IS AMERICA THE NEW FOURTH REICH?

While some may see American troops overseas as “protecting our liberty”, I get the uneasy feeling we are morphing into a hybrid 1984 / Fourth Reich. At home, we have picked scapegoats (Hispanics, Muslims, and Blacks), and are increasing surveillance and repression by the state. Overseas, we are marching into numerous countries and killing more and more people. A survey done a few years ago asked people worldwide who they thought the biggest threat to world peace was. The number 1 answer? The USA.

 

The War on Terror is going on 16 years. During that time we have watched pet videos on Facebook, debated about Caitlyn Jenner, railed about Obamacare and Russian hacking, and welcomed home thousands of dead soldiers and up to a million wounded ones (including brain trauma and PTSD). Of course, we thank those soldiers for their service (insert sarcasm here). Civilian deaths in the Middle East run as high as 500,000 or possibly more. We have performed large scale invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and small scale incursions in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. Our support (both financial and weapons) of various groups and various governments, as well as our own actions, have destroyed families, homes, towns, cities, and countries. We have brought pain and suffering, hunger and starvations, and disease. We have become a 1939 Germany Lite, in a way.

 

 Just as there were a lot of good Germans back then, there are a lot of good Americans now. We believe what we see on the news and what the government says, and we don’t go out of our way to seek alternate news sources. The Hispanics and Blacks at home, and the Muslims overseas…….well, they probably had it coming, whether it be abuse or death. After all, they are all a potential threat to our country.

 

The Lutheran pastor Martin Neimoller recited a famous poem back in the 30’s:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

The American people seem like they’re still in the early stages of speaking out. I feel like there’s an existing Warrior Culture promoted by the government and media. We glorify soldiers protecting us overseas, police protecting us here, and government protecting us everywhere. We don’t question why we would need protection and whether there are other ways to minimize threats. Nor do we spend much time examining whether our deeds are responsible for some of the problems. In the Gods of War we trust.

 Although this post is probably going to be read by a few people, I want to clarify my sarcastic “thank you for your service” comment.  I understand the sacrifice soldiers make, and I understand the desire to thank them for that.  What gets me a bit irritated is that this “thank you” by people and the government, indicates a concern for the soldier.  If that was the case, the government would take a whole lot more care in trying every available alternate path, before sending them out to do battle.  It would not use the military for regime change or political gain in other countries.  Unfortunately, that is not the case and has not been the case in previous wars.  Too many leaders see soldiers as cannon fodder to be used to achieve their goals, with not enough appreciation of the impact those deaths and injuries have on the families and communities across the nation.

July 4th

July 4th is a man’s day holiday focused on things men enjoy. Food, fire, and explosives. None of that annoying shopping that Christmas and Valentine’s Day require. No forced exposure to unwanted relatives like Thanksgiving.

 

The first step is to fire up the barbecue. Some lazier folk use gas barbecues. Real men use charcoal, which requires lighter fluid. LOTS of lighter fluid. Your goal here, men, is to see how high that flame will be when you light it. If it reaches the roof level, you’ve done well. If it goes up another 20 or 30 feet, and scorches the eyebrows of Aunt Mabel sitting over at the picnic table, you’ve done even better.

 

Once the grill is ready, it’s time for the burgers and dogs. Dogs, unfortunately, are limited to hot dogs, even though it may be tempting to take care of the yapping Chihuahua that one of your relatives brought. You may also have to fight off attempts by the women to place tofu, veggies, and other “healthy food” on your grill. Do not let this happen. Keep small amounts of lighter fluid handy to create flare ups that will drive away unwanted pests like these.

 

Once the food is done, it’s time to begin the homage to “things that go boom”. The fire crackers and cherry bombs are good for daytime enjoyment, as well as dispensing with any unneeded appendages. Since merely lighting them on the ground will soon get boring, firecrackers can be relocated to underneath the lawn chair of an unsuspecting dozing celebrant. Cherry bombs work best in tree stumps, garbage cans, or underneath the fuel tank of the neighbor’s RV.

 

As darkness descends, someone may bring out sparklers. These are okay for girls and children under 5, but be vigilant to make sure you don’t get one of these thrust in your hand, as it could be captured on camera and you’d have your man status revoked in short order. Instead, you need to fire up the whistlers, the screamers, and the sky level boomers. Do not stop until your supplies are exhausted and the air is foggy with gunpowder smoke.

 

Happy 4th.

Hilary & Vladimir

Is the average American sitting in their high chair, watching mainstream news outlets and Facebook, while waiting for the pablum to be delivered? It would seem so, after seeing all the Russia / hacking / DNC / stolen election news lately. Getting lost in all of that are the facts, however inconvenient they might be. So here’s a few things I think should be mentioned:

 

Hilary lost the election. Period. Why? Because not enough people voted for her. Why is that? Maybe because she did not go out seeking all voters (no visits to Wisconsin, among other places). Maybe people didn’t approve of her mishandling government documents and wiping servers, then getting a “Get Out of Jail Free” card from a friendly FBI head. Maybe they didn’t like her selling State Department access and favors in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation. Maybe they didn’t like how she, the DNC, and certain media outlets schemed to take down Bernie Sanders and give her unfair edges in the debates. There were an awful lot of negatives. It was ironic that after all the Clinton push in the debates to get Trump to promise to abide by the election results, it was Clinton that showed signs of not abiding.

 

Some have claimed the US wasn’t ready for a woman President. Nonsense. The US wasn’t ready for a CORRUPT woman President. Add in a vice president candidate that generated all the inspiration of library paste, and you have a ticket that has no appeal to many Americans. There were no younger candidates, no non-white candidates, no non-corporate candidates, no new faces (except for Donald). “Why vote?” is a question many Americans asked themselves, and stayed home that Tuesday.

 

This whole business of Russia being the evil global force out to destroy the world is a little ridiculous. In the debates, Hilary mentioned that “17 US intelligence agencies” had agreed that Russia had hacked the DNC. Yet no such decree was ever issued. The problem is that a soundbyte is issued, and major media outlets are either lazy or have agendas, and repeat the soundbyte until be becomes a “fact”.

 

Then on November 24, the Washington Post had an article decrying “fake news” and listing some 200 fake news sites that were supposedly controlled by Russia. This was immediately spread by other mainstream outlets, and became a rallying cry in some quarters. The only problem? Only a handful of those sites were fake news outlets, and even less were shown to be controlled by Russia. The rest were real websites run by real people, delivering real information. People such as David Stockman, the budget director in the Reagan years. People such as the veterans of the USS Liberty. People such as Ron Paul. This smacks of McCarthyism, where false accusations were trumpeted at truth. Take a look at the PropOrNot group that provided the information for the article. Shadowy members, recently formed. Smells a little fishy to me.

 

Then just this week, another claim that the Russians had hacked a Massachusetts utility. Started in the Washington Post, it was another baseless claim. So this weekend, we kick out some Russians, to teach them a lesson.

 

What is left? A public whose attention is conveniently diverted from Hilary’s misdeeds and the Democratic establishment’s misjudgements. Interesting how that worked out, isn’t it?

 

I am providing some links below to various sites that have more information. Some of the ones on hacking are done by individuals with backgrounds in that area and computers, etc. Well worth reading.

There are more sites and articles on the internet as well, I just ran out of time.

 

In closing, I want to also mention that I did NOT vote for Trump and am not a certified TIN HAT wearer. Just in case you were wondering. And that concludes my political post for the day.

 

https://theintercept.com/2016/12/14/heres-the-public-evidence-russia-hacked-the-dnc-its-not-enough/

 

 

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-15/revealed-who-gave-democratic-emails-wikileaks

 

 

http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=231717

https://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=231711

 

http://m.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/11/28/major-purveyor-fake-news-cia-corporate-complex.html

 

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/10/russia-hack-dnc-really.html

 

Lights Out

Driving home from my mom’s last night, with Christmas almost over,  it seemed like just another night.  Dinner had just been me and her at the kitchen table, due to various family member illnesses and circumstances.  As I drove through the neighborhoods, I was struck by how few Christmas lights there were on the houses.  Other than the occasional lit up house, my guess is that fewer than 5% were adorned with lights, and maybe only a few of those were completely lit up.  No Christmas feel at all.
It was a huge contrast to what I saw when I was a kid.  Back then, late 60’s early 70’s, it seemed like EVERYONE had lights.  Driving around was like driving through Disney’s Electric parade.  Tons of color, some really fantastic displays.  A visual all-you-can-eat buffet.  Every couple of blocks was a “Whoa, look at that!”  Kid nirvana.

It seemed that all started to change when the energy crisis hit.  Suddenly Christmas lights were looked down upon as wasteful, as well as being expensive, and gradually over the years there were fewer and fewer displays.  No doubt this brought happiness to many a dad (and some moms) who no longer had to do yearly battle with the spaghetti mess of light strings pulled out of storage boxes, unstable ladders, burned out bulbs, and the pitiful look of their display compared to the neighbor down the street.

So while time marches on, it does so in the darkness this night……

Quiet

Quiet……

It’s all around me, broken only by the sound of the tapping on the keyboard as I write this. Of course, it helps if you’re doing that writing at four in the morning…….. 🙂 As I’ve grown older, my hours have moved solidly into the “early to bed, early to rise” range. One advantage is that you gain some quiet time if you are up before anyone else. No TV, no phone calls, no errands to run or household chores to do. Just a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere.

If I have paperwork from the office to do, especially if it’s complicated, I try and save it for that time. It’s amazing how efficient and clear thinking you can be with no distractions. Solutions that I have struggled to find sometimes pop in to my head unannounced, like a welcome visit from a friend. Other times, when I’m lucky, it’s time for quiet contemplation. Time to sort out thoughts and emotions, make decisions, and change directions.

Some might say it’s similar to when they sit down and reflect over a morning cup of coffee. Although I can picture this, it still seems a little strange from a non coffee drinker’s perspective. Ingesting caffeine as you sit and relax sounds like a culinary oxymoron to me. I prefer to have a slower awakening, although the long lines at the coffeehouses put me in the minority.

I was reminded of this idea of “quiet” this past week as I listened to NPR (National Public Radio, for those that may not have heard it before). There was a local program on that dealt with police, in the wake of everything that has gone on lately. The host stated that both the police officers association and the police department had turned down an opportunity to be part of the program, so he encouraged any law enforcement personnel to call in (even anonymously if they wished). Everything was low key, reasonable, and somewhat polite.

It was a drastic difference from what is on commercial talk radio, where shouting seems to be the order of the day, and the hosts “talk” to people by cutting off discussions and channeling everything into a repetitive delivery of the opinion of the host. Dialog becomes diatribe. No room for meaningful discussion, no room for an exchange of ideas, and no quiet time for people to perhaps work toward solutions. Just as I can’t solve problems with a ton of distractions and pressure, we as a society can’t solve problems with a ton of noise and yelling in the air. No solutions mean more of the same, and often a hardening of the positions on each side. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

The commercial news, often starved for budgets or limited by corporate policy, has devolved into an attention seeking entity fighting for eyeballs and ears in a noisy world. Evening TV news has a heavy slate of police and fire related stories, accompanied by a surface-deep rendering of the news of the day. Very little that actually provides analysis and understanding, or gives readers and viewers an awareness of the background on events. There’s an old saying in reporting,that you have to tell people the five W’s in your story – Who, What, Where, When, and Why. The general media seems to have left the Why sitting by the wayside, abandoned. While some books and magazines will provide more in depth answers, it’s tougher to find that in the electronic arena (TV, radio, and internet).

With a little more discussion and listening, and a little less talking and noise, we might actually end up with a little more quiet time and thoughtful solutions. Just the thing to go with your morning cappuccino expresso latte…. 🙂

Pancakes

Reading a recent post by Sala, on her grandmother and food, got me thinking about pancakes. Like most boys, my brother and I weren’t really that interested in cooking. We could do cereal in the morning, sandwich at noon, but anything else was strictly in the “where’s Mom? I’m hungry” category. Except for pancakes, an occasional weekend treat at our home. Maybe because it involved a hot griddle, maybe because we’d get to help my Dad cook them, maybe because we’d been up since 6am watching cartoons on a Saturday morning and couldn’t understand why the parental units didn’t jump up out of bed at 7am to get breakfast going (Geez, the nerve of those people!).

In any case, we’d jump to help with the preparation. Flour was first up. That had to be sifted through a hand sifter that had a handle you squeezed to rotate blades inside. There were screens inside the sifter, to not only sift the flour but also probably to protect the fingers of curious kids like us. The flour was sifted onto wax paper to collect it, as well as on to other parts of the counter, the floor, and the “chefs”. Looked like a White Christmas sometimes in that kitchen. Then it went into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients, to be mixed with a hand held electric mixer. Since this was a power tool, and we were guys, we did our duty and tried out all speeds and angles. The mixer would occasionally become our “six shooter” that we lifted out of the mix while it was running, and pointed toward our partner in crime in a classic high noon shoot out. Mom usually failed to realize the beauty of our cinematic re-enactments, and we’d soon hear cries of “what are you doing?” and “put that back in the bowl!” ringing out. Having her counters and cabinets decorated by flying dough was an added benefit that she didn’t seem to appreciate either. Go figure…..

Once the prep work was done, the artistry began. Ladling the batter on the grill, we’d vary from big circle to small, long finger to attempted shapes and letters. Any mistakes could be eaten away, and we never seemed to have a shortage of those. When we were full, two hours and 437 pancakes later, we look down at the concrete ball that was now inside our stomach and think, “You know, I think I’ll just sit here at the kitchen table another hour or two until I regain consciousness.”

On some weekends, we’d be at my grandparents’ house (Mom’s side) for breakfast the following day. Accompanied at times by the leftover batter from the pancakes the day before. For THAT, my friends, signified another important event. Second Day pankcakes.

My grandfather was a simple cook, in a way. Having lived through the Depression, he could throw a couple of things in a pan, add some seasoning, and come out with something that was simple yet tasty. Soups or sausages or eggs or beans. Didn’t matter, everything was good. It was relaxing just sitting in the kitchen watching him work, and then eating the result.

For pancakes, he would take our batter, and make pancakes on his own grill. My brother and I kept up a constant commute between the griddle and the kitchen table, waiting for them to cook, and trying not to drool on the floor. He was slow and methodical, or maybe just methodical as I’m sure we were wanting those pancakes done in 15 to 20 seconds. I can’t remember if he ever added anything to the batter, but I still remember the taste of those pancakes to this day. They never tasted like the ones we made at home……Never. They were always better. Whether other pancakes were eaten at restaurants, camping trips, or friends’ houses, they never came close to my grandfather’s. While he’s long gone, those pancakes and memories will occasionally be served up in a Sunday morning breakfast of the mind.

Mother’s Day

Across America, and perhaps a few other parts of the world, thousands and thousands of families are gathering today to pay homage to the shining light they grew up around. One that always provided comfort and advice, taught them about the world, sent them love and laughter, heartbreak and tears.

Uh…….no, it’s not the family TV……….now get away from that thing and put down the remote!

As drivers everywhere try to remember just exactly where she lives nowadays, after fighting through the line at the flower stand, they look at their watch and wonder how long this is going to take. Then they remember…….they forgot the card!…….Damn,…..back to the store…….

Next, it’s time to bundle dear old Mom up into the car and take her to a overpriced, not so good Mother’s Day Lunch or Dinner, at a jammed restaurant full of other people with THEIR mothers.

As the offspring disgorge their gifts, Mom smiles and says thank you.

Underneath, she’s gritting her teeth. You know what she’s really thinking?

“I want my 20 something vagina back, along with a Chippendale with a hard-on the size of Manhattan.

“I can’t believe I gave birth this person. Is it too late to send them back?”

“I wonder if I can try and trade with one of these other families?”

“Did I remember the teeny bottle of brandy in my purse?”

“Uh, oh, is that spilled water or are my Depends leaking?”

“Wonder when I should tell them I blew their inheritance in Vegas?”

“I should have forgotten about having kids and just had a few more dogs.”

“At least if I have to visit them I can steal some extra Xanax from their medicine cabinet.”

“To hell with flowers, I need a good set of earplugs for this bunch.”

If I think back on dear old Mom, one incident stands out. My sister was fully into her headstrong teenager years, and in a full blown argument with Mom. At one point, dear sweet Mom got so mad she picked up a pound of hamburger and threw it at my sister. Now, being the athlete that she was, her arm sent that hamburger about two feet from her before skipping across the kitchen counter toward Sis. My brother and I, usually the troublemakers, watched in amazement. “Wow, Mom’s never done THAT before!” Years later, none of us remember what the argument was about, but all of us remember that hamburger skipping across the counter. Forever embedded in the family lore.

She was also quite Don Quixote-like in her eternal optimism that our family could have a “nice, quiet, peaceful family dinner”. With two teenage boys at the table……..oh yes, a monumental challenge. For us, at times, it was not dinner, but instead an opportunity to work on our class clown routines. My Dad was a relatively easy mark, as he had a good sense of humor and could easily start laughing. My Mom,…….well, that was a tougher nut to crack. First there was usually a polite plea from her to “settle down and let’s have a nice dinner”.

Now, for us, that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Game On! The next level was to force her up to a Level 2 response, which consisted of her trying to keep a straight face and remain a stern disciplinarian. As the seconds went by, you could see her straining as you increased your rapid fire delivery of jokes and remarks. Sometimes you went down in a ball of flame, but other times you saw the veneer cracking and falling away, then the smile and laugh, and you zoomed off into the stratosphere, another notch on your wings.

One other thing I remember from those high school years is the time I was involved in a school fundraiser. There were about 30 kids in the room, kicking ideas about what food to offer at a benefit dinner. Spaghetti came up at one point, and the amazing thing was that almost every single kid in that room said something to the effect of “My mom makes the BEST spaghetti”. Almost EVERY kid. I still feel that response is maybe less indicative of how well the moms cooked, and more indicative of the love that was served along with that spaghetti over the years.

So Mom, Happy Mother’s Day, and you too, make the BEST spaghetti!

The Friendly Skies

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the chance to fly through Toronto on vacation, and all I can say is “What’s up with those Canadians?” Every time we stopped, looking up and around at signs or deciding what direction to take, up popped a Canadian telling us, “Follow me”, and leading us onward. They were popping up like gophers, every couple of minutes, complete with wide smiles and friendly voices. Walking out of one area, we found one of those terminal golf cart limos stopped directly in our path. Not to fetch us, mind you, but the driver stopped along her way just in case someone (like us) needed a lift to where she was going next.

It makes me think that if Canada were ever invaded, the intruders would be met at the shore or border, with a pot of hot tea and some scones and cookies, along with maps, blankets, and a chorus of voices asking “is there anything else we can do for you?” This stands in stark contrast to some other areas of the world, where the natives treat those that need some help as either lunatics, idiots, or cockroaches that have crawled out into the light.

The downside of this vacation was air travel, and lots of it. Taking an hour or two hour flight is pretty fun, sometimes even exciting. Taking a 5 to 10 hour flight is quite a different story. Walking off the plane, you pass row after row of empty cups, food wrappers, bottles, newspapers, pillows and blankets, all strewn about. It looks like you’re passing through a war zone. And in a sense you are.

It starts early, with the enemy booking those precious aisle and window seats. The next step is boarding, where various combatants attempt to stuff suitcases the size of Cadillacs into the overhead bins, delaying your entry and in some cases risking damage to your carry on luggage. Once in the air, the enemy will slowly lower their seatback into your territory. Do not let this transgression go unchallenged. Either start pushing the touchscreen in their seatback repeatedly, or lean close to them and say “Where the hell are those air sick bags? I think I might have to throw up”. Victory will see that seatback raised soon after.

You will also have to fight off so called allies, that will smile and sit next to you, but before you know it they are staking claim to the armrest between you. Judas is alive and well and sitting in 22B.

After a few hours, your legs and butt will start to revolt. To stop the pain, you try and shift in your seat, move your legs, stretch…….all to no avail. Waterboarding begins to look like a more comfortable alternative. So you decide to head back to the restroom. Unless you’re lucky enough to be on an aisle, you need to begin by tapping your neighbors on the shoulder, and pointing a finger indicating you need to leave the area. Be sure to avoid using the middle finger, however tempting that may be, as it tends to result in black eyes and spilled drinks. Upon receiving your signal, your neighbor begins the long process of moving out of the way. Drinks put down, earphones removed, seat belt unfastened, book tucked away or video put on pause, blanked removed, pillow placed on seat……it may take 5 or 10 minutes for the process to be completed.

You then proceed to the restroom, hoping to find some refuge, but instead you find remnants of the monkey cage at the zoo. Scraps of toilet paper, fluid on the seat, and maybe a momento in the bowl. Reality crashes down hard. So you clean up a little and do your business. Flush and get up to wash. Glancing down, you see toilet papaper stuck in the bowl. So you flush a second time, and see the tissue stay exactly where it was. Somewhere down on earth, you know the toilet bowl designers are laughing their heads off at your plight. Fighting the temptation to reach down and move it, you wash up and exit. Only to have the cute girl in 17C be standing in line next, entering as you leave. And you know her first thought is, “What kind of pig was in here?”. You find yourself wondering if those emergency exits work in mid air……..

On the plus side, inflight movies are a lot better now, with more choices and individual screens. Except when they’re interrupted by announcements by the crew. About seat belts. About flight time. About food service. About drink service. About duty free shopping. About the weather. About the crew. In English. Maybe in French. Maybe Spanish, Russian, German, Portuges, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and 10 or 20 other languages. Accompanied by the drumbeat of passengers beating their heads against their screens in frustration.

Upon reaching your destination, you walk off the plane and head toward the local gambling hall, otherwise known as baggage claim. Behind the scenes, baggage handlers are shooting a game of craps. “Snake eyes,….damn….okay, that blue bag gets sent out to Honolulu, and I’ll take your New York bag for the next Cleveland flight…….Let’s roll again…..Hey, send some of yesterday’s flight bags up there so the people have something to look at while we figure out where their bags are.”

The Last Outsourcing Frontier

She came up slowly, like a thief in the night. A hint of a sore throat and fatigue. Just enough to start the alarm bells ringing in the back of my head (and no, there was no echo, contrary to what my wife may have told you). Enough time to make some calls and clear my schedule a bit, for this vixen could not be ignored. As she later settled in, the fun began. Her entertainment with the man in the house consisted of giving him alternating hot flashes and occasional cold sweats. Apparent payback for some comment I undoubtedly made in the past about Mrs. Dolphin’s “change of seasons”. This was followed by demonstrations about how quickly the nose can alternate between its rendition of “A River Runs Through It”, and it’s impersonation of the Hoover Dam.

As the Kleenex flew through the air, and my nose began its audition for the part of Rudolph in the nex Christmas play, I kept thinking there must be a better way. If Instacart can do your shopping for you, and TaskRabbit can run errands for you, why isn’t there something for sickness?…….Wait no more!

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Our hosts are carefully selected in their 20’s for high immune response systems. Not only will they suffer less than you would, but they also are building their immune systems up for healthy Golden Years. We also are proud that our program will make a significant dent in the unemployment rate for 20 somethings, as well as provide them a way to pay off those pesky student loans.

Prices are reasonable for the standard colds, while flu is somewhat more. Extras will be charged for any of the following:

Pesky in laws hovering in your home.

Pesky children that want to play with our host.

Food poisoning

Illnesses of more than 4 days

The Plague

Malaria and any other tropical viruses

Cancer