What Does $1 Billion Look Like?

We hear the word “billion” a lot, especially in relation to “dollars.”

But what does one billion dollars look like?money_02

To get some perspective:

  • If you had $1 billion, you could spend $5,000 a day for more than 500 years before you ran out of money.
  • If you put $1 billion $1 bills in a stack, your pile would measure 67.9 miles high.
  • One billion $1 bills would weigh around 10 tons.

Now that we have some perspective on $1 billion being a lot, let’s see some recent figures on how we’re spending billions every year:

  • Americans spend more than $72.5 billion on their pets.
  • Americans spend more than $72 billion playing the lottery.
  • Americans spend more than $18.5 billion on bottled water.
  • Americans spend more than $165 billion on uneaten food.
  • Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks.
  • Americans spend more than $11.5 billion in litter clean-up.

Americans also spend billions on something we don’t think about much, if at all.

Here’s what $1 billion also looks like:


This is a B-2 Spirit, which was in the news recently because the Air Force held a commemorative event for the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight:

B-2 anniversary

I didn’t know the Air Force celebrated airplanes’ anniversaries, and I think that’s so sweet.

I wish I’d been invited – doesn’t this look like Party Central?

B-2 anniversary_03.jpg

Especially since, as the Los Angeles Times noted,

“Behind the gathered crowd, a construction crew used equipment to move mounds of dirt into a dump truck.”

Whoa!  Party Hearty!

Leading the celebration was Major General James Dawkins, 8th Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center Commander:

B-2 anniversary_02

Dawkins lauded the capabilities of the B-2, though as far as I can ascertain, he didn’t mention that when the Air Force bought 21 of these starting in 1998, they cost $1 billion each.

That was in 1998 dollars.  Today, $1.5 billion each.

But rather than go on buying the same old, same old thing, the Pentagon has announced it plans to replace the B-2 Spirit with the new and improved B-21 Raider:

B-21 rendering

Or rather, Raiders, plural, since we taxpayers are buying 100 of them.

For at least $80 billion.

Remember that “One billion $1 bills would weigh around 10 tons”?

That’s at least 800 tons of $1 bills.

Now, the Air Force is very hush-hush about what they – I mean, we – are going to actually pay for each B-21, or when it’s actually going to fly.

First, the cost.

 Defense News said this, in 2018:

Defense News (2)

The article goes on to say,

The case for greater public disclosure of B-21 costs is strengthened by the fact that Northrop Grumman’s winning contract bid was lower than the Pentagon’s estimate, raising concerns that it was unrealistic.  It would not be the first time that a contractor has underbid to win a contract, only to ask for more money after they won.

Moreover, the Defense Department has a long history of underestimating how much its major aircraft acquisition programs will cost.  In the 1980s, the B-2 bomber program overran its cost so badly that a mere 20 aircraft emerged from a $40 billion program intended to buy 135 to 150 aircraft.  The service also deeply underestimated the unit cost of the F-22 and F-35 aircraft.

Major General James “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell-The-Price” Dawkins.

Back in 2017 Defense News said,

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the contract value of the B-21 Raider to be revealed…it will be “some time” before the service divulges more cost information, the Air Force undersecretary said on October 12.

Let’s see…October 2017 to now.

I’d say that’s “some time,” and then some.

Even further back – in 2016 – the late Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded the Air Force release the value of the B-21 bomber development contract.

McCain’s letter said, in part:

“This is a critical program for our nation’s defense, and the American people deserve to know how many of their hard-earned tax dollars will be spent in these initial phases as we embark on a major defense program expected to exceed $100 billion in total.”

The Air Force didn’t tell McCain.

Official Air Force BIO Portrait
General Stephen “Don’t-Hold-Me-To-It” Wilson.

And if the Air Force wouldn’t tell McCain, I reckon they won’t tell us, either.

And as for the when the B-21 will fly, again according to the Los Angeles Times, the “B-21 could fly for the first time in 2021 and is expected to enter service in the 2020s.”

“Could.”  “Is expected.”

If that isn’t vague enough, back in July U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Stephen Wilson said there were around 863 days left before the first flight, which gives a December 2021 date.

But, said Wilson, “Don’t hold me to it.”

Vague, vaguer, vaguest.

We don’t know how much, or when, or even what the B-21 will look like – all we have is an artist rendering.  Here are the B-2 and its successor, the B-21:

B-2 spirit smaller B-21 raider

Seriously, how do you tell the difference?

Should we tell them to get vanity license plates?

License Plate (2)

That would help – and I can offer a suggestion on helping to pay for those new B-21s.

When the contractor comes back to the Pentagon to ask for more money – and we know they will – this time, instead of nailing us taxpayers for it, the Pentagon could get creative and borrow an idea from this entrepreneur:

Put logo on plane (2)

For just $5, this artist will “Place your logo or any other type of image on the wings of a warplane…Also included are two lines of text (or more but smaller size).  For example, website address, slogan, call to action…anything.”

Imagine this, but with the new B-21 Raider.

If it ever flies.

The artist adds your info to the video along with background music, and you get this:

German Gal

Imagine the thrill!

Granted, at $5 a pop the Pentagon will have to sell a lot of these, but I know a great way for them to get started:

Chosen Final (2)

Book Review: “A Tapestry Of Treason”

Publication Date:  August 2019

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four – two red and two white.

Review, long version:

If you enjoy English royalty historical fiction – the Plantagenets, the Yorks, the Lancasters, their predecessors, their successors – I highly recommend author Anne O’Brien.

What’s different about O’Brien is that her many books don’t just focus on history…

But also, on herstory.

Here are the 10 O’Brien books I’d read, and the women whose story the books tell.  I’ve enjoyed them, learned from them, and recommend all of them:

Queen of the North smaller ShadowQueen_smaller

Queen of the North
Elizabeth Mortimer

The Shadow Queen
Joan of Kent

Kings-Sister-360x581 smaller Forbidden-Queen-360x581 smaller

The King’s Sister
Elizabeth of Lancaster

The Forbidden Queen
Katherine of Valois

Kings-Concubine-360x581 smaller Virgin-Widow-smaller

The King’s Concubine
Alice Perrers

Virgin Widow
Anne Neville

Devils-Consort-360x581 smaller Uncrowned Queen smaller.png

Devil’s Consort
Eleanor of Aquitaine

The Uncrowned Queen
Philippa of Hainault
Scandalous-Duchess-360x581 smaller

Queens-Choice-360x581 smaller

The Scandalous Duchess
Katherine Swynford

The Queen’s Choice
Joanna of Navarre

Now we have #11, O’Brien’s latest:  A Tapestry of Treason, that tapestry woven by the York family.  On her website, O’Brien describes the family as “magnificently dysfunctional,” and they were. Tapestry-of-Treason-smaller

O’Brien’s focus is Constance of York – daughter of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, and granddaughter of Edward III.

Born circa 1375, Constance had an older brother, Edward, and a younger brother, Richard.  When the book begins in 1399, she is married to Thomas, Earl of Gloucester.  Constance was very aware of – and proud of – her family’s royal blood, and her place in that family, their power and their connections.

And because the current king, Richard II, has no heir, her father, the Duke of York, is Richard’s heir to the throne of England.  If the Duke of York should outlive Richard II, then the Duke would become king, and his oldest son, Edward, heir to the throne.

Power and connections?

Oh, yes.

Edward III; detail from his bronze effigy in Westminster Abbey.

There’s a tangle of many cousins – both legitimate and illegitimate grandchildren of Edward III – that can be challenging to keep track of, but O’Brien handles it deftly.  Equally deft was her giving Constance the first-person narrator role, so we get some insight into Constance’s thoughts, and motivations for what she did.

And, oh – what Constance did.  I found myself thinking, “No!  Constance!  Don’t do this!” but that’s because I had the benefit of having read about Constance before, and knew it would go badly.

Constance was an intelligent adult, and could be as arrogant, ambitious and grasping as the men around her.  She could also be tactless, cruel and self-centered.

I found her fascinating.

Because of her rank, Constance was able to make some of her own choices in an age when most women had none.

But choosing treason?  Not once, but twice?

She was fortunate to keep her adult head on her shoulders.

Effigies of Henry IV and Joan of Novarre, Canterbury Cathedral.
Effigies of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre, Canterbury Cathedral.

Two of the power-hungry men in Constance’s life were her cousin Henry, son of John of Gaunt; Gaunt was Duke of Lancaster and third son of Edward III.  Henry usurps the throne of Richard II and becomes King Henry IV, and when this happens, the York family – which had been loyal to Richard II – must suddenly switch their loyalties to Henry IV.

But – will they?

The other man is Constance’s older brother Edward, who was charming, brilliant, and a traitor, schemer, liar, and ambitious self-seeker.  But Edward took it to another level, betraying both his king, and his sister.

Toward the end of A Tapestry of Treason, here’s Constance, looking back on her life:

I closed my eyes, seeing the tapestry of connections that I was stitching.  Had I not, for much of my adult life, been at the centre of a tapestry of treason, drenched in blood and death?  I had stitched with my own hands and intellect to undermine and destroy.  In my mind’s eye I could see each interlocking stitch, the interplay of colour and vibrancy.  There would be no redemption, no forgiveness for me in its creation, even though it had never come to pass.

In was during Constance’s era that the seeds were sown for what is often referred to as “The Wars of the Roses.”  Awhile back I learned that that phrase is attributed to a man who lived 300+ years later, Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

A woman, perhaps Constance, holding the white rose of York.

I think that phrase is such a misnomer.  It romanticizes what was a series of bloody civil wars in mid-15th-century  England that lasted almost 30 years, fought between people who were blood relatives – descendants of that tangle of cousins of York (white rose) and Lancaster (red rose).  The phrase “The Cousins’ Wars” is also used, less frequently, but more accurately.

If you’re interested in the Yorks’ role in the opening act of The Cousins’ War – and in Constance’s herstory – I highly recommend The Tapestry of Treason.

His Motto Is, “Come See Us!”  So The Feds Did, And…

This story sounds like the synopsis of a Robert De Niro/Martin Scorsese movie.

A lousy De Niro/Scorsese movie.

First, take a bunch of guys with names like Marco Garmo, Fred Magana, Leo “The Ham” Hamel, Giovanni Tilotta and Waiel “Will” Anton.

Then add in a 23-count indictment, federal prosecutors, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

And then, like many movies, start with some flashbacks:

February 13, 2019:

Headline 1 (2)

The home of San Diego “jewelry giant” Leo Hamel:


The FBI and ATF searched Hamel’s home as part of an investigation into a suspected firearms trafficking case.

It’s around 7:30am.

Cut to:

Three hours later, at Hamel’s San Diego flagship jewelry store:

ATF at store

The FBI and ATF raided the store as part of the investigation.

Officials were seen going in and out of the business.  An FBI spokesperson confirmed that agents were serving “multiple federal search warrants” for evidence on the gun trafficking case, but declined to release details about the home or potential suspects.

And there hasn’t been much in the news since then.

So let’s do another flashback.  Who is Leo “The Ham” Hamel?

I should be honest and say that as far as I know, I’m the only one who calls him “The Ham.”

And the reason I call him “The Ham” is because he LOVES seeing himself on local TV.  Hamel had been in business since 1979, and once he’d discovered the pleasure of seeing himself, on TV, in his own commercials, he – and we – saw a lot of him.

Most of the commercials featured Leo and his family, like this one from 2010:

Commercial 1 (2)

There’s Hamel, his wife Penelope, and their kids who, while remaining nameless, always chimed in at the end with a hearty, “Come See Us!”

Over the years we saw the kids grow, as in this commercial from 2017:

Commercial 2 (2)

The kids were changing, but their “Come See Us!” didn’t.

Hamel branched out in 2018, running this ad for his new “Leo Hamel Boutique & Consignment Shop” that October:

Commercial 3 (2)

The shop, Hamel noted, was “conveniently located next to our jewelry store.”

The same jewelry store that the FBI and ATF would raid four months later.

The same kids at the end of Hamel’s Boutique & consignment Shop commercial:

Come See Us (2)

And their same, “Come See Us!”

But wait – Hamel’s wife, Penelope, isn’t anywhere to be seen.  Did she perhaps stop stumping for Hamel’s business because he filed for divorce in 2017?

Little did Hamel know back then that his troubles were just beginning.

Now our movie dissolves to the present – late November – and we catch up with the rest of the cast of characters, which now includes the U.S. Attorney.

And if you can keep track of this mess, you’re a better director than Scorsese:

Headline 2 (2)

Hamel is one of the “four others.”

In addition to Hamel, the indicted were Marco Garmo, 52, who served as a sheriff’s deputy for 27 years; sheriff’s department Lt. Fred Magana, 42; firearms dealer Giovanni Tilotta, 38; and local resident Waiel Anton, 35.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Garmo was charged with engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, making false statements in acquisition of a firearm, obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and other offenses.

Besides making a profit, Garmo sold guns to cultivate future donors for his anticipated campaign for sheriff of San Diego County.

(Insert:  Marco Garmo TV commercial #1)

Gore commerical 1 (2)

The “other four” were charged with aiding Garmo in operating an illegal gun trafficking business.

Cleary, Garmo was the ringleader here.

Hamel and Magana entered guilty pleas to aiding and abetting Garmo’s business and will be sentenced in February 2020.

Garmo and Anton pleaded not guilty and are expected back in court on January 10.

Tilotta remains at large, which means nobody knows where the hell he is.

Now I enter in, as the nameless voice-over narrator.sheriffs

I’ve long been an admirer of – and grateful for – police officers.  They put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe from the bad guys.

When two of the police are the bad guys – Garmo and Magana – it’s sickening.

It’s especially sickening when, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, in 2017 San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore – Garmo’s boss – formally reprimanded Garmo after an investigation found that he had bought and sold dozens of guns without securing a federal firearms license:

“Garmo said at the time that he was simply a gun hobbyist who was unaware that he needed a federal license to buy and sell so many weapons.”

wait what

At the time, Garmo had been a law enforcement officer for 25 years.  Yet he was “unaware” of the law?

I’ll bet during those 25 years, Garmo busted other people who broke the very same law he said he was “unaware of.”

The Union-Tribune continues,

“Sheriff Gore defended his decision from 2017, saying the punishment fit the misconduct because Garmo did not appear to be selling the guns for profit and apparently had simply overlooked the law that requires people who buy or sell more than five guns a year to have a federal license.”

“Simply overlooked”?

And “did not appear to be selling the guns for profit”?

What was Sheriff Gore suggesting?  That Garmo was running a gun non-profit 501(c)(3)?

(Insert:  Marco Garmo TV commercial #2)

Marco (2).jpg


More sickening:

“The sheriff’s case was referred to the District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges, but then-District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis declined to file charges and instead sent Garmo a letter warning him not to continue violating the law.”

If this had been you or me, buying and selling “dozens of guns without securing a federal firearms license,” do you think Bonnie Dumanis or any District Attorney would have contented herself with just sending us a letter?

Notecard (2).jpg

I’m doubtful.

End voice-over narrator.

Our movie winds down with this from Hamel’s attorney, after Hamel pleaded guilty:

“Mr. Hamel is pleased to have this matter behind him, and he is satisfied with the agreement he has made with the government.  This will allow him to get back to his family and continue to the businesses he enjoys along with his numerous community service activities.”

Well, it will allow Hamel to “continue” until his sentencing in February.

And perhaps during that time Leo “The Ham” Hamel will treat us to a few more commercials, starring, of course, him.

And of course, his kids saying, “Come See Us!”

Only now they can say…

Last Image (2)

(Fade to black)

(Music up)

(Roll credits)

Meet a Mélange

My friend and I have bucket lists, and we enjoy crossing items off our lists and recounting our experiences.

Recently she said, “I have the chance to do an item on my bucket list – and this time you’re going to join me!”

Intrigued, I said, “Tell me more!”blue

“Remember on my list I wrote, ‘Have a unique flying experience’?  Like a ride in a Blue Angels jet.  Or the Goodyear blimp, or a hot air balloon.  Something that most people never get to do?”

Now I’m more intrigued.  To actually get a ride with the Blue Angels?  Wow!

My friend continues, “I heard about this guy with a one-of-a-kind, very cool airplane, so I checked him out.  He takes people for rides over San Diego and the wine country up north and out along the coast.  It’s a 90-minute flight and I booked it for Saturday morning and won’t that be great?”

Well, it’s not the Blue Angels but – why not?

“He calls his plane Mélange, which is French for ‘mixture.’  Look, I downloaded these pictures from his website:

“He got the engine from this golf cart… golf cart larger
salvaged one wing from a DC-10… DC 10
and the other wing from this F-35 fighter jet – he didn’t say where he found that… f 35
and the airplane body is this Cessna.” cessna

Uh-oh.  I’m starting to feel less enthused.

“It has tires that he found in a guy’s private collection… tires
And get this – the tail came from one of those kiddie airplanes rides you see at the mall.  I love that the whole plane is recycled parts! kiddie plane.jpg
And the fuel is cooking oil from a restaurant, so really environmentally friendly.” cooking oil cropped.jpg

Now I’m far from enthused.

I’m pretty sure this is not a good idea.

I’m pretty sure the FAA would not give a high-five to this aircraft.

I’m pretty sure there’s only one mélange on my bucket list:


The platypus.

Because if ever there was an entity made of a mixture of parts – a mélange – it’s this guy:

A bill like a duck.
A sleek, furry body like an otter.
A tail like a beaver.
Big webbed feet like a pelican, but with pronounced claws.
No teeth.
No stomach.
It’s a mammal that lays eggs – rare. eggs
It’s a mammal that has poison– also rare; the males have a venomous stinger on their back legs. platypus stinger
Females have no nipples – but they can nurse their young. platypus no nipples_01 larger.jpg

It’s no wonder that when the first platypus was sent from Australia to England in the late 18th century, people thought it was a fake – that a prankster had taken parts from different animals and sewn them together.

Even its name is a mélange – the scientific name Ornithorhynchus anatinus is derived from ορνιθόρυγχος (ornithorhynkhos), which literally means “bird snout” in Greek; and anatinus, which means “duck-like” in Latin.

Platypus, the name we non-scientifics use, comes from the Greek platypous or flat-footed – platys meaning flat + pous meaning foot.

Speaking of Australia, that’s the only place you can find platypuses (and yes, “platypuses” is preferred over “platypi”).

The only place…until now:

scan0001 (2)

There is much excitement in San Diego now that Eve, a 15-year-old female, and Birrarung, an 8-year-old male, have moved into their new residence at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the only place platypuses are on display outside of Australia.

Former residents of the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Birrarung and Eve are considered a Walkabout_Australia_croppeddonation to the park with no requirement that they be returned, unlike the Zoo’s fickle giant pandas, which have all gone back to China.

Eve and Biarrarung’s residence is part of Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia, a 3.6-acre exhibition that opened in 2018 and was designed to represent Australia’s rural animals, plants and landscapes encountered along backcountry roads.

At Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia, cassowaries are the platypus’ neighbor but they’re no friend to us; they’re on Britannica’s list of “The World’s Most Dangerous Birds,” are six feet tall and  mean.

Keeping company with the platypuses are kangaroos, wallabies, cassowaries, kookaburras, ducks and geese, all living in habitats that simulate back home.  The one exception being the platypus enclosure – they’re nocturnal animals, but we’re daytime visitors, so keepers are tricking Birrarung and Eve through lighting controls, to think night is day, and vice versa.

Birrarung and Eve have known each other for several years but never mated.  The keepers are hopeful, though I don’t know if that day-is-night and night-is-day thing is going to work out.

I do know that my friend can take that bucket list airplane ride without me.

And I’ll get my mélange fix from those duck-billed, web-footed, egg-laying, no-teeth-or-stomach-or-nipples, furry, venomous but cute little mammals.

They are pretty cute, aren’t they?


December 11, 2019:  Trumper Campaigners’ Conversation Caught On Open Mike!

A conversation between two members of the Trump campaign was caught on an open mike on December 11, shortly after Time magazine announced Greta Thunberg as the magazine’s Person of the Year.

We have that conversation, and unlike so many things these days, this is the full conversation, that is, unredacted, and in its entirety.  Let’s listen to it now:

Trumper 1:   He is so pissed.  I’ve never seen him so pissed.toilet with arrow

Trumper 2:  Yeah.  Not even that picture of him going up the steps to Air Force One, with the toilet paper stuck on his shoe?  Remember that?  Not even that pissed him off this much.

Trumper 1:  Bad enough that he was one of the Person of the Year finalists and lost.  But he lost – to a girl!

Trumper 2:  Yeah!  A 16-year-old girl who’s running around all doomy and gloomy because it’s getting a little warmer.  What’s the big deal?  I like warm weather!

Trumper 1:  Did you see the tweet he sent out about it?  “Greta must work on her anger management problem” – brilliant!

Trumper 2:  Of course it was brilliant.  And now WE have to do something brilliant or heads are going to roll.

Trumper 1:  Yeah, but what?Twitter (2)

Trumper 2:  What we always do – another tweet!

Trumper 1:  OK, but what about?

Trumper 2:  Well, we…we…uh…

Trumper 1:  Wait.  Wait.  It’s coming to me.

(Long pause)

Trumper 1:  OK.  We take that cover of Time magazine…

Trumper 2:  And…

(Long pause)

Trumper 1:  And we use his head to cover up her head!  Look (tapping on keyboard), I’ll just bring up the Time magazine cover…add his head…and…

Image 1 (2).jpg

(Long pause)

Trumper 2:  Ah, OK…um…  We put the head of a 73-year-old guy on a 16-year-old girl?

Trumper 1 (lowers voice):  Shhh!  You know he hates anyone talking about how he’s old and all that shit.

Trumper 2 (whispering):  Put the head of a 73-year-old guy on a 16-year-old girl?

Trumper 1 (shouting):  Yeah!  He’ll love it!

Trumper 2:  You don’t, um, think that’s a little creepy?

Trumper 1:  Creepy?  Sure, but so what?  What matters is that he’ll love it!  He’ll see it as a, you know – “Trump Triumphs Over Teen With Anger Management Issues!”

(Long pause)

Trumper 2:  Is that the tweet’s headline?fingers crossed

Trumper 1:  No.  The headline will be something about keeping promises – you know he’s big on that – and how all that makes him the real Person of the Year.

Trumper 2:  OK, so you mean, like, when he promised that Mexico would pay for the wall…

Trumper 1:  NO!

Trumper 2:  Or how he’ll be too busy to play golf when he’s president…

Trumper 1:  NO, NO, NO!fingers crossed

Trumper 2:  Or when he promised American families that he’d work for them rather than wealthy donors and corporate interests?

Trumper 1 (sighs):  No.

Trumper 2:  I know!  He was just in  Pennsylvania, right?  Remember back during the campaign, when he said, “We will be opening brand new factories across this state”?

(Long pause)

Trumper 2 (sounding desperate):  OK, then you mean – like reducing the national debt?  And getting rid of Obamacare and replacing it with…um…  And fixing our fingers crossedinfrastructure?  And denuclearizing North Korea?  Wait!  What about when he said, “I will take care of women, and I have great respect for women.  I do cherish women, and I will take care of women.”

(Long pause)

Trumper 1:  No, you moron.  I mean like the economy, and that stuff.  We do a list, put that above the picture and…and…

Trumper 2:  And check marks?  For the promises he says he’s kept?

Trumper 1 (surprised):  Yeah!  That’s a great idea!  I guess you’re not a total moron.

Trumper 2:  Gosh, thanks!

Trumper 1:  OK.  Let’s do a list of the promises he’s kept.

(Extremely long silence)

Trumper 1:  OK.  Instead, let’s do a list of the promises he’s made.

Trumper 2:  Sure, that should be easy.

December 12, 2019:

Image 2 (2)

Here’s A Graph Showing The Most Important Issues Facing Americans Today:

Here’s what Trump is talking about:

CNN (2)

That’s right.

Recently, Trump was at a meeting with entrepreneurs, or as the White House website called it:

white house

During what must have been a torturous-to-hear, almost-2,500-word rambling bunch of disparate opening remarks, Trump had this to say about toilets:

“People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”

Oh, really?

I live in California, a state that has droughts on a regular basis, and we know a thing or low-flow-fixtures-delcor-croppedtwo about water, water conservation, and low-flow bathroom fixtures.  If anyone had to flush the toilet “10 times, 15 times,” it would be headline news.

That’s the kind of state we are.

So here’s the question:

Who are the “people” Trump is referring to?  Who is this faceless, amorphous group known as “people” who are “flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times”?

And telling him about it?

When Trump has no facts, his fallback word is “people.”  “People” do this, say this, are or aren’t this.  Here are some examples of Trump using his fallback word during that meeting:

“Some people said…”
people were rooting for a recession…”
“we’re paying interest to people…”
“there are a lot of people very unhappy about it…”
“that people can’t even believe it…”
people are getting very excited about it…”

Trump people (2)
people will be going to the new cars…”
“a lot of the people…”
“that people got used to…”
“Many people were complaining…”
“those people in…”
“these people were coming in…”
“our people are very happy…”
“we have a lot of great people looking at it and interviewing people…”

Well, at least, in the midst of his monologue and “people-ing,” Trump was good enough to give us a meteorology lesson:

“they have so much water that it comes down – it’s called rain…”

And Trump knows rain – as demonstrated in these 2018 photos of Trump leaving his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, and heading back to the White House.

First, the headline:

Daily Mail (2)

We see Trump walking up the stairs to Air Force One, umbrella in hand:


Followed by Melania and Barron, left exposed to the elements:


“What a gent!” indeed.

The article says this trip to Mar-a-Lago was also noteworthy because a crowd had gathered near the resort to protest against Trump, the most recent reason being his disparaging comments about Haiti and African nations.

“The Trump administration both denied his comments and has claimed that they were misrepresented.  Multiple politicians present at the meeting have said he made the comments.

“In a closed-door meeting about immigration, Trump allegedly said, ‘Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?’”

Also note Trump’s use – again – of “people.”

Imagine that.

Memo to Trump:

From now on, you’ve inspired me to think of you every time I…


“Rosy Pronouncements” About An Unwinnable War

On December 9 the Washington Post broke this story:

Wash Post (2)

I’ll leave it to others to interpret, analyze, yea or nay the Afghanistan Papers.

My takeaway can be summed up in one sentence, a 2003 quote in the article from then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

“We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.”

Rumsfeld was referring to information from the U.S. Intelligence Community, but I think his statement describes the entire war in Afghanistan:

We are woefully deficient in human intelligence in our leaders, who led us into, and have kept us in, an 18-year unwinnable war.

We are woefully deficient in human intelligence in those same leaders who, according to the article, were advised – repeatedly – by experts that “the war had become unwinnable,” and instead continued making “rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”

We are woefully deficient in human intelligence when we don’t challenge a war that since 2001:

  • Has deployed more than 775,000 U.S. troops.
  • Has caused 2,300 U.S. deaths, and 20,589 U.S. wounded in action.
  • Has cost $1 trillion of our tax dollars, and counting.

Why have we allowed this tragedy to continue for so long?

Because I/you/we are woefully deficient in human intelligence for believing:

George W. Bush, October 11, 2001:

“We learned some very important lessons in Vietnam.  People often ask me, ‘How long will this last?’  This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaeda to justice.  It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two.  But we will prevail.”

Barack Obama, December 1, 2009:

“The days of providing a blank check are over…It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security and that America has no interest in fighting an endless was in Afghanistan.”

Donald Trump, November 28, 2019:

“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire and they didn’t want to do a cease-fire, and now they do want to do a cease-fire.  I believe it’ll probably work out that way… We are winning like we haven’t won in a long time…We’ve made tremendous progress and at the same time we’ve been drawing down our troops.”

Here, instead, is the truth:

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It’s Right There, In The…

This is not a movie review, though it is mostly about a movie.dictators-playbook-dvd cropped

And it’s a “movie” in the sense that it’s six one-hour segments.

Each segment focuses on one dictator.

It’s called The Dictator’s Playbook.

The documentary began airing on PBS in January 2019.  I saw it only recently, but long before I saw it, I was struck by the timing.

I have to believe this was not a coincidence – producing a series about dictators when we have, in the White House, the closest thing to a dictator our country has even seen.

Trump:  A would-be dictator who openly expresses his preference – love, even – for other dictators including:

Kim cropped smaller Putin_04 cropped larger mohammad-bin-salman cropped smaller
Trump’s pals, above left to right:  Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin, Mohammad bin Salman; below left to right:  Rodrigo Duterte, Xi Jinping, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
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As I watched all six hours, I saw many similarities.  Though it doesn’t state this on the PBS website or in the program, it was clear to me that The Dictator’s Playbook was intended to educate us about the common strategies that past dictators share – their “playbook” – and as a warning to alert us to similarities in Trump.

Here’s the list of playbook strategies I made note of as I watched, and the dictators featured.  None of the dictators practiced all these, but all the dictators used many of them:

Dictator’s Playbook


1.    Learning from other dictators

2.    Creating a common enemy

3.    Creating a need for scapegoats

4.    Creating terror; a culture of fear and intimidation

5.    The carrot and the stick

6.    Unifying elites

7.    Using violence to seize power and take control

8.    Crushing the enemy

9.    Using propaganda

10. Controlling the secret police

11. Spinning defeat into triumph

12. Using indoctrination

13. Using war as a distraction

14. Creating a desire for a “strongman”

15. Manipulating votes/elections

16. Controlling the press to support the dictator

17. Appealing to underprivileged and forgotten people

18. Controlling information

19. Making an example

20. Gaining consent

21. Purging enemies

22. Creating a gulag

23. Diverting public attention from his failures

24. Cult of personality

25. Theatricality of personality

26. Populist charm

27. Increased exaggeration of dictator’s own glory and abilities

28. Rising racism

29. Disaffection for traditional forms of government

30. Military path to power

kim il sung

Kim Il Sung (1912-1994)
Country:  North Korea, in power 1948-1994


Saddam Hussein (1937-2006)
Country:  Iraq, in power 1979-2003

benito mussolini

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945)
Country:  Italy, in power 1922-1945

manuel noriega

Manuel Noriega (1934-2017)
Country:  Panama, in power 1983-1989

francisco franco

Francisco Franco (1892-1975)
Country:  Spain, in power 1939-1975

idi amin

Idi Amin (1925-2003)
Country:  Uganda, in power 1971-1979

Something else that several of the six dictators had in common (though certainly not listed in the playbook) was how often the crowds cheered him when he was in power – and jeered him when he fell from power.  Like Mussolini:

mussolini-balcony-palazzo-venezia smaller mussolini_dead larger
Left, 1937:  Mussolini greets a cheering crowd.  Right, 1945:  Mussolini, his mistress and three senior Fascists were executed, then put on display for a jeering crowd.

So, the parallels to Trump are unmistakable – how the six dictators in the film were fervent believers in nationalism, even as Trump declared himself a “nationalist” at a rally in Houston in October 2018.

That Franco was convinced he was the only man who could save his country from all the “challenges from the left.”  Trump is “saving” the country by telling politicians on the left to “go back to where they came from.”

And Amin, who launched a “nationwide charm offensive, promising better jobs, housing, a better future.”  The people “love me,” he declared, just as Trump continues to promise the same, and frequently identifies himself as “your favorite president” on Twitter.

I highly recommend The Dictator’s Playbook for both the information about the past – and the warning about the future.

As CNN put in it this article:

CNN (2)

“The prevailing message serves as a reminder that the methods on display carry a not-so-subtle warning that while America has been shielded from dictatorships, it is not necessarily immune from forces that have shaped and defined them.”

But – I know six hours is a huge time commitment.

So I’ve provided a checklist of those same 30 items as above and invite you to see how many you would identify as Trump behaviors.  I did, and my count was 19:

□          1.  Learning from other dictators
□          2.  Creating a common enemy
□          3.  Creating a need for scapegoats
□          4.  Creating terror; a culture of fear and intimidation
□          5.  The carrot and the stick
□          6.  Unifying elites
□          7.  Using violence to seize power and take control
□          8.  Crushing the enemy
□          9.  Using propaganda
□          10.  Controlling the secret police
□          11. Spinning defeat into triumph
□          12. Using indoctrination
□          13. Using war as a distraction
□          14. Creating a desire for a “strongman”
□          15. Manipulating votes/elections
□          16. Controlling the press to support the dictator
□          17. Appealing to underprivileged and forgotten people
□          18. Controlling information
□          19. Making an example
□          20. Gaining consent
□          21. Purging enemies
□          22. Creating a gulag
□          23. Diverting public attention from his failures
□          24. Cult of personality
□          25. Theatricality of personality
□          26. Populist charm
□          27. Increased exaggeration of dictator’s own glory and abilities
□          28. Rising racism
□          29 Disaffection for traditional forms of government
□          30. Military path to power
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I’ll mention one last behavior all six dictators had in common:  Making promises they didn’t keep.  This was especially true during their rise to power.

In January 2016 the Washington Post compiled this list:

Wash Post (2)

Here are a few of them:

1 and 2 (2)

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11/29/19 Update:

Trump has added another strategy to the Dictator’s Playbook list:

Create chaos within the military:

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If You Want A REAL ID – Get In Line At Your DMV…

Our federal and state governments are doing a piss-poor job – no surprise there – of educating us about REAL ID.

REAL ID – that thing you need to get on a commercial flight starting October 1, 2020.

Our governments are also doing a piss-poor job – again, no surprise – of educating us that you don’t need a REAL ID to get on a commercial flight starting October 1, 2020.

which is it croppedWell, which is it?

Don’t bother asking our governments.

Oh, you can slog through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website, where they’ve got a timer counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the Date of Doom, October 1, 2020:

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But I promise it will strike terror into your heart when you read this:

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You see where it says, “If you’re not sure”?

The TSA should update that to,

“If you’re not sure because we’ve done a piss-poor job of giving you the simple, straightforward facts about REAL ID even though we’ve had plenty of time since this became a law back in 2005…”

So you read “contact your state driver’s license agency,” which is a multi-word government way of saying…

“Contact your DMV.”

And you want to get this resolved, so you call your DMV, and they put you on hold and you wait so long that…


But it’s not enough to just contact your DMV – you can’t just call them and say, “Those REAL ID things?  Could you pop one into the mail to me?”

If you want a REAL ID, you must go to your DMV:

Think the lines at your DMV are bad now?

long line at DMV

Lines at your DMV as we get closer to the October 1, 2020 deadline:

crowd_01 larger.png

And since, according to this New York Times article from early October:

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Which says,

“99 million Americans do not have the REAL ID-compliant identification”

And half of them don’t even know about the REAL ID deadline.

That line to the DMV in September 2020 will turn in to this:

pile of skeletons cropped

And these folks still won’t have gotten their REAL ID.

Earlier I said you don’t need a REAL ID to get on a commercial flight starting October 1, 2020.

And that’s a fact.

To get on a commercial flight starting October 1, 2020 you need:

A REAL ID-compliant driver’s license*

Or cropped

A state-issued enhanced driver license.*

Or cropped

Another acceptable form of ID* such as a passport.

*This language is verbatim from the TSA website.

Otherwise, as of October 1, 2020 – the Day of Doom – when you arrive at airport security, which will look like this:

long line at airport larger

Because of conversations like this:

“But your passport is expired, sir.”  “Nobody said it had to be a %#!@*%! CURRENT passport!”

If you don’t have the proper documentation you will not be allowed through security and onto your flight.

And come October 1, 2020 that’s going to affect a lot of us:

U.S. Travel (2)

Though I think “affect” is an understatement:

TSA attack larger
“What do you mean, I can’t get on a plane?  I’ll %#!@*%! show YOU who can’t get on a plane!”

Quoting the U.S. Travel Association, the New York Times article also said:

“If Real ID went into effect tomorrow, almost 80,000 people trying to board a plane would be denied on Day 1.”

My recommendation?

Don’t be one of them:

Jet No (2)

And speaking of doing a piss-poor job…

Update, 11/13/19 Los Angeles Times:

LA Times (2)

The airlines also aren’t doing squat about educating people about REAL ID and October 1, 2020, the Day of Doom.

Amidst all the bad news in this article was a problem that hadn’t occurred to me:

“Make sure you don’t leave on a September 28 flight and can’t come home after October 1 because you don’t have the proper documents.

The article leaves us with a very sad image, indeed:

“Imagine the novice traveler, a grandma who only travels once or twice a year.  She can’t come home to her family.”

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And Now…Little Donny-Wonny Trump Jr, Also Known As “Mr. Ride On His Daddy’s Coattails”

The New York Times Best Seller List is something of a Holy Grail for book authors.

Holy Grail:  a thing that is being earnestly pursued or sought after.

Few authors achieve a place on the list, and a few of those are totally undeserving of that coat_tails_feature croppeddistinction.

Case in point:

Donny-Wonny Trump Jr, aka “Mr. Ride On His Daddy’s Coattails.”

His book Triggered has been variously described as “forays into politics and views on liberals from the executive vice president of the Trump organization” and, “a reminder that people thought Mein Kampf was an excellent book, too.”

So here’s the book on November 23, in first place on The New York Times best seller list:

Nov 23 (2)

But wait.

Let’s look at that image again:

Nov 23 (2) with arrow

See that red arrow?  It’s pointing to a little dagger.

What does that dagger mean?

This article from The New York Times explains:

Ny Times (2)

That dagger means “bulk purchases of the book.”

That’s right!  The Republican National Committee (RNC) spent almost $100,000 buying copies of Donny-Wonny’s book!

Which, the Times article point out,

“…is unusual in that the committee is promoting a book written by a candidate’s son who isn’t a politician and isn’t running for office.”

Well, hope you enjoyed it while it lasted, Donny-Wonny.  Because it didn’t last long.  Here’s The New York Times best seller list for December 7:

Dec 7 first book covered (2)

Dec 7 (2)

NOTE:  No “bulk sales” dagger on A Warning.

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For A Change, How About Some…

On the Friday before Thanksgiving – when many of us were thinking about family and food and a holiday weekend – a SeaWorld San Diego rescue team was thinking about something very different:

A humpback whale.

A 35-foot humpback whale that had become entangled in a 900-foot weighted fishing line off the coast of La Jolla, CA:

Whale 2

The SeaWorld team knew the whale was not able to swim freely and forage for food because of the line, and would have died if it had remained entangled.

The SeaWorld team also knew they were the only ones who could give a second chance at life to that whale.

A chance at life, so it would be free to do this:


And this:


And maybe this:


SeaWorld has gotten some of bad publicity, especially since the 2013 movie Blackfish.  Its stock tanked in 2014, and again in 2017.

During all that, it was easy to lose track of the fact that SeaWorld as a company recently reached an impressive milestone:

36,000 animal rescues over the last 55 years.

SeaWorld San Diego alone has rescued more than 20,000 of those animals, which include seaworld_t658 croppedsea lions, seals, dolphins, whales, turtles and birds.  Their goal with every animal is to rescue, rehabilitate and return it to the wild for that second chance at life.

On November 22 the SeaWorld team was well-prepared for the humpback rescue.  They have specific large-whale entanglement response training, and work under the authority of National Marine Fisheries Service, the government agency that oversees the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

The team walked their walk:

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And after four hours, freed the whale to keep doing this:


And this:


And definitely this:


Good news for the whale, for us, and for the planet.