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Wednesday, 2020.1.22

Enjoying the Time Off

I've been reflecting a little this week and I feel really good that I am taking time off from making cooking videos. I wish I was in better physical shape. As part of my Medicare advantage plan I can enroll in a gym for free. However, the nearest one is "women only" (Curves) and the other one is far enough away down in the city to discourage making the trip several times each week.

I wish there was a gym close enough to ride to on my bike. If I were in better shape I wouldn't be so tired after shooting a video. Literally. After a day of video work I end up in bed. I'm that tired. My Kitchen Vlog is a lot easier because I can sit, and they only take about 15 minutes to shoot. A cooking video can take all day, and for most of that time I'm standing.

I will say this, however: I'm probably in better shape than most people approaching 70 years of age. On the way back from the news discussion group I stopped at the store. Someone commented on my wearing a bicycle helmet and I told them about my ride. I mentioned my age. They looked at me closely, in the eyes, as if I were fibbing. I assured them I am 68 years old, born in July of 1951.

The plan, if I can stick to it, is to ride my bike more often. I rode to work everyday for 24 years (except when it rained) and I was in great shape, even when a little overweight. Now I sit too much, either reading or working at my computers (such as I am doing right now).

Impeachment

Forgive me for this, or not, but I've been working on a nursery rhyme that might be worth remembering in November, or not.

Frumpty Trumpty sat on his wall.
Frumpty Trumpty had a bad fall.
All Putin's forces and Republicans
Couldn't put Trumpty in office again.

I'm not naive. As I've said many times in the past, the Senate won't remove Trump from office. And I don't care about that. I think the American people should decide his fate in the election booth in November.

I won't be voting for him, which is meaningless here in California anyway. This state is so overwhelmingly blue, nearly half the Democratic voters could stay home and the Democratic candidate would still win all of the state's 55 Electoral College votes. Which brings me to…

Reading

I finished reading Rick Wilson's book, Running Against the Devil. I discussed it in Sunday's blog entry. He emphasized, again and again, the two most important points:

  1. The top agenda item for the Democrats is to defeat Trump at the ballot box. That is the most important campaign issue and it should be stressed often, in every speech.
  2. Concentrate all efforts, money, personnel, even your family pet, in the 10 to 15 battleground states. Blue states are already in the bank for the Democrats. Likewise the red states for Trump. The election will be won or lost in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc.

Next up: A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, which I got yesterday.

I don't know much about it yet, but from what I've heard so far, it's another tell-all. I'll have more to say later.

Sunday, 2020.1.19

Bicycle Ride

As I've often mentioned in these blogs, every other Saturday I meet with some friends in a restaurant to discuss news and politics. Yesterday was one of those days.

Something made the day a little different: I rode my bike to the meeting place. It isn't a long distance away. We used to meet down in the city. Now we meet a little closer to my home. And it's an easy ride along flat roads; no hills. Total mileage on my trip odometer when I got home around 5:00 was 15½ miles. That might have been challenging for me to do all at once, but it was done in two stages with two hours of rest and conversation in between.

There were a few concerns. Although most of the road has a good bike lane at each side (this is a biking community), there is one stretch through Old Towne where the streets are narrow. On Saturday the traffic is light; so I navigated that area safely. At the other area, near the restaurant where we meet, there is a busy five-lane intersection where drivers jockey for position as the road splits into two highways and an on-ramp for the freeway. I must confront that when I start for home. I'm still looking for a better way around that mess.

Surprisingly, I have no aches and pains today, other than the usual ones that come with a body nearing 70 years of age. I expected, and was prepared, to be sore because although I use my bike fairly regularly to do local shopping, yesterday was the furthest I'd ridden in a very long time.

The only other potential issue that concerned me: What would I do if my bike got a flat tire so far from home? It would have been a long walk back and I would not have arrived until well after dark. I had the foresight to bring a lightweight air pump with me, thinking I could pump up the tire every mile or so as I limped my way home. Thankfully, that wasn't necessary.

Meanwhile, my battery is currently getting a well-earned charge. That will take all day.

As For Our Discussion

As always, it was lively and fun. And I expect it will become more fun in the coming weeks, especially as the caucuses and primaries get under way. I have the list of them, and their dates, on my desk — and I even laminated the list. (And I expect the bike rides to be more enjoyable as the days get warmer and the sun sets later.)

Mostly we talked about the coming impeachment hearings. None of us are naive enough to hope the Senate Republicans will remove Trump from office. And we agreed that if Pense is as culpable as he appears to be (see Lev Parnas), would he be a better alternative? Obviously not.

Our hope is: If the Democrats run their respective campaigns the correct way (see below), they will win the White House, hold the House of Representatives, and win a majority in the Senate. It's a hope.

And if I might be allowed one little complaint: One participant, who claims he doesn't pay attention to polls, spent nearly 15 minutes reading down the list of state after state polls where Joe Biden supposedly has the best odds of winning the election. C'mon! While he reads, we cannot talk. We came to discuss, not listen to a lecture.

Reading

I mentioned in the group that I am now reading the book Running Against the Devil by Rick Wilson.

For thirty years the author was a Republican campaign strategist. He knows all the dirty tricks Republicans use to win, and he admits using them against the Democrats. He is still a Republican, but he hates the many ways Trump is destroying this country, which he loves, and the Republican party, which he also loves. So in this book he tries to inform Democrats what they need to know if they have any hope of denying Trump a second term in office.

Interestingly, Tom Styer and Michael Bloomberg, in their TV ads, are already getting it right. Wilson says the most important agenda item in any Democratic campaign this year is BEAT TRUMP. Democrats like to talk about global warming, health care, minimum wage, gun control, etc. (you've heard them many times), and those issues are important, but they won't win the election this year. They're secondary issues. The primary issue is TRUMP.

If I were king, I would declare this book required reading for any Democrat who wants to campaign for office, any office, from President down to City Dog Catcher.

Next up: A Very Stable Genius by Phil Rucker and Carol Leonig, which I will start looking for after it comes out this Tuesday.

Wednesday, 2020.1.15

What Happened to The Art of the Deal?

Where was the world's greatest negotiator, a stable genius?

I've been thinking a lot about the impeachment trial in the Senate. As I've said many times before — here and with my friends when we discuss news and politics — a Republican controlled senate is not going to remove the president from office. To be hopeful would be a waste of time.

I heard Senator Max Baucus on the TV news this morning say the senators want to be re-elected; so they are going to do what their voters back home want them to do. If their state is a red one, the senator will vote in favor of the president, regardless of the facts.

However, what kind of compromise could Trump have come up with to satisfy the people in red and blue states? I think he should have offered another quid pro quo, but internally so that it wouldn't be against the law. Something like: In exchange for the House of Representatives agreeing not to impeach him, Trump would sign a deal stating he will not run for a second term as president.

Allow him to remain in office for the remainder of his term, but make clear to the Republican National Committee, or whatever they're called, that they must nominate a different candidate at the convention this summer, someone else to run for office this fall.

Of course, Trump needs a second term because a sitting president cannot be indicted for the crimes he committed before becoming president in 2016. He needs the additional four years to allow the statute of limitations to protect him from prosecution. So, it would be a difficult deal to make.

The Campaign

Yesterday was the last campaign debate before the Iowa caucuses on Monday, February 3. As usual, I didn't watch. Instead, I'll be paying attention to the post-debate commentaries today.

On Saturday there will be another meeting of our news discussion group. One concern of mine, and I don't know how to feel about it, is the impact of Bernie Sanders on the election. Hillary Clinton might have won the race in 2016 if Sanders hadn't drawn away so many Democratic voters. Many of them were so upset about her winning the nomination, they stayed away from the polls in November.

That's not a complete assessment of the issue. Many people simply didn't like Clinton. I didn't like her, but I believed she would be a better president than Trump. At least she knows how Washington works. I'll bet she wouldn't have been impeached.

Many people didn't vote in 2016 because they didn't like either candidate. That is different this year. Biden is well liked; Trump is well hated. The number of people who go to the polls this fall could be unprecedented. Expect a very large turnout. One pundit said Trump would lose a large majority of the popular vote and lose by a narrow majority in the electoral college.

Could Bernie sabotage Biden's election possibilities by drawing away too many voters, thus assuring a second term for Trump? It's something I think about, but I don't know enough to worry about it, yet. A lot will depend on the caucuses and primaries in the coming months. My hope is that Sanders, if he sees Biden winning by large margins in the primaries, will graciously withdraw early and throw his support behind Biden.

The Impeachment

Today the House of Representatives is debating a resolution to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for a trial. As stated above, we can all rest assured the Senate will vote to declare Trump innocent of all charges, regardless of all evidence to the contrary. We wait to see if they will vote to allow witnesses, which ones (if any) and what they might say.

Sunday, 2020.1.12

Again, No New Feature This Week

Once again I'm taking some time off from doing videos. I've been reading (more below). Because I expect more weeks like this one, I created a new web site home page to feature something from the past, rather than the site looking stagnant.

The Latest

Like many Americans, I've been following the news from Iran. When it was first announced a Ukrainian airliner crashed in Iran, killing all persons on board, I believed it was shot down by Iran, not as an act of aggression, but in an action of defense.

Think about it. Iranian high command probably notified all their military bases to be on high alert. Missiles were being fired at American facilities in Iraq. Expect a counter-attack. A defense base's radar picks up the approach of a large jet. What is it? A war plane loaded with bombs? What to do? Shoot first; ask questions later.

And, as it turned out, that was exactly what happened, more or less. Now, who do we blame?

I wonder about Donald Trump. Had he not been looking for his Osama bin Laden moment to boost his re-election prospects, he wouldn't have ordered the killing of Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani. I have no sympathy for the general. He was a brutal thug. Nor do I have any sympathy for Iran. They have been financing terrorism in the region for decades. However, Trump's attempt at heroism backfired on him because when Congress asked for details about the "imminent threat," Trump and his people couldn't produce any — kind of like George W. Bush's attempts to find WMD in Iraq.

Maybe backfired is an understatement. I am no prognosticator, but I foresee Democratic presidential candidates warning the voters about electing Trump to a second term. He almost started a war with Iran, and because of his stupidity and impulsive behavior 176 innocent people lost their lives when their airliner was shot out of the sky.

As I mentioned in earlier blogs, the situation could have been handled better. Do a bit of saber rattling. Send a clear message to Iran, informing them that any attack by Soleimani's forces would be met with superior military force. Say so on American TV. I think that would have made Trump look stronger. Now, because the killing was a desperate act to drum up votes, he looks weak.

Now we're more anxious that we might see another major terrorist attack on our country or that we might be pulled into another war in the Middle East if one of our allies is attacked. Of course, the fear card has been played in politics before. Bush played it in 2002 — "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" — when he was trying to sell the idea of war with Iraq to the American people. We all know how well that turned out.

I don't really care how weak "Sleepy" Joe Biden is. I only care that he is popular enough to win the election this fall, removing Trump from his attempted autocracy. (Imagine how happy Trump would be if he could eliminate Congress altogether and have only the Executive and Judicial branches of government. Maybe make "Moscow Mitch" McConnell vice president.)

Trump, however, has a way. Rather than attacking Bernie Sanders, he should encourage him. That would split the Democratic vote, drawing voters away from Biden the way Sanders drew them away from Hillary Clinton in 2016, assuring Trump the presidency.

Meanwhile…

And the synchronicity, or whatever, of this amuses me — I've been reading the book Wag the Dog, a novel by Larry Beinhart. It's the book that inspired the movie of the same name, although the two are very different. The movie is a comedy; the book reads more like a spy novel. (I used to really love reading spy novels in my teenager days.) I'll probably finish it today. Then I wait for Rick Wilson's new book, Running Against the Devil, which comes out on Tuesday.

And, because it feels like I haven't posted a picture in a while (actually, I posted several last Sunday), here's a photo of the cover:

Wednesday, 2020.1.8

Sometimes I Wonder

Do some people even watch a YouTube video before writing a comment? Or do they comment based on the title only?

If I might be permitted to grouse a bit (don't you just hate when people complain too much?) — on Sunday I published the current feature video of boneless chicken wings, saying they require some effort but the result is a festive tray of wings suitable for a special occasion, such as a Super Bowl party. Someone complained. Wings are too expensive. He and the wife only buy chicken thighs. Yes, okay, but that wasn't the point.

I want to be snarky and respond with a snide comment. "Do yourself a favor and only invite your friends to dinner when chicken thighs are on sale at a discounted price — if money is all you think about." However, I did the right thing. I replied pleasantly, and then the following day I deleted his comment and mine.

Wag the Dog

I hadn't seen that movie. At Saturday's news discussion group it was recommended as prescient of the current state of affairs in Washington. I watched it Sunday evening and laughed heartily. I highly recommend it.

If you haven't seen it, I won't write any spoilers about it. The premise is simple, and similar. The president is up for re-election and with the voting only two weeks away a sex scandal erupts with the potential of sabotaging the election. A spin-doctor/fixer guy is brought in to save the day.

I also picked up a copy of the book on which the movie was based (same title). I finished reading Malcolm Nance's book, The Plot to Betray America, which, as I think I've complained before, suffers from having too many Russian names; it's like reading the Moscow phone book. Thankfully that isn't true of the entire book — only the chapters in which he discusses Trump's connections with Russians, many Russians.

Meanwhile, on January 14th the new book by Rick Wilson, Running Against the Devil, is scheduled to be released. I like his writing. He's amusing. I enjoyed his previous book, Everything Trump Touches Dies. It was as though he had searched a thesaurus for every negative adjective and used them all to describe Trump. And he was formerly a Republican political strategist. Not every Republican likes Trump.

If you're curious, these are the books I read last year (in no particular order):

Team of Vipers by Cliff Sims
The Apprentice by Greg Miller
Trump Under Fire by Michael Wolff
A Warning by Anonymous
American Carnage by Tim Alberta
Deep State by James Stuart
House of Trump, House of Putin by Craig Unger
Proof of Collusion by Greg Miller
The Man Who Sold America by Joy-Ann Reid
The Threat by Andrew McCabe
Not about Trump:
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

And there were some I started but never finished, like the Mueller Report.

Which Leads to Trump (Which Leads to Putin)

Actually, I don't have anything to say about Putin, except I wonder how he'll get Trump elected to a second term. The polls don't look good at the moment.

The current Iran situation (I say current because it could change tomorrow) is not good, but it's okay. The USA got something; Iran got something. Leave it at that. Trump ordered the murder of one of their generals and Iran responded with an attack of our facilities in Iraq.

Let's face it, Iran is not a good nation. They have been malevolent in the Middle East region for decades. We sent a clear message. We won't tolerate a terrorist threat against our assets or allies. They sent a message. They will respond to an attack. So let's leave it there.

Trump can now say he is better than Obama (he isn't) by having his (sort of) Osama bin Laden moment, killing one of America's enemies. He also created a distraction to take America's eyes off his impeachment. The Iran crisis will go away, but the impeachment won't, which leaves me to wonder what he might try next.

This morning Trump delivered an announcement about the situation with Iran. He claimed Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon (a worthy ambition), but he pulled the USA out of the negotiated anti-nuclear agreement with Iran — the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). He is asking for more NATO involvement in the region, but he wanted to pull the USA out of NATO. At the last summit national leaders laughed at him. Will they now?

Suspiciously missing from the speech was Hillary Clinton. Why not ask the Iranians to find her missing emails? And, while he's at it, why not blame the Iranians for meddling in the 2016 elections? Also missing was any quid pro quo. In exchange for a cessation of hostilities, why not ask Iran to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine?

Sunday, 2020.1.5

A Bit of Politics

Watching the news so much, and reading so many books, I've often noted the comment that says a president is tested by crisis. What is a little different about this latest threat of increased conflict with Iran is that this might be a crisis of the president's own making.

It's so easy to be an armchair strategist. What would I have done? I would have arranged a press conference in which I would say I ordered war ships to the Persian Gulf and give a public warning to the leader of Iran. I would have said that a credible intelligence source reported an imminent attack was being planned by Qassem Soleimani. I would have announced that if such an attack was carried out on our interests or allies, the U.S. would respond harshly. Sometimes saber rattling is the best way to negotiate with terrorists.

Deboning a Cornish Hen

Last month I mentioned I saw a Jacques Pepin video on YouTube in which he deboned a chicken. He made it look easy. It was the inspiration for this week's boneless chicken wings (for which there is no recipe because it's more of a procedure than a recipe). I decided I wanted to try deboning a Cornish hen, doing it his way. It wasn't easy.

I made a traditional stuffing with cubed bread (I like to use a bagel for a denser stuffing — it's more al dente), onion, pork sausage, sage and chicken stock. It was good. After deboning the chicken, I filled it with stuffing, tied it, and roasted it. Here are two photos:

The flavor was quite good. Originally, I thought this might be food to serve guests. Depending on their level of hunger, either a whole or half hen could be a serving, with extra stuffing and vegetables on the side. Now that I have done one hen, I think doing this for guests might not be a good idea. It's too much work doing one hen. Imagine doing two or three.

I do plan to use the experience to promote my Stuffed Boneless Chicken video again. It's easier and it looks better when done.

And, Finally a Bit More Politics

Yesterday was another meeting of our news discussion group. I knew one of the topics would be the fourth quarter fundraising totals for each candidate, compared to the amount Trump amassed for his campaign war chest. Here are the most significant numbers:

Trump: $46 million
Sanders: $34.5 million
Buttigieg: $24.7 million
Biden: $22.7 million
Warren: $21.2 million
Yang: $16.5 million
Klobuchar: $11.4 million

One group member painfully obsesses over such things. He wants a Democrat — any Democrat — to be in the White House next year. He was distressed that Trump was raising the most money, and therefore most likely to win a second term. I was prepared.

I said it all depends on how you look at the numbers. Here is where three college courses in statistics helps. The total amount received by the Democrats is $131 million; therefore, nearly three times as much money is being spent by donors to see a Democrat win the election than is being contributed to the Republican. And we haven't even got to the primaries yet.

Our meeting was so lively, it went 30 minutes overtime.

New Year's Day, 2020.1.1

Happy New Year!

The start of another year. Although I did my year-end reflection in December's final blog, I thought I might mention I wrote my first blog on Saturday, August 14, 2010. Since then, I uploaded a new blog entry every Sunday and Wednesday. There is a total of 113 months in the Blog Archive. They're all there, should you ever have absolutely nothing worthwhile to do, or you're looking for an excuse not to organize your closets, attic or garage. You are free to go there and read them all, or as many as you can tolerate.

I have a tradition for observing each New Year's Eve. There is a classical music radio station, KUSC, that comes out of the University of Southern California. One of their broadcast towers is here near Santa Barbara. Every New Year's Eve, usually starting at 7:00 in the evening, they play comedy recordings, mainly from the classic era of radio. Most of them I have heard before, but I always tune in because I enjoy listening to them again. This year there were many new ones. It was a pleasant and entertaining evening.

My Kitchen Vlog — Serrano Ham

I uploaded to YouTube my vlog of unboxing my Serrano ham and stand. In the beginning of the video I say that I shot it with plans to get two out of it, one for my Mobile Home Gourmet channel and the other for My Kitchen Vlog.

Most of the clips are different, but I used bits of some clips in both videos. The vlog is more about the unboxing, assembly of the stand, and portioning and packaging the meat for storage. You can view the vlog with this link:

Or CLICK HERE.

If I remember correctly, I ended up with 11½ pounds (5.2kg) of meat, which is very close in flavor to prosciutto. The box says "May be refrigerated." But how do I store the meat after it has been sliced, portioned and vacuum sealed in plastic pouches? I looked on line and found everything from "always keep at room temperature" to "store in the freezer." I wrote to the company for their recommendation. They haven't responded yet. Maybe they are closed for the holidays. Meanwhile, I tossed all the packets in a large plastic bag and placed it in the freezer.

An Occasional Visitor

A hawk occasionally perches on my neighbor's fence.

I don't know much about hawks. About the only fact of which I feel confident is that they are predators. I suppose the attraction might be that bird feeder to the lower right, not that the hawk would know what that bird feeder is for — certainly not for the hawk. The birds tend to scatter a lot of the seeds onto the ground and maybe that attracts mice. I suspect mice might be a popular food for hawks.

In some recent blogs I added photos of some art objects in my home. So…

How I Got My Green Cat

When I was in New Zealand in 1989 I looked around in antique stores for small items I might give to friends as gifts, or as something unusual I might bring home for myself. I spotted this cat in one store. The dealer said he specialized in furniture, not knickknacks. The item was placed on a small table, only for display purposes; however, he would happily sell it to me if I wanted it. I could name my own price. I offered him $25NZ currency, which at the time was about $15US. He accepted it.

It's wood, obviously hand carved. Why it was painted green, I don't know. And it is obviously old. There are no markings to indicate an artist. I wouldn't describe it as folk art, which usually has some utilitarian purpose rather than being created purely for aesthetics. I do know that whittling was once popular as a pastime, probably seldom practiced today.

The cat is small, only about 4½ inches tall. It sits on top of one of my bookshelf speakers.