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Marathon of Agony

Why bother writing a blog? I often ask myself that question. Does what I say and think really matter?  And does anyone really believe what I opine about can actually change hearts and minds on any topic. The answer is a clear “NO”.

Regarding current politics in specific, there is surely an overabundance of opinions available to the point of nausea, so please indulge me as I will add to it! We all know politicians have lied and deceived voters since the early days of the Republic. However, there is one point I believe all readers can agree on. This upcoming presidential election offers American citizens the worst two choices in our lifetime!

It’s a disgrace, but whose fault is it that we have this dilemma at such a critical time in American history?  The answer is not a singular one. I will give you my thoughts.

Blame can be first assigned to the low regard that voters have for Congress. Donald Trump played into this sentiment by playing the outsider role, and it resonated with people who despise politicians even more than billionaires. Making deliberately controversial statements endeared him to the anti-political correctness crew, which has become a large segment of the electorate. 

The selection of Trump as the GOP candidate has been characterized as a mandate from the people who yearn for a “populist” form of candidate. Maybe so. But in the process, the Republican Party has been broken, wounded and left for dead. I am unequivocally stating that Donald Trump will never defeat Hillary Clinton in this election. He has self-destructed. This is an easy call to make, but I make it with much regret and sadness.  As a result, the GOP Primary voters are also responsible (now for three consecutive cycles) for selecting an unwinnable candidate.

To underscore the tragic nature of this election, I submit it could have been a slam dunk for the GOP.  Hillary Clinton is clearly the most flawed Democrat choice ever to grace the top of their ticket. She is essentially an un-convicted criminal. The breaches to national security she allowed, and the conflicts of interest created by the Clinton Foundation (which is in effect a revenue stream [allegedly] for the Clinton family) would be sufficient to indict anyone not named Clinton. At the very least it should disqualify her as a candidate for president!

But no, the Clinton’s are not held to a standard of conduct average Americans or even other politicians are held to. They are political elitists who have been enjoying freedom from accountability in both state and federal government positions since the 1970’s. Much of it has been covert, but lately they have been almost blatantly flaunting the bullet-proof nature of their questionable activities, almost daring anyone to challenge them. To be clear, they don’t totally escape the scrutiny of their behavior - the proverbial smoking guns are everywhere, but nothing ever sticks to them. They are resourceful, relentless, and unrepentant. Political survivors doesn’t begin to describe their persona.

Yet with all this nefarious baggage attaching to her, HRC continues to attract legions of supporters, victims of the ravages of corporate America, and she is their self-appointed champion. She will free them from the bondage of a flawed capitalist system that has rendered them defenseless. The irony is unbearable that a woman who hasn’t driven her own car for twenty years can even remotely relate to the problems of middle class Americans. (Yes I am aware Donald Trump also has a chauffeur. But Trump brags about his wealth while Hillary bobs and weaves around her privileged life).

The final piece of blame belongs to the Obama administration.  He and his Department of Justice has chosen to protect and insulate Clinton from any danger of a potential loss. Her scandals are merely right wing conspiracies designed to discontinue Obama’s vision of the new America he has created in the last eight years.

In summary, here’s my theory on what transpired in June, 2008, when HRC bowed out of the Primary and pledged support for BHO. Likely it went something like this…

“Hillary, you back off, endorse and support me for President. In return I’ll appoint you Secretary of State (where you can build your foreign policy experience and enhance your resume). I’ll arrange for your huge campaign debt be taken care of, and guarantee you the nomination in 2016. It will happen. Then I’ll campaign for you to ensure your victory by teaching you all the strategies I used to defeat you. This begins with exploiting the historical component of being the first woman president. I’ll coach you on being a champion of the grievance industry, pandering to all minorities, sub-cultures, illegal immigrants, LGBT’s, environmentalists, and of course the most aggrieved group…women, who will identify and relate to all the hardships you have endured for decades as a woman in America. This is your chance for redemption, and you will break through the thickest of glass ceilings!”

Excuse me for a moment, I am now welling up with emotion as I write this litany of conspiracy! Barack Obama’s administration has been a ‘marathon of agony’ for me and millions of other Americans. We are more divided, angrier, less secure, less competitive, more reliant on big government, and weaker in the eyes of our enemies. And that’s the abridged version. I could but I won’t go on for hours on his failures and inadequacies as a leader.

As I said at the start of this blog, what I have written is merely my own opinion, not likely to convince anyone who hadn’t already agreed with it. And that’s the problem, lines have been drawn and unlikely to change unless a catastrophic ‘October surprise’ occurs…And that’s wishful thinking.

Meanwhile, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!

Straight Ahead,

johntheblogger

It is the late 1960’s in Southeast Asia. A conflict known as the “Viet Nam War” has America mired in an unwinnable war against the North Vietnamese Communist Viet Cong, who are determined to conquer the people of South Viet Nam and add to their area of Communist control.

The adjacent countries of Laos and Cambodia are similarly threatened by the Viet Cong. Within the country of Laos, there exists a tribe of people called Hmong.  They live in the mountains and farm the land. They are proud, peaceful and hard-working people, but their land is also being targeted, and their way of life threatened by the Viet Cong.

The U.S, forces have enlisted the help of the Hmong in fighting this guerilla war in a place that is unfamiliar and dangerous. A teenage boy from a large Hmong family enlists in the South Vietnamese Army, and fights alongside American troops.

Years of futility ensue as Viet Nam becomes a political firestorm. Over 50,000 American troops are killed along with countless South Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asians at the hands of the ruthless Viet Cong forces.
This soldier fought many battles, and now a young man, has somehow survived this conflict while many of his tribe were killed at ten times the rate of American casualties. His homeland, Laos had fallen under the vicious Communist regime. He is among many Hmong soldiers and their families who were relocated from Laos across the Mekong River to refugee camps in Thailand.

He and his wife and family chose to emigrate to America in the mid-1970s along with many other Hmong people. They initially lived in Pennsylvania, learning English and working long hours at jobs not requiring a formal education. They saved their money and began to start a family, then deciding to move to Wisconsin where many Hmong had settled.

This couple became American citizens and learned enough English to be gainfully employed for decades. They own a home in a typical American suburb. They raised seven children, all of whom have college degrees and some even have post-graduate degrees. These parents insisted all their children be educated and prepared to obtain well-paying jobs. And they are now all productive citizens who are proud to be Americans and equally proud of their parents’ struggle and their own ethnicity. This couple is now in their 60’s and still working in the manufacturing sector!

This family is my son Jeff’s in-laws. I will not mention their names because they would not want to be singled out for praise or publicity. They are humble people who simply want to be hard-working Americans and are grateful for their freedom.

This is the 'real’ story of America! Not the BS we hear from politicians who pander for votes, claiming they are fighting for the working class. This family is an example of real freedom and the right to pursue liberty and happiness, and actually succeed at it. We are a welcoming country. You can come here and prosper but you must do it the right way. We are a land of immigrants and if you enter legally and abide by the laws of the land, anything is possible for you. This story is a testament to that premise.

To learn more about the Hmong journey to America, read the story below. You will surely be surprised at what you will learn.

Happy Independence Day to all Americans, birthday #240!

Straight Ahead,
johntheblogger



The Vietnam War
For thousands of years, the Hmong have maintained a distinctive culture, including dress, oral literature and religion, valuing their autonomy and close-knit community above all. In pre-war Laos, the ethnic identity of the Hmong remained intact, because they lived high in the mountains and had little contact with other people. They farmed in the highlands and harvested enough crops for their own needs. Opium was their only cash crop.

In the late 1960s, when the Vietnam War spread into Laos, the United States recruited the Hmong to fight against communism. Wanting to hold on to their land and the independence they had maintained for thousands of years, the Hmong saw communism as a threat to their autonomy. Hmong soldiers, totaling over 30,000 men, fought the ground war, flew combat missions, directed air strikes, rescued downed American flyers, fought behind enemy lines, gathered intelligence on the movements of North Vietnamese troops and more. They suffered heavy casualties for their brave involvement in the war: Hmong soldiers died at a rate ten times as high as that of American soldiers in Vietnam
.

Before the war, between 300,000 and 400,000 Hmong lived in Laos. Although there is disagreement over how many died during the war, estimates range from one tenth to half of the Hmong population was killed. Some were soldiers, but most of the dead were civilians felled by mortar fire, land mines, grenades, postwar massacres, hunger and disease. One hundred and fifty thousand Hmong have fled Laos since their country fell to communist forces in 1975.

After the War

Displaced from their villages, which were either bombed out or burned by the North Vietnamese and the new Lao communist regime, many Hmong became refugees in their own country. U.S.-sponsored food drops - fifty tons of rice a day - fed more than 100,000 Hmong, whose land and livestock had been destroyed by the war.

In February 1973, the Vientiane Agreement was signed, calling for a cease-fire in Laos, a coalition government and the end of U.S. air support. American relief programs ceased, and the Lao's People Party declared the Hmong enemies of the state. Between 1,000 and 3,000 Hmong, mostly high ranking army officers and their families, were airlifted to Thailand, while thousands more who had fought for the CIA or remained neutral in the war were left behind. In a ravaged country strictly controlled by the North Vietnamese, many Hmong were forcibly relocated to lowland areas and assigned to state-owned collective farms. More than 10,000 Lao intellectuals, civil servants, teachers, police officers and other suspected royalist sympathizers were interned in "seminar camps" for forced labor and political indoctrination. Fearing retribution and famine, most chose to migrate to Thailand on foot, journeys on which many Hmong died from disease, starvation, exposure and drowning while crossing the Mekong River which borders Laos and Thailand.


Refugee Camps
Once in Thailand, most Hmong were placed in Ban Vinai camp on the Thai/Lao border in the northeast part of the country near the Mekong. The camp had no electricity, running water or sewage disposal, and was severely overcrowded. At its peak in 1986, Ban Vinai had 42,858 residents, 90 percent of whom were Hmong. The Thai government closed Ban Vinai in 1992.

Immigration to the United States

Because of their American military ties, many Hmong who left the refugee camps chose to come to the United States. The best educated Hmong and Lao were allowed entry into America first. The U.S. government gradually allowed more refugees as years passed. Around 200,000 Hmong currently live in the United States, most of whom reside in Minnesota, central California and Wisconsin.
Thousands of events occur in the world in a time period of seventy-five years. Today’s blog will briefly highlight four of them, and then elaborate on a fifth, which is about to happen.

What makes a singular occurrence so important that you immediately recall exactly what you were doing, where you were, and who you were with when you heard this news?

December 7th, 1941, most of you readers including me, were not born yet. But we’ve seen the grainy film footage, maybe even visited Pearl Harbor. We can be outraged and saddened by this deadly ambush by the Japanese which pulled the trigger for the U.S. to declare war. A true World War that was fought in the Pacific, Europe, and North Africa. President Roosevelt refused to back down from the Nazis and President Truman had no choice but to eventually bomb Japan to ensure their surrender. So much death, destruction and carnage, but necessary at that point in history.

November 22, 1963, a large wound was inflicted on America when JFK was assassinated. This truly changed the course of our history. I am convinced we would never continued our presence in Viet Nam had the Kennedy brothers remained in office for eight years. LBJ was both a weak and reluctant leader, and Nixon was a paranoid egomaniac. Two flawed presidencies that paved the way for a division of America on so many levels.

September 11, 2001, all of you readers were witnesses to this, the first attack on American soil, targeting innocent people in a horrific fashion that, at the time was unfathomable. Tragic is too mild a word to describe these acts of cowardice. ‘Atrocities’ would come closer, but these were not only enemies of the Western World, they were terrorists with no value for theirs or anyone else’s life. They were not a nation with a government, but rather fanatical ideologists with a calling to kill anyone not a Muslim, and even some honorable Muslims in the process.

This led to an unwinnable war in the Middle East, already a hotbed of geopolitical madness since 1948 when Israel established the only democracy in the region. President George W. Bush did a good job of unifying the country and healing our nation, but relying on advice of Chaney and Rumsfeld, he began a war with no exit strategy. Not all countries can be democracies and it was naïve to believe a country deeply divided by religious zealotry could ever unite under a democratic style of government.  Arab countries simply cannot embrace the freedoms that we in America enjoy. Most are ruled by dictators who are tyrannical and culturally unable to even tolerate civilians having rights and liberties. Bush may have been well-intentioned but deeply flawed in his idea of nation-building. Too much American blood and treasure was sacrificed.

The fourth landmark event occurred on November 4, 2008, the election of Barrack Hussein Obama. A historical landmark indeed in that he was our first African-American president! Many Americans voted for him for just that reason…It was long overdue, they reasoned. Many Republicans crossed the aisle and pulled the lever for Obama, thinking maybe, just maybe, this would finally unify the country and racial unrest would improve with a Black president.

Barack Obama pledged to transform America, and he did not break that promise. But we are now a weaker nation, no longer leading other nations who looked up to America. He has spent seven years apologizing for centuries of American imperialism and denying our exceptionalism as a noble nation. He has divided us by citing income inequality, social injustices, gender bias, sexual orientation discrimination, racial animus, and above all a refusal to acknowledge Islamic Terrorism as the most dangerous problem we face. Instead he opts for Climate Change, while fanatical Muslim extremists infiltrate our neighborhoods and assimilate into the culture while scheming and succeeding to kill innocent Americans.

Barack Obama is a disciple of social activist Saul Alinsky, a community organizer and an advocate of radicalism and author of “The Rules for Radicals”. Obama was influenced by the writings and philosophies of Saul Alinsky, and later by Frank Marshall Davis, with similar philosophies. Barack Obama followed the teachings of these 'role models' throughout his days as a Community Organizer for ACORN, using tactics that appeared to some as 'shaking down' businesses in exchange for not branding them 'hate groups.' And many Americans believe Obama is still following those radical rules today.

It is also true that Hillary Clinton did her college thesis on Alinsky’s writings and Barack Hussein Obama has written about him in his own books. To be clear, Alinsky was not a Communist, but some of his basic tenets align with creating a Communist Society.

It is believed there are eight levels of control that must be obtained before you are able to create a Communist society.

The first is the most important.

1) Healthcare — Control healthcare and you control the people
2) Poverty — Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.
3) Debt — Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.
4) Gun Control — Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.
5) Welfare — Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income).
6) Education — Take control of what people read and listen to — take control of what children learn in school.
7) Religion — Remove the belief in the God from the Government and schools.
8) Class Warfare — Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) from the wealthy with the support of the poor.



I submit to you…Does any of this sound like what is happening to the United States today? I am not labelling either President Obama or Hillary Clinton ‘Communists’. They and their families have certainly benefitted from a capitalistic system of government. But…Their policies bear some resemblance to the aforementioned criteria, and the Obama administration has drifted toward a ‘social democracy’. Both are huge advocates of a huge Federal Government apparatus.

You can make that judgment yourself on Election Day, 2016. If you want more of the Obama legacy, you will punch Hillary Clinton’s ticket. To those of you believing electing Donald Trump is problematic, I say I am also hesitant to vote for him. However, if this is the choice we are faced with, here is my viewpoint: THERE IS NO WAY I COULD EVER, EVER VOTE FOR THIS WOMAN!

I wish, after all the time and money spent during both presidential primaries, we could have a better choice available. But the divisiveness of a nation has created rancor and hatred resulting in two very flawed candidates. I will not waste my right to vote, and since “Never Hillary” has been my mantra longer than I can remember, I will reluctantly vote for Donald Trump.  I will not donate to his campaign, attend his rallies, or support his candidacy.

To summarize, the election of Hillary Clinton has the potential to be the 5th disastrous event in our last 75 years. At the very least it would be the worst political presidential outcome in our history. I actually believe a woman is exactly what we need in the Oval Office. Just never this one!

If you have read all of this blog, I admire you for your stamina. Trust me, it takes even more endurance to write it than read it! But don’t stop now…Respond, even if you fervently disagree with all these premises. Say something that indicates you have a pulse and you give a damn about your country, whatever position you take.

As always, guide yourself accordingly.

Straight Ahead,
johntheblogger

Are You a Victim?

Today’s blog will begin with a disclaimer. I have said this in prior blogs that I am tired and bored with the American political two-party system. However, a legitimate third party remains a fantasy and this alternative has never and will not be viable anytime soon…Certainly not in my lifetime.

Meanwhile, both parties spend (waste) hundreds of millions of dollars on political campaigns, using both private donations and devious super-pac funding. All of this backroom money-laundering by both parties contribute to the disillusionment of the American people regarding politics in general, and this upcoming presidential election in specific.

There is actually a solution here. Create a ceiling or limit that each candidate can spend in advertising, force them to raise their own funding, and impose a ‘do not exceed’ campaign budget that is equal for all. No candidate should have an unfair monetary advantage. This would ensure each campaign would have to strategize with the same amount of capital to truly earn each vote.

Now let’s address the subject of this blog.   Are you a victim? The Democrat candidates thrive on the concept of victimization.  This party has spent decades creating a ‘grievance industry’ targeted at selected groups and suggesting they need extraordinary political attention to assure they are treated fairly. There is a word for this…”pandering”. Depicting certain Americans as victims is insulting as it portrays them as weak and powerless. Only the powerful, paternalistic politician who empathizes with their plight can help them achieve parity with successful Americans, whose wish it is to keep them in subservient social and economic positions. This treatment encourages a culture of dependency, (not to mention divisiveness) which has been elevated to even greater heights in the last seven years of the current administration.

Hillary Clinton possesses the exact skill set required to promote victimization, and she entices voters to believe she is the one who will enact the social justice that has eluded these poor souls. She’s painting with a broad brush, claiming ‘Wall Street one-percenters’, and the Republican Party have been responsible for all social ills inflicted on these mistreated Americans.

Selected segments of the electorate when viewed collectively, now comprise enough of a majority to affect the outcome of the general election. Ethnic minorities such as African Americans, Hispanics, Asian and Native-Americans, and undocumented immigrants have been courted by both Bill and Hillary Clinton. This is an old, tired form of racial politics that serves to divide rather than unite Americans designed to instill fear in the hearts and minds of these groups.

Beyond the component of race, the Clintons play the women’s card trying to guilt woman voters into partaking in another historical milestone, the election of the first woman president.  In addition, she attempts to woo sub-groups such as union workers, the LGBT community, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood supporters, Occupy Wall Street, Pro-Choice proponents, sanctuary city advocates… the list of 'oppressed’ Americans simply never ends in the Democrat political narrative.

I am clearly not a Donald Trump fan. In my judgment, he is the Republican whom I would rank last among the remaining five candidates at this point in time.  However, if he becomes the nominee, I would absolutely vote for him to keep the Clintons out of power.

This blog began in 2008 prior to Obama’s victory. It wasn’t at all difficult to predict the path our country would take with Barack Obama’s promise to transform America. He delivered on that promise. We have had seven years of a hijacked America, which includes a foreign policy that has made America weaker and more vulnerable to terrorists’ attacks, both homegrown and from abroad. This by itself should concern all Americans.

Electing Hillary Clinton will be an extension of the Obama administration, and another mandate for an approval of his failed policies. If you are a Democrat or an Independent who is leaning toward, but on the fence about trusting Clinton, and also despise Donald Trump, then I am pleading with you to stay away from your polling place on Election Day. I have never advocated that, but this blog’s mission is to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president. If you thought the Obama monarchy was despicable, her regime will be even more unstoppable!

Imagine our country governed by both Clintons? It’s corrupt enough now without entrusting it to the pair who created The Clinton Foundation, an ostensible charity which has allegedly become a money-laundering stream of personal income. What story do you believe?

I’ll close with this observation. At least Bernie Sanders is honest and has been from day one. An admitted socialist adored by millennials, he will be marginalized by the Clinton machine as the primaries enter the southern states where black voters have been hypnotized by the Clinton con for decades. Millennials can see through the Clinton smokescreen. Who will they vote for when Bernie is dismissed? This will become a key component of the election…Many could simply opt out of voting in disillusionment with what they view as a failed system. It will all unfold soon.

And finally, to any of you Clinton-haters who believe a federal indictment is coming at her, get over your fantasy. The Obama DOJ has her back or it would have occurred by now. The irony is BHO and HRC despise each other. Go figure, politics makes strange bedfellows.

That’s a wrap for today. Keep hope alive for a better America!

Straight Ahead,

johntheblogger

The Wall Street Cartel

As most readers of this blog know, most of my posts are opinion pieces that are usually supported by documentation that validates my arguments. The subject of today’s blog will involve speculation on my part, but if you follow my thought process, it will be apparent there’s more than a conspiracy theory at play here.

On July 26, 2009 I wrote a blog entitled “The Mutual Funds Con” where I professed a massive distrust for the movers and shakers on Wall Street. Recent developments in the stock market have done nothing to reverse my position, but rather have fueled my mistrust to yet another level.

Since 2016 began (actually it started on December 28th), the markets collectively have lost over 10% of its value. It’s not unusual for a 10% decline to occur over a period of months but this has happened in just sixteen trading days. This is the worst calendar year start in our history! The financial talking heads primarily blame this aberration on the extreme decline in the price of crude oil, which went from a high of over $110 in 2012 to under $30 per barrel as of today.

It’s understandable to me that companies in the energy and oil sectors would suffer losses and their share prices would nosedive to reflect these losses. You don’t have to be an economist to conclude that.

However, I submit that a vast majority of companies would actually derive a financial benefit from these falling prices of fuels. The airline industry in 2008 immediately increased ticket prices and began charging for checked baggage to offset the higher cost of jet fuel. Ticket prices have not declined and the surcharge for baggage has continued to be a profit center for them, despite the lower cost of operation today. At the same point in time, the auto industry scrambled to rush hybrid vehicles to market as dealer inventories were exploding resulting from a bad economy and high prices at the pump. However 2015 was the best sales year ever so automakers are again awash in profits. Why have their stock values also plummeted?

Sectors such as pharmaceuticals, health care, retail, municipal, commercial, and residential construction, transportation, technology, electronics, software, and many other businesses should be either unaffected or positively affected by lower gas prices. The low price of crude oil should be financially damaging to a select few industries and therefore NOT negatively influence share price of most other stocks.

But that has not been the case. There is no single company that has been immune to this bloodbath on Wall Street. Apple, Google, Amazon, facebook, and many other blue chip stocks that consistently pay dividends have been victims of this historically quick devaluation. Americans’ IRAs, 401k’s, 403B’s and entire portfolios have now lost over $2 trillion dollars…All this in sixteen days! Do you smell a foul odor somewhere here, folks. Maybe the smell of collusion and corruption?

My financial advisor, who I trust implicitly, has told me that the markets are influenced by two basic emotions, greed and fear. These factors often override companies’ forecasts, sales, and even profits.

I will now reveal what I believe (albeit I can’t prove it) is Wall Street’s dirty little secret. There exists a band of traders, insiders, Hedge Fund managers, and high level executives who conspire and deliberately manipulate the markets. I believe they collectively decide and advise key clients with large stock holdings when to simultaneously sell, (always at a high point in values) thereby creating massive drops in stock prices. The average investor reacts to this selloff by selling at a loss, from the fear of losing everything. When these ‘experts’ agree we have hit the bottom, they induce their clients to buy back what they sold at a fraction of what they sold it for, creating a ‘recovery’ from what they term a ‘market correction’. I have been told a market correction results from an artificially high value of the price of shares of common stock, and we should expect these ‘natural’ corrections to occur periodically to essentially adjust to the real value. Really??? Do you actually buy this BS?  The average investor’s portfolio is hammered in a short time and it generally takes years to get back to even!

More often than not I tend to be cynical and suspicious when people tell me I should be more trusting and agreeable. Maybe so, but it’s hard to ignore the elephant in this room full of smelly crap!

Oh yes, lest I forget the myriad of answers we hear from financial analysts on a daily basis to the question of why the markets react so sporadically and unpredictably. Lately it’s been the quick decline in China’s economy. This resulted in the DOW losing a 1,000 points in a week. The following day it rose over 200 points. China’s chaos did not change overnight so why the one-day spike? We are fed all kinds of speculative theories. The struggling European social democracies that beg for bailouts, the monthly jobs reports, the maniac in North Korea flexing his flab, the Iranians detaining and incarcerating ten American sailors, and the constant struggle to contain Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons (which has been an abysmal failure). And the beat goes on…All of these and hundreds more ‘explanations’ for this ever-present roller coaster ride we are on!

I will say, as with any industry, the majority of investment counselors are probably ethical. I actually believe they know what they are told in their morning conference call. Then they parrot it back to us because as clients, we need guidance and explanations. The guidance usually sounds like this: “Hang in there, this too shall pass. The market always comes back and over the long haul it’s your best investment choice…Keep the faith”. The explanation is simply the excuse du jour, take your pick from the aforementioned.

I’ll close now. If you read all this, you are a person of endurance and loyalty to this blog. Thank you for that. One last note…The election of any President will have no effect on any of this. So no, I am not endorsing, nor would I ever vote for Bernie Sanders. Although I will give Bernie props for honesty, as opposed to the other Democrat front-runner.

I'm hoping for reader feedback on this one folks (I worked double time since I inadvertently permanently deleted the original and had to start from scratch all over again - not fun for me!)

Straight Ahead, (and more than ever, guide yourself accordingly!)

johntheblogger

This blog will be devoted to a variety of topics involving the ever-evolving cultural shifts occurring not only in America but on a worldwide basis. They are not necessarily inherent harmful, but worth noting and deserving of reader feedback.

Let's begin with the most recent recurring phenomonem, the Powerball lottery. The winning ticket will be worth approximately $900 million and people are queueing up in long lines just for the opportunity to buy tickets. As is customarily the case when huge amounts build up in lottery drawings, the media devotes considerable airtime to the event, which in turn induces more ticket buyers.

Personally, I don't get caught up in this form of mania. However I do see the benefits for the 'greater good' in terms of the massive revenue streams that flow to governments and municipalities from these purchases. (Let's hope these funds are allocated properly and not squandered). I suppose it is part of the human condition to desire instant wealth, and to believe you could actually be the beneficiary of this type of windfall. In reality, the odds of winning are less than infinitesimal.  But if you want to engage is a hopeless gambling then have at it. But if you must get your gamble on, consider your lottery ticket purchase a donation to the government. Go to a casino or join a friendly poker game if you want a possible chance for a return on your investment.

Next topic is somewhat related in that it involves consumers waiting in long lines to spend money.  Apple Corporation has done a masterful job of creating high-end tech products and seducing a target market with the 'next big thing'. The millenial generation cannot contain themselves whenever Apple announces the launch date for any new product. Normally, consumers are keenly aware if you wait for the mayhem to dissipate on any new product, you will pay a lot less for it. Millenials are unconcerned with price, their priority is simply wanting it when it first hits the market, regardless of cost.

The same can be said for Starbucks. Spending $4 to $5 for a specialty cup of coffee has become habit-forming for this group of consumers, usually between 18 and 40 years of age. Starbucks and Apple are prime examples of companies who have created and maintained brand loyalty, where price is never an issue. Even in a recession, their customers will pay up for the 'brand experience'.

Next is a product that has recently soared in popularity. I am referring to the Hover board, a product whose appeal has overlapped both the teenage and millenial markets. Clearly a toy for thrill-seekers, it is this millenium's version of a skateboard except it is motorized. I recently discussed the Hover board with a group of 10 year-olds, asking them about how they use it. One kid said he rides it from the family room to the kitchen refigerator! I am not kidding. It is noteworthy to mention that some of these boards have had dangerous malfunctions resulting in fires and injuries. And I almost forgot to mention, the retail price 'hovers' above $400. I think I'll continue walking to the refrigerator.

Changing gears to a far more important topic, the safety and security of the American homeland. First, the lesser of the two risks, and I say that without minimizing its danger...What is happening with the preoccupation and obsession with recreational drones in our country? Will it require a major airline crash to spur lawmakers to regulate this endeavor? More specifically, why do you need this form of entertainment? Are you a wanna-be airline pilot or air traffic contoller acting out?  What you are is a menace to society! Your 'device' can easily mal-function and crash into power lines, vehicles, pedestrians, and even commercial and private aircraft! Why do we need these annoyances buzzing around our skies. Another case of the 'me culture' at work choosing self-promotion and gratification over the right to safety of other Americans. Leave drones to the military where they are useful in the war on terror.

And finally, why does our president feel the need to release terroists from Guantanimo Bay prison? It is well documented those who have been released have returned to the Middle East to resume terrorist activities. The prisoner swap involving Sergeant Beau Bergdahl for five high level Muslim terrorists was the most poorly negotiated and ill-conceived agreement in our lifetime. What is the president's vision for America? Combine that with the Iran nuclear agreement and I have to believe that he is not acting in our nation's best interest. In fact, you can make an argument that he is either living in a dream world where he believes being soft on terrorist countries will magically transform them into humanitarians...Or, he is simply the most incompetent, misguided leader we have ever elected, Either choice you make here is not a good outcome for the USA!

That's a wrap for today. I welcome feedback from readers - am I overreacting to all of the above? If so, tell me why...As always, I could be wrong!

Guide yourself accordingly.

Straight Ahead,
johntheblogger




Presidential Politics, 2016...

I don't really like Donald Trump. I don't like that he is the essence of arrogance, and he is ultimately a performer auditioning for the job of president.  He has become a populist candidate, as unconventional a politician as you can possibly create. Every week he unveils a new and more outrageous opinion to further adavnce his 'shock jock' image.  And so far it's working as his lead in the GOP polls has widened as he continues to distance himself from his competitors.

His strategy of sticking his finger in the eye of political correctness had touched a positive nerve in many Americans who are weary of the coddling of selected groups of people. And by the way I am ONE of those Americans who has grown tired of this new form of victimization identification. From the beginning of this blog in 2009 I have deplored, denigrated, and marginalized the concept of political correctness and that has not changed. In fact, it's intensified as more legions of 'protected', select groups have come under the banner of PC.

He has also exploited the weakness of a president to confront the real threat of Islamic terrorism to his advantage. Americans now cite the danger of terrorism in the homeland at the top of the list of their biggest concerns, even topping the lackluster economy and the number of Americans still lacking full-time jobs. Trump has led many voters to believe that he would be a far better Commander-in-Chief than any other candidate, and certainly a sharp contrast to Barack Obama. The latter is an undeniable point.

All of the above leads me to the central question to be asked. Is Donald Trump really an electable candidate in the general election when pitted against Hillary Clinton? Both of these people have enough political and personal baggage to fill a coast-to-coast Amtrak train.  If anything, the campaign would be the highest form of free entertainment.  But is that what America really needs at this point of no return?

After the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012, I published a blog I labeled my final one, and retreated into a political depression for a long time. I was in disbelief that Americans would bite on the bait of "the transformation of America" a second time. I was dead wrong, in a big way. President Obama had the magic of a Pied Piper, and a legion of celebrities and most media outlets beating his drum for another four years of transformative government. Voter turnouts in Democat precincts were beyond phenomenal, and his victory was viewed by him and his party as a continuance of a mandate for change.

I'm not going to wade through a litany of my opinions about this president. My disdain and disgust for his policy agenda has been well-documented for the last seven years and it would serve only to become boring and repetitious.

Hillary Clinton will be Barack Obama in a pants suit. Although her campaign strategy may be to distance herself from him on specific policy issues, the politcal template will be identical. She will govern the same way he does. The War on Women, Black Lives Matter, revision of the second amendment, unlimited immigration through lax border enforcement, the destruction the middle class, and an unrelenting conviction that climate change is our biggest threat to our national security. This is the mantra. Did I miss anything? Yes probably, but too numerous to further elaborate, Suffice it to say, and this is a quote form Mrs. Clinton..."Republicans are the enemy"!

Clinton will be hard to beat, regardless of the GOP candidate who emerges this summer. The Democrat political machine knows how to mobilize voters in a presidential election. If Trump and/or Ben Carson are scorned by their party, and by-passed over in the convention, one or both will run as third party candidates. When that occurs, Hillary's path to the White House will as easy as Dorothy following the yellow brick road...The ultimate power couple takes residence again!

The Republican party has little time left to figure this out. Having over a dozen candidates in competition is not a smart strategy as time winds down. This party has proven it cannot unify nearly as well as Democrats, who walk in lockstep on every single issue. This is a party that has been splintered and self-divided since the Reagan years. This is your last chance to be in control of the Executive branch of the government (and by the way, the most important one)...What will you do about it?

Straight Ahead,

johntheblogger

Reflections on the National Pastime


Following a long hiatus, I have decided to resume this blog.  It's been over a year since I posted anything here, not because there's any shortage of topics, but rather it becomes difficult to be or stay relevant in any opinion piece of writing.  Readers have varied interests and viewpoints , and although I have always encouraged disagreement and dissent, response of any kind has been underwhelming for the most part.

What I will attempt in this go-around is to not totally focus on politics (which will be challenging for me given the state of the world), but rather change gears and cover various topics that occupy my thoughts and may appeal to certain segments of readers. With that in mind, I will say upfront...If you do not want to be on the recipients' list for this blog and future blogs, please send me a quick e-mail and I will delete you with no hard feelings. We all get enough junk e-mail and this may qualify for some of you as what I call an immediate delete.

Today's blog will center on some of the changes that have occurred in the last fifty to sixty years in Major League Baseball (MLB).  If you have no interest in this subject, you can stop reading now. Perhaps a future post may be more in your wheelhouse...Don't give up so soon!
When I was a ten year-old kid growing up in Brooklyn, New York in 1957, I was a passionate Brooklyn Dodgers' fan and a NY Yankee hater. Except for 1955, the Dodgers never won a World Series and the Yankees all too often were responsible for that. When the Milwaukee Braves beat up on the Yanks in the 1957 World Series, this coincided with the Dodgers' heart-crushing move to Los Angeles. I needed a new baseball team to root for and it became the Milwaukee Braves!  It has been ironic that a job transfer in 1986 landed me in Milwaukee where I have now lived for almost thirty years. (I am now a Brewers' fan).
Baseball, as with everything else in life, has changed since I was a boy. This blog will point out some of these changes, question the conventional wisdom, and hopefully provoke you to wonder as I do and say..."What's the point?"

A perfect place to begin is the "designated hitter rule", established in the 1970s. I suppose the standard responses to the question why... are to create more offense, lengthen certain ballplayers' careers, and inspire more fan interest.  I'm not even going to argue the merits of this. What I have never understood is how MLB has two sets of rules, DH for the American League, no DH for the National League.  This is the singular rule difference in the sport. I know of no other professional sport where all players don't play by the same set of rules...It's beyond ridiculous, and I am bewildered this has not been questioned by neither the commissioner nor the owners as being inconsistent. What's next, perhaps pitchers on underachieving teams being allowed four strikes when they bat?

And what's with the now-established trend of head-first sliding into every base.  You don't get there quicker and the chance of injury is much higher than sliding feet-first.  Jamming a finger, spraining a wrist, damaging an elbow, and constantly scraping and re-scraping your arms are common results from doing this.  But I guess it looks cooler to slide head-first and it's too much trouble to learn the art of a hook slide, a stand-up slide (which immediately enables you to get a quick start to the next base in case of an overthrow), and a slide-by slide where you grab the base with your hand.  All these creative forms of sliding has been replaced by the belly slide, another obvious example of self-promoting showmanship.
Additionally, the sight of a baseball player standing in the batter's' box after hitting a home run, admiring it instead of beginning his home run trot, really irritates me and lends credibility to the arrogance inherent in many of today's professional athletes. Henry Aaron and Micky Mantle never did this...Humility and grace have vanished.

Pitchers not finishing a game in which they are pitching well. Manager bases his decision on number of pitches he has thrown and is elated if a pitcher can "give me 6 innings so I won't overuse my bullpen."  Aren't these guys young, strong athletes who have been training for this profession their entire lives.  Why are they so pampered?

And this goes for everyone who wears a baseball cap. Don't wear it backwards unless you’re a catcher who is wearing his catcher's mask.  You look ridiculous....the bill of your cap goes in front to help shield your eyes from the sun.  And no, you don't look cool by reversing it!

Let's now address MLB's obsession and preoccupation with changing uniforms. I am not referring to paying tribute on occasion to breast cancer awareness, the military, or an occasional throwback uniform. I am speaking to the continuous quest to "update" a team's look by redesigning what has defined this team's image for decades, Many times, even the logos are scrapped for something more "trendy"!  Call me a purist, but team colors and trademarks should not be changed to increase revenue streams, which is the sole intent here.

Next we have broadcasters and color analysts armed with a plethora of statistical minutia intended to predict the success or failure of a player to perform in specific situations. As an example, "He's batting .257 with runners in scoring position when the count is 2-1, when batting left-handed against a right-handed pitcher in night games at Wrigley Field!  I am exaggerating here, but not by much. Can we leave the 'Moneyball' references and strategies to the General Managers and provide only meaningful information?

And speaking of broadcasters, (and this will draw anger and fury from a legion of Brewers' fans) it's time for Bob Uecker to hang up the mike. Yes, I said it! One of the basic requirements of a radio broadcaster is to keep the listener apprised of the score since many people turn on the game in the middle of an inning. He evidently believes the score should be given only after three outs are made. In lieu of this, Mr. Baseball chooses to engage in either long gaps of silence between pitches, or provide recounts of baseball stories that are decades old, and only funny to a small audience of admirers, beginning with his straight man/partner in the booth. I know I have just committed heresy in Wisconsin but that's my opinion, and thank God our Constitution affords us free speech, lest I be incarcerated for this rant.

And finally, on a positive note, an example of a Milwaukee Braves' manager from the 1960s who made a simple lineup change that never required any advanced statistical data many of today's managers live and die by. One of Bobby Bragan's first managerial decisions after succeeding Birdie Tebbetts as field manager in 1963 was to switch Henry Aaron from cleanup hitter to the #3 position in the batting order (and move power-hitting Eddie Mathews to #4). When asked why, he simply said "When you have a hitter as great as Henry Aaron, you want to make sure he's batting in the first inning". 

In 1963, his first season batting third. Aaron made 714 plate appearances, led the National League in seven offensive categories, and missed winning the Triple Crown by a scant .007 points to Tommy Davis.  Arguably his best year ever...And no computers were necessary to make this lineup change!

I hope you have a good day doing what you like, and liking what you do. And don't be misled by the benign nature of this blog. I'm just warming up for much more controversy and provocation of a more serious nature!

Straight Ahead,

johntheblogger





SPECIAL BULLETIN...HOT OFF THE PRESSES!!!

Some of you have been readers of my blog over the last five years and may have noticed I haven’t posted for some time.  I have been working enthusiastically on a project that I’m ready to share with you now.

I am excited to announce the publication of my second book, a novella entitled Going Back To Move Forward.  Unlike my first book, Voiceover…Sanity in the Age of Madness, this is a fictional story having nothing to do with politics or social commentary.
Here is a brief summary of the storyline…

Going Back to Move Forward is the author’s fictional tale rooted in his own childhood experience.  John Sponcia has spent much of his adult life comparing current life in America to the 1960s, a bygone era that he recalls as idyllic. He has secretly longed to somehow return to that time period, if even for a short time to once again experience a lifestyle he so fondly remembers.

In this novella, he is thrust back to 1960, arriving in his childhood neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York at his current age of sixty-four. He is faced with numerous internal struggles as he confronts his past life. Now, he is an outsider desperately seeking to reconcile his compelling need to return to an era to which he has been unwittingly transported. Each chapter chronicles this journey back in time, with a progression of events that results in a stunning climax.


The other way it differs is that all the profits/royalties derived from every book sold will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, a charitable organization that provides needed assistance to wounded veterans and their families. I strongly believe in this project and I hope that these donations will motivate you to purchase the book, and spread this message throughout all your social media outlets.

There are several ways to order:

Currently, this book is available for sale through two websites, either amazon.com or https://www.createspace.com/4863599 It is priced at only $9.95 plus shipping.  If you order from one of these websites, let me know you did, since privacy rights do not permit them to release buyers’ names to me. If you want to remain anonymous, that’s fine too.

The other way to order is to contact me via email @ johnsponcia@yahoo.com and include your postal address and a check for $11.95 (includes $2.00 S&H). (I will email my street address to you).  I will send you a signed copy from my inventory.  If you wish to pay via Paypal, I have a Paypal account so that works fine as well.

Either way you will be helping a most worthy cause and I promise you will enjoy this book for yourself, or as an inexpensive gift for that ‘hard-to-buy-for’ friend or relative.

Thank you in advance…I know many of you have been loyal supporters of my blog and purchased my first book. I hope you will continue that loyalty and spread the word to help me promote this current project.

Straight Ahead,
johntheblogger
I rarely re-publish a previously written blogpost, but Mother's day is deserving of this encore. Written four years ago, these sentiments are tiimeless...Happy Mother's Day to all Moms everywhere!!!

A Mother becomes a Mother long before you are born. She is your protector from the very beginning. She communicates with you when no one else possibly can. She is your source of nourishment before you even know you are hungry. You are part of her like no other can be, just as she is a part of you. This is an inextricable bond that has a beginning, but has no end. This woman is your Mother.

And this special relationship manifests itself as long as each of you lives. And you will remember it well. You recall that first day of school as she prepared you for your first real-world experience, the first time you ever separated. You were nervous...She assured you it would be okay...you said goodbye...you struggled not to cry as you left her. You had no idea how she wept after you had gone ...she missed you already but she was strong for you. This was the first test for both of you, and there would be many more as she helped map your life... encouraging , advising, speaking out, being silent, trying to achieve that delicate balance between holding on and letting go. This is what a Mother does.

And all the while you had no idea of any of this. You took it for granted. How could you know...you were a kid. It was your priority to have fun and leave the heavy lifting to your mother. You had arguments over the years, some very heated, where you said things you didn't mean. But she was looking to protect you in a world she knew much better than you did. No matter what you said or what you did...regardless of how angry she may have been, she would always love you, unconditionally. This is what a Mother does.

And how all of us needed that...someone we could always count on. Yes she could hand out the punishment but after it was over, the slate was clean again and in your heart you knew she was right. You knew she always had a good reason and somehow you learned a little bit more about what was right and what was wrong...and the consequences of bad behavior. This is what a Mother does.

She not only watches you develop and grow...She is the stimulus. She encourages you to explore your interests and develop your talents. Ball games, music lessons, boy/girl scouts, school plays, driving you everywhere you need to be, somehow always being available because make no mistake... you are always first...she works everything around your needs and that never stops. Your Mother is a giver... because that's what a Mother does.

When you are an adult, and only then, can you realize and appreciate the sacrifices that were made for you...only now, do you really 'get it.' If your mother is alive today, hug her and thank her for her unselfish love and devotion to you that began so long ago and has never stopped. Hold on to her for as long as God allows. If she is gone, honor her memory every day that you live and continue to make her proud of you. She is the reason you are alive and she is celebrating your life from a special place reserved for Mothers. She is looking down on you and your family, watching what she helped to create. That's what a Mother does...and it lasts forever.

Straight Ahead,
johntheblogger

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