Friday, August 26, 2016

Maybe we shouldn't be so fast to poo-poo history


Today by chance I ran across something I read years ago that has stuck in my mind ever since.   It's a quote attributed to 18th Century Scottish historian Alexander Tyler.   His position was that a democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.

He went on to say democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits.  After that, democracy will eventually collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

That was in 1787!

Check this....he suggested there were eight steps to democracy:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith

2. From spiritual faith to great courage

3. From courage to liberty (revolution)

4. From liberty to abundance

5. From abundance to complacency

6. From complacency to apathy

7. From apathy to dependence

8. From dependence to bondage

YIKES!

It seems to me one of our mistakes, assuming you believe Mr. Tyler's hypothesis, was to vote "generous gifts" to only a portion of our population vs to everyone.  If we all benefit from something, such as a publicly funded education or an interstate highway system (do I dare even mention some sort of universally-available health care?), democracy can perhaps cope.  But when we give "gifts" to only a few, such as welfare to the poor at one extreme or tax breaks to the wealthy at the other, those in the middle, who don't qualify for either, become resentful.  That's when class warfare arises.  That's when the wheels come off.




 Just something to think about.

S



Monday, August 22, 2016

Is this stuff real, or just some giant scam?


 Lactose, gluten, or offal?

I'm not a science denier, not at all.  I truly believe in gravity and climate change and sun spots and much more, too.   But in recent years I've heard words being tossed around that are just foreign to my vocabulary which makes me wonder if we're being sold a bunch of bull.


For example: "Lactose".  I was reading the ingredients list on the side of a box of Triscuit crackers and it said one of its ingredients was lactose.  I'm 66 years old and I'd never even heard of lactose until a few years ago. I know we didn't have it when I was a kid.  Is it something that was made up in a lab by some mad scientist, or a PR guy from ConAgra?

So at the Triscuit factory they added "lactose" to the big giant mixing bowl to make the goo that's eventually mashed and baked to make crackers?  If I went to a store to buy some lactose, what aisle would it be on?  Do you buy it by the pound or the gallon or what?

I'm told some people can handle lactose, and some can't.  So if it's such a crap shoot, why did the Triscuit cracker company put it in in the first place?  Couldn't that be a liability issue?  Is it a flavoring?  What does lactose taste like?  Chicken? (Since chicken seems to be everyone's default "go to" flavor, I'm guessing "yes".)

Is lactose to milk what gluten is to bread?  Which begs:  WTF is gluten?  I've eaten a lot of food in my lifetime, but it wasn't until just a few years ago restaurant waiters began asking me if I wanted to order from their "gluten free" menu.  "No, I want the same stuff you've been serving me since 1981" I tell them.  Is nothing easy any more?

Another example:  "Offal".  I was reading an article explaining how good cholesterol (HDL) is good (hence the name "good" cholesterol) UNLESS you have too much of it, then it's bad.  Too much HDL can lead to early death, it said.  Wha...what?  Then it went on to say, basically, veggies good, meat bad.   "Even lean meats like chicken and offal contain cholesterol" it said.

OK, I give.  I guess I've lived a sheltered life.  I've heard of beef, pork, fish, and fowl, but WTF is "offal"?  I looked it up and it said it was "the parts of a butchered animal that are generally considered inedible by humans".  Umm...exactly which parts?  No...never mind.  I don't want to know, really.  I don't care about its cholesterol content, if it's inedible, why are they trying to feed it to us?    

Is offal that stuff that you wish you'd never seen after you see it that scientists make chicken "nuggets" out of?  (I'm pretty sure "nuggets" are not actual parts of a real chicken.) Is offal the Latin root word for "awful"?

No, I don't deny science, but I'll admit I'm sometimes a little baffled by it.  ;)




Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Pay to play" sounds reasonable to me, said Guido "The Snake" Gambino


Back on June 9th I wrote here about why I won't vote for Hillary Clinton.  It isn't because she isn't smart, or isn't qualified...she is on both counts.  She's been in and around government almost her entire adult life.  After all these years she no doubt has a star-studded black book of important contacts.  She's likely shaken down many of them, too.  (Something not exclusive to Hillary.)

Politics is a sleazy business...big shock, I know!  Politicians (of both parties) know how to write laws that make themselves look pure as the driven snow, but not too many layers deep into the regulations they write, if you know what to look for, you'll find all the necessary loopholes that give them a free hand to do pretty much whatever they want.  The very people who decide by the laws they write what is legal or illegal will quite naturally declare whatever they do to be legal.  It's the proverbial "license to steal".

With Hillary's "pay to play" relationship with the Clinton Foundation now front page news, let me share again what I wrote more than two months ago:

"So why won't I vote for her [Hillary]?  It's all about trust, or lack there of.  For starts, it's hard for me to separate the activities of the Clinton Foundation run by her husband and daughter and her duties as a Senator or Secretary of State.  There is no clear demarcation."

"Under federal law, foreign governments seeking to buy American-made arms [among many other things] are barred from making campaign contributions, a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy.  But nothing prevents them from contributing to a "philanthropic foundation" controlled by policymakers.  (A tidy little loophole, wouldn't you say?)"

"Consider this:  In 2011 while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the State Department approved a $29 billion dollar sale of American-built fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, despite the pleas of many that a deal that large would upset the delicate balance of power in the region.  The deal was even considered a "top priority" for Ms. Clinton personally.  Is it just a coincidence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation, and Boeing contributed $900,000 just months before the sale was given official approval?"
 
"In fact, in just three years (2011-2013) under Hillary Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion dollars worth of arms sales to 20 nations who had given contributions to the Clinton Foundation.  This number is over twice as much as was approved by the State Department in the same time frame during the last term of George W. Bush."

"And....Hillary Clinton switched from opposing an American free trade agreement with Colombia to supporting it after a Canadian energy and mining magnate with interests in that South American country contributed to the Clinton Foundation." 

"In fact, 13 companies lobbying the State Department paid Bill Clinton $2.5 million in speaking fees while Hillary Clinton headed the agency." 


~~~~~~~~~~

I know some will say, "But the Clinton Foundation does many good things with the billions of dollars they control."   That's true, but the legitimate companies set up by organized crime to launder the money from their illegal activities no doubt provide some welcome community services, too.  Just because they sponsor the neighborhood Little League baseball team doesn't make their drug operations any less illegal.  I wouldn't vote for Guido Gambino for President just because he supported the local SPCA, even though I'm an ardent supporter of the SPCA.

I'm not a venomous partisan political person.  I'm not pro- or anti- either party.  I just call 'em as I see 'em.  And not only does Hillary's relationship with the Clinton Foundation look bad, it smells bad, too.  I just can't trust that whatever decisions she makes will always be in the country's best interest vs the best interest of the family business.



 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Back in my day we walked 2 miles to school uphill both ways, and..."

One thing I've noticed about getting older is you tend to reminisce a lot.  You think back to a simpler time when things moved slower.  There are just so many things we have today that we didn't have back in "the old days".  I don't mean the obvious things like smart phones, computers, the internet, and Wifi.  I'm talking about how mundane, everyday life has changed.



For example, when I was a kid we mowed our own lawns.  At first we just mowed our parent's lawns, then when we were at that awkward age when we couldn't get a real job but our parents wouldn't let us just loaf all summer, we mowed the yards of our elderly neighbors.  Today I don't know too many people of any age who mow their own yards.



Nowadays there are "lawn maintenance companies" that will show up with 3 or 4 guys and all the necessary equipment...one will mow, one will edge, one will string trim, and one will blow away all the cuttings.  Twenty minutes, wham bam, pay the nice man.


Earlier this afternoon I took Jax to our neighborhood dog park.  It's about an acre, divided into small dog / big dog sides.  (Jax likes to run with the big dogs.)  As I sat there watching him sniff and water the trees it dawned on me...dog parks?  Really?  Growing up in suburbia we didn't have dog parks.  Dogs simply went out in the yard and did what dogs do.  Today people actually put their dogs in the car and drive them to a dedicated fenced in field so their dogs can play.  That, friends is a First World problem!




Back in my "yout" we just let our dogs out in the back yard to "take care of their business", then we picked it up with a bag or a shovel.


Now we have specialized equipment to do the dirty work, or for the Supremely Lazy...

...one call does all.


When our parents needed a break from us they would send us outside to play.


These days moms arrange "play dates" for their kids, and even write books about how to arrange their kids play time so they'll be...you know..."stress free".  (I understand there are pervs on the streets that we need to be mindful of these days, but isn't this overthinking it juuuust a bit?)

Just recently I heard a report on the radio that said <25% of high-school-age kids have summer jobs.  Now I'm not saying this is the cause of kids "entitled" attitudes these days, but this is likely a cause of kids "entitled" attitudes these days.  Parents do all the wrong things for all the right reasons for their kids today.  It's one thing to want your kids to have it better than you did, but IMO pampering makes spoiled softies.

I wonder if my parents wrote longhand essays on how easy I had it?   Two yo-yo's, an RC Cola every day, the big 64-pack of crayons with the built-in sharpener!  Yeah, it's all relative.  I guess I had it pretty easy, too.  Never mind.

Spoiled S  :)




Monday, August 15, 2016

Heads they win, tails we lose...


So now the rumor is the Republican bigshots want Donald Trump to voluntarily drop out of the presidential race and turn their standard bearer's title over to his VP running mate, Mike Pence.

OK, lets think this through.  Mike Pence was an early Tea Party guy, the same Tea Party whose candidates Donald Trump blew away one-by-one in the primaries.  The same Tea Party that his followers saw as not representing them.

And in the other corner we have Hillary Clinton, who will get the vote of (most of) Bernie Sanders followers by defaultThey don't really like her...they see her (correctly) as "the establishment", the same establishment they saw as not representing them.

So now the majority of Republicans may have a candidate they didn't want, and a huuuuuge number of Democrats have a candidate they really didn't want, either.

Could things possibly get any more f__cked up?  Our Founding Fathers must be turning over in their graves.

S


Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Hey Babe, wake up. You've never seen a really BIG wreck, have you?


True story:  Many years ago I was driving north on Interstate 35 in Dallas when a commercial garbage truck a couple of hundred feet in front of me, the kind that picks up entire dumpsters and tosses the contents overhead back into the big box at the rear, began to fishtail.  (I later learned the rear axle broke, causing the loss of control.)  

At 75 mph it was a pretty exciting sight!  First it swerved left, then abruptly right, then hard left again, back and forth, all while the truck was rapidly decelerating.  The slower it got, the more dramatic the truck leaned.  Right as it came to a complete stop it fell over on its side, spilling garbage all over the highway.  What a mess!

For some reason this memory I still carry after all these years came back into focus when I thought about our current presidential election season.  As I see events unfolding, the similarities are uncanny.

A year ago things started out as you might expect, nothing unusual, just your typical sunny day.   A gaggle of the usual career politicians jumped into the presidential race along with a couple of oddballs, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  *Really? Snicker*  Then, defying all odds, the oddballs (pun intended) showed they had tapped into some deep resentments in the population.  

The process began to go off traditional course...the axle broke.  The Democrats swerved hard left behind Bernie, and the Republicans hard right behind the completely off-the-wall Trump, all while their opponents pulled over to the side to avoid being squashed.  (The opportunistic Hillary Clinton grabbed the steering wheel out of Bernie's hands at the last minute.)

Now the finish line is in sight, and the fishtailing participants are becoming more and more erratic.  WikiLeaks publishes some embarrassing emails about Hillary, and Donald Trump somehow finds room for another foot in his mouth and doesn't hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity.

So on election day, November 8th, is the out-of-control election truck going to finally fall over on its side, either left or right, spilling  garbage all over the countryside? 

Here's my takeaway from all this:  The candidates themselves are actually irrelevant, but the nerves they touched in the electorate...that is the real story this year...are here to stay, and will likely become more inflamed as time goes on.  

Donald Trump will soon be a historical footnote (the polls say Hillary will win, but as she is so widely reviled she'll likely be an ineffective President), and Bernie Sanders will retire to his rocking chair as Provocateur Emeritus.

The big news in all this is America is being seriously shaken up.  Those who actually run America, who pull all the important strings, have taken things too far some say, and the people are royally pissed about it.  It's all coming into focus for many Americans.  "Building a wall" and "Feeling the Bern" are more than just cute slogans.  IMO they're going to be permanent movements that won't just go away on November 9th.

Regardless of who wins, it looks like there might soon be a lot of garbage strewn all over the place.  We might should get our shovels ready.

S


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

So the good guys always wear white hats, and the bad guys black hats, right?


As some of you may know I'm an avid follower of current events and fancy myself as a fairly decent (amateur) historian.  Contrary to many of my contemporaries, I don't see things as just black or white, all good or all bad.   Very few things in life fall into those nice, neat pigeon holes.  Life just isn't that simple.

Case in point: Israel.  I admire what they've had to go through just to survive as a nation, and what they've accomplished in their short history.  They certainly aren't a lilly white faultless society, but compared to any of their neighbors IMO they look pretty damn good, and they deserve our support. Many here, however, seem to think otherwise, that Israel is the big bad bully from whom we should withhold our support, while the Palestinians and other Mid East nations are always the oppressed.  That's much too black and white for me. 


 

Look at what Israel has done:  They've taken a barren, some would even call it worthless, piece of crap real estate and made it bloom.  Israel has become an international powerhouse in agricultural research and technology.



While fresh water has always been in critically short supply in much of the arid Mid East, Israel has developed and built new, ultra-efficient state-of-the-art desalination plants.  They will soon be water self-sufficient and are in a position to export their technology to others in similarly dry environs.



Israel is a R&D leader in medical technology.  Much of the technology we take for granted here today originated in Israel.  Considering their small size (8.522 million people:  6.4 million Jewish, 1.8 million Arab, and .322 million "other"), their achievements in the field of medicine are impressive.



Tel Aviv is a modern cosmopolitan city....



...and their rural agricultural collectives (kibbutz) are generally modern and efficient.

Compare any of this to what their neighbors offer their citizens.  "Well, yes, Israel is modern and progressive because they receive Billions of $$$ in aid every year."  True, but so do most of the other nations in the region.  In reality the other Mid East countries collectively receive much more US aid than does Israel.  So what do they do with theirs?

According to Time magazine in 2014, Yasser Arafat before his death controlled a personal fortune of $3 Billion dollars, money that was sent to the Palestinian people by the West, but was embezzled by the PLO leader. While it's difficult to pull off such a Grand Heist in a democracy, it's a fairly easy thing for dictators to skim off as much as they want, whenever they want.

Look at Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc....their educational institutions, their medical technology, their agriculture, the overall "quality of life" they deliver to their citizens.  A few of the Petro-Elites do well, but everyone else is living in essentially third world conditions.  They had many, many centuries to develop and they did virtually nothing.  Israel has blossomed in just the past 68 years since their independence.

"But the Jews stole much of their land from the Arabs."  Yes, the early Zionists bought some of their land, but later simply ran some Arab owners off theirs.  That was wrong, but how is that any different from the way virtually every other country in the world, including the United States, developed? (Hello....Native Americans?)  I'm hearing the pot calling the kettle black.  It was unjust to be sure, but so is much of life.  At some point in history we have to just accept reality.


And then we come to the military balance of power in the region.
(These are Merkova IV tanks, developed and built completely in Israel.)


To this day Israel's neighbors still hold a numerical military advantage over them in men and equipment.  


Israel has to be smarter and tougher because their neighbors (except Egypt and Jordan) have vowed to wipe them off the face of the earth.  They are in a state of perpetual war, literally, against Israel.  Israel has made no such threats against them.

In fact, while Israel is believed to possess 100 or more nuclear weapons, and have since the 1970's (?), they have never once threatened to nuke their neighbors.  They don't even admit they have nukes (the world's worst kept secret).   

Military trivia:  Israel requires women to serve 2 years in the military (3 years for men), and 51% of all Israeli military officers are women.  Seems like a fairly equal society to me.


circa 1967 Six Days War
Those Israeli tanks and aircraft are not American made.
 
"Israel wouldn't even exist if the US hadn't recognized and armed them back in 1948."  Not true at all.  The US recognized the state of Israel only after the United Nations had already voted for a separate Jewish state in Palestine.  And the arms Israel used to fend off Arab attacks from all sides the instant they raised their flag were not provided by the US, but were arms mainly of British and French origin that the Jews had hastily scavenged.

A historical fact:  When Israel joined with England and France to invade Egypt in 1956 after Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the Suez canal (until then a British property), President Eisenhower backed the three countries down and sided with Egypt.  It was only after the Arab Mid East countries cast their lot with the USSR at the height of the Cold War that the US saw Israel as a tool to block Soviet expansion in the region and began to arm them.  


And even then it wasn't all US give/Israel take.  Many of the weapons we have protecting us today were joint ventures between the US ($$$) and Israel (technology).


So the Israelis are all good, and the Arabs are all bad, right?  Hardly!  For the life of me I don't understand why Israel insists on building new settlements in the occupied West Bank.  Isn't there anywhere else they could build them?  And the stranglehold/embargo they have around Gaza seems IMO to be unnecessarily harsh.  

I believe the Jews deserve their own homeland, and so do the Palestinians.  But I also understand that will only happen when the Palestinians drop their demand for Israel's annihilation.  While Israeli Arabs (yes, there are Israeli Arabs) have constitutional rights, I'm sure there is still plenty of inequality that exists.  Much of the criticism of Israel is no doubt for just cause.

For the record, I'm not Jewish, only have a couple of Jewish friends, and have no vested interest in Israel in any way.  I just feel they are by-and-large doing a great service for their people and are preserving a delicate balance of power in the region, something their neighbors can't say.  Whenever I hear a politician say we ought to back away from Israel and then heap praise on Israel's poor oppressed neighbors, I can't help but think how ignorant they are of the facts.

These are my opinions.  If my facts are somewhere in error please correct me and provide documentation. I'm not too big to admit my mistakes.  

Just always remember, there is a lot of gray in a black and white world.

S