Health Update

Health, Wealth and Wisdom — Well, one out of three ain’t bad.

Breathing:

Hey, I still can. No breathing problems at all; I still use the Advair inhaler twice a day but haven’t had to use the emergency inhaler at all.

Skin:

Had a melanoma removed from my lower right back in late March; no problems since.

Eyes:

Got new glasses; slight increase in reading magnification.

Colon:

Cologuard result was positive so I had a colonoscopy. Made an appointment with the doctor I was referred to on April 11 for June 19 (earliest opening). The office called on April 29 and said there was an opening on May 3 two hours after I was scheduled for an untrasound/electrocardiogram; I took it. Saw the doctor and scheduled the procedure for May 7 @ 8:45 am.

Charlie called the home care service and got a carer for the morning; Mike took me over and brought me back and later brought us to Charlie’s afternoon medical appointment. No problems either with the prep or with the procedure itself which took 22 minutes and 49 seconds, according to the printout I received — with color pictures (none of which I shall enlarge and frame).

A few polyps were found and removed. I received a phone call from the office this morning and was told that all were benign. Next procedure in three years.

Heart:

The ultrasound showed that my heart is still beating, although some of my former students might find that hard to believe as they didn’t think I had a heart, at least one that wasn’t made of stone. There’s a bit of leakage, but nothing serious and the aneurysm isn’t large enough for surgery (yet). The doctor has thought about prescribing a beta-blocker but that could compromise my breathing.

Also, beta-blockers lower the heart rate. As my heart rate is usually in the 50s — 60s he didn’t want to lower it any further as that could increase the leakage. I’ll see him again in late September and must schedule another CT scan the week before. (Vitals were taken when I arrived for my appointment — BP: 119/69 and HR: 54.) And, of course, he wants me to monitor and record my BP at home so I need to get a blood pressure monitor.

Teeth:

Had three below-the-gum-line cavities filled.

911:

Received a notice from the HB Paramedics on Saturday; they want verification of insurance. The bill was for $1,300+ and my being in the HB Fire Med program with insurance will pay for it. If I didn’t have insurance I’d only get a 20% discount on the bill. Filled out the form and sent requested copies of my insurance and Medicare (with my new, non-SS, number) card.

Hmmmmm . . . March 1st 911 call — May 11 request for info, ahhh ain’t efficiency grand.


Meow:

Meow
Meow

The Mueller Report – A Few Thoughts on Volume II of II

As I began my previous post: The long-awaited, or dreaded, Mueller Report: Volume II is out.

This work concentrates not on Russian interference in the 2016 election and any connections with the Trump campaign, but on whether or not Trump (et al) obstructed or attempted to obstruct the government’s investigation of that interference. As such, it was more difficult reading and there was a great deal of legalize with which to deal.

Impressions

  • Mr. Trump and, many, if not most, of the people around him have no respect for the truth. In fact, I have my doubts that some of them even have a concept of “truth.” If the statement helped Mr. Trump it was good; if the statement harmed Mr. Trump it was bad. Whether the statement was true or not had/has no place in the discussion.
  • It is interesting that some of the people surrounding Mr. Trump (whether in government positions or not) refused to follow his instructions, sometimes repeatedly.
  • Questions of (Constitutional) law are complicated — especially, involving the separation of powers.
  • We are lucky in that we have a system of checks and balances which limits both the powers of Congress and the President.

A charge of Obstruction of Justice needs three elements:

  1. An obstructive act —

    Obstruction-of-justice law “reaches all corrupt conduct capable of producing an effect that prevents justice from being duly administered, regardless of the means employed.”

  2. Nexus (a connection) to a pending or contemplated official proceeding;

  3. Corruptly (intent) —

    The word “corruptly” provides the intent element for obstruction of justice and means acting “knowingly and dishonestly” or “with an improper motive.”

In other words: Did Mr. Trump (or others at his direction) corruptly obstruct, or attempt to obstruct, the investigations by the FBI or Special Counsel.

The Mueller Report goes into a great deal of detail to explain the above, the conduct of Mr. Trump and his associates in regards to it and the constitutional ramifications of various actions and charges.

I found the Report to be damning.

I also found the lack of people willing to come forward and honestly tell their stories disturbing. There are no real “good guys” connected with the White House. Everyone, even those who refused to carry out Mr. Trump’s instructions, seemed/seems to be concerned with only themselves — no one puts America first.

It took me two days to read through Volume II. While the language was no more difficult than Volume I, the content density of the material was greater and frequently required re-reading of sections.

Following the investigative material and its conclusions is the Appendix:

AAAAAA. The order establishing the Special Counsel;

AAAAAB. A Glossary of names and brief descriptions of individuals and entities referenced in the two volumes of the report;

AAAAAC. Questions submitted to Mr. Trump for written replies (and the reasoning behind this) and Mr. Trump’s replies;

AAAAAD. The matters transferred or referred by the Special Counsel’s Office, as well as cases prosecuted by the Office that are now completed.

 

To get the full impact of the Mueller Report you must actually read it. No media summary and commentary is sufficient. However, the following may give you a hint of its effect.

Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

The Mueller Report – A Few Thoughts on Volume I of II

The long awaited, or dreaded, Mueller Report is out.

I have been avoiding watching news reports on its substance and I’ve avoided reading about it in the newspapers.

Today I went to  —  https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/18/politics/full-mueller-report-pdf/index.html — and downloaded a copy of the report. I’ve spent most of this afternoon reading it. So far, I’ve finished reading Volume I. Tomorrow, or later, I’ll read Volume II.

Impressions

  • Attorney General Barr’s speech just before the release of the Mueller Report had nothing to do with the report itself but was a political misdirection in favor of President Trump.
  • The Mueller Report is an “easy” read. That is, the language is easy to understand, the narration and explanations are understandable with little need to re-read sections or puzzle over the meanings of words. Indeed, the most difficult part was dealing with Russian names.
  • It is, however, not light reading. There is a wealth of information and detail.

Redactions

Portions of the report were redacted, that is, censored for several reasons:

  • HOM — Harm to Ongoing Matter
  • Personal Privacy — Huh?
  • Grand Jury
  • Investigative Technique

More Impressions

That a great deal of work went into the investigation is evident in both its extent and detail. Robert Mueller, III earned his pay, and so did the others on his team.

The Mueller Report does not exonerate President Trump or any of his associates.

From the Report

  • The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.
    • . . . the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations.
    • First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
    • Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.
    • Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
    • In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.”

Tidbits

  • According to Gates, in March 2016, Manafort traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to meet with Trump. Trump hired him at that time. Manafort agreed to work on the Campaign without pay. Manafort had no meaningful income at this point in time, but resuscitating his domestic political campaign career could be financially beneficial in the future. Gates reported that Manafort intended, if Trump won the Presidency, to remain outside the Administration and monetize his relationship with the Administration. (My Italics.)
  • The conflicting accounts provided by Bannon and Prince could not be independently clarified by reviewing their communications, because neither one was able to produce any of the messages they exchanged in the time period surrounding the Seychelles meeting. Prince’s phone contained no text messages prior to March 2017, though provider records indicate that he and Bannon exchanged dozens of messages. Prince denied deleting any messages but claimed he did not know why there were no messages on his device before March 2017. Bannon’s devices similarly contained no messages in the relevant time period, and Bannon also stated he did not know why messages did not appear on his device. Bannon told the Office that, during both the months before and after the Seychelles meeting, he regularly used his personal Blackberry and personal email for work-related communications (including those with Prince), and he took no steps to preserve these work communications. (My Italics.)

The Mueller Report details actions of both members of the Trump campaign and Russians. It makes for interesting reading. Although Mr. Trump and members of his campaign may not have conspired — according to the letter of the law — with the Russians to influence the 2016 election, I believe the Mr. Trump and his supporters “used” the Russians and their illegal hacking and social media exploits to help him win the election. He showed, and still shows, no interest in punishing them for their interference in that election and no concern that it might occur again.

Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower are spinning in their graves.

NOTE: Of special interest in this report are the Special Counsel’s reasons and reasoning for not bringing charges against certain individuals.

Remember those “30,000 emails” of Mrs. Clintons? Wouldn’t getting those emails and using them — being as they were illegally “hacked” and stolen — be considered “receiving stolen property?” Mr. Mueller’s reasoning that it was not a crime is brilliant . . . and proves that the world is run, to its detriment, by too many lawyers.

Getting Into College

When I turned 18 in 1968, the first thing I remember doing was reporting to the local office of the Selective Service System and registering for the DRAFT. Because I was in high school I was given a deferment until I graduated. After that, it was go to college or risk being drafted.

This was rather important as hundreds of American young men were being killed and wounded each week in the 30-year war being fought throughout Indo-China. I did not want to be one of them. Being killed didn’t unduly bother me — it was the fear of being wounded and permanently disabled or being captured and tortured that weighed on my mind.

If I had been drafted, I would have gone — that wasn’t an option. 4-F? No, I was healthy; no bone spurs, just fat. I suspect the DIs would have taken care of that without a second thought. It was, therefore, in my best interests to stay in school and go to college.

USC, UCLA, Harvard, Yale, . . . No, these kinds of schools weren’t in the cards. I was not an athlete; I was not an outstanding scholar; I was not a minority or hardship case — just an average student with a hard-working father and a stay-at-home mother doing their best to raise two boys in the turbulent sixties.

Use bribery to get John or me into a name school? What a laughable concept. My parents’ ethics would not have permitted it and our finances . . . well, we could afford Catholic high school tuition, but not much else.

For college there were two choices for me — Pasadena City College (our local 2-year junior college) or Cal-State Los Angeles (CSCLA), a commuter 4-year school. I chose Cal-State and the next year my brother chose PCC.

My high school diploma would have been enough to get into PCC but Cal-State required a minimum score based on high school GPA and SAT scores. I had no trouble getting in.

In our junior year we took the PSAT — no choice, we all did it — and my score was in the low 1200s (600+ in both Math and Language). I took the SAT in my senior year and, for practical purposes, duplicated my PSAT results. This score, combined with my 2.8 high school GPA gained me entry to Cal-State — and a continuing student deferment (assuming I stayed in school and kept my grades up).

Compared with my high school, Cal-State was easy. I could schedule my classes so I didn’t have to attend five days a week; there was plenty of time to study and do research in the library and I got a job in the Industrial Arts Department.

In a bit of irony it turned out that my high school Architecture (junior year) instructor was teaching architecture at Cal-State. Although I’d skipped the freshman drafting classes (upper class students had filled the spaces), I still needed to take them to fulfill the requirements for a minor in Industrial Arts (my major was History). He nixed the whole thing.

You already know this stuff and it would be a waste of your time and mine, he told me. I’d already come to that conclusion but requirements were requirements and an “Easy A” was an “Easy A” and good grades helped with my deferment. So, I ended up with an “A” in both classes but what I really did was draw his class examples and help out the other students. He was right; I really did know all the material, but repetition and helping others learn the material reinforced the knowledge.

December 1969 rolled around and the Vietnam War Selective Service Lottery came into being. It would assign a random number for one’s order of being drafted into the military for those of us born 1944-1950. To say that this was important was understating things. It was a matter of life and death. Have a low number and get drafted; have a high number no worries (short of a land war with China).

My best friend drew with a low number, finished his quarter at Cal-State and enlisted in the Army rather than be drafted and ended up, after training, being stationed in California for the remainder of his enlistment.

I ended up with an absurdly high number and dropped my deferment — eventually being placed in, if I remember correctly, the 1-H holding category.

– – – – –

The next year my brother was also assigned an absurdly high lottery number but he didn’t like going to school as much as I did and enlisted in the Air Force. (He was one of those evacuated from Saigon on April 30, 1975.)

I graduated from Cal-State in 3 years. (Not because I was brilliant, but my high school taught me to work hard. I took “too many units” at times and did not take off the summer quarters.) When my classmates graduated, I received my “5th-year” teaching credential.

– – – – –

I would like to know how President Bush (2) got into college. What was his high school GPA and what were his scores on his entrance exams, and college grades. Or, was it just a case of dad’s (Bush 1) connections and money that got, and kept, him in school. And, how he really got out of being drafted. (His Lottery number would have been 327 in 1970.)

I’d like to know the same about President Trump. By the way his Lottery number in 1970 would have been 356.

– – – – –

President Trump must be impeached. — Carthago delanda est.


Smoke and Mist "assisting" my one-handed typing of this post.
Smoke and Mist “assisting” my one-handed typing of this post.

Morality, a Personal View and the Death Penalty

Morality, in a large sense is being able to distinguish between what is the right, or correct, thing to do and what is the wrong, or incorrect, thing to do and then actually acting on the situation.

A moral person chooses the good thing.

An immoral person chooses the bad thing.

And the amoral person does what he, or she, desires without knowing or caring about how the outcome affects others.

Where does Morality come from?

Some morality comes from a person’s (society’s) beliefs as taught by his God or gods. Some comes from our parents. Some from our peers, teachers, political leaders, and the writings and works of those we come in contact with during the course of our lives.

You don’t have to have a belief in God, a god or gods, to have a sense of morality. There are moral agnostics and atheists, as well as immoral people who profess a belief in a deity.

Judaism, Islam, Christianity — Morality?

Followers of all three major monotheistic (belief in one god) religions have engaged in wars, persecutions and massacres which they believe (or believed) were sanctioned by their god. The followers of Moses and Joshua attacked, killed and enslaved those who lived in Canaan because they believed it was their “promised land,” promised them by their god. (No matter someone else was already there.)

Islam sanctions jihad, holy war, against those who are not believers, including other Muslims who are not the “right” kind of Muslims.

Christians engaged in crusades, holy wars, in what we call the Middle East for two centuries (1095 – 1291) in an effort to take control from its Muslim rulers. Deus Vult, God wills it, was the battle cry of the Crusaders and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews, Muslims and Christians. And there have, of course, been crusades against Christians who have been the wrong kinds of Christians over the centuries.

Today

Some people today may pooh-pooh the idea that we are like those people, but we are. Europeans of the 18th and 19th centuries believed it was their duty to civilize and help their “brown brothers” in Africa and Asia, even though some of their civilizations pre-dated those of Europe by millennia. And us? How about Manifest Destiny? America from the Atlantic to the Pacific — ignoring the peoples who had lived here since the last Ice Age. Of course, we also wanted to help civilize those “brown” peoples in areas we could wrest from them and the Europeans.

Vietnam — More than a million people died during that 30-year war and its aftermath.

Afghanistan, et al (the Forever War) — the total isn’t finished.

One of the major problems with morality is, I believe, that no matter the basic teaching, we twist it to benefit ourselves. For example, assuming I remember correctly, Jesus said: “turn the other cheek.” When someone wrongs us, do we turn the other cheek? Or do we fight back? If it’s a slap, do we ignore it? Or if it’s a plane flying into a building, do we unleash a decades long war?

Is God Moral?

I was raised in the Catholic Church and attended Catholic elementary and high schools. I learned doctrine, catechism, prayers and rituals in two languages — and I can still pull them from my memory — but lost any real faith sometime in the eighth grade. We were learning about Noah and the Flood. I thought: because people don’t bow and pray to him God kills everyone? Parents? Children? Babies?

This is moral? To my mind this is only moral from the standpoint of might makes right. God can do what He wants and, by definition, it is moral.

A plane crashes and three people survive. It’s a miracle! Thank God! And God purposely killed 173 other people? Run this by any disaster, accident, or “Act of God” you desire.

God works in mysterious ways. Bull—t! Rationalization. Use your brain (God-given though it may be).

Heaven — Hell

You live a decent life. You don’t kill or steal. You love your spouse and children and raise them to the best of your ability. Your life does no harm to anyone, but by the same token you’ve never gone out of your way to help anyone. Should you go to Heaven — forever?

Should a murderer go to Hell — forever? How about BTK, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Mao?

When the concepts of Heaven, Hell and forever originated, people counted on their finger and toes. Some of them knew of numbers in the hundreds and thousands and, some, understood the concept of much larger numbers. Forever was a limited concept.

Today, however, that has changed. The human concept of numbers has changed — radically.

I live in a city of some 200,000, a country of 330,000,000+, a world 7,000,000,000+. We have a national debt of $22,000,000,000,000.

A Googol is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

A googolplex is the number 10googol, or equivalently, 10(10100). Written out in ordinary decimal notation, it is 1 followed by 10100 zeroes, that is, a 1 followed by a googol zeroes.

These numbers represent only an infinitesimal fraction of an infinite forever.

Should a person, no matter the crime, be punished with infinite pain for this amount of time, again, and again, and again — ad infinitum? Is this what your church/religion teaches? What kind of being (God) would do this? What is the nature of this being?

I cannot answer that, but it is not the God/god I believe in.

The Death Penalty

Which brings me to the death penalty. For millennia, and maybe longer, people have executed those who have transgressed against their laws, civil, religious and otherwise. Steal a loaf of bread — hang him. Treason — shoot him. Decapitation, drowning, burning, crucifixion, draw-and-quarter. The list goes on and on. What does this say about us?

I used to believe that a person who murdered another deserved the death penalty; he or she had forfeited their right to life by unjustly taking the life of another. Why waste money keeping that person alive in a cell when the money could be better spent on housing, schooling and medical care?

I no longer believe this, but it has nothing to do with the murderer’s right to life. It is both the moral and practical thing to do.

If “God” does torture and punish a person for an infinite time, I want to keep that person out of God’s hands for as along as I can.

If otherwise? Well, I’d like to see us change. Let us distance ourselves from the beliefs of our ancestors. Let us not practice state-sanctioned murder of other human beings — even if we can justify it. Let us not seek justice or vengeance by engaging in a never-ending series of wars which kills tens of thousands as collateral damage.

Let us write a new moral code of which we can point to and say, “This is us; this is me.”

Perhaps, then, if we really appear before St. Peter and God, we can proudly say: “Sir, I’ve done my best.”


I wrote this after a week of considering California Governor Newsom’s, at least temporarily, ending of the death penalty in the state.


Trump must be impeached! — Carthago delanda est!