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It’s been almost 40 years since John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) had someone draw “first blood” on him when we has a young Green Beret who had come back from Vietnam, lost and abused. Here is my review of First Blood

Now an old man, Rambo lives on a dude ranch in Southern Arizona where he trains horses and raises the teenage daughter of a friend who calls him uncle. She was abandoned by her abusive father when she was young and lost her mother to cancer. When she finds out that her father lives in Mexico, she wants to visit him and get to know him. Against Rambo’s best advice, she slips away and finds her father. He cruelly rejects her, and in her grief, while barhopping in town, gets kidnapped by human traffickers.

Rambo is left with no choice but come and find her. What ensues is a one-man-war against an entire Mexican band of organized crime. While Rambo does not actually kill anyone in First Blood, he does not hold back in the subsequent movies, and Last Blood is full of gory detail, from decapitations to impaling, shooting, burning, and disemboweling. Revenge sees no limits in Last Blood. The demons that haunted the young Green Beret forty years ago are still torturing the old man.

I am sure they always will.

 

Just a couple of days ago was the 75th anniversary of VE Day in Europe, the day the Nazis surrendered about a week after Hitler killed himself. What most people do not realize is how short the tenure of power of the Nazis actually was. Hitler didn’t come to power until March 1933 and his Third Reich (which he called the 1000-year-empire) lasted only 12 years.

Today, May 11, 2020 is the 100th anniversary of a milestone speech Hitler gave at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich at 7:30pm, titled “Was wir wollen?” (what we want?). Below is a poster proclaiming the event. This was the time when the fledging Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (the Nazi party) recognized Hitler’s oratory and propaganda skills and he started to rise within the party. He proclaimed he fought for the worker class, he called the people Genossen (comrade) and his mantra was to Make Germany Great Again after its humiliation by the allied powers after “the World War” which we now know as World War I.

Germany didn’t know it at the time, but the dark period started that day. The name of Hitler on the poster was still in very small font.

[May 11th, 1920] First NSDAP advertising posters in Munich. Call for the public party rally on May 11, 1920. Speaker: Adolf Hitler from 100yearsago

Here is a headline in Newsweek I saw today:

White House Misled Public, Buried CDC Reopening Guidelines and is Now Preparing for Second Coronavirus Wave

Newsweek

I wonder what they mean by “Second Coronavirus Wave.” That would mean that the first wave is over. Here is the “curve” of the United States as of Mother’s Day 2020:

Source: Johns Hopkins University

This is the current curve of infections in the United States and represents 1,329,225 positive tests and 79,525 deaths. This is one wave. I don’t see where the first one has stopped.

In contrast, Germany has the 7th most infections in the world. Here is their graph:

Source: Johns Hopkins University

This is what a flattened curve looks like. From that I can see that measures in Germany have been working. When I compare this to the United States in general, there is a marked difference. Germany, and other countries like Italy, France and Spain, are all taking measures that are brutal, but work. The United States is not.

I can take a look at these numbers with a sober eye and a scientific mind. They are what they are. I am not emotional about this.

However, what angers me is when I hear people saying that “people are going to die anyway, so why bother….” This is brutal. Most of the 79,000 Americans that died of this disease would not have died otherwise, at least not yet. If this were business as usual, why do we have:

— Medical workers protesting on the streets

— Emergency doctors and nurses dying in record numbers

— A lack of PPE in hospitals

— Bodies piling up in refrigerated trucks in New York City

This is a virus, and – I hate to use the trite expression – it spreads virally. Without containment, we would see the curves even steeper. If we want to see society as we know it break down, we could try to just let it go. After all, people will just die anyway.

But first, let me move to Papua New Guinea.

 

It’s six years after Olympus has Fallen, when Allen Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) was the Speaker of the House and was Acting President during the terrorist crisis. Apparently, President Asher has served his two terms, and now Allan Trumbull is the President of the United States, and Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is his most trusted Secret Service agent.

There is a high-tech assassination attempt on the president while on a fishing trip. His entire Secret Service detail is killed, and only Banning survives and manages to save the president. He is wrongfully accused of the attack and arrested. After he escapes against all odds, it becomes clear to him that he has been set up. Alone on the outside, the entire U.S. law enforcement machine after him, the president in a coma in the hospital, Mike Banning goes on the offensive, saving the legitimate government from a coup at the highest levels.

While the action in Angel has Fallen is as intense (and unlikely) as in Olympus has Fallen, this is a somewhat better movie – that is – if you like the intense action hero style movies, where everyone gets killed and the hero gets beat up and scratched and shot and poked, but it never seems to stop him.

A week ago, when browsing Netflix, we ended up watching Angel has Fallen, a 2019 film starring Morgan Freeman as the President of the United States and Gerard Butler, the hero, as Secret Service Agent Banning, who protects the president against all odds. At the time we didn’t realize that Angel has Fallen is the third of a trilogy starring Agent Banning. My review of Angel has Fallen is here.

Olympus has Fallen came out in 2013. The White House, under president Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), is taken over by ruthless Korean terrorists in a surprise attack from the air, on land and from inside. The president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the joint chiefs all end up as hostages in a bunker under the White House. Former Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the hero who enters the White House, and in the style of Die Hard, takes out one of the terrorists at a time. There is more at stake than just the lives of the president and his government, as the terrorists threaten to set off a nuclear holocaust in the United States. But in true superhero style, reminiscent of the Rambo or Die Hard movies, Agent Banning saves the day.

The Secret Service code for the White House is apparently “Olympus,” hence the title of the movie. It’s a constant barrage of military style shooting, helicopters and jet planes crashing, bad-ass terrorists killing hostages on TV and the good guys getting mowed down constantly. It does keep you on the edge of the sofa, through, and you can’t help but root for the hero.

Between Olympus has Fallen and Angel has Fallen, there was also a movie titled London has Fallen in 2016, which had worse ratings than the other two. I think I’ll skip “London.”

Souplantation is no more.

I have visited Souplantation restaurants since 1985. When our children were little we would eat there as a family. I have had many a lunch in the Mission Gorge location in San Diego, their very first store opened in 1978. I used to go there to fill up after getting hungry and thirsty sailing on the San Diego Bay.

In 2016, I even had lunch there with the CEO of the company at the time. Here is my post describing that visit.

The buffet-style restaurant business was already struggling, and the concept was challenging to keep alive in recent years. Here is a link to SanDiegoVille with the article announcing the shutdown.

But after the Covid-19 shutdown, with the great uncertainty of what comes next, the chain has been brought to its knees.

I will miss the chicken noodle soup, with sourdough bread and honey-butter.

I am truly saddened.

Amongst all the anxious news, the cabin fever, the stir-craziness, and the moroseness, I did a little browsing in my own blog today and came across this adventure, now eight years in the past.

I thought you might enjoy this story again. Climbing Half Dome. Just reading it again cheered me up.

Trump is messing with the postal service. There is a push to privatize it.

Germans started privatizing their “Deutsche Bundespost” in 1998, and went through several transactions. It’s generally considered a success.

I am not advocating that the United States Postal Service be privatized per se, but I have to criticize it.

In today’s world, and by that I mean the world in the last 15 years, there is no reason why the postal service is not wildly successful. We’re shipping more than ever. With the pandemic, that is even more accentuated.

Any organization in the business of shipping goods should be flourishing. The postal service is not. And it is not for the lack of a dedicated and experienced workforce. It’s because of mismanagement.

The postal service needs commercial leadership, not politicians or bureaucrats, to lead it. Do I sound like a privatization hawk? Yes, I do.

The postal service needs help and work. But now is not the time. We have enough problems on our hands. We need to unplug 2020, wait 10 seconds, and then plug it back in. Right now is not the time to mess with the United States Postal Service. That’s for another year.

I am going to the post office this week to buy a couple of rolls of stamps to boost its revenue.

The guy on Internet saw one YouTube on the subject.

Then Trump sees that YouTube, calls the guy “very good man” and the study is “Fake News.”

Americans gobble it up.

There is so much wrong with this picture, where do I begin?

My eyes are now wide open.

I found this post in Reddit, titled: My Dad is the strongest human I know. Back to 12hr days in ICU a week after his recovery from COVID.

Another doctor posted this below:

Fellow doctor here:

First of all, your dad is an amazing human. He was exposed (likely from a lack of PPE) and went right back into the frying pan.

Now with that out of the way…

I haven’t received a SINGLE penny from any stimulus package, small business loans, nada, because I make too much and because I refinanced my loans they are no longer federal loans. I can guarantee your dad is probably in the same situation. More stress, lack of protection and no additional compensation for showing up and taking care of sick patients.

A lot of doctors (except for maybe ICU and ER) are having to take paycuts. I had to sign a 12.5% pay cut this week, while administrators keep getting their bonuses.

Come on at least give doctors some kind of tax break. You don’t need to pay us more, call us heroes, etc. just let us keep more of what we already earned, at least for a couple of months.

This points out one of the great injustices in our system. We are asking women and men like these to work under impossible conditions, with impossible hours, for weeks on end – while our system is cutting their pay!

Then we have people protesting around the country claiming this is a hoax, the hospitals are not really full. There really isn’t any problem. It’s all hyped by the media. Are they really suggesting that the media is making this up:

— Bodybags starting to stack up outside nursing homes causing neighbors to complain about the stench?

— Refrigeration trucks lining up outside hospitals because they have no place to put the dead anymore.

— As of April 10, over 200 nurses and doctors have died worldwide from Covid-19.

All of this is world-wide media hype somehow created for what to benefit whom?

My (sarcastic) suggestion: Protestors and denialists should wear some identifier that lets the nurses and doctors know what their opinion was when they show up sick at the hospital. That way these whining doctors can decide not to treat the non-existing patients and go on to the real ones.

 

58,220 Americans died during the Vietnam War over a period of years. For two generations since we have considered the Vietnam War a disaster in American history. We have a memorial for those 58,220 people in Washington, DC.

As of today, we just reached over 1 million people infected in the United States, and 58,365 Americans have died over less than a six-week period. And these deaths are being brushed aside by some people as “they would have died anyway.” I still haven’t heard Trump express any empathy, remorse or sorrow.

These 58,365 deaths are after draconian measures of most of the economy in this country being shut down. Imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t taken those measures! There are still people in this country right now who are saying that “the cure is worse than the disease.” Seriously?

This is a catastrophe unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes.

 

 

We just visited our daughter’s house. They have a lemon tree in the yard. The lemons are huge, and they actually smell strongly like lemons.

Here is a picture of one of the lemons we picked – banana for scale – next to a grocery store lemon. I’ll let you guess which is which.

And such is the difference between commercial products and organically grown products.

This morning I had a video meeting with a few dozen friends all around the world, from far-away places like Bali, Malaysia, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Newfoundland, England, Guatemala, and many other places. Much of the conversation, as all conversations seem to do now, revolved around the handling of the virus.

Getting a perspective from folks around the world, and the different approaches, was enlightening to me. Here are few points of view:

Sweden – the lady from Sweden pointed out that there was no lockdown of any kind in Sweden, and things were going along ok. We discussed that the demographics of a comparatively small country are very different than those of the United States. The population of Sweden is about 10 million people, the density is 24.7 people per square kilometer. The county of Los Angeles has a population of about 10 million also, with a density of 2910 people per square kilometer. That’s a hundred times denser. New York City’s density is over 10,000 people per square kilometer. That’s 300 times denser than Sweden. When the right wing media in the United States suggests that since things worked in Sweden without any lockdown, it’s a ludicrous comparison when talking about a highly infectious disease. My Swedish friend also pointed out that the Swedish people, for the most part, were self-isolating as suggested, without being forced to do so.

Spain – One of our friends is a Spanish physician with a private practice. He said he is basically wearing an “astronaut” suit all day, and his office manager was scheduling patients every 30 minutes, so there is never more than one patient in the office. The receptionist goes to the parking lot to pick up the next patient when ready. He said that you needed a special pass to leave the house, unless going to work, and you only got it once a week for a period of time to go grocery shopping. The fine for having two people in one car is 600 Euros.

Italy – They need permission to leave the house for essential trips. In some places they even have mobile apps that grant this permission.

Brazil – The streets are empty. The virus is pretty bad. Even the warm weather has not dampened it as some factions in the United States have been hoping it might.

Florida – Our friend in Florida pointed out that more people were out walking the streets than ever before. I see that here in California, too. If I work out in my front yard, there is a constant stream of people walking the neighborhood, many with their dogs. Of course, there is nothing else to do, you’ve got to get out of the house, and you pick an activity that is legal (at least here in California and Florida) and enjoy.

Bali – everything is empty and quiet. The population density is high and people are scared.

Germany – some businesses are now opening up again. The curve in Germany is starting to ease off.

Never before in my lifetime have I seen such unity around the world. We’re all the same people with the same needs. We are all smart and we’re doing the best we can to work together to defeat this disease and come out on the other side healthy and stronger. The disease doesn’t have anything to do with languages, races, religions, countries, even continents. It makes people sick indiscriminately and it seems to kill 5 to 10 percent of those who get sick. It’s a pretty simple enemy.

I have two main thoughts triggered from this:

War – what good is it?

The current United States is still waging war in far away countries. It makes no sense to me. Leave people alone. Why don’t we stop the stupid sanctions of Iran, let the people of Iran have some relief. Good grief, they have enough on their hands  with 90,000 cases of Covid-19 and 5,620 deaths. I am hopeful that the pandemic might help stop wars altogether going forward. The most warlike nation in the world is definitely the United States. I have a vote here. I will vote accordingly.

Climate Change – a common enemy

Just like the pandemic, which kills across borders, a common enemy is climate change. It affects the whole world. It does not care what country caused it or continues to cause it. It does not care what countries it floods. It does not care what natural disasters is causes and where. It will affect our water supply, our food supply, it’ll make some cities and entire countries unlivable, it’ll cause mass extinction of flora and fauna all over the world, no matter how much the current government in the United States thinks it’s “not real.”

Our response and eventual conquest of Covid-19 will not come from nationalist propaganda or competition. It’ll come from the whole world cooperating as best it can. German pharma scientists, Chinese manufacturers, American doctors, will all work together to defeat this common enemy of mankind. Let’s attack war and climate change together next.

I think I’ll go for a walk now!

Recently a friend shared a post on Facebook:

James Fallows, an American writer, notes that on February 20 neither South Korea nor the U.S. had any deaths from the coronavirus; on March 20 S. Korea had 100, the U.S. had 150; on April 20 S. Korea had 236 deaths while the U.S. surpassed 40,000. S. Korea followed WHOs guidelines and suggestions from mid-January – the U.S. did not.

This friend is on the liberal side of the spectrum.

A friend of his on the conservative side then responded to the effect that he needed to “stop the hatred” and that he had “reached a low point in his life as a Christian.”

There is no hatred that I can see in the quote above, which wasn’t even his own, it was a shared post.

Obviously, this person on the right side interpreted the ongoing political criticism of the right by my friend as hatred.

Being critical, and having different opinions, is central to the concept of democracy. If we oppose somebody’s view, and publicize that, we’re not hating. We’re simply propagating our own viewpoint. If our arguments are powerful, we’ll convince more people to come around to our side, and eventually change the course of a country, or a world.

He also referred to the Christianity of my friend. He must be inferring that being critical of conservative political views somehow affects a person’s Christian credibility.

I don’t watch sports. I don’t watch football. A long time ago, in a casual social conversation, a friend of mine made the statement that “I know you hate football….” which offended me a bit. I choose not to watch football. It does not do anything for me and I’d rather spend my time otherwise. That does not mean I hate football. It does not mean I don’t understand other people’s fascination with the game. I am just not interested.

I am not religious. That does not mean I hate Christians. I have many Christian friends, and I respect them. Their religion does not affect my assessment of them. I am just not interested.

I am actually fairly conservative in my political thinking, but I haven’t voted for any American Republican in a few decades. I am registered as an independent. But I don’t hate the American political right. I speak out against it because I think it’s misguided and it’s terrible for our current world situation and our country and its future.  I will do what I can with sound, logical, scientific arguments, within my limited abilities and reach, to try to persuade people to lean in my direction. That’s democracy at work.

That is not hatred.

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