Monday, September 25, 2017

You can save 40 percent or more on postage by buying old 'collector' stamps on eBay

I bought $32 worth of these for $22.75
    For penny-pinchers, there’s an easy way to save 40 to 50 percent – and maybe more – on U.S. Postal Service postage. How? Just buy old, supposedly “collector” stamps on eBay.
    I found this fact the hard way when trying to sell some of my mother’s “treasures.” She had a bunch of sheets of postage that the Postal Service issues in sheets of 20 stamps. People buy these with the idea that some day their commemorative stamps of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, or Bugs Bunny might be worth something someday. Well, they aren’t. As a general rule, anything that is sold as a “collector’s item” on the front end is not worth collecting.
    It turns out that these old stamps are being offered in great quantities on eBay for 40 to 60 cents on the dollar. My guess is that it’s people trying to clear out estates. Since these stamps are older, their face value is usually much less than the 49 cents it takes to mail a letter today; so using them means affixing two or more stamps to an envelope. Many people don’t want to do this, but I don’t mind. I have seen “Forever” stamps offered on eBay at a big discount as well, but the biggest bargains comes from buying fixed-amount stamps.
    I was going through some of my old stuff recently and found about $50 worth of the 32-cent Civil War series of postage that was issued in the 1990s. I decided to see if any more was being offered on eBay and was able to buy $32 worth for $22. This is actually a slight premium over what most old postage goes for, but I thought it might be fun to trigger “snowflakes” by sticking a Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis stamp on their letter. Or for the Unreconstructed Southerner I might share William T. Sherman or Abraham Lincoln.
     Sometimes these old stamps have a time-warpish feel to them. I doubt the Postal Service would have the courage to issue Civil War commemorative stamps today. I purchased some sheets of 10-cent stamps to bring my 32-centers up to full value (slightly above, actually) and noticed that one sheet features a little girl holding a doll with the message, “Retarded Children Can be Helped.” Despite the good intentions, that’s something that you wouldn’t find on a stamp today.
    In any event, I’ve shared the secret to half or nearly half-priced postage. If interested, just make a visit to ebay.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Global warming isn't making storms worse, but coastal population density is

There was a time when our coastal areas were sparsely populated.

    The damage, although not the death toll, of Hurricane Harvey may outpace that of Hurricane Katrina. You can expect the Global Warming crowd to cite this as "proof" that global warming is making things worse.
    Virtually everything gets blamed on global warming. Facts, of course, are not important. Click here to see a chart that identifies every hurricane known to have reached U.S.  landfall since the 1850s. It's not considered accurate for its earliest years because many hurricanes were not identified due to sparse population.
    You will note that the past 10 years have seen below-average hurricane activity. And  the 1940s, when global warming was a mere gleam in Albert Gore Sr.'s eye, were a time of frequent and powerful hurricanes.
    What has changed is that more and more people are moving into areas that are prone to highly destructive hurricanes. In the 1940s Florida claimed about two million residents and Monroe County, Fla., home to Key West and Key Largo, had about 15,000. In the 1940s the Bogart and McCall movie Key Largo featured at a nearly abandoned hotel, which was quite realistic for the time.
    Today Florida has a population of more than 18 million and the population of Monroe has grown to almost 80,000. Most of Florida's population growth has taken place around Orlando and in coastal areas. The map at the top of this post shows the population density of the Southern Atlantic Seaboard. It's the same story all over Florida, with most people choosing to live near the water -- and in the path of deadly hurricanes.
    Conjure up an image of a Florida beach house and you likely think of a very simple structure;  many years ago such houses were built with the knowledge that the Big Bad Hurricane Wolf might come and blow the house down. Today expensive homes are built with wild abandon along all of our coastal areas, subsidized by cheap federal insurance. The results, in terms of property damage and the loss of human life, can be catastrophic.
    Florida's story is repeated all over the nation. In 1940 the city of Houston, Texas had fewer than 400,000 residents; today there are more than two million. Some of that increase is doubtless due to annexation, but the area is far more densely populated than ever before. The results when disaster strikes are easily predictable.
    So the next time you hear somebody prattle on about how massive damage from storms is caused by global warming, point out that the leading cause of this damage is the decision by tens of millions of people to build and live in harm's way. Perhaps, as a matter of public policy, we should discourage such development, or at least not have the government subsidize it so much.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Preservation of slavery a major reason Southern colonies supported American Revolution

    A little history lesson. A number of Southern states decided to join America’s civil war in order to preserve slavery. It’s a fact.
    But do understand that the terrible conflagration that occurred between 1861 and 1865 was not a civil war as most people understand the term. It was truly, as Southerners, refer to it, as a War Between the States. The Confederacy had an organized government, a legislature, a judiciary, an executive, and 11 sovereign states that also had fully organized and fully functional governments. These things do not exist in a civil war.
    America’s civil war didn’t take place from 1861-65. It took place from 1775 to 1781. We refer to it as the American Revolution, but in fact the Revolution has all of the characteristics of a civil war, among them a poorly organized government and little geographic division between opposing sides.
    Most people are under the impression that the War Between the States was fought for the purpose of freeing the slaves. Far from it. Abraham Lincoln sought the passage of the Corwin Amendment during James Buchanan’s lame duck period, which would have enshrined slavery into the Constitution forever.
    Lincoln wrote to the governors of the seceding states providing copies of the Corwin Amendment for them to consider, it being his opinion that they were still a part of they Union and therefore their legislatures could vote to ratify. The Southern states were not interested, because there were so many other conflicts with the North; the South simply did not wish to be a part of the Union, even if slavery was guaranteed. The forced abolition of slavery simply was not on the table in 1861.
    Things changed after several years of war, and Lincoln eventually signed the Emancipation Proclamation (which had no immediate effect, since it only applied to areas not under Union control), but the important thing to understand is that what is commonly called the American Civil War simply was not fought for the purpose of freeing slaves. It happened afterwards, but it was not the intention of the North at the outset.
    Enough of that. Let us go back to the American Revolution. Unlike the Northern colonies, the Southern colonies were fairly happy with relations with Great Britain. Sure, they had gripes, but most Colonists were loyalists. But they were dealing with what amounted to a massive slave rebellion.
    Word had spread among the slave population of Great Britain’s inclination to abolish slavery at some point. A British court had set free a Jamaican slave who had been brought to England in what was known as the Sommerset Decision, and although the court decision was intentionally limited, most American slaves believed – incorrectly – that if they could somehow reach British soil they would be freed. Slaves were starting to run away and there had been rebellions.
    In November 1775, with the Revolution breaking out, Virginia’s last British governor, Lord Dunsmore, offered any slave willing to fight for the crown their freedom and land to farm; he had already threatened the Colonists that he might free the slaves in April 1775 should any harm come to Williamsburg. Meanwhile, Revolutionary recruiters in Georgia and South Carolina were promising white soldiers a slave at the end of their service. Needless to say, Colonial slaves saw where their best hope for freedom lay and acted upon it.
    In South Carolina, two-thirds of slaves escaped following Dunsmore’s proclamation. Thirty thousand slaves fled Virginia. Although fewer than 1,000 former slaves actually served the British as soldiers, at least 20,000 defected or allowed themselves to be captured and many served in other capacities. By the end of the war, out of a total slave population of 450,000 in the colonies, approximately 100,000 had escaped, died, or were killed in battle.
    At the conclusion of the war Great Britain resettled approximately 12,000 of the former slaves in Nova Scotia and the West Indies. About half who settled in Nova Scotia eventually chose to resettle in Sierra Leone. However, Britain returned escaped slaves to former owners who had remained loyal to the crown.
    Near the outset of the war George Washington allowed free blacks with military experience to join the Continental Army. A year later he expanded that to include all free blacks. Soon after Congress voted to allow slaves to serve, but no Southern state agreed save for Maryland.
    Approximately 5,000 blacks, both free and slave, served in the Continental Army. Many slaves were given their freedom, but others who had been promised freedom were instead returned to slavery.
    Lord Dunsmore’s actions obviously backfired horrendously. His intention was to frighten Southerners away from joining in what was mostly a Northeastern rebellion. Instead he caused many Southerners who would otherwise be loyal to the Crown to join in the Revolution. Slaveowners joined to protect their economic interests, and the intensely Loyalist backcountry residents of Virginia and the Carolinas were frightened at the thought of tens of thousands of armed former slaves roaming the countryside and switched their allegiance to the Continental cause.
    Our high school history books don’t tell this version of events because victors like to paint themselves in the most flattering light possible. We live in a world of myth, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps most of those who joined in the American Revolution did so in pursuit of the high-minded ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence. But in the South many were motivated, at least in part, out of a fear of abolition and a desire to maintain legal slavery.
    So the bottom line is that the war many believe was fought to end slavery wasn’t; and the American Revolution, with all of its high-minded ideals, was also fought by some to preserve slavery.
    Those who insist on denouncing those who served the Confederacy while praising those who served in the Revolution need to delve a little deeper into America’s not-always-pretty history. Life is complicated.
________________________________

Sources: Was the American Revolution Fought to Save Slavery?

INSTITUTE INDEX: Slavery and the American Revolution

Dunmore’s Proclamation
How fears of a slave revolt drew the South into the war—the Revolutionary War

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In 1942 Congress changed the flag code because our salute looked just a little too Nazi-like

Schoolchildren using the Bellamy salute prior to 1942.

    There was a time when Americans saluted the flag with their right arms stretched out. The stiff-arm salute was known as the “Bellamy Salute,” as it was created by the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy.
Francis Bellamy
    Bellamy, an extreme socialist, wrote the pledge in the 1890s with the idea that it would encourage patriotism for schoolchildren to recite it every day. The Bellamy salute was intended to be non-militaristic. In the photo above, the schoolchildren have their palms facing upward. When properly executed, the palm should vertical. I’ve seen a number of photos and videos of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge with their palms facing downward, identical to the Nazi salute.
    It was this similarity to the Nazi salute that caused Congress to modify the Flag Code in 1942 to change the salute to the flag to the hand being held over the heart. I’ve seen several photos, probably taken right after the change, that show children with their hands over their hearts in a “salute” position rather than flat over the heart as practiced today.
    It is unfortunate that almost any politician who waves at a large crowd is at some point going to give a wave or salute that looks similar to a Nazi salute. Extreme bodybuilders have trouble fully straightening their arms, and perhaps politicians should make a point to wear an elbow brace to keep their right arm from extending all the way out lest their opponents use the opportunity to portray them as a Nazi.
Edward Bellamy
    My father mentioned to me years ago a book by Francis Bellamy’s brother, Edward, called Looking Backward 2000-1887 (free on Kindle). It’s a Utopian, Rip-Van-Winkle-style novel that he was assigned in college by his favorite professor, Jim Silver, in which a man wakes up to find an America vastly changed from the dog-eat-dog capitalism of 1887. Both Bellamys were quasi-Communists, but the book nevertheless has some amazingly spot-on predictions and interesting observations.
    For example, the book describes a type of credit card, and a shopping system where all goods could be reviewed and delivered overnight by pneumatic tube (in fact, I think such a system was used by the French postal system in Paris); sort of like today’s Internet shopping. Radio had not been invented at the time the book was written, but Bellamy envisioned a wired (cable!) system that would allow people to listen to 25 stations, including some of the finest concerts, in their homes.
    In Year 2000 Boston umbrellas have become obsolete. Our Rip-Van-Winkle protagonist, Julian West, is surprised to discover that the streets have covers that are extended when it rains, thus eliminating the need for an umbrella. His modern-era companion, Edith Leete, expressed a bit of skepticism as to whether streets were ever full of people holding individual umbrellas. I found the passage interesting, certainly reflective of Bellamy’s ideology, and thus share a few paragraphs (emphasis added):

    . . . I was much surprised when at the dinner hour the ladies appeared prepared to go out, but without either rubbers or umbrellas.
    The mystery was explained when we found ourselves on the street, for a continuous waterproof covering had been let down so as to inclose the sidewalk and turn it into a well lighted and perfectly dry corridor, which was filled with a stream of ladies and gentlemen dressed for dinner. At the comers the entire open space was similarly roofed in. Edith Leete, with whom I walked, seemed much interested in learning what appeared to be entirely new to her, that in the stormy weather the streets of the Boston of my day had been impassable, except to persons protected by umbrellas, boots, and heavy clothing. “Were sidewalk coverings not used at all?” she asked. They were used, I explained, but in a scattered and utterly unsystematic way, being private enterprises. She said to me that at the present time all the streets were provided against inclement weather in the manner I saw, the apparatus being rolled out of the way when it was unnecessary. She intimated that it would be considered an extraordinary imbecility to permit the weather to have any effect on the social movements of the people.
    Dr. Leete, who was walking ahead, overhearing something of our talk, turned to say that the difference between the age of individualism and that of concert was well characterized by the fact that, in the nineteenth century, when it rained, the people of Boston put up three hundred thousand umbrellas over as many heads, and in the twentieth century they put up one umbrella over all the heads.
    As we walked on, Edith said, “The private umbrella is father's favorite figure to illustrate the old way when everybody lived for himself and his family. There is a nineteenth century painting at the Art Gallery representing a crowd of people in the rain, each one holding his umbrella over himself and his wife, and giving his neighbors the drippings, which he claims must have been meant by the artist as a satire on his times.” 
    Bellamy’s Utopia relies on a high degree of statist force, although this is subtly indicated in the novel. And the author is convinced that one of society’s major economic problems is too little centralized control over the economy. He believes everything would work better without the pesky free market and the silly duplication of goods and services it produces. Incredibly dumb, but people didn’t know that in 1887.
    Despite its silly economics, Looking Backward is an interesting and insightful book and I suggest it to anyone. As for Bellamy salute? Probably better to skip it.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Spinbrush "Deluxe" was a superior product, but it disappeared from the market

These are better than regular Spinbrushes, but you can't find them!
     I remember when they came out with the “Spinbrush” toothbrush. For $6 I thought it was the greatest thing ever. And then one day I spied the “Spinbrush Deluxe” for about $14 and decided to try it. It was one of the best toothbrushes I’ve ever used. I talked my father, who hated to spend money, into buying one, and he said it was the best toothbrush he ever had.
    Instead of having one spinning head the Deluxe Spinbrush has seven small spinning heads. It left my teeth feeling twice as clean as a plain old Spinbrush. I loved it.
    Spinbrushes have had a rather convoluted marketing cycle. They came on the market as an independent product. Then Proctor & Gamble bought the company, with the purchase price to be established by future sales. Bad idea, since sales were astronomical, costing the company a fortune. P&G later sold the company to Arm & Hammer at a loss in order to satisfy EU anti-trust regulators. That’s why the brand has changed so many times.
    Because Spinbrushes were so cheap I tended to be quite careless with them. If a Spinbrush got lost or left somewhere I simply bought another one. To my dismay, I found a couple of years ago that the Spinbrush Deluxe had disappeared from the shelves at Wal-Mart. I don’t know why, but they are no longer there. It’s been a real disappointment.
    The other day I was cleaning out a box and found an almost-new Spinbrush Deluxe. Oh Happy Day! That’s when I decided to do a little Google research and learn about why the branding on the Spinbrush had changed so much, thus my ability to share the story above.
    I also did some shopping on Amazon and found that replacement heads for the Spinbrush Deluxe are readily available, so I’m buying some. It’s now called the “Spinbrush Sonic Truly Radiant.” The toothbrushes are also sold on Amazon, for a whopping $50!
    I wasn’t about to pay $50 for a backup toothbrush, so I checked prices on eBay and found them for $15, or a buck more than what I used to pay at Wal-Mart. I bought several and they arrived today. I gave one to each of the children to take to college.
    If you want one of these, you better head to eBay while the getting is good!
____________

    Addendum: Well, I ordered another dozen Spin Brushes from eBay and they were exactly what I wanted. The only problem was they arrived as a "gift" from Amazon. I returned to Amazon to search once again without luck, until I added the phrase "12 pack." Up jumped a package of 12 of these beauties for $130.72. Now that Amazon charges tax I think the total would come to roughly $140, or $11.65 each. I paid $173 on eBay, so somebody made a quick $30 at my expense.
    Given how hard these toothbrushes are to find, it's probably worthwhile to go ahead and buy a dozen and give one to every member of the family while saving the rest for future travel, etc. My son loves his so much that he demanded to know why I didn't care about his dental hygiene before now!

   Here's the link to the Amazon 12-pack:

Friday, July 28, 2017

Trump right again: transexuals have no place in military, or anywhere else for that matter

    President Trump was right once again, this time by announcing a ban of transexuals in the military. Money that ought to go towards defending our country shouldn’t be spent on sex-change operations for people who are confused about their gender.
    There is an unfortunate tendency to conflate the gay rights movement with the transgender movement. One can be fully or partially supportive of gay rights while being totally opposed to the abomination known as the transgender movement.
    Most young transgendered people are in fact male homosexuals who seek to change their gender to make themselves attractive to other males. It effect transgendered people are homophobes who are unwilling to engage in a same sex-relationship with the objects of their desires. Those who accept and endorse the transgender movement society endorse homophobia.
    These people think changing their gender is going to bring about some type of eternal bliss. The problem comes when they transition – overwhelmingly from male to female – and find themselves completely unwanted in the mating game. Someone who truly appears to be a woman is not going to attract a gay male. That same "woman" is not going to attract a heterosexual male either when she admits that she is toting a penis rather than a vagina. So these so-called women now attract no one; if they had remained male they could have engaged in a gay relationship.
Nobody will sleep with them! Why?
    Stories of the frustrations of transgendered “former” males are legion; just Google it. And they are very loud about declaring that heterosexual males have a duty to sleep with them. Well, no; just no! Many of these people look like absolute freaks. Sometimes massive amounts of money and skillful surgery can do wonders, but many people end up being “females” with male body parts, and that is the prize nobody wants. This is truly confusing to ultra-leftists, as revealed by the sad but comical Vice column, "Why Can't My Famous Gender Nonconforming Friends Get Laid?"
   It’s truly insanity on a national scale when we allow teen-age boys to declare themselves to be female and immediately start competing in sports against girls who haven’t had the benefit of massive amounts of muscle- and bone-building testosterone for several years. It’s insanity when we decide that men have the right to just wake up and declare themselves a woman and start using the women’s rest room. Such rules make it absolutely impossible to enforce laws against voyeurism, since any person arrested can simply declare themselves “transgendered.”
    The language these people use is a study in weirdness. They speak of cis-ness and binary and non-binary and believe there are 62 genders. Real human beings don’t know what a “cis” is and don’t want to know. These people are ill.
    There are people who “identify” as amputees and try to do whatever they can to lose a limb. Some people “identify” as being blind, and I’ve read of at least one poor soul who poured lye in her eyes to make her body fit her perceived reality. We should pity these people, but we shouldn’t aid and abet them. If an adult engages with sex with children, should he be able to claim as a valid defense the fact that he “identifies” as a child? No! He’s factually adult, just as each of us is factually a male or a female (save for rare medical cases of ambiguous gender).
    All of this sickness just needs to stop. As a society we should have a public policy of encouraging people to make the most of the bodies they have. This should include condemnation of the homophobia that is fueling the transgender movement.
    Insofar as the military is concerned, it's not unreasonable to expect recruits to decide whether they are a man or a woman before enlisting. Recruits should pay for any gender shenanigans out of their own pockets before enlisting instead of endangering our national defense and depleting our national treasury by demanding expensive sex-change operations on the public dime. It's not too much to ask. It really isn't.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To see Russia on the cheap and easy, take the St. Peter Line ferry from Helsinki

    Getting a Russian visa is one of those things that makes most Americans just not go. A single-entry visa costs $123 and involves the cost and hassle of getting an official letter of invitation. A multiple-entry visa costs $303 and lasts for three years. Both require a lot of patience or the use of a visa processing agency.
    One exception to Russia’s strict visa rules is for visitors who arrive by ship, who get 72 hours visa-free. So those not wanting to spend a lot of money and effort on a visa can just buy a cruise! Except that’s not a very economical option, either. And cruise lines hold their passengers hostage to only taking official ship tours – nothing is worse. I like to see places on my own, not surrounded with a bus load of other people.
    We decided to try the one cheap option to visit St. Petersburg, which is to take a ferry operated by St. Peter Line. Our round-trip from Helsinki to St. Petersburg on the “Princess Anastasia” cost a total of 380 euros for the four of us and included a very small four-person cabin each way. Travel time was about 18 hours each way, but we spent quite a while in port in St. Petersburg on each end, turning that into about 24 hours, as the ferry holds you on board to make sure no one violates the 72-hour rule. The Russian visa-free rules require the purchase of an official “tour,” an obligation we satisfied by purchasing a 25-euro bus ride from the ship to and from the center of town.

    I’m not sure what image a “ferry” conjures in the typical traveler’s mind, but at one time the thought wasn’t too appealing. The fact is, however, that there are some pretty nice ferries out there. Think of the “Princess Anastasia” as a bottom-of-the-line cruise ship, with decent restaurants, bars, a show or two, and even kids' entertainment. Our stateroom was incredibly small, but since it was for such a short trip we survived. One travel tip: Pack everyone’s toiletries and a change of clothes in a separate bag so there will be no need to access each suitcase; there isn’t room to open them all up at once. There are, by the way, larger and more luxurious staterooms, but we were traveling on a budget.
    It's always easy to bust a budget. The ferry has some budget dining options as well as a couple of nice restaurants. We ended up eating at the nicer places, thus running up our tab, although I should note that dinner at one of the "nicer" restaurants with a couple of glasses of wine cost $85; so the food wasn't unreasonably priced. I think a beer or drink cost about $4.50, which is less than on the typical cruise ship.
    We had absolutely no problem navigating St. Petersburg on our own. We rented a very nice and large two-bedroom apartment through Booking.com for about $450 for three nights. A data sim card for my mifi hotspot cost four dollars for five gigabytes (I kid you not!). Food and drink were reasonable and Uber rides cost about $1.50 each. Everyone loves America and our president.
    For our return journey we de-boarded the ferry at Tallin instead of Helsinki; this cost an extra 10 euros each and allowed us to sleep until 11 a.m. Tallin is worth a visit, too, but I’ll leave to another day or another blogger.
    The best way to book is on the St. Peter Line site. The company does sell “cruises,” which I don’t recommend. Instead, book a ferry trip with a return three days after arrival. You are allowed exactly 72 hours in Russia without a visa, so don’t be late on your return.

The bars were like those on a cruise ship

Almost a kid's club!


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Delbert Hosemann's poke in Donald Trump's eye may prove costly in next election

    Love him or hate him, but Donald Trump has rearranged the political order of both parties. The old politics simply aren’t going to work any more.
    Trump has appointed an Election Integrity Commission to investigate the rampant voter fraud that has been taking place in virtually every state and national election for years. How could any honest person complain? Obviously those with a vested interest in promoting voter fraud don’t want to cooperate.
    Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann responded to the Election Commission’s request for information by telling them to “Go jump in the Gulf.” There was a time when a response like this to a federal demand would earn a Mississippi politician an easy ride in the next election. I think Hosemann is going to learn that the rules have changed. Most Mississippians support Donald Trump and want to put an end to voter fraud.
    It’s important to note that all of the information requested by the commission is public record or information the government already has. For example, the federal government already has our social security numbers – there’s no need for the state to withhold these.
    Whether intentionally or not, Hosemann has thrown his support behind those who want to rig our nations elections. In 2014 Hosemann did everything he could to prevent a proper investigation of the Thad Cochran-Chris McDaniel senate race, which was a giant fraud-fest. The bottom line is that by both word and deed Delbert Hosemann supports voter fraud.
    Hosemann will find out soon enough that Donald Trump has more support in Mississippi than he does. My hope is that his political career is over.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Our $99 trans-Atlantic fare saved us money, but the costs are much higher than they might seem

    The family and I recently journeyed to Europe on one of those ultra-cheapo fares that Norwegian Airlines is now offering from Stewart, New York, to various locales in Europe. If we had been willing to pack really light, sit in middle seats, and carry our own sandwich on board we could have made the trip from Stewart to Edinburgh (pronounced Edinborough) for $99. We wanted to check bags, sit together, and eat something, so we ended up paying $193.50 each for our flight over the pond.
    For our roughly $95 extra we each got to check a bag, which was certainly worth $40, a surprisingly good meal, which was worth $25, and the ability not to all sit in center seats next to strangers, which was worth $500,000.
    I thought it might be interesting to analyze how much money we actually saved by going through a great deal of effort to journey to New York to get a cheapo fare. Fares out of Memphis to Europe are rarely less than $1,500 round-trip, so I think that’s a good benchmark.
    We’re flying home on TAP Portugal (a very comfortable airline with reasonably wide seats), Barcelona-Newark at a cost of $236.77 each, plus an additional $30 each for seat assignments, for a total of $266.77. So our open-jaw from New York to Europe cost $460.27 each. Add to that the $20 cost of the shuttle bus to the Stewart, New York, airport, and the cost rises to $480.27.
    We now run into a bit of a problem. Our flight took us to Edinburgh, which was in no way on our sightseeing itinerary. Do we count travel time from Edinburgh as part of the trip? I’m not going to, because we enjoyed our stay and were able to visit with one of Jinny’s high school roommates. However, the flight to Helsinki, which was our ultimate destination, cost us $200 each, which really smarted.
    Our costs aren’t over. We had to get to New York. As it worked out, we started our trip immediately after daughter Lucy’s college orientation, and so it was practical (and much cheaper) to fly out of New Orleans, which we could do for 10,000 Delta Skymiles each way, or 80,000 Skymiles. Since Skymiles are said to be worth 1.2 cents each, that’s roughly $960, or $240 each. Oh, and the parking was roughly $240.
    So where are we now? $480.27 for the round-trip, plus $240 for the Skymiles, plus $60 for parking. Add to that $35 each for hotel points for a hotel in New York, plus about $20 each for taxi fare, and our round-trip fare to Europe comes out to about $835. As I said before, one would be hard pressed to find a comparable fare from Memphis for less than $1,500 or perhaps even $2,000, but $835 is a lot more than the low-sounding $99 over and $249 back that I started out with.
    After all is said and done I think we got the cheapest fare possible booking about three months out. But there are frequently round-trip fares from Chicago to Europe in the $600-700 range, and it might be a better deal for a family to simply drive to Chicago and grab one of these – if they are available, of course.
    There’s not really a moral to this story, save that when booking cheap fares in far-flung cities one should be careful to add up all the ancillary costs involved in accessing the fares. In our case we saved money, but one should be careful lest these low fare deals turn out to be a fool’s bargain.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

With a photo snap the world's great paintings can become unique art for your home

This painting is in the British Museum and is pretty unusual.
    If you would like to have original prints and artwork for your home at a really cheap price, you might be interested in my recent experiment, which I think worked out great.
    While visiting the British Museum a few months ago I snapped a photo of a large painting drawn on the occasion of the coronation of Ethiopian Emporor Haile Selassie in 1930. I was planning to try to make a copy of the painting, so I made a point of trying to get a straight and level shot.
    Museums are full of really neat paintings, and while the museums might try to claim reproduction rights to these, the fact is that the museums have no rights at all if the paintings are out of copyright -- the older paintings are in the public domain. In the case of the Ethiopian painting, there was no copyright law in Ethiopia at the time it was created, but even so, under current Ethiopian law any copyright would have expired after 50 years as it is an anonymous work.
    A few weeks ago I got around to doing some photo editing. I decided to have the painting reprinted on a 16x20 canvas from Wal-Mart, as the cost was only $30. That meant I had to chop off the two side panels, which showed various animals living peacefully ever after, keeping just the main section. I had never used the “skew” function of Photoshop, but this is important, as it will help make your painting into a perfect “square” or “rectangle,” essentially removing any distance distortion that was created from your camera angle.
    After a bit of tinkering, I put the print on a Wal-Mart canvas. I actually had to “undersize” the print by about five percent, leaving a white border all the way around it, as this ended up being cut off; if you don't do this, you will lose part of your picture. With luck and a bit of trial and error, I was able to get the little rope border on the painting to appear on the side of the canvas, at the very edge of the frame, which I think looks neat.
Rope border worked perfectly
    I made this painting for my son, Ash, to put in his dorm room. Daughter Lucy has demanded one of her own. I am going to experiment with some other companies that do canvas prints, and perhaps go ahead and pay up to get a larger version that will include the chopped off side panels.
    In addition to creating unique art for personal use, I would think one could make a little extra money by finding neat paintings and later reproducing them on canvas. Some people call this cultural appropriation, which is a great thing to do because it makes liberals mad, so have fun with art!

The final product, perfect for home or dorm room

Thursday, April 13, 2017

We need legislation now to make air travel less hellish, airline employees less abusive



As Twisted Sister says, We don't have to take it from the airlines any more

     United Airlines called in the police to severely beat one of its already boarded passengers this week for refusing to give up his seat on an aircraft. And the nation took notice.
    The president of the company initially blamed the victim, claiming that United agents had followed established policy and that the 69-year-old doctor who was dragged off the plane was “belligerent.” Neither of these statements is true: Airlines have no right to “bump” passengers who have already boarded an aircraft, and in this case the doctor was quietly minding his own business until the the United agents unlawfully tried to take his seat; even then the doctor firmly refused, but there have been no reports of belligerence. So on top of a bloody face the poor man was defamed to a national audience by the president of the company.
    To make matters worse, United’s victim had a sordid sexual past involving the giving out of prescription pain pills to a lover and the suspension of his medical license almost two decades ago. At some point he was said to have “anger management” issues. Although there is no evidence that he was disruptive on the flight, various press outlets trumpeted this news, so that the whole world now knows of this poor bloody-faced man's tawdry conduct two decades ago. So what we have is a United Airlines passenger who has been beaten, defamed by the president of the company, and totally humiliated by the press for exercising his contractual right to not give up his seat on an airplane. This from an airline with the slogan: "Fly the Friendly Skies."
    This man isn’t alone. Most of the airlines treat all of us like crap; United just has the worst reputation of the lot. Shortly after this story went viral another disgruntled United passenger told about how he was ejected from his paid first class seat and forced to sit in a economy middle seat between a feuding couple because somebody “more important” arrived at the gate at the last minute. When he tried to stand his ground he was told to give up his first-class seat or he would be put in handcuffs.
    Most of us have no problem with the airlines bumping passengers; we know it’s part of the business. But there is a difference between bumping someone prior to boarding and yanking someone who has already boarded off a plane because someone the airline deems more important has arrived at the last minute. Once passengers board a plane their rights are governed by the Contract of Carriage, and airlines that bully passengers need to face government fines, civil actions, and criminal charges.
    But we need more. For the past several years the airlines have intentionally been making their coach product as wretched as possible to give passengers an incentive to pay a much higher  price for premium seats. For example, the 747 and the 777 flew for years with nine-across seating, with a relatively comfortable seat width of about 18.5 inches. A few years ago several airlines added a 10th seat, even though it meant reducing the seat width to an incredibly narrow 17 inches, which was unheard of on long-haul jets. The Boeing 787 was designed for comfortable eight-across seating, but the airlines crammed in an extra seat making this the most uncomfortable plane in the sky. Certainly there is no evidence that the American public is getting skinnier.
    Adding these seats adds very little net revenue. A tenth seat increases row gross revenue by 11 percent, but this increase also comes with substantial expenses, in that it does cost real money to fly people from here to there, and an increased passenger load requires increased staffing; the net revenue increase is probably less than five percent per row. Most of us would gladly pay five or six percent more to fly in comfort rather than absolute misery. But we aren't offered that option; instead we can pay double or more for a much larger Premium Economy seat. I don't want to pay double for something I don't need; I want to pay five or six percent more for the same width we've flown with for years.
    Airlines say that customers only shop for low fares, and they have to offer the most stripped-down product imaginable. Perhaps. But this is where government regulation has a role in protecting society. Congress needs to enact legislation protecting to protect the flying public.
    ● We need protection from heavy handed actions by the airlines. No one who has boarded an aircraft should ever be required to give up their seat to someone “more important.” Airline employees who bully innocent passengers with threats of arrest should themselves face criminal charges.
    ● We need regulations concerning minimum seat width and pitch (legroom). Planes with eight or more seats across should be required to have a minimum seat width of eighteen inches and most planes should be required to have a minimum seat pitch of 31 inches (As a practical matter, this means the 747 and 777 should be limited to nine seats across and the 787 to eight seats. This might result in slightly higher fares, but it will also reduce the number of air rage incidents, as well as health problems associated with being crammed into a small space for a long time. The best way to enforce this is by placing a small tax on airline tickets for nonconforming seats; airlines wishing to sell tickets for a mini-seat will have to add a tax to the ticket price, thus eliminating the incentive for these abominable seating arrangements.
    ● Young children should receive an assigned seat next to an adult at the time of booking. If the airline wants to charge extra for this assigned seat, fine, but families shouldn’t be forced or allowed to engage is desperate on-plane efforts to convert five middle seats into five seats together. It’s not fair to the family and it’s not fair to the other passengers.
    ● We need for the government to do a better job of explaining exactly what the rights of the airlines are and exactly what the rights of the passengers are. And then we need for those rights to be enforced by the courts, by the Department of Transportation, and of course by us, the flying public. And when airline employees use the police to violate customer rights, those employees should face criminal charges themselves.
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    Those who are tired of the airlines running roughshod over the citizenry should contact their congressman and ask for regulations to protect the flying public. You may do so by clicking on the links below:

To email Sen. Thad Cochran, click here.

To email Sen. Roger Wicker, click here.

To email Rep. Trent Kelly, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bogus claims of Hispanic racism fail to look at past American behavior; We Love Lucy!


    A few really old people will remember the television show "I Love Lucy," starring Lucille Ball and her Hispanic husband, Desi Arnaz, which appeared on television through the 1950s, with Arnaz playing Ricky Ricardo, a flamboyantly Latin orchestra leader.
    Because of the overwhelming anti-Hispanic racism of the time, the show flopped, and Arnaz was arrested and tried for violating miscegenation laws, and both were put in jail for several years.
    Oh, wait, that's an alternate history. In fact, America loved Desi Arnaz and didn't care one whit that he was married to a "white" woman. Most Americans don't view Hispanics or Latinos as a separate race at all. In fact, the whole idea of Hispanics being a separate race is fake news drummed up by liberals. "I Love Lucy" didn't flop – it was the highest rated show on television for four out of five of the years from 1952-1957.
    "I Love Lucy" got its start in 1951, the same year as another hit movie, "Show Boat," starring the very white Ava Gardner. Gardner played the role of a light skinned black woman in a relationship with a white man. Her role originally was supposed to have been played by Lena Horne, who was perfect for the role since she was a a light skinned black woman who was actually already known for singing some of the songs in the show in an earlier movie, "Till The Clouds Roll By." The show's producers had, in fact, created some makeup to make Horne just a little lighter. They ended up using it on Gardner instead to make her a little darker. If you look at the video above, you will realize that while Gardner was a talented actress, America truly lost out by not having Horne play the part. Gardner's singing was dubbed, although archive copies show it wasn't really bad; but it wasn't Lena Horne, either.
    So in the 1950s Americans were perfectly happy with the notion of a Hispanic man being married to a red-headed "white" woman, to the point that they would tune in to their television program every week and make it America's top-rated show. Yet the same people, while able to accept a movie plot that involved a sexual relationship between a "mulatto" and a white, could not stand for the black person in that movie to actually be played by a black actress, lest said miscegeny actually take place before their eyes.
    My point in all of this is that we're being told these days that we're "racist" for wanting to enforce our nation's immigration laws. The fact that we want to deport poor, unskilled, sometimes criminal, often-on-welfare, illegal immigrants who usually happen to be Hispanic, is cited as proof of "racism."
    Here's a secret. We don't want to deport people because they are Hispanic, or "brown," (most really aren't very brown, but what the hell). We want to deport them because they are in our country illegally and are on welfare (the rate for their anchor children is through the roof), and/or are criminal, and/or low skill. We want to deport them because it is in the national interest to do so, and because it is an act of treason not to attempt to do so (I feel that it is treason for public officials not to act in the national interest. I think they should be hanged for not doing so).
    We need to recognize that American blacks suffered and still suffer unique discrimination. I frequently disagree mightily with the solutions proposed by black leaders for problems of the past or present, but I don't think anyone can be indifferent to some of the indignities suffered by middle- and upper-middle-class blacks. To somehow elevate these criminal border-jumpers to the rank of comrades-in-arms to black Americans is an outrage. I suppose I don't have a dog in the hunt, but I certainly will not stand for it on my end.
    I find it amazing that many black leaders seem to be supporting the open border movement, when unskilled blacks are the group that suffers most from illegal Hispanic immigration. In south Texas, much of California, and much of Florida, one must speak Spanish to get an unskilled-labor job. This essentially cuts blacks out of the unskilled labor market. The silly inclusion of Hispanics in the affirmative action pool (why? they've never suffered?) means less will be available for blacks. It's just racial suicide for blacks to support this, but their white Democratic leaders tell them to, so they do.
    There is always discrimination against those who don't speak English in the local vernacular or who dress or act differently. But there is very little discrimination against Hispanics who have adapted to American culture. This lack of discrimination shows that a desire to enforce our immigration laws isn't based on racism, but simply good public policy. It should continue.
    Build the Wall. Enforce Our Laws.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Time spent in store full of junk finds one piece of treasure worth keeping

     Jinny bought me a Valentine's present from a country Alabama junk store and I couldn't be happier with it.
    As she related to me, she had a couple of hours to kill while on a business trip needed to stretch her legs for a few minutes while on a car trip and decided to check out an antique mall. It wasn't a very nice antique mall. In one of the stalls she noticed a photo of Margaret Thatcher in a beat-up wooden frame. She didn't think anything about it and walked on by, but then returned to take another look.
    The photograph was autographed. She removed the photo from the frame to see if it was a printed photo and it wasn't. It was on photo stock, and the autograph was in blue grease pencil. Neither of us is a handwriting expert, but after looking at various samples of Thatcher's signature on the Internet, we both concluded that the signature was indeed that of the British Iron Lady. Jinny reframed the photo and I found a very nice spot for it.
    It certainly not that hard to buy autographed photos of Baroness Thatcher, but I doubt very seriously that I'll ever come across one for $10, which is what Jinny paid for mine. As the old saying goes, "One man's junk is another man's treasure," and my Margaret Thatcher photo is a treasure indeed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My 15- to 20-year-old computer programs run just fine on Windows 10, but a 2010 program? Nah

    We all know that software compatibility is a big problem for those upgrading to a new operating system; programs that worked on Windows XP might not work on Windows 7 or Windows 10. The only solution is software upgrades costing anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars per program, or application as they are called these days.
    Does anybody besides me find it a bit odd that these programs just simply quit working every time Microsoft has a major upgrade of Windows? Either Microsoft is designing their operating systems so that they won't run old software, or more likely, software manufacturers are designing their software so that minor changes in operating systems will render the software completely non-functional.
    I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that I don't need "new and improved." Windows XP set the standard for operating systems; I do understand it had some security flaws and perhaps it had to go, but we, the computer-using public, did not need any non-security-related changes or improvements to Windows XP; once the apex is reached, the apex is reached.
    But we've had change whether we wanted it or not, first with the incredibly dreadful Windows Vista system, then with the XP-like Windows 7, and then the laughably disastrous Windows 8, which was so bad Microsoft skipped all the way to Windows 10 in an effort to distance itself from the tubercular  dog (what kind of stupid fool doesn't include a "start" button?). With each of these upgrades, fairly new software releases simply quit working, and the only way to make them work again was to pay a few hundred dollars per program for an upgrade.
    As evidence of my assertion that modern programs are designed to fail when software is upgraded, I would point to the fact that I have several very old programs that I have continued to use since Windows 98 was the new thing. These programs run just fine on Windows 10 because, unlike newer programs, they were not designed to fail.
    I quit using Corel Draw years ago, but it has a few features that I like to use, and I decided today  to see if I could install my old Corel Draw 7 onto my Windows 10 platform. It installed without a hitch and runs just fine. Corel Draw 7 was released Oct. 8, 1996, but based on my search of the Internet, versions of Corel Draw from 2010 and perhaps even 2012 will not work on Windows 10.
    A few years ago I was upgrading computers and tried to load my tried-and-true Photoshop 6, issued in September 2000, with no luck; my computer said Photoshop 6 was not compatible with Windows 7. In a Hail-Mary effort I finally just copied the Windows 6 folder from the old computer and plopped it down in the new one and then put a shortcut on my start menu. It worked like a charm. I'm sure Adobe has made improvements in their program since 2000, but I would rather have a program that I paid for once that was a little out of date than one with a few extra bells and whistles that had to be upgraded every three years. Many newer versions of Photoshop -- save for the very newest -- simply will not work on Windows 10.
    Few companies have been more draconian in their copy protection schemes than QuarkXPress, but as luck would have it they released one edition of their software that didn't require jumping through a million hoops to use -- QuarkXPress V -- which just happens to be the version I have (I actually bought a newer version, but didn't like it as much as Quark V). Various Internet message boards are wet with the tears of people unable to get their Quark versions to install and run on Windows 10, but when I upgraded my computer Quark V loaded just fine. QuarkXPress V was released in 2002.
    As a practical matter, we don't need any more improvements in operating systems; we don't need "better" software. What we need is for software makers to stop intentionally writing their programs so that they won't be able to run should there be future operating system changes.
    If my 20-year-old computer programs will run just fine on Windows 10, then versions of the same software released five or six years ago ought to be able to run as well. If not, the failure is intentional and somebody ought to go to jail.

University of Kansas showcases black Mississippi writers, including Holly Springs' Ida Wells

    The Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas is  sponsoring a series of events, Black History Suite 2017, celebrating works of black Mississippi or Mississippi-related writers during what it calls the Mississippi Renaissance, a period from World War I to the Great Depression and World War II era. Events will include panel discussions, a digital exposition, and a showing of "Yazoo Revisited" by David Morris.
    Among the writers featured are Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, and Ida B. Wells. Wright is best known for his novels "Black Boy" and "Native Son," but a panel discussion will focus on his "Blueprint for Negro Writing."
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    Ida Wells, who was born and reared in Holly Springs, was born into slavery in 1862. Her father was owned by Spires Bolling, an architect whose homes were known for featuring octagonal columns. He also built the Walter Place, with its unusual octagonal wings on each end. The Wells family lived at the Bolling Place, which was later the Gatewood home, and is now the site of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum.
Wells
    Wells, who lost both parents to the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, struggled to support and keep her younger siblings together by working as a schoolteacher. Her frustration over receiving $30 per month while white teachers were paid $80 per month led her to become active in a movement to seek equal pay for black teachers, which led to her firing, after which she moved to Memphis.
    In May 1884, Wells refused to give up her seat on a Tennessee train and move to another rail car; when the conductor tried to forcibly move her she bit his hand. She was thrown off the train and successfully sued the train company, obtaining a $500 judgment in circuit court. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned this judgment in 1887 and assessed Wells $200 in costs. This case was later cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which found that segregation laws were not unconstitutional under the "separate but equal" doctrine which remained controlling law until Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
    (An interesting note is that Plessy v. Ferguson was a "friendly" lawsuit carefully coordinated between Plessy and the railroad company, both of whom believed that the Supreme Court would find segregation laws unconstitutional. The railroad company wanted Plessy to prevail, as it did not want the expense of having to maintain two sets of passenger cars).
    In 1889, Wells, who was working in Memphis as a schoolteacher, became owner of the Free Speech and Headlight, a newspaper published out of the Beale Street Baptist Church. Her opposition to segregation and articles decrying the poor condition of black schools led to her firing in 1891.
    Also in 1889, three of Wells' friends were lynched, which led her to become active in the national anti-lynching movement, in which she often collaborated with W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglas. In 1992, she published a famous anti-lynching pamphlet, "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases."
    On May 27, 1892, a white mob destroyed the offices of Wells' newspaper. Because of threats on her life she soon moved to Chicago, where she wrote articles for the New York Observer and began to work for the Chicago Conservator, that city's oldest black newspaper.
    During the 1890s Wells traveled extensively to promote civil rights, including trips to Europe. In 1909 Wells was one of seven black and 53 white founders of the NAACP. In later life she retreated from the national spotlight somewhat as she devoted herself to family life, although she remained active in support of civil rights throughout her life until her death in 1931.
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    The Black History Suite will also feature a showing of David Rae Morris' "Yazoo Revisited," which looks at what eventually because an unsuccessful attempt to integrate the Yazoo City schools. Morris's father, Willie Morris, who I was proud to call a friend, first wrote about the effort  in his book, Yazoo: Integration in a Deep-Southern Town." Willie Morris' book ends with him firmly convinced that Yazoo City's school had successfully integrated, maintaining a 40 percent white student enrollment. By 2000 the school system was 99 percent non-white.
    I viewed and reviewed a very early cut of this documentary in 2013, and while I enjoyed it, I was disappointed that no effort had been made to interview white families who originally stayed with and strongly supported the public system but then later drifted away. These were people of good will and not hard-core segregationists, and their viewpoints might enlighten future school choices. These are difficult issues, and ones many people might be loathe to talk about on camera, but if the question is never asked then there will never be a solution. Hopefully Morris has added some of this material to his documentary.



_______

Graham 
    The Black Literary Suite will use the hashtags #HBW and #BlackLitSuite for Twitter conversations; the Twitter address is @ProjectHBW. Information is also available at projecthbw.blogspot.com.
    The Project on the History of Black Writing was founded by Kansas professor Maryemma Graham in 1983 while she was a professor at Ole Miss. It maintains a small library at the University of Kansas and is currently completing a digital archive of African-American novels, the first in the United States.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Drink Yuengling, wear L.L. Bean; do not buy burnt-bean Starbucks swill as it is crap


Edit: Since I wrote this Nordstrom has pulled Ivanka Trump's products from its stores, supposedly because of poor sales. I wish there were Nordstrom stores in the southeast so I could refuse to shop with them, but I will refuse to shop with them.

    Starbucks recently made a big production of opposing President Trump’s immigration policies by declaring that they would hire 10,000 economic migrants, in the process denying jobs to 10,000 Americans. Obviously they don’t need my money.
    Macy’s denounced President Trump and removed his clothing line from its stores. Shoes.com quit selling Ivanka Trump’s products as well. Budweiser has a new ad clearly designed to promote an open borders policy that will destroy our nation. Target allows grown men to go in the girl’s bathroom to spy on little girls; they say it is their right. Bellacor, Wayfair, Zulily, RueLaLa, and Stein Mart have apparently removed Trump merchandise from their stores for political reasons. Again, they don’t need my money.
    Meanwhile, the Yuengling brewery has been facing boycotts from Trotskyites upset that Trump visited the brewery during the campaign. They are also urging boycotts of L.L. Bean because one Bean family member supported Donald Trump.
    For those of you who are Trump supporters, or just decent people in general, this is where we stand:
    1. We all need to drink Yuengling beer, which comes from the oldest brewery in America.
    2. We all need to buy products from L.L. Bean;
    3. Everyone needs to boycott Starbucks bigly, which should be extremely easy since their coffee is made with burnt beans and tastes like crap;
    4. Do not shop at  Bellacor, Wayfair, Zulily, RueLaLa, and Stein Mart. Just say no. Do not shop at Target. Above all, do not shop at Macy’s;
    5. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Until repealed by Congress, Trump's duty is to enforce Obamacare's individual mandate

Note that there is no right to refuse to enforce laws one doesn't like in the enumerated powers of the executive branch.

       President Trump has announced that he may not enforce the individual mandate required under Obamacare. If he goes through with this it will effectively kill the program, which was already dying a not-so-slow death.
    I hate Obamacare and look forward to its demise, but Trump is wrong to simply stop enforcing the individual mandate for one reason: it’s the law. It’s the sworn duty of the president under Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” It’s really that simple. There is no provision allowing a president to refuse to enforce laws because Congress refused to "cooperate" with him in changing them.
    Of course, that view changed under the Obama presidency. When Congress refused to pass laws he wanted, he simply ruled by edict and his disciples were fine with it. Thus when Congress refused to grant amnesty or citizenship to millions of criminals in this country illegally, Obama simply quit enforcing our immigration laws. When Obamacare didn’t work exactly as he wanted, he unilaterally transferred money outside of the authority of law. Facing election pressures, Obama delayed various unpopular aspects of the law purely for electoral advantage. For the past eight years Obama has essentially operated as a dictator, and he got away with it because too many people were afraid to challenge our first black president for fear of being called “racist.”
    Now Trump is in office; the Obamaites who were so willing to go along with this massive usurpation of power into the executive branch are now going to discover that sauce for Obama’s goose is sauce for Trump’s gander. He can and will rescind most of Obama’s executive orders; in addition, Trump seems ready to follow Obama’s example of refusing to enforce those laws with which he disagrees. I expect to hear a lot of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth by idiots wearing hats made to look like vaginas.
    I suppose Trump is entitled to demand the same rights as those exercised by Obama, but at some point Congress and the states need to use the courts to rein in our out-of-control executive branch. In the meantime Trump will use all of the tools of executive power that Obama created for him. Most of what he may do I will probably approve of, but there is value in obedience to the law and the Constitution.
    In our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush (and H.W. Bush as well) sought authorization from Congress before committing U.S. troops to action. Obama chose to ignore the War Powers Act in his unjustified attack on our enemy-turned-ally, Libya, committing numerous war crimes in the process. The results have been disastrous (as I said they would be back in 2011), including the rise of ISIS and the Syrian civil war. Congress should have impeached him over this, but they lacked the will. It’s time to give the War Powers Act additional teeth by imposing criminal penalties on soldiers who knowingly violate it by participating in an offensive military action for more than 60 days without Congressional approval. Soldiers are expected to disobey orders given by commanders that violate the Geneva Convention or that are illegal, and they should be expected to disobey orders given in violation of the War Powers Act. Any soldier who can’t count to 60 has no business of being in the military.
    In 1974, in Train v. City of New York, the Supreme Court ruled that President Nixon could not “impound” funds appropriated by Congress; in other words, if the law said spend the money he had to spend the money. There can be no tolerance for the executive branch to simply refuse to enforce laws that the current president doesn’t like. I’m not prepared to advocate for the impeachment of Trump for engaging in behavior that is identical to that of Obama, but at some point Congress is going to have to involve the courts in restraining our nation’s out-of-control executive branch.
    I support Donald Trump and almost everything he says he wants to do as president, but as a matter of long-term policy Congress and the states must claw back their powers from the executive. The president’s job is to direct foreign policy, command the military, commission officers and judges subject to Senate approval, propose laws to Congress, and faithfully enforce those laws enacted by Congress. That’s it. The right to make laws and appropriate funds rests solely with the Congress, subject to a presidential right to make proposals and attempt to veto. The president is not supposed to  rule by edict or unilaterally refuse to enforce laws he doesn’t like. The fact that I may like the current president doesn’t make the executive’s usurpation of power any more acceptable from a constitutional standpoint.
    To get back to where I started, we can and should repeal Obamacare, but until it is properly repealed those provisions which are enacted into law should be enforced. It’s just the law, and it’s the job of the president to enforce our laws whether he likes them or not. Obama acted as a dictator; Trump should act like a president.