Monday, May 2, 2016

Gettin' Ready

We are now within two weeks of D-Day.  That would be our "departure" for points east.  I can hardly wait.

Our diesel mechanic Jesus has been fine-tuning the rig for the past week.  He's gone over the engine, trans, generator, ete., changed out all the fluids, and replaced a tension pulley for the A/C belt.  He also replaced the burnt insulation in the engine compartment.  I will be getting the rig back on Wednesday morning, and will take it directly to Winchester where it will get new tires.  They will cost us about $3K installed (Toyo M144's).

Sometime between now and May 14th, I will take the motorhome to Advanced Audio, where we will attempt to trade out the existing radio for a Sirius-XM radio.

Speaking of spending a ton of money, my good friend (and Charlie's client) Terry DeArmond called this morning to tell us that he and his gal Barb just purchased their own 40' Class A motorhome.  It's a 2007 Tuscany, and they got a great deal on it.  It has a King bed in it, which is really nice.  The diesel engine is a bit smaller than ours, but will have plenty of power to get them where they need to go, and I believe it only has about 32,000 miles on the engine.  That's practically brand new.  We look forward to some RV camping with Terry and Barb, probably next year, as we are pretty well booked until early November.

Charlie is recovering well from her surgery.  She should be in great shape to travel come May 15th. If all that sitting bothers her, she can recline on the couch or in our bed while I cruise down up Interstate 15 to Las Vegas (and, then, Moab, Utah).

I am wrapping up my golf activity this Friday with my buddies Gary, Jack, and Bob.  I don't plan on taking my sticks with me, as I hardly used them last year.  Ditto for my bowling gear; it will go into mothballs after next Monday.  And, it's a good thing, as I am bowling crappy right now.

Speaking of crap, how about that Presidential race?  There are all sorts of shenanigans going on right now behind the scenes, where GOP party operatives are trying to line up a coup d'etat at their convention should Donald Trump not gain an outright victory on the first ballot.  Senator Cruz is not a very likable guy, at least not with voters.  But, he does work pretty well in the shadows, snarfing up delegates to the convention.  It would be great theater if there was chaos at the GOP convention.  I might even watch it, and I've never watched any political convention.

Senator Cruz makes no bones about the fact that he is a Conservative's Conservative, and he's got all kinds of right-wing ideas to foist upon the American Public should he somehow win the Presidency. (How he would convince his hated peers on Capitol Hill to go along with him is the question, however; most of them hate his guts.)  Donald Trump, on the other hand, is quite mysterious about what he will bring to the table as President.  Whenever he is asked a serious policy question, he says something like, "I'm unpredictable.  And, I don't want to reveal my strategy to (Wipe Out ISIS; Cure our Balance of Trade with China; Correct Obamacare; Make the Russians Toe the Line; etc.) least the enemy take advantage of such knowledge.  Just trust me: my solution will be huge, fabulous, fantastic." Our course, he did reveal one of his Aces in the hole about six months ago...his brilliant idea to build a giant wall along the Mexican border to keep out the riffraff, and then make the Mexicans pay for it. Probably because of brain farts like this, Trump has lately elected to keep his yap shut on details.  Like we did with Nixon, we will have to trust that he "has a plan".

Chances are that the imbecile will get enough votes prior to the convention, and the GOP will have to hold its nose and support him.

Meanwhile, over in the Democratic arena, Senator Sanders has all but folded up his tent.  Not enough people wanted to "Feel the Bern", although he did get plenty of Liberals, Socialists, and Commies worked up over the past few months.  His bummed-out supporters will now retire back to the commune, hit the bong, and tend to their organic vegetables.  Never the quitter, Senator Sanders has promised to show up at the convention and try to steer Hillary toward the proletariat left.

As the only surviving candidate in the actual 2016 Presidential campaign who actually has a considerable record in governmental service, Hillary Clinton will make a good target for GOP mudslingers.  They've tried, with the Benghazi and E-Mail congressional hearings, to make her look like the biggest liar since...her husband, Bill?...but, thus far, they've only made hay with their core constituency, which despised Mrs. Clinton anyway. Certainly, she is a consummate liar...which is a major requirement for any serious politician.  Heck, every GOP antagonist knows that!

So, we can all look forward to a very interesting Fall, when Mr. Trump (most likely) and Mrs. Clinton will go at it, hammer and tong.  Trump has already begun the mudslinging, calling out Clinton for being a WOMAN this past week.  Wow, that guy is hitting below the belt already!!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Paradigm Shift

Now that it is looking inevitable that Donald Trump will be the GOP Presidential nominee, all sorts of analyses are being done to determine how this could have happened.  After all, the man is a liar, a narcissist, a bully, a misogynist, a racist, and, even though he is the self-proclaimed smartest man in every room, he has failed numerous times in marriage and in business.  Despite this, Republican voters love him, it seems.

Or, is it just that they feel more comfortable with him?  Until this year, none of the GOP contenders were known for any major accomplishments, with the possible exception of Jeb Bush, who facilitated his brother's election to the Presidency in 2000 over Al Gore (remember the "hanging chads"?) Mr. Donald Trump, on the other hand, was a household name.  He'd been in the news for years, with his outlandish lifestyle, public marriage fiascos, and flashy building projects, many of which went down in flames. Trump is arguably the greatest benefactor of the Oscar Wilde witticism/truism that "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." The Donald's escapades have kept him in America's consciousness, like a well-known brand...a brash, outspoken caricature whom we can all laugh about. So, when he entered a political fray with a dozen nobodies, and the polling began, guess who floated to the top? The guy we knew.

This bigger-than-life character, whether you like him or not, knows how to get attention.  He is the Don Rickle's of politicians, getting applause for insulting anyone and everyone who displeases or disagrees with him. Much of his nastiness is directed at easy targets...Muslims, illegal immigrants, the poor, handicapped reporters, and countries like China and India which have "taken" jobs from Americans.  He knows how to work a room, as the saying goes.  Whatever his audience wants to hear, he's there to provide it, in spades.  Which, actually, is something most experienced politicians excel at.

Where Trump is different is that he is a major media personality.  We've all gotten to know the Trump persona by watching TV shows like "The Apprentice", where he acts like the consummate CEO, talking tough and carrying a big stick.  His catchphrase, "You're Fired!", conveys a command presence, a guy who doesn't suffer fools gladly.  His employees are going to work hard, excel, and suck up to the Boss, or...they'll be shown the door.  In these TV "reality shows", Trump acts like General Patton driving his tank over German infantrymen.  Even though he isn't as rich or successful as he'd like everyone to believe, the impression is given that Donald Trump is a near genius as a businessman.  And, that he isn't a guy to be trifled with.

Until 2016, the typical Presidential campaign consisted of armies of people working the communities and back rooms, people putting bumper stickers on cars, campaign advertisements in local papers, and an occasional town hall meeting or televised debate, where the candidates would introduce themselves and bore people with arcane policy discussions. Trump didn't need any of this.  He was already well-known, and his reputation as a brash, take-no-prisoners CEO was synonymous with his name.  He had no need to prostrate himself before the GOP insiders because he was going to do well in the early primaries without their money or influence.  He had his own seed money and, besides, he was going to get oodles of free publicity because...he is Donald Trump.  And, piggybacking on the national disgust with politicians of all stripes, Trump was able to accurately convey his "outsider" status.  It was a media marriage made in heaven.

Another factor that makes the Trump candidacy different, and maybe groundbreaking, is that he is personally using instantaneous communications (Twitter) to scoop other candidates.  Rather than waiting for a news cycle, Trump is the first voice out there on the Internet, tweeting his support, criticism, disgust, etc. on every breaking story...before it actually breaks in the press.  Many of his tweets (in fact, most) reveal a very shallow thinker and crude human being, but...he's first on the scene, and his tweets become their own news stories ("Did you hear what Trump said?")   Remember, any publicity is good publicity when publicity is what you're looking for.  He's a publicity hound gone beserk, and it's working for him in this wacky campaign.

The traditional news media knows one thing:  Trump IS the news, so they're covering him like a wet blanket.  I read today that during this campaign, Donald Trump had received something like six times the coverage of any other candidate...and its FREE coverage, he hasn't had to spend any money to get it. Candidates used to beg to be interviewed by the press, so that they could get their picture and message out to the public.  The press in 2016 is treating the GOP campaign like the OJ Murder Trial, round the clock coverage of whatever Donald Trump is doing, saying, thinking, etc.  Ratings are sky high; it's great entertainment.  So, the free press blitzkrieg continues.

However, the thing that is getting lost here is that there is no substance to the Donald Trump for President idea.  Anytime the candidate is asked to flesh out one of his brash policy ideas, Trump comes up empty, except to say that his solutions will be "Fabulous", "Huge", or some other stupid hyperbole.  The factual nature of his comments and proposals are usually exaggerations, naked lies, or outright fabrications.  His treatment of reporters, protesters, and opponents is consistently rude and demeaning. And, he's gone out of his way to insult a broad cross-section of American citizens.  To top it off, he has no experience whatsoever in government at any level.

If Washington was running its own "Apprentice" program, Trump wouldn't even make the audition.

But, in 2016, he's showing all the political professionals how a successful campaign should be run.

Somebody Got Spanked!

This morning is Charlie's surgery, and I am sitting in the waiting room while she does the hard work. The Urologist, Dr. Crissel, is repairing the mesh cradle that she installed in my wife's woo-woo about ten years ago to support her prolapsed bladder.  The mesh is working its way to the surface and is causing a considerable amount of pain.  There have been lawsuits about the mesh implants, but Charlie's has worked well to this point.  (Nevertheless, we should hire a shyster lawyer...)  Like a lot of technology, it has run its course and needs to be replaced.  The out-patient surgery will only take about 30 minutes, supposedly, plus the time it will take Charlie to rouse from her anesthesia.  We came in at 8 a.m. and should be home by 11 a.m. or so.

There is a TV in the waiting room, and Good Morning America is running some story about "spanking" children.  A recent study has determined that spanking doesn't accomplish much except cause down-the-road psychological problems for children.  I am generally supportive of science and research...of experts objectively looking at facts and coming to reasonable conclusions.  However, on this particular subject, I am torn.  I come from a family that utilized spanking as a too of last resort, and I did the same with our kids when they otherwise weren't getting the point.  As my father used to say, and I agree 100 percent, doing the spanking hurt the spanker more than the spankee.  I would feel like shit afterwards, and was totally frustrated that it had become necessary.  On the positive side, the immediate result was...Mission Accomplished.  It worked, at least in the short term.  I have no idea if there were long-term psychological problems; there weren't any with me, personally, that I can determine. Except, maybe, feeling that spanking was an acceptable tool in the child rearing toolbox.

My opinion on this touchy subject includes observation of children who came from families where spanking was not utilized.  I know of friends, relatives, and acquaintances in this category, and I see no appreciable difference in long-term outcomes.  Non-spanking families produce a proportionate number of idiots and misfits, and probably a higher proportion of spoiled brats.  At least that's what I've noticed in my 69 years on earth.  The so-called "Greatest Generation"?  They came from spanking families, as did their precursors, who built our country.  I certainly don't have an interest in defending spanking at this point...I won't be doing any more of it, except with my wife, maybe.  But, the big question is, "What is the workable alternative?"  Yeah, I know, talking with your kids, using carrots instead of sticks, calling timeouts, buying them a cellphone, etc.  Been there, done that.  But, sometimes, even those things don't do the job, and something else is required to get the desired result...proper behavior.  I haven't seen anything that is consistently more effective than spanking to stop inappropriate behavior on the spot.  If some brilliant scientist/psychologist can come up with an alternative that is 100% effective immediately...well, that person deserves a Nobel Prize!

The 2016 Presidential Circus continues unabated.  The cast of players has been reduced to Donald Trump on the GOP side, pestered by Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich, and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, annoyed by Senator Sanders.  At this point, Trump and Clinton look to be the candidates in November, but the party conventions are still to be conducted, so there's still a lot of hot air being generated by real and pretend candidates.

It now appears that nothing can stop Donald Trump from becoming the Republican candidate for President in 2016.  He is now beginning to put out some "policy" statements regarding world affairs, etc., which are being universally panned.  The recently-deposed Speaker of the House, a Republican!, flat out declared yesterday that he wouldn't vote for Trump. The billionaire Koch brothers, who regularly spend $100 million or so to fund GOP candidates, are indicating that Hillary Clinton would make a better President. Republican candidates for House and Senate seats are distancing themselves from The Donald.  The current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is attempting to set a GOP platform that legislators can run on, not wanting to be caught in the Trump downdraft.  All the clues point to a spectacular drubbing in November, but...the experts have been wrong before.

Prince, the rock 'n roll prodigy, died this past week at the young age of 57.  There is a worldwide outpouring of grief and testimonials to his wonderfulness. I never got a chance to see him in person, but always wanted to.  His songs had high energy and his musicianship was virtuoso quality on several instruments.

Supposedly, about twenty years ago, someone asked the legendary Eric Clapton what it felt like to be the "greatest guitar player in the world".  He said, "You should ask Prince."  This morning I watched a U-Tube video of a performance at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  An All-Star band of legendary performers covered George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Prince was on stage, over at the side, lending rythym support.  Late in the song, he stepped up to the front of the stage and put on a jaw-dropping display of electric guitar virtuosity that was reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix...but maybe better.  Absolutely spectacular he was.

What I didn't realize until this week was that the man was beloved in the industry.  He was very generous with his gifts; he would write songs for other artists, unrequested, and provide them for free. He would drop by and work with an artist as a backup player...without recognition.  He performed many concerts for free in Minneapolis, and gave to many charities.  In all of this, as famous as he was, he avoided the spotlight and lived a relatively private life.  Ironically, since he died without a will, there will now begin an epic legal battle over his estate that my last for a decade.  He has no living parents, he was not married when he died, had no living children, and is survived by five siblings.  They are going to get rich.  With his passing, several of his old albums immediately shot to the top of the Rock charts, and his "Purple Rain" movie will be re-released.  I'm sure a documentary will be made, as well.

The giant bookkeeping project that Charlie Manning Bookkeeping has been engaged in for the past three weeks is in full swing now.  The contract has now been increased from $10,000 to a max of $25,000.  That sounds like a lot, but the work required is enormous.  I just finished about 40 hours of labor reconstructing the books for the church's PreSchool.  Our son Tim landed this contract, and has been instrumental in schmoozing the Board of Elders and Pastor John.  But, he lacks the bookkeeping skills at this point in his development to help much in reconstructing these complex books.  Also, right in the midst of this hotmess, Tim and his family moved to a two-story home in Wildomar.  So, even if he had the bookkeeping chops to lend a hand, he's been absolutely physically steamrollered by the moving ordeal.  I'm surprised he didn't have a heart attack in the process.  So, the way he has helped the most is by keeping the connections open in Corona and sucking up to the Board of Elders. It's important work.

The "Man" in this job has been our youngest son Jonathan.  We are so proud of him and the skills that he has brought to this job; it would not be possible without him.  Charlie is beat-up from tax season and the usual crisis management that goes with her many clients, and she is also hurting physically. Jonathan has been the glue that has held this thing together, organizing the work and doing some grueling math tasks on payrolls.

Jonathan is flying home to Montana on Saturday for some R&R with wife Misty and daughter Autumn.  Then, on Tuesday, he will return with Autumn for another week or so of drudgery to get this project completed.  Hopefully, everything will be in shipshape before Charlie and I hit the road on May 15.  Down the road, Jonathan will be the lead man with the First Baptist Church of Corona for their bookkeeping needs.  Tim may help some, but the extent of that collaboration is yet to be determined, as Tim's skills are low-level at this point, and he will have his own clients to serve while we are gone on our trip.

Probably the most satisfying component of this giant job, from Charlie's and my perspective, has been the opportunity for the brothers to work closely together on a big project.  And, utilize each other's talents to make a considerable amount of money at a time when they both need it.  It's been cool.

Dr. Crissell just came out of surgery and told me that Charlie survived the ordeal in fine shape.  This is shaping up to be a good day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ass-Kicking Time

Today I went before the Home Owner's Association Board of Directors to make the case that my neighbor, who just happens to be the Board President, is violating the CC&Rs and Rules and Regulations of the Association.  The Board listened patiently to me, and then handed me my hat and told me that they weren't going to do a goddamn thing about it.  Which is about what I expected. They are absolutely resolute about dogs on leashes and people picking up dog poo, but they don't give a whit about what someone is doing on their own property, even if it annoys neighbors.

Speaking of someone (me) getting his ass whipped, how about Senator Ted Cruz in the New York GOP primary...he won exactly zero delegates!  As I've noted previously, no one really likes the guy; his basic qualification is that he is the anti-Trump.  Senator Bernie Sanders did a bit better in the Democratic primary, but Hillary Clinton beat him like a rented mule.  His candidacy is now on Hospice, the outcome certain, but the 76 year-old is probably too senile to understand that.  It was a fun, Bucket List adventure for Bernie, but any time now we can expect him to shed his make-believe Democratic coat and resume his residence in the Senate as the longest serving Independent/Communist.

Very soon, probably within the next few weeks, we will witness Donald Trump beginning the attempt to rehabilitate his personna, so that he will be more palatable to the general electorate.  I can envision a number of "I really didn't mean that", "That was taken totally out of context", "I was misquoted", and "Some of my best friends are Mexicans" statements in the run-up to the GOP convention.  If he actually wants to have a chance to win the Presidency, he's going to have to soften his stance on Latinos, Muslims, Blacks, Immigrants of all types, Women, and...well, just about every voting bloc in America with the exception of gun owners, redneck men, Fundamentalist Christians, Obama Birthers, and Climate Deniers.  (Actually, those last five blocs are composed of the same individuals.) As Ricky Ricardo used to tell Lucy, "You got some 'splaining to do!" I'm sure the press will start to call this upcoming spectacle..."Trump-splaining".  I can hear it now:  "I misspoke myself, Sir.  What I really intended to say is...(the exact opposite, if it will win you over to my side)"  Good luck with that, becoming one of those politicians that you've been campaigning against.

I narrowly averted another beating today.  Charlie's upcoming surgery requires me to re-route the beginning of our 2016 Road Trip, so I had to cancel some reservations and make some new ones. When I contacted Trailer RV Park at Grand Canyon to send my regrets, was I surprised to learn...that they had never confirmed our 5-day stay there!!  Ohmigosh...if we had rolled into that RV park on May 9th after a long day's drive, only to be turned wife would have killed me!  Thank God for her bladder problems, that's all I can say.  It's a Miracle!

Anyway, the new itinerary has us leaving Murrieta on May 15th (one week late).  We will head up to Las Vegas for two nights, and then up to Hurricane, Utah for two more nights, before connecting to the original routing in Moab, Utah.  We'll be missing Laughlin, Nevada, and Grand Canyon and Lake Powell, but we've been there big deal.  I will miss the opportunity to scale down into the Grand Canyon (I was looking forward to that!), but I can do that on another trip.  There's plenty of red sandstone in Utah to explore.

Our youngest son, Jonathan, is here now, helping Charlie and our eldest son, Tim, on a large bookkeeping project.  The client is a Christian church in Corona which also runs a school and a kindercare program.  The bookkeeping for the past three years is suspect, so the Board of Elders has engaged Charlie Manning Bookkeeping to put it right at a cost of $10,000.  It's a rush job, which couldn't come at a worse time for us, but everyone is pitching in.  It will essentially be an audit that will position the Church to move forward properly.  The church is a 501(C)3 charitable organization, and is required to file an annual tax return.  They never have in their dozen years or so of existence. CMB will put their past three years in order, and, hopefully, will retain the Church as an ongoing client.  It will be a big job, probably something that Tim, Jonathan, and, possibly, granddaughter Jessica will share.

With tax season wrapping up yesterday, this giant project ongoing, and the bladder repair coming up on April 28th, my poor wife is, once again, running on fumes.  I can hardly wait to whisk her off in the RV for some much deserved quiet time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Crybaby

We're into mid-April now, and presidential aspirant Donald Trump is beginning to whine like a baby.  "Everybody picking on me!", "The process is rigged!", "The Party is out to get me!", wah, wah, wah.

It's fun to watch a billionaire moaning and groaning, complaining about an unfair playing field.  And, ironic, too, as fat cats like The Donald are so used to preferential perks like the tax code, spiffs from deferential vendors, and freebie press coverage to hype their ventures (like running for President?). And ,with the free press, he continues to blow hot air, which infuriates the GOP brainstrust.  His candidacy, they feel, would be disastrous.

It seems like Mr. Trump (and the amateur campaign staff that is working for him) never took the time to understand the ground rules for winning the GOP nomination.  It is not a popularity contest won by polling and clever tweeting.  The Republican Party is a private organization, which has its own rules for selecting the candidate that it wants to represent its values.  Donald Trump, who is an ex-Democrat, thinks that he is bigger than his new Party, and that if he is popular enough, he can make his own rules.  This might be the case if he were running as an Independent.  But, he is not.

If he doesn't arrive at the GOP convention with enough delegate pledges to wrap up a first ballot nomination, then all bets are off.  The delegates have the power to make up the rules of the convention, and it is pretty clear in mid-April that the GOP Establishment is dead-set against Donald Trump heading up the national ticket in November.  Mr. Trump is whining about a "rigged system", but the standard convention rules are similar in both parties, and it's not like the GOP has just come up with some eleventh hour gimmick to foil him.  He thinks he's a contestant on "Survivor", that he's cleverly gamed the system, when, actually, he never really understood the game.

In the meanwhile, his last opponent, Senator Cruz, is mopping up delegates in smoke-filled rooms throughout the Nation.

Is a simpleton like this really qualified to be President of the United States?  Probably not.  Some of the policy ideas that he's floated/tweeted are not well thought-out, either.

Meanwhile, his last viable opponent, Senator Ted Cruz, is busy collecting delegates.  Nobody really likes Mr. Cruz, but he is the GOP's best tool right now to thwart Donald Trump.  If Sen. Cruz can keep Trump from arriving at the convention with the nomination in the bag, the Party bigwigs will drop both of these idiots for some reasonable alternative...if they can dredge one up.  Or, at least, that's the current thinking of most political pundits.  (Yeah, I know, they are the same geniuses who confidently predicted that Donald Trump's campaign would flame out six months ago.  I thought the same thing!)

The $64,000 question now is:  Who can be a compromise candidate?  Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House and loser V.P. candidate in 2012 has supposedly absolutely, positively, undeniably, categorically, etc. ruled out being drafted at the convention.  I'll believe that when I see it.

In other news, old geezer/socialist Senator Bernie Sanders continues to pester Hillary Clinton in her quest of the Democratic nomination.  She should arrive at the Dem convention with enough delegates, but Bernie isn't going down without a fight. He's doing his best to embarrass the former Secretary of State, bringing up  her votes in the Senate supporting military action in the Middle East and her cozy relations with Wall Street.  Senator Sanders is getting strong support from Millenials, but there probably won't be enough of them at the Democratic convention to turn the tide.

The New York primary is this coming week, I believe.  Trump and Clinton are favored.  It will be interesting what Cruz and Sanders do if they lose big. I'm guessing that they will pretend that New York never happened.  It's been that type of year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Poophole Loophole

It's been an interesting week thus far.

My son Jeff and I (along with Charlie and Carol) watched the final round of the Masters golf tournament on Sunday afternoon.  The three-day leader, Jordan Spieth, totally collapsed on the back nine, while an English dude named Danny Willett played very well.  Spieth was five shots in the lead after the ninth hole, and was 3 shots behind the new leader after the 12th eight shot swing in three holes!!  He never recovered.  The worst part of his day was that, as the defending champion, Mr. Spieth had to put the winner's green jacket onto Mr. Willett at the awards ceremony.  That had to be a bitter moment that the 22 year-old golfer will long remember.

My Bear Creek bowling league ended on Monday with a sweepstakes event.  I didn't do much, but I finished with a 278 game, which enabled our team to get 4th place.  I'm going to miss my teammates Gary Gollnick (my golfing buddy), Cathy Dixon, and Rose Bartz.  We got along well and actually won the first half of the season.  Hopefully, we can team up again in the Fall when I return.

Cathy, Gary, my Xmas tree guy Randy Wood, and I are scheduled to play a round of golf at Bear Creek on Friday.  Gary told us yesterday that he won't be able to make it.  Instead, we're going to substitute Cathy's son, Ian, who is a ringer for professional golfer Sergio Garcia.  Randy doesn't know anything about this, so I texted him yesterday and said that we will be playing with Sergio Garcia on Friday, and he will be riding in Randy's cart.  Needless to say, Randy was skeptical, but I told him that Cathy met Sergio when she was a Mormon missionary in Spain years ago; Sergio is a family friend.  Slowly, through the text exchanges, Randy got progressively excited.  I think he rushed off to the driving range today to sharpen up.  HaHaHa.  He's going to kill me when he realizes that he was punked.

Our May 8th departure (on the 6-month Road Trip) may be delayed a couple of weeks.  Charlie has to undergo a minor surgery at the end of April.  The good news is that the problem was not a significant health issue; rather, it is an painful annoyance.  So, delaying a few weeks to rid ourselves of this nagging issue will be a good thing.

I am in the middle of a skirmish with our local Home Owners' Association.  The unfortunate property owners on Lochinvar Court have been afflicted by an odious neighbor for about eight years.  Her name is Sharon Hollon and she's gone out of her way to be non-neighborly; she's basically the Gladys Kravitz of "Bewitched" fame, constantly keeping an eagle eye on the cul-de-sac to determine if anyone is violating any HOA CC&Rs.  She's turned in our neighbor Clark Pace a couple of dozen times for dog violations, amounting to maybe $2,000 in fines.  She's also harrassed Charlie and I for a variety of things (parking, business in the home, dogs peeing on her lawn, etc.), including calling the cops to my door because...she "feared for her life".  Anyway, everyone has had to tolerate the idiot and ignore her as best as possible.

Recently, however, she got on the HOA Board of Directors (because no one wants to serve on it), and almost immediately began to flex her muscles.  He latest stunt is to use her garage as a living room, with the garage door open, so everyone in the cul-de-say has to bear witness to Her Majesty smoking, having coffee, entertaining her few friends, etc.  Such activity is patently inappropriate according to the HOA CC&Rs and Rules and Regulations.  But, guess what?  She and her buddies on the Board of Directors are the enforcers of Association rules, and they've got her back.  So, she's sticking it to us here on Lochinvar Court, getting even with Mr. Pace, Charlie and I, and anyone else who's ever looked cross-eyed at her.

It's really not a big deal to me, but I'm pretending that it is, papering the Board with letters of outrage, pointing out how they are violating the very CC&Rs that they are elected to enforce.  I will probably go to the next Board meeting so I can publicly lampoon them.  It's all good, clean Board members a hard time...part of the Democratic process.  I recall, from my long tenure working with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, several "gadfly" individuals who would show up at virtually every Board meeting to publicly vent their spleen about some issue.  I think they just liked hearing themselves over the public address system.  Anyway, I'm doing the same right now out of boredom.  This particular Board is infested with a crop of self-serving a-holes, several of whom regularly violate the CC&Rs.  So, they are low-hanging fruit, easily mocked for their duplicitous behavior.  If I had a bunch of money, I would sue them for selective enforcement and intentional harrassment.  It would be fun to see them squirm.

The Board's most recent ill-conceived action was to justify, in writing, my neighbor's use of her garage as a living room.  Although the CC&Rs clearly prohibit such use of a garage, and clearly prohibit leaving the garage door open when the garage is not being used (for appropriate purposes), the Board has come up with a clumsy interpretation that its own President is not doing anything wrong.  In its justification, the Board interprets the word "closed" to mean "open", and "customary garage uses" to include living rooms, lounges, man caves, and other residential uses.

This reminds me of the cute definition that I recently saw in the Urban Dictionary.  The term was "Poophole Loophole", and its meaning has to do with retaining female virginity.  A young lady who is adamant about retaining her virginity, but still wants to enjoy sex, might employ the "poophole loophole", which would permit anal intercourse, but, importantly, would not technically result in a deflowerment, so virginity is preserved.

As with the HOA Board's clever interpretation, it's all in the wording; something that is wrong can be made right.  It's the reason attorney's are held in such low regard.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How the South Won the War

I was reading a news article the other day that remarked on the disproportionate influence that the Southern states have on the national electoral process.  This is because virtually all of them have their Presidential primaries early in the process, which means that candidates who support ideas that are popular in the South will appear to be National favorites in the early going.  This is important because many candidates drop out of the race (for President) if they can't find early traction.

The eleven ex-Confederate States of America (which include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) currently comprise slightly less than one-third of the U.S. population or about 103 million people.  Yet, this one-third of the nation gets to set the table, so to speak, for the Presidential election.  This seems a strange way to do business.

I can't remember when a successful Presidential candidate actually won an election without winning the race in California, New York and Pennsylvania.  These three states alone comprise about 72 million people, or 22 percent of the U.S. population, and are much more urban than most of the southern states.  Yet, each of these states has a muted voice in the primary system because they hold their primary elections after mid-April.  In fact, California, the most populous state with 39 million people (more than one-tenth of the nation's population), doesn't hold its primary until June 7th!

The southern states are very different culturally from most of the other states in America. Fundamental Christian theology has a pronounced influence on the culture, which also includes its own specialized food, music (Country Western), and entertainment (Nascar, for example).  And, old attitudes regarding race have had a hard time dying out.  The Tea Party, which basically turned the Republican Party into the party of "No!", was born here and still thrives.

Yet, this region, which is so unlike most of America, is given the task (allowed the honor?) of bringing forth the Nation's Presidential aspirants.  Moderate candidates (who don't favor Southern causes) die on the vine in the early primaries here.

To this point in 2016, as April is just beginning, all of the most experienced politicians have been winnowed out, and the only ones left to compete (on the GOP side) are Senator Ted Cruz and billionaire/TV host Donald Trump, who have spent most of their effort sucking up to Southern politicians and church officials.  The fact that neither one of them has much chance in November against the Democratic nominee (Hillary Clinton) is a testament to the failure of the system. Republican moderates, who would poll better in California, New York, and Pennsylvania, for example, are now sitting on the sidelines.

Again, this seems to be a strange way to do business.

One has to wonder why California, for example, would want to schedule its Presidential primary so late in the process that it has virtually no impact on the nomination of candidates.  It is the most populous State in the Union, has urban as well as rural components, and is a cultural melting pot. It is a leader in many aspects of American culture and the economy; why should it be a follower in politics?

What if California (with 172 delegates), instead of Iowa and New Hampshire (30 and 23 delegates, respectfully), started off the process in early February?  I'm thinking that the true National players would be identified very early in the game, and regional favorites would be immediately recognized as such.  A lot of posturing and hot air would be eliminated, and the substantial candidates, with actual policy proposals affecting all of the Nation, would have plenty of time to debate and stake out positions.  The ultimate nominee would, thus, be thoroughly vetted when November rolls around, and most Americans would know his/her name and be comfortable with their candidate.

Just sayin'...