The 4th Of July (2018)

4th of july

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, American Independence Day.  (Not really– Congress actually voted on the 2nd of July, but the boys didn’t sign it until the 4th – so everybody just goes with that.)  Anyway, every year at this time I take a minute to cut through the rhetoric and speak in praise of America.  (Some years are harder than others.)  I do it because, as John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  Here are some facts about the Land of Milk and Money.

There are 1.5 million registered volunteer agencies in America (and that doesn’t include all the local groups, who run bake sales, sell raffle tickets, drive kids to practice, sew costumes for little theatre, plant community gardens, visit seniors, etc., etc., etc.)  In all, over 60 million Americans do some kind of volunteer work every year.  That’s nearly 20% of the population – far more than that of any other country in the world.

American universities spend mega-money on research.  Last year, the top 10 schools alone spent over 11 billion dollars studying everything from laser surgery to micro agriculture.  And here’s the deal.  Nearly 90% of all that research is available to the world – for free.  All you have to do is ask!

In 2015, the top ten charities in America raised and distributed over $26 billion dollars.  That’s more than the next three most generous nations (New Zealand, Canada and the UK) combined.

In 2016, the United States paid 10 billion of the roughly 50 billion dollar United Nations budget.  That kind of money goes a long way to keeping UN Women, the World Health Organization, Unesco and Unicef going.  By contrast, China the world largest nation, paid $1.3 billion and Vladimir Putin’s Russia paid a measly $562 million.

Those “Blood for Oil” bumper stickers are bullshit.  Roughly 40% of the fossil fuels used in the US are home-grown.  In fact, America is one of the top oil producers in the world (normally, just behind #1, Saudi Arabia and #2 Russia.)  The truth is, America gets more oil from Canada than it does from the entire Persian Gulf.

Despite what the Internet will tell you, America spends more on Health Care and Social Security (over half their budget) than it does on the military (16%.)  On average, university professors earn more than Army generals.  And there are 3 times as many teachers in America as there are police officers.

But my favourite is still:

Every year, the US government gives – GIVES – over $30 billion in non-military foreign aid to countries around the world.  That’s free money, folks — courtesy of the American taxpayer.  It’s from the woman who drives the truck.  The guy with 3 kids in school.  The architect, the nurse, the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker.  It’s from all those Americans who never get mentioned in the news.

Over the last 242 years, US presidents, policies and perceptions have changed many times, but ordinary Americans have always maintained a remarkable ability to cope, an incredible desire to help — at home and around the world — and an extraordinary willingness to share their good fortune.

Happy 4th of July, America

4th Of July: Trivia and More

independenceTomorrow is the 4th of July, Independence Day in America.  Here are a few things you might not know about the Land of Milk and Money.

There are more New Yorker Magazine subscribers outside the city of New York than in it, and a lot of them are from that wannabe poser, L.A.

There are 2.2 million farms in America.  However, at its peak of popularity, over 26 million Americans played Zynga’s Farmville every day.  Think about it!  America is so OMG rich that tons more people can play at being farmers than actually have to work on farms.

From space, the brightest thing on Earth is Las Vegas, Nevada which is also the most watched place on Earth with more CCTV cameras per capita than any other city — including Moscow, London and Beijing.

Atheists in America are in big trouble.  According to the legal basis of their system, the Declaration of Independence, Americans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” notably “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Therefore, strictly speaking, if you don’t believe in God, those legal rights do not exist.

Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber are the same guy — and he might be a Canadian!


If all the Kardashian sisters were laid end to end on YouTube, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

The larger seller of retail women’s clothing in America is Mattel.  Man, that Barbie’s got it all!

America is very oddly shaped.  Reno, Nevada is actually further west than Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan is north of Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Buffalo, New York is further east than Fort Lauderdale, Florida which is on the Atlantic Ocean.

And finally, three trivia questions guaranteed to win you drinks at the 4th of July Barbecue.  As always, the honor system applies — no Google.  I’ll give you the answers tomorrow on a special Independence Day post.  Good Luck!

1 — How many states are there in the United States of America?  (Hint: it isn’t 50)

2 — How many presidents were born in Kentucky?

3 — Legally, the president of the United States must be born in the United States.  However, there is no legal requirement that he (or she) must live, die or be buried there.  So, how many ex-presidents (note the plural) are not buried in the United States?  And which ones are they?

North Korea: Time to Get Serious

korea3Could we just hit “Pause” for a second and think about this thing?  Maybe stand down the Stealth Bombers, unlock the lock and load and tone down the rhetoric?  I realize that when a punk like Kim Jong whatever-he’s-calling-himself-this-week is kicking sand in your face, it’s difficult to calm down – but let’s give it a try.  We need to remember a few things before somebody forgets what we’re dealing with and all hell breaks loose.

Okay, folks!  All aboard the reality train.

First of all, don’t let the tough talk fool you.  Ever since Dougie MacArthur, Truman’s ten-star general, threatened to turn Pyongyang into a mud puddle, the Kim boys of North Korea have been yipping a good fight without ever throwing down.  That’s not to say they won’t, but history has shown us that, like the elementary school bully, these guys are professional bum biters.  They pick their spots and never do anything serious enough to risk major retaliation.  They might talk like hard men and take a few cheap shots, but grandfather, father and now son are smart enough to know just how far they can push it.  They realize that if they ever did take a real run at the United States or any of her allies, they’d be out of a job by close of business Tuesday.  Cold War stalemates may have been all the rage in the 50s, but they’re pretty much passé these days.

Secondly, anybody who thinks Kim Jong-un is running the show north of the 38th parallel has got another think coming.  Yes, he’s the current Glorious Leader and latest member of the Kim dynasty that Stalin put on the throne back in the 40s — but that doesn’t mean much.  There’s an entrenched state apparatus in North Korea that’s been calling the shots for over sixty years.  These folks are the descendents of Kim il-Sung’s (Un’s grandpa) original band of gangsters revolutionaries.  They keep everything that’s worth controlling firmly in their grasp, and they’re not about to lighten up on that grip of steel any time soon.  In short, Kims may come and Kims may go but the high-end folks of The Hermit Kingdom have a pretty good gig, and they’re not going to jeopardize it by taking a flyer on this kid’s nuclear adventuring.

Finally, and most importantly, North Korea is a “sovereign state” in name only.  In theory, it might have a flag and a nationalModels of a North Korean Scud-B missile and South Korean missiles are displayed at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul anthem, but in practical terms, it’s about as independent as Nebraska.   I doubt very much if the powers that be in Pyongyang go to the toilet without telling Beijing what they’re up to.  Unless you flunked history, economics and current events in high school, you realize that North Korea is China’s surrogate.  It is North Korea’s only serious trading partner, and, as such controls over 70% of its economy – such as it is.  Besides, it’s not even close to plausible that the Chinese would allow a nuclear arsenal within spitting distance of The Dragon Throne if they didn’t have it on a leash.  And speaking of nuclear weapons, how does a “nation” without enough hard currency to buy a Happy Meal™ get its mitts on weapons-grade plutonium, never mind build the facilities it takes to make it work?  It’s obvious that China is pulling the strings south of the Yalu River.  This latest bit of sabre rattling may be nothing more than a no consequence test of American resolve in the area.  Personally, I think it’s more than that (remember: China just launched its first aircraft carrier into the South China Sea.)  But then I’m not getting the big bucks from the State Department for my opinion.

However, if I was, I’d mention that this new kid in the Petty Little Dictator Club is trying to impress the neighbours and make a name for himself with the locals.  He’s talking a good fight, but like his daddy, he isn’t likely to launch anything more than his mouth — if he does, China spank.  We need to let him know, in no uncertain terms, he should back off before somebody (mostly he) gets hurt.  However, we also need to take our fingers off the trigger just in case somebody gets twitchy and this whole thing blows up – by accident.