Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Incapable of telling the truth about anything

“If I ever ran for office, I’d do better as a Democrat than as a Republican — and that’s not because I’d be more liberal, because I’m conservative.” — Donald Trump, Playboy, March 1990

DOES IT SEEM like I never have anything good to say about Jabba the Hut . . . er, I mean Donald J. Trump? Well, you're right! I don't.

I ran across this story in POLITICO Magazine by Michael Kruse and Noah Weiland. These guys have done their homework! 

I'm sharing part of the contradictions they've unearthed, but I encourage you to click on the link the read all of them. They're almost unbelievable because it's hard to fathom how any one asshole could talk out of all of his orifices at once, but all the quotes are referenced. Plus there's a picture gallery with some juicy front page newspaper cover shots, so be sure and click through those. 

Donald Trump’s Greatest Self-Contradictions

By Michael Kruse and Noah Weiland
May 5, 2016

Donald Trump likes to say that he “tells it like it is,” and his blunt style has won him the Republican nomination, buoyed by voters who like feeling they know just where a candidate stands on the issues. So where does he stand? Over the past four decades Trump has talked about every imaginable subject: gun rights to germs, the nature of competition to pre-nuptial agreements, love and sex, self-promotion and politics. And on every one of those topics, he has taken positions that directly contradict exactly what he has previously said.

In a world where candidates have lost elections over a single flip-flop, Trump has turned the self-contradiction into an art form. To create the definitive archive of Trump’s long argument with himself, Politico mined an almost limitless seam of his radio and TV interviews, newspaper and magazine profiles, books written about him and books written by him, rambling campaign speeches and late-night tweets. Read them together and they reveal a person who may be amazingly good at gauging the moment, but whose principles, beyond simply winning, remain elusive—perhaps even to himself.

Has anyone ever disagreed with Donald Trump more than Donald Trump?

“I have no intention of running for president.” (Time, September 14, 1987)

“I am officially running for president.” (New York, June 16, 2015)

“I don’t want it for myself. I don’t need it for myself.” (ABC News, November 20, 2015)

“I wanted to do this for myself. … I had to do it for myself.” (Time, August 18, 2015)

“Politicians are all talk and no action.” (Twitter, May 27, 2015)

“I’m not a politician.” (CNN, August 11, 2015)

“I’m no different than a politician running for office.” (New York Times, July 28, 2015)

“If I ever ran for office, I’d do better as a Democrat than as a Republican—and that’s not because I’d be more liberal, because I’m conservative.” (Playboy, March 1990)

“I’m a registered Republican. I’m a pretty conservative guy. I’m somewhat liberal on social issues, especially health care.” (CNN, October 8, 1999)

“You’d be shocked if I said that in many cases I probably identify more as a Democrat.” (CNN, March 21, 2004)

“Look, I’m a Republican. I’m a very conservative guy in many respects—I guess in most respects.” (The Hugh Hewitt Show, February 25, 2015)

“I’ve actually been an activist Democrat and Republican.” (CNN, October 8, 1999)

“Folks, I’m a conservative, but at this point, who cares? We got to straighten out the country.” (Burlingame, California, April 29, 2016)

“I’m totally pro-choice.” (Fox News, October 31, 1999)

“I’m pro-life.” (CPAC, February 10, 2011)

“Look, I’m very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject, but you still—I just believe in choice. … I am strongly for choice, and yet I hate the concept of abortion. … I am pro-choice in every respect … but I just hate it.” (NBC News, October 24, 1999)

“I am very, very proud to say that I’m pro-life.” (Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015)

“I think the institution of marriage should be between a man and a woman.” (The Advocate, February 15, 2000)

“If two people dig each other, they dig each other.” (Trump University “Trump Blog,” December 22, 2005)

“I’m against gay marriage.” (Fox News, April 14, 2011)

“It’s like in golf. A lot of people—I don’t want this to sound trivial—but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.” (New York Times, May 1, 2011)

“It’s always good to do things nice and complicated so that nobody can figure it out.” (The New Yorker, May 19, 1997)

“The simplest approach is often the most effective.” (Trump: The Art of the Deal, 1987)

“My attention span is short.” (Trump: Surviving at the Top, 1990)

“I have an attention span that’s as long as it has to be.” (Time, August 18, 2015)

CLICK HERE to read the whole story. It's worth it.

Monday, May 30, 2016


“People are like pickles — some are sour, some are sweet, and some leave a bad taste in your mouth.” ― Kallee Gallant

NO ONE can ever accuse me of not being Shiny . . . because tonight on this Memorial weekend, I'm talking about pickles. Yup, pickles. 

Here's why. I discovered one I like. 

Paul l-o-v-e-s pickles! I've never liked them. I could take a little (very little) pickle relish in potato salad or tuna salad, but to eat a pickle? Never. Especially a dill pickle! I've always classified them as punishment, not food.

But I've found one I actually like, which is so weird because I've spent my whole life hating them.

They are Nathan's Famous New York Kosher Halves.

Some months back, I bought a jar of Nathan's  for Paul obviously because I would ever eat a pickle, but these pickles actually smelled good. Eventually I tried a bite of one and discovered that I kinda liked them. Since then I've voluntarily eaten some. Once in a while I'll go out to the refrigerator and have a bite of pickle.

I realize people's tastes can change over time. Maybe mine have, but I think it has more to do with the pickle. I always disliked pickles because I don't like vinegar-anything, and pretty much all pickles — or at least the ones I've had — are vinegary, but Nathan's are salty, not vinegary.

So there you have it pickle lovers and haters. I'll be interested to hear what both classes think of this pickle. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

This is how fascism comes to America

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose voters.” — Donald Trump,  January 23, 2016

I'M NOT intending for HLSS to become the all-anti-Trump-all-the-time alarm bell, but maybe it should be. This editorial column is from The Washington Post.

This is how fascism comes to America

By Robert Kagan 

May 18, 2016

The Republican Party’s attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic. If only he would mouth the party’s “conservative” principles, all would be well.

But of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. 

His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

That this tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as anyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.

Republican politicians marvel at how he has “tapped into” a hitherto unknown swath of the voting public. But what he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the “mobocracy.” Conservatives have been warning for decades about government suffocating liberty. 

But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.

This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society. “National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. 

Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Führer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how. Today, there is Putinism, which also has nothing to do with belief or policy but is about the tough man who single-handedly defends his people against all threats, foreign and domestic.

To understand how such movements take over a democracy, one only has to watch the Republican Party today. These movements play on all the fears, vanities, ambitions and insecurities that make up the human psyche. In democracies, at least for politicians, the only thing that matters is what the voters say they want — vox populi vox Dei. A mass political movement is thus a powerful and, to those who would oppose it, frightening weapon. When controlled and directed by a single leader, it can be aimed at whomever the leader chooses. If someone criticizes or opposes the leader, it doesn’t matter how popular or admired that person has been. He might be a famous war hero, but if the leader derides and ridicules his heroism, the followers laugh and jeer. He might be the highest-ranking elected guardian of the party’s most cherished principles. But if he hesitates to support the leader, he faces political death.

In such an environment, every political figure confronts a stark choice: Get right with the leader and his mass following or get run over. The human race in such circumstances breaks down into predictable categories — and democratic politicians are the most predictable. There are those whose ambition leads them to jump on the bandwagon. They praise the leader’s incoherent speeches as the beginning of wisdom, hoping he will reward them with a plum post in the new order. There are those who merely hope to survive. Their consciences won’t let them curry favor so shamelessly, so they mumble their pledges of support, like the victims in Stalin’s show trials, perhaps not realizing that the leader and his followers will get them in the end anyway.

A great number will simply kid themselves, refusing to admit that something very different from the usual politics is afoot. Let the storm pass, they insist, and then we can pick up the pieces, rebuild and get back to normal. Meanwhile, don’t alienate the leader’s mass following. After all, they are voters and will need to be brought back into the fold. As for Trump himself, let’s shape him, advise him, steer him in the right direction and, not incidentally, save our political skins.

What these people do not or will not see is that, once in power, Trump will owe them and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will likely comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. 

In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that lay down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist for The Post.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Superbug shows up in the US

"It is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently." — Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

IF IT weren't already bad enough having to worry about Trumpitis infecting our neighbors and those we unwittingly come in contact with, now there's a superbug that's worse than before. From NBC News.

'Nightmare Bacteria' Superbug Found for First Time in U.S

By Maggie Fox
May 26. 2016

A drug-resistant "superbug" that doctors have been dreading has shown up in the U.S. for the first time, researchers reported Thursday. The bacteria has genetic changes that make it resistant to a last-ditch antibiotic called colistin and while it had been seen in Europe and China, no one in the U.S. had been seen with it before.

It doesn't spell doom just yet. The mutant E. coli germ was found in a Pennsylvania woman with symptoms of a urinary tract infection, but it does not appear to be spreading at epidemic proportions. And it was susceptible to other antibiotics, so the patient was not left without any hope.

What's worrying is the gene that made the E. coli drug-resistant. It's called mcr-1, and it is passed from one bacteria to another. It sits on a piece of material called a plasmid, which makes it easy for one species of bacteria to pass it along to another species of bacteria.

Scientist fear an E. coli bacteria with the mcr-1 gene could pass it to another superbug with other mutations-- creating a truly super-superbug that resists all known antibiotics. If such a superbug spread, it would take the world back to a time when there were no antibiotics, says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently," he said.

This discovery suggests the drug-resistance gene has been here in the U.S., flying under the radar.

Patrick McGann and colleagues at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research just outside Washington D.C. have been looking at samples from patients, keeping an eye out for bacteria with the mutation. They reported Thursday they found one. The sample is E. coli bacteria with mcr-1. This little stretch of DNA, which bacteria can swap easily among themselves, gives them the ability to fight off the effects of colistin.

"It was an old antibiotic, but it was the only one left for what I called nightmare bacteria, carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE," Frieden said.

Luckily, this particular bacteria was not also resistant to carbapenems. But the fact that it had the gene raises alarm bells.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of mcr-1 in the USA," the Walter Reed researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

They've only been looking for this particular mutation for three weeks, so they said they're not sure just how widespread it is.

"We know now that the more we look, the more we are going to find," Frieden said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. "The more we look at drug resistance, the more concerned we become."

Later Thursday, the health and Human Services Department said scientists had found the mcr-1 mutation in a sample from a pig. "Out of 949 animal samples screened so far, one strain of colistin-resistant E. coli was found in a pig intestinal sample," it said in a statement.

"The DNA sequence of this isolate revealed that the strain contained the mcr-1 gene on a plasmid. The scientists also determined that the mcr-1 carrying colistin-resistant E. coli is resistant to other antibiotics including ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, and tetracycline."

CDC has been warning for years about the threat of drug-resistant bacteria. It's been urging drug companies to develop new antibiotics, and asking people to make better use of the antibiotics now available so that more superbugs do not evolve.

"The medicine cabinet is empty for some patients," Frieden said.

The CDC said it was working with the state health department in Pennsylvania to talk to the patient and her family to see how she may have been infected. It was not immediately clear if she did, in fact, have a urinary tract infection, a CDC spokesman said.

They'll also test others in the area who may have been in contact to see if they are carrying the bacteria - which may not necessarily cause illness or any symptoms at all.

Dr. David Hyun of the Pew Charitable Trusts, who follows the issue of drug-resistant bacteria, said details will be important. "I am very interested in finding out how did this patient do," he told NBC News. "What kind of treatment did she receive?"

There have been reports in other countries of patients with bacteria carrying mcr-1, but not many details of how they were cared for or whether other antibiotics cured their infections. Colistin, used to treat carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE, is an older antibiotic with some tough side-effects such as kidney damage. That's why it's only used as a last resort.

Bacteria develop resistance to drugs quickly. Even before penicillin was introduced in 1943, staphylococcus germs had genes that would have made them resistant to its effects.

Just nine years after tetracycline was introduced in 1950, a resistant strain of Shigella evolved. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) evolved just two years after methicillin hit the market in 1960. The last new antibiotic to be introduced was ceftaroline, in 2010. It took just a year for the first staph germ to evolve that resisted its effects.

The CDC says more than two million people are infected by drug-resistant germs each year, and 23,000 die of their infections. The biggest killer by far in the U.S. is diarrhea-causing C. difficult. Near-untreatable cases of diarrhea, sepsis, pneumonia and gonorrhea are infecting millions more globally, the World Health Organization says. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Virulent anti-Semitism of Trump supporters

“It’s a dog whistle, fool. Belling the cat for my fellow goyim.” — @CyberTrump 

I PRETTY much have no words. From The New York Times

Oh wait, I do have this to say: If you support Donald Trump, I don't want to know you. 

Um, something else — if you support Donald Trump, you're who needs to be deported because you just flunked the intelligence test necessary to be a US citizen. You are without the slimmest glimmer of comprehension of what this nation was created to be. Please go somewhere else and build a wall around yourself.

The Nazi Tweets of ‘Trump God Emperor’

Jonathan Weisman
May 26, 2016

THE first tweet arrived as cryptic code, a signal to the army of the “alt-right” that I barely knew existed: “Hello ((Weisman)).” @CyberTrump was responding to my recent tweet of an essay by Robert Kagan on the emergence of fascism in the United States.

“Care to explain?” I answered, intuiting that my last name in brackets denoted my Jewish faith.

“What, ho, the vaunted Ashkenazi intelligence, hahaha!” CyberTrump came back. “It’s a dog whistle, fool. Belling the cat for my fellow goyim.” With the cat belled, the horde was unleashed.

The anti-Semitic hate, much of it from self-identified Donald J. Trump supporters, hasn’t stopped since. Trump God Emperor sent me the Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew. I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz, the famous words “Arbeit Macht Frei” replaced without irony with “Machen Amerika Great.” Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven, were followed by Holocaust denial. The Jew as leftist puppet master from @DonaldTrumpLA was joined by the Jew as conservative fifth columnist, orchestrating war for Israel. That one came from someone who tagged himself a proud future member of the Trump Deportation Squad.

The imaginings by my tormentors of me as an Orthodox Jew in wide-brimmed hat and Hasidic garb were, of course, laughable. The truth is, I have become largely disconnected from Jewish life and faith over the years, and like many American Jews I have been lulled into complacency. Our politics have dispersed between the parties. Our coreligionists grace our movie screens, lead the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago, help oversee the Senate Intelligence Committee, succeed without apology, but also struggle like everyone else.

A Jewish 17-year-old, inflamed by the Black Lives Matter movement and the cause of L.G.B.T. rights, told me recently there is no anti-Semitism, certainly nothing compared with the prejudices that afflict other minorities. I surprised myself when I recoiled from her words and argued passionately that Jews must never think anti-Semitism has been eradicated. I sounded like my mother.

Just weeks later, I found myself staring down a social-media timeline filled with the raw hate and anti-Semitic tropes that for centuries fueled expulsion, persecution, pogroms and finally genocide.

“I found the Menorah you were looking for,” one correspondent offered with a Trump-triumphant backdrop on his Twitter profile; it was a candelabrum made of the number six million. Old Grand Dad cheerfully offered up a patriotic image of Donald Trump in colonial garb holding up the Liberty Bell and fighting “against the foreign hordes,” with caricatures of the Jew, the American Indian, the Mexican, the Chinese and the Irish cowering at his feet.

I am not the first Jewish journalist to experience the onslaught. Julia Ioffe was served up on social media in concentration camp garb and worse after Trump supporters took umbrage with her profile of Melania Trump in GQ magazine. The would-be first lady later told an interviewer that Ms. Ioffe had provoked it. The anti-Semitic hate hurled at the conservative commentator Bethany Mandel prompted her to buy a gun.

Beyond journalism, stories of Muslims assaulted by Trump supporters are piling up. Hispanic immigrants are lining up for citizenship, eager to vote. Groups that have been maligned over centuries at different times in different regions now share a common tormentor, the alt-right, a militant agglomeration of white nationalists, racists, anti-Semites and America Firsters that have been waging war on the Republican establishment for some time. Their goals: Close the borders, deport illegal immigrants, pull out of international entanglements and pull up the drawbridge.

I retweeted the choicest attacks for all to see, and with each retweet, more attacks followed, their authors gleefully seeking the exposure. Some people criticized me for offering it, but I argued, perhaps wrongly, that such hate needed airing, that Americans needed to see the darkest currents in the politics of exclusion animating the presidential election.

An official at Twitter encouraged me to block the anti-Semites and report them to Twitter, but I have chosen to preserve my Twitter timeline as a research tool of sorts, a database of hate, and a shrine to 2016. The only response I blocked and forwarded to Twitter was a photo of my disembodied head held aloft, long Orthodox hair locks called payot photoshopped on my sideburns and a skullcap placed as a crown. I let stand the image of a smiling Mr. Trump in Nazi uniform flicking the switch on a gas chamber containing my Photoshopped face.

“Thanks to @jonathanweisman for redpilling at least 1.5k normies today by retweeting premium content. Epitome of useful idiot,” responded one tormentor whose Twitter handle is too vulgar to repeat, even if I wanted to. Maybe he was right.

And still, we have heard nothing from Mr. Trump, no denunciation, no broad renouncing of racist, anti-Semitic support, no expressions of sympathy for its victims. The Republican Jewish Coalition on Tuesday released what can only be described as equivocation as an art form: “We abhor any abuse of journalists, commentators and writers, whether it be from Sanders, Clinton or Trump supporters. There is no room for any of this in any campaign.”

Sheldon Adelson, perhaps the most prolific Jewish donor to Republican causes, has not only endorsed Mr. Trump but is also encouraging Jews to rally round him.

“I don’t hold black leaders responsible for some of the B.L.M. hate I’ve seen, or liberal leaders responsible for the Occupy messages,” Ari Fleischer, a Bush White House press secretary and prominent Jewish Republican, told me, referring to the Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street movements.

I understand Mr. Trump has a son-in-law who is an Orthodox Jew, and a daughter who converted to her husband’s religion. Mr. Trump has bragged about his Jewish grandchildren. Yet I also see tweets from Mr. Trump like the 2013 missive that re-emerged Monday promising “that I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz — I mean Jon Stewart,” and I cannot help seeing another belled cat.

I grew up in Atlanta in the 1970s, when friends spoke of “Jewing down” a price and anti-Semitism was casual, if not nearly as omnipresent as racial prejudice. My parents joined a synagogue that had been bombed by the Klan. My father opened his medical practice in Marietta, where Leo Frank was lynched in 1915 at the age of 31.

All of that seemed like buried history until now. In Mr. Trump, many in the alt-right have found an imperfect vessel for their cause, but they have poured their rage into his campaign without impediment. Mr. Trump apparently takes all comers.

We in the news business are taught to find and write up both sides of a story, with respect and equal time to all opinions. But that line is difficult to walk when one side is shoving you in the back. In The New Yorker this week, Adam Gopnik, quoting Alexander Pope, asks, “Is there no black or white?”

His answer: “The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ten things not to buy new

“My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.” ― Peter Golkin

I'M A waste-not-want-not kind of a gal. Might stem from growing up poor, but I suspect that I'm also just too practical by nature not to consider what other ways something might be able to be used. I like the idea of using less resources — except when it comes to shoes, in which case I'm completely insane and irresponsible. 

Here's a list from CBS News of the ten things they say that you should never buy new. (My thoughts follow in italics after what CBS has to say about each item.)

1. Cars

This had to be No. 1 on the list, right? After all, we've talked about it time and time again: The value of a new car drops like a rock as soon as you drive it off the lot. Rather than be upside-down on your car loan five minutes after signing the paperwork, look for a quality used car that has already taken the huge depreciation hit.

Boy howdy, am I a big believer in this! Our theory is — let the person before you pay all that depreciation, and if it's a late model higher-end car, whoever owned it before probably took really good care of it. We recently bought a 2013 Buick Regal with leather interior, power everything, heated seats and steering wheel that was a screaming deal and has turned out to be an excellent car.

2. Big toys like boats, motorcycles and RVs

Actually, that advice about buying a used car can apply to any type of vehicle. With rare exceptions, virtually anything with an engine -- from off-road vehicles to yachts -- will depreciate in value over time. In most cases, you'll get more bang for your buck by purchasing used.

We bought our sailboat from a friend . . . and our big-ass snowblower.

3. Houses

Your house is another big-ticket item that it makes sense to buy used rather than new. Not only can you save money, but older homes also may have better "bones" than some new construction. If you love the idea of new construction, don't forget that an existing home doesn't necessarily have to be one that's 50 years old. If you want an energy-efficient home with new amenities, you can probably find it at a lower price if you're willing to be owner No. 2 or 3.

4. Timeshares

Don't ever pay full price for a timeshare. Some people are practically giving them away because they're so desperate to get out from under the annual fees.

5. Books

We could take this category one step further and say you shouldn't buy books, period. After all, many of us live near a public library system that can meet most of our reading needs. However, we won't go quite to that extreme. I personally enjoy having a well-stocked home library. I also realize that some books, such as college textbooks, have to be purchased. But that doesn't mean you have to pay full price. Head to Half.com or the Amazon Marketplace to buy cheap used books, which are often as good as new.

I started a little book-sharing circle, and I admit, I'm kinda proud of myself for doing it. We had a complete series of Nevada Barr/Anna Pigeon mysteries that Paul and I read. I thought, "Why let them sit on a shelf gathering dust?" So I've been mailing them two at a time to a Facebook friend, who reads them and mails them on to another FB friend, who reads them and sends them on to yet another friend. I love having at least five people benefit from one item. How earth-friendly and friend-friendly is that?!?!

6. Movies and CDs

Many of the same places that sell used books also sell used DVDs, Blu-Rays and CDs. No need to spend money for a new disc when you can get a cheaper, used one online, at a garage sale or in the thrift shop. Of course, there's also the library, where movies and music are free for the (temporary) taking and cheap when the library holds a sale.

I have a very special Facebook friend whose husband is in the entertainment industry in Hollywood, and because of his job he has DVDs of pretty much every recent movie there is. They've been sending them to me, and I'm sending them on to FB and IRL friends who also forward them on — once again, collectively getting lots of use from each item.

7. Sports gear

Raise your hand if your kids have ever started a sport and quit after one season. I'm right there with you. Instead of spending tons for new equipment, go to a specialty store like Play It Again Sports and buy used items. You can also scour garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist for bargain finds. Don't forget to look for fitness equipment for yourself, too. Buying new weights and kettlebells doesn't make sense if you can get used ones for a fraction of the price.

8. Musical instruments

Musical instruments are another parental purchase that could be money down the drain. A quick check of Craigslist shows plenty of people trying to unload old instruments. To avoid buying something overpriced or broken, consider spending a few dollars to have it appraised by a local music store. Or buy a used item directly from a shop. Renting an instrument is another optionSince. However, keep in mind that renting a clarinet for three years could ending up costing you more than if you purchased a used one in the first place.
I agree that it's wise not to spring for a fancy, new instrument for a beginner and that getting a used instrument looked at by an expert is essential, but for a professional musician, as Paul is, all bets are off. New, custom, one-of-a-kind, hand-made — yup, that's what we're talking about.

9. Jewelry

Like vehicles, jewelry typically depreciates in value, which makes it better to buy used than new. Before buying off Craigslist or from a private seller, be sure to get an appraisal, particularly if a significant amount of money is involved. You can also find quality used baubles by shopping for estate jewelry from jewelers or reputable pawn shops. If you want to buy online, eBay and ExboyfriendJewelry.com may be good ways to go so long as you keep your eyes open for scams and use a safe payment method (e.g., no wire transfers, people).
Speaking personally, I'm not so sure about this. If you're buying for yourself, okay, but if you're buying something as a gift for the woman (or man) you love, I'd say probably not. Better to develop a relationship with a jeweler you trust who over time might swing you some deals. Paul and I used to have a personal jeweler at Joseph's. Whether it was a large purchase or a small one, we always went to him. Based on my recommendation, friends of mine also became his customers and as a result, he treated us well.

10. Pets

Some of you might disagree, but there really is no reason to spend a lot of money on a brand new pet when plenty of pre-loved (or not so loved) animals are looking for homes. My local animal shelter and humane society regularly have free or almost-free adoption days, during which you can get dogs and cats, as well as other pets from bunnies to birds. Your local shelter might offer the same. Unless you're planning to show your pet, spending hundreds or even thousands on a purebred animal is probably not money well-spent. The $50 puppy from the pound is just as likely as the $500 puppy from a breeder to smother you with wet kisses and stare at you with unbridled adoration.
Oh hell yes! There are SO many wonderful animals in shelters just waiting to be adopted. Why do anything else?!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cotton, yes cotton

“I am a huge fan of big cotton underpants; they're comfortable. I wear them every day.” — Gisele Bundchen

WE SAW saw so many rice fields in Arkansas (Kansas City to Memphis), that I looked up rice-growing as we drove along and learned that rice is the #1 field crop in Arkansas, soybeans comes in at #2 and cotton is #3. We live in Iowa where soybeans are grown by the ton, so I have at least a little knowledge about beans, but I was curious about cotton. 

Where else is it grown? One would guess MississippiAlabama and Georgia; I also guessed Texas which turned out to be a good guess, but where else? Which state grows the most? Which countries? 

I got the answers to those questions and more, and learned things about cotton I wouldn't have otherwise known.

First from Statista.com, here is a list of the biggest cotton-producing states in 2015.

Below is a list of the countries producing the most cotton in 2015.

The predominant type of cotton grown in the United States is American Upland (Gossypium hirsutum). Upland cotton, which usually has a staple length of 1 to 1-1/4 inches, accounts for about 97 percent of the annual US cotton crop.

The remaining 3 percent, extra-long staple (ELS) cotton, is Gossypium barbadense. ELS denotes a cotton fiber of extraordinary length, a minimum of 1-3/8" or longer. This minimum is significantly longer than Upland cotton. 

As well as fiber length, ELS cotton is also recognized for its superior strength, uniformity and silky feel. Even with all the benefits of ELS fiber characteristics, it's grown only in limited quantities because ELS cotton varieties are quite specific in their requirements. They can only be grown in areas that suit the plant’s need for hot days and cool nights, and a significantly greater amount of crop management is required for ELS than for Upland cotton. 

The variety of ELS cotton grown the most here is American Pima

Although Pima cotton has been grown in the Southwestern US since the early 1900’s, the First World War boosted its research and development. The Defense Department had been looking for places to grow ELS cotton because its not only long-fibered, but exceptionally strong. 

At that time ELS was being used to make tire cords and high quality fabrics to cover the fuselage and wings of that still-new technological wonder, the airplane. In fact Goodyear, AZ was founded by the tire company of the same name to be close to the source of cotton production.

The end of the war and major changes in technology put a temporary halt to much of the US research into ELS cotton as cheaper, easier-to-produce materials found greater favor in aircraft and tires, but about 1950 the USDA and other cotton breeders began growing ELS cotton again for its superior luster and silkiness.

American ELS cotton was christened Pima in honor of Pima Indians who helped the government’s Pima breeding program since 1910 on the USDA experimental farm at Sacaton, Arizona.

I always wondered why linens and clothing make a point of specifically saying Pima cotton on the label. Now I know. Thanks Pima Native Americans.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kansas City to Memphis

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” — Gustave Flaubert

PAUL AND I like taking long driving trips together. Rather than finding them tedious, we never seem to run out of enjoyable ways to pass the time in the car; we talk, play games, sometimes we listen to music, sometimes I read newspaper or magazine articles to him. Once I read an entire Harry Potter book to Paul on a long drive home.

We've been known to take some lengthy road trips. We drove from Key West straight home to Ankeny, IA in one long marathon of a drive, so by previous measures the drive from Kansas City to Memphis wasn't remarkable, although some of the curiosities we encountered along the way were.

In Clay County we drove past a sign pointing to Peculiar, MO, population 4797. I wanted to drive there so I could get a picture of a visit to what surely must be my home planet, but Paul said we'd been there before. Well, maybe, but . . . picture, or it didn't happen.

We were continuing on our journey through Henry County 
on Missouri Route 7 when we looked out the window and saw a sign for Tightwad Bank. I am not making this up. But even funnier is that the bank was closed, and I don't mean just because it was Sunday. It was defunct, kaput, dead as a doornail . . . so completely so that there was a for-sale sign on it. Paul said, as he pointed out that the time on the big digital sign was 00, "I guess time has run out for Tightwad Bank."

We had to know more. (Isn't it amazing that we have an encyclopedia of information on our phones, for goodness sakes!!)

The bank was named for the unincorporated village in which it stands — although we didn't exactly see a town. Not too surprising. As of  2010, Tightwad had 18 families yielding a total of 69 people. According to Wikipedia, the town's unusual name "is said to stem from an episode in which a store owner cheated a customer by charging him an extra fifty cents for a better watermelon. Some sources claim the transaction involved a rooster rather than a watermelon."

One of the founding bankers said that because of its name, people from across the country used to mail checks — up to a dozen arrived daily — addressed to Tightwad Bank, Tightwad, Missouri, sometimes without a ZIP code. Each contained a note asking for an account and an order of Tightwad Bank checks (who wouldn't want
pay bills with checks that say Tightwad on them?!), and at one point the bank had $2.2 million in deposits.

And then the bank tanked.

In Texas County we came across Cabool, Licking and Plato and . . . wait for it . . . Sargent, MO. Had to go there! Paul did a U-turn and took the road to Sargent that 
dead-ended after about four miles into a dirt driveway and . . . one house. That was it! That was Sargent, MO, except there was a Sargent Cemetery, and there were some old, old graves.

Many of the graves just had rocks as markers.
May the souls and mortal remains of those in Sargent Cemetery rest in eternal peace.
As we drove through Arkansas we saw fields we've never seen in Iowa. Paul and I each independently guessed rice from the look of them, and we were right, but if we'd taken a quiz and been asked to name agricultural crops grown in Arkansas, neither one of would have ever put rice on the list.

I had to know. Does Arkansas produce a lot of rice? Which other states grow rice? What else does Arkansas grow?

As it happens, Arkansas is the #1 rice producing state in the country.

Top rice producing U.S. states in 2014 and 2015 (in 1,000 cwt) compiled by Statista.com

This second chart is from NORML, the organization working to legalize marijuana.

So there ya' go . . . a little info about Missouri and Arkansas. Next up cotton.