Does Trump really think he will win the presidency?

One of the more interesting stories I have read lately about Donald Trump and his quest for the Republican presidential nomination has not seen wide play. The story, which I first read on March 28, was on the online magazine Slate. It concerned a supposed high-ranking Trump Super Pac strategist who contends the boisterous candidate never intended to succeed in his campaign.

  Stephanie Cegielski wrote on the blog that the Trump camp only sought the candidate getting “double-digit” support.

  “The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%, Cegielski said. “His candidacy was a protest candidacy.”

But the momentum shifted in favor of Trump because of the “angry” American voters. As The Donald passed far beyond what the candidate allegedly hoped for, the narcissistic Trump changed his expectations much like his quick change of issues. Cegielski said that was too scary.

  “He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters,” she said. “The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness. The Donald is his own biggest enemy.”

Not surprisingly, the main Trump-ette pushed back on the letter and its writer. Hope Hicks, the campaign spokeswoman, responded:

This person was never employed by the Trump campaign. Evidently she worked for a Super PAC which Mr. Trump disavowed and requested the closure of via the FEC. She knows nothing about Mr. Trump or the campaign and her disingenuous and factually inaccurate statements in no way resemble any shred of truth. This is yet another desperate person looking for their fifteen minutes.”

The rumor-rebuking site,, pointed out some claims as to the position Cegielski held in the “Make America Great Again” Super PAC were hyperbolized.

Having spent some of my years as a firefighter and  and later as journalist has given me some wisdom as to what most would call a cliche, that where there’s smoke there is fire. Well, at least where there is smoke means that there is a good chance of a fire. Arguably, human actions can be a bit more complex than the fire tetrahedron — the combination of  fuel, heat, air and chemical reaction. Such thinking may lead to stereotypes but that is not what I am saying here.

The thought that Trump has an ulterior motive for a presidential bid is likely a more difficult scenario to knock down. From the time that the businessman Trump decided to run as a Republican, I fully expected him to reach a certain point saying that he quits because everything is just as he intended.

That there are exaggerations in Cegielski’s resume does not seem far-fetched for anyone at any level of a political campaign. Or perhaps that may be said in most instances in which a resume is used. Well, maybe that is not so good if you are in some portion of the theological field. But even there …

Whether the essay written by Cegielski has truths, half-truths or even next-to-no truths, there is no doubt that Donald Trump in his latest attention-grabbing stunt — although a huge one —  is capable of doing or saying anything. That is a consummate action of a flake, and I sometimes adore flakes, though certainly not this flake and not this time.

On thought and space

A few minutes ago I passed by a local fire station and saw something, perhaps mundane, but it nonetheless took me back about 30 years ago.

Some firefighter was outside in front of the station fire engine. His head was down and his hands in his pocket as if he was pondering something mighty. Penny for his thoughts? Not really. Not even a dollar.

The site just made me think of a time in my life when I worked at a fire station and would sit on the porch watching whatever went by. I would think of college classes, if I happened to be attending at the time. Or I would think of a girl. Funny, I say girl. I suppose back then that many of the women I knew thought of themselves as girls. They might have been a year or four out of high school, in college. Some were a few years older and had been in the workforce a little while.

Just having a place to park my butt and be to myself for a few minutes was a pleasing part of my firehouse routine. That isn’t to say I would be unhappy if one of my fellow firemen joined me. No, I think it was more of a sign that I could be alone most times without being lonely. I can still do that.

I usually worked in Station 2 with two others. Or with only one other on quite a few occasions. But generally I worked with a lieutenant and chauffeur —  the latter called a driver or technician or whatever in different departments. The lieutenant was the station officer who was in charge. And like the name implies, the chauffeur drove. The rank is a bit of a misnomer because the chauffeur pumped the truck at a fire and had to watch all the gauges and make calculations. Such figuring would ensure we would have water, but not so much water that it would make the hose we were using fly off — with us on the end of it.

Generally, the fire ground or accident scene or whatever emergency we had was about the only place where rank was applied. Even then, we would usually have someone higher in rank than the LT in charge if the situation called for it.

Mostly, we slept in our idle hours, watched television, worked on our cars, and in my case, studied for college classes. And we cooked, sometimes.

That is not to say we did nothing but f**k off and fight fires. We would train in the mornings. We would do maintenance on the equipment. Sometimes we would ride in the district and check out new businesses in case they caught fire. We would use a weed whacker to cut vegetation around a fire hydrant or sometimes even paint the hydrants.

We weren’t totally worthless and lazy. Maybe some people might have seen us in that light. We did sit in front of the station watching the world go by. Maybe by today’s standards we were lethargic. But many of us did more than others. For instance, I was the only person back then in this 50-something-man department who was certified as an emergency medical technician. Some of us would lift weights or shoot hoops. The latter is how I broke my first bone ever. My left pinkie was resting at a 45-degree angle before I went to the ER and my doctor set it.

Mainly I had a good time back then. Going to college was, overall, fun. Working as a firefighter and being a firefighter were both a great job and status. I would work 24 hours and have two days off. What’s not to like?

A little space, or maybe that term is passé these days, is essential in any job. It doesn’t matter whether you are saving lives or saving Coke cans. Does that mean thought is the final frontier?

Okay, when I make Star Trek references I know that is enough thinking for one day.



Potential presidents and nutty voters

First Ted Cruz now Rand Paul. Talk about a wide open race for the Republican nominee for president.  And the GOP won’t secure a nomination until late July 2016 in Cleveland. How many more, besides Jeb Bush of course.

Cruz held an old-time protestant revival in his coming out party. Oops. I bet he wouldn’t like his announcing for a run as “coming out.” Oh well.

Paul began his campaign kickoff with: “Let’s take America back.” Back to where or when? But such language is surely smart, as is Dr. Rand Paul, opthamologist. Taking America back is paying homage to the Tea Party, the phrase is often mocked by liberals who say the hard right would like to take America all the way back to requiring minorities to pay poll tax or perhaps even further back, to the antebellum South.

I must admit, although Rand Paul inherits that nut-job political streak of his father, Dr. Ron Paul. He has an interesting past. Paul attended Baylor, the large Baptist institution headed by Ken Starr. But he left Baylor without a degree and was a member of the University’s secret and subversively hilarious NoZe Brothers. He attended Duke Medical School without a bachelor’s degree, which is apparently no longer allowed. His libertarian bent likewise is somewhat appealing while many of his more right-wing beliefs brings him down from his “cool dude” appearance.

Whether the election will be Hillary versus Jeb, or Hillary versus Marco or Hillary versus a resurrected Ronald Reagan, what voters should really concern themselves with is their fellow voters.

America has become so wishy-washy that pretty soon I expect to see those writers of “Nigerian letters,” who will give you millions of dollars providing you give them your bank account numbers, to hit the jackpot.

Most Americans don’t want our military to put its boots anywhere on the ground except out of harm’s ways. But the same folks say the current administration is too timid with our “potential” adversaries.

These are the same good folks who rant and rave over all taxation, including local ones. In Texas the highest individual taxes are often property tax leveled by school districts. But just let a board or administrator cut back on something related to high school football you will see taxpayers gone wild.

Other people might go crazy over a penny’s tax in their rural fire districts. But God forbid if these same taxpayers have their home go up in flames.

It’s nuts. We’re nuts. Nutty America. Love it or leave it.


Exploding rail cars nothing new. But some changes in what and inside what they carry.

Today I thought I would keep the commentary to a minimum. Okay, who is the smart ass out there who is whooping and hollering and clapping hands?

Having spent a pretty fair amount of time in both public safety and journalism has afforded me an opportunity to see kind of an amazing phenomenon. That is, when some kind of manmade disaster occurs it always seems to much of the public — and to many in journalism — that this was the first time such and such happens. Fortunately, both sectors have an equal, if not more, stores of long-reaching memories.

If the media was spending less time on the next to the next terror attacks, or story, or story about a story, du jour  then perhaps we would be hearing more on the West Virginia train derailment. That wreck did make quite a boom, which is always good television. Fortunately, no serious injuries or fatalities have been reported, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. That service has been working to containing pollution in a local river from the CSX freight train from North Dakota to Virginia that was carrying Bakken crude oil. The USCG said the train consisted of two locomotives and 109 rail cars — 107 tank cars and two buffer cars.

The rail cars were reportedly of an improved type for carrying crude oil or ethanol.  The Bakken crude is so named for the geological shale formation producing oil in Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Bakken crude is characterized as a light, sweet crude that is easier to refine than normal crude. But it also has a lower flashpoint so it also is more dangerous than traditional crude.

Oil from the Bakken formation has been present in a number of disasters. Most notable was the 2013 Lac-Mégantic derailment in Quebec. The 72-car North Daktoa to New Brunswick freight train was left unattended and ran away. The train exploded and caught fire resulting in 47 deaths and five missing, presumed dead. Almost half of the downtown area was destroyed.

The Bakken crude is among the oil proposed for shipping to northern portions of the XL Keystone Pipeline, and ultimately to the Gulf Coast.

It has been some 35 years since I was truly involved in planning for dangerous hazardous materials, or HazMat, accidents. I had once seen in the woods a tank car that had been carrying polyvinyl chloride — the substance used in manufacturing PVC pipe –that had experienced what is called a BLEVE, for boiling liquid exploding vapor explosion. To this day I remember the freakish curve one end of the tank car took which basically made the top and bottom of the car into one big piece of metal. This was after flying more than a half-mile from the track and into the woods. I have not since my days in journalism or fire-rescue kept up with tank cars or explosive crude oil. I just knew back in the day as a firefighter we were worried much more about chemical compounds exploding than crude.

So this is the part where I let the readers read all the links I have provided. I just wanted to emphasize, or reemphasize, that rail accidents involving HazMat is nothing new. But the railcars in West Virginia were of the type material that was built to have a high threshold to BLEVE. One wonders about that with the proposed northern part of the Keystone pipeline and the one already built that takes oil from Oklahoma to refineries only 15 or so miles down the highway from where I live.

I just wonder all the while taking what information I have discovered just in the last few hours. I make no conclusions, whether it be about the Bakken Crude flashpoint, the safety of new railcars or the risk of the Keystone pipeline that is already up and running not far at all away from me. So I provide here a few pieces to ponder and let you all draw your own conclusions. Have a nice day.

More reading:


Keystone XL Map

BlazeTech: BLEVE


The sound and smell of Facebook and free speech

Many reasons exist as to why one should avoid Facebook at all costs. Probably just as many reasons are out there why Facebook is a valuable communications platform.

“I don’t use Facebook,” said someone, I don’t know who, during a holiday gathering recently. I remarked that I use it to keep up with my family. I usually check it a couple of times a day.

I disagree with much that I see on Facebook. I see just as much with which I do agree. I take the good, with the bad, relatively speaking.

A friend in Alaska is discovering or perhaps rediscovering her eye for art in the digital photos she takes. Most are of outdoors with her dog. Her dog photographs well. Many of her nature shots are otherworldly. Those I mention are true art.

One of my brothers moderates a group devoted to our hometown. These are thoughts shared about all of our past days in the small East Texas town or within the school district in which many, if not most, shared.

A former student, brother of a classmate of mine and whose mother worked with my mother, hit a Facebook homer over the last couple of days sharing and asking the group to share little giblets of memory. These involved remembrances of sounds and smells. It is so incredibly mind-blowing to me as a journalist to take in all these moments in time. And that is what they are — moments. Add them up in actual time and you might get a couple of hours.

Shared are sounds of screen doors noisily but reassuringly closing. The sound of horse hooves and tack are recalled as the young boys and girls rode in their Texas tradition. Then there is the call of the bird I always thought was the whipoorwill. Turns out, it was a different bird.

The smells included fresh hay in the hot summer sun that teenaged boys sweated while loading up bales on trucks and trailers for the local farmers and ranchers, and rewarding the kids with a little spare change. The honeysuckle that any East Texan must surely smells in the brilliant green of spring.

That particular sense, that of smell, became expanded for me. Certain times that sense will take me to my younger days though not necessarily in my hometown. Instead I remember my young adult days.

The smell of diesel in the morning hits me with a memory of Central Fire Station where I mainly worked at the beginning of my five intense and memorable years as a firefighter. With each snootfull of diesel comes a vision of the wall where helmets and bunker gear were lined up for all the shifts. It is simple enough why it is such a stunning memory. It was where we were gassed with diesel fumes from Engine 310. Here I was a 22-year-old man, making my own way in the world, and where I feared only that which was knowable. That’d mostly be another daunting smell, one of the homes we would encounter fully engulfed in fire, “burners” as we called them.

It was said that the scent of flesh and bones from the “toast” — what we privately called with a macabre sense of humor those unfortunates who were burned up. Perhaps it was an insensitive description but it was one of those mechanisms to prevent our dwelling upon that misfortune.

The sea had its own distinctive smell, or should I say smells. The scent of the Gulf of Mexico beaches and those of Southern California were different. Places such as “the OC’s” Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach in LA County or San Diego’s Pacific Beach sometimes was as much sun screen than marine. But after spending a year on a ship in the Western and Southern Pacific you would sometime forget you were floating out there. Oh, and how could I forget the 2 1/2 years I was only a mile from the man-made beaches of the Mississippi Sound?’

Finally, there is the scent of reefer, so pervasive in the 70s and 80s that it was difficult not to inhale, as a president said he didn’t.

One has to use Facebook wisely. Don’t show those pictures of you passed out in the yard with “dead soldiers” littered all around. Trophies which were exhibited from those days of “partying till you puke.” Some thought should be given how such a powerful platform as Facebook should be used.

Those words written by Ol’ Justice Oliver W. Holmes’ from Schneck v. United States in 1919 are probably a good enough reason to watch one’s P’s and Q’s regardless whether one believes in self-censorship.

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic … “

Oh well, I don’t go to theaters much these days anyway.