David Brooks is Wrong Again on Guns

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David Brooks is an intelligent and reasonable man…most of the time. For some reason, he is completely wrong again on gun control. Once again he has insisted that people of common sense should roll over and let gun extremists take the lead on the gun control debate. WE ARE EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE TODAY BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN NOT ONLY LEADING THE DEBATE, THEY HAVE BEEN TAKING THE DEBATE AWAY FROM INTELLIGENT PEOPLE.

Wayne LaPierre:  This is who has been leading the gun debate…and all the Trumpsters agree with him. We don’t have to respect that.

Can’t Compromise With Stupid

Most things are shades of grey. There are no quick and easy answers and some type of compromise is necessary. Trumpsters have changed that. Trumpsters are so far in the wrong that it is no longer an issue of coming to a compromise with them. The good citizens of this country have been driven back into a corner on major issues that are the foundation of our country and we are tired of being told that the corner is the only place to be.

Gun Control Debate Out of Control

Gun control is an issue that gun extremists have said so many stupid things for decades, that now they expect the rest of the country to just accept their stupidity.

NO! When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns? It was a stupid phrase fifty years ago, and it still is stupid today. Criminals have less opportunity to commit crimes when they don’t have easy access to guns. Gangs can’t commit as many drive-by shootings when they don’t have easy access to guns. Most guns are not used for crime, but rather, they are used to commit suicide. 

To be honest, if someone wants to take a chance that some family member will become upset and kill themselves, they can have a gun in the home. The moment you carry that gun out of the home is when it becomes my business. Weaponizing society gets people killed and that is not acceptable.

What Must Be Done

If you own a gun, fine. You are responsible for anyone that is harmed or killed by that gun. You should be required to carry the same liability insurance on that gun that is required on an automobile if it is involved in an accident and someone is harmed or killed.

And yes, you must license it, pay a yearly tax, and be limited to the number of guns and ammunition you own.

NO! The Second Amendment, nor the Supreme Court says that you can have any kind of gun you want and you don’t have to register them. In fact, they say the opposite. Gun extremists are wrong on the issue and you can’t let someone who is wrong lead the debate. It’s just stupid.

Victims of Major Mass Shootings Since Sandy Hook Elementary

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The following are the names of the victims killed in major mass shootings since, and including, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on 14 December 2012.

Victims of Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Stoneman Douglas High School Parkland, FL – 14 February 2018

  • Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
  • Scott Beigel, 35
  • Martin Duque, 14
  • Nicholas Dworet, 17
  • Aaron Feis, 37
  • Jaime Guttenberg, 14
  • Chris Hixon, 49
  • Luke Hoyer, 15
  • Cara Loughran, 14
  • Gina Montalto, 14
  • Joaquin Oliver, 17
  • Alaina Petty, 14
  • Meadow Pollack, 18
  • Helena Ramsay, 17
  • Alex Schachter, 14
  • Carmen Schentrup, 16

First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas – 5 NOV 2017

  • Robert Scott Marshall 56
    Karen Sue Marshall 56
    Keith Allen Braden 62
    Tara E. McNulty 33
    Annabelle Renae Pomeroy 14
    Peggy Lynn Warden 56
    Dennis Neil Johnson, Sr. 77
    Sara Johns Johnson 68
    Lula Woicinski White 71
    Joann Lookingbill Ward 30
    Brooke Bryanne Ward 5
    Robert Michael Corrigan 51
    Shani Louise Corrigan 51
    Therese Sagan Rodriguez 66
    Ricardo Cardona Rodriguez 64
    Haley Krueger 16
    Emily Garcia (died at the hospital) 7
    Emily Rose Hill 11
    Gregory Lynn Hill 13
    Megan Gail Hill 9
    Marc Daniel Holcombe 36
    Noah Holcombe 1
    Karla Plain Holcombe 58
    John Bryan Holcombe 60
    Crystal Marie Holcombe (pregnant*) 36
    *Carlin Brite “Billy Bob” Holcombe (unborn) 0 Unknown

Las Vegas Concert – 1 October 2017

  • Ahlers, Hannah Lassette
    Alvarado, Heather Lorraine
    Anderson, Dorene
    Barnette, Carrie Rae
    Beaton, Jack Reginald
    Berger, Stephen Richard
    Bowers, Candice Ryan
    Burditus, Denise Brenna
    Casey, Sandra Lee Multiple
    Castilla, Andrea Lee Anna
    Cohen, Denise Marie
    Davis, Austin William
    Day, Jr., Thomas Allen
    Duarte, Christiana Mae
    Etcheber, Stacee Ann
    Fraser, Brian Scott
    Galvan, Keri Lynn
    Gardner, Dana Leann
    Gomez, Angela Christine
    Guillen, Rocio
    Hartfield, Charleston V.
    Hazencomb, Christopher James
    Irvine, Jennifer Topaz
    Kimura, Teresa Nicol
    Klymchuk, Jessica Lynn
    Kreibaum, Carly Anne
    LeRocque, Rhonda M.
    Link, Victor Loyd
    McIldoon, Jordan Alan
    Meadows, Kelsey Breanne
    Medig, Calla-Marie
    Melton, James Sonny
    Mestas, Patricia Louis
    Meyer, Austin Cooper
    Murfitt, Adrian Allan
    Parker, Rachael Kathleen
    Parks, Jennifer Marie
    Parsons, Carolyn Lee
    Patterson, Lisa Marie
    Phippen, John Joseph
    Ramirez, Melissa Viridiana
    Rivera, Jordyn Nicole
    Robbins, Quinton Joe
    Robinson, Cameron Lee
    Roe, Tara Ann
    Romero-Muniz, Lisa M.
    Roybal, Christopher Louis
    Schwanbeck, Brett Erin
    Schweitzer, Bailey Dee
    Shipp, Laura Anne
    Silva, Erick Steven
    Smith, Susan Marie
    Stewart, Brennan Lee
    Taylor, Derrick Dean
    Tonks, Neysa Christine
    Vo, Michelle Ngoc
    Von Tillow, Kurt Allen
    Wolfe, Jr., William Winfield

Orlando, FL Nightclub – 11 June 2016

  • Stanley Almodovar III, 23
  • Amanda L. Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33
  • Antonio Davon Brown, 29
  • Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
  • Angel Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Juan Chavez Martinez, 25
  • Luis Daniel Conde, 39
  • Cory James Connell, 21
  • Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
  • Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
  • Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
  • Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22
  • Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
  • Paul Terrell Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge Reyes, 40
  • Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
  • Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Brenda Marquez McCool, 49
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Kimberly Jean Morris, 37
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25
  • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
  • Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25
  • Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27
  • Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35
  • Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
  • Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37
  • Luis Sergio Vielma, 22
  • Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50
  • Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

Social Services Center San Bernadino, CA – 2 December 2015

  • Robert Adams, 40
  • Isaac Amanios, 60
  • Bennetta Betbadal, 46
  • Harry Bowman, 46
  • Sierra Clayborn, 27
  • Juan Espinoza, 50
  • Aurora Godoy, 26
  • Shannon Johnson, 45
  • Larry Daniel Kaufman, 42
  • Damian Meins58Tin Nguyen, 31
  • Nicholas Thalasinos, 52
  • Yvette Velasco, 27
  • Michael Wetze, l37

Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR – 1 October 2015

  • Lucero Alcaraz, 19
  • Treven Taylor Anspach, 20
  • Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18[33]
  • Quinn Glen Cooper, 18
  • Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59
  • Lucas Eibel, 18
  • Jason Dale Johnson, 33
  • Lawrence Levine, 67
  • Sarena Dawn Moore, 44

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina – 17 June 2015

  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, 54
  • Susie Jackson, 87
  • Ethel Lee Lance, 70
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
  • Clementa C. Pinckney, 41
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26
  • Daniel Simmons, 74
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
  • Myra Thompson, 59

Washington Navy Yard Washington, D.C. – 16 September 2013

  • Michael Arnold, 59
  • Martin Bodrog, 53
  • Arthur Daniels, 51
  • Sylvia Frasier, 53
  • Kathy Gaarde, 62
  • John Roger Johnson, 73
  • Mary Francis Knight, 51
  • Frank Kohler, 50
  • Vishnu Pandit, 61
  • Kenneth Bernard Proctor,  46
  • Gerald Read, 58
  • Richard Michael Ridgell, 52

Victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

Sandy Hook Elementary School Newtown, CT – 14 December 2012

    • Nancy Lanza, 52
    • Rachel D’Avino, 29
    • Dawn Hochsprung, 47
    • Anne Marie Murphy, 52
    • Lauren Rousseau, 30
    • Mary Sherlach, 56
    • Victoria Leigh Soto, 27
    • Charlotte Bacon, 6
    • Daniel Barden, 7
    • Olivia Engel, 6
    • Josephine Gay, 7
    • Dylan Hockley, 6
    • Madeleine Hsu, 6
    • Catherine Hubbard, 6
    • Chase Kowalski, 7
    • Jesse Lewis, 6
    • Ana Márquez-Greene, 6
    • James Mattioli, 6
    • Grace McDonnell, 7
    • Emilie Parker, 6
    • Jack Pinto, 6
    • Noah Pozner, 6
    • Caroline Previdi, 6
    • Jessica Rekos, 6
    • Avielle Richman, 6
    • Benjamin Wheeler, 6
    • Allison Wyatt, 6

Second Amendment: A Well Regulated Militia

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A well regulated militia. Gun extremists pretend that the first four words of the Second Amendment don’t exist. They beat people over the head with the Second Amendment using the last 13 words but never mention the part that frames the topic. I’ve even had one gun extremist tell me that the comma after the first four words invalidates them. 

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment

What “Well Regulated” Means in Second Amendment

Ironically, the first four words invalidates the gun extremists position against gun control laws. “Well regulated” is not an accidental phrase. It means that what is being discussed is not only to be regulated, but it is to be closely regulated.

Because it is stated first, it means that everything said after is to be considered within the framework of regulation. The Second Amendment is not about unlimited, unrestricted gun ownership. It is not a mandate to allow anyone to own any weapon they want. It clearly outlines that gun ownership is intended to be under the rule of the government.

Regarding assault rifles, our country had a legal restriction on assault-type rifles from 1994 to 2004. It wasn’t struck down because it was unconstitutional. It ended because a Republican Congress let the law die due to a Sunset provision in the ban.

Gun Extremists

Not what “well regulated” means

Supreme Court Ruling Confirms Guns To Be Well Regulated

Even the Supreme Court ruling that gun extremists like to use to claim unrestricted gun ownership confirms the right of the government to control the ownership of guns. In District of Columbia versus Heller, the Justice Anthony Scalia wrote in the majority opinion:

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

Majority Opinion “District of Columbia v. Heller”

Justice Scalia builds a creative argument why guns have to be allowed in the home, but he clarifies that home ownership does not mean unregistered gun ownership:

[a]ssuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.

Majority Opinion “District of Columbia v. Heller”

The concept that guns cannot be regulated, nor registered is contrary to the ruling by the Supreme Court. “Well regulated” is the important aspect of the Second Amendment regardless of what gun extremists want to pretend.

Center of the Milky Way: Update

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During the history of humankind, we have looked up and stared at the center of our galaxy. Most of that time we created stories about it, but now we know some of the facts. If you’re not a space geek, astronomer, or science nut, you may not know what new information has been discovered about the center of the Milky Way. A lot of information has been learned in the course of our lifetime, even if you are only 16 years old.

ESO image Milky Way

The Milky Way Galaxy…as it was 26,000 years ago

Dust in the Wind

To see the Milky Way Galaxy requires getting away from bright city lights on a clear night. It looks like a faint cloud running across the sky at an odd angle. What a person sees is light that has traveled from the center of our galaxy for about 26,000 years. Some of those stars are gone, and new stars have formed.

What you may not know is the dim light coming from the central bulge at the center would be brighter than the full Moon if it weren’t for space dust. Near the center of the Milky Way are over ten million stars. If there were no dust we would just see a dazzling glow from the central bulge.

The Story of Black Holes

Our understanding of the Milky Way has coincided with our awareness and understanding of black holes in space. The idea of a black hole was first suggested in a letter by John Michell published in November 1784. The work of Albert Einstein on general relativity led to theoretical work confirming the mathematical possibility of black holes during the first half of the 20th century.

However, the first prospective black hole wasn’t discovered until 1971. At this point, no one suspected that the centers of all galaxies were black holes. It would be 2002 before Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany would produce evidence that a black hole was at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

What You Can’t See

The problems with determining a potential black hole are that, 1) as mentioned before, there is too much dust between Earth and the center of the Milky Way galaxy and, 2) a black hole doesn’t emit light. The first problem is solvable by using different wavelengths of radiation other than visible light. Gamma, infrared, and radio waves pass through space dust and allow astronomers to see their source.

The second problem in revealing a black hole is not what they are, but what they do. What black holes do best is produce the pull of gravity. Their gravitational effect is so strong that stars orbit black holes…before they are eaten by it. All astronomers had to do is find an invisible point that stars are orbiting.

Really, Really Fast Stars

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, but they did it. What is now known as the supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A is at the center of our galaxy. A close group of stars orbit this invisible point at incredible speeds. Astronomers estimate the size of the black hole is big enough to encompass our Sun and extend almost to the orbit of Mercury.

One of the orbiting stars known as S2 comes only as close to Sagittarius A as four times the distance of Neptune is from our Sun. Despite that distance, S2 reaches speeds of 5000 km/s (11 million mph) as it swoops by Sagittarius A and heads back out in a highly elliptical orbit. S2’s orbit takes less than 16 years to make one complete orbit. S2 will make it’s next closest approach in a few months….well, it actually will have happened 26,000 years ago.

Are These People the Next Mass Shooter?

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Are one of these people in the picture below, the next mass shooter? According to gun extremists, law enforcement should already know who will be the next mass shooter by his or her behavior. The idea that we can stop the person before they pick up a gun based on behavior is absurd.

Are one of these people the next mass shooter?

Lots of Potential Killers, But Are They Real Killers?

A 2008 study determined that 1.2% of a random sample of people tested high enough to be considered potential psychopaths. In the United States, that means that there are about 3.876 million psychopaths. Do we lock all of them up to stop the mass shootings?

What about those who post hateful things on social media? Do review everyone’s post and lock up anyone who posts something that could be construed as an indication of violent behavior? How many trillions of dollars would it take to monitor all of social media and act on anyone who is suspicious?

What about tips to law enforcement? Florida Governor Rick Scott demanded that the FBI director resign because one call was made to an FBI tip line about Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at a South Florida High School last week. Of course, his accusation had nothing to do with his support of Donald Trump. Governor Scott conveniently ignored that the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said in a news conference that in regard to Cruz, they had received:

…20 calls for service over the last few years …

Florida Broward Sheriff Scott Israel

Do we lock up people if someone calls law enforcement? Can anyone make an accusation about someone and have him or her locked up on just a tip? What about the worst shooting? The shooter in Las Vegas gave no warning signs. It seems he was killing for pleasure just because he had a lot of guns.

The Solution

Assault-type rifles were banned in 1994 and the Republican Congress allowed that ban to lapse in 2004. The five worst mass shootings have occurred since the ban ended. There is only one solution. Eliminate easy access to weapons of war.

Mass Shooters Not Criminals Before They Picked Up A Gun

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Gun extremists like to portray the perpetrators of mass shooters as known criminals that should have been identified and stopped. That is a damn lie. Like millions of people in the United States, mass shooters often have anti-social behavior and/or involve themselves in hate-filled social media posts. Almost all of those people will not become a mass murderer. None of the mass shooters are identified as criminals until after they have picked up a gun and killed people.

Here is a list of the 20 worst mass shootings and indicators of instability prior to their crime:

TABLE 1.0 Worst 22 Mass Shooter Events in the USA

Millions of People Are Mentally Ill, Only a Few Kill

In some of the instances listed above the mental illness was known but was not an accurate predictor of the actions taken by the perpetrator. Almost all of the perpetrators were U.S. citizens, male, had easy access to guns, and/or was obsessed with gun ownership.

The five worst events have occurred after the ban on assault rifles was allowed to expire in 2004. Half of the top 22 mass shootings have happened in the last 18 years and the other half occurred in the 50 years prior.

More Guns, More Deaths

The simple fact is the explosion of gun ownership in the past three decades has resulted in an explosion of gun deaths. We are not safer now than we were 50 years ago, and while the funding for mental illness treatment is a factor, if guns weren’t easily accessible, the mentally ill would not have the opportunity to use them.

There are only three mass shooting events among the top 22 where the guns were not legally obtained. In two cases the guns were obtained because the criminal records of the perpetrator were not on record as they should have been. In the Columbine High School shooting, the two teenagers used friends to buy them guns. The other 19 events were people who had easy, legal access to the guns and if they hadn’t had that access, I wouldn’t need to write this article.

McDonald’s Shake Machines Legendary Unreliability

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It may be just me, but something seems to be amiss with McDonald’s shake and ice cream machines. My experience tells me it’s a 50-50 chance the machine will not be working when I order a shake. Guess what? It’s not just me.

The six McDonald’s I visited in Reno, NV, USA

Apparently, the reliability, or lack thereof, of McDonald’s shake machines and ice cream machines are legendary in the fast food world. It’s so bad that last year McDonald’s corporate folks announced they were replacing the ice cream machine in every store.

Shaky Reputation For McD’s Milkshakes

An online search found multiple responses to questions about McDonald’s shake machines. On Reddit, one person asked:

McDonald’s employees: why is the milkshake machine always out of order?

Response from an alleged McDonald’s employee was:

This machine is incredibly hard to keep up and running if you have no idea what you are doing. It turns off automatically around 11 pm. It turns back on in the morning about 4 am. …Once a month it will turn off for it to be cleaned… someone must completely take it apart to clean it. If it is put back together improperly or not clean enough it will shut off after about an hour and you must clean it again. 

Former McDonalds Shift Manager

On Quora the responses to a similar question were:

Even for machines that produce products like the McFlurry, the cleaning and maintenance required is such that it is easily among the most hated tasks to be performed… a milkshake or McFlurry is a product that is usually made by the cashier. … Each McFlurry represents an added task… any request for that item represents added work for the employee with no benefit to accomplishing any of their main tasks faster… there is little downside to simply not providing this service when at all possible. 

Former McDonald’s Employee

1. Laziness…
2. The cleaning process…
3. …complicated piece of machinery…

Current McDonald’s Employee

McDonald's Shaking Up It's Shake Machine?

The New Shake Machine? At least this one was working.

McD’s in Reno, Nevada

I made nine visits to six McDonald’s restaurants in the Reno, Nevada area this week. All occurred in the afternoon to early evening. I had four instances where the shake machine was out of order; however, in one instance they said it would be ready in a few minutes, and we (my son was with me) scored our first Shamrock Shake of the season at that location.

The three other times that the shake machine was out of order all occurred at one restaurant on three consecutive days. Five other McDonald’s had working shake machines. 

Will It Be Hunting Season For the Shamrock Shake?

With the famous Shamrock Shake season coming up, will it be hunting season for those who are seeking the elusive green treat? Probably not. If the one problem location is removed from my unscientific survey, the shake machines at most of the McDonald’s restaurants could be considered reliable during peak hours.

It also seems that based on the comments of past employees, the reliability of the shake machine might be more a question of the quality of the employees and their management. I will certainly be cautious of McDonald’s locations that seem to have shake machine issues because it is likely that their problems are not isolated bad machine maintenance.

Space Exploration Isn’t Profitable, It’s Transformative

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Space exploration ROI (return on investment) sucks. Exploration doesn’t make money, it costs money. It’s not a place for private business. If the question of space exploration is, “What’s in it for me?” you’re asking the wrong question. Space exploration isn’t profitable, but it is transformative.

Apollo Saturn V

The five massive Rocketdyne F-1 engines of the Apollo Saturn V first stage booster. Twice the lift of SpaceX’s 27-engine Falcon Heavy

Exploration Creates Economic Growth

In the 15th century, when the government of Spain financed Columbus to explore a new trade route to the markets in Asia, he discovered the Caribbean. He brought back a few captured natives from the Bahamas, some gold, and a few birds. It didn’t pay for the cost of the voyage.

But what came next transformed Spain and Europe. The year of the discovery of the Americas (1492) is considered the start of the Golden Age of Spain. After Columbus first voyage to the new world, Spain continued with more voyages, and eventually the full exploitation of Central and South America. Most historians focus on the resources that were returned to Spain, but what happened at home was even more important. 

Shipbuilding entered a new phase of design and construction. Jobs at home created a new wealth for the working class. Craftsmen, as well as sailors, became vital to the needs of the Age of Discovery. That new wealth created secondary jobs, along with new businesses selling imported goods. All of this economic growth was a direct result of the exploration pushed forward by the government of Spain.

Exploration created massive economic growth for decades, but exploration didn’t give an immediate ROI for Spain.

The Model Space Program

Not all space programs are successful. The Soviet space program became mired in conflicts between good science and engineering versus political priorities. The administration was pushed into risky decisions and failure was not without punishment. In addition, new technology was considered a State secret so the development of commercial uses was not an option.

The United States approach for the space program was for the use of non-military government oversight of private contractors. The government remained accountable to the voters, which kept both the government and their contractors in a stable environment for decision making.

The result was a massive increase in highly-skilled, well-paid jobs that created a new wealth for the middle class. Space exploration supercharged the United States economy and created new technology that continued to develop for decades after the Apollo program ended. It was the model space exploration program.

A Failure of Vision

Once the United States had landed on the Moon conservatives and liberals united to kill the space program. Liberals could only see the money being spent to explore space as money that could have been used to help the poor. Conservatives could only see money not going into their pockets. As it would turn out, both viewpoints were flawed.

Money spent on for space exploration created new, high paying jobs that created a need for improved education and pumped billions of dollars into the economy that created new tax revenue that could be used for government programs to help the poor engage in the new economy.

The flood of new money into the economy helped small companies grow dramatically while increasing profits. It didn’t result in the wealthy becoming dramatically richer, but it did create prosperity that helped everyone.

Missing Greatness

Today the United States is wading in a stagnant economy. Wages aren’t growing as fast as prices are rising. The available jobs pay so poorly that they aren’t worth the cost of working them. If we are missing greatness, it is because we are killing our economy with a focus on profit for a few.

The goal of private business is never to create jobs, nor is it to create high paying jobs. Jobs are created when business has been given a mission to accomplish something. Giving tax breaks does not give business a reason to create more jobs, nor pay employees more.

However, if our country made a serious commitment to the goal of expanding space exploration, and funded it with the tax breaks we are giving billionaires, we would see our economy transformed. It is that simple.

Corp USA: “The Stock Market Requires We Underpay You”

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The stock market face plant last week proves one thing. The investor economy is based on human cruelty. Repeatedly analysts gave a reason for the mini-crash in the stock market:  Fear of wages finally moving upward. Investors like it when wages don’t keep pace with inflation, but the moment they fear that wages might increase the stock market tanks.

Dow Jones Face Plant

Dow Jones (DJIA) drops with fears of higher wages

Analysts explained that higher wages would lead to inflation, which makes investors look smart, not cruel. So, was inflation the real reason, or was it just about higher wages?

It’s About Wages Stupid

Fortunately, this week gave us the answer. The measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI.) This week the latest CPI report came out for January. If the CPI was up, it would confirm the fear of inflation, if not, then all was well and the stock market would continue to climb.

The CPI news?

Eight straight months of higher consumer prices

The CPI went up, big time. It was confirmed. Inflation is here…but wait, where is the big fall in the stock market? Why is it going up? You guys, it’s inflation! You’re not supposed to invest when inflation is on the rise! That’s what you said last week!

No surprise here. Investors don’t like workers getting more pay. Inflation has nothing to do with investor fears. Eight straight months of increased consumer prices and January has the largest increase, so inflation is real, but investors don’t seem to care.

The truth is that corporations and investors don’t like higher wages for working people. It is a threat. Investors wear their heart on their stock chart when it comes to better wages. The steady growth in the stock market while wages remained stagnant for workers is the best indicator how a rising stock market reflects the depravity of investors.

To Love Your Child, Be Honest With Them

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Children don’t have a choice. Parents are parents and they are human. The child-parent bond can be amazing, it can be non-existent, or it can be anything between. For those that desire a good relationship with her or his child, trust has to be the foundation. A child has to know that regardless of everything else, his or her parent is honest with them.

That is not always easy. There are times when it is harder to be honest with a son or daughter, especially when the truth reveals the human flaws of the parent. In those circumstances, avoidance of the truth may seem to be what is best; however, the risk is that the child will discover the truth and then everything about the relationship can be called into question.

My Lesson In Trust

A year ago I learned that my Dad was not my father. It is difficult, if not impossible, to absorb news like that all at once. After six decades of attachment to the family name of ‘Kiser,’ it took awhile to put the new information into a perspective. It did not radically change my life, but it did dismantle half of the foundation that my life was built upon.

After learning the truth I began to ask the questions that I had never considered. Did my Dad know? Did my real biologic Father know? Did my Mom know, or did she just wonder? Who else knew? My Mom, Dad, and biological Father have passed away, so I couldn’t get their version of the truth. I tried to imagine the various scenarios of what happened and how they would have played out.

Fortunately, there was a person still alive who knew what happened and he shared his account of the situation. It answered my questions and uncovered the trauma and resolution surrounding my birth. I learned that my father knew I was not his son while I was still in my mother’s womb. My mother probably realized who the father was as soon as she knew that she was pregnant.

The Hard Road

Despite the emotional trauma caused, everyone involved came to do what was best. It was best that the two families involved stayed intact. They did. It was best for me to be raised as a Kiser. I was. It was best that everyone moved forward without succumbing to the feelings of betrayal, anger, and pride. They did.

There was one lingering problem. My parents apparently made the decision to never tell me the truth. At the time that was probably a good decision, but put my parents and others in the role of keeping a major secret from me. That would have repercussions for decades.

The Sleeping Monster

A major secret is a sleeping monster. It lies waiting. To avoid disturbing the secret, people work her or his life around it desperately hoping it never wakes up. It creates terror and fear in those who know and makes fools out of those who don’t.

In addition to my parents, many people knew the truth about my parentage. How it affected their behavior towards me I will never know. I do know that after I left home I saw the relationship other people had with their parents and I realized that there was something different about my relationship with my parents.

For most of my early childhood, my Dad was gone during the week, living ‘on-the-job.’ My mother rarely was involved with me or my school activities. I decided that she probably was burnt out after raising three other boys. That explanation probably accurate, but now I know that my relationship with my parents was built around a secret. Now I know they were walking around the sleeping monster all of my life. Now that monster is awake and I have to deal with it without them.

If you love your children, be honest with them.

Reno Nevada Mayor Schieve Declares She is Uninformed

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Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve held a press conference on Thursday, 1 February. It’s purpose was to inform the public about an accusation filed with the City of Reno in October (or November) regarding a sexual assault claim. Mayor Schieve’s three-minute-or-less press conference was an apparent attempt to reprise the role of Sergeant Schultz from the 1960’s television show, Hogan’s Heroes.

If You Can’t Dazzle Them With Brilliance…

Mayor Schieve and the staff of the City of Reno were apparently responding the previous day’s article in the Reno Gazette-Journal. It disclosed a sexual assault claim by a City of Reno contract employee against former Revitalization Manager Bill Dunne. He allegedly exposed himself in a car to the employee and attempted to force her to perform a sex act.

During her micro-press conference Mayor Schieve said:

Last night I was made aware of sexual assault allegations and I want to make sure that our residents know that we take this extremely seriously at the city of Reno…

Mayor Hillary Schieve

In the press conference, Reno city officials made a point to note that no police report was filed. It is unclear why almost no information was disclosed during the media event, other than to announce that the victim did not file a police report.

Reno officials did not explain why the Human Resources Director, nor the City Attorney failed to report the complaint to police. They were aware of the complaint in November. Nor did they explain why the man accused of a sex crime was allowed to resign without further action. Nor did they explain why the Mayor and the City Council members were not made aware of the situation immediately.

Bill Dunne resigned two weeks (10 November 2017) after the complaint of sexual harassment and assault was reported to Reno’s Human Resources Director. Dunne stated that his reason for resignation:

I feel I have done everything I was hired to do, so I am tendering my resignation to pursue other opportunities…

Bill Dunne

Dunne said nothing about being accused of sexual assault.

Victim Feared Reprisal

The victim of Dunne’s alleged behavior waited until she was about to resign before making her complaint against him because she feared of reprisals. When she gave her notice and informed to the Human Resources Director of the complaint, she indicated a desire to stay on until a replacement could be found. According to the statement, the Human Resources Director told the victim:

Today can be your last day if you’re uncomfortable. We can just turn off your email and mail you your check

Reno Attorney’s Staff: Don’t Believe the Women!

The press conference came almost three weeks after another Reno Gazette-Journal article about sexual harassment complaints against the Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger. This article discloses a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two female city employees.

In that suit, they claim that Clinger sexually harassed them. Among the accusations, he is accused of touching one of the woman on her leg with sexual intent. He is also accused of sending inappropriate text messages; however, Clinger used an application to delete the messages.

After three women filed sexual harassment complaints with the Human Resources department, Reno City Attorney Karl Hall investigated the claims. Two of the three women filed the lawsuit after they felt Hall blew the investigation.

In his motion to dismiss the women’s lawsuit, Reno’s Deputy Attorney William Cooper accused the women and two others of conspiring against City Manager Clinger. The City’s conspiracy theory suggests an effort to force him out of his position.

Cooper cited an ‘independent’ review, paid for by the city, that confirmed the primary allegations as meritorious. It also determined the secondary allegations could not be verified. Cooper’s motion ignored the findings of the primary allegations. His motion to dismiss seemed to based on the findings of the secondary allegations.

Good Ole Boys Club

Perhaps not ironically, Clinger was the person who hired Dunne in 2016 after Dunne faced political pressure to leave his job as Commissioner for Planning and Development in Troy, New York.

As for the City Manager, Clinger quit his position in October 2016 and was hired a few months later by Governor Brian Sandoval as a Senior Advisor on issues relating to economic development, workforce development, and education. Clinger was given a $288,000 severance deal from the City of Reno. He is now being paid over $117,000 in his role for Governor Sandoval. 

Both of the women involved left their positions late in 2016. They stated that the work environment at the City of Reno had become too hostile to continue employment.

Four women felt they had to end their employment with the City of Reno because of a sexually toxic environment, but Mayor Hillary Schieve wants the citizens to know that she takes sexual assault seriously…after she reads about it in the news.

Forget Stock Market & Bitcoin, Invest in Mendadent Toothpaste

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Those who like to invest in non-existent products might want to rethink his or her strategy considering last week’s mini-stock market crash…uhm, correction. The stock market single week 2,000 plus point losses and Bitcoins $6,000 plus single-month losses left investors with a lot less value in a very short time. Time to think toothpaste.

That’s correct, if a person wants to invest in something of increasing value, try toothpaste. Specifically, Mentadent toothpaste.

Amazon Ad

Only $89..99 for a two pack refill of Mentadent toothpaste!

Supply and Demand of Toothpaste

This price is real. Mentadent on Amazon.com is currently selling at $89.99/two pack refills. The reality is that this is the last of the line for Mentadent. They discontinued production of the toothpaste last year and now the last remaining packages are selling at a premium price.

Unfortunately, this price is probably the maximum price of Mentadent on the market. It has a limited shelf life and soon any remaining unsold product will be worthless after its expiration date has passed.

End of a Personal Era

I discovered this ‘investment’ when I was trying to order more for my personal use. When I met my spouse she was using Mentadent because she didn’t like half crumpled tubes of toothpaste sitting on the bathroom sink. I liked the taste of Mentadent and gave up the product I’d been using.

That was 23 years ago. My adoption of Mentadent was driven by my aversion squeeze tubes and to the limited choices on the market. I had always hated Colgate, and I had used Crest or Aim most of my life. The switch to Mentadent felt like ‘sticking it to the Man.’

It has been harder to find Mentadent in the last few years as some retail stores stopped stocking it, but somehow I always managed to locate a new source. Now I have reached the end the Mentadent rope. I have to switch toothpaste. Back to ugly and awkward squeeze tubes.

Damn.

[COUNT TO 500:  501st Article in PAULx]

500th WordPress PAULx Post: Milestone of Words

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I have reached a milestone of writing on this WordPress site. This is the 500th article! It has taken me eight years and a lot of typing. For this occasion, I’m writing 500 words and breaking it down into five topics of 100 words each.

Lunar eclipse 31 JAN 2018

Writing

Writing is a gift that is given to few people. For everyone else writing is learned. After writing 500 articles on this site, and many more words on other sites, I have improved, but I’m still barely a teenager when it comes to writing. Anyone can become a great writer, it just depends on how much you practice the art.

I am not a ravenous reader of books, but I am an admirer of plays. William Shakespeare is a hero of mine. At a time that writing was a rare talent, he became a legend. He created life by using words.

Life

I’m not sure we are meant to understand life. It would be like being given the answers before we take the test. I believe that our life is meant to teach us who we are and in the end, it comes down to a simple question:  Did we avoid being deceivers?

It is easy to determine a person’s inner strength of character based on how honest he or she is to themselves and to others. Rotary’s Four-Way Test is a great guide for determining character. It’s not a matter of saying it. It’s a matter of doing it. Trump can’t.

Four-Way Test

Relationships

I believe life is about positive relationships. Time by yourself is necessary but most your life should be spent engaged with others. Interaction creates a balance. When we are alone we have no alternate view and that is dangerous. The human brain likes to create an idea and then make a cozy nest for that idea to be sheltered from opposing thoughts. That makes for weak thinking.

Relationships force us to expose our ideas to others which either reinforces or challenges them. That makes for a richer life and stronger and more balanced thinking. Negative relationships should be avoided.

Communication

Relationships are based on communication. Not necessarily by words. In fact, I believe the deepest communication occurs through intimacy. Words can be used to deceive and manipulate others. For some people, their primary use of words is to deceive. Intimacy is not easily faked.

When communication is used to express true thoughts and emotion it builds relationships. This doesn’t mean that everyone will accept or agree with those thoughts and emotions, but I believe we are meant to have relationships only with people who are accepting and honest with us. Communication binds us to some and disconnects us from others.

Wisdom

Who am I to talk about wisdom? I do not have a master’s degree, nor a doctorate in any field. I am not a shining example of what to do. I have no great mind that spews forth great thoughts. I am one micro entity in a universe that would not recognize me from a speck of dust.

I do have awareness. I have senses that interpret the world around me. I have life and that gives me experiences to reflect on. Perhaps wisdom is simply the ability to measure our own experiences and understand good outcomes from bad ones.

[COUNT TO 500:  500th Article in PAULx]

Snowpack is No Longer a Viable Water Supply

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The Sierra Nevada mountains. In the winter, cold, moist air off the Pacific Ocean is pushed up over them. The air loses the ability to hold the water vapor as it rises up and snow precipitates out. The snow piles up and waits for Spring and as the Summer approaches the warm air melts the snowpack and water flows. That is the source of the water supply for California and western Nevada. Sometimes.

When water flows in the Sierra, life is good

Snowpack: The Alpha and Omega of Western Water Management

Sometimes the snow doesn’t fall. The creeks and rivers dwindle. The water level in the lakes and reservoirs drop and a drought begins. It is a cycle that has repeated many times in the western United States, but not when so many people have been dependent on the annual water flow.

CA Drought Wet Year History

Not Good: CA drought versus wet years

In this part of the country, it is all about the snowpack. If the Sierra Nevada mountains have a good snowpack, there is water. If not, well… This is the model of water management in California and western Nevada and in the last few decades have proven that it is not a good one. Drought is not an exception in the West, but the rule. As the population grows, the Sierra Nevada snowpack becomes the enemy.

Global Warming:  Raining on the Snowpack Parade

There is growing problem with the reliance on the snowpack. Global warming. The impact of the Earth’s atmosphere retaining more of the Sun’s energy may be that snowfall may become rare, or non-existent in temperate climates.

Beyond the issue of drought is the issue of rain versus snow. The West has reservoirs and lakes, but that storage is not enough if the precipitation falls as rain, not snow. Rain also is not as efficient as snow in replenishing the deep aquifers that have been used to supplement the surface water.

Up the Creek With No Water

Drought is the new normal in regions in the West dependent on snowpack. The current response has been to push for water restrictions. This is not a flawed approach as the water users have become accustomed to the mindless waste of fresh water; however, reducing the use of water is not going to solve the problem.

Global warming is causing the precipitation to fall as rain, not snow. If water management in California and Nevada can’t learn to transition off the snowpack model it won’t matter how much water is saved. You can’t reduce the use of water when there is no water to save.

SIDE NOTE:  Creator of the Snowpack Survey

On the University of Nevada (UoNV) campus in Reno, Nevada there is a building named the ‘Church Fine Arts Building.’ Some even make the mistake of calling it the Church ‘of’ Fine Arts, which might be appropriate for some who dedicates his or her life to the Arts.

Dr. Church in Sierra Nevada range

Dr. James E. Church on a snowpack survey

However, the building is named after the UoNV professor, Dr. James E. Church, who died in 1959. He taught Latin, German, and Fine Arts at the university from 1892 to 1939. He was not employed as a scientist at the UoNV; however, Dr. Church invented the snowpack survey that is still used today to determine the water content of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range. 

It is said that he and his wife’s ashes are in the cornerstone of the Church Fine Arts Building.

Dr. James E. Church

[COUNT TO 500:  499th Article in PAULx]

North Korea Bizzare Olympics Stunt

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Why is North Korea now best friends with South Korea? It doesn’t make sense. Their desire to be a part of the Olympics seems sudden and out of character for a regime that rejects any effort to be diplomatic. Since he took over North Korea in late 2011, Supreme Leader Kim Jung-un has not been the model of rational behavior so why now is he making the effort to reunite with his sworn enemy, South Korea?

The Olympic rings in Hoenggye town, South Korea

At the time I’m writing this it is about 9:00 pm PST on Thursday, 8 February. The opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics will begin in about six hours (8:00 pm KST in South Korea, 3:00 am PST.) My hope is that when I wake tomorrow morning that there will not be ‘Breaking News’ from the Olympics. I am not an expert on North Korea, but taking part in a public show of world unity is not what I would expect from Kim Jung-un.

A military parade the day before the opening ceremonies?

Mixed Messages, Being Loud and Clear?

It also seems suspicious that at the same time he is reaching out to South Korea, he also plays up his military with a massive public parade on the day prior to the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. It cannot be a coincidence, as it was clearly intended to be an aggressive display.

Many intelligence agencies around the world closely watch North Korea 24/7/365 so it is unlikely that they could be planning a major strike against South Korea during the Olympic games. Satellites are most likely tracking all North Korea military movements and someone would be aware of any questionable actions. 

However, no one can track all actions by agents of an enemy country and North Korea doesn’t need to make a military strike to cause chaos at in South Korea.

Shadows of 1976?

The 1976 Summer Olympic games in Munich, Germany commanded international attention when the athletes from Israel were kidnapped, and eventually died in a rescue attempt. The incident changed the Olympics from a place of harmony and sportsmanship to an event of terror. That would seem to be more in character with the motives of Kim Jung-un than an intention of good will.

[COUNT TO 500:  498th Article in PAULx]

66 Years Ago: A Princess in Africa Becomes Queen

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It’s an arguable point, but Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II sixty-six years ago today. Her father, King George VI died on 6 February 1952, but she and her husband, Prince Phillip, were in Kenya at the time. In London, Elizabeth was declared Queen immediately; however, it took her two days to return to London where she was again declared Queen in person.

Princess before she became Queen

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in Kenya 1952

A Princess in Africa Becomes Queen of England

A gap in succession is not proper, so her reign officially began on 6 February, not 8 February. The two days is of little importance in during a reign of 66 years. Still, today is worth remembering that she was Queen in Africa before she became Queen of the United Kingdom.

Queen Elizabeth II the Legend

At 91, she is the legend by which all royalty shall be measured. She has seen more change in her life than any British King or Queen in the history of the United Kingdom. She ruled not by the power that many of her predecessors had, but by the sheer force of her will. Some may credit various Prime Ministers and Parliament for instituting the changes that shaped Great Britain today; however, Queen Elizabeth was always a factor in every decision made.

Her unique position as the icon of the United Kingdom gave her country an image of strength and constancy even as England dealt with the changes of political power and turmoil in the world. She is the rare image of female leadership in a world dominated by male leaders.

Cruel Burden

Despite her long service Queen Elizabeth II does not show her 91 years. She is a remarkable human by any standards, but no one in 1952 could have imagined that she would still be serving as Queen to the end of the century and beyond. Few can imagine the weight of responsibility she has honorably endured through the decades.

The contrast of leadership of Queen Elizabeth II and other leaders, such as Donald Trump, her Majesty shows the model of great character versus perverse character of weak men. To maintain that model for 66 years is more than could be expected of any human being, but her Highness has accomplished that and more. At all times, she has been the Rock of the world.

God Save the Queen. 

[COUNT TO 500:  497th Article in PAULx]

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Defies the Odds

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I’m not a fan of SpaceX, nor of Elon Musk, but one can only observe yesterday’s Falcon Heavy launch with awe. It was brilliant. One thing that Elon Musk and I agreed on was that the chance it was not going to end in a massive fireball was slim. It is hard to convey how unlikely a successful launch was considering all the factors involved. The people working at SpaceX did at least one trillion things right to achieve the results of yesterday’s launch.

Taken from live feed of Tesla Roadster in orbit

Starman takes a test drive

SpaceX and Musk Had a Great Day

A sample of what went right:

  • Other than weather, the launch had no delays. That is unusual with a prototype rocket test.
  • An engine ignited and worked as intended. Multiply that by 27.
  • A side booster that was essentially a rocket in itself, did exactly what it suppose to do without any new issues common in a prototype test. Multiply that by 2.
  • The core booster functioned as intended and delivered the second stage and the payload, a Tesla car, into position for a boost into orbit.
  • A side booster completed a complex task of a powered relanding withing a few meters of the target zone. Multiply that by two.
  • A side booster was reused from a previous mission. Multiply that by 2.
  • The second stage booster fired its engines, times three, sending the payload into a heliocentric orbit that will extend beyond Mars, and near the Asteroid Belt.
  • A team of thousands of people performed their functions in synch allowing the payload to achieve orbit.

Hold My Beer and Watch This

The only small item that did not go as planned was the failed landing of the core booster on the Drone ship. The engineers have determined that only one of the needed three engines for landing had reignited. Until they can analyze the issue, I’m going with the explanation that the core booster was so excited about the success of the launch that it thought it would go for the biggest splash. It was successful.

Regardless, it was a minor misstep in a successful mission-impossible-type achievement.

Bye Bye Starman

Late on Tuesday the second stage of the Falcon Heavy successfully ignited for a third and final time sending ‘Starman’ (the alternate human in the spacesuit) and the Telsa Roadster into a heliocentric orbit that will take it to Mars and beyond. His orbit may last for over a million years, but the car won’t. All the exposed, non-metalic parts of the car will be no match for the radiation, heat, and cold of space. The paint job will suffer as well.

Starman’s out-for-a-drive orbit

Still, the pièce de résistance was the video of Starman in orbit above Earth. I’ll leave you with these images I captured from the live feed. Below that you can watch the video of the launch. Well done, SpaceX.

[COUNT TO 500:  496th Article in PAULx]

GOP Memo is Last Straw

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Last Friday the United State of America reached a point of no return when Republicans attempted to cast doubt on Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians. Loyal Trumpster, Representative Devin Nunes, ignored all warnings and common sense in a desperate move to discredit the U.S. Intelligence community with a GOP memo claiming they were doing the bidding of the Democrats.

Trump and GOP Now Co-Conspirators

Any possible hope of Donald Trump and the Republican party maintaining their legitimacy as elected representatives ended with the release of a Republican-authored House Intelligence Committee memo that reconstructs facts to fit to create a manufactured story. Not only does the memo create a false version of the facts, but Trump was already promising a Republican that he was planning to release the memo as he was walking out after his of the State of the Union (or Uniom) speech.

Watergate Without a Democratic Congress to Stop Him

We are witnessing a more corrupt version of the Nixon administration without a Democratic majority in Congress to act on behalf of the people of our country. There is ample evidence to warrant a serious investigation into Donald Trump, his family, and his campaign regarding collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election. The attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation by Trump and congressional Republicans is meant to reinforce the support of Trumpsters. It is an attempt to divide the country, not claim innocence.

Unfortunately, Trumpsters would likely not accept full video and audio recordings of collusion as evidence, so the release of the secret memo is simply a way for Trumpsters to maintain their belief that Trump is just a misunderstood genius. Trumpsters now have a way to reassure themselves that any evidence against Trump and his campaign is all part of a conspiracy by Democrats.

It is difficult to imagine a path toward normalcy in our country without some type of violent retaliation by some Trumpsters who will claim that Trump and the Republicans were illegitimately removed from office.  

[COUNT TO 500:  495th Article in PAULx]

Stock Market Symptom of Great Depression, Not Cause

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Investors seem to be the last to know that the economy is a disaster. It is true that the downturn in the stock markets can trigger negative reactions in the economy, but those reactions are an acknowledgment of existing problems, such as low wages, overextended on loans, etc. In every case of an economic downturn, the stock market was a symptom of the larger economic failures and not the cause of the downturn.

Marchers seeking jobs

Post-Great Depression Life

Investor Greed-Based Denial

Investors are notorious for lying to themselves. The primary motivation of an investor is to make more money and that motivation compromises his ability to make informed judgments. Most investors and the computer-based programs they use are focused on what the crowd is doing. Investors review and respond to company and industry issues, but even if the facts indicate a problem that might threaten the future of the stock value, most investors will follow the actions of the rest of the market over any contrary information.

Stock Market:  It’s About Buying Stupid

Stock markets are ruled by buyers. If most investors want to buy a stock the value goes up. If most investors don’t want to buy the stock the value goes down. Individual stock values are driven by buyers.

However, when investors realize that major economic factors and/or significant world events will have a negative impact on all stock values, the markets collapse. A market crash occurs when sellers of stocks can’t find any buyers at any price. That is why some market collapses have been stalled by a major investor buying up stock to prop up the values of the larger market.

Economic Factors of the Great Depression

The major underlying economic causes of the Great Depression were low wages, weak consumer buying, high consumer debt, and depressed agricultural prices. Despite these warning signs investors continued to speculate on higher and higher stock values. They figuratively ran off the cliff unaware that there was no ground underneath them.

1929 Stock Market Crash

The Dow Jones Industrials 1929 Crash

The irony is that investors had multiple warnings before the big crash on 29 October 1929. In March and May of that year, the stock markets experienced mini-crashes that were warned of economic dysfunction; however, by June investors were back to rampant speculation. By September the stock markets began to stumble leading to Black Thursday (24 October) and Black Monday (28 October) and finally Black Tuesday (29 October.) After that, no one held any delusions of the state of the economy.

Market Crash Indicators:  Rapid Advances, Wild Speculation 

It is consistent that rapid growth and high exchange volumes in the stock markets are the best predictors of an impending crash. As the key indicators warn of economic downturn investors seem to move into a frenzied state of buying and selling. This behavior suggests that investors are aware of the coming downturn and are attempting to pass around stock as fast as possible to make money at a high value, but then selling off the stock before its value collapses.

DJIA 10 years

2017 DJIA indicates a frenzied feeding event

2018 Looks Familiar

The economic situation of 2018 has many similarities to the 1929 pre-Depression environment. Wages have been stagnant for decades. Consumer debt is high and consumer savings is low. Multiple economic factors such as housing prices are out of touch with reality.

The scariest indicator predicting a downturn is the frenzied volume of shares being bought and sold. It indicates that investors are attempting to play ‘hot potato’ stocks in an attempt to harvest their value while the market is going up, but sell the stock quickly to avoid being caught before the stock market crashes. The current markets have no confidence in the future of our economy and that is more revealing than anything investors actually say in public.

[COUNT TO 500:  494th Article in PAULx]

Housing Prices Edge Closer to Catastrophe

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For the last twenty years, the United States has been building a tower of paper wealth. Over time the paper value of homes on the market has far outpaced inflation and wage growth. The current realty market has little connection to reality and we are on the brink of a housing catastrophe.

Price With No Reality Check

The real estate market is inherently flawed. Some claim that it is a perfect example of supply and demand, but that is not accurate. Real estate is the perfect example of a capitalistic market where common sense and ethics are overlooked because greed has blinded the people involved.

Prices exceed the bubble of 2007

Home Prices Heading Toward a Cliff

Housing prices are not governed by a person’s (or family’s) ability to pay. They are governed by a real estate professional who has a financial interest in driving the price up, and an owner that wants as much money as possible. The buyer taking all the risk and if the housing prices don’t continue upward, they lose.

So why would anyone buy a house when prices are already too high?

The ‘Investment’ Loophole

Historically, the one house, one owner or owner-occupied concept kept a check on housing prices. If the buyer couldn’t pay the mortgage, he or she would lose their home. That was a big risk. Today’s investment buyer risks little if anything if they can’t pay a second home mortgage. She or he may lose the home if the investment fails but is a loss of potential future revenue and not a personal crisis.

Investment housing creates artificial shortages because one owner can own multiple homes, removing those from the overall inventory. The lower the supply, the higher the price. In 2016, the number of owner-occupied homes in the United States was 63.6%. California’s owner-occupied rate is 55.3% and at $524,000, its median home price is over double compared to $206,300 for the United States.

Median home price in four cities compared to U.S. average

Another 2007?

The current median price for a home in the United States is higher than it was during the housing bubble in 2007. Any shock to the economy would erase the paper home value and flood the market with another round of investment homes being dumped on the market.

It is a crisis that is easy to anticipate, but no one does. When the next recession hits the United States will once again suffer through a massive drop in housing prices as multi-house owners dump their investment homes and walk away.

[COUNT TO 500: 493rd Article in PAULx]

The Plantar Wart and HPV

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When I was a teenager I had a plantar wart (or plantar’s wart) on my foot. My small town doctor (before the days of ‘General Practitioner’) burned it off with acid. I remember that it was painful, but I was at the age that any medical or dental procedure was painful. What I didn’t know was that a plantar wart is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV.) Yes, the same virus that we think about that has been attributed to incidents of genital cancers, including cervical cancer.

Plantar Wart caused by HPV

Plantar Wart Caused by HPV, But Not THAT HPV Strain

The good news is that a plantar wart is an infection that is usually considered to be minor and will often resolve with or without treatment. The bad news is that while the HPV vaccine (GARDASIL 9) is effective against nine different strains of genital-related warts, it is not effective against the strains of skin (cutaneous) warts, such as the plantar wart. The great news is that if the plantar wart is not the same strain as the HPV that causes genital warts.

Although a plantar wart can occur at any age, it tends to be a childhood foot issue. Ten percent of children have plantar warts and the most likely age to between 12 and 16. The virus is transmitted from skin surface to skin surface, but at least one source indicated that transmission from another surface, (e.g.; floor) is possible. It is believed that the virus enters the skin through a break in the surface of the skin, such as a cut or sliver.

Still, Vaccinate Against the Other HPV Strains!

Though the HPV vaccine is not effective against the Plantar Wart strain of HPV, it is critical that all children are vaccinated at the appropriate age (between ages 9 and 13) to reduce the risk of female and male genital cancers later in life. The vaccination must occur before the person becomes infected by the virus (i.e.; before she or he becomes sexually active.)

There is a clear link between the strains of HPV that affect the genital areas and cancer. In a study of over 1900 women with cervical cancer, 90% had the signature of the human papillomavirus. Cancer is not a gift you want to give to your children.

[COUNT TO 500: 492nd Article in PAULx]

Should You Become a Parent?

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! …okay, that’s out of my system. The following is my opinion of whether a person should become a parent. I don’t have a degree in child development, nor do I work with children or parents in any capacity, other than being a parent and the routine contact with other parents. Not being qualified to talk about a topic, including parenting, has never stopped me before, so why would today be any different?

The Smith's and the Waskey's: Parents Extraordinaire

Parenting:  Understanding who is in charge…(hint: it’s the one in front)

Being a parent is the most important, full-time job in the world. It has been around since…well, forever. There are people who are amazing parents and there are people who should never be allowed near children. Most of us fall in the grey area in the middle.

There are definitely people who should never become parents. It not a majority, but it is a significant number. It is unfortunate that there is not a test for parenting. The greatest crime in the history of the world is a parent that inflicts physic and/or emotional abuse on their son or daughter or neglects her or him. 

You? A Parent?

As for the rest of the world, they are the people who should be or are parents. The question is whether or not YOU should be a parent. Here are my thoughts:

You Don’t Like Children?

You may not think that you should become a parent. It’s possible you are correct, but I know a lot of people who were absolutely convinced they didn’t want children, only to have their first child born and hit them a powerful dose of parent dust. Even if you don’t like children, perhaps you just don’t like other children. You never know until you have your own child.

You Will Get the Child You Deserve

I’ve seen this time and time again. A parent is fastidious and super-organized. She has a child that is messy and disorganized. A parent is an introvert. He has a son who is loud and bossy. It is part of the grand scheme. A child is, by design, your teacher and you will learn how to love the behaviors you hate, or you will die.

We spend our young adult lives figuring out who we are, what we like, and what we don’t like, only to have some pint-sized monomaniac systematically shred every value we thought we had. Being a good parent makes you a better person, even if you thought you already were.

Being a Parent is the Reason For Life

There are very few people who are known for their personal contributions to the world. Queen Elizabeth II, William Shakespeare, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, J. K. Rowling, are some examples. The rest of us will not be known for our great work but will be known by our children. If we are lucky we might have a descendent that accomplishes something outside of being a parent, but being a parent is the only accomplishment that a person can claim is unique to them.

You Will Fail, Fall Short, But Still Succeed

A good parent fails on a daily basis. I don’t know why, but that is a reality. A good parent can’t let these failures to change her or his enthusiasm for parenting. He or she will discover how insignificant these failures are after the child becomes an adult. I don’t know why. It’s a mystery.

Should You Be a Parent?

Becoming a parent changes your life. If a parent attempts to fight against the change a child makes in her or his life, they will be unhappy. A person who lives all his or her life without becoming a parent has either failed at life or found a substitute for parenting in their life. They may have had great adventures, become a teacher or a mentor, explored their creativity, dedicated themselves to an enterprise or organization, or followed some other path that defined his or her life.

But as a parent, your life becomes defined by the simple act of connecting your life to another with the intent of serving her or his needs until such time that they can do it on their own. After that, you get to watch and be amazed.

You should be a parent if you have the capacity to discover how important, and insignificant you are in the universe.

[COUNT TO 500: 491st Article in PAULx]

Some Links To Consider

Are You Ready to be a Parent?

12 Things You Should Know About Becoming a Parent

Five Reasons We Become Parents

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming a Parent

Should I Be a Parent Quiz

In Defense of Parenting:  They Can Be Amazing (If That’s What You Want)

Zuma Mystery: It’s Classified and Invisible…Apparently

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On 8 January 2018 the top-secret USA-280 satellite, as known as Zuma, went up, but a funny thing happened on the way to orbit. It was launched to the northeast at a vector of approximately 51° off the equator. A rough course estimate would have taken Zuma south of Great Britain, across Europe (possibly over France, Italy, and Greece,) over Saudia Arabia, and to the Indian Ocean west and/or south of India. According to one unnamed source, that is where the flight of USA-280 ended.

Zuma went down in the Indian Ocean?

Possible approximate flight path of Zuma

Elon We Have a Problem

The first hint that something was wrong is when Brian Mahlstedt, the launch narrator for SpaceX, paused for 90 seconds after announcing that the fairing (the cover around the satellite) would deploy “…any second..” and then changed the subject when he began talking again. This was also significant because he said that coverage of the launch phase of the would end AFTER the deployment of the fairings. Had the fairings deployed as scheduled it would not have crossed over into the coverage of the landing of the booster phase, which was what happened. 

The second hint was when SpaceX public relations (PR) didn’t spike the ball after the launch, praising its success.

By the next morning, sources were quietly saying that the satellite didn’t make orbit. Some seemed to suggest that the fault was with the SpaceX rocket. Some indicated the release platform of the satellite failed, keeping it connected to the upper stage as it fell back to Earth.

SpaceX came out with a qualified statement that didn’t deny the failure to achieve orbit but adamantly implied that the SpaceX rocket performed as intended. Northrop Grumman, the contractor for the super secret satellite and the release platform announced that it didn’t comment on confidential payloads. 

Disinformation Campaign

A few media sites suggested that maybe everything was fine and the satellite was safely in orbit. It was a tactic that a covert agency might employ to feed a few trusted sources with a disinformation campaign to calm the discussion of failure, and for the most part, it worked. Few follow-up reports have been made about USA-280.

The evidence, or lack of it, is telling a different story. Astronomy hobbyists, some highly skilled in finding and tracking human-made objects in orbit, have spent the past three weeks trying to find the ‘invisible’ satellite with no success. They have found a satellite lost over ten years ago, but no one has sighted the wayward Zuma satellite.

The Zuma Fairing Mystery?

The chronology of the fairing deployment is as follows: 

  • T+0:50 seconds (50 seconds after liftoff) – A SpaceX announcer begins a live and nearly continuous commentary regarding upcoming events with the Falcon 9 rocket, pausing only for those events to be confirmed by SpaceX control.
  • T+2:03 – SpaceX announcer pauses as four events related to second stage separation are about to begin.
  • T+3:06 – SpaceX announcer resumes commentary and confirms a successful second stage separation, and explains at T+3:15 that fairing separation “…should occur any second now” (ejection of protective nose shell around satellite.) He continues on to say that he will confirm the fairing separation after it occurs.
  • T+3:26 – SpaceX announcer begins a pause that lasts for one minute and thirty seconds.
  • T+4:57 – SpaceX announcer says, “Alright, so we’ll address the fairing deployment in a second once we have more information, but for now we’re going to shift our transition back to our secondary mission…”
  • T+5:17 – SpaceX announcer says, “…ah, quick sidebar here that we did get confirmation that the fairings did deploy.”

The launch of Zuma was delayed last November because of an issue with the fairing deployment. The question is whether the previous issue along with the 90-second pause in announcing the fairing deployment indicate there was an in-flight problem with the fairing.

Best Guess?

Everything is speculation. Based on what we know, this is my suggestion of the most likely scenario:

  • The fairing failed to deploy at the prescribed time, but it did deploy late. (That would fit SpaceX’s non-denial denial.)
  • The late deployment caused a decision to abort the flight so that it would come down in the Indian Ocean.
  • Had the abort been held off, the flight might have been able to continue, but point-of-no-return in the abort decision had been reached and the flight was terminated.

This would still allow SpaceX to claim its rocket performed ‘nominally’ and only fudge a little when not admitting the fairing issue. It would also suggest that there was disagreement during the ascent phase and that the incident is a sore spot for the parties involved…

…but you didn’t hear that from me.

[COUNT TO 500:  490th Article in PAULx]

2018 Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse

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The Almost Super, Blue, Blood Moon

The western United States experienced a total lunar eclipse this morning just before dawn. I set up at 4:30 AM on a vantage point at the northwestern edge of Reno, Nevada with my camera and my telescope. It wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the total solar eclipse in Oregon on 21 August of last year, but it was impressive.

Blood-red Moon

Eclipsed Moon over Reno, Nevada

Unfortunately, Reno has been plagued with near constant high clouds this winter and this morning was more of the same. It allowed a good view of the eclipse of the Moon with the naked eye, but all my telephoto images lacked the clarity that I would have liked.

Coyotes Have the Last Howl

The best moment for me occurred after totality ended. As the Moon came out of Earth’s shadow, multiple packs of coyotes began to howl. It was amazing and a little unnerving. One coyote had to be within 150 meters, just below me. It is obvious that Reno is surrounded by packs of coyotes taking advantage of the food sources in human communities…including cats and dogs. Below is a recording of one of the two howling events.

I have seen several lunar eclipses in my life and it is fascinating to watch the white-washed Moon suddenly change to deep brownish red just before totality. The Moon becomes three dimensional and looks like a ball hanging in the sky.

My God, it's surrounded by stars!

Blocking the Sun’s reflected light allows us to see the stars near the Moon (click on image to see larger version)

During this eclipse, I noticed more stars in my images than in past eclipses. The high clouds hid almost all the stars from the naked eye, but the telephoto lens was able to capture them.

Buh, bye Moon!

A last look at the partially eclipsed, Moon setting behind the hills

Not Quite Super

The media plugged this Moon for this eclipse as the ‘Super’ Moon. They can get away with that, but the Full Moon of 1 January was the 2018 Super Moon. It was closer to Earth when it reach the Full Moon phase at the beginning of the month. This Full Moon was also near apogee when it became a Full Moon, but not as close as the New Year’s Day Moon. It was close, but not quite; however, an “Almost Super Moon” doesn’t have the same zip as Super Blue Blood Moon.

It was entertaining to listen to reporters try and explain the terms when they had no clue what they were talking about. Makes me think that maybe I’m entertaining when people read my articles…but not for the reason I would hope.

If you like the coyotes howl, below is the second event that I recorded a few minutes after the first one. I didn’t have my camera focused on the Moon at first, so I added images over the sound at the beginning, but the end is the real time video of the post-totality Moon with the coyotes singing in the background.

Why We Elect the Wrong People?: #2 We Don’t Understand the Purpose of a Republic

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Bad politicians are elected because the most voters don’t understand the purpose of a republic and because we don’t understand, we are manipulated by those who tell us what we want to hear. When anyone complains about Congress or the President we have to keep in mind that it is the voter that puts them in office and we are to blame.

Voters are responsible for who is elected

Business Uses Republicans For Profit

Last weekend I published an article on why Big Business wants dumb politicians. Simply put, dumb politicians don’t interfere with unethical business practices and unethical business practices are more profitable than ethical business practices. Republicans have discovered that business will finance their campaigns if they are willing to restrict the function of government in a republic; however, Republicans are elected because they know how to manipulate a certain population in our country. 

The Purpose of a Republic

Democracy is only effective if everyone is capable of researching all the information needed to make an intelligent decision on every issue facing a society. Even then, the ‘majority rules’ of a democracy is inherently unfair to the minority.

A republic accepts that not everyone will have enough information to make intelligent decisions on issues confronting a country so representatives are elected to research the issues and make the decisions that benefit the greatest number of people. The catch is that the representatives have to be capable of understanding complex issues and have to be honorable in the discharge of the duties of her or his office.

Opinions Are Irrelevant

What most voters don’t understand is that their ‘opinion is irrelevant in a republic,… and it should be. Opinions are based on the knowledge of the person. If the person is not qualified, not educated, and/or not experienced enough to understand the issue, his or her opinion is defective. When a ‘person on the street’ is interviewed, they are the least likely to have a valid opinion.

GOP Uses the White Male Voter

Republicans use uneducated and/or biased voter opinion to their benefit. They target issues that are based on misinformed or uneducated opinion that the voter is passionate about and elevate those issues in the political arena. Often these issues are based on the personal bias of the voter. Primarily, Republicans target opinions of the uneducated white male and exploit them by saying what the white male wants to hear to gain his support and trust.

The GOP reinforces the white male voter’s belief that he is correct. Republicans blame the government and liberals as the cause of the issue and convince white men that they will fix the problem if elected. Once they have gained the trust of the voter, it is relatively easy to plant other ‘issues’ in his mind. The twisted logic of giving money to the rich will create more jobs is a prime example of how Republicans plant an idea that completely defies common sense, and yet, Republican voters accept it as fact.

The Cure

If our country hopes to elect better politicians, then we have to choose those who are highly intelligent and honorable. We also must stop expecting candidates to take positions on issues before they are elected. Candidates with strong positions are often attempting to say what people want to hear. If our elected officials are intelligent and honorable, they will make good choices.

We also have to understand that our opinion is irrelevant unless we have expertise regarding the issue. Everyone has an opinion, but the only ones that count are the one with knowledge of the issue.