Do Americans think they are immune to the acts of foreign governments when they travel? Apparently the answer is YES. The State Department warns U.S. citizens to stay away from North Korea but hundreds go anyway every year. Otto Warmbier was an American university student who, while visiting North Korea as a tourist in January 2016 tore a wall poster down as a souvenir. He paid with his life.

North Korea is not the only country that the State Department has warned not to visit. The State Department web site has a Travel Warnings list. The site is headed with the following warning statement.

“We issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Warning might include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. We want you to know the risks of traveling to these places and to strongly consider not going to them at all. Travel Warnings remain in place until the situation changes; some have been in effect for years.”

There are 44 countries listed. Of those nine are from 2016. Surprisingly none in Europe which is on a Travel Alert list due to threat of terrorist attacks.

The Travel Warnings list includes Mexico. The Mexico specific statement says: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued April 15, 2016.” The site then identifies the cities and states that are particularly dangerous including Mexico City. Despite the warning a total 7.86 million Americans visited the country from January to October 2016, an increase of 12% from the same period in 2015.

Have you visited America’s national parks? My favorites are Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Have you visited Washington D.C.? Both Boston and Philadelphia offer interesting historic sites that I believe everyone should visit. The best part is that you are far safer and you might see a really great show on Broadway in New York City.

Posted by: coastcontact | June 18, 2017

Everyone loves L.A. — and that’s the problem

See the details at  https://losangelesloveitandhateit.wordpress.com/

Posted by: coastcontact | June 18, 2017

Alex Jones the Conspiracy Theorist

Alex Jones has made a living selling conspiracy theories.  In every instance he appears to believe that the government has an ulterior motive. If you say that someone has an ulterior motive for doing something, you believe that they have a hidden reason for doing it.

Jones has now been given the gift of appearing on Megyn Kelly’s program tonight.  That decision by NBC only gives legitimacy to Jones’ theories.  I am disappointed in NBC.  The likely viewership of the program and the possible income the network might obtain is clearly more important than honesty.  I hope the number of people watching is very low.  However, since the public appetite for the outrageous never seems to end NBC will probably have a big hit.

Newsweek’s online web site provides Jones’ top conspiracies.

  1. New World Order: The world’s elite are planning on “exterminating” 80% of the world’s population so that the remaining population can live forever thanks to advanced technologies.
  2. 9/11 Was an Inside Job: Jones describes himself as “one of the very first founding fathers of the 9/11 truth movement.” He claims that was in “inside job” orchestrated by the U.S. government to enslave the world.
  3. Major shootings, Bombings Were “False Flag” Operations: Jones sees “false flags” including Oklahoma City, Boston Marathon bombings as events orchestrated by elites.
  4. Obama is “Global Head” of Al-Qaeda: Jones called Obama “the Global Head” accusing him of funding and arming terrorist organizations to achieve his own political goals.
  5. Government Creates Homosexuality: Jones said the government is using juice boxes to make children gay to slow and eventually revers the growth of population. In one of his popular videos je claims that chemicals in the water are “ turning the freaking frogs gay.”

Perhaps NBC sees the Kelly program is just another form of entertainment and not to be taken seriously.  Sadly too many people do take everything they see on television seriously.

Posted by: coastcontact | June 14, 2017

Golden Parachutes and extraordinary pay for the undeserving

Greed and incompetence are rewarded in corporate America. Just ask Robert Coury, Marissa Mayer, and John Stumpf. These are the three people I am highlighting but there are many more. A 57 cent ignition switch was not replaced in 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions at the price of 13 deaths.

Mylan (MYL) was already under fire for a relentless series of price hikes on a two-pack of EpiPens by 400% over seven years. The controversy badly damaged Mylan’s reputation and wiped out billions of dollars of market value. Yet Mylan still lavished former CEO Robert Coury with $98 million in pay for 2016 as he transitioned to the role of executive chairman.

Marissa Mayer leaves Yahoo with nearly $260 million. This is after she failed to make the company a success. In fact it was bought by Verizon who saved Yahoo from bankruptcy. Mayer, who will not be sticking with Verizon (VZ, Tech30) now that Yahoo and its other digital media unit AOL are being combined under one operating unit called Oath, will also receive $23 million in severance payments to walk away from Yahoo.

In 2012, John Stumpf, former CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, had total compensation of $22.87 million with a base salary of $2.8 million, $3,300,000 in cash bonuses, $12.5 million in stock granted, and $15,000 in other compensation. Stumpf retired just weeks after he was grilled by two congressional panels over the way the bank handled an alleged scam where upwards of 2 million accounts were created by employees without the knowledge of customers. The accounts were allegedly opened so thousands of employees could meet aggressive sales goals set by management. Stumpf was widely criticized for the way he handled the questioning, pushing the blame to lower-level employees and not holding upper-level executives, including himself, responsible.

Those were just three of the oligarchs that are receiving millions of dollars while the U.S. Census Bureau reported in September 2014 that: U.S. real (inflation adjusted) median household income was $51,939.

Posted by: coastcontact | June 11, 2017

“45 Years” was Oscar Nominated in 2016

We, my wife and I, usually watch a recent movie once a week unless we are out on a Saturday night. We read the Netflix DVD jacket and no other information before the movie.

Charlotte Rampling was nominated for best actress in 2016 for the role of Kate Mercer. All nominated movies are part of my list of must see movies.

The description reads: “Geoff and Kate Mercer’s plans for a 45th anniversary party are upset by some unexpected news: A body found in the Swiss Alps has been identified as Geoff’s long-ago love Katya, who perished in an accident 50 years earlier.”

We are guessing this will be a mystery. Instead it is a well-acted but slow moving story about a happily married couple about to celebrate their 45th anniversary who are troubled over the death of Geoff’s long forgotten love.

I won’t reveal the story line or the ending. I will say that like many English movies the best and most intriguing part of the movie is the last 15 minutes.

It did remind me of my old girl friend who said No to my proposal.  I had not met my wife then.  We are married 48 years.

On a five star scale the movie is about a 2½. If the movie is to be graded on acting alone it is 4.

Posted by: coastcontact | June 5, 2017

Trump has a dangerous disability

By George F. Will, conservative columnist in The Washington Post, May 3, 2017

It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.

In February, acknowledging Black History Month, Trump said that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Because Trump is syntactically challenged, it was possible and tempting to see this not as a historical howler about a man who died 122 years ago, but as just another of Trump’s verbal fender benders, this one involving verb tenses.

Now, however, he has instructed us that Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War that began 16 years after Jackson’s death. Having, let us fancifully imagine, considered and found unconvincing William Seward’s 1858 judgment that the approaching Civil War was “an irrepressible conflict,” Trump says:

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Library shelves groan beneath the weight of books asking questions about that war’s origins, so who, one wonders, are these “people” who don’t ask the questions that Trump evidently thinks have occurred to him uniquely? Presumably they are not the astute “lot of,” or at least “some,” people Trump referred to when speaking about his February address to a joint session of Congress: “A lot of people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.” Which demotes Winston Churchill, among many others.

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

The United States is rightly worried that a strange and callow leader controls North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. North Korea should reciprocate this worry. Yes, a 70-year-old can be callow if he speaks as sophomorically as Trump did when explaining his solution to Middle Eastern terrorism: “I would bomb the s— out of them. . . . I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”

As a candidate, Trump did not know what the nuclear triad is. Asked about it, he said: “We have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.” Invited to elaborate, he said: “I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.” Someone Trump deemed fit to be a spokesman for him appeared on television to put a tasty dressing on her employer’s word salad: “What good does it do to have a good nuclear triad if you’re afraid to use it?” To which a retired Army colonel appearing on the same program replied with amazed asperity: “The point of the nuclear triad is to be afraid to use the damn thing.”

As president-elect, Trump did not know the pedigree and importance of the one-China policy. About such things he can be, if he is willing to be, tutored. It is, however, too late to rectify this defect: He lacks what T.S. Eliot called a sense “not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.” His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.

Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances. So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.

Posted by: coastcontact | June 1, 2017

Oregon’s History Of White Supremacy

I have visited Oregon at least three times.  All were wonderful experiences.  From the Oregon Caves to the Columbia River it is all beautiful scenery.  I never gave a thought about their racial make up or their apparent hate history.  I was upset over the stabbing in Portland as were most people.  Even more upsetting is Oregon’s History Of White Supremacy.  It was reported on my local NPR radio station.

Portland Train Murders Highlight Oregon’s History Of White Supremacy

4:40 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks with Randy Blazak, chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crime, about the state of white supremacy in the Portland area and the state of Oregon.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We now turn to the chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crime, Randy Blazak. He teaches criminology at the University of Oregon and has been tracking the white supremacist movement in the state for more than 20 years. Welcome.

RANDY BLAZAK: Hello.

SHAPIRO: While Portland has a reputation for being progressive, it is also the whitest big city in America. Tell us about Oregon’s history with racist policies.

BLAZAK: Well, we’ve kind of got a long history that goes back to the founding of the state. I mean the Oregon Trail was – the Land Donation Act was for white settlers only. The state was founded in 1859 as a white-only state, and then that was on the books until 1922. Portland and Oregon had the largest Klan west of the Rockies, the largest per capita actually in the whole country.

SHAPIRO: That’s amazing.

BLAZAK: So…

SHAPIRO: Oregon had the largest per capita Klan membership in the entire country.

BLAZAK: That’s right. It was very active. They elected a governor, Governor Pierce, who went to work outlawing Catholic churches as one of his first duties, which was soon overturned by the Supreme Court. But it was a very active Klan state. And it’s a part of the explanation about why Portland is as white as it is in the year 2017 – is this long racial history the state has.

SHAPIRO: Has Oregon ever taken steps to address or undo legacies of its racist past?

BLAZAK: Sure. I mean it’s had to rewrite some parts of the Constitution that had words like colored people and mulattoes in the constitution. That was only taken out about a decade ago. There has been an attempt to redress or at least acknowledged some of its history, but it’s kind of woven into it up into the modern-day issues around gentrification where we see minority people being pushed out of neighborhoods to make room for incoming moneyed whites. I mean it’s sort of this long story that’s been told that has many chapters. And this unfortunately is just the latest chapter in our history.

SHAPIRO: Well, what do you see in today’s chapter that’s different from what we’ve seen in the past?

BLAZAK: You know, we’ve certainly had racial violence, including the murder of an Ethiopian immigrant by skinheads in 1988 in Portland. But this version is…

SHAPIRO: I remember that. I was in school at the time in Portland.

BLAZAK: Yes, Mulugeta Seraw – I mean many people still remember that incident that – you know, this brings about the role of the Internet, the role of online radicalization and the way that this subculture has sort of morphed into this more invisible world. I mean there used to be physical places that you would go to Klan rallies or to skinhead meetings. And now it kind of takes place online, and people express those views more openly. And so it’s a new version of an old phenomenon. But in a way, it’s more insidious because it sort of exists in the ether and not in a physical place.

SHAPIRO: We just heard about the debate in the city over whether this so-called Trump free speech rally with alt-right groups should be allowed to go forward. Are you concerned that there could be more violence if these happen?

BLAZAK: There’s a lot of tension that’s been building. It’s been building in this city for a long time. I mean Portland became known as skinhead city in the 1990s because of, like, rival factions of racist skinheads and anti-racist skinheads going at it. And so we’re seeing a new version of this. But it’s been kind of magnified by the election politics and the rhetoric of the alt-right and the ability to kind of rally the troops fairly quickly over the Internet. And I think the city is sort of bracing itself for something that might turn quite ugly.

SHAPIRO: Do you go into the chat rooms and other places where these communities gather online? And…

BLAZAK: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Can you describe how they’ve been reacting to this stabbing?

BLAZAK: You know, both sides have been talking about this incident. There are members of people on the right-wing side of the spectrum that would like to see more of this violence and have vilified the victims as sort of the people who prop up the status quo and defend multiculturalism and the Islamification of America, as they’ve called it.

The people on the left side are concerned that the police are overly protective of what they’re calling fascists in the streets of Portland and are not doing enough to shut down these folks who of course have a First Amendment right but also are causing concern around the issue of agitating more right-wing violence. So it’s really – it depends on where you’re standing what the perspective on the city’s role on this issue is.

SHAPIRO: That’s Randy Blazak, chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crime. Thanks for joining us.

BLAZAK: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE WEAKERTHANS SONG, “ELEGY FOR GUMP WORSLEY”)

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Posted by: coastcontact | May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

We Remember!

Posted by: coastcontact | May 28, 2017

Harry and Bess

(This seems unreal.)

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation’s history as any of the other 42 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952 his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an ‘allowance’ and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.”

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, “I don’t consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.”

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale.

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, “My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference!

I say dig him up and clone him!

Enjoy life NOW! — it has an expiration date!

Posted by: coastcontact | May 26, 2017

Racism is Alive and Well in America

An acquaintance of mine just said to me the other day that things aren’t like they used to be. Discrimination and racism are a thing of the past.  I disagreed.  These viral video is a small evidence that things really have not changed.

This video was shown on CNN this morning.

 

Racially charged confrontation at Reno airport captured on video.

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