Piling on the Clintons

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A dogpile and justly deserved. Bill was a decent president - he realized that the nation elected a conservative Congress and he went along with it. He is a pragmatist. His wife is a different kettle of fish.

Now, after they left the White House "almost dead broke", the Clinton Foundation is getting some much needed scrutiny and the results are not flattering.

From the New York Post:

Charity watchdog: Clinton Foundation a ‘slush fund’
The Clinton Foundation’s finances are so messy that the nation’s most influential charity watchdog put it on its “watch list” of problematic nonprofits last month.

The Clinton family’s mega-charity took in more than $140 million in grants and pledges in 2013 but spent just $9 million on direct aid.

The group spent the bulk of its windfall on administration, travel, and salaries and bonuses, with the fattest payouts going to family friends.

On its 2013 tax forms, the most recent available, the foundation claimed it spent $30 million on payroll and employee benefits; $8.7 million in rent and office expenses; $9.2 million on “conferences, conventions and meetings”; $8 million on fund-raising; and nearly $8.5 million on travel. None of the Clintons are on the payroll, but they do enjoy first-class flights paid for by the Foundation.

Must be nice - a bit more:

Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits, recently refused to rate the Clinton Foundation because its “atypical business model . . . doesn’t meet our criteria.”

Charity Navigator put the foundation on its “watch list,” which warns potential donors about investing in problematic charities. The 23 charities on the list include the Rev. Al Sharpton’s troubled National Action Network, which is cited for failing to pay payroll taxes for several years.

The best of company...

It's a gas

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Now this will be interesting - the first decent news out of the federal government in a while.

From the UK Telegraph:

US to launch blitz of gas exports, eyes global energy dominance
The United States is poised to flood world markets with once-unthinkable quantities of liquefied natural gas as soon as this year, profoundly changing the geo-politics of global energy and posing a major threat to Russian gas dominance in Europe.

"We anticipate becoming big players, and I think we'll have a big impact," said the Ernest Moniz, the US Energy Secretary. "We're going to influence the whole global LNG market."

Mr Moniz said four LNG export terminals are under construction and the first wave of shipments may begin before the end of this year or in early 2016 at the latest.

“Certainly in this decade, there’s a good chance that we will be LNG exporters on the scale of Qatar, which is today’s largest LNG exporter,” he said, speaking on the margins of the IHS CERAWeek energy summit in Texas.

Qatar may be the world exporter but it is Russia that supplies Europe and this trade is what gives Russia its operating capital. Putin's overreaches are being funded by Russian petroleum sales - remove this and we have bottled the tiger. It will not hurt to cut into the middle-east oil business too - they are the chief sponsors of international terrorism and Islamic jihad. Take them down a notch or two.

The article also mentions that Australia has a huge Natural Gas field that is just coming online and that our  own technologies for extraction efficiency are getting better and better so we will be able to recover even more from older wells.

Now if we would just get Thorium reactors in the pipeline to being built, this would be a wonderful place to be. Almost free energy - who can find anything wrong with that? Besides the watermelon greens.

No dinner at all

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Turns out that neither of us had the energy to go out for dinner so we heated two cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and had that and a salad. It has been cold and rainy for the last two days here.

Just got done connecting the truck to the trailer for an early start tomorrow. Final push home.

The Evergreen Flight Museum

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We just got back from it and it is incredible. I was there about ten years ago and they just had one building, you could only peek into a window in the side of the Spruce Goose. It was still a lot of fun but they have expanded out into four buildings and have done exemplary work in presenting their collection.

You can now walk around inside the Goose, the SR-71 Blackbird has been opened up so you can see one of the engines and some of the avionics.

If you are in the Portland area and at all interested in flight, this is a must-see place.

Thinking about revisiting the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, WA which, again, I last visited about ten years ago.

Well dang

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Was getting driving directions to the restaurant tonight and discovered I had conflated the locations. The place I was planning to go is about 70 miles on the other side of Portland.

Looks like we will be eating in McMinnville tonight...

My favorite disaster relief group is heading to Nepal.

Check out Team Rubicon

Here is how they formed:

The Story of Team Rubicon
On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hundreds of thousands were killed, nearly one million Haitians were rendered homeless in a matter of moments.

Essential services, medical care, government agencies, clean water, were all disrupted. Images of the aftermath, of the tent cities, of the overflowing medical clinics, of the food lines, were broadcast across the world.

Two Marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, knew they could help. Together with six other veterans and first responders, they gathered funds and medical supplies from friends and family and flew into the Dominican Republic. They rented a truck, loaded their gear, and headed west to Haiti.

When they crossed the Artibonite, the river border between Haiti and the Dominican, they crossed their Rubicon; the initial group of eight were irrevocably committed to their task of providing aid to Haiti.

And they did. They treated thousands of patients, traveling to camps deemed “too dangerous” by other aid organizations. They ventured outside the traditional scale of disaster response, focusing on those who would be overlooked, untreated.

These people do wonderful work. There is no administrative overhead - all donations go to relief supplies.

Some last photos from the trip

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Here are some photos from the last couple of days:

20150422-monterey01.jpgMonterrey Bay, California - an old fishing town turned tourist

20150422-monterrey02.jpgThis was Doc Ricketts lab - John Steinbeck wrote about him in Cannery Row

20150424-blacksmith01.jpgMeagan Crowley from Colorado - one of the demonstrators

20150424-blacksmith02.jpgDean Mook from Pt. Townsend, WA

20150424-blacksmith03.jpgThe popular contest

20150424-blacksmith04.jpgSome of the work - gorgeous stuff

20150425-sunset.jpgSunset from last night at our campground.

All in all, a great trip but we are sooo looking forward to heading home.

Tip of the iceberg?

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This current administration is noted for releasing adverse information on Friday so the news media will forget about it by Monday.

Here is one example printed today - Saturday - by the New York Times:

Russian Hackers Read Obama’s Unclassified Emails, Officials Say
Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

And they owned up to this:

White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.

If they owned up to a partial breach, imagine what the reality is. We are getting the government we deserve...

Beautiful McMinnville, Oregon

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Here for two nights and then home on Monday.

Thawing out some pasta sauce I made five days ago - quick and easy. Salad. We are eating very well on the trip. The kitchen is a small one but we have everything we need.

More after dinner...

Did a quick check of the news and saw that Nepal has been hit by a massive earthquake with hundreds of dead and buildings and temples collapsed.

Our prayers go out to these poor people.

The homestretch

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Heading up through Oregon, spending the night at an RV park adjacent to the Aerospace Museum.

Probably spending two nights there as there is a wonderful restaurant in the area. Heading to points North after that. Feeling a lot better but yesterday and today are Lulu's bad days with the cold. Taking things easy.

Will be posting a lot more photos a week or two after we get back...

Radio Silence

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Needless to say, the conference didn't have any options for internet.

It turned out to be much less than advertised - the Californians were saying that this event would blow Mt. Hood out of the water. Not so much.

Lulu and I spent two days there - had a great time but there was only so much to keep us engaged so we decided to bail in the afternoon of the second day. Some of the demonstrators didn't show, the three-day contest had two people enter - just two when there were twelve slots for forging time. I bought a couple books and did learn a lot but this was by hanging out listening to people talk about new techniques - the only smith I got anything substantive from is from about 60 miles southwest of where we live. Add to that our both being ill with colds and on the road for too long - we decided to just go home...

We have gone to ground outside of Dunsmuir, CA and are planning to get to McMinnville for two days - Astoria is a fun town with an interesting history and the Spruce Goose is out here. I have not been to the museum since it first opened. Looking forward to it.

Planning to be home sometime Tuesday-ish.

Also, in the confusion of packing to get back on the road, I mislaid my mouse. I hatesses trackpads. Hatesses them.

Feeling better - on the road again

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Feeling a lot better - still congested but not as bad.

Heading out to the conference site, dropping Beautiful Dreamer and heading into Monterrey for the day. Conference starts tomorrow.


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Just got back from dinner at The Wool Growers.

There are not that many authentic Basque restaurants in the US (here, here, here and here) which is a shame. The food is awesome and well priced.

No menu, you are offered a few entrées and then the soup comes out, two salads, lamb stew and then your entrée (if you have any room left) and then it's Ice Cream for dessert. Costs $22/person and there is an additional charge of $7 if you want a second bottle of wine. Seating is at long tables - the place has been owned by two brothers for 40 years. One does the kitchen and one does the bar.

If you are traveling up I-5 and are near Los Banos, stop in for dinner.

From the Genetic Literacy Project:

Pasta? Ruby grapefruits? Why organic devotees love foods mutated by radiation and chemicals
Visit the website of Wasatch Organics and you can find one of many people’s fruits: scrumptious looking Ruby Red grapefruits, plump and juicy. Or sidle over to Australia’s Whisk and Pin gourmet food emporium and snatch up some organic Ruby Red grapefruit marmalade.

Just as nature intended!

Or not.

To the foodie, what could be better than “natural” ripe Ruby Red grapefruit? Free from the alleged dangers of pesticides or genetic modification, organic Ruby Reds should represent one of the last havens of natural food, completely unaltered by man.

Think again. Ruby Red grapefruits, along with 3,000 other crop varieties consumed by millions every day, were actually created through mutation breeding, also known as mutagenesis. Plants were exposed to atomic radiation, thousands of genes scrambled in laboratory experiments that took years.

In the last 60 years, mutation breeding has produced a sizeable fraction of the world’s crops. Varieties of wheat, including almost all the most popular varieties used to make top-grade Italian pasta, vegetables, fruit, rice, herbs and cotton have been altered or enhanced with gamma rays, and often separately or additionally soaked in toxic chemicals, in the hopes of producing new desirable, traits. Now these varieties are marketed as conventional and organic foods, and are unlabeled.

Much more at the site. Why are some people so fearful of what they cannot understand? This is just accelerated hybridization - the radioactivity is being used to speed up the mutation process that naturally occurs.

Some people seem to conflate two different aspects of an entity:

Radiation = atomic bombs & reactor meltdowns = bad
Radiation = plant hybridization & better food = ?

Fun morning

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Woke up with my head full of snot. The cold is running full throttle and I feel like crap. Didn't seem to hit Lulu as hard so far.

We are about 40 miles from where the conference will be held so we are hanging our hats here for a second day to rest up. Heading to the conference tomorrow (Tuesday - it starts on Wednesday so we are not missing anything) and bagging any plans of a leisurely trip through Monterrey.

Having dinner at Wool Growers Restaurant

And the chorus:

California, preaching on the burning shore
California, I'll be knocking on the golden door
Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light
Rising up to paradise, I know, I'm gonna shine

Estimated Prophet by the Grateful Dead - one of my favorites.

Back when Jen and I were still married, we visited this part of the nation on a regular basis as her family farm in the Central Valley. The soil here is excellent but water is crucial. California has a history of multi-year droughts alternating with periods of abundant water. So does Arizona. So does Texas.

The Golden State is having severe problems with drought this year as the same high pressure ridge off our West Coast that devastated our skiing and caused the polar winters of the North East has left California without enough water to sustain many farms. Heading up from Bakersfield, we passed orchard after orchard that was either ripped out or just left to dry out and die.

Arizona and Texas share the same climate problems but they are not having any of these problems. Why?

Because they have adequate multi-year storage capacity.

From The Daily Beast:

The Big Idea: California Is So Over
California has met the future, and it really doesn’t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once renowned for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle- and working classes. 

The water situation reflects this breakdown in the starkest way. Everyone who follows California knew it was inevitable we would suffer a long-term drought. Most of the state—including the Bay Area as well as greater Los Angeles—is semi-arid, and could barely support more than a tiny fraction of its current population. California’s response to aridity has always been primarily an engineering one that followed the old Roman model of siphoning water from the high country to service cities and farms.  

But since the 1970s, California’s water system has become the prisoner of politics and posturing. The great aqueducts connecting the population centers with the great Sierra snowpack are all products of an earlier era—the Los Angeles aqueduct (1913), Hetch-Hetchy (1923), the Central Valley Project (1937), and the California Aqueduct (1974). The primary opposition to expansion has been the green left, which rejects water storage projects as irrelevant. 

Much more at the site. The greens may have had good intent but they have mushroomed into a dinosaur that fails to comprehend the unintended consequences of its actions. Its brain is dead but its hind legs keep kicking.

Consider this - all the good solid work of careing for the environment has been done. Was done thirty years ago. Acid rain? SMOG? Lead in the environment? Burning rivers? All taken care of thank you very much...

Time to have a big celebretory pot luck and free-love fest and then disband and get on with our lives. But no, as victims of Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, they have taken on a  life of their own and become this juggernaut that shambles on without any wit or wisdom; smashing everything it its path.

Carly for Prez

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I like her - so do a lot of other people. Having a President who has actually made payroll and tough executive decisions would be a breath of fresh air.

From National Review:

Fiorina Has Hillary Defenders Worried
A long parade of presidential contenders presented themselves before a convention of New Hampshire Republicans this weekend. But only one was a former top business executive, and only one was a woman, and they were the same candidate. Carly Fiorina is no doubt getting attention because of her unique background, but more and more people are staying to listen because she has something fresh to say.

“For the first time in U.S. history, we are destroying more businesses than we are creating,” Fiorina told her audience in Nashua. “The weight of the government is literally crushing the potential of the people of this nation.” Electing standard-issue politicians will no longer do, she said. “Managers are people who do the best they can within the existing system. Leaders are people who do not accept what is broken just because it has been that way for a long time.”

Fiorina also seems to relish the role of being the most pointed critic of Hillary Clinton. “She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights,” she jabbed back in February when a scandal involving the Clinton Foundation surfaced. She contrasts her background as a “problem solver” with Clinton’s record as a professional politician. Her critique of Clinton’s record is withering: “I come from a world where speeches are not accomplishments. Activity isn’t accomplishment. Title isn’t accomplishment. I come from a world where you have to actually do something; you have to produce results.”

She is also spot-on with California's water problems:

In fact, it was her experience in California that convinced her of big government’s power to destroy people. Fiorina told Glenn Beck that California’s current drought is a human-caused environmental disaster. “Despite the fact that California has suffered from droughts for millennia, liberal environmentalists have prevented the building of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades during a period in which California’s population has doubled.”

I would vote for her in a heartbeat - get someone like Ted Cruz or Bobby Jindal for VP, John Bolton for SecState. Give all the Keynesian's in the Fed the boot and replace them with Austrians, institute a flat tax (your 1040 fits on the back of a 3-by-5 postcard), defund the EPA and Dept of Education by 80%, means-test all foreign aid - if a nation is not working for our own interests, do not give them our money.

I could go on like this for hours - I would love to be king for a couple of years...

A look at Netflix

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Great behind the scenes look at Netflix and how it is changing the landscape of Television.

From The New York Times:

Netflix Is Betting Its Future on Exclusive Programming
It is April 9 just before midnight in the war room of Netflix’s headquarters here, where the smell of popcorn fills the air and a team of engineers, social media experts and other specialists starts counting down the seconds until the new “Daredevil” superhero series goes live on the streaming service.

At the stroke of 12, applause breaks out in the room. Flutes of Champagne are passed around as the Netflix team checks that the series is available for binge watching across devices in more than 50 countries around the world.

“Daredevil” is the 17th Netflix original series to make its debut this year, representing a bold bet by the company to significantly increase its investment in exclusive programming. Just three years after Netflix started streaming its first original series, “Lilyhammer,” the company is planning 320 hours of original programming in 2015. That is about three times what it offered last year.

And the money quote:

“We’ve had 80 years of linear TV, and it’s been amazing, and in its day the fax machine was amazing,” he said. “The next 20 years will be this transformation from linear TV to Internet TV.”

I gave our Roku box a good couple of months trial and then ditched DirecTV. Massive wailing and gnashing of teeth from their customer service representative but I told them that, with all the added content, I was paying about $20/month for Netflix and my business already had Amazon Prime. Beats spending $90+/month for three or four channels I like to watch and 150 home shopping channels that I don't.

Some buggy-whip manufacturer turned to automotive accessories when Henry Ford came out with his Model A, some did not. Times change and those that forsee and adapt will thrive.

Long trip - almost over

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Today's run from Las Vegas to Los Banos was about 480 miles. For the cumulative trip, we have traveled 5,300 miles from Maple Falls and have another 1,000 miles to go to be back home.

Fun trip - we had an In-N-Out burger for lunch and was planning to go to Pea-Soup Andersen's for dinner but it was late and we were tired so had a couple cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle with Ritz crackers - some tastes are just iconic.

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