Jolly Holiday Monday!!!

Okay, folks, here we are at Monday morning once again.  But this one feels a little different, doesn’t it?  I wonder why … ???  Oh YES!  There is no work today for most of you, since in the U.S. it is Memorial Day, and across the pond it is a banking holiday, I am told.  But still, it is Monday and so we will make it jolly, and then you can go to your picnics, fireworks, grill-outs, or whatever your plans for the day are.  Just don’t be expecting a ‘Jolly Tuesday’ post tomorrow as you head back to work!  I can only manage to be jolly once in the course of a week.

My friend, rawgod, took me to task a few days ago for not providing tea, as he had requested some time ago.  I explained that I had tried offering tea, but nobody drank it and it was wasteful, but then had to promise him tea and a naked cinnamon roll for today (I put some icing in a separate bowl for any who want it).  So, pull up a chair, friends, and we shall have a Monday chuckle or two.


Have you ever been driving down the highway and saw something airborne just before it hit your car?  Sure, all of us have.  Usually it’s just some small piece of debris the car in front of you ran over, sending it airborne to hit your car, hopefully not in the windshield.  Well, this very thing happened to a man driving on Interstate-5 near Lakewood, Washington.  The man saw something black go airborne, then felt a thud on the front bumper.  Thinking it was just a piece of road debris, the man drove on until about 18 miles later he decided to stop for fuel, and this is what he found!car-with-gunThe man called the police, who are checking to see if the gun might have been used in a shooting earlier that morning.  I had to laugh at some of the comments on the officers tweet, including these:

Oh dang the liberals were right. Guns are now attacking on their own.

Ban bumper stocks!

Imagine it had gone trough [sic] the windshield and injured the driver. That would have been a whole new level of gun violence😖


The Fulshear, Texas, Police Department received a ‘thank-you’ letter of a different sort last week.  The letter was from an apparently disgruntled child whose mother had been pulled over by the police …

“Dear Fulshear Police Officer,

Thank you for pulling my mom over because she deserved it because she took my phone away and I did not like it. And how she always brags about how good of a driver she is. And it just annoys me. And how that one time she got pulled over because she did not have a ezsticker on her window and when she came home and told me that I just laughed. And I also remember that time when one of my mom’s back lights weren’t working and she got pulled over.”

I feel a bit sorry for this child’s mother!


collieA farmer wants to know how many sheep he has in his field, so he asks his border collie to count them. The dog runs into the field, counts them and runs back to the farmer. The farmer says, “How many?” The dog says, “40.” The farmer is surprised and says, “How can there be 40 – I only bought 38!” The dog says, “I rounded them up.”


The State of Maine and its people are known for being somewhat laconic.  This holiday weekend, some interesting safety warning signs began popping up around the state on the electronic billboards:


What would you do if you decided to get tattoos of your children’s names, but the tattoo artist couldn’t spell too well and misspelled one of the names?  That’s just what happened to a woman in Sweden who had the names of her two children, Nova and Kevin, tattooed on her arm.  But … the tattoo artist was either not a great speller, or mis-heard the woman and Kevin’s name came out ‘Kelvin’.

Rather than spend the money to have the tat surgically removed, she had little Kevin’s name legally changed.  Fortunately he is only two-years-old, so won’t likely be too traumatized by the name change.

Kelvin brought back memories of the refrigerator we had when I was a child … a Kelvinator!

Kelvinator


Okay, folks, it’s time for you to get out there and enjoy your holiday, your extra day off!  Spread some good cheer today, share those beautiful smiles, and have a wonderful day!  Love ‘n hugs from Filosofa!

toon-Maxine

This is sooooooo ME!!!

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An Ugly Voice — Peter T. King

I had no intention of writing about this topic again this week.  I was fairly certain it would come up again in the near future, for I don’t think the final word has been said yet, but I thought the topic was put to bed for a nap, at least.  Until, that is, the abominable New York Congressman  Peter King had to open his mouth and spew the most ludicrous thing I have heard and get the needle on my radar twitching and my fingers itching.  And what topic is that, you may be wondering?  The NFL decision to fine teams & players who refuse to stand for the playing of the national anthem before games.

My feelings on this are well-known and do not bear repeating, but an examination of Mr. King’s statement is definitely in order.  As I mentioned in my last post about this topic, Take A Knee, there was one team owner who stood above all the rest in the decision of the team owners.  Christopher Johnson, acting owner of the New York Jets, stood up for his players …chris johnson.jpg“I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

I applaud him for being the only one to stand heads above the rest, to have the courage of his convictions, to stand for his players.  But apparently Representative King viewed it a bit differently …Pete King.pngHe is comparing taking a knee rather than standing at attention for a stupid song to a Nazi salute?  He is comparing a peaceful protest against police brutality and racial injustice to a group of people who commited murder, who committed genocide, who committed crimes against humanity when they killed more than 6 million people???  What tree did this ‘man’ fall from?

I commented on his tweet:

“You are delusional, Mr. King, and not worthy of the office you hold.  Have you ever read the U.S. Constitution?  I suggest you do so, post haste.”

That was mild, compared to what I wanted to say, but Twitter has a word limit, and presumably a set of standards about language, so I restrained myself.  But let us ask a question here:  Is this the ‘new norm’?  Is what used to be admirable no longer so, and bigotry now what is looked up to?

I was encouraged that, with few exceptions, the comments to King’s tweet were along the lines of voting him out of office, which tells me that no, We The People have not become cruel, heartless, anti-freedom idiots.  But how did we come to this point, to this place where we are electing people to high offices in our federal government who have so little humanity, no empathy for humans?  And in New York, of all places!  C’mon, New Yorkers … you’re better than this!

Peter King photo.pngMr. King piqued my curiosity … people don’t just become this way overnight, after all … so I dug a little deeper.  What I found is an unapologetic racist, an intense Islamophobe, homophobe.  King has been in office since 1992, and it is the opinion of this writer that it is well past time to take out the trash.  Let us hope that there is a strong, viable candidate running against Mr. King in the 2nd congressional district of New York in November.

Let’s Talk!

It’s hard to believe it has been nearly two weeks already since I wrote the post Give-and-Take.  That post was the experiment I tried in response to a challenge by Lisa Jensen writing as The Snarky Activist, where we each tried to find one good thing to say about Donald Trump.  My goal was to try to start a conversation between right and left, conservative and liberal, republican and democrat.  A conversation where we listen … actually listen to the other side, and respond with respect, yet without sacrificing our own views.  The post was enormously successful, beyond my wildest imaginings, and the feedback (140 comments) was beyond encouraging.  Lisa and I discussed it and decided to try to turn this into a multi-post, joint effort project.

civil-discourse.jpgOne thing we decided was that the conversation would be more meaningful if we limited it to a single topic at a time, and get everyone on the same page.  I suggested, and Lisa concurred, that we would put it to my readers to choose the topic.  I initially put together a list of about 30 topics, looked at it, set it aside, and then tonight I pulled it up and looked at it again and just shook my head and started cutting.  I narrowed the field to six of the ones I think are high priorities.  You will note that there is an elephant in the room.  I have intentionally NOT put issues related to guns on the list at this time.  The Santa Fe school shooting has, I think, left us all too raw for the moment and I fear we could not calmly discuss anything related to gun regulation.  I know I couldn’t … not yet.  Soon, however, I do want to open this topic, most specifically a ban on assault-style weapons.  But not just yet.

purpose of disagreementWe have had a lull in this project, partly because Lisa was on a business trip all last week, and I have been battling a respiratory infection all week.  But I don’t want to lose the momentum, so I hope that by mid-week, we can open a new discussion on the topic you guys choose.  Please select two choices from the following topics.  If there are other topics you would like us to discuss either now or in the future, please let me know in the comments.  I am thinking one discussion every 10 days or so, and the format is still being considered.  All ideas are welcome … you guys are part of this project too!!!

I’m looking forward to hearing your suggestions, and also to engaging with everybody, doing our small part to try to narrow the gap that is tearing this country apart.  Thanks to all for your interest, enthusiasm and participation!

Snarky Snippets for a Saturday Afternoon

Our friend, Eschudel, suggested after my last ‘snippets’ post that ‘Snarky Snippets’ might be a fitting title when I write a compilation of bits ‘n pieces.  Another friend, John, seconded the motion, and since I liked it too, these posts will from now on be called just that!  Thank you Emily and John – there will be a little something extra in your Christmas stockings this year!

Today, I am working on the next stage of our ‘listening and understanding the other side’ project … I really need to come up with a name for it … with Lisa Jensen, and I have to go out in a bit and run some errands, so I am in a bit of a time crunch.   A few worthy things in the news caught my eye this morning, so I shall take advantage of this opportunity to write another Snarky Snippets post!


The headline in Politico read:

Week 53: Trump Goes Spy Hunting and Gets Skunked

Even some of his staunchest supporters couldn’t manage to applaud his performance.

By JACK SHAFER May 26, 2018

“Master table-turner Donald Trump is at it again, spinning the latest damning news from the Russia investigation and flinging it back at his critics to make him look like a victim, not a perp.

This week’s twirl of the table had Trump spinning his interpretive energies into “SPYGATE,” his racy label for the alleged “Criminal Deep State” conspiracy against him. Why call it Spygate? Trump, who lives for catchy buzz-phrases and slogans, told an ally he wanted “to brand” the informant as a spy, and that such language would leave a more lasting impression on the media and public.”

spy v spyNow, personally I am finding this whole “spygate” thing tedious, ridiculous and beneath the dignity of any politician, let alone one who occupies the Oval Office.  But to the point here … we, my friends, are being played.  We sensed it all along, but this is the proof.  He chooses his words and phrases for maximum impact.  Even though he angers the majority of us, it does not matter, for we remember, we notice, we comment, and the media keeps the story alive – that is all he really wants.

It would be wonderful if I could propose, as I have before, a moratorium on everything Trump.  If the media could go, say, a full week without so much as a mention of his name, and if those of us who write this sort of blogs could write about, horse-racing, flowers, art and gnomes for a week, without mention of DT.  But it won’t happen, can’t happen, and there are some very good reasons why it shouldn’t happen.  Just be aware, though, that he is playing us for fools – let us not prove him right.


Conway vs Conway

It would appear that George Conway, wife husband of Trump’s main boot-licker Kellyanne Conway, does not agree with his wife’s boss’ politics.  Gee … might it be he has a functioning brain, unlike his wife?

As far back as last June, Conway began tweeting tweets that were less than complimentary to Trump, things like this:george-conway-tweetMild, in my book, but it raised eyebrows among Kellyanne’s co-workers, and likely Trump himself.  After that, it is said, he became a Twitter star.  I wish I had known, for most have since been deleted and I haven’t time to dig around the ‘net for archived copies.  But he hasn’t stopped there, according to Business Insider.  Two writers of political commentary say that they occasionally receive emails from Mr. Conway with suggestions on how to strengthen their anti-Trump arguments.

Early in the Trump administration, Mr. Conway was offered positions in the Trump White House, first as Solicitor General, and then as the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.  He turned both down – probably a good thing.

You have to wonder how this affects their home life, since Kellyanne seems to have been programmed to nod and agree with everything Trump, and hubby is leaning more and more anti-Trump.  Do I hear divorce lawyers salivating?


Gotcha?

Harvey Weinstein was finally arrested yesterday, some seven months after he was accused of sexually harassing, assaulting, or raping more than a dozen women last October.  Weinstein was led in handcuffs past a gantlet of photographers on Friday as he appeared in court to face charges that he had raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex.  But look at this picture, folks …Weinstein smilesWeinstein smiles-2Don’t you just want to slap that smile right off his ugly mug?  Since October, I have hoped to see him spend the rest of his days in prison, but now I am even more hopeful of that outcome.  To smile … that smug little smile … they should tie him to a stake in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard and let women come throw eggs, rotten tomatoes or just spit on his face!

No, not a cruel bone in my body …  😈

After stating the charges, the prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi added that the inquiry had shown “that this defendant used his money, power and position to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually.”  She also noted that the investigation is still ongoing.  Weinstein’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said Weinstein intends to plead “not guilty”.  Seriously???  Weinstein was released on $1 million bail after only a few minutes in the courtroom.


And I end with a cartoon or two to bring you a smile … or more likely an eye roll.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks!

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Saturday Surprise — Kangas & Ice Cream Trucks

Hello friends and welcome to the weekend!  For most of my readers on both sides of the pond, I believe it is a three-day weekend.  Here in the U.S., there is Memorial Day on Monday, which has pretty much turned into just an excuse for picnics, beer, and a day off work.  Across the pond, I understand it is a bank holiday.  So, wherever you are, I hope you get an extra day to spend with family and doing something fun!  This picture has absolutely nothing to do with today’s theme, but I came across it and just couldn’t resist …kittyI have picked up a couple of new readers … very young ones, both 4 -years-old, and they happen to really like animal videos.  So in honour of the two young men who fell in love with the wingless bee last week, I hope you will enjoy these kangaroos!


The sounds of summer began here in da hood this week.

school-out-1Wednesday was the last day of school, so we have heard the sounds of young voices laughing gleefully, the sound of balls hitting our back window, skateboards rolling down the street, and parents screeching.  But one sound in particular is welcomed by all and is nearly an institution:  the ice cream truck!  Even though it is rare that I can eat ice cream, the sound of “Turkey in the Straw” rolling down the street always makes me smile.  And seeing the kids lined up at the window, credit cards in hand.  Guess what, folks … it is no longer a dime like it was when we were kids.  Now it is more like $2.  Inflation, y’know.  Our ice cream truck is driven by a retired couple and they are perfect for the job … always have a smile and unlimited patience with the little ones.  Anyway … the ice cream truck got me to thinking and wondering a couple of things, like when did the first ice cream truck hit the streets and where, and why the heck did they pick “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “Turkey in the Straw” for them all to play?  And so, as you know, when Filosofa wonders, Filosofa goes in search of answers.

ice cream truck-1

The history of ice cream street vendors dates back to the nineteenth century and is shaped by advances in technology, and fortunately, sanitation. While much has changed since peddlers first sold dishes of ice cream from carts cooled with ice blocks. ice cream truck-6In the U.S, the ice cream cart began as an urban phenomenon in which working class laborers bought a small dish of ice cream that he or she licked clean. The dish was then returned to the vendor, wiped down, and loaded with a fresh scoop for a new customer.  Blech. Customers with more money—or a healthy fear of infectious diseases—opted for ice cream sandwiches.ice cream truck-3Milk was not pasteurized in the U.S. until the 1890s, which meant any dairy product was potentially laced with the bacteria that caused scarlet fever, diphtheria, and bovine tuberculosis. Ice cream poisonings were a common event and were regularly reported in the news. Newspapers described ice cream poisoning epidemics in which dozens of fair-goers, picnic attendees, and party guests were stricken or killed. Public health officials, however, initially overlooked dairy contaminates and blamed ice cream poisoning on artificial flavors, specifically vanilla.ice cream truck-5By the turn of the century, ice cream hygiene improved dramatically and fairgoers were no longer afraid to order a cold treat. At the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis, a convenient take-away premiered— the ice cream cone. The thin, crispy waffle had long been a dessert favorite, and rolling the waffle into a cone wasn’t a new idea. The novel idea was to scoop ice cream into the cone, and several men who sold concessions at the famed fair fought for recognition as to who was the true creator.ice cream truck-4In the early 1920s, advances in refrigeration meant electric coolers replaced ice deliveries. Electric coolers were far more portable, and made it possible for a chilled ice-box to be placed on a motor car. At the same time, the early 1920s also saw the start of Prohibition and the end of easy access to the daily delight of wine, beer, or spirits. For many Americans, the comfort of fast food and sweets replaced the indulgence lost with banned spirits. The popularity of ice cream parlors and trucks soared during this era.

The first ice cream truck was credited to Harry Burt of Youngstown, Ohio, who was the creator of the Good Humor brand. Burt was already delivering ice cream from a motorized vehicle when he had the idea to place chocolate covered ice cream bars on a stick. His new Good Humor ice cream “sucker” was easy and clean to eat, which gave him the idea to sell it directly from his truck to consumers on the street.

Ice cream sold in parlors or stores became a luxury item during the Depression. But ice cream trucks such as Burt’s Good Humor brand where able to survive the Depression due to the product’s low-cost. Many consumers couldn’t afford big ticket items, but they could afford a nickel for an ice cream treat. During this time, vendors began offering economical items such as twin popsicles that parents broke in half and shared with two children.ice cream truck-7Post-war ice cream production boomed and so did the competition. Mister Softee was founded in Philadelphia in 1956 by two brothers who created a soft serve ice cream machine built specifically for a truck.

Although Good Humor sold its fleet in the 1970s to focus on grocery store sales, Mister Softee trucks are still on the streets, not to mention a host of competitors who sell original treats as well as pre-packaged favorites to a new generation of kids listening to hear the familiar jingle on a hot summer day.

I still have no idea why they choose ‘Turkey in the Straw’ and ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ for the songs to play, and I’m too tired tonight to dig any deeper, but I did find a site titled “a brief history of ice cream truck music”, so can do your own digging on that one! But here’s a tidbit for you.  In this, the world of bluetooth, GPS and a host of other apps to allow you to do nearly anything without leaving the ease of your recliner, there’s an app for the ice cream truck also.  You can track the truck by GPS in order to know precisely when he will be on your street, so that your kids don’t have to leave their video games to go outside and listen for him. 🙄  But also … ALSO … you can even place your order ahead so that you don’t have to be troubled with telling the ice cream man what your heart desires.  🙄  If that is not the epitome of laziness, I don’t know what is.  And it seems to me that it takes all the fun out of it.  Might just as well buy your ice cream at the grocery and keep it in the freezer until needed if you’re gonna do that!

ice cream truck-8So, now that I’ve made you crave an ice cream bar … get outside and enjoy the weekend — plant some flowers, lie in the hammock and read a book, wash some windows — and be sure to listen for the sounds of ♫ ♪ ♫ Pop Goes the Weasel ♪ ♫ ♪

Enjoy your weekend!!!ice cream truck-9

The Ultimate Hypocrisy

It’s rather like an arsonist being invited to speak at a convention of fire-fighters, or a murderer speaking to a cadre of police officers.  Like a cat at a gathering of canines, or a 6th grade dropout giving a talk to college grads.  It simply doesn’t make sense that a 5-time draft dodger is giving a graduation commencement address at the United States Naval Academy!  And yet, Donald Trump was, indeed, invited to do just that.  Two 2001 graduates from the Naval Academy wrote an OpEd that was published on Tuesday, 22 May in the Baltimore Sun, contrasting the virtues of former Naval Academy graduates with the debauchery Trump was engaging in at the same time.  I think the article is worth sharing here, for it sums the contrast better than I could.

Trump Has Little Advice To Offer Naval Academy Graduates

By Daniel Barkhuff, William Burke

In 1969, after having already been held hostage for four years, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy faced a lonely choice in a North Vietnamese prison camp: how to prevent his captors from using him in a propaganda piece. James Stockdale chose to smash his own face in with a stool rather than give “aid and comfort” to the enemy.

In the early years of Stockdale’s seven-year imprisonment, the current president of the United States was enjoying the comforts of Wharton Business School, having received four draft deferments to attend college (he received another after graduation for supposedly having bone spurs in his heels). He would later go on to make fun of POWs of that era, claiming John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured.

In 1972, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy named John Ripley low-crawled and pulled himself along the underside of the Dong Ha bridge for over three hours, making multiple trips with explosives. His actions, all done under fire from the North Vietnamese Army, earned him the Navy Cross for valor. In 1972, Donald Trump, who took over his father’s apartment rental business, was a year away from being sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments in one of his buildings to black people.

On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy steeled themselves for a mission to bring violence to our enemies. After the World Trade Center Towers fell, Donald Trump bragged on TV that a building he owned was now the tallest in downtown Manhattan.

On Feb. 1, 2003, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy named William McCool was at the helm of the space shuttle Columbia when it broke up during reentry. The current president was then gearing up to become the host of a reality TV show called “The Apprentice.”

In late June of 2005, two USNA graduates named Erik Kristensen and Mike McGreevy insisted on being in the lead aircraft riding into a hot landing zone in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley to come to the aid of their wounded, outnumbered and about to be overrun team of SEALs. The helicopter was shot down, and they and more than a dozen others lost their lives. A few months later in that same year, the current president of the United States was captured in a recording bragging about assaulting women: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab ‘em by the [crotch]. You can do anything.”

These are just a few of many examples of graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy making big choices laden with courage and self-sacrifice that come from a history of countless small choices: to be truthful, to stay committed to a code of honor and duty, and to choose a harder right over the easier wrong — even if the choice is contrary to their own short-term personal interests. These are the choices that make one fit to lead.

Contrast this to the personal and professional honor of the sitting president of the United States, who time and again makes small choices guided by self-interest, ego, impulse and immediate self-gratification. He could never do what we ask our U.S. Naval Academy graduates to do. He is a physical coward, a liar and no leader at all.

It is right and fitting that the president of the United States give a commencement address to a service academy’s graduating class. It is also right and fitting that citizens of the democracy for which these graduates will soon be charged with protecting point out the personal cowardice, narcissism and incompetency of the current president.

Those of us who have served in this nation’s wars owe it to our new graduates to point out how better served we would all be if in 2020 our small choices as citizens added up to one big choice — one that will deliver us a leader whose personal choices and conduct are more in keeping with the honorable traditions of our alma mater.

Dr. Daniel Barkhuff (daniel.barkhuff@vfrl.org) is president of Veterans For Responsible Leadership, a 2001 U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a former Navy SEAL. William Burke is the general counsel for VFRL; he was also a 2001 graduate of USNA and served as a submariner from 2001-2006.

The Banana States of America — Part II

This morning I published Part I of this two-part series looking at the 8 criteria that, in part, define nations that might be considered ‘banana republics’ by the modern connotation.

Continued from Part I …

#5 – Inadequate Access to Healthcare.  The United States continues to be the only developed country that lacks universal healthcare.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 was a small step in the right direction of ensuring everyone would have at least basic health coverage, but did not go nearly far enough, and is being shredded by the current regime with no replacement in sight.  Add to that the fact that the U.S. has some of the highest medical expenses in the world, and you have many who are left untreated simply because they are not able or willing to go into bankruptcy to treat an illness.

#6 – Dramatic Gaps in Life Expectancy.  The disparity in life expectancy rates dramatically illustrates the severity of the growing rich/poor divide in the United States. A recent study by Washington University and published in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) indicates that average life expectancy now varies by more than 20 years depending on where you live in the United States. Life expectancy for males is 63.9 years in McDowell County, West Virginia compared to 81.6 years in affluent Fairfax County, Virginia or 81.4 in upscale Marin County, Calif. That is especially eye-opening when one considers that life expectancy for males was 68.2 in Bangladesh in 2012 and 64.3 for males in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, in 2011.

#7 – Hunger and Malnutrition.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.  Estimates vary, but most organizations put the number of Americans who suffer from food insecurity as being between 42 – 48 million, or about 1 in every 8 people. In the 1950s and ’60s, hunger was a word associated with developing countries, but the word can now be applied to the U.S. as well.  According to the organization Share Our Strength, more than 13 million children go to school hungry, and one in every five lives in a household that is food insecure, without sufficient resources to provide enough food.

#8 – High Infant Mortality.  A report released in 2014 by Save the Children found that “the United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world” (babies dying the day they are born) and that the European Union has only about half as many first-day deaths as the United States: 11,300 in the U.S. vs. 5,800 in EU member countries. “Poverty, racism and stress are likely to be important contributing factors to first-day deaths in the United States,” said the report. Save the Children also reported that the U.S. had a rate of three first-day deaths per 1,000 births, the same rate the organization reported for developing countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Peru and Libya. Meanwhile, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and Costa Rica were among the Latin American countries that had only two first-day deaths per 1,000 births. So, a baby born in El Salvador or Mexico has a better chance of living to its second day than a baby born in the United States.infant mortalityData by Center for Disease Control

In my opinion, there is one other important criteria that should be added to this list, and that is ‘Education’, another area in which the U.S. lags pitifully behind in this 21st century, but perhaps I will address that in a separate post soon.

When I started this post a few days ago, I began with the intention of being a bit cheeky, rather a bit of my usual snark, but as I did more research into each of the above topics, my snark turned into genuine concern, and I lost the urge to crack a joke somewhere along the line.  No, we are not becoming, in the true sense of the word, a ‘banana republic’, nor are we likely to any time soon.   But we are on a downhill trajectory that, unless corrected, may find us at the bottom of the rubbish heap of industrialized nations.  Where we once were a leader, now we lag far behind the pack.  Where we once were the example other nations looked to, we are now looked down on as not even being on the same playing field – the farm team, as it were.

I need to make it perfectly clear, also, that much as I might like to, I cannot blame our current course on Donald Trump, for the trend began long before he took office.  However, I can and do blame him for failing to even see the problem and implement policies that might reverse these trends, for failing miserably in having any sense of what is right and good for the nation and its people. I blame him for being so concerned with his own self-image and “winning” that he has miserably failed We The People. The current administration and Congress have a delusional sense of values, a misguided notion that if they take care of only the wealthy, the wealthy will see to the rest of us.  I think the evidence is to the contrary, and without a government actively working to reverse the trends about which I spoke, we can only sink deeper into a hole we began digging decades ago.

I hope I have provided you with a bit of food for thought, as whatever the faults of this country, whatever mistakes we have made in our 230+ year history, I do not wish to see this nation fail, be turned into just another third-world country because a few wealthy people and a few corrupt politicians did not take their responsibility to the human race seriously.

The Banana States of America — Part I

dana milbankA recent OpEd piece in The Washington Post by journalist Dana Milbank, carried the same title as this post … yes, I ‘borrowed’ it from him.  The premise of the article was that this 115th Congress is the most authoritarian in the history of the United States.  An excerpt from Mr. Milbank’s column

“Hillary Clinton warns of a “full-fledged crisis in our democracy.” Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state fired by President Trump, now warns that “American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.” (Too bad he didn’t say so when he was on the job.)

They are both correct, in a sense, but right now the fear of the United States going totalitarian doesn’t feel quite right. This crowd is too clownish to be Stalinist. Rather, the United States is turning into a banana republic …”

That is precisely what our friend Roger has been saying all along.  And he (Milbank, not Roger) goes on to cite some specific examples, such as …

“The president of the United States orders the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents. The Justice Department complies.

The president, The Post reports, personally urged the postmaster general to double the rate it charges Amazon, apparently because he doesn’t like the coverage by The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.”

But rather than dwell on the article, which you can read from the link above, I wanted to find out what, exactly, constitutes a ‘banana republic’, so I did some research.  Technically, the term ‘banana republic’ refers to a country that is politically unstable with an economy dependent upon the exportation of a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas, minerals, etc. But in today’s conversations, it became an epithet for a country whose governing institutions are corrupt, arbitrary, and generally inadequate.  Clownish.

I came across a list of ten criteria that defines a banana republic in the modern day usage.  The United States, at this point under the leadership of Donald Trump, fits the bill for 8 of the 10, the only two missing being ‘torture’ and ‘high unemployment rates’.  I think we should take a look at these points.  As I researched, pondered, and wrote, this piece well exceeded my self-imposed outer limit of 1,200 words, even though I trimmed as much as I felt it appropriate to trim.  Thus, this became, over the course of a few days, a two-part series.  This is Part I, and Part II will follow this afternoon.  I also subtly changed the direction of my thoughts as I read, studied and learned more.   Where feasible, I have included links for those who may wish to learn more. Please forgive my wordiness, but I do hope you will give some thought to what I am about to say.

#1 – Rising income inequality and a shrinking middle class.  This isn’t a new complaint, for five years ago, in 2013, a well-researched report in the Journal of Economic Perspectives asserted that the U.S. now has the highest income inequality and lowest upward mobility of any country in the developed world. They found that while the picture grows increasingly bleak for American’s embattled middle-class, “the share of total annual income received by the top 1% has more than doubled from 9% in 1976 to 20% in 2011.” And earlier this year, a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD also found that the U.S. now leads the developed industrialized world in income inequality.

#2 – Unchecked Police Corruption and an Ever-Expanding Police State. Let me just throw out a few names for you, folks, starting with Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, and the list goes on … and on.  Unarmed black men and women who were killed by police only for the crime of … being black.  And in every case except that of Walter Scott, the police who did the killing walked away scot free.  But more … add to that the way immigration raids by ICE are conducted, the way drug raids are conducted, enhancements to FISA, and you see a pattern of an authoritarian police force.

#3 – Highest Incarceration Rate in the World.  The U.S. has an incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000!  The next highest is Russia, with 615 per 100,000 people.  Does this mean that U.S. citizens are the most criminal in nature?  No, not at all.  Much of it is due to the ‘war on drugs’, which has emphasized draconian sentences for nonviolent offenses.  The prison industrial complex has become quite a racket. From prison labor to construction companies to companies specializing in surveillance technology, imprisoning people is big business in the United States—and the sizable prison lobby has a major stake in keeping draconian drug laws on the books.

#4 – Corrupt Alliance of Big Business and Big Government.  Need I say more than gun-makers, NRA and Republicans in Congress?  Consider Benito Mussolini’s definition of fascism: the merger of state and corporate power. Consider the previously unchecked power of the too-big-to-fail banks.  And now, with Trump rolling back the Dodd-Frank banking regulations, we are returning to that state.  Banks, oil & coal companies, the gun manufacturers and others are holding hands with the Trump administration and the 115th Congress as regulations to protect the environment and the people are demolished.

To be continued …

Snippets, Snippets, I Got Snippets!

Good afternoon, friends!  I am working on a post that involves a great deal of research, and I had hoped to complete it for this afternoon, but have not.  So, instead I am bringing you my take on a few of the snippets in this morning’s news, but I warn you that I am in full-on snarky mode today, so don’t expect much kindness toward certain unsavory elements in Washington at the moment.


Better polish that résumé, Mr. B …

bridenstine-nasaLast month, Jim Bridenstine was confirmed by the Senate to be the new administrator of NASA. Most of us were not thrilled by Trump’s nomination of Bridenstine, for he did not seem to have a single qualification for the job.  He had no science background, and his relevant experience was limited to having managed an Air and Space museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And while he agreed that humans may have played some role in climate change, he did not believe they were the major contributor, which was likely Trump’s main reason for choosing him. Even some members of the Republican Party voiced concerns. But, as we all know, if Trump wants it, the bootlickers will do their best to give it to him, and so Bridenstine was confirmed.

Now, I’m betting that Mr. B will not have his job for long, and I’m almost sad about that.  Why?  Because yesterday he made the following statement:

“The National Climate Assessment, that includes NASA, and it includes the Department of Energy, and it includes NOAA, has clearly stated it is extremely likely, is the language they use, that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, and I have no reason to doubt the science that comes from that.”

WHOA!!!  A Trump pick has gone against one of Trump’s ten commandments.  Will he survive?  I doubt it.  Too bad, for the man seems to actually have a conscience and some guts.  I wish him luck in his next endeavour.


Ho-hum … more BREAKING NEWS …

trump-kimThe big “BREAKING NEWS” of the day is that Trump has canceled the summit with Kim Jong-un that was allegedly scheduled for next month.  Ho-hum.  No big news there … the summit was never going to happen.  Kim had already indicated that it was unlikely, and Trump, predictably, couldn’t let Kim be the one to cancel, so he did it himself.  There were reasons, or excuses … yada yada yada … but I predicted way back in the beginning that it would never happen.  Frankly, it’s probably for the best, as neither man has the maturity to craft any sort of reasonable compromise.  Unfortunately, it also means we will go back to the name-calling and threat of ‘button-pushing’ from last year, and the world will feel a bit less safe.  Happily, it means Trump can stop envisioning that Nobel Peace prize.


Does he really not understand, or is he deliberately obtuse?

clapper-beharTrump doesn’t seem to understand English.  He certainly doesn’t speak it well, never quite managing to string a sentence together that makes sense, but his comprehension is not good either.  Yesterday, James Clapper appeared on The View, and was asked:

BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”

CLAPPER: “No, they were not.”

Okay, that seems a fairly straightforward answer, don’t you think?  So Trump’s response?

“Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!” — 8:21 AM – May 24, 2018

I think the problem came in when Clapper went on to explain that the FBI was gathering information about what the Russians were doing.  Perhaps he should have just stopped at “No, they were not”, rather than elaborating.  Trump seems to understand very short, direct sentences, but gets confused if too many words are used.


Trump vs the NFL …NFLI can sum this one up in two words:  they caved.  Yes, the NFL, or at least one team owner, admits that the reason for their ban on player protests of kneeling rather than standing during the anthem was due, at least in part, to pressure from Trump.  According to an article this morning in NBC Sports …

“Asked if Trump came up in their discussion, Packers president Mark Murphy replied with a laguh: “Oh yeah. It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That’s what we tried to think through. . . . No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other—either criticizing us or taking credit for the change.””

Though I’m not a sports enthusiast, I recognize that it is entertainment, intended to be FUN.  When politics enters the arena, it ceases to be fun.  Now for Trump’s response to the NFL announcement yesterday …

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners have done the right thing, if that’s what they’ve done.”

Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country?  Seriously?  Well, maybe I shouldn’t be either, for I would gladly take a knee if I heard the anthem played at this point.  Though, I find it difficult to get back up and might need a hand …


So there you have it, folks … Filosofa’s snippets for the afternoon.  Have a great rest-of-the-day!

Take A Knee …

1st amendment Today, the National Football League (NFL) took it upon itself to slash the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The owners implemented a new rule that teams and therefore players will be fined if they take a knee on the field during the national anthem.  Now, they are allowed to remain off the field during the playing of the anthem, but they cannot show their protest as Colin Kaepernick did in August 2016.  Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne said it well …Dionne-tweetCommissioner Roger Goodell had this to say …

“The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.

The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress.

It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.

This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.

We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.”

People of conscience who are fortunate enough to have a wide platform want to use that voice to rally against injustice, and they will be fined if they do so.  What’s wrong with this picture?  How did we get so out of sync here?

kneelingPatriotism?  Loyalty to country?  The flag is a piece of cloth and the anthem is a song.  Nothing more.  They are symbols, but symbols of what, exactly?  What is patriotism?  Does patriotism require that we sit down and shut up when we would speak out against an unarmed black man being killed by a cop for no reason other than that he was black?  Does being loyal to our country mean that we cannot speak out when people are being discriminated against because they are gay?  If that’s what patriotism and loyalty mean, count me out!

POLICY STATEMENT
The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.
The membership also strongly believes that:
1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem.
3. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the anthem has been performed.
4. A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
5. Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
6. The commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.

You know what I would like to see?  I would like to see every single player on every team take a knee during the anthem in the first games of the season.  At least one team owner had some cojones.  Christopher Johnson, the chairman and C.E.O. of the New York Jets, said the team would not punish players who choose to kneel during the anthem, despite the cost.

“There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

Mike Pence, a known bigot and Trump sycophant, tweeted thisPence tweetStunning. Victory. For. Trump. That, folks, is what this is all about. If Trump speaks out against the NFL, they are afraid they will lose fans and thus lose some of those billions they rake in every season. Gotta keep the madman at the helm happy.

There may be some hope for a reversal, as the NFL and the team owners failed to consult with the players union.  The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) issued the following statement:

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’ ” the NFLPA said in a statement. “NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.

Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

I hope they find the entire policy to be inconsistent.  This is a slap in the face to the 1st amendment, to the right of free speech, the right to protest.  Football players cannot take a knee, but white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK can shut down entire cities and create an atmosphere of chaos and violence?  Trump denigrates the football players for a peaceful, calm, silent protest, while he calls the violent bigots and racists from the Charlottesville rally ‘very fine people’. Trump nfl vs kkk.jpgThink about this one for a while, folks.  Trump is cherry-picking the U.S. Constitution.  He likes to always be “the winner”.  And who, then, is the loser?  We The People.