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WTF?

Comes news today that one of the President's golfing / Mar-El-Lago buddies, a guy named Robert Hyde, was in communication with Rudy Giuliani and other of the President's confidants. He seemed to know a lot about the comings and goings of Giuliani, et. al. in Ukraine.

Hyde also claimed to have the US Ambassador to Ukraine, a Senate-confirmed official who works for the President, under surveillance. Now, Hyde is not the most mentally-stable person you'll meet, so whether this was fact or fiction we may never know.

But the President's confidantes were working with a man who was either batshit crazy or a potential threat to the life of a senior US official! In what universe is this not immediate proof that the President is unfit for office?

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Movie Update

Due to a snowstorm on Saturday night, I stayed in. The storm wasn't as bad as it was advertised, but it was still cold, wet and windy. For entertainment, I watched two movies I had wanted to see via the wonders of pay-per-view. Herewith are my thoughts.

The Nightingale: Rather a lot of rape in this one and a collection of really unpleasant characters. The story is set in Tasmania in the 1820s during what was called the "Black War" when European settlers were trying (and generally succeeding) in wiping out the Aboriginals of that island. The title role is played by a young Irish actor and she's an indentured servant (read "slave") of a rather nasty British Army officer. Bad things happen which prompt her to take revenge. There's a bit where our lead character makes a to-me inexplicable decision, which generally put me off of the whole story. I found it merely okay overall.

Miss Bala: "Bala" is Spanish for "bullet" and the bullets do fly in this one. Our heroine is an American makeup artist from Mexico who goes to Tijuana to visit a friend. When the bullets fly, she ends up becoming a pawn in a war between the DEA and a Mexican gang. I found this very believable and interesting. This I highly recommend.

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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Comes news overnight that we killed an Iraqi militia leader and an Iranian general via an airstrike as they were driving to the airport in Baghdad. If a US general were killed by a country we were not at war with while driving in a country allied with a 3rd party we'd be pissed. If a US citizen were killed by an allied airstrike while driving to Dulles Airport, we'd be pissed. From the viewpoint of Iraq and Iran, this is a two-fer.

Iran MUST retaliate, so they will. In Iraq, every yahoo who's been running around badmouthing the Americans is saying "see, I told you so!"

This is what happens when you conduct foreign policy by Tweets while sitting on the can.

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The Earth Is Round - Grid Corrections

So, while looking for something else, I found this article, Mysterious Detour While Driving? This is the phenomenon, frequently observed while driving in rural America, where the road comes to a T or makes a pair of 90-degree turns for no apparent reason. I learned that some of those curves are due to the fact that the Earth is round.

When the American and Canadian plains were laid out, the goal was to survey them into equal squares of land while running the north-south boundary lines parallel to the lines of longitude. Unfortunately, these lines of longitude get closer together the closer to the pole, which in North America means going north. In order to make the squares of land equal, every so often the surveyors had to shift the squares.

This may be an explanation for something I've experienced for years. Sometimes when driving to or from the Home Soil in Central Illinois, I take a state highway, Illinois 49. There are several big paired 90-degree curves in the road, only one of which has any apparent reason for existing.

You learn something every day.

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Mexico

I have been accused in certain quarters of being in favor of unlimited immigration and open borders. I'm not; rather I'm in favor of humane immigration policies and effective border control. This is why last week's gun battle in Culiacán Mexico, in which the Mexican Army got their collective asses kicked, concerns me. As we've seen in places like Syria, a collapsed government will result in a flood of refugees.

I don't know whether or not the sequence of events in relayed in this post is accurate or rather the official story of poor planning is true, but any time the national army loses a gun battle on the streets of a major city, that's a problem. The author of the linked article is generally correct - Mexico has a very long and sad history of civil strife. It's incorrect to say that Mexico's many dictators resulted in orderly government - rather most of those dictators resulted in a civil war. Be that as it may, having 130 million people on our southern border shooting at each other will not be a good scene.

Several things concern me about the Culiacán battle. First, I don't get the read that very many people are paying enough attention to it. Second, I also don't have a warm and fuzzy feeling that the current administration has a clue what to do about the problem. Finally, I'm not seeing any indication that the current Mexican administration has much of a handle on things.

If anybody thinks a wall is going to stop people with truck-mounted 50 caliber machine guns from crashing the border, please call me - I have a special on beachfront property in Idaho. If we want to get serious about immigration, keeping the peace in Mexico needs to be a priority.

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Yet More Trump

I've said a lot about Trump as of late, but every time I think he hits bottom he keeps digging. At the moment I'm starting to be concerned about his mental health. To wit:

1) Regardless of the merits of our involvement in Syria, our rapid pullout and abandonment of our allies was stupid. Is he really all there mentally?

2) The letter he sent to Turkish president reads like schoolyard taunts from a not-very-bright fifth grader. This is not to mention that if he didn't want Turkey in Syria he could have just left the handful of US troops there and been done with it. Is he really all there mentally?

3) On the subject of said letter, who in their right mind would think releasing the letter was a good idea? Is he really all there mentally?

4) The wife of a US diplomat killed a British teenager in a car accident. Given the Britain has good courts and is a staunch ally, one would think it would be a no-brainer to order her back to Britain for a trial. Instead Trump tries to stage some cut-rate Jerry Springer reconciliation on camera. Is he really all there mentally?

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Trump

Yesterday, Trump's lawyers sent a letter to Congress regarding the impeachment process. On Sunday, Trump announced we were pulling out of Syria. I have thoughts.

On Impeachment

1) Trump's letter repeated the claim his call with the Ukrainians was "perfectly good." Yeah, not so much.

2) The letter demanded that the House follow various procedures, including giving subpoena power to the Republican minority. The thing is the only requirement of the House is to vote articles of impeachment to the Senate. How they get to that is up to them.

3) Regarding subpoena power - the former Republican House and the current Republican Senate had or have subpoena power. They didn't and aren't using it. Maybe they know the people they call aren't going to say what Trump would like them to say?

4) The letter basically dares Congress to vote on an inquiry. If they do, much of Trump's already-scanty legal cover goes away. Calmer heads would have just stuck with not cooperating. But Trump is not calm, and his followers really want a fight. It looks like they'll get one.

On Syria

1) I was not particularly in favor of our getting involved in Syria. However, once you get involved, just jumping out with no planning or notice is as bad or worse than jumping in.

2) Given Trump's economic interests, it's hard not to wonder if the pull-out was intended to help grease the skids on Trump Tower Turkey.

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On "Investigations"

Here in the USA, if you call the police and ask them to investigate your neighbor, very early in the conversation the police will ask "for what?" They will then quickly follow that up with "what evidence do you have?" Now, they're not looking for you to provide enough evidence to haul your neighbor in front of a judge, but you had better have more facts than "well my neighbor's got shifty eyes."

In the Land of Trump, Fox News and Modern Conservatives, (for whatever daylight exists between those entities) this basic evidentiary requirement gets waived. So despite the fact that there was no evidence Obama was born anywhere else than Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, we got treated to Trump personally demanding an investigation into his place of birth. In fact, I firmly believe the merciless if well-deserved mocking Trump got at a White House Correspondent's dinner over the subject is why Trump ran for President in the first place.

Now, Trump and Fellow Travelers are demanding investigations into the Bidens. Again, no evidence is required. In fact, the one "questionable" thing, Joe Biden's request that a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired, was backed at the time by Republicans in Congress.

But this attitude that no facts are required explains why Trump continues to demand foreign governments investigate Biden. In Trump's mind, he's doing nothing wrong. Biden must be dirty, and if efforts to produce the dirt fail that's not because he's clean but proof of a coverup. So now what we must decide is if we want as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States a man who will use his badge for personal benefit.

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I'ts better to be lucky than good, exhibit #3459

Herewith is exhibit number 3459 as to why it's better to be lucky than good.

Yesterday, my primary life mission was to drive my parents to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago for my Mom's post-operative visit. Mom's medical report was good and the drive down and back was uneventful, albeit involving heavy traffic coming home. (We left Northwestern at 3 PM, which means we hit rush hour.)

Last night, we went out to dinner. I drove. My car was a bit sluggish in starting after dinner but not terribly bad. The next morning it barely cranked at all, and when it did fire up I got several warning lights on my console. So I took it to the dealership, where to get it into the service bay they had to jump-start it. In the bay, they replaced the battery and applied a software update to clear a problem with the HVAC.

Obviously, had the battery died yesterday, things would have sucked. A dead battery in the morning would have meant me driving Dad's car downtown. A dead battery in the afternoon would have meant trying to get a jump in the parking lot. Possible but painful. Again, sheer luck.

Two side notes. First, my GM Onstar system did email me that I was having battery issues. Alas, the email came late last night and I missed it in my rush to get out in the morning. Second, when I posted a brief note about the battery on Twitter, the Sears Twitter-bot sent me a note offering a discount on a new battery. Too late, Sears - I posted to Twitter from the dealership.

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