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What I seriously do not understand is who the 81% of Republicans are that approve of Trump.

The “grab them by the pussy” attitude does not bother them? The constant lying? The fact that he does not take responsibility for his actions, or gaffes? The fact that he can’t put a coherent sentence together? The reckless putting at risk our soldiers and, really, all of us? The fact that he does not do his constitutional duty and enforce the sanctions against Russia? He is supposed to protect the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There is a clear and present foreign enemy. That does not bother the 81%?

I really have a hard time wrapping my head around that.

So I just saw this meme on my Facebook feed, and I find it almost personally insulting.

First, I am not a Democrat to begin with. All my life, I have been an independent, and I have always voted for the character, the person, and not the party. I happen to agree with some of the core principles the Republican party stands for, and I happen to agree with some of the core principles of the Democratic party.

Donald Trump does not believe in conservative values or liberal values. In my opinion, Donald Trump is a disturbed personality. He was a registered Democrat from August 2001 through September 2009. Donald Trump is now a Republican just because it suits his current ambitions and it works. Donald Trump will always be what’s best for Donald Trump at the time.

When Trump tells us he is fighting for the American people he is lying. Trump is in this for himself and his ego. He wanted to be president because that looked good on the resume for a narcissist. He conned the American people into voting for him. How now has what he wanted. He is in the history books. That’s what it was all about.

Trump does not believe in conservative or liberal values, Trump believes in  whatever it takes to make him money and feel good about himself.

Trump, the brilliant business man started many projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars that then failed. When they failed, rather than owning up to them and paying for the devastation himself, he “used the system” and filed for bankruptcy. He calls that “smart.” I call that flushing other people’s money down the toilet. When the real estate market crashed and the value of my property went to 35% of what I paid for it, I hung on, paid the mortgages every month for the last 10 years, and even now I am not back to 100% yet. I signed a contract with a bank, and I lived up to my obligations under that contract. In contrast, when Trump’s casino failed, and he filed for bankruptcy, the steel workers, the carpenters, the cooks, the maids, the landscapers, and the stockholders of the banks that held his loans all paid for the damage, and Trump walked away with his money in his pocket. He “used the system.” Trump is living off of the rest of us. Trump, the brilliant business man, sucks those around him dry and then he casts them aside.

Trump, the brilliant negotiator, can’t even negotiate any legislation in Congress controlled by his own party.

Trump, the brilliant leader, attacks those that work for him and around him, undermines them, ridicules them, and casts them aside when they are no longer convenient to him. This is not be behavior of a leader, who takes responsibility. This is the behavior of a bully and a coward.

I could go on and on about what I dislike about Trump, and none of it has anything to do with the Republican party.

Tell me what you like about Trump, and don’t say “he says it like it is” because he has no idea what it is like. He is lazy, uneducated, uncultured, and so full of himself that he doesn’t even know it.

And therefore he is dangerous.

 

 

I had to order checks that I can fill out by hand from the bank. It got to be embarrassing that I could not pay the gardener with a check. So now, we have a lifetime supply of checks. But then, I didn’t have a checkbook cover. You can’t just have a pad of checks floating around. They’ll get all dog-eared in no time. So I went on Amazon and purchased a checkbook cover. There was a surprising amount of variety available, in all price ranges. I got one of the cheapest. Vinyl.

Today it arrived. And, more prominently than anything else, inside the little Ziplock bag that the cover came in, was this label:

WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

So what do you think I’ll do now? Not hold my checkbook close to my reproductive organs? It’s a piece of plastic! Our whole house is full of plastic. My car is practically made out of plastic. And then there is my iPhone, plastic and radiation poison of all kinds, and it’s always, always within a couple of feet of my body. Oh, the damage!

Really, seriously, is there a single person in the world who will receive this package of a checkbook cover, read this label, and change his mind and send the product back to the evil manufacturer? What else could the point of this label be?

Go to any restaurant in California, and somewhere near the entrance there will be a similar sign. “This facility is using products and chemicals known to the State of California…”

Do you want to know about really shocking labels? Go to Germany.

Recently I had visitors from Germany who – no surprise there – smoked. Comically, they found it somewhat difficult to engage in their passion, since in the hotels where they stayed they had to invariably stand at the edge of the parking lot to smoke. Many properties do not allow any smoking on the hotel grounds, even outside.

But I digress. There is a picture of a German cigarette box:

The label on the side states “Rauchen ist tödlich” or “smoking is deadly.”

Look at the top of the box where it states “Kinder von Rauchern werden oft selbst zu Rauchern.” This means “children of smokers often become smokers themselves.”

Sometimes they show pictures of horrible deformations in faces or extremities caused by smoking, right outside on the packaging. The boxes look like poison products with the name of the brand, in this case “Parisienne,” a cigarette targeted at female customers, almost seemingly an afterthought.

I can’t say I haven’t been warned. So if I ever die of cancer, I will think about that checkbook cover I bought just so I can pay the gardener in 2017.

When visiting Washington, D.C., it’s always a joy to go to some of the museums. I went to the National Gallery of Art. There is a wealth of world-class art to see. My “eyes get full” after an hour or so.

One of the highlights at the museum is Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci, pictured here. There is usually a crowd around it, so it’s hard to get to.

This painting is famous for being the only original da Vinci in the western hemisphere. I have seen my first da Vinci!

Then, later, I rounded a corner in the French section, and whoosh, there was Lovers by Picasso.

It seemed surreal, because for many years, a print of this painting hung in our house,  so it was common for me. Seeing it here, in the original much larger than the print, and so out of context, was like instant time travel back to the days when my children were little, and the print of this painting was prominent in our house. It immediately brought back the smells, sounds and emotions.

As I always do, I left the museum inspired to go home and pick up my brushes.

Today was a great day in Washington, D.C. 72 degrees, sunny, and light. The Capitol sat there in all its grandeur.

The Tax Cut Thing

I talked to my CPA about taxes. He thinks they are too high. I agree with him. Lower taxes are good. But you can only lower taxes if you lower spending. I do not see any less spending in the budget. The 57% we spend on defense is even going up. If we are lowering taxes (revenues) and not spending, we are increasing the dreaded debt we blame Obama for.

I just don’t get it.

The Bush tax cuts put vast amounts of money into the pockets of the wealthy. The middle class got one-time checks for $200 or so. This drove up the national debt tremendously, and eventually the economy nearly collapsed.

Then Obama bailed out, and in the process added $10 trillion to the debt. Obama didn’t spend more money. Look at the budgets. The additional debt that occurred during the Obama years was to undo damage created during the Bush years.

Now Trump wants to cut taxes again. The budget office calculates that the Trump tax cuts will add $5 trillion to the debt.

Seriously?

We just blasted Obama for adding to the debt, and now we’re adding more to the debt? And that is called fiscally responsible?

I get a kick out of Trump popularizing the estate tax he wants to get rid of. He talks to audiences of his supporters and calls it the “death tax.” The estate tax is a 40% tax on estates after the first $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples. I venture to say that there is not a single couple in those Trump rally crowds that has a net worth of more than $11 million for whom the abolishment of the estate tax would make any difference.

However, there are a lot of individuals in Trump’s cabinet who would benefit from it. And there is Trump himself.

He has convinced the American electorate that the abolishment of the “death tax” is a good thing for them.

A con man Trump is.

Washington, DC – [click to enlarge]

A good day to land before sunset in Washington, DC.

  • Red arrow: The United States Capitol
  • Green arrow: The Washington Memorial
  • Yellow arrow: The Lincoln Memorial
  • Blue arrow: The White House

Yesterday I received a slip from the U.S. Postal Service at my door. It indicated they had tried to deliver a registered package. I didn’t expect any registered mail, so I was curious.

I went to the post office, stood in line, and eventually got this package:

Odd. I didn’t order anything from Mumbai, India. I don’t know anyone at the American School Of Bombay. And especially not anything that would require registered mail.

Then I checked the back:

This didn’t help either. The description said it was a Vector. It was checked as a gift. And the postage to mail it was Rs 131. When I looked that up it was 131 Indian rupees. A rupee is about $0.015. So mailing the package cost him about $1.96.

I didn’t want to open this. All I could think of was anthrax or a bomb or something else nefarious. I had just moved to this address. Who would even know what it was. And particularly Scott Amitron in Mumbai. I decided to let this sit there unopened until I figured it out.

Then it dawned on me. I checked my Amazon account:

Sure enough, the last time I was on Amazon it showed me a razor handle. Like men are wont to do, I am stuck with the type of razor and blades that I used 30 years ago. I won’t upgrade to the fancy razors of today, with five blades and twenty-dollar handles. I just like my old Atra Plus double blades that have worked for me for decades, even though the blades are hard to find and my one remaining handle is getting pretty rusty and sketchy. So when I saw this replacement handle, I clicked on it and ordered it for $4.90, free shipping.

Not in my wildest dreams did I think that somebody in Mumbai in India would then fulfil my order and send me a razor blade using registered mail and pay 131 rupees, packaging and handling not included.

I could have gone to the local drug store and bought a razor and spent a lot less time than I did waiting in line at the post office to sign for a registered package from India.

Oh, the mysterious ways of Amazon and global commerce.

I can’t wait to try my brand new Mumbai razor tomorrow morning.

Here we are, cashing in one of our Activity wedding presents from our friend Sheryl, aided by a compatriot friend and prop man, John. It was a mystery gift. She had us reserve the afternoon of Sunday, October 15, 2017 over three months ago and we did not know what to expect.

The instructions for us were: Trisha to show up wearing a long dress, and I should wear all black.

When we arrived at the AMC 20-plex in Mission Valley, she said we were going to start the Adventure by watching a movie.

As we turned into the theater door I saw the marquee say The Princess Bride. I gave a blank look, and Trisha gave a blank look, and Sheryl broke out into a joyful exclamation: “You’re Princes Bride Virgins!”

And so we were. We had no idea what this was all about.

Beers in hand, we found our seats, only to sit down next to a guy in the dark who said those seats were taken. It was our friend John, the prop accomplice.

This was the 30th anniversary showing of the movie, complete with an interview with Rob Reiner before the movie and an epilogue afterwards.

Directed by Rob Reiner, The Princess Bride is an enchanting, romantic, modern fairy tale, as corny as it gets. It’s the story of a princes named Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her farm boy lover and gallant hero Westley (Cary Elwes), where the dominant theme is True Love, the villains are mean and treacherous, and the good guys very smart and courageous.

The cast, of course, is amazing. There is Robin Wright, who broke through to stardom as Buttercup, went on to play Jenny in Forrest Gump, and today is Claire Underwood in House of Cards. Of course, I knew none of this when I watched Buttercup. I just figured it out in my research for this review.

Then there is Inigo Montoya with the notorious line “you killed my father, prepare to die!” who was played by Mandy Patinkin, whom I know as Saul Berenson in Homeland. There is also Vizzini, played by Wallace Shawn, whom people still heckle today by asking him to say “inconceivable!”

To round things out, the movie is presented by a frame story, where a grandfather, played by Peter Falk, reads to his sick grandson in bed, played by Fred Savage of the Wonder Years.

Finally, every fairy tale must have a giant, and Andre the Giant serves quite well for that.

Rob Reiner created a cult classic with The Princess Bride.

Forty years ago I remember going to see the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show a few times, and I was always amazed how people would dress up to go to a movie, bring rice to throw in the theater during the wedding scene, and recite the lines as they occurred.

Yet here I was, dressed all in black, with a mask and a black bandana on my head sporting skull and crossbones, watching The Princess Bride. During the famous chocolate candy scene John doled out yummy chocolate balls. When the six-fingered scene came up, he held up his right hand and showed six fingers. The two ladies wore tiaras; after all, they were the princesses. When the rodents of unusual size attacked, John threw a large plastic rat at us. When we walked out of the theater we asked somebody to take our picture and she said: “As you wish…”

And that is how we spent Sunday afternoon.

Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

Clinton just came out with her own book, titled What Happened. After reading Shattered I decided I don’t need to read Hillary’s book.

Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes are political writers who had deep access to all levels of the Clinton campaign. Through their insight, they have reconstructed the spirit of the campaign from before it actually began, through election night.

The insight is “shattering.” The campaign was never streamlined. Terrible infighting at the top levels caused the strategy to lack cohesiveness and resulted in a poorly defined message. Hillary never quite clarified why the people should elect her, other than she was, well, Hillary Clinton. Power struggles, lack of direction from the top, and poor use of funding based on analytics that was terribly flawed were the main causes of the eventual defeat.

The campaign didn’t know how close Trump was. Bill Clinton waved off the Virginia governor from coming to New York for the victory celebration immediately after Florida, one of the first states, was called for Trump.

Bill Clinton knew then.

I have always said that Trump did not win the election. Clinton lost it.

After reading Shattered, I am more convinced than ever that this was the case. The Democratic Party elevated an entitled, ego-driven politician, with a muddled message, with terrible baggage, who made very poor decisions along with way, and pegged her against the greatest wild card in American history, Donald Trump. The Democratic Party lost, Hillary will never be president, and the country is being damaged and looted by a self-serving populist con man.

Shattered is a hard book to read. If you are really into politics, if you want to work in a campaign, if that’s your career, this is a good book to internalize. It shows how politics works. I am more interested in the cliff notes, so from time to time the reading was too detailed and dry.

But  then, if you’re going to read one book about “what happened,” this is the book you should read.

 

“The country, we took it over in 20 trillion you know the last eight years they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion. Right? And yet we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months. In terms of value. So you can say in one sense, we are really increasing values and may be in a sense, we are reducing debt. We are very honored by it and very, very happy by what’s happening in Wall Street.”

Donald Trump in Hannity Interview

The self-proclaimed king of debt argues that since the stock market rose by $5 trillion, that somehow offsets the national debt.

The stock market enriches corporations and investors. The national debt is carried by the people. You can reduce debt by spending less, or raising taxes, neither of which Trump is suggesting. He is pounding on Obama for increasing the debt, yet his proposed tax cuts are bound to skyrocket the debt.

That’s just not how it works, Mr. President. Trying to dumb America down some more?

And Hannity, thanks for the “tough” question. Definitely dumbing down America.

 

Here is what Mike Pence posted today:

I left today’s Colts game because President Donald J. Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem. At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.

Image may contain: 9 people, people standing, crowd and stadium

According to a staffer, Pence had planned on leaving the game early all along. It turns out he had diverted his west coast swing just to attend the game and leave early. Trump admits he told Pence to do just that. The whole thing, including the picture above, was a publicity stunt.

So much for our government, the reality show.

Now my take on this NFL protest and all the fuss about it:

I agree, we should rally around our country and unify it. That starts with leadership. Our leaders should show us how it is done. We’re getting the opposite of such leadership with this administration.

When an NFL player kneels for the National Anthem, he is openly showing his protest and making a statement — free speech.

I do not believe for a minute that those players actually “disrespect the flag or the anthem.” The flag and the anthem are symbols of our nation, just like kneeling is a symbol of protest. The players are protesting exactly BECAUSE they feel there is something wrong with the unity in our nation. Trump and Pence have it backwards.

And then, let me rant about disrespecting the flag. This is disrespecting the flag:

  • Wearing a flag bikini
  • Wearing any flag clothing
  • Wrapping yourself in the flag at any public event
  • Flying the flag on a pickup truck next to the Confederate Flag
  • Using the flag as a costume of any type
  • Flying the Confederate Flag

The showmen running our country are using cheap propaganda techniques to distract us from their self-enrichment schemes by vilifying sports figures and appealing to our sense of patriotism using twisted messages and outright lies.

That, my friends, is the disgrace here.

I ask our so-called leaders to show us what it means to respect our country, its laws, its citizens, their rights, and the country’s symbols.

 

 

 

Picture Credit – reddit – link to access

We have been conditioned to think of the Titanic as a – well – titanic ship. Here is a scaled view showing the Titanic in front of a modern cruise ship.

“Four score and seven years ago…”

“Ask not what your country can do for you…”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”

Those are two of the most memorable phrases from presidential speeches, and they have entered into the very fabric of our nation’s history.

President Obama was an excellent orator, and I believe that was one of the major contributors to his meteoric rise. Critics spent years ridiculing him for reading from a teleprompter. I don’t agree. I have personally given many a speech in my life, never with a teleprompter, and never with a deck of cards or sheet of paper. I know a bit about what it takes to give a powerful speech, and I know that Obama is one of the outstanding orators of our time. Yes, he needs a teleprompter because there are not enough hours in the day for him to memorize all these speeches. But it was always obvious to me that he knew what he was talking out. When Obama spoke, he spoke from within, and the teleprompter was there to make sure he didn’t miss his points. It never felt like Obama was reading.

President Trump, in contrast, is a completely inadequate speaker. He did not get elected for his oratorical skills. Trump cannot even form a coherent sentence on his own, let alone speak. He spouts trite soundbites, and he repeats them for effect. When Trump speaks from the teleprompter, he sounds wooden, like he is reading his material.

Trump is so bad, that the media praise him when he simply reads, in his wooden, stilted way, a speech without going off script. He is so transparent that we know immediately when he is off script, since he sprinkles in Trumpisms like “believe me” or “that I can tell you” which no speech writer would ever insert. Trump does not speak any better than an average fifth-grader even when he reads.

The bar of presidential speeches is now so low that we praise the president when he reads a statement and stays on track, like he did in response to the Las Vegas shooting. In the future, our textbook examples of presidential speeches will highlight:

“Four score and seven years ago…”

“Ask not what your country can do for you…”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”

“That I can tell you….”

One of my friends (JCV) inserted a little slip of paper into the gift envelope with this inscription:

illi non minus ac tibi
pectore uritur intimo
flamma, sed penite magis.

Catullus, Wedding Song

I must admit, my Latin was nowhere near up to the task. But here is a translation:

A flame burns no less ardently in his innermost heart than in yours, but secretly, even more so.

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