Trash talk betweenTrump/Kim Jong perilous and solves nothing…

September 22, 2017

So it has come down to this: international relations to be carried out by way of trash talk. U.S. President Donald Trump refers to the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man” and in turn Kim Jong Un calls Trump a dotard (mentally feeble old man).

And just as Trump attempted to belittle his adversary as a crazy man threatening with rockets (the name obviously taken from an Elton John song, by the same name), The North Korean leader in a personal statement likened Trump to a “scared barking dog”.

And to make matters worse, North Korea is now threatening to explode I guess a test nuclear bomb in the ocean (not that we never did that, except that was then and not a direct threat to anyone I suppose, except maybe the USSR, and it was way down in the South Pacific — not good for Pacific islanders though.)

Both men are wacky in their own way.

Kim Jong Un seems to be employing trash talk as done in sports — he is a basketball fan we know through his personal friendship with an American player, Dennis Rodman. And Trump is too and is stuck in the so-called “reality TV” mode where it is all just for show and ratings — except this is for real.

(Maybe Trump is like the Alzheimer’s Reagan and mixes make-believe with reality.)

I actually like Trump’s message that we would retaliate in a massive fashion or even perhaps pull off a pre-emptive strike to curb North Korea’s threatened nuclear aggression (I think that has been alluded to). I just don’t like the way it was delivered, like trash talk from one side against the other in a sporting game or prize fight.

I think the same message could be delivered in a more indirect and diplomatic but quite understandable way.

And by constantly reacting to the North Korean leader’s trash talk we are sucked into his game. I say let our position be known (and keep up the practice missions of ground and air forces as a signal we are ready) and then ignore Kim Jong Un until or if he tries something — and if we can know in advance and pull off a pre-emptive strike, then we may just have to do it. I would hope our military would have a strategy that would combine an attack on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and one directly at the leadership — cut off the head of the snake.

But let’s not get sucked into trash talk so far that we rule out a diplomatic solution.

And as much as we depend on trade with China, if that nation cannot bring its wayward ally under control then perhaps we need to isolate ourselves from the China trade. It seems we ought to have leverage with China. China as I understand it could bring North Korea to its knees by cutting off oil supplies to and trade with North Korea. But then it does not want refugees flooding into China. So they are reluctant to go too far. But even though we have a trade deficit with China, I think the loss of our market would really hurt China as much or more than us. We need to convince that nation to help us out — we have actually had good relations with it since Richard Nixon visited there.

At any rate, Trump had his say about North Korea. If he were wise (and I doubt that he is) he would leave it at that. North Korea cannot really imagine we would stand by and do nothing if they dropped the bomb.

Once upon a long time ago now a nation pulled a devastating surprise attack on us (I’m not talking 9/11 for that was not a nation as such) and we retaliated and we retaliated with more force than the world had ever seen.

In this type of situation Hillary Clinton would have been more diplomatic and yet everyone would know that like any American president she would do what had to be done to defend our nation. While a woman, she was no dove on foreign policy.

OK, so I am satisfied Trump made his case but I hope he does not blow it all and us up with it by flapping his yap or twittering — good luck to us and the world on all of that.

 

 

 

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Climate change: free market and free thinkers, unteathered to money, needed to deal with it…

September 15, 2017

When I left of this blog, what? a week or so ago? I was wondering how to pack my bags for a trans-Atlantic flight to Spain. I wanted to get everything in one of those carry-on roller bags and my backpack. Did not want to have to check baggage, mostly because I am afraid it won’t be there at the other end and also because I don’t want to be held up and miss my next mode of transport. Well, they made me check my bag in because they were running out of room in the overhead bins. All was well, there it was on the carousel at the other end. And I did not have to drag it down the long ramp and stairways at the airports (in my case, Philadelphia and Madrid).

So I am vacatinoning in Spain, my fourth trip. But I am aware of the ouside world and my own home country. When I left it was in the middle of the great storm in Texas and other Gulf Coast locations and the great hurricane (s) in Florida and Puerto Rico and the Carribean.

I had wondered in one post whether the powers that be were prepared. Seems like in some respects, especially in Florida, the answer is yes. But I am not in a position to judge really. But maybe we have to be prepared for more of this.

Climate change seems to be upon us. One can argue whether it is just a natural phenomenon (isn’t the climate always changing?) or whether it is man-caused or man-exacerbated. Like I always say, I prefer to follow the scientists and the independent ones (if there are such people), not the industry/special interest dollars now worry about the rest later kind.

On the other hand, I could see that there needs to be a check to some degree because some could use real science (or even fake science) to their advantage to push their own agenda. I guess this works for both climate change believers and non-believers. The non-believers might want to stick to the old ways they are comfortrable with and may not want anything to interrupt the money flow and feel we live for today, not for tomorrow when we will be dead in the ground. On the other hand, some people just have a vision of how they think people should live and get around — back to nature man, even though you shop at a super market that claims to be organic or something (and don’t you know much of that is packaging? Much of it comes from the same source. Hey, I haul food in a big truck. I know something about that.

And then there is the middle, prudent, and responsible ground. We want to save our planet and be good stewards of the earth and we believe there just might be a problem with how we pollute our air and water and lands with fossil fuel exhaust and chemical fertilizers and bug and weed sprays. Yeah, I know the line. Our farmers produce more food to feed more people with all that. But people used to produce their food on a smaller scale until industrialiation pushed them into urban life.

I have some cousins who live on a farm that my own father grew up on. They rent the land out. But they are afraid to drink the water from their own well. Decades of chemical fertilizers and bug and weed spray have polluted the water table. Also the water table in which one only had to stick a pipe in the ground and water came up naturally has subsided and in the recent drought farmers were ratting on each other for wasting water in their irrigation district (water from the high mountains).

When folks settled there in the early 20th Century they had small dairy farms. Today what dairies are left are virtual milk factories with thousands of animals each and so much waste that a neighbor actually rents my counsin’s place, in part, as I understand, to get rid of it all. Feed crops are grown on the land. I don’t know the actual arrangement.

Tree crops, such as almonds, make more money and on a more steady flow (export markets ensure that — did you hear that Trump or even you silly farmers who may have cut your own throats by voting for someone who seems not to understand that the import/export market is a two–way street). But oh, the chemicals that go into orchards. There seems to be sprayers going all the time. I’ve lived among the orchards. I know.

But most of us — are we the real silent majority? — just want to do the right thing but realize we lack leaders who seem to be able to handle it without getting locked into special-interest big-money politics.

Some people who masquerade as environmentalists are just after government funding for non-cost effective projects. Hard to know sometimes.

Sometimes the free market is the answer. Case in point. Stick with me now. When I began truck driving a lot of owner-operators scoffed at the idea of driving slower to save fuel (you know 55 instead of 65 or 75 or faster). They also claimed that their trucks actually were more efficient at the higher speeds. What they based that belief on other than their desire to drive fast I have no idea. Then when diesel jumped up to $5 a gallon a few years ago suddenly many of them became believers in driving a little slower to save fuel (not that everyone drives slow — but more than before). Then they scoffed at the idea of automatic transmission trucks (the old automatics did not always work so well). But when they saw that the new automatics were getting 8 to 12 miles per gallon or more as opposed to 5 or less and they calulated the savings, suddenly they began buying those new automatics.

Don’t misundertand me, I’m not hostile to fossil fuel. It’s brought us a long ways. It took me to Spain and hopefully back home again. But we may have to look elswhere, both because of availability and cost and sustainability to our environment.

If we can find them we should vote for and support responsibile leaders who will do their best to protect our livelihoods and still plan and act for the future.

I don’t want to pick on poor Hillary (well she is not so poor money wise), but by perhaps a slip of the tongue she had promised to put coal miners out of business. I don’t think she meant it like it came out but simply writing people off is not the way to go. But simply playing to the greed of the short-sighted industrialists and some of the ignorant masses (ignorant mostly because it’s easier for them not to know maybe) is not the way to go either.

I have written this before but I always have wondered if we would be better off with politicians or office holders who are retired or who are taking a break from the real world and do not have to kowtow to special interests and their money.

In one way President Trump fits that category, except from what I see his special interest is himself, his sense of self, his own sense of power and vanity. But it is said he is cutting deals with the opposition. That’s a hopeful beginning, maybe.

Trump is on record as a climate change denier or skeptic. But his stated positions have little meaning.

 

 

 

 

 


How to pack, that is the question (???)

September 3, 2017

I´m ready to go but my bags are not packed. I am in the process. I have never been good at packing — never really tried to be until last year. I looked on the internet and after so many decades learned a good and easy way to fold a shirt — before that I just kind of folded them any old way. This year I am trying the roll-your-clothes technique. Not sure how it will come out — it’s in progress. In fact I am writing this as an excuse to take a break. I don’t like packing. Who does?

I’m headed to Spain for the fourth time in my life. I never had a hobby, except maybe following current events and politics, but for the last four or five years I have been trying to learn Spanish and I have been visiting Spain. Of course Mexico is a lot closer (and I have made a  few forays into that country in my lifetime (not far though) but quite frankly I’m afraid of it — too much violence and lawlessness there. Now I have had Mexican natives assure me that is not the case everywhere and others tell me if I just go to the tourist areas I should be safe. But all that is counter to what I have been reading and seeing on the internet. Of course there was that recent horrific terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain or Catalonia or Cataluña if you prefer. And Madrid had a terrible commuter train bombing by terrorists a few years back. But world-wide terrorism is a fact of life. We have to deal with it.

Well, I have to get back to my packing. I’m limiting myself to carry-on, which for me means just one of those slim suitcases on wheels and a backpack. And yet I will be in Spain for 21 days (hope to use some laundry service at one of two hotels I will stay at).

Hope everything fits. I’ll let you know. Any suggestions? I still have three days to get it done, more or less, or more like less.


Military assets put to good use, but were officials prepared? Does not seem like it…

August 30, 2017

UPDATE to my Update of 8-31-17

And now the somewhat flamboyant retired army Gen. Russell Honore who led military relief efforts in Katrina is charging that even though a special military command was set up after that storm officials seemed to have been caught off guard and have been too slow to react.  He said they “ought to quit patting themselves on the back” and deploy the available military resources (more than they have) and questioned why all these days later some units are still waiting in reserve. He said that Harvey is much bigger than Katrina.


I had asked why the Marines (and I meant other military as well) had not been sent in to the flood zone or at least more of them but it appears today from what I read so far away is that forces of the regular and reserve military have been coming in since Monday and units from all the branches continue to be deployed. The Texas governor had already activated the entire National Guard from his state.

Whatever the case, it is an excellent use of our prized asset, the U.S. military.

So perhaps my question below did not need to be asked. I realize it is not a movie or TV program. It takes time to mobilize forces, and they are being mobilized.

My original post on this from yesterday follows:

Just a question: why didn’t we immediately send in the Marines as it became apparent that Harvey was the storm of all storms and an unprecedented number of people would be stranded in high waters?

I just read that in fact some marines with amphibious craft have been sent in but more await orders. What is the hold up?

I mean when I see that a whole city, Port Arthur, Texas, is under water and people in a shelter having to scoot up to the top of bleachers to keep above the water and when I constantly read that there have been people in the vast flood area awaiting rescue for days — why are we not deploying as much of our military assets as we can?

Now I don’t claim to understand what all might be involved. I am just wondering. Anyone have any ideas?

 


How much will storm victims get and when? It’s all up to politics; Melania fashion gossip…

August 30, 2017

UPDATED POST (Wednesday, 8-30-17)

How much and how fast flood victims get help is up to politics. There is a controversy now because the Texas delegation is crying for hurricane relief when they voted against such legislation for people on the East Coast. Oops that’s embarrassing — or should be.

Meanwhile President Trump seemed more intent on making a show of himself and commenting on the size of his audience (size matters to him) than on actually getting out to the real scene of the floods and storm damage during his Texas visit Tuesday. In his defense, though, it is a tricky thing. With all the security that is needed for a presidential visit he would have likely got in the way of evacuation and relief efforts.

There was also kind of a gossip flap over the fact that First Lady Melania Trump was wearing stiletto heels when she boarded the plane for Texas — I guess all hell broke out on Twitter about the bad taste (or not) of her all dressed to the nines to visit a disaster area. Whether originally planned or not, she disembarked in Texas wearing sneakers and I guess a slightly more subdued or tame outfit than when she got on the plane.

I’ll give her a pass on that one. Heck, if I were a rich b…. I’d dress like one too (and that is a stupid joke by the way — I don’t know her personality. It has to be better than the other half).

What follows is my original post on this with one update:

Well I don´t know exactly how much good the president’s visit to the flood area in Texas did but I would think it should have some positive effect and be good for morale of the crisis-ridden people there. He is always big on promises but he promised the response from the federal government would be ¨bigger and better¨than has ever been seen before.

Perhaps depressingly it has been reported that 80 percent of those in the flood-prone areas do not have flood insurance. But almost just a bad, there are people enrolled in the Federal Flood Insurance program who have had multiple claims over the years and that federal agency operates at a deficit, making it a great fiasco, but likely a political hot potato that few want to touch. That hardly seems like a way to run an insurance business. In fact it encourages people to build in flood-prone areas and then stick the cost to Uncle Sam when they suffer flooding that could only be expected. I mean even if this is one like never seen before it is happening in a known flood area, much of which has seen development without proper flood precautions. Wetlands are there for a purpose. You pour concrete over enough of it and you have flood problems.

Nevertheless, what is what is. Right now people need to be rescued from the flood that just keeps getting worse and they need to have shelter.

Some news commentators and reporters have tried to dig at Texas congressmen who voted against flood relief for Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. But they in turn point out that various political interests attached expensive riders to the legislation that had nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy.


UPDATE: since the original post I have read that fact checks indicate there is a question as to how much was in the Sandy legislation that actually did not address the immediate problem or that was simply the usual pork. One would have to do some research on that one but just looking at the politics of the whole thing, the Texas delegation is in an embarrassing spot now when they ask for help but denied it to others — no matter what the facts of the relief bill for Hurricane Sandy (if they voted against it).


And that to me would be a subject for another post. Supposedly congress changed the rules some time back and got rid of earmarks in legislation that served to fund often questionable pork barrel projects in the districts of individual legislators so that they could show how they were bringing home the bacon. But legislators found a method around that by pressuring members of the bureaucracy to spend money in their districts. I for one think riders should be done away with. The defense of riders I understand is that their original intent was to fix flaws in legislation but in practice they are add-ons that have nothing to do with the original bill.

It’s a tough call though. After all you vote for your congressman to help your district.

Oh, and back to flood insurance. I think some would like to see the federal government get out of the losing business and turn it over to private enterprise. Of course then premiums would go sky high.

Maybe that is part of what is needed in order to promote more environmentally-sound development — and in the long run a lot of people could be saved from the suffering and expense.

 

 

 

 


Desperate people or pirates shoot at rescue boats

August 29, 2017

Reports yesterday indicated that in some instances people desperate to escape the Texas flooding were in such a panic that some were shooting at rescue boats if they did not stop but that might not have been the correct interpretation of what is going on — I am not sure. This morning I read that it was really basically pirates trying to steal the boats. How could people do such a terrible thing? The answer: bad people are always bad people.

But for the most part in seems to be a story of human survival and people working together in a flood (and general weather catastrophe) of what can only be described as being in biblical or near biblical proportions.

In my last post I suggested the full resources of  the U.S. military should be deployed or that is as much as possible. From a report I just saw in CNN it appears that the military is responding and is ready to increase its response at any moment.

(All of the Texas National Guard had already been called out by the governor.)

I don’t think I have seen a flood like this in my lifetime (68 years) in the United States.

And I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to discover from the reporting that Houston is the third largest city in the nation. And why do they build cities on swamps?

This storm and its flooding is spread throughout the entire Gulf Region of Texas and threatens Louisiana too. Texas has never seen such flooding in its recorded history.

The president is due to inspect some of the region today. I did hear the director of FEMA pledge that they are on top of the situation and would likely have to remain so for “years” in the recovery situation. Talk yes, but a good message. This is a time when the Trump administration could prove itself worthy — good luck with that but it could happen. For the sake of all those affected and us all, I hope so.

Don’t want to get into Trump politics now except to say if he would stick to more formal (some call them teleprompter) messages he would do us all a favor.

 

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Calling out the troops for Harvey relief missions in Texas only makes sense…

August 28, 2017

Calling out the entire National Guard in Texas for the major flood emergency in Houston and the whole gulf coast area — some 12,000 troops I understand — is a wise move by the governor of that state.

For that matter I would think that the president should commit as many of the regular military and/or reserves as possible — don’t our own people come first?

Maybe the governments (state and federal) will show they now have their acts together for hurricane/tropical storm Harvey and its aftermath.

I know that the U.S. military and the National Guard were deployed to a varying degree during Hurricane Katrina — but at the time it was reported that there was a shortage of resources due to the ongoing war (s) in the Middle East — poor excuse.

Also, I recall that sometime after that China had a catastrophic earthquake and the news reports showed its military as first responders, with China’s top government civilian leader on the scene. Also Communist Cuba, known for its high-class medical system (I don’t know, but I assume they are good), offered help in Katrina but that help was declined — of course that was politics on the side of both parties.

Right now it seems from reports from the scene in Texas that citizens are doing a valiant job of helping each other in what is termed as an epic flood — the biggest in the recorded history of Texas.

I want to see the full resources of our federal government deployed. Just think, it could be you.

The president is set to visit the ravaged area on Tuesday. It is a symbolic thing, but sometimes that is what is needed. He could show up George W. Bush (who failed in Katrina) in his own state.

As much as I cannot stand the president, I wish him god speed on this one.

p.s.

Back in the mid 1950s (the winter of ’55-’56 I believe) one of my uncles, who was a pilot who flew missions over Germany in WWII in the old Army Air Force and who had just recently completed helicopter training as a then member of the National Guard, flew relief missions in the great floods in California that winter. I have always been proud to have him as an uncle. I think that one of the primary duties of the Guard should be relief in domestic emergencies — not going off to fight foreign wars.