seem to get that. I am looking forward to seeing what happens when Kushner makes a mistake, but Trump can’t very well fire the father of his grandchildren.

And then there is the matter of making government data-centric. Ah, like studying the data about climate change and making decisions based on that data, rather than what fossil fuel company has paid off what stooge recently? Like building a statistical model to represent the safety of our citizenry, which will show that it’s more likely to be killed by lightning than by a radical Islamist terrorist, or worse, it’s more likely to be killed by a redneck American ideologue than by a Muslim terrorist?

Oh, I am looking so forward to the models that Bill Gates and Tim Cook will show Kushner. Then Kushner will show them to his science-illiterate dad-in-law who will then simply tweet:

Fake News! Nobody knows science better than I do! Sad.

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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 wrote this article a year ago about the comparative sizes of the U.S. Military, and in broad strokes the numbers are still good today. Trump just said that we need to add another $50 billion a year to our military spending. Seriously?

Norbert Haupt

In January of 2013, I wrote this post about U.S. Military spending. Most of the numbers and basic facts, as well as my suggestions on what to cut still stand today, three years later (the numbers used here are for 2014). However, there are some developments that I should point out:

Print [IISS – click for image credit] The U.S. military spending has gone down from $711 billion to $581 billion, if I can take the two different sources as valid and make an apples-to-apples comparison. China’s has gone down a bit, also. Russia is about the same, and so are most of the other nations. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has doubled its spending during those years and risen to slot number 3 with $80 billion.

I put these numbers in a chart ranking the top ten military spenders in the world.

military spending 2014-1

The U.S. still spends more than the next NINE COUNTRIES…

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Absurdities and Atrocities

Still more true than ever. Thanks, Voltaire.

Norbert Haupt

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

— Voltaire

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Scientists at Harvard are working on to resurrect the woolly mammoth from extinction through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering. According to the scientist leading the ‘de-extinction’ effort, the team could be just two years away from creating a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo, in which the genes extracted from the frozen remains of woolly mammoth would…

via Harvard Scientists Claim They Could Resurrect Woolly Mammoth From Extinction Within Two Years — Sparkonit

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In the wake of the Flynn resignation, it’s more important than ever for every concerned American to read Red Notice to fully understand Putin’s Russia and how it operates. Very frightening, particularly if the Trump people subscribe to this method of operation. I say you should RUN to the bookstore and pick up Red Notice.

Norbert Haupt

red-notice

Bill Browder started his career on Wall Street and was drawn first to Eastern Europe and then to Russia shortly after the Soviet Union broke apart. He started an investment fund and eventually became the largest foreign investor in Russia. In the process of privatizing, Russia ended up with twenty-two oligarchs owning 39 percent of the economy, while everyone else lives in poverty. In that environment, by investing in Russian businesses, Browder made a fortune for himself and his clients.

Then he noticed some anomalies within the companies he had invested in. Big chunks of the companies were stolen, leaving the investors diluted. As he drilled down into the complex schemes underway, he discovered massive fraud involving investors, regulatory agencies, law enforcement, the judicial system, and government in general, up to the highest level. He found that Russia was basically a criminal enterprise designed to suck the resources out of the country…

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Presidential Raccoon Tan

racoon-tan

Check out this article by Laura Beck in the Cosmopolitan.

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Pence on Muslim Ban

pence-on-muslim-ban

Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.

— Gov. Mike Pence, Dec 8, 2015

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False Speech

Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince.

— Proverbs 17:7

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Waterboarding

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Yeah!

Ends and Beginnings

dons-johns

These are the port-a-potties being used for the Donald J. Trump presidential inauguration. What do you think, America’s number one of number two? What a powerful and prophetic visual.

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Troubled Times Ahead

November 22, 1963 – John F. Kennedy is assassinated. February 21, 1965 – Malcolm X is assassinated. April 4, 1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated. June 5, 1968 – Robert Kennedy is assassinated. In the span of five years the citizens of the United States lived through four very traumatic assassinations. I was […]

via Fear of the unknown — Ends and Beginnings

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Poem: Mondnacht

Stumbling across a five-year-old post about a beautiful German poem, I added an Addendum today highlighting a musical rendition that is as powerful as the poem itself. My friend Eric, in the comments below in 2011, was helpful with translations that will give the English reader some sense of the content. I will not even try this, I won’t be able to do it justice. But listen to the music. It needs no words.

Norbert Haupt

Very seldom do I stumble across poetry that really touches me. Mondnacht (moon night) is one such poem. I saw it as a youth, memorized it, thanks to a persistent, and at the time loathed, German teacher. I wrote it into the cover of a book some time later. Then I completely forgot about it. Last week, I happened upon the book that lay dormant in a box for 40 years, opened the cover, and there it was. It touched me deeply once again.

[I cannot convey this in English. If you can read German, may it lift your soul and fly away with you.]

Mondnacht

Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel
Die Erde still geküsst,
Dass sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nun träumen müsst’.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis’ die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre…

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wind-turbines

[picture credit]

Recently I heard Trump ridicule wind turbines because they “kill all our birds.” The president of the United States should know his facts better and not spout out nonsense. People actually listen!

Estimates about bird deaths from wind turbines vary greatly, but opponents of wind turbines, like fossil fuel industrialists and owners of golf courses, generally estimate on the high side.

I found a Smithsonian article that states that we kill between 140,000 and 328,000 birds a year in the United States with wind turbines. This is based on a study searching for the results of many other studies. We will never be able to have an exact number, but this is pretty close.

However, there are many causes of deaths for birds that are much more devastating. Supposedly, for every bird killed by a wind turbine, 2,800 birds are killed by cars. I certainly have hit my share of birds over the years. Critics often point out raptor birds as the victims, because those are the cool and rare ones. Researchers have identified the leading causes of deaths of raptors to be (1) shooting, (2) poison and (3) cars.

The leading causes of deaths for birds are buildings, power lines, cats, automobiles and pesticides, in that order. One study actually found that feral cats alone kill 3.7 billion birds in the United States every year. That is 10 million birds a day. Compare that to the estimated 2 per day per wind turbine.

No matter what study you believe, and what numbers are accurate even by a factor of 100, claiming that wind turbines should not be used to reduce killing of birds makes no sense whatsoever.

But then, there is Trump.

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