10 Things the U.S. needs more than a Wall

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10. Investment in Infrastructure

Sorry, the wall, which is just a metaphor for Trump’s anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist views,  does not count as infrastructure.  The country needs repairs to roads and bridges, better airports, an updated electrical grid system, new schools and medical facilities and renewed commitments to protecting national parks.

9. Investment in Science

This includes funding for quantum computing, cyber security, space exploration (because space is the place) climate change research, ultra high voltage power lines to create supergrids for clean energy transmission, and artificial intelligence.

8. Gun control

This is a no-brainer. With the vast majority of Americans in favor of expanded background checks and a ban on military assault rifles and other weaponry made for the battlefield, it is almost impossible to believe that nothing has been done.  However, with the NRA becoming less influential, and with politicians being increasingly pressured by their constituents to enact gun safety legislation, the prospects look bright.

7. Climate change action

If we don’t do something, they’ll be nothing left for our children or those who come after us.  Humans who are not yet born may need to find lodging on Mars in the years to come as our planet heats up due to our foolish insistence on burning fossil fuels, polluting the environment and putting profits over people and the planet.

6. Health care for all

That’s right and this should be a right for all, not just a benefit for the privileged. I can’t wrap my brain around why Republicans hated Obamacare but so love tax cuts for the wealthy.  It’s as if they feel that certain people don’t deserve good health care or tax breaks. The question is, what have the rich done to deserve tax relief? Where is the love? Where is the empathy for our brothers and sisters of this country and the world who are sick and suffering.

5. Immigration reform

Not a wall.  Border security, ok. Strategic fencing, fine. We do need to protect DACA recipients and provide a path to eventual citizenship for the undocumented who have been living and working in the country.  We should be a leader in solving the humanitarian crisis at the border and allow refugee and asylum seekers to make their cases freely without delay. The only caravan that is worth attention is the great jazz venue in Ft. Worth called The Caravan of Dreams. Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny played there once together to bring in the New Year of 1986.

4. Voting rights for all citizens

This voter suppression nonsense has to stop.  Republicans have done all that they can to make it harder for Blacks and Hispanics to vote because they feel their White grip on power slipping as the demographics of the country change.  Just say NO to voter id requirements, and the closing of polling places.  Say NO to doing away with early voting. Say NO to robo calls that contain confusing and false information about elections. And say NO to voter roll purging, another dirty trick that Florida Governor Scott used to play.

3. Renewed commitment to human rights

No more palling around with dictators – Trump, as much as he would like, hasn’t even been accepted into the Dictator club – he’s a bad dictator, a bad President and a terrible businessman.  How he got elected to the presidency is beyond me.  Perhaps he had some help – actually, he did, that fact is not even in dispute.  But did he know – did he or his campaign collude? We shall soon see.

2. Democracy Restoration

The Trump Presidency has done a number on U.S. Democracy and it will take some time to recover from all the damage Trump has delivered.  But with Dems taking over the House and with the ongoing investigation getting ever so closer to the Trump orbit, the systems of checks and balances will begin to restore health to our weakened Democracy.  He’ll have to account for his actions and those of his cabinet.  And once the Mueller probe is over, Trump can’t have the report buried.  This report could lead to impeachment, removal or Trump stepping down.  Trump will go down in history as one of the worst things that ever happened to the U.S., and he will be remembered as THE worst U.S. president of all time.  This will be his legacy – his big “win.”

1.  End to the Shutdown NOW

Let’s make no mistake.  This is a Trump Shutdown, not a Nancy Pelosi or a Chuck Schumer Shutdown. It is not a strike either as Trump suggested.  He said he would be proud to shut the government down and that he would own it.

There are bills passed by the House waiting for the Senate to take action that would end the Shutdown. Once passed, all Trump would need to do is sign one.  Then he could try to negotiate for the border security he claims the U.S. needs.  There is no need for him to declare a national emergency, for there is no emergency at the border – a humanitarian crisis, yes, but not an emergency to justify a wall. His claims have not been supported with facts that point to any kind of security crisis that even comes close to the crisis that our lax gun control laws pose.  In the last 72 hours, 80 people in the U.S. have died from gun violence – with no incidents at the border. The Wall is a metaphor for racism and a failed presidency – in the words of Nancy Pelosi, it’s “an immorality.”

NO WALL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finger Lakes in the Winter

 

 

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Why would anyone go to lake country in the winter?  What could one do on a freezing cold lake in the dead of winter in Central New York? Not much, not even ice fishing and ice skating because the 11 finger lakes that dot the landscape between Buffalo and Syracuse generally do not freeze in winter. Waterskiing would be challenging in the cold although with the right wet suit, I imagine it’s possible, though silly to ponder. And yet people tour these lakes in the winter nonetheless for one thing and one thing only, WINE.  With some 130 wineries mainly around 4 lakes: Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga and Canandaigua, the Finger Lakes are the 3rd largest wine producing area in the country.  Known for grapes that grow well in cool climates, the Finger Lakes region generates some of the best Rieslings wines in the world and increasingly some of the better examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc found anywhere.

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On a recent visit to the Finger Lakes, my wife and I sampled and bought wines from 8 wineries on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.  2016 and 2017 vintages are outstanding, particularly the Rieslings and Cabernet Francs which we purchased in abundance, but of course, before you buy, sample, because not all are the same, and there is a wild variability in the Cabernet Francs and other reds from vineyard to vineyard in my experience.  The same can be said for the Rieslings, but to tell the truth, almost all of the dry Rieslings I sampled, I liked, so fresh and balanced, a little zesty acidic zing with just a hint of sugar and a clean mineral finish; a few really stood out – Wagner, Lamoreaux Landing, and Boundary Breaks come to mind.  I don’t care much for the sweeter Rieslings but if you do, there are many to be had.  Some odd Whites that we sampled and snatched up are worth mentioning and they include Wagner’s Fathom 107, a blend of Riesling and Gewürztraminer and Fulkerson’s Matinee made from the hybrid Himrod grape. The Red standouts that I sampled came from Sheldrake Point on Cayuga Lake for Cabernet Franc, Glenora for an unoaked Cabernet Franc, Wagner for its Meritage, Merlot and Pinot Noir Reserve, and Heart and Hands also on Cayuga Lake for its Pinot Noir.

Winter is a great time to visit the magical Finger Lakes.  The tasting lines at the wineries are short, and the views around the lakes are breathtaking with very little traffic to contend with. It feels like the lakes and the vineyards are there just for me, and me only.

Cheers!

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Looking on the Bright Side of Life

Bright Side of Life

Photo from Key West by Ribbie

from the political desk of Ribbie’s Weblog. 

Kavanaugh will be seated on the Supreme Court, but he may be unseated if the Democrats win the House and do a proper investigation into his background, following up on leads that Trump instructed the FBI not to explore.

Bright Size Life is one of my favorite records, released at the end of 1975, around the time John Paul Stevens was appointed by President Ford and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Supreme Court.  He was thought to be conservative but mostly voted with the liberal block on key issues.

Jobim’s classic Wave, one of the greatest records of all time, was recorded in 1967.  And 51 years later, in just a few months, an unstoppable Blue Wave is coming.

The Senate may not turn blue, but it could happen.  Elections matter. All the Dems up for reelection need to keep their seats – if you live in FL, IN, MN, MO, MT, ND, NJ, OH, WI, WV, CA, CT, DE, HI, MA, MD, MI, NM, NY, PA, RI, VA, WA, VT, and especially in the highlighted states, be sure to vote and vote for the incumbent Democrat.  The Dems must maintain all these seats and gain two Republican seats.  Ok, so if you live in AZ, NV, TN and TX, vote Dem. I urge my friends and family who live in TX to please vote against Ted Cruz. And any other Texans out there who might be reading this, I ask you do the same.

I had to lol when the former Iowa farmer Chuck Grassley used the French term resistance, likening the Dems and those who oppose Kavanaugh to the Jacobins during the French Revolution. It was the most radical thing the frightened Republicans could think of to smear the opposition. My educated guess is the reference was not understood by most, and instead simply appealed to rabid Trumpists on a pure xenophobic level.

It should come as some comfort to know that Trump is one of the least popular presidents in modern history some 624 days in – less popular than Obama, the Bushes, Clinton, Carter, Ford, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and even Nixon. Trump, it’s not too late to resign.

Final thought:

The Blues could win the Senate

and the Red Sox

the Pennant.

 

 

 

Trump is a Chump

from the editorial desk of Ribbie’s weblog

He’s a chump who seems to have no feeling for people who are struggling – ask the people of Puerto Rico, and the dreamers in limbo, and he has utter contempt for immigrants, refugees, journalists, traditional allies of the U.S., and anyone who opposes him including key Republicans like John McCain.  He is not the President of the United States, but rather a cult-like leader of a small group of xenophobes, white nationalists, billionaires, and undereducated right wing zealots who are vulnerable to propaganda.  Many of the 60 or so million who “voted” for him, did so more out of a hatred for Hillary Clinton, a hatred built on the lies of the right wing media (Fox, the Jim Jones conspiracy nut, and Brietbart) with tons of help from the mainstream media who gave Trump a platform early on and here I’m thinking the MSNBC Morning Joe program.  We now know that he got considerable help from his friends in Russia who used Facebook to sow seeds of dissent among Americans who we can now say definitely were duped, had, played.  Jim Comey, former FBI head also played a key role, perhaps unwittingly, in securing Trump’s “victory”. And even with all the help from the outside, from Wikileaks, the Russian back channels, Republican voter suppression tactics and the like, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. The thing is, Trump has no mandate.  He barely won the electoral college and lost the popular vote.  He is supposed to be the president of all of the people and so far he has been the president of a small base of people who have extreme views that are undemocratic and based on unfounded, ginned-up fears and real hatred.

Trump is a Chump because he and his “expert” advisors – like Steven Miller who is anti-immigrant and a known race baiter and was the key architect of the Muslim travel ban, are now targeting the most vulnerable people on earth, desperate women and children escaping the dangers of their home countries.  They come as refugees, seeking asylum and they are now either being turned away at the border as never before, or they are crossing and being detained and separated – 2,342 kids so far have been separated from their parents and are being housed in what can only be described as cells and cages and sleeping with mylar blankets.  This policy is inhumane and unacceptable and has never been the policy of previous administrations.  Trump is doing this and then gaslighting the public by saying he isn’t doing this, that the Democrats have done this, that they refused to negotiate, that he had no choice but to enforce the law, that only Congress can fix, when this is patently untrue. He is lying to you and to me everyday, by the New York Times count, as many as 6 lies a day.  Once we accept a lie as truth, we are done for as a nation.

Trump is a chump because he has manufactured this border crisis to have a bargaining chip to get ungodly amounts of money for a ridiculous, unnecessary Trump wall.  It’s part of his branding fantasy. He wants you to think, look at all these people coming, see, we need a wall.  Wrong.  This strategy was ill-conceived, morally reprehensible and destined to fail.  If anything, people who once feared immigrants are seeing the images of desperate refugees at the border and the deplorable Trump policy of family separation and having a change of heart.  These are the people Trump wants you to believe are rapists, criminals, and gang members.  This is the flood of humanity that Trump claims that these countries are sending us – “their not sending their best”. They are not sending anyone – these refugees are in fact escaping violence and life-threatening poverty.  These are the very people America should help.  And lest you think immigrants (legal and “illegal”) are prone to committing crime once in the U.S., think again.  Statistics show that immigrants are significantly less likely to be incarcerated as a percentage than people born in the U.S.  And they are not taking jobs away from Americans – in fact, employers are desperate for workers in some sectors such as the hospitality and agriculture industries.  Rather than keep them out, we should be letting them in with open arms.  That’s who were are as people.  We have empathy for the plight of other people, and always have.  We are not a narcissistic psychopathic nation.  We are not a nation all about me, me, me, or the Trump brand.  We are a nation of immigrants and Trump is a chump.

 

Review of Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/269359.Deep_Blues

Head to Head look at 8 Games Ahead

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Down to 16 teams – 8 games over the next few days to whittle it down to the elite 8.  Here’s a look at the history of the 8 matchups.

  1. Loyola-Chicago v. Nevada. The two teams have never met.
  2. Kansas v. Kentucky. Kansas remarkably has never beaten Kentucky in 7 tries.  The two teams last met in the Second Round in 2014 with Kentucky winning 56-49.
  3. Florida State v. Gonzago.  Florida State is 0-1 against the Zags.  The last time the teams played was in the First Round of the 2010 tournament with the Zags winning 67-60.
  4. Michigan v. Texas A&M. The teams last met 56 years ago in a game the Wolverines won 82-79.
  5. Villanova v. West Virginia. Villanova is 22-20 against the Mountaineers. They last met in 2011 with West Virginia winning 83-69.
  6. Texas Tech v. Purdue. The teams have only met twice with the Boilermakers winning both contests. They last met in 1988 with Purdue winning 63-54.
  7. Kansas v. Clemson. Oddly, the two teams have never met.
  8. Syracuse v. Duke. The two teams have met 11 times with Duke winning 6 of the meetings. They last met in February with Duke winning in convincing fashion 60-44.

Trump’s enduring friendship with Putin

 

2014-04-11 19.22.19.jpgThe journalists and political commentators seem confused or mystified as to why Donald Trump continues to act as a close personal friend to Putin and Russia. It’s not too complicated, in my view. I don’t know whether Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, but it seems obvious that Trump and his campaign knew Russia was trying to help. During the campaign Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails and praised Wikileaks for all the “surprises.” Of course, Trump denies that Russian meddling had anything to do with his victory even though he surely knows better. For Trump to admit that he got help would make him look weak and illegitimate.  Insecure bullies like Trump want to look strong to mask their fears and insecurities. Trump looks up to Putin as a model dictator who has absolute authority and power. Trump has no patience for checks and balances which he thinks are meddlesome roadblocks.  He refers to any opposition as the enemy and to critics as being part of a witchhunt.  He seems to have no understanding of how a democracy works and no experience or respect for it; rather all he knows is how to run a family business that is accountable only to himself. And he is trying to run the country as if it were a Trump enterprise.

Another explanation for Trump’s bromance with Putin is that Putin may have something on Trump; the idea that Trump is compromised. This is not an original thought and many have wondered the same. It is not entirely clear what Putin has on Trump, but it may be that both are trying to cover up a money laundering scheme or other illegal financial activity which could explain why Trump refuses to release his taxes. Who knows, Putin may even have a tape that proves collusion or some other compromising evidence that has been out there for a while now. Or Trump may simply fear being poisoned like some of Putin’s opponents have been – there have been reports that Trump only eats fast food purchased by anonymous aides and brought to him secretly because he thinks these meals are poison free. It is just as likely that Trump has been promised a Trump Tower in Moscow, something I’ve read he’s wanted, in exchange for a friendly stance toward Russia – a quid pro quo so to speak. Whatever it is, Trump appears to be a lackey to Putin based on his behavior and actions since he’s been in office. Here is what Trump has seemingly delivered to Putin so far: delayed the sanctions that Congress passed for as long as possible; took a meeting with key Russian officials in the White House with no Western reporters allowed; berated NATO to demand they pay their fair share; hung out with Putin at the G-7 – shunning the leaders considered to be America’s closest allies; pulled out of the Paris Climate agreement; insulted Mexico; lied to Trudeau about trade deficits with Canada and has not rubuked Russia for its unleashing of nerve agents in England. He has also fired Secretary of State Tillerson, who Russia lobbied to have Trump hire initially, and then later soured on when he took a hard line on Russia. Don’t forget that Trump fired Comey and McCabe who he felt weren’t loyal to him (even though loyalty to Trump was not part of their jobs) and thought they didn’t do enough to stop the Russia investigation. And he has never publically rebuked Putin by name for his hand in meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Instead, he congratulated Putin for his “victory” as Trump himself contemplates the dream of being in the league of dictators – a  “president” for life, accountable only to Vladimir Putin.

There, I’ve said it and feel better now.

16 Teams & 16 Oddities: March Madness

From the Sporting Desk of Ribbie’s Weblog

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  1. There could be an all TX Final – Texas Tech v. Texas A&M.
  2. There could be an all KS and All Big 12 Final – Kansas State v. Kansas.
  3. There could be another All Big 12 Final – Kansas State v. West Virgina or Texas Tech.
  4. There could be an All ACC Final – Florida State v. Clemson, Syracuse, or Duke.
  5. There could be an All Big Ten Final – Purdue v. Michigan.
  6. There could be an All 11 seed Final – Syracuse v. Loyola-Chicago.
  7. The two teams with State in their names are 9 seeds: Kansas State and Florida State.
  8. Texas and Kansas are the only states with more than 1 team represented, both w/ 2.
  9. Half of the teams in the Sweet 16 are from the ACC and the SEC, each with 4.
  10. The East is the most competitive region left – seeds total 11.
  11. The South is the least competitive region left – seeds total 32.
  12. Nevada has no players from Nevada on its roster.
  13. Duke has no players from North Carolina on its roster.
  14. Texas A&M has 13 players from Texas on its roster; Texas Tech has 8.
  15. Syracuse has 1 Senior on its roster.
  16. Duke has 1 Senior and 8 Freshmen on its roster.

The Post: A film review

unnamedI saw The Post last night at a packed theatre near Boston.  I don’t go to the cinema for a picture show very often given my schedule, but when I do, I try to be as selective as possible. I really couldn’t pass up a film about the Washington Post and the Pentagon Papers.  I’m old enough to remember the Vietnam War and nightly news coverage.  And like most of the other baby boomers in the audience, I have fond memories of reading the newspaper.  In my hometown, there were two major newspapers; one delivered in the morning and the other in the evening; my family subscribed to both.  As a youth, I was even a paperboy for a few years with my own route in the neighborhood where I lived. I delivered the newspaper on my bicycle and in a convertible MG midget when I was old enough to drive.  I remember there always being someone reading the newspaper in the house and there being pages strewn on the couch and coffee table as kind of permanent fixtures.

The film plot was fairly straightforward.  The New York Times had just published a series of articles from a leaked classified study commissioned by the U.S. government on the U.S. role in Indochina from World War II to the late ’60s. I believe Bob McNamara was its principal author.  Stunningly, the study concluded that the chances of winning the Vietnam War were next to nothing. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the document to the Times happened to be a friend of a Post employee played by Bob Odenkirk, of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad fame.  He obtained the documents from Ellsberg after the Times had been hit with a court injunction on national security grounds to stop publishing the leaks from the study.  The Post, then owned by Cathyrn Graham, played by Meryl Streep, had to decide whether to publish portions of the papers they had obtained from Ellsberg, during this injunction period knowing it would be in violation of the law.  I won’t tell you whether they did or not – you’ll have to see the film to find out, but I will say there was a lot of drama around what to do, complicated by the fact that the Washington Post was in the process of becoming a publically traded entity, to try to become a nationally viable newspaper.

The acting was serviceable in all respects; even understated.  No character dominated the action or stood out as the star.  Meryl Streep probably captured Cathyrn Graham exactly as she was, somewhat overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking over a newspaper that had been in her husband’s family for years, but courageous particularly in the face of the male-dominated newspaper business. Though she was depicted as more of a socialite, by the end of the movie, she had evolved into a significant feminist influence. Tom Hanks, who played the editor Ben Bradlee, was an important force and one who Graham clearly trusted.  Their on-screen chemistry was not magical, but appropriate for an editor-owner relationship.

My quibble with the film was the shots of protests and other street scenes.  I did not get the feeling of the ’70s which seemed inauthentic and staged.  The hippies were too clean.  The smokers looked like they had not yet learned how to smoke.  The cars were not representative of what one might have seen on the streets at that time – like the hippies, too clean; straight out of central casting.

What makes the film compelling is not the acting or the cinematography but the subject matter.  Just as then, freedom of speech is under assault by an authoritarian President who is not fit for office.  Trump’s endless attacks on the press are concerning.  He has been trying to bring down the press because he believes it provides too many checks on his power.  He fears reporters and authors, not to mention the special prosecutor, have gotten too close to exposing his misdeeds and possible crimes during the campaign and as President.  He lashes out with the phrase “fake news” anytime something is published about him that he doesn’t like.  He has repeatedly called reporters awful people; he has called the Times the “failing” New York Times even though it is thriving; he just threatened lawsuits against an author and publisher for an unflattering book about himself and his presidency.  And his threat to strengthen libel laws is clearly an attempt to silence his critics.  His dictatorial style cannot be tolerated, and our free press must continue to call him out and not be intimidated.  He may have bullied his way into the presidency, but now he must function within a constitutional democracy with checks and balances. The Supreme Court upheld the power of the first amendment, ruling in favor of the press publishing the Pentagon Papers which ultimately led to the end of the Vietnam War and the Nixon presidency.  Trump, are you listening?

Finger Laking Good!

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I am embarrassed to say that I had never been to the Finger Lakes until recently even though I only live about 6 hours away from them by car.  And for those of you who may not know, the Finger Lakes are in upstate New York, a few hundred miles south of Lake Ontario and were carved out by glacier streams millions of years ago.  There are actually 11 lakes, in an area that was once the heart of the Iroquois nation.  The largest three are Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga, which are also home to hundreds of vineyards.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn that New York is the third largest wine producing state in the country after California and Washington.

Which brings me to the point of this post, Finger Lakes wine.  And my what wine.  The area really is a gem, even a national treasure for high-quality wines from grapes grown on estates of many of the vineyards along the lakes. I had the good fortune of visiting some of those vineyards with my wife this past week and sampling some of the delicious new releases.  Actually, we visited 7 vineyards, sampling wines at 6; buying several bottles at each, while wining and dining at another.  Nearly all of the vineyards/wineries were located on top of a hill overlooking a lake and the vineyards below. One of the reasons for the impressive wines can be found in the microclimates the lakes create which extend the growing seasons by moderating the temperatures – cooler in the summer; warmer in the fall.  The generally cooler climate of upstate NY makes the Finger Lakes perfect for grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and a range of hybrid and native grapes perfect for blending.

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Bully Hill Vineyards, Hammondsport, NY

We stayed in the quaint town of Penn Yan, between Keuka and Seneca Lakes. If you plan on hitting the wine trails, Penn Yan is a good place to stay.  You’ll be within 20 minutes of dozens of wineries that are generally open for tastings year round. While we only visited a half dozen or so wineries, we did go to some of the better known ones including, Dr. Frank, Ravines, Bully Hill, Herron Hill, Anthony Road, Keuka Spring and Fox Run.  For recommendations on which wines to buy, I would urge you to sample wines in a wine flight first.  Most of the wineries offer 5 selections for 5 dollars.  Buy what you like.  If you don’t want to spend the money on tastings or prefer just to buy wine, definitely look for the many outstanding examples of dry Rieslings some of the best on the planet, and what the Finger Lakes are increasingly known for, but don’t discount the drier reds as well – you can find delightful Cabernet Francs, Merlots, Pinot Noirs and Lembergers at nearly every winery you visit. The late harvest Rieslings and Vignoles and Ice Wines, if not sold out, might also be good values if you like sweet wines. Fox Run has a tremendous Tawny Port for the fortified wine lover. The cheaper table wines, what the Finger Lakes were once known for in the early days of the industry, are mostly sweeter and from hybrid grapes or native grapes that while quaffable, may not be as complex as the vinifera variety you may be accustomed to drinking.

FLX Wine