Shiite Shenanigans

Oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. This is just over a month since the previous attacks in the Persian Gulf. Houthi rebels in Yemen, a client project of Iran, attacked oil wells and pipelines and an airport in Saudi Arabia.

The Mullahs of Iran are trying to raise the price of oil, to create a better market for their black market oil that they are trying to sell around President Trump’s sanctions.

Are they biting off more than they can chew? I saw that Prime Minister Abe of Japan happened to be in Tehran at the time of the attack, and tried to say some soothing but warning things about escalations.   One of the bombed ships is Japanese.

The Iranians are saying “it ain’t us,” but everyone knows it is them. They are saying that America bombed the ships in order to blame Iran for the provocation. Only the most virulent America-haters are going with the Iranian version, which means it is making the rounds on social media at three times the speed of truth.

 

The problem with Iran is that their theocracy puts the most ardent Mullahs in positions of power. Those guys believe their scriptures, and have internalized some prophecies that are specific to Shia Islam. They would like nothing better than to trigger the Final War that will bring about the sequence of events prophesied for the end of the world.

As a believer in sacred writings myself, I see their conviction as an admirable trait. Too bad they have determined to follow the wrong sacred writings. But I can understand them in a way that the pundits of Washington cannot. I relate to their conviction.

There is a limited number of ways to deal with Iran. Diplomacy is bound to fail unless it accompanies a strategy that addresses their religious ideas.

  1. First, convince them that now is not the time for that eagerly-sought Final War. That a war at this time would not be the eschatological end-times war, but a war that would bring the wrath of the West down on their heads and only set their cause back by a century or three. They would need to be convinced that the war that would come would be far more deadly and destructive than the wars they have observed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  2. Alternatively, bring down the regime of the Mullahs, and install some other government that does not give primary place to religious ideologues.
  3. Third, and best, would be a conversion; a wave of Iranian people coming to Christ and rejecting the religion of false peace, peacefully replacing their own government with something good.

Any approach that simply expects more of the same; applying economic sanctions and occasionally setting their nuclear weapon ambitions back a little bit, is a bad approach. Eventually they will succeed.

I do not expect that they will succeed in triggering the wars that will bring about the End of Time. I do expect that could succeed in triggering a major war, with millions of people displaced and killed.

Lord, have mercy.

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Sinister Kullberg Network

Are you influenced by the sinister Kullberg Network? If you have any conservative Facebook friends, chances are you have been influenced in your thinking by this shadowy group.

The Kullberg network is not a foreign entity. It is a collection of at least 24 Facebook pages apparently run by a small group of people based out of Columbus, Ohio, that purports to represent the views of a diverse cohort of Americans. In many other respects, the network is quite similar to these examples [Russian and Philippine troll farms] of foreign social media manipulation. In the view of  Joshua Tucker, a professor of politics and data science at NYU, the fact that these activities stem from domestic, rather than foreign, actors complicates things. “I think if you came to Facebook and said, ‘Hey, the Russians are doing this,’ they would have taken the pages down,” he told us in a phone interview. So far, Facebook has not responded to our questions or multiple follow-ups about the Kullberg network’s practices, and the network remains online.  

That alarm was raised in a bulletin at Snopes.com dated May 15, 2019, by Alex Kasprak. Snopes is concerned about these networks of mysterious reactionary operatives who spread extremist memes on social media. They are extremely concerned that conservative ideas will spread on Facebook by this astroturf activity.

Though the actual authorship of the posts within these pages is opaque, their titles imply diverse representation from a broad swath of American demographic groups, including “Jews & Christians for America” and “Blacks for Trump.” In reality, however, the pages in this network are all connected to evangelical activist Kelly Monroe Kullberg. But  she is neither black nor Jewish, and her views appear to represent an extreme subset of the broader evangelical movement in America.

Ah-Hah!  Curse those Evil Evangelicals!

I have seen some of this activity, in a few cases shared by a couple of my conservative Facebook friends. It is garden-variety information, spreading true statements about Muslims in hyped-up language. That is what Snopes labeled “Islamophobia.”

Snopes did a follow-up the next day. Then on May 26 they posted an update:

Though Facebook has still not responded to any of our requests for comment, as of 26 May 2019, all 24 pages identified in Snopes’ reporting appear to have been removed from the platform.

In their update, Snopes shares how they had contacted Facebook multiple times, making the case that those “Kullberg Network” pages meet Facebook’s definition of “objectionable content.” They included part of their correspondence to Facebook:

These pages claim that Islam is “not a religion,” that Muslims are  violent and  duplicitous, and that Islamic refugee  resettlement is “cultural destruction and subjugation.” Just  hours after the April 2019 Notre Dame spire collapse in a catastrophic fire, this network went into overdrive sowing doubt about the  possible role Muslims had in its collapse. Multiple  pages within this network have stated that their  purpose is “message boosting & targeting.” […]

These pages, however, are steeped in fantastical notions of “globalist” conspiracies linking Islam, Socialism, and multi-billionaire philanthropist and Democratic Party supporter George Soros to the  decline of  Western civilization. Some of these pages also claim that survivors of the Parkland High School massacre in the U.S., for instance, are on a  Soros-funded “Leftist-Islamist payroll.”

They also described Ms. Kullberg’s partner in crime:

Snopes also found that at least one prominent GOP donor,  William Millis, funded and/or exploited the efforts of the Kullberg network. Millis was a fundraiser and campaign board member for current HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Did you see that map that was circulated after Notre Dame Cathedral burned? I saw it on my Facebook feed three times. The time that it landed there because it had been shared out by one of my friends, I responded with a correction:

This map says that those places are all “churches that were destroyed,” but it is actually a map of churches, synagogues and cemeteries that were vandalized. Only a handful were actually destroyed. This does illustrate a staggering level of destruction that has gone unreported by mass media.

Likewise, I had seen the thing about Parkland High students being funded by George Soros. I followed up on that one also, and learned that travel expenses for several appearances had been paid by anti-gun organizations that are primarily funded via Soros’s front organizations.

The predicable capper is that they don’t dispute anything based on facts, but include a quote calling these pages “Islamophobic” that they got from CAIR.

Though they had included some spin-doctoring, I think everything cited by Snopes as hateful conspiracy theorizing was actually mostly true. This is another indication of how Snopes is a thoroughly Leftist project, just like Facebook.

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Willing to Negotiate

AMLO is “willing to negotiate.”

Of course he is.   President Trump will get just what he wants, too.   Mexico will dramatically reduce the flow of Salvadoran and Guatemalan “migrants.”   And the tariff will pay for the Wall.

Winning is fun.

“I believe we will be able to reach an agreement, because reason is with us,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a news conference in Veracruz, insisting that Mexico wants to maintain a good relationship with the United States.
López Obrador said Mexico is not interested in a tariff war, but slammed Trump’s tariff proposal as unfair.
Yeah, of course; that is for domestic consumption in Mexico.   But he is not in a good negotiating position.   There are four key elements to the Mexican economy.   Drug gangs, money sent home by Mexicans in the U.S., oil money, and the maquiladoras that turn cheap parts from China into manufactured goods qualifying for NAFTA export to the U.S.
Mexico cannot withstand the pressure that President Trump is applying.   The pain will begin in about five minutes.
Opponents of Trump’s tariff proposal warn the move would hurt American consumers and undercut efforts to ratify the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Of course they did.   That is the only part of this story that will get coverage by mass media.   Their fearmongering led to a stock market slump on Friday.   Expect more of the same.   They will wring as much negativity as they can from this story.   Then they will go silent when President Trump achieves his victory.
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Trump Trade War to Save the Planet

One of my Facebook friends shared out a tidbit that was new to me.   Giant container ships produce really bad sulphur-based air emissions.   That in itself is not surprising, since they burn heavy “bunker” oil for fuel.   But the extent of their air emissions is staggering.

Just one mega-container ship gives off as many emissions as 50,000,000 cars. That’s right, one ship equals 50 million cars.     The world’s 15 largest ships put out more pollutants (nitrogen and sulphur oxide) than ALL of the world’s cars added up.

By slowing down trade, President Trump can save the planet.   His actions to put the brakes on the number of trips made ferrying containers full of cheap Chinese junk to American Walmarts will reduce the global production of greenhouse gasses by more than several solar farms.

The cargo capacity of a container ship is measured in ‘TEUs’ or ‘twenty foot equivalent units’.    The six largest in the world are all owned by the Orient Overseas Container Line, the two largest each have capacity for more than 21,000 TEUs.

That might sort of make you resent the costs of air emissions testing of your car.

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Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends….

We have reached a nexus, a tipping point, where one deflection may echo down the centuries.

As the remnants of national democracy align against elite totalitarian rule, USA, Japan, India , Brazil and Trump versus China and the Globalists….

As the media/democrat/deep state complex holes up in the Fuhrerbunker of Impeachment…

Trump has unleashed the BARR and given him the power to destroy by truth.

A mistake or overreaction could result in blood in the streets or worse, legal action.

Tread lightly, trust no one, always have an exit plan.

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evil Google — curator of your information flow

I put up a couple of recent posts to observe on a surge of obituaries on the news business.   But all y’all internet denizens are still reading news.   You just don’t take daily newspapers anymore, and only a very tiny share of y’all subscribe to any kind of news provider.   That is the way most of us operate any more.   But information flow, especially the flow of recent events information, aka ‘news,’ is now screened for most receivers of news by evil Google.

Yeah, I know; some Ratburghers are boycotting Google by using DuckDuckGo and a couple of other search engine alternatives.   But the problem remains.   Over half of all news articles that are accessed on the internet were landed on through an evil-Google search, which means that evil Google gets a shot at screening the news for over half of all internet news consumption.   This finding comes from a Northwestern University study that was recently presented at the “2019 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems” that was held in Glasgow.

Continue reading “evil Google — curator of your information flow”

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The Threat of China

China has been attacking the U.S.A. ever since the days of Richard Nixon, in many ways subtle and not subtle.   But their attacks have grown more devious, more corrupting, and are preparing them for assaults on America that will be devastating when they are unleashed.

Yes, they have been spying and stealing technical secrets, violating copyrights, trademarks and the plain language of contracts for decades.   But the current state of affairs calls for a confrontation, and I am glad to see President Trump bring a confrontation that is clever and likely to succeed.

I am not prepared to debate the trade issues in the tariffs dispute.   What has me concerned at the moment is the leverage China is gaining over our internet.   It appears that evil Google is preparing to act as an agent of China to destroy America.

I think that if things keep going the way they are, China will position themselves to be able to kill American internet and cellphone communications, while disabling large portions of basic utilities such as electric power transmission and landline phone communications.

I will put links in a comment.   The first item is testimony this week by FCC Chair Ajit Pai, regarding the threat posed by Huawei if they could get embedded into our cellphone services:

“What I will say,” Pai told [Sen. James] Lankford, “is I believe that certain Chinese suppliers, such as Huawei, do indeed present a threat to the United States, either on their own or because of Chinese domestic law. For example, China’s national intelligence law explicitly requires any individual or entity subject to that law to comply with requests to intelligence services.”    He said that poses a problem for 5G networks deployed in one country that could be managed by software that is resident in another country.

The second item is a column at American Greatness by Brandon J. Weichert:

“A greater synthesis between the national security sector, the business community, academia, and the political leadership of the United States is needed if we truly and effectively want to prevent American tech firms from building the weapons of tomorrow for China to use against us today.”

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Blind Economic Faith

Barak Obama has more faith in the American economy than I do. This faith is shared by all the announced Democrat candidates for the 2020 nomination. They have greater faith in the American economy than President Trump or Andrew Klavan or Steven Mnuchin. It may seem counterintuitive to say that the Anti-American Party has greater faith in the American economy than conservative patriots, but there it is.

I saw an interview of Amy Klobuchar over the weekend that illustrates the point. She refused to grant any credit to President Trump for the economic boom that has brought us record-low unemployment and strong GDP growth. She insisted that the policies of Team Obama were what brought about our strong economy. She implied that President Trump was just a lucky chump who inherited an improving economy from President Obama.

Leftists seem to be lazy thinkers. There are supposedly highly intelligent Leftists who are just as clueless about simple economics as the low-information Leftists that support the Anti-American Party at the ballot box. Rather than work out logical consequences and practical results of policy decisions, they are content to support policies that sound appealing. They support policies that make themselves feel good.

And feeling good fuels the economy. Of course; Keynes himself said so. In 2009 they all felt wonderful because they had elected Obama the Light-Bearer, and they figured all America felt wonderful on this account. The natural result would be a raising of “animal spirits” which would boost the economy out of the ditch and put us all on the road to utopia.

They knew that historic American recessions lasted about a year and took a couple of years to recover. They had every expectation that the American economy would do what the American economy had always done. There was no need to worry about the details; the big picture looked great, felt great; life was going to be fabulous in the Age of Obama, because Obama was fabulous. How could the animal spirits not respond to the fabulousness of Obama?

With that sort of unthinking confidence in the underlying strength of the American economy, they did not need to care about Team Obama regulatory strangulation or uncompetitive tax structure, or the credit crunch. None of that was going to matter, because the American economy is such a powerhouse.

That is what I mean when I say they have greater faith. They have the sort of faith that primitives put in witchdoctors. Which is what I heard from Ms. Klobuchar. When prompted with a question about faith in President Trump’s economic policies, including the Republican tax cut and rollback of regulations, she cut the questioner off to say that she has ‘faith in American businesses who continue to expand and grow in the great economic climate created by President Obama’ [my paraphrase]. Of course she does. “American businesses” is a talisman; it is an incantation to say, and then magically good economic things happen. Isn’t that how it works for President Trump? It does not matter who is in power or what economic policies are implemented; just say the magic words and economic prosperity happens.

They have greater faith in the American economy. When we start talking about marginal tax rates, the costs of government-imposed recordkeeping on matters unrelated to business, competitiveness, efficiencies, marketplace dynamics, debt and other stuff, they are too lazy to listen. They do not address these sorts of questions, and simply talk past them rather than responding to them.

There will be no debate. The good economic news will not result in any credit for President Trump or for the Republicans.

2020 will be a turnout election. We must motivate the low-information voters on our side to keep the barbarians at bay.

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Google “responsible development”

I am not suggesting that you perform a Google search for “responsible development.”   I just want to call attention to the demise of the “Responsible Development of AI Advisory Council” at Google.   It was just last week that Google announced the formation of the Advisory Council, intended to debate potential policy related to Artificial Intelligence.   They started announcing persons who were going to serve on the Advisory Council.   One of the persons named was Kay Coles James.

The histrionics from Google staffers were immediate and intense.   Tantrums were thrown and a clamor of angry rhetoric consumed much energy and attention for a couple of days.   Google promptly caved, and today they announced the dissolution of the Advisory Council.   Evidently placating the SJW staffers at Google was much more important than any effort to get ahead of the plethora of ethical pitfalls that beset the development of artificial intelligence.

What prompted the outrage?   Well, Ms. Kay Coles James is an African-American grandmother who held a variety of jobs in government and education.   She is currently on the Advisory Council for NASA.   And, by the way, she is also the current President of Heritage Foundation.

petition with more than 2,000 signatories from within the company was published on Medium on Monday, with the title “Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate.”

…Meredith Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research Group, posted on a private Google listserv that, “I would disagree that their views are important to consider, when those views include erasing trans people, targeting immigrants, and denying climate change.”

Other ringleader employees at Google vociferously trashed Heritage Foundation on a variety of charges, such as “anti-LGBTQ,” “anti-immigrant” and climate denial, etc.   When some employees said that the hoo-rah sounded intolerant, they were attacked with messages saying that there is no need to listen to such haters.

Both Daily Caller and Breitbart have the story.   Links are in the comments.

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Tele-Monsters revisited.

Tele-Monsters, or those dammed scam/spam/nuisance/marketing calls.

I’m sure a few Ratburgers remember my posts about them and my successes and failures to turn the tide of them.
Yep “NoMoRoBo” is still the premier answer. But with drawbacks. The drawbacks are when every tele-monster calls and NoMoRoBo intercepts the call, we get one ring. Sort of like on “The Hunt for Red October“, but ring instead of ping.

Continue reading “Tele-Monsters revisited.”

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“When did two plus two equal six?” (at 15:00)

I am watching this video of two former employees of Theranos. Theranos is the company that was going to automate 100s of blood tests from a drop of blood. It was a great company excepting for the fact they lied, put people’s health at risk, and lost about 900 million of investors’ money.

The video is long but the first part is enough to see some of what these at the time recent college graduates went through. Tyler Shultz is the grandson of George Shultz, the Secretary of State that didn’t lose in 2016.

It impresses me when people have the moral courage to speak up. They get a lot of flak but in the end are vindicated.

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A Perplexing Trend- Visually Complicated Menus

I have been noticing that menus of all kinds–from websites to restaurants–have become more complicated and thus more and more difficult to navigate. The trend toward clean and simple seems to be reversing.  Now, I would say most of the time when I go to a website, I am overwhelmed with visual tiles on the landing page,  plus information revealed only to the enthusiastic scroller, menus layered under other menus, and pages that do not deliver as promised. It can take several minutes of clicking around to figure out what to do next.

This now widespread tendency to present the customer with confusing arrays of choices, and make it difficult to complete such simple actions as viewing a product sample, makes me wonder whether sprawling menus are not some kind of marketing strategy that increases sales.  Non-profits are guilty of it–note the inscrutable internal workings of the College Board site–but most private companies are doing it, too.  Just the other day my index finger got a big workout with the mouse merely trying to locate a demo for a tech product that the company was presumably wanting to sell to interested schools. Also, our school’s online portfolio and PD credits system is not really something one could teach to a colleague. You simply make selections and click the mouse, because neither logic nor intuition helps with the opaque setup. You just keep boldly advancing, and somehow the work gets done.

Also, SurveyMonkey used to be so clean and navigable when we first signed up for it. Now that the subscription price has increased, the service is becoming turgid. There are multiple landing pages that don’t seem to offer me anything new or helpful. It doesn’t seem as if the function buttons parallel one another from one page to the next.   The site designers are starting to fold up one of the toolbars on the left, leaving you to decipher their runes to locate the item you need. I can still use the program, despite my annoyance with the designers’ compulsion to fiddle with it, because I’ve been a customer for so long. But I received a highly agitated phone call from my sister one day, who had signed up to create a simple survey, couldn’t figure out how to change the question type, and as a result kept re-entering the question. At that point, she would have been happier collecting her data via snail mail.

Even fast-food restaurants have become infected with the need to set up confusing menus.  Lately at Subway, I can’t find the deal of the month on the 12-inch sandwich anymore.  Availability and pricing are divided up into meaningless categories like “signature” and “classics.” If you study the panoply of boards enough, you might light upon the information you are seeking.  Frugal tendencies may provide you with motivation enough to stand there scanning, for little reward.

I went to our town’s new Panera Bread, with lovely loaves arranged in a display window, and studied the menu in vain for mention of “bread.” I had to ask to find out that indeed, the soup was served with a bit of french baguette on the side.  When I asked about the sandwich choices at Starbucks, which were fuzzy in ways I couldn’t put my finger on, the cashier explained that they had a tomat0-mozzarella item that might not have been listed.  Now that’s a head-scratcher. Why wouldn’t it be on the menu?  To head off some local tomato shortage?  Because the basil wasn’t fair trade?

Even at Wendy’s, I have a hard time locating the bargain items on the dense display .  (Hint: they are grouped under the 4 for 4 dollars section.)  A local Asian restaurant seems to switch cooks and offerings, enough so that instead of changing the main menu board, new menus are simply hung in available space at the front. I can think of five sources of ordering information in that establishment, including a page handwritten on yellow notebook paper.  The menu slog is worth it, though, since the Thai food there is delicious.

Has anyone else noticed the trend toward complicated menus?  Any thoughts as to why businesses are favoring this approach?

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This Week’s Book Review – Stanley Marcus

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Stanley Marcus’ highly entertaining and informative

By MARK LARDAS

Feb 5, 2019

“Stanley Marcus: The Relentless Reign of a Merchant Prince,” by Thomas E. Alexander, State House Press, 2018, 280 pages,$19.95

Neiman Marcus is Texas’ signature department store. It was the first place where Texas and high fashion converged. It remained the Texas arbiter of fashion throughout the 20th century.

“Stanley Marcus: The Relentless Reign of a Merchant Prince,” by Thomas E. Alexander, is a biography of the man who turned Neiman Marcus into the aristocrat of department stores.

Stanley Marcus did not found Neiman Marcus. His father and uncle did. They, along with Stanley’s aunt, made Neiman Marcus into Dallas’s leading store. Herbert Marcus’ salesmanship and insistence on customer satisfaction, Carrie Neiman’s (nee Marcus) fashion sense and Al Neiman’s shrewd management of expenses proved a perfect fit for a Dallas growing wealthy through then-new oil money. The new-money rich could go to Neiman Marcus, get dressed right without feeling condescended to.

Stanley Marcus became the prince inheriting this kingdom because he was Herbert’s oldest son (Al and Carrie had none). That was how family businesses ran back then. But, as in a fairy tale, he had a magic touch when it came to retailing luxury goods.

Alexander’s biography shows how Stanley Marcus transformed Neiman Marcus from Dallas’ leading department store to an American fashion icon. Alexander shows how in the 1930s Marcus managed to make Dallas a fashion center by a combination of fashion sense, marketing and exclusivity. Neiman Marcus was the first fashion store outside of New York City advertising nationally, creating a national identity.

The book is told from an insider’s perspective. Alexander became Neiman Marcus’ sales promotion director in 1970. He worked directly with Stanley Marcus for decades, becoming close friends with Marcus. Alexander’s accounts of the store’s fashion “fortnights” (two- and later three-week marketing extravaganzas focusing on fashions of a country) are often personal recollections. He recounts the successes, failures and challenges met. A similar approach frames his accounts of the company’s expansion to other cities.

“Stanley Marcus: The Relentless Reign of a Merchant Prince” is a book praising a respected friend who has passed. It’s also a highly entertaining and informative look at a great store and the man most responsible for its greatness.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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New Normal

Remember when President O said that his very weak economic recovery was “the new normal.” He said that the sort of economic recovery we had historically experienced after a recession was no longer possible.

He was full of stuff. He was reading Leftist economics and drinking his team’s Kool-aid.

Hillary campaigned on a continuation of Obama policy.

D.J. Trump campaigned on an “America first” platform, unconcerned about the unfortunate history of that phrase. His key slogan was “Make America Great Again,” which he pledged to do by rolling back regulations, ending anti-business policies, promoting jobs and deals, and cutting taxes. He ran a pro-America, pro-business campaign, a breath of fresh air after eight years of our first Anti-American President.

Business confidence began to rise on the morning after the election of 2016, and is still rising. Consumer confidence is catching up, despite an amazing level of fearmongering by Leftist mass media.

And the numbers are continuing to support President Trump. I saw the jobs report for January, and happened to click on an article at CNN Business, titled “Hiring Boomed in January.” Here is a line that caught my attention:

The continued hot pace of job growth is evidence that people who may have been sidelined by the Great Recession more than a decade ago are still coming off the sidelines. Labor force participation grew slightly, to its highest level since 2013.

We are still digging out of the hole we fell into in 2008. Team Obama had simply been digging it deeper. We are only now recovering.

Go Trump go.

MAGA

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“Tele-Monster” update. (the saga continues….)

It almost make me want to terminate my land line.

There is one persistent “tele-monster” that had called 15 times in the past 2 weeks. Last night I had enough. Granted NoMoRobo does detect these scam calls and terminates them as soon as they can get the caller ID. Unfortunately the caller ID is transmitted after the first ring, so I must endure many single rings from my land line phones. Tired of this, I set up my phone system through my provider so that when another call would come in and I knew it would, it would forward that call and only that call back to the point of origin.

(Click Continue reading below to see the screen capture.) Continue reading ““Tele-Monster” update. (the saga continues….)”

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