Wow…no words. I have no words for the receding nature of American global leadership. President Trump embarked on a world tour where he signed an agreement for $110 billion dollars worth of arms sales with Saudi Arabia. (A nation noted for its human rights violations and that is just from 2016) Saudi Arabia, the land which helped produce 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers and Osama Bin Laden. A nation which the U.S. has helped bring along its oil economy since at least 1938 and continue up to this day despite the questionable nature of the Saudi citizen’s attitude towards millions of foreign national living and working on their soil. (I could write pages and pages about this, but that has been done in more eloquence by better people than I)

More importantly, Saudi Arabia represents the golden age of Oil. An age which many believe must be restrained and constrained due to the role of humans in shaping the environment around them. There are various views from the skepticism of the National Review to the non-professional scientist review and ranking of the abstracts (summary to inform the reader about an academic paper’s content) of scientific papers by the Guardian. While the National Review reputes the 97% statistic that many site to show the near certainty of human AFFECTED climate change, they do make the point that there is debate regarding how much of human activity is responsible for climate change, there is acceptance that climate change is happening in the article if you read close enough.

Now, President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Accords. Many of you have just cheered him…most likely because this is supposed, according to President Trump, to save American coal jobs. Because according to him, the agreement will lead to the United States having to reduce its coal production…wording which does not even exist within the agreement, CHECK THIS. Coal jobs won’t disappear due to this climate agreement, no. In fact I would guess (THIS IS MY EDITORIAL SECTION) that those jobs would be reduced as the energy sector shifts to automation and renewable energy. We would still need coal, so some would remain. But the nature of coal mining will change as technology changes. Automation is a greater threat to coal, much as it is to the automobile industry and every other industry. This is because industry seeks to be more efficient, and by and large efficiency is greater when machines perform the work with humans servicing and repairing the machines. Think I am off base? Check out the factory system now, most industrial facilities that are more efficient tend to be automated. So the very nature of coal mining jobs will change in the coming years and decades. (EDITORIAL OVER)

Another claim is that the Accord will lead to lower wages…bullshit.(THIS IS MY EDITORIAL SECTION) Technology sector jobs pay more due to specialization and a higher educated work force. Do they talk about how in tech industry areas or areas which generate jobs, such as some places in and around San Francisco, the cost of living is so high that a higher wage level is still considered “low-income“. No, instead they focus on depressed areas which are still determining how to develop to attract newer, higher wage jobs. Manufacturing just is not what it used to be in the early and mid 20th century. Part of this is education, and now that Betsy Devos is taking American education in a direction that many educators are skeptical about by reducing American investment in public schools and introducing a vague voucher system. All I know is that it seems that there is a desire by the government to reduce education spending in many ways…which seems counter-productive. If we want to lead the world we should educate our populace on world changing technologies. If you look at education spending graphs, statistics, and what not, you see that at this time Federal education spending is down and it has trended down since the mid-2000′s, and it is a fairly low part of the federal budget. (US Department of Ed statistics page was down so I settled for this web page) And some states have cut as much as 50% of their spending on higher education in recent years. My own state is down 43.6%. When you look at Federal spending as a whole, education is below health care, defense, pensions, welfare, and interest payments. Where am I going with this, didn’t I start with the idea of American leadership? Yes, here is the crux of my argument: If the United States wants to lead the world, and President Trump wants to “Make America Great Again”, shouldn’t we be investing in education to refocus education to begin leading in those technology industries? I know China is doing that, they are emphasizing engineering and science degrees and are turning away from coal to renewable energy source. And shouldn’t we be engaging the rest of the world in a forum that they agree upon in order to provide leadership? By removing our presence from the Paris Accords, President Trump (In my OPINION) is signaling an unwillingness to continue to provide leadership forward which America is reputed to have done since World War II. And with an increasingly interconnected world this will be disastrous. Look at the other nations which have cut themselves off from the world…North Korea comes to mind, China during the Ming Dynasty, Japan up until the mid 1800’s. Historically they have not fared well. And as the world continues to draw closer together, we will be left behind, and the struggles of what has been described as the greatest generation will have been for naught.

So what is my ultimate point? I feel that President Trump has pulled us out of the Paris Accords as a means of supporting an agenda pressed by people who do not understand the true nature of  sovereignty. This Accord did not seek to impose any sanction or punishment. It was a commitment to preserve our planet for our posterity…oh, a little bit of our Constitution snuck in here? Yes, I believe that part of securing the “…blessings of liberty for our posterity…” is ensuring that the planet is habitable. And I feel (EDITORIAL) that removing us from the Paris Accords, endangering our environment in the favor of business we are proving that this nation is not built upon those ideals. No, anymore that foundation has been usurped to support the almighty dollar. Our government is now in the hands of billionaires who have steered us into a place where workers’ wages are down, health care is un-affordable, and the interests of the people are often co-opted for those of corporate profits which enrich a small portion of the population. And for those who are religious, are we not supposed to be the stewards (or shepherds) of this earth? Does this not mean protecting it? Nurturing it? Ensuring that it will exist as a place of refuge and life for us? In short…*Sigh* Shit, we seemed to have our own heads up our collective asses.

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A Memory of Taste

Why do you travel? This is a question I get a lot. Whether it is designed to dig into my thought processes, or to fill the awkwardness some people feel during silences during social situations, it comes when people learn I have traveled and intend to continue to travel as I am able. For most we travel for different reasons, for me the reason is simple. Food. Experiencing places through food is a way to know people, don’t believe me? When you were growing up which friend’s house did you like the best? The one that had either good food or the best snacks (or the easily accessible booze…). I had a lot of friends who were fun to spend time with, but my favorite places were where the family would feed me good food. And if I was fed bad food, well…I didn’t spend to much time there.

So I travel to eat, and this has led me to partake in some interesting dishes. From street food to 5 star restaurants I have eaten a lot of different foods (man I am talking about eating a lot right now). My favorites are so different from each other that I demand that I keep looking to find new taste experiences, that way I can experience not only a country but one of the most important facets of its culture around a dinner table.

In Europe, my favorite foods thus far have come from Italy. I have ranged from England to Spain and down into Croatia…but Italy has captivated my taste buds thus far. The first of two places is in Naples, I don’t remember its name…hell it might not even exist anymore as I was there in 2000. All I remember is we walked up the dock, past the citadel and into the small streets of the city. Somewhere back in there we happened upon a restaurant that boasted a brick oven to bake its wares. The clientele ranged from families to obvious couples on dates, menu was simple and we ordered in no time at all. I ordered what I remember to be the diablo pizza and I sat back to wait.

In no time at all the pizza slid in front of me, round slices of pepperoni surrounded by melted mozzarella cheese with pepper flakes cooked into the cheese, sauce, and crust. If you have not experienced Napoli Pizza, then shame on you. It is not like American pizza, each one is intended for an individual, or to share between two. There is not small, medium, or large. They were all one size, and that was enough for me. As I dug into the round dish I noticed the explosion of different flavors; fresh mozzarella, fresh pepperoni, fresh dough, and enough spices to cause me to immediately break out into a sweat.

As I took each bite my mind screamed “ITS TO HOT YOU DUMMY!” But my mouth over rode this with the thought of how delicious this was. My father has said the same about ghost pepper tacos, ghost pepper sauce on his burritos, and other ghost pepper dishes…I still refuse the ghost pepper sauce. Anything that might haunt Mario and the Princess doesn’t deserve to be eaten. This pizza on the other hand made me forget where I was, who I was, and what my purpose was for the short time it was on my plate. It was delicious…a true thing of beauty. To all the people I know who have traveled through Naples, most have experienced the same or a similar restaurant. To those who travel to Naples, search it out, after the Citadel it is one of the small streets on the right hand side…If I could remember the details I would live at the restaurant.

Next time…the Middle East!