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Commander-in-Chief

Ocean Majesty

In Hawaii, the ocean is never far away. Life is dominated by the ocean. Its power, its grace, its eternity is overwhelming.

Recently a friend (WI) sent me this poem about the ocean by Lord Byron (1788 – 1824), from “Childe Harold,” Canto IV.

Here in Hawaii, this rings true, every minute, every day, all the time:

THERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean,—roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin,—his control
Stops with the shore;—upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths,—thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,—thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.

The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee and arbiter of war,—
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada’s pride or spoils of Trafalgar.

Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee;
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters wasted them while they were free,
And many a tyrant since; their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou;
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play,
Time writes no wrinkles on thine azure brow;
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed,—in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; boundless, endless, and sublime,
The image of Eternity,—the throne
Of the Invisible! even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward; from a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers,—they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror, ’t was a pleasing fear;
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane,—as I do here.

You can’t make this stuff up. Ryan is aghast because the healthy are paying for the sick. Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois doesn’t think men should pay for prenatal care. There is this odd sentiment that the healthy should not pay for the sick.

It’s called INSURANCE, gentle congressmen!

I have automobile insurance so I never, ever use it. I have it so I have coverage in the extremely remote event that I do some serious damage to some other person or vehicle, and I am not bankrupted by my mistake – or accident. Everyone that does not have accidents pays for those that do. That’s what we have insurance for.

I have fire insurance for my home so if I am unfortunate enough and my iron fails and burns down my house, I get it replaced. Everyone else’s money pays for my house. I have paid homeowners insurance for 40 years, and never once used it. I am sincerely hoping that I will never use it. Yet, I gladly pay. That’s what we have insurance for.

Health insurance is no different. It’s designed to cover me against catastrophic illness, accident, or other medical misfortune. It’s the job of the actuaries to find out how much it takes from the public to pay for the sick. Younger people pay less. They are less likely to need it. Older people pay more. Smokers should pay more. That’s what the Affordable Care Act was all about.

It’s called insurance.

 

 

There are only thirteen letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, five vowels, and eight consonants, one of which is the okina, symbolized by ‘, which actually is a pause in speech, a “no sound” which causes a halt in the language and gives it the characteristic Hawaiian sound.

The letters are:

a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w and the okina.

It’s a beautiful language, so simple, and so melodic. It seems like it’s made for songs.

Here is one of my favorite Hawaiian songs: E ku’u morning dew – by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole:

Norbert at Sunset on Maui — Picture Credit: Trisha

One of the best things about Hawai’i is that it puts me in my place. I love the islands, and I love even more marveling about them.

The islands are one of the most remote places on earth. It takes six hours by plane from the nearest mainland, California, to get here. There is no land in between. And once here, there is no other land in any direction closer than that. We’re in the middle of the Pacific, as far away from any land as you can get.

As the islands formed, only one new species of animal was added every 10,000 years, since it was so difficult for life to get here. Driftwood carried insects and seeds, and occasional storms carried birds. Of course, that all changed when humans started coming here a thousand years ago.

Whenever I am here, I am struck by how young these islands are compared to geological ages. I can see the youngness in the land, and still, compared to human history, it is ancient.

The Hawaiian islands were formed by a single hot spot under the Pacific that has been spewing lava for tens of millions of years, while the Pacific plate is moving from east to west. The oldest of the islands are toward the east, the biggest one remaining is Kauai. There are older islands west of Kauai, or remainders of islands, all washed back to the sea. Kauai is 5.1 million years old. That’s all. Oahu is 3 million years old. Maui is 1.32 million years old. The Big Island is only 400,000 years old. Proto humans already walked the earth and came out into the savannahs in Africa when the Big Island was formed.

And now, Lo’ihi is an active submarine volcano located about 22 miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island. Its top is now about 3,000 feet below sea level. When it finally reaches the surface, it will be the next Hawaiian island as the other ones slide northeast.  

Maui is called the Valley Isle. There are really two major volcanoes on Maui,  the western side is 5,700 feet high, and Haleakala is 10,000 feet high. The valley between the two mountains is pronounced and very obvious when looking down from either mountain. Driving from ocean to ocean from the north end of the valley to the south end takes only about 20 minutes. Looking at the water lapping at the edge makes me think how the ocean is biting into the land, foot by foot. Every time I drive that stretch I am aware that this land will be under water in the not too distant future. It won’t take many feet of sea level rise before this valley ocean, and Maui becomes two islands. Our descendants will see two islands where I only see one. The only question is, will it be my grandchildren, or will it be another 50,000 years?

To think that all of Haleakala will be washed into the sea, completely gone, in another 10 million years boggles my mind. Ten million years is nothing in geological terms. To wash a 10,000 foot mountain completely into the sea in 10 million years, the rain and wind only has to erode it by 1 foot every 1,000 years. Quite possible.

In my entire lifetime I just got to catch a small glimpse of land being formed in Hawaii, and being washed away. A blink of an eye only. This puts my human lifespan into perspective and lets me understand how long a span of 10 million  years actually is.

Watching time shape Hawaii reminds me of a quote in a John Denver song:  I have to say it now, it’s been good life all in all, it’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.

Amidst all the confusion and obfuscation by the president and his stooges, the real work is being done by Congress, and nobody seems to be watching.

1. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
2. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
3. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
4. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
6. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
7. HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
8. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
9. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
10. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran

Congress is quietly dismantling our country as we know it. They are “making America great again” by throwing it back to the way things were in the 1940s. Seriously?

Pretty soon they’ll turn the Internet off because too many of us pesky citizens are watching and posting nasty fake news like this.

Pretty soon we’ll all be poor, since the billionaires are going to suck up more and more of our taxes and resources, and then they’ll take our iPhones away because we’ll need this money to buy health insurance on the open market.

What is DeVos going to do when the Department of Education no longer exists? What is Scott Pruitt going to do when he turns off the lights at the EPA?

I am seriously scratching my head. America is going to be “great again” when abortion is criminalized, when there is no EPA to keep a check on the rampant rape of our land by industry, when every state makes its own decisions about education, when millions of people who just managed to get health insurance will lose it again?

This is all going on while the presidential clown show is underway in Florida, keeping us distracted from the real changes happening that affect all of us every day.

Are they serious?

We really want this?

Saw this on Facebook today:

No, I do not agree.

Contrary to what many people think, the Pledge has nothing to do with our founding fathers. It was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth’s Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.

It didn’t have “the Flag of the United States of America” in it at the time. That was not added until 1923.

“Under God” was added during the Eisenhower administration in 1954 to counteract communism. Bellamy’s daughter objected to that change.

Making children recite memorized slogans in a public forum, under peer pressure, is a form of brainwashing and propaganda. Just like school prayer.

We should give our children the gift of critical thinking. When they know how to think for themselves, they can decide to what and who they should have allegiance for, based on merit, not on memorized slogans, especially if they don’t know the origins of those slogans.

Once they are adults, they should have been exposed to a number of political philosophies and different religions, and it should be an easy and obvious choice for them to decide which ones they want to subscribe to.

Free Melania

Saw this on a parking lot in Hawaii.

“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”

— Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD

An immigrant is someone who left his country voluntarily to look for a different, usually better life in another country. To even suggest that slaves were immigrants is preposterous.

Slaves gut ripped from the arms of their families, often as children, shackled like animals, driven by whips to the coasts of Africa, where they got dumped into the bottoms of ships to hopefully survive months of squalor, starvation, disease and heat before they arrived in countries they didn’t know, where they didn’t want to be, with no way back, with no hope of any end, just so they could work all waking hours for nothing but the food they were given and the chance for another day of the same. Even their children were automatically slaves.

Immigrants?

How out of touch the brilliant brain surgeon must be to make such statement!

The absurdity of the wall is demonstrated by Braulio Guerra, a Mexican congressman.

Have you ever built a garden and watched what the rabbits and gophers do to your carrots? We once grew a batch of heirloom tomatoes. They looked beautiful. Until they were almost ripe and rats took them all.

Have you then tried to enclose your garden with chicken wire? Even burying the underground barrier two feet down and three feet up somehow didn’t keep the critters out.

I am not comparing people to rats and gophers. People are way smarter. Throughout history, walls have not worked. People climb over them, find holes in them, cut through them and burrow tunnels underneath them. People fly over them.

Forty percent of our illegal immigrants came here by airplane.

The wall is an absurdity. It is a political spectacle designed by a show-man con-man to foment the fury of the public. The wall is propaganda. Now the public is apparently willing to spend $15 billion of tax money to build an absurdity of unmatched proportion to prove no point at all.

This is happening while funding for the arts and healthcare is cut, Social Security is attacked, and many other valuable government services are raided.

We are about to spend $15 billion on an absurd spectacle of propaganda. Read my lips: this wall will never be finished. We will point to the relics decades from now in disbelief. It will be a visible reminder of an absurd boondoggle of an even more absurd administration.

Eso es lo que tengo que decir del absurdo del muro.

On Thursday, I woke up in Syracuse, New York, and traveled back to San Diego (6 hours of flying).

On Saturday, we flew from San Diego to Kahului, Hawai’i (6 hours of flying).

I checked the weather in Syracuse and Maui as we arrived:

kihei2

 

kihei1

I am glad I am not in Syracuse anymore.

kihei4

Breakfast at the world-famous Kihei Caffe, a real dive by the road, only takes cash, but there is always a line out the door.

All is good. Trisha is scoping out the beach:

kihei3

Trump is complaining about Obama wiretapping Trump’s phones? We have a low-life dive-bar bully for a president.

Ah, and there is the “very sacred election process.” Let’s see how this all will end. I wonder what the wiretaps, if they exist, will bring forward?

A former policy adviser to President Obama is firing back at President Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, saying it didn’t happen — at least not under Obama’s orders.

“No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you,” Ben Rhodes tweeted Saturday morning.

He also said “only a liar” could make the case, as Trump suggested, that Obama wire tapped Trump Tower ahead of the election.

The Trump phenomenon still baffles me, and I assume it always will. The man looks incompetent. He speaks like a fifth-grader. When he reads his speeches, like the joint session of Congress speech earlier this week, he looks wooden and stilted. Everyone praised him for looking presidential. To me, he looked fake.  His actions are not congruent with what he says, most of the time. His plans are vapor. He talks about things that make no sense. He makes false statements, knowing fully well they are false. He doesn’t care about the average, middle-class citizen. To me, all this is completely obvious. I can’t believe that others don’t see it too.

Trump supporters don’t seem to see this. It’s baffling to me. There is one thing that all Trump supporters eventually say that justifies everything else that’s going on:

Trump is a brilliant business man, he has had great business success, and he will use that skill for the good of our country, if we only give him the chance.

That’s the argument everyone makes, and it is the core of their justification.

Well, I don’t agree. He is not a brilliant business man, just like Russian oligarchs are not brilliant business men. I think he is simply very good at manipulating others to do his bidding, and to “use the system” to his advantage.

I am a business man. I would not call myself brilliant. But I have run businesses for most of my career, and the last and current one for over 25 years now. I have created hundreds of direct jobs over the years. I have created more than $50 million of direct economic activity in the last 15 years alone, and probably generated several times more indirect activity as a result. I don’t have an airplane with my name on it. I fly coach. I am not rich. But I have been productive all my life, and I have been honest.

I have never filed for bankruptcy, either personal or in business. I have never “used the system” like Trump has several times. Every contractor I ever engaged got paid exactly what the contract said I would pay him. Every time. I have never been sued by anyone. When the market crashed, due to reckless dealings on Wall Street by Trump cronies, and due to bad regulatory oversight by our government, my real estate dropped to 35% of its value in 2008, and for the past nine years the property still has not recovered the value I paid for it at the time. It’s still upside down today. I have paid my mortgage every month, on time. Financial advisors have told me to walk away from it over the years. But I pay my mortgage because I wrote on a piece of paper in 2004 that I would. I could have “used the system” and been what Trump calls “smart,” but my honor and integrity is more important to me than being smart and rich.

Trump, the brilliant business man, does apparently not see anything wrong with “using the system” to shed his debt when he makes a bad deal, or when economic conditions work against him. I do.

When you file for bankruptcy, you are making other people pay for your losses. There is no more favorable way to put it.

When you don’t pay your contractors what you promised to pay them, you are using other people’s money to enrich yourself, and you are using bully tactics to intimidate them into settling. This is not smart or brilliant, it’s simply reckless.

This may work in business. Trump has an airplane with his name on it. And I simply go to work every day. But I don’t believe it works when you lead a country.

When we screw this up, everyone pays for our mistakes. If we are wrong on global warming, and if we’re creating hell for our grandchildren, they pay. They may curse us, but the will pay. When we see nothing wrong with polluting our rivers with toxic coal residue, and people downstream are poisoned, so people upstream can have jobs, those downstream pay. They may not like it. See what’s going on in Flint, Michigan. They may not like it, but they pay.

Is Trump really such a brilliant business man?

I am a business man, and I would be ashamed if I had used Trump’s tactics, like filing bankruptcy four times, like not paying income taxes for 20 years (which we can only assume he did), like suing contractors who worked on my buildings, like sexually assaulting women in my employ. I am proud that I was not a brilliant business man, I guess.

But then, I don’t have an airplane with my name on it, I don’t have luxury properties all over the world, and I don’t get to ride on Air Force One for my vacations, at $3 million of taxpayer money per trip.

Do you see why I am baffled?

lion

In the mid-1980s in a small town somewhere in India, the five-year old boy Saroo is on a night outing with this older brother he adores. When Saroo gets tired, his brother leaves him to sleep on a bench in the train station and tells him to wait for him. Saroo, groggy, wakes up in the night, tries to find his brother, wanders onto an empty passenger train, and eventually falls asleep on one of  the seats. When he wakes up the next day, he is a thousand miles from home. He has no idea where he is, what town he is from, even the full name of his mother.

He is completely lost and left to his own devices alone in Kolkata. After being brought to an orphanage, he eventually gets adopted by an Australian couple.

Twenty-five years later he goes on a quest using Google Earth to find his home.

This is a true story, told in vivid details. We know, going into the movie, how it ends. Against all odds, he finds his home, and that’s not a spoiler.

According to the credits, there are many thousands of children that get lost in India every year, and most of them, I am sure, do not have a happy ending. The movie examines the human journey. As I walked out, wiping the tears off my cheeks, I knew I had just experienced a very simple human story, one of culture clashes, and one of emotional triumph. Good food for the soul.

Why is the title Lion you might ask?

You just have to go and watch the movie to find out.

Rating - Three Stars

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