Neil Peart Rest in Peace

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the iconic stereo opening of Rush's 2112. My father had passed away earlier that year and I was just being allowed to listen to something other than AM radio pop music (Convoy and Afternoon Delight leap to mind). I was immediately hooked on Rush. In fact, 2112 was the first 8 track tape I owned. Not that I expect anyone out there who stumbles on this to know or remember what an 8 track tape looked like. I became a real Rush fan after Moving Pictures and Exit Stage Left. I can still listen to those albums over and over all day. I used to fall asleep with them and Boston on an old turntable in my bedroom. Then Signals came out my senior year in high school and I remember going to see that concert with my friend Pat.

Ironically, my best friend in school is named Tom Sawyer and we graduated from Samuel Clemens High School. So the song Tom Sawyer has another meaning for those of us in that group. So many significant events in my life are associated with Rush songs that when I hear one of those songs again today I'm instantly transported back in time to one of the best times in my life. Subdivisions really spoke to us as we were not in the popular crowd in school and we were definitely outcast; nerds, geeks, and Dungeons & Dragons players.

It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Neil Peart. Rush was such an important part of our growing up and coming of age in a way that only music can be. The music and lyrics of so many songs summed up what we had gone through or were experiencing. That continued on well into our adult lives. So it was difficult the imagine that one of the icons of my youth had passed away, and it brought the finite reality of life back into my consciousness again. Death isn't something most people want to contemplate, but when your hero's and idols start passing on you realize that your time isn't really all that far off. So many things I would like to do again; do differently. Others that I would like to avoid doing at all.

I'll end with this; thank you for the music and for the memories. Rush enriched my life and made it better and I know they have touched many other lives the same way and so they have made their mark in this world and the ripples will touch many more lives for years to come.

Riding out 2019

I have been so busy with school this year that my riding has really suffered so I'm trying to make up for it here at the end. We'll see how well the weather will cooperate with me over the next four days. School begins again on the 21st of January for me.

Fake News

Fake News...

...I've Got Your Fake News Right Here, Don.

Donny, and later his stooge, Ted Cruz, have repeated the following false and misleading statements about Hunter Biden and Burisma. Now, I have no way of knowing if there is really any wrong doing here, but both Donny, Rudy, and Ted have offered only the following as any kind of indication; first, Hunter Biden has no background in oil of natural gas and is unqualified to be on a board for a natural gas company and second, Hunter Biden was paid $83K/month for his services (originally this was just $53K) which is ten times more than anyone on the board of Exxon Mobile is paid.

First, I pulled Exxon Mobil's 10k from the SEC. N.W. Duffin made $190,166.67 a month in cash compensation last year. Now, I don't know where Ted went to school, but 190,000 is not to the left of 83,000 on my number line and it's certainly not ten times less than 83,000. That's just math, let's not let basic algebra get in the way. So how about this statement:

And Hunter Biden — look, I’m from Houston. I know lots of people who serve on the board of natural gas companies. You know what they tend to have? They tend to have a background in geology and geophysics. They tend to know something about — about actually drilling for natural gas.

Hmm. Lets see...according to Exxon's corporate site here is the Board of Directors:

  • Susan K Avery - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (natural gas, geology, geophysics?)
  • Angela F. Braly - Brookfield Asset Management, Lowe's, and Proctor & Gamble (no natural gas here, Ted)
  • Ursula M. Burns - Veon, Nestle, and Xerox
  • Kenneth C. Frazier - Merck & Co
  • Steven A. Kandarian - AECOM and MetLife
  • Douglas R. Oberhelman - Catepillar, Eli Lilly and Company
  • Samuel J. Palmsiano - American Express
  • Steven S Reinemund - Walmart, Mariot, GS Acquisition Holdings Corp
  • William C. Weldon - CVS Caremark, JPMorgan Chase
  • Darren W. Woods - Exon Mobile

Out of ten members of the Board only one has actual ties to the oil and natural gas industry. Ted's batting 0 for 2. If I could put the contents of senator Cruz's brains in a paper bag, we could put it at Trump's doorstep, light it on fire, ring the bell and run away.

Trump Putin 2020

Make the US SR Great Again

President Trump likes to throw around words like fraud, spy, treason, hoax, deep state, and witch hunt. I often wonder, given his limited vocabulary on Twitter, if he really understands any of the words he is using. For example, he repeatedly calls for those in the media to read the transcript of the July 25th call with the president of the Ukraine. Problem, he has never released the transcript from the July 25th call. A transcript is a typed copy of a dictated or recorded material. The document released is a Telecon Memo that explicitly states that it is NOT a transcript.

I mentioned treason in the title, Trump likes to call those around him who don't follow his every wish traitors. In the 1960's a Russian KGB officer, Anatoliy Golitsyn, defected to the west. He went on to write a book called " New Lies for Old ". In it he outlined a series of goals that the KGB had in order to discredit and defeat the United States. Many of his predictions have come to fruition including the collapse of the Soviet Union, westernization of former Soviet republics, reunification of Germany, and democratization of Russia (or at least the appearance). There are a few things that the Russians and the KGB have been unsuccessful in accomplishing, until they were able to get Trump elected including:

  • Driving a wedge between the United States and NATO

  • Sowing distrust between the United States and its allies

  • Discrediting US foreign policy in the middle east

  • Weakening US interest on the Korean peninsula

  • Weakening US positions in the Pacific

  • Sowing internal discontent along racial and political lines

  • Weakening the US economy in order to create opportunities to move towards socialism/communism

What the KGB had been unable to accomplish in over fifty years, Trump accomplished for them in just three. So if there is anyone in this administration who is a fraud or a traitor it is most likely the person who has been working in interest of foreign powers. As proof, take Trumps willingness to accept President Putin's denial of interference in the 2016 election over that of US intelligence agencies and his repeated request of both Russia, China, and Ukraine to conduct (or at least announce) investigations into his political rivals. It's astounding to me that the older, more hawkish republicans in Congress can't see this.

Anyone who disagrees with or contradicts the president is immediately targeted via Twitter and Trump's army of metaphorical brown shirts goes to work intimidating and threatening them and their families. Is it any wonder that anyone who has any knowledge of wrong doing on his behalf hesitates to come forward?

Another interesting angle OANN has taken is questioning the loyalty of Lt Col Vindman and Ms. Hill since they aren't born in the United States. Why is this interesting? Because they haven't attacked the first lady. Melania is born in Slovenia, a soviet satellite state. So using OANN's logic, it's possible that she is a KGB honey pot who has been manipulating a dotard old man with sex into doing her KGB handler's bidding. Not that any of that is at all true or backed up by any supporting facts or evidence, but since when has that ever stopped OANN? Or Fox, for that matter.

The irony of the president's many admirers and defenders on Twitter saying he's the best ever, and that Obama and Democrats are traitors, is evidently lost on them. No president in recent history has done more to further the goals of Russia, China, and North Korea as well as abandoning the middle east to Iran and Russia and the Pacific to China and Russia. We are no longer respected, much less feared. Just look to Turkey if you need proof that Trump's threats are taken as hollow. Turkey will go through with the purchase of the S-400 missile system, according to Turkish and Russian media. So we'll see if anyone in Congress has any balls left to go through with halting their purchase of the F-35, as they had threatened to do. North Korea got a windfall of publicity - Kim standing up to an American president by not keeping a single promise while Trump gave him unprecedented publicity and called him a great leader. What did the great negotiator gain for America? ...crickets…

How can someone who is supposed to be such a great businessman know so little? In regard to his call with the president of the Ukraine, Trump would later claim that he didn't even know who the call was with or the name of the man on the other end of the line until someone handed him a card with the man's name on it. Seriously? Is that how little he prepared for his business dealings? On Oct 8, Trump would tweet about Ambassador Sondland and call him, "...a really good man and a great American." Over a month later, on Nov 20, he would claim, "I don't know him very well." Rudy Giuliani evidently has sensed a change in the wind and sent a not so subtle warning to the president after replying to questions from the press if he was concerned about potentially being thrown under the bus that he had no worries about it but he had " insurance. " Trump in the " transcript " directed the Ukraine to talk with Giuliani. Now Trump claims he didn't know what Mr. Giuliani was doing in Ukraine. Why should we reelect a man who has, evidently, no idea what is going on around him?

For those who think Trump has done the US military a favor, you're just ignorant of how the military and the world works. The Navy didn't just make Gallagher a scape goat or try him on a whim. A military court martial is just like a civilian trial. He had a jury of his peers, fellow Navy officers and enlisted, who felt his actions brought discredit on the service and the country. I have no doubt that CPO Gallagher is a brave and dedicated serviceman, but he made an error in judgement and his actions have consequences. One of the key foundations of military order and discipline are our core values, the UCMJ, and the LOAC. It's what makes us both a feared and respected fighting force. By subverting that process you place lives at risk. Our allies, who have long allowed the US to try our own for crimes committed in host nations, may no longer show us that courtesy if they lose faith that justice will be served within the US military judicial system. Trump may have gained three votes, but at what costs? Then there is the issue of transferring much needed MILCON funds from the DoD to use for a useless border wall. Our military infrastructure is in desperate need of modernization. By taking these funds from the DoD the Trump administration is further weakening our military capability while at the same time fooling the American people into thinking he's really strengthening it. It's all smoke and mirrors folks.

No one, certainly no president, is an expert in all things. This is why a president surrounds themselves with smart people. He should perhaps take the time to listen and take their advice, especially when it concerns things he knows little or nothing about. No one is perfect, they're going to make mistakes, but a good leader owns them, learns from them, and moves on. You, Mr. President, turn on them and throw them to the wolves. You demand loyalty but show none yourself. You demand respect from the other branches of government but give them none. You've put your own interest, and those of a select few of your cronies, ahead of the nation's. You may point to a stock market making gains right now, but you're focused on the short term and there is a crisis looming that has the potential to wipe out everything and push us into a second great depression, or worse. You claimed you would drain the swamp but instead have sought to rule it all.

Lastly, he is a pathological liar and narcissist. He's incapable of admitting he has made a mistake and blames others. He is incapable of telling the truth. Everything is about him. For example, during your recent trip to Apple in Austin, Texas Trump claimed that he opened a new Apple manufacturing plant. Three lies in one tweet (he is actually very good at that). First, he didn't open it - it has been
open since 2013. Second, it's not an Apple manufacturing plant it is owned by Flextronics and third, it doesn't manufacture anything. They assemble MacPros there. The parts are made elsewhere, in places like China where his tariff tiff is soon going to blow up. Due to the holiday season American firms are eating the costs of the tariffs, but they can't sustain that forever and soon those increased costs will be passed along to the consumer. Let us see how the markets react to that.

Princess & the Pauper

By David Stempnakowski
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young princess who was doted upon by her parents. She was sweet and kind, even though she thought highly of herself. She used to run and play in the palace garden but she had no one else her own age to play with, so she would make up all kinds of imaginary friends. Not far from the palace, on the edge of the wood, lived a poor family, who had one son the same age as the princess. When the boy was ten years old his father
suddenly died and he had to take on more responsibility. It became his chore to gather wood for the home to keep the fire going so it would stay warm and so his mother could cook. Each morning he would go out into the forrest to gather wood and each time he had to venture further. Eventually, one day, he happened upon the garden with the young princess playing.

He waited beside an old tree and watched. As soon as he saw her, he felt something deep inside. She turned and caught him staring at her just over the hedge between the garden and the forrest. Even though he was dirty and poor she saw something in his face that touched her heart.

They spoke not a word to each other. The years passed and each day he would pass the garden at the same time and stand by the tree and watch and each day she would make sure she was there so she could see him.
Neither could help it but they had fallen in love. Even though they never said a word, their eyes had shared a thousand conversations.

On the day the princess would turn eighteen her parents threw a ball in her honor and invited many lords and ladies. Two of the princess’ cousins came a day early to help prepare her for the ball. Still, the princess made sure that she could slip away long enough to be in the garden when the young man passed, just as he had every day for the past eight years. The two cousins found the princess alone in the corner of the garden near the forrest and wondered what she was doing there all by herself. Then they saw the young man and as soon as they saw the way they looked at each other their hearts became dark with jealousy. How could someone so rich and beautiful look upon someone so dirty and poor with so much love and compassion? And so they plotted and came up with a plan to prevent them from every being together.

The two cousins found a pretty servant girl in the castle and promised her thirty pieces of silver if she would meet the young man on the edge of the forrest the next morning. She was puzzled by the request but her family could use the money and it seemed harmless enough so she agreed. The next morning, the servant girl went into the wood where she was told and waited. The princess was up early the morning of the ball. She had much to do but she wanted to make sure she would have time to be in the garden to see her young man. Her cousins were more than happy to help her so that she could be there. At her usual time she left her room and walked to the corner of the garden, as she had done so many times before. But this time she saw a young girl in a plain dress waiting at the edge of the forrest by the tree where her love usually was and when the young man appeared the girl ran to him and threw her arms around him and kissed him.

The princess saw this and felt her heart breaking. She turned and ran from the garden, disregarding the young man’s pleas to come back and ignoring his profession of love. It was the only time he had ever spoken to her, but now there was nothing she wanted to hear. The two cousins had watched from a window overlooking the garden and smiled, quite pleased with themselves.

The pauper was heartbroken. He went back to his home where he now lived alone. His mother had passed away in the spring and the only thing he had looked forward to was seeing the beautiful young princess who had become the love of his life. Now she too was gone. That night, and every night for the next month, as he lay in bed he asked Death to take him and end his suffering. All light and happiness had gone from his life and each day was simply existence. One night, just as he was falling asleep and asking Death to come so he would not see morning Death entered his room. He watched from the shadows as the young man drifted off to sleep. He had heard his request, but it was not his time and so he could not take him and release him from his suffering. But Death took pity on him and so he touched the man’s head and entered his mind and whispered a spell of orgetfulness.

Each day the young man got up and went out now to work in the village. He no longer passed by the garden and he no longer thought of the princess he loved. There was a shadow in his mind that he couldn’t see past, and he was neither happy nor sad. He simply was. One day as he labored he heard folk talking about the princess and her new husband, for she had finally married. He thought it good that someone should know happiness, but he had too much to do just to survive and so he gave it no more thought.

The years passed until one day the royal coach was passing through the town with the princess and her prince. It was pulled by six magnificent white stallions, but as it rolled past it struck a rock and broke one of the wheels. So of course it stopped and the driver stepped down to survey the damage. He called the young man over to help him lift the wheel so he could see how bad it was and of course the prince and princess stepped out so as to lighten the carriage and make it easier to lift.

Death’s spell was no match for the depth of their love and the moment they saw each other it was as if not a day had passed. He looked into her eyes and he saw the little princess who had captured his heart and soul all those years ago. The viel in his mind was lifted and all those memories and feelings were back, Suddenly, there was light in his life again and now, older, he knew he loved her in his heart. He had always loved her. He could see in her eyes, his feelings reflected back, but now it was too late. She had married and had a husband, and she no longer went out to the spot in the garden near the forrest. She looked at her true love, hoping he too had moved on but she saw no ring on his hand.

She closed her eyes and turned away from him to her husband and took his hand. When she did, the pauper felt his heart break all over again. He helped with the wheel on the coach and when it had been replaced, the royal couple resumed their journey back to the castle.

That night, as he lay in his bed in his small house, with only a few meager possessions he thought about his princess and how much he loved her. Once again, as he fell asleep he asked Death to come and take him and ease his suffering. He knew now he would never, ever be truly happy as she had taken his love and his soul and now he was empty. As he fell asleep Death came. He watched the man sleep for a while and again pitied him. This time there was nothing Death could do. So Death carried him to the spot in the forrest where he used to go each day to see his beautiful princess, and there he treleased him from his suffering.

The next morning, the princess woke, and for the first time in years, went out to the spot in the garden near the forrest. There she found her true love waiting. Hanging from the tree where they had fallen in love. Neither spoke a word.
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