Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Riots in the streets and pigs on the wing   Leave a comment

17 March 2016 — Bellingham, WA.

So, Donald Trump is threatening riots if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination.

It will happen. I’m sure. I’ve been saying it all along. People in Jerusalem last month asked me what I think is going to happen as a result of the primaries, and invariably I would say, “Riots.” Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I’d say, “Chaos.” But that was the general theme of it.

I firmly believe the powers that be — the conservative hard-core insiders, the ones who refuse to hold hearings for Supreme Court Justice — will also refuse to award Donald Trump the nomination of the Grand Old Party. Just picture a Trump-Kardashian ticket next to the (R) on your ballot. Even Reince Priebus is tweeting  #NeverTrump in fake Twitter profiles. This year (R) might stand for Reality TV, and there’s going to be plenty of it on CNN.

This morning another major development happened, and it seems that indeed pigs can fly, as Lindsey Graham announced he’s throwing an AIPAC fundraiser for Ted Cruz, someone he’s admitted on CNN and elsewhere he doesn’t really like. Calling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor doesn’t get you many points. Graham was careful to say that he’s not endorsing Cruz, but that Cruz was the only mainline Republican who has the chance to keep Trump off the ballot.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, the hometown boy, the convention and riots being in Cleveland, is a very dark horse to sneak in under the wire, and only if he wins Pennsylvania or Wisconsin and gets a healthy injection of charisma. If you ask me, Kasich, who’s known to fly off the handle, couldn’t attract the media with free sandwiches and an open bar. He began going negative against Trump today. Watch out – the mud’s flying.

It’s funny. The last time there were real riots at a convention, it was 1968, in Chicago, at the Democratic convention. Now, all the action’s going to be in Cleveland, with the Trump supporters. They have the capacity to go full zoohouse. I don’t want to be within a hundred miles of Cleveland during the Republican Convention. The best seat’s going to be in front of a TV anyway.

But what about Philadelphia?

On the Philadelphia side, the prune-faced screaming banshee has an insurmountable lead over Bernie Sanders, who authored most of her ideas, especially in her last month’s speeches. Saying this is sure to get me branded a blatant sexist, and so be it.

I’ve met Hillary Clinton, in 1991, 1992, and 1996, when I worked for her husband’s campaign in Colorado. She was cordial in the way upper class types condescend to normal everyday people, except when I had to use the bathroom after she just hopped out of the shower (visual: Hillary in a bathrobe and towel) at a Clinton friend’s house during motorcade downtime.

Excuse me if I’m biased, but I’m a child of the sixties: Bernie Sanders holds the emotional torch for the Democrats. His followers haven’t been as loud as the Trump people who want to revolt against the Republican elite. And it remains to be seen if Sanders’ supporters are driven enough to get tough. I can’t imagine a Texas death match between Trump’s people and Sanders’.

But the Sanders people are adamant in their support. My social media feed is full of Bernie stuff from Bernie people, non-stop Bernie stuff, always upbeat. You would think the superdelegates, the Party faithful — I know a lot of them — will turn and feel the Bern like their contemporaries. Will the hard-line Bernie people be as hard-line during and after the Convention?

I’ve come across a lot of older and younger “hippies” who would never think of holding a physical revolution. But I’m sure they’re out there. You wonder if there would actually be an Independent or Third Party Revolution. I’m sure that would cause riots in the leadership offices of both parties.

But that’s what it may come down to for both parties come this summer, so it may be time to start thinking about what might happen in a four-way race between Clinton, Sanders, Trump, and whomever the Republican establishment anoints. Or at least tumbling the idea around in our minds.

For too long, the American public have been complaining about too little choice in Presidential candidates. Maybe this year, we’ll have four to pick from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trip of a Lifetime   Leave a comment

So, my wife and I just returned from our first-ever trip to Israel to attend our older son’s wedding. I’ve shaken off the jet lag, I’m just getting over the airplane flu, but I’m still getting up at two or three in the morning, which is OK because it facilitates texting with overseas friends.

I had a really wonderful time, went through a transcendental kind of change, and had what you might call a couple of personal epiphanies. I’m keeping my experiences separate from my politics, hence the Israel Trip page on the nav bar up top, whereupon you’ll find short paragraphs, vignettes, and observations, with a lighthearted tint.

Please check back on that page from time to time and read an apolitical kind of view of a place that after only a very short time felt like home, and may one day become home, depending on how things go in the next few years.

I’d like to give a special thanks to all the people who enabled this trip of a lifetime on the GoFundMe page we put up, without whom we would never have been able to attend our own son’s wedding. G-D bless all of them, and there were many.

 

 

If I Sentenced Oscar Pistorius   12 comments

I would, as an American, half a world away from all the action and media frenzy, if any, be almost a sequestered juror. Some of you who have read my prior coverage of the trial may doubt that, but I challenge any of you to cite any examples of my reporting something that had not yet been testified to in court. As I said: sequestered. Almost.

Not only can’t I discern the accents of the South African newscasters, the so-called best of the best — and there are numerous accents, not just one — but the technical acumen exhibited by SABC, as an alum who’d made it to the NFL might say, “THE South African Broadcast Network (goofy smile),” can only be equated to the middle-school TV production done by my younger son’s seventh-grade class in 2001.

As compared to most of the developed world’s media, whatever story they try to spin on one side or another (if any) is completely overshadowed by the comical presentation of its production teams. I have been, for all intents and purposes, a sequestered reporter. I have watched reporters gargle, towel off, blot their underarms, button their blouses, fix their hair (or dearth thereof), and scratch their balls.

As to sentencing. In matters of domestic violence, as a husband who has never lifted a hand to his wife of nearly 35 years, I tend to err on the harsh side. Therefore, I would not blink, and I would give him 25 years, the maximum allowable sentence for the crime of which he was convicted. (Note to Judge: He is no longer the accused; he’s a convict. YOU convicted him!) I would make this concurrent with the gun charges, because an out-of-shape 60-year-old Oscar Pistorius would be of limited danger to women or anyone else, and he would have very limited earning power at that age as well. He will have paid for his crimes.

The witness the other day who argued that prison was an improper place for Oscar Pistorius because “they have condoms there” was still silently cracking people up Friday morning when Roux first opened his pie-hole to argue Mitigation. So the jolly old weasel defense attorney played the “Oscar the Handicapped Victim” card to the max, and tried to soften up Judge Masipa by using his whiny, condescending offerings of paybacks and deterrents to society that would pay not even lip service to the real victims in this case, whining about how the killer’s debt is to society. Society, society, society. Then he brought up Ubuntu, and quoted a story in it of a goat. He equated Reeva Steenkamp with a fucking GOAT. The man is insane. Get this goddamned turkey away from the microphone. If Roux ever slept with a female of his own species, he’d know the difference between Reeva Steenkamp and a fucking goat!

I think the final undeserved slap in the face to the Steenkamps was the claim that Pistorius be given leniency was because although there were no shower rails at either the convict’s home or in the prison’s showers, his home shower came with a stool or a bench so he could wank freely between the two, and in addition be able to balance on his arse while using one or both hands, hence keeping his arms in shape to continue to work out all of his upper and lower appendages and limbs, or what remain of them. And that’s being nice to him.

On the dark side, Pistorius, with his snake-like eyes, knew VERY well who and what part he was shooting at. He’d accused her of messing around on him, even though she’d had very few (and longer-term) relationships compared to him, she’d reportedly been heard or commented to a friend that he had recently raged at her, “go ahead, fuck them all if you want,” or words to that effect, which is why he was shooting at that height. Do you think he was trying to hit a fucking pygmy in the head? If he were shooting at an adult’s chest, he’d be shooting at about 48″ off the ground. His first shot, the one that hit her in the hip, was 34″ from the floor. All shots were about the same height, within three inches. Isn’t anyone curious about his target? His first one was pretty close – the one that hit her in the hip. Just a couple of inches off target.

I was honestly very surprised to hear Gerry Nel request a minimum sentence of ten years. Even if he wants to squeeze Masipa for 15. This was a heinous crime, and the spolled, pampered little shit who committed it deserves some serious time. I figured a guy nicknamed “The Pit Bull” would have looked to rip off a bigger bite than that.

I’ve got friends who did more time than that in tougher prisons for simple possession of a joint.

What the hell kind of deterrent is ten years supposed to be? The suggested punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crimes. Let’s remember, we’re talking about multiple felonies. He’s now got three strikes on him. In many states, he’d get mandatory life without parole under the “Three Strikes You’re Out Law.” Three felony convictions, you’re out of society, and in for life.

 Your comments are requested. Please note this was published IN ADVANCE OF the Tuesday morning Oct. 21 session.

I’d Rather be Pissed Off Than Pistorius   6 comments

When (you) ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal…
How does it feel to be on your own, with no direction home,
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone?

— Bob Dylan (1965)

 

Oscar Pistorius’ defense may have blown their client away as the former runner’s murder trial continued Monday. Dr. Meryl Vorster, a forensic psychiatrist who joined the team ten days ago, took the stand and presented her psychiatric evaluation of the defendant. Oscar’s head may now be found gathering no moss on a highway near Pretoria.

She expected the court to believe Oscar was traumatically assaulted when he had his legs amputated at 11 months and could not talk. At the time he had parents and other relatives to console him and soothe him; he was, after all, a baby, and even though his mother was an alcoholic (ask anyone who’s ever been to an AA meeting what an “intermittent drunk” is), she did retain the basic ability to hold and cuddle her child and do basic mom stuff. Except for the boozing it up part.

The mother had an anxiety disorder, and she instilled that into her children, keeping a loaded gun underneath her pillow. The kids grew up seeing the outside world as threatening. Even more so because mommy dearest called the police about imaginary intruders every time one of the kids closed a sock drawer.

It was stressed to young Oscar that he should never allow himself to be seen as disabled and apparently was teased occasionally when kids were aware he was different. (Was anyone out there NOT teased at one time or another?) The need to conceal his disability caused Oscar more anxiety.

He was 15 when his mother died, and he stayed alternately with one family member or another or one friend or another for short periods of time, but never landed anywhere, and never had another primary adult attachment figure, according to Dr. Vorster’s report.

Oscar grew up with few strong emotional ties, and broke off relations with his father when he was 21, although he maintains relations with his siblings. When at home in Pretoria, he felt quite alone, and would frequently invite guests to stay over, but they didn’t always take him up on it. He had kind of an odd demeanor to him, and if the witness list is any indication, they needed their space.

Hence, he had few long-term relationships and relies on social media to remain in touch with his friends and siblings. Vorster further stressed that as he gained notoriety, he would have to prepare more and more for his appearances so he wouldn’t embarrass himself, of which he was dreadfully fearful.  He needed to be in a controlled environment. He was caught in a loop.

So, today, given her diagnosis of the defendant with a psychological disorder / mental illness, and the fact that it was brought forth and entered into evidence by Oscar’s own team and accepted by the court, Dr. Vorster becomes star witness for the State in its application to give Oscar Pistorius, murderer, killer, public threat, a 30-day ticket to The PsycHotel, all expenses paid. (You do have insurance, don’t you?*) #ThingsTheyWouldSayOnlyInAmerica

This has turned into a very interesting game of chess. Roux better be on his game today. No one up there on the ceiling or beyond is going to help him today either.

 

 

 

 

Oscar Pistorius in Wonderland   2 comments

8 May Morning Session:

Roux calls an anesthetist (not an anesthesiologist, who has an MD) to testify (speculate) as to the contents of Reeva Steenkamp’s stomach, which she was not qualified to testify about because, as she kept repeating, she was not a forensic pathologist. So where was the forensic pathologist? Ah, Wednesday. Must have been on the links, my lady.

She takes up a good bit of the morning, and then Roux pulls a bit of a shocker, but the effect is soon lessened, because AGAIN, he chose the least qualified clinician he could possibly find, save an intern, to testify — a social worker and probation officer who normally does assessments of children and adolescents after they’ve been arrested for commission of minor crimes. She specifies that she doesn’t treat the patients (clients) she sees, but just presumably listens and comforts. Also not expert witness material.

She said she first saw Oscar on Feb 15, 2013, the day after the murder — he told her he missed Reeva so much, and that he was heartbroken. Later on, he told her, she volunteered,  that he “accidentally shot her,” which is not the Oscar Pistorius we’ve heard come clean in court. After the assessment, her participation should have been over, but she wouldn’t let it go.

The social worker continued that it upset her that she’d read in the newspaper and heard in the media that he wasn’t sincere about his feelings, that he took acting lessons, was crying when needed, and that he was taking lightly what happened, so on Tuesday of this week she decided to come forward because she thought he was heartbroken and traumatized.

[Takes big step backwards] So, she’s got a reason to come forward — to improve Oscar’s public relations profile and counter the bad PR he’s been getting from everyone in the media for shedding crocodile tears, crying on cue, and taking acting lessons. In other words, she’s motivated. Nothing like having an expert witness who comes in off the street and wants to do something for you, is there?

She goes on to testify to Nel, “He (the defendant) kept saying he was sorry about the loss, about her parents, the loss, he loved her, etc. And so Nel correctly calls her testimony hearsay — it’s all the defendant’s emotions. Roux got up to object to the line of questioning, and the lawyers exchanged gentle feel-out jabs with the judge, and evidently Nel seemed to win, but ended up apologizing to the judge and slightly changed his tack.

He cried, talked about the future he says they’d planned together, the loss, that he was never going to see her again, her parents and what they’re going through, and she saw a heartbroken man who suffered emotionally. She was assigned to be his probation officer as a term of his bail, and they turned over a bunch of papers as evidence of those logs. He never said he was sorry for what he had done. never showed remorse and said he’s sorry for what he did, specifically. “I’m sorry for my loss. I’m heartbroken.” But she couldn’t speculate what a person’s emotions might be after he’d shot someone. He was traumatized, he was emotional, he cried. He talked and said how he misses Reeva. Didn’t talk that day about shooting her. Sorry about what happened, sorry for the loss — sorry for the parents, misses Reeva, spent a lot of time discussing his version of what had happened, and he talked a lot about his own feelings. She checked that he was seeing his psychologist, which he was, and had regular contact with him as his probation officer in person or by phone.

The last witness of the day was a ballistics expert whom some had called verbose before he took the stand. Verbose? Anyone remember President Clinton’s remarks to the Democratic Convention in 1996? He took a record 70 minutes. His 3300-word prepared speech went close to 6000 words. But he kept his audience mostly riveted. Mostly.

This ballistics expert, who was also not a forensic pathologist, talked endlessly about ammunition and how a gun works, he referred to a semi-automatic pistol as an “auto-loader” and never did talk about a safety mechanism of any kind. Not only that, but the moron didn’t even bring a demonstration gun that looked similar but was painted with a flame-orange barrel, maybe a plug in or a bar across the barrel, and a half-functioning firing pin. So there stood Captain Boring, trying to explain how a gun worked using a piece of paper. Nice.

In my mind, and in my notes, all we got from the firearms expert or ballistics expert was that a bullet could be deflected by up to 1-3 degrees by going through a door before ripping pieces of a human body to shreds. Great. For that I stay up til 6am, and the bastard didn’t even figure in drag coefficients OR the type of wood. Fraud.

The one-hour afternoon session with this guy should have gone until 4:15, according to agreements made with other court employees before they went on a two-week break, but it went exactly one hour, before Roux begged my lady to call it a day, after taking the 1-2 hour for lunch and returning at 2 , and then at 3 they’re done, jolly old fun.

That’s how they work the day away in the merry old trial of Oz.

Mercifully, the week in court ends tonight, Thursday night (early Friday morning) in the U.S., and so a very interested — some may say obsessed — crowd on Websleuth, DigitalSpy, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media that God knows I have no time for, will have a chance to celebrate Mothers’ Day in relative peace, as long as they don’t sneak in a nap after dinner so they can stay up all night to watch the barely competent witnesses line up for the defense on Monday.

REMEMBER YOUR MOTHER AND HONOR HER ON MOTHERS’ DAY.

YOU’RE LUCKY IF YOURS IS STILL AROUND.

 

MH370 to appear in “Close Encounters” Sequel   1 comment

It’s now been over a week since Malaysian Air flight 370 disappeared, and no one has any information to give the desperate families, who have been terrorized further by the media during the worst days of their lives. The sad fact is: no one knows where on earth the Boeing 777-200 has gone. Presuming, of course, that it’s still on earth. Even that theory is as reasonable as all the others.

First, it was presumed to be in the South China Sea, then Palau Perak, a tiny island in the middle of the Malacca Strait which is barely long enough to accommodate a wide-body, then the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Thailand, and the Andaman Islands. A couple of the TV speculators even suggested North Korea, which is theoretically possible, but very unlikely. And a couple of wackos even came up with an alien abduction theory.

Other theories included lithium batteries; the two Iranians with fraudulent passports, who had flown into Malaysia on their own passports; the one Uighur on the plane; the co-pilot’s violation of all post-9/11 regulations and inviting two hotties into the cockpit hoping he’d get a taste of theirs. Those are each numbers on the spinning wheel.

I’d like to know why the entire passenger manifest weren’t immediately run through Interpol, FBI, FAA, NTSB, and DHS databases as soon as it was known there was something very wrong with this flight.

The pilot had the best home flight simulator I’ve ever seen, and I’ve flown flight simulators ever since the graphics were green on black. Everyone’s talked about the pilot’s computer, but today was the first time anyone entered his house. He could have run a remote access program and wiped his flight plans out, and then run bit-by-bit disk-cleaning utility numerous times. What the Malaysians did was stand outside the house, humming a happy tune. “We don’t allow that in Malaysia,” but they’ve been known to execute pot-smokers with less than an ounce of weed. They supposedly needed a reason to enter the homes. WTF were they waiting for?

The international intelligence community seem to believe the crew was in full charge, in which case everyone in the passenger cabin would have had to be immobilized, including the flight attendants. It would be totally unreasonable to believe the entire flight crew was aware of what was happening. It could be why they reportedly climbed to 45,000′, above the flight ceiling of a 777.  But it doesn’t make any sense that the plane made it to 23,000′ in about the span of a minute, because this aircraft would have gone supersonic, and broken into pieces.

For every scenario, there seems to be a good reason to believe; but by the same token, there are reasons to debunk the scenario. Some of the actions of whomever was in control are still unexplainable. The flight changed direction and altitude at specific waypoints.

The latest theory is that the plane, which was thought to have only 7 hours of fuel — a lot less, practically, since the plane climbed to 45,000′ and then being pinged at 23,000′ and climbing back up to 35,000′ they’d be using too much fuel to stay in the air that long. But this 777-200 got over almost eight hours, despite their erratic flying and presumably spending valuable fuel doing so, and the plane was pinged either over the Himalayas, or southward towards Indonesia. No one claims to know how the plane’s last ping was to the northwest or to the south.

We could fill an NHL arena with 18,000 people, and probably find no two people whose theories are the same. For all we know, the alien abduction theory sounds as plausible as any. Does anyone know where Richard Dreyfuss has been for the last week?

If you can see Russia from your house, DUCK!!!   Leave a comment

This article has been updated 2011/08/31 due to breaking news:

AP reports that the International Space Station may have to be evacuated if Russia doesn’t get to the root of the Soyuz problem. 

 http://www.mercurynews.com/nation-world/ci_18779722?nclick_check=1

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post after attending the launch of the Juno mission to Jupiter at Cape Canaveral.

In the short span of time since that date, the Russians lost a Proton rocket carrying an Express-AM4 satellite on August 17th, when an upper-stage failure caused it to crash in Kazakhstan.

The very next day, August 18th, the Chinese launched a Long March 2C rocket to nowhere, carrying what Xinhua described as “an experimental Shijian 11 satellite” (more likely, a surveillance satellite for its military), the debris from which is presumed to have “fallen back to earth.”

And just the other day, it was the Russians’ up again, and they hit it out of the park. A Progress cargo ship on top of a Soyuz rocket, carrying 3.5 tons of fuel and cargo intended for the crew of the International Space Station (ISS), failed just under five and a half minutes after launch. Its remains are now buried somewhere in the Altai Republic (not to be confused with Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila), in a Siberian forest.

Though not quite as monumental as the Tunguska Event, this third and most recent crash is very troublesome for our manned space program, since we’re planning to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to take live human American astronauts to and from the ISS at least for the next five years. Are we out of our freakin’ minds?

According to former astronaut Leroy Chiao, the U.S. is currently paying Russia about US$63 million per seat to put an astronaut into space on a Soyuz spacecraft. A Soyuz fits three people. There are six people already living in the ISS, who will need a Soyuz capsule in which to return. What if the Russians fall short, or outright fail? Do the math. Houston, we’re gonna have a problem.

SpaceX is looking at a seven-passenger vehicle with a US$140 million price tag, which would work out to US$20 million per seat, according to former astronaut Ken Bowersox, now Vice-President of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance at SpaceX. With a US$1.6 billion NASA contract to deliver cargo to the Space Station in hand, Bowersox is confident his company’s Dragon spacecraft can be human-ready in three years.

Nine thousand workers lost their jobs when the United States trimmed the Space Shuttle from the budget. Another 14,000, according to Florida Today, will lose their jobs in hotels, restaurants, and other industries serving tourists.

We’ve already got domestic companies who have the proven track records the American space program requires: United Launch Alliance and United Space Alliance, whose existing fleet and technology can provide the vital link between supply on earth and demand at the International Space Station. Add SpaceX and Virgin Galactic into the equation, and despite no one being perfect, we’re going to see better results from good old American effort than we’ve seen from Russia and China together.

How much more does America have to rely on its potential adversaries?  Today’s developments are not the worst thing to ever happen to our manned space program. But it’s in the top 10.

If we’re going to be putting the hit on the richest of the rich, and we should, let’s make them invest in American jobs at the same time. Bowersox suggests creating advertising revenue. Brilliant! That will help the bottom line too. American companies put money into name rights for major league stadiums and arenas. Why can’t it work for the space program? If NASA’s proven they can do anything perfectly in its 50-year history, it would be their ability to stretch the envelope.

I’m sure there are greater minds than mine working on America’s space program; in fact I’m damn-well positive. But in the past couple of weeks, the Russians and the Chinese have put billions of dollars into very expensive fireworks shows, and this country cannot afford that kind of luxury. Especially with American lives on the line.

Capable of producing 1.5 million pounds of thrust, you don't want to be too close when THIS bell rings!

Further developments will appear in new posts.

 

 

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