Are We Contributing to the Ending of Our Democracy?

I preordered Ann Coulter’s new book “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” a month or so ago from Amazon. It came in recently but I was determined to finish another book I was reading, even though I was most anxious to start this new one.

The current book, “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas, got great reviews but was a disappointment for me personally. I found it a bit tedious. The author’s premise is that America is on the decline and perilously close to reaching the point of no return, something I totally agree with. In fact, I think it’s already reached the point of no return. He argues that this is due to a decline in our morality (honesty) and loss of pride in our heritage, among other things. If we the people don’t turn ourselves around, it’s over for the USA. A timely quote from a Lincoln speech might be prescient. “If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be the author and finisher.” The things Metaxas says need changing, and I totally agree, will not in my estimation get changed. Besides, as previously stated I think things are already lost.

While the Metaxas book gave me no cause for renewed hope, the Coulter book does. She thinks the country can still be saved, but only if Trump gets elected. She makes many of the same points as does Metaxas. Taken from her first chapter:

At its founding, America was populated by the most law-abiding people on the planet. It tells you something that, until the 1965 immigration act, the most problematic immigrants were the Irish. The same way virtually any immigrant to Finland makes it less white, almost any immigrant to America makes it less honest. Not exactly PC, but political correctness is one of the things both authors find problematic for our country. Again, I totally agree.

 

Muslim Immigrants

 

The CBS morning news claimed that 59% of Americans are AGAINST a temporary ban on muslim immigrants. That boggles my mind. It’s an acknowledged fact, a FACT, that some number of radicals would be smuggled in with all the masses. Does anyone actually think we’re up to ferreting them out?  Projecting a little further, can you imagine the anguish of a pro-immigration activist losing a family member to an embedded terrorist? I can’t help but think of the ACLU president in Georgia that did an abrupt 180 on transgender bathrooms when her own daughters became traumatized by an intruder in their restroom.

I find the subject especially bothersome when there are so many(?) countries much closer geographically and culturally for these people to be considering.  What am I missing here?

I truly am sympathetic to the victims of war that are in need. But my call to action stops short when it means personal risk of destruction or destruction to my family, friends, countrymen. War is hell. No denying that. And those that carry the least blame (or no blame at all) invariably suffer the most.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the leaders of warring parties would just duke it out among themselves and not involve the innocent populace? It could be a boxing match or a chess match or dueling pistols. Whatever. Just don’t make the innocent suffer. How efficient that would be! No collateral damage and no destruction of property. And think of all the money it would save.

If You Can Keep It

It’s finally occurred to me that my heart is much more into a conservative political blog than it is a travel blog. Jan has suggested I do both. Maybe I will. But for now, I’m changing the direction of this blog.

Comments on my posts will be welcomed and published without editing. If it’s fit to be read by a junior high student, I’ll publish it. Nothing anonymous. If you say it, be prepared to claim it.

I just started reading a book called “If You Can Keep It”. The author was recently interviewed on “The 700 Club”. I’m not a particularly religious person but this program offers superior news reporting on topics that you generally won’t find on the major networks. I found the author sufficiently interesting that I added his book to my Kindle collection

If You Can Keep It

This book is all about the undeniable decline of the US that, according to the author, is because the citizenry is not taking the active, aggressive role that the founding fathers recognized was mandatory for the continuation of the republic. A major example of the change needed, as he sees it (I agree), is that people need to vote for what is most beneficial for the country, putting their own personal interests aside.

That simply ain’t gonna happen. Clearly, almost everyone in this country is looking out for numero uno w/o regard to the future of the country, or even themselves long-term. Can you imagine that changing on a wholesale level?

Given that alone, I see his book as a confirmation of my long-held belief that the ole USofA is in an irrecoverable death spiral. I hope that I’m wrong and that my opinions are just those of a senior citizen longing for the good old days, but I really doubt it. Look at the facts.

One bright spot I see in all of this is the justification for Texas to secede. Don’t laugh. It could happen. I’ll deal with this more in future posts.

Getting the Cedula

Although swearing I’d never do this sort of thing in retirement, I got up at 5AM today. Our contact in the City, Luis Arce, notified us that our cedulas were now approved, necessitating a trip to the other end of the country for signatures and photographs.  Earlier we had sent him powers-of-attorney along with copies of our passports, jubilados and “resoluciones”, the latter being a by-product of our jubilado applications.

While the jubilado applications had to be done through an attorney, the cedula did not. Our attorney would be happy to handle it for us, for about $1000. But Luis knows his way around with this sort of thing and got it done for $375, $130 of which went to the government.  We had to pay for r/t transportation to Panama City but that would have been the case with the attorney as well.

Actually, there’s nothing to prevent an individual(s) from handling this process on their own, if they’re sufficiently masochistic. In Panama, like any other country I’ve become familiar with, the bureaucrats are subject to making you jump through unnecessary hoops, just because they can. Luis knows the people and knows his way around. The little that he charges is worth the money. Without question.

You may very well ask, what is a cedula and why get one? As explained to me, a cedula is roughly equivalent to a social security card in the US. It is a national ID card. Though not strictly required, as is the pensianado for permanent residents, it makes life a whole lot easier. Given what we had already spent on the pensianado, I figured, “What the hey!” Maybe the most important part of having a cedula, to me, is that one can eventually achieve Panamanian citizenship with it. There are other requirements, but the cedula is the only thing we can put in place at this point in time.

Luis was waiting for us when our plane arrived at Albrook airport. It was just a short drive to the Tribunal Electoral where the business was to take place.

IMG_7408[1]

We went to an office on the third floor where Luis turned in some papers.

IMG_7409[1]

In about 30 minutes we were called back to the counter. Jan and I each signed something and we went down one floor to have our photos taken.  That took maybe 10 minutes.

IMG_7411[1]

After all was said and done, we were finished with the business we came for in scarcely an hour after landing. As our flight back to David didn’t leave until almost 5PM, we had some time on our hands. Jan has long wanted to see the Canal and Luis, as usual, was happy to accommodate.

The tour of the Canal will be the subject of the next post.

 

This entry was posted on August 10, 2016. 2 Comments

When Beauty is All Around

Too often when we’re continuously  surrounded by beauty, or anything else, we become inured to its existence.  I remember a college psychology course that taught how the brain refuses to accept stimuli if that stimuli is too long unbroken.  I’ve thought of that lesson many times since then.

For reasons I can’t explain, this morning when I stepped out into the yard I noticea a flower that I hadn’t noticed before.  Then another one.  And another.  Here are just a few of the flowers in our yard this morning.

IMG_7345[1]IMG_7346[1]                                 IMG_7347[1]

IMG_7348[1]            IMG_7351[1]

IMG_7352[1]    IMG_7345[1]

IMG_7355[1]          IMG_7354[1]

Car Insurance

A few days ago we took a daytrip to Rio Sereno on the Costa Rican border. Shorter distance but travel time is about the same as going to Paso Canoas, Panama’s major western border town. Jan wanted to look for a supplier of hanging baskets. Hardly worth it to me, but she had heard it was a pretty drive and convinced me to make the trip. It was a pretty drive, and that’s what this post was originally going to be about. But things happen, especially things that start with the letter “s”.

Either on our way over or on the way back I mentioned to her that we needed to renew the car insurance soon. I noticed that it expires early next month. No more was said about it.

When we were just a few kilometers from home there was a lone cop doing a traffic stop. He wanted to see drivers license and insurance. No problem. Here you go.

He pointed out the expiration date of the policy: 07-06-16. Yes, so what’s the problem?  I barely uttered the words when I realized that down here that date means the 7th day of June, not the 6th day of July. I knew that, but somehow my brain wasn’t in gear when I looked at the policy a few weeks ago.   (That happens a lot lately.)

He told us to pull off the road. He was going to write us a ticket. From there it got only worse. He said he was calling a tow truck. I tried, Jan tried, but there was no talking him out of it. He was not going to let us drive the vehicle without insurance.

OK, so how about I leave the car here, go to town and come back with an insurance policy? He wasn’t interested. I really considered offering a bribe. It would be so much cheaper … and faster. Jan said no. She was probably right.   But we’ll never know about that.

All this happened on a Saturday mid-afternoon. I called my insurance agent immediately upon reaching home. Well, she got out of the business about 6 months ago. So we called both of our two closest friends here and got recommendations from each. One of the agents responded even late on a Saturday afternoon. By Sunday we had a list of things she needed to write the policy: registration, drivers licenses, passports, and pictures of the car.

The car was at an impound. Couldn’t get in for photos on a Sunday. So that had to wait until Monday morning.

By Tuesday morning we had an emailed copy of our new policy. I went to try to get our car out of jail but was told we had to first pay the ticket. I expected that, but thought it was worth a try.

We had to go into David to take care of the ticket. A one hour drive,  one way.

Without too much difficulty we found the place. A non-descript little office in one of the wings of Chiriqui Mall, the closest thing to a shopping center around here. (But that’s about to change.)

The first window Jan went to (I’m taking pictures) referred her to a different clerk at a free-standing desk.

IMG_7101[1]

This clerk said or did something and then Jan went back to the original window.

IMG_7105[1]

It was suggested by a friend that the ticket might be waived when we provided proof of insurance. That didn’t happen. $50.

Before leaving I thought I would be great if Jan took a picture of me on this bike.  She wouldn’t even consider it.

IMG_7104[1]

OK, so now I couldn’t wait to get back home and get our car out of hock.

When we got to the impound lot the old man I’d been dealing with wasn’t around. I dealt with the wife and the daughter. They wrote me up for $195. I was livid, and they knew it. But what could one expect from a towing business, right?  Even in Panama.

We barely got home when the owner, the old man, called. His women made a mistake. They charged me according to someone else’s bill.  Come back and he will refund us $50. And he did.  I was and still am dumbstruck.

The Lawn Service

Based on the strong recommendation of a neighbor, we contracted with a local Panamanian for a lawn cutting every 2 weeks. After the first cutting, he was about a week late. Now we find he’s almost a month late and the grass is getting really tall. After all, this is the rainy season.

We called him with a gentle nudge and within a couple hours he had a young man show up with a string trimmer, that being second only to machetes in preferred lawn cutting equipment.

As he didn’t arrive until around noon, there was some concern about him finishing before the rains began. The concern was well placed. He had hardly started when the skies opened up. But we continued to hear his trimmer running.

I went to the patio and this is what I saw.

IMG_6957[1]

Internet Service in a 3rd World Country

Living outside the US, in most countries I dare say, you are constantly reminded that “we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

The residence we recently left, because it was somewhat remote, had a choice of but one provider for internet service. It was mostly good, relatively speaking, but a single megabit per second of service cost $85/month. Two Mbps cost $150. We were eagerly anticipating the new residence in Volcan where the landlord had a different provider. He was paying less than $20 for a screaming 3Mbps!

After we moved in we were disappointed to find the differences between the two were not that dramatic, in spite of online testing services verifying the speeds. Twice I called the provider to order a faster speed that I knew they offered, and twice I was told someone would call me back. No one ever did.

We heard about a new service in town. Fiber optic instead of phone line. Yes, phone lines are still used by some ISPs. But probably not in the US. It took the intercession of a neighbor to actually get someone to talk to us about ordering the service. Nice enough young man. He wrote us up on a Thursday and said the installation should take place on the next Monday or Tuesday. It was Tuesday of the following week when it actually happened.

Tapping in to the main fiber optic line.

Tapping in to the main fiber optic line.

Stringing the cable from the road to the house.

Stringing the cable from the road to the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had been told that when one ISP is installed over an existing service, the new one likes to disconnect, or pull out, the older one. We were not about to let that happen. At least not until the newer service had proved itself. As it turned out, they never even tried to disconnect the existing ISP.

There were a few false starts over several hours but eventually the new service was working to my satisfaction. Time will tell if it lasts.

 

Back to Houston Again, Thru Costa Rica

Once again for our trip back to Texas we elected to go through San Jose, CR (cheap airfare on SWA) and once again we took a Tracopa bus from David (because we knew the drill).  This time the bus was quite new and air-conditioned.  The only thing that made the ride the least bit uncomfortable was the road, the Pan American Hwy.

The bus trip from David, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica took a total of 8 hrs.   It was  an hour just getting  through the border at Paso Canoas, of which maybe 10 min was spent actually conducting official business.  Most of the time was just waiting around.

I took advantage of the wait time to check out the bus stations here, both for Tracopa  and Tica Bus.  Everyone seemed to acknowledge that one could leave from Paso Canoas instead of David but no one knew how to buy the tickets at the border.  I now have that knowledge.

After several hours on the road,  there was a stop of about 30 min for lunch, where one gets a first impression of Costa Rica prices.  A very basic cafeteria style lunch for two was almost $15.

After another couple hours, there was a short potty break.  And at about 7:15PM local time, we arrived at Tracopa’s St Joseph bus station, near downtown San Jose.  Another 30 min or so and a $25 cab ride put us at our hotel.   

While Jan checked us in at the hotel I went over to check out the WalMart next door.  Imagine!  A WalMart in Central Ameria.  The store was huge.  And so were the prices.  A real disappointment.  Panama is much cheaper,  but the selections are far fewer.

The Courtyard Marriott had thoughtfully placed bottled water in our room available for purchase at $3 and $5.  So it should have been no surprise that they offered a Continental breakfast for $11.  Next time we will return to the Adventure Inn.

There were a few changes we noticed at the international airport.  Jan wanted to hurry and pay our exit tax as she remembered this to be a minor bottleneck.  Turns out it’s now included int the purchase price of the ticket.  Also, the lines to get through security were substantially longer, but still modest by the standards of most airports.  As we arrived almost 2 hrs early (her idea) all we had to do now is wait.

 

 

Looks like frogs in our future

We moved into a different residence about a month ago.  Now we’re in Volcan, the second major gringo area, at least for western Panama.  It’s quite different from Boquete.  Has a more rural feel to it, although by most gringo standards Boquete is plenty rural.  Volcan is much smaller than it’s neighbor to the east and English is spoken less.  More about all that later.

The house we’re renting occupies two city lots.   Towards one end of the property there’s a small, above-ground concrete pool.

IMG_6635[1]

Our landlord had emptied and cleaned it before going back to the hinterland.  We planned to do something with it … someday.  But so far it’s just been ignored.  Too many other things have a higher priority.  But the rainy season is on its way.  Not quite here yet, but it’s on its way and water is collecting.  This morning I noticed, from the house, what appeared to be a frog in the pond/pool.  I meant to remove it before it drowned (?) but got sidetracked.  It was several hours later before I remembered it.  That sort of thing happens a lot these days.

When I walked up toward the pond frogs started scattering everywhere.  I counted seven.  They must have been having a good time earlier as I noticed a small plant that I had forgotten about was now totally submerged with a sack of frog eggs attached to it.  That didn’t take long!

 

IMG_6633[1]

Another view

IMG_6634[1]

A sack of frog eggs at the tip of the plant.

 Already there’s clumps of algae in the pond and the frogs are trying to hide in it.  But it’s insufficient to hide all seven of them.

IMG_6636[1]

I wondered what they will do …

IMG_6639[1]

… when they want to get out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I propped up a board to make the egress easier.  I later saw a couple of them resting on it, but so far no one seems to want to leave.

I was, and still am, concerned about some mosquito larvae in the pond.  Do baby frogs, err, tadpoles eat them?  It would seem so, but what do I know?  And speaking of eat, what in fact are all those eggs going to eat?  I can’t just leave them alone, now that I know that they’re there.   Well, Google is my friend, so I’d better get busy.