Yes – even I will allow that issuing pardons is the one thing Trump does adequately.
Take turkeys, for example.
Here’s my New Year’s prediction:
Yes – even I will allow that issuing pardons is the one thing Trump does adequately.
Take turkeys, for example.
Here’s my New Year’s prediction:
We hear the word “billion” a lot, especially in relation to “dollars.”
But what does one billion dollars look like?
To get some perspective:
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 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:
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?
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
Seriously, how do you tell the difference?
Should we tell them to get vanity license plates?
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:
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:
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:
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
The Shadow Queen
The King’s Sister
The Forbidden Queen
The King’s Concubine
|The Uncrowned Queen
Philippa of Hainault
The Scandalous Duchess
The Queen’s Choice
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
Three hours later, at Hamel’s San Diego flagship jewelry 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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)
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.
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.”
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.”
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)
“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?
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…
(Fade to black)
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!”
“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…|
|salvaged one wing from a DC-10…|
|and the other wing from this F-35 fighter jet – he didn’t say where he found that…|
|and the airplane body is this Cessna.”|
Uh-oh. I’m starting to feel less enthused.
|“It has tires that he found in a guy’s private collection…|
|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!|
|And the fuel is cooking oil from a restaurant, so really environmentally friendly.”|
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:
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.
|It’s a mammal that lays eggs – rare.|
|It’s a mammal that has poison– also rare; the males have a venomous stinger on their back legs.|
|Females have no nipples – but they can nurse their young.|
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:
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 donation 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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Trumper 1: OK. We take that cover of Time magazine…
Trumper 2: And…
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…
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!”
Trumper 2: Is that the tweet’s headline?
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!
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”?
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 infrastructure? 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.”
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:
Here’s what Trump is talking about:
Recently, Trump was at a meeting with entrepreneurs, or as the White House website called it:
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.”
I live in California, a state that has droughts on a regular basis, and we know a thing or two 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…”
“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:
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.”
Memo to Trump:
From now on, you’ve inspired me to think of you every time I…