Sunday, February 28, 2016

Make America Great, Again?

Make America Great, Again?

I am trying to understand, I mean Really Understand, what is meant by the slogan “Make America Great, Again” used by the “billionaire” front runner, Donald Trump (“billionaire” is in quotes, because so far, Trump refuses to release his tax returns… so his claim of being a lavishly wealthy billionaire are unsubstantiated, just as his claims of giving proceeds of events to veterans groups have never been proven to be factual).

How is America not already the greatest, most prosperous, most upwardly mobile, most tolerant, most multi-cultural, wealthiest Western Democracy with the most freedom (of movement, of religion, of speech, etc) in the entire world?  How will Donald Trump (thrice divorced, thrice bankrupt, outsourcing both his brides and his Trump brand manufacturing to foreign countries, never held elected office ever in his life) make it “great again”?  I am struggling to understand the reasoning behind this nationalist slogan, and I cannot come up with a cogent argument in favor of it.

Some people would say that Trump wants to reform campaign financing, since he is self funded and not “beholden to special interests”, but that’s Bernie Sanders whose been saying that.  Trump just lambasts his Republican primary “opponents” as representing special interests, but he has not proposed any plan to roll back or repeal the Citizens United decision

In fact, Trump has been intentionally vague on any details about his plans, be it Citizens United, getting Mexico to finance his fantasy border wall, how he’d round up 12 million undocumented immigrants, or how he’d get the US Armed Forces to intentionally bomb civilians in Syria and Iraq in violation of the Geneva Convention.  

If an intelligent person can make a rational argument as to 
1) why America is not great now
2) how Donald Trump will make it “great again”
… I would be very happy to have a civil dialogue with that intelligent person, so I can understand better what I am missing about this jingoistic, vocal bully, who appears to be America’s version Jean-Marie & Marine Le Pen, combined.  

I am really not looking for trolls or rhetoric, or some profanity or obscenity filled emotional rant by a devout Trump supporter who is caught up in the moment, and who just likes Donald Trump because “he’s strong” or because “he doesn’t take crap from anyone.”  Those arguments don’t hold up for what qualifications are necessary to be POTUS, or to lead the strongest & wealthiest democracy on the planet.  I AM looking for a cohesive, intelligent, logic argument as to why Donald Trump would “Make America Great Again”. And, why is not still great, now?   It was great when my father came here in the 50s.  It was great when my great grand parents on my mother’s side came here before the Depression.  Why is it not great now, and how will Donald Trump & the policies and proposals he’s articulated make it “great again”?  

I promise to post any comments that are not profanity or obscenity laced, whether they make a cohesive argument or even if they just reinforce my point that there is no logical argument to be made and voters in primary states are coming out in droves because of an irrational emotional response, voting for a candidate who makes them feel good, but they can’t articulate why he makes them feel good.

I really hope someone can help me understand this.  I’ve been troubled with trying to wrap by head around the fervent embrace of Donald Trump by 100s of thousands of US voters for the last month… and cannot comprehend what they see in him, logically and rationally.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dark Money - Jane Mayer

For the first 2 days of my drive across the Pacific, Mountain, and Central time zones, I listened to the 15 CD set of Jane Mayer's comprehensive book Dark Money.     Listening to the book-on-CD, it 
- kept me awake
- pissed me off
- educated me on how Charles Koch once ran for Vice President of the United States and lost miserably, on the Libertarian ticket
- how the Koch brothers recruit other multi-millionaires and billionaires to unite against anyone who opposes their 0.01% agenda
- explained how Sheldon Adleson funded Gingrich to the tune of 42 million dollars of attack ads against Romney that ultimately helped Obama defeat the embodiment of "corporations are people my friends"
- described how the Koch brothers reverse engineered the successful 2008 Obama campaign's data analytics of voter rolls, so that after the 2010 census, local and state districts were gerrymandered so effectively as to nullify the popular vote.  North Carolina was their laboratory, and it proved so successful, that even though Obama won the popular vote in NC in 2012 by more than 2%, the state went for the Republicans by having sparsely populated red districts overwhelm more heavily populated but under represented urban, educated, and poor democratic districts.
- told me how the Koch brother's father made his fortune building refineries for Stalin and Hitler
- spoke about how Charles Koch was raised by a militant German nanny, brought over from The Third Reich, until he was 5.  His nanny returned to The Third Reich after Hitler invaded Poland and France, so that she could be closer to her people and rejoice in her country's victory.  She also used to severely physically punish Charles, and enforce daily castor oil & enemas if 8am bowel moments were not produced punctually.  
- detailed how the Kochs, and all of their 0.01% friends, firmly believe that all you need to do in America is work hard, and you WILL BE successful, even though nearly all of their wealthiest friends inherited all of their wealth and they never lived in poverty or fell upon a temporary period of struggle without sufficient means to meet basic necessities even once throughout their lives
- revealed how even though David Koch suffers from cancer, and donates heavily to various cancer research foundations and hospitals, Koch Industries fights every worker's comp & injury claims from anyone exposed to benzene, leaky butane pipe lines that explode, or coal wash pond toxins; that leukemia you have, you got that on your own, pal.
- went into extensive detail how the Kochs hired private detectives who ineptly tried to smear Jane Mayer after she published a 10,000 word magazine article on them by inaccurately stating she plagiarized and misquoted her sources (this is my third Mayer book, she's fastidious in her research and thorough reporting).
- detailed how the Kochs pay college students to take courses in "free market" and "Austrian Economics" through charitable grants, in an effort to try and recruit a larger army of like minded followers
- described how the Kochs are actively reshaping tenured professor ships by funding the publishing of poorly researched and non-peer-researched publications that support their agenda and spread disinformation that "think tanks" then quote to further confuse the masses
- repeatedly described, at every level of their operations, how the Kochs try to obfuscate, and secretly attempt to conceal their profile, their operations, their purpose / intentions, using misleading names on foundations, and labelling voter suppression efforts and entitlement roll back initiatives as "voter wellness" and "election reforms".

After I finished this book-on-CD series (lucky I had a 6 CD changer in my 2007 Mazda, so I could drive for hours without having to change any CDs) I called my Godfather and talked to him as I drove along I-10 in Florida, passing multiple Florida State troopers in the median who all drove Chevy SUVs or low profile Cameros or Chargers, and discussed how great of a study Mayer's work was.  He and I had a great chat on the morning of the 13th, and it was refreshing to speak to another like-minded, well informed adult about American politics and how the richest 0.01% are carving out the country in their own graven image and laughing at the rest of us, all the way to the bank and the ballot box.  

It'll be interesting to see how 2016 turns out, with self-funded Trump, only-evangelicals-love-me-Cruz, boy-in-a-bubble-Rubio, and semi-reasonable Kasich do next Tuesday.  Hillary Clinton has a good chance of beating them all, especially if it is  3 way race with Trump stroking his ego as an independent.  I am not sure Bernie can deliver a victory for the Democrats, since so many Americans don't understand what a Socialist Progressive is, or how Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Head Start, Pell Grants, the VA, Worker's Comp, the EPA, the Voting Rights Act, the Interstate Highway System, Municipal Water Systems, City Parks, Public Beaches, the National Park System, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health are all agencies that were created by, or further the cause, of Progressive Socialism in the United States of America.    The "great good" of all of us, not just those who have inherited the most money.

States Closing Interstate Rest Stops Trending

As I drove nearly 2500 miles across the United States on February 11th, 12th, and 13th, I found a disturbing trend in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina: closed interstate rest stops.  It got to the point that after the sun rose on the 11th, that I gave up hoping to find an open rest stop at which I could empty my bladder, and instead drank less water so that I could time my bath room breaks around gasoline refills, every 300 to 400 miles.  Yes, at 80 mph (most of those states the speed limit was 75 mph) that's every 3 and a half to 4 hours of uncomfortable, dehydrated, kidney stressing driving.
Taken, after the third time I found a rest stop closed along my journey across Southern Umerikah
Why does it matter if an interstate rest stop is closed?  Well, drivers like me, who were headed across country, don't get a chance to look around at the beautiful state for a moment.  There's no chance to stretch your legs, avoid deep vein thrombosis, or chuckle at a sign that warns people that rattlesnakes might be near, and to watch where they walk their dogs.  Seeing a closed interstate rest stops also sends several messages to the driver:
1) this state doesn't care about visitors, doesn't welcome them, and is not hospitable
2) this state doesn't care about infrastructure, and if they can't afford to maintain a simple rest stop, how bad of shape do you think their bridges and roads are in?
3) the legislatures of this state incorrectly believe that everything is better provided by the private sector, including things like imaginary free rest rooms, which typically don't exist, since most merchants want you to buy something from their store if you're going to use their rest room facilities (and me, see... I brought my own water, almonds, grass fed beef jerky, and macadamia nuts, so there was no need to stop and purchase snacks along the way; the focus was on maximizing driven miles efficiency, and not lolly gagging around to turn a 3 day cross country trip into a 4 day trip)

Now I guess, it is possible, that some states may have thought that they had "too many" interstate rest stops, and so they were reducing the number of them and trying to improve the remaining ones, to better serve the traveling public.  Possible, but unlikely, since in Arizona along I-8 and I-10, I found exactly 2 rest stops open. New Mexico, one at the border with 2 others closed.  Texas, along I-10, for 12 hours of driving, only 1 open rest stop.  Louisiana, only 1 (but I was driving late at night through the commonwealth, and wasn't going to stop anyways).  Mississippi and Alabama I did not stay long enough in to warrant any stops.  Florida had 10X more state troopers looking for speeders than it had open rest stops.  And my former home state of South Carolina, where I had lived for 16 years all-together since getting out of college, had been closing rest stops on I-85 and I-26 for more than the last decade, dedicating the funds that used to go to maintaining rest stops towards tax cuts for the upper 1% of the population.

Ironically, before I headed out on my cross country journey, I had thought (as I was falling asleep the night before) "maybe I should download an ap to show me where each of the interstate rest stops would be, to plan rest room breaks proactively?"  I am glad I didn't waste my time or data to do so, since such an ap would have been utterly useless, or grossly misleading.

Thanks Republican Legislatures, all (link here).  It's fantastic how you're looking out for the little guy, the retired travelers (oh, I saw & passed my fair share of people Much Older than me along I-8, 10, and 95 on my way to Charleston), and visitors to your states.  Awesome "first impressions" you're making.  Very progressive tax policies and how you apply those funds to up-keep your states.

I doubt Umerikah will ever wake up...  just a string of anecdotes, shouted out into the void, amounting to candidates like Trump, Cruz, Carson, and Rubio... gerrymandered into local districts paid for by Koch Industries super pac funding & analysis...  sad.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Prime Your Pump

Google blogger, for iphones, is not a very good ap.   I tried to upload this while sitting int he back yard, eating almonds, and sipping wine with my wife.  Obviously, it didn't work well.

I came home from a 9 day trip (driving the Mazda to South Carolina to give to Nathan Jr, and then a week of work) to find my back yard fountain non-functional.  Added water to it, no go.  Tripped GFI and reset, no go.  Cleaned the bowl, didn't do it.  I could hear the pump trying to run (click, click, click) but nothing was coming out.  So I thought "what would Bernoulli do?"  I took off the 90 degree spigot off the output, put my lips around the tube, and blew in.  GURGLE GURGLE GURGLE could be heard...  removed my lips...  and Gush!  The water began to flow!  The pump needed to be primed.  Sure, it required mouthwash afterwards, but to got the pump running.  = )

When the licensed electricians I hired installed the GFI properly (pulling new wire, clearing out the conduit under the cement, and sealing it at both ends) and the pump first started running, a LARGE wolf spider came crawling out of the pump output tube (larger than a car key spider) whose body had been blocking the tube...  so I wanted to make sure she had not come back to inhabit the water supply tube   = P  .. No arachnids were harmed in the priming of this fountain pump.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lost Puppy Thomas

Now that Antonin Scalia is decomposing, someone will need to adopt Clarence Thomas.  Thomas has not, since joining the Supreme Court, had an original thought (look it up, SCOTUS blog... It's a fact).   Clarence is a lost puppy without his master to guide him.  Maybe Samuel will take Thomas under his wing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Volvo XC70 Phasers, Photon Torpedos & Tractor Beam

Recently, DDF and I upgraded our 2007 Mazda 6 station wagon to a newer, more modern model.
There was nothing "wrong" with the Mazda 6.  I'd been running full synthetic Castrol oil in it since we bought it with just 50 miles on it.  Regular filter changes, routine inspections, 2 sets of rear brake pads and one set of front pads, and 4 Yokohama tires (the front 2 which wore out faster than the back two when I fell behind on rotations).  It made it to 81 thousand miles without any major (or minor) problems, driving around Arizona, and then to California, and back to Arizona again for a Mardi Gras trip 2 years ago.  It's been a good car, and I will be driving it to our son Nathan Jr's home later this year.

When we got the XC70 home, DDF asked me "what are those things on the windshield?" (pictured above, onto which the rear view mirror was mounted).  I looked at them, and replied "Oh, those are the photo torpedoes, the phasers, and the tractor beam."

Pedestrian Sensor Array, blocking engine cooling air-flow
You see, this Volvo is covered in sensors.  Blind spot sensors, pedestrian sensors, back-up sensors, collision avoidance sensors, a 10,000 image library of "similar images" that the on-board computer tries to compare on-coming obstacles to and determine if it is a threat (person, raccoon, bike, bridge abutment...) or if it is benign (sign post not on a collision course, rock on the side of the road, turtle that has crossed the street, etc...).

This vehicle has more I/O than the first two projects that I ever designed and built back at Michelin Tire in the 80s, combined.  It is a technologically advanced machine, modern, and very impressive to the engineer within me.  And it cost substantially less than Mercedes, Audi, Cadillac, Porche, Land Rover, or BMW.  There's ultrasonic sensors for the curb sensors, digital imaging cameras and range finders for the collision avoidance and image libraries, and at highway speeds, the ultrasonics kick up their range to double as blind-spot vehicle detectors All Around the vehicle.

There's front bumper, rear bumper, left and right front quarter panel near the fog lights, left and right rear quarter panel near the tail pipes, rear camera, front camera, rain sensors for automatic wipers, And all the collision avoidance.  THere's almost so much technology that is Could lull the driver asleep or enable distracted driving, but so far I am enjoying the sensor feedback and driver-interaction.  There are options to turn off the sensor arrays while driving, but I've not found them overly intrusive or annoying yet, so I keep them on.

The XC70 has the same engine as DDF's C70, turbo-charged inline 5 cylinder, 2.5 liter, 250 HP, 266 ft-lbs, dipsticks included. Volvo (along with Audi & BMW) is moving away from dipsticks to this ridiculous "computer controlled maintenance schedule" that is supposed to tell the driver when to add & change oil.  No thanks, I'd Much Rather do it the old-fashioned, more accurate, and less-dealer-interactive way that has worked for over 100 years, with a dipstick and rag.  The 4 cylinder 2 liter engine was fancier, had no dipstick, but was not available on the AWD model, so that's not what we bought.

And, since it's a Station Wagon, and not a SUV [superfluous un-useful vehicle] it fits in my cramped, Tetris-like, barely a 2-car garage.

Sadly, it has Pirellis...  but those will get replaced with Michelins once they quickly wear out. At 235/50 R18s they are the LARGEST tires I've ever had on any vehicle I've owned in my life... but I am secure in my masculinity and have no need to put on Huge, over-sized tires or desire to "sit up higher than everyone else" on the road as apparently so many Umerikuns are afflicted with such a height
jealousy disorder.

I would have been happy buying another Mazda, had they not stopped making station wagons in 2007 for the American market.  I test drove a Toyota Venza, but it was huge, bulky, low tech, unimpressive.  I was interested in an Acura Station Wagon, but Honda decided in 2012 to stop making Acura wagons... and all the used ones I saw were unusually high mileage vehicles, so I passed.

I could not buy an Audi or VW since they falsified their emissions and have a corporate culture of dishonesty.  Looked at the Porche SUVs and laughed at the +$60K price tags. No thanks. (and they're part of the VW corporate culture).  Buick makes no station wagons, just SUVs.  Cadillac stopped making wagons in 2014.  Mercedes wagons are famously prone to chronic mechanical and electronic defects & operability issues.  BMW stopped making a 5 series more than 5 years ago in a wagon, and the 3 series was just too small.  Ford's Flex was far too boxy and far too expensive for what was included when compared to the Volvo.  Mazda's CX-5 sat up too high, never would have fit in my garage, and was too small for what we needed it to do.  I Really Wanted a V70 (we had one back in 2000, and it was a very good car), but Volvo only sells them in Europe, and I was not going to wait 10 to 14 months to have one shipped over, modified to meet California emissions, and then have the Only 2017 V70 in California where I could never find a part for it.   Europe and Australia get all the good wagons.

So with El Niño upon us, combined with the fact that Northern San Diego County is remarkably hilly, an AWD vehicle was not a hard choice to make.  And if we ever drive it to the mountains or off-road, the AWD and 18 inch wheels will give us clearance and traction advantages as well.

The mirrors turn in when I lock it, which is one of the coolest features... no more wondering "did I lock it, or did I forget?".  All 4 windows roll down, and go back up, All The Way, with a single touch - as every car should but most American cars don't.  There's handy grocery bag pop-up holder walls and straps in the cargo area, seat position and mirror position memory tied to his & her keys, blue tooth, USB ports, 12V charging, a large center counsel digital display... it is the fanciest & most advanced vehicle I've ever owned.  And it will likely be the last internal combustion engine car I ever own as well, as a Tesla or other electric vehicle will probably be the next car we get in 2 or 3 presidential election cycles from now.  
This was the sunset that I witnessed the first time I made a blue-tooth call from my phone, through the car, to my parents, while parked next to the PCH, US Route 101, watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.  The call came right after I enabled the Sirius Radio, and personalized the dash board display.  

It was almost 80F here today, with a gentle breeze.   Yeah... life doesn't suck here in Southern California.  You should come visit.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Republican Hyperbolic Allergies to Islam

The Washington Post has a nice article today about how Republicans presidential candidates and primary voters are all in a tizzy about President Obama visiting a Mosque yesterday... yet 15 years ago, George W Bush did the same thing and there WAS NO OUTCRY.  (Link here)

The hypocrisy is so thick, it's ridiculous.  W can visit a mosque and no one denounces him, or says he's being divisive.  President Obama visits a Mosque and he's obviously a secret Muslim, or trying to divide Umerika, or stirring up religious divides??? No Rubio... you're incorrect, again.  Short-sighted, fear mongering, myopic fools.
Bush visits a Mosque in 2001... no Republican Outcry resulted.