Saturday, 25 March 2017

"Doc"

With the comments that came up over General Flynn in the past couple of days....this brought back all these images and memories of incompetence among general officers.

At some point after I retired, but continued to work as a contractor to the Air Force....we had this four-star general who descended upon Ramstein. "Doc" Foglesong.

There is hardly a week that would pass when you'd sit there for five to ten minutes in amazement at some weird directive which came out of the headquarters.

He had twelve programs which became the primary joke that airman discussed for days, weeks and months.

At the top of thee special programs....was Combat Proud.  This was a base beautification situation.  Fences that didn't meet some particular scale of acceptance were torn down.  In some cases....fences which had been only up for five years....were torn down.  Beauty became this topic and people began to question who held the key to beauty.

During the first year of existence, I'd take a guess that almost every airman and junior NCO on base was spending a minimum of four hours a week in some Combat Proud task.

At some point....painting white rocks came into the vogue, and a month later....it was deemed 'non-beauty' and the rocks had to be picked up and thrown away.

Staff meetings in squadrons always had tasks listed for the commander to assess if they were all doing enough to meet high expectations.  Lt's and Captains were walking around on Friday to analyze and determine accomplishments.....so they could be measured on various slides for Monday.

Combat Nighthawk was another program started by "Doc".  This was supposed to be this deal where junior officers on night shift....were to meet up with senior NCOs on night-shift, and there would be sharing of experiences.  They would get into a truck....as night descended, and just drive around.

I asked a junior Captain about this once.  Basically, he noted that they spent four hours in a some truck one evening.  I asked....what was the conversation.  Well...he said....they basically talked on the Dallas Cowboys....they were both from Texas.  For four hours?  Yeah....they went over the Roger Staubach days and recounted various players.

I'm not sure if this was an exchange that "Doc" wanted....but it was better than talking four hours of nothing.

Combat Education was another "Doc" invention.  For years, the base education center on each base handled education requirements.  "Doc" woke up one day and felt that he wanted to emphasize this more.  So they invented this program, and put the title above their newsletters or emails.  Nothing much changed....just that "Doc" got credit for something that had been going on for years.

Then came Combat Touch.  It was the wrong title and it conveyed something of an arousing nature.  It was supposed to be a program for Chaplains.....to bring spiritual needs and well-being to airmen and their families.

The program itself had existed for decades, but "Doc" made it his program.

The big problem came about twelve months into this when "Doc" wanted TV advertising fixed up for AFN.  60 and 30 second commercials.

Army guys started to laugh when this 'combat' word came up in the advertising.  Drinking games were created....a shot when the 'combat' advertisement started, and each time the voice uttered 'combat'.  Typically, it'd be a minimum of four times in a 30-second ad.  Over a four-hour period on Saturday evening?  You could have 'combat' require you to consume 20 shots....if the ad's were lined up for an Air Force evening.

The thing is....all of these existed in some form, prior to 'Doc', and all reverted back to some normal scheme after he left.

Doc's next two jobs?  He settled into a Mississippi university for two years, and then kinda got enough people upset enough....that he left.  After that, he ended up with some energy company for a year or two....that had serious write-up handed down by the gov't over safety practices.  

It was a period where you began to assess the competency of officers, and realized that a fair number of them were not capable of leading people.  It wasn't about their degree, past background, or previous jobs....these were people who just weren't competent and lacked common sense.

Seven Years of Hype

Done.  This attempt to pass a replacement healthcare bill to replace ObamaCare?  Never voted upon because it would not pass.

So you sit there and ponder upon this.

For seven lousy years, you had to hear GOP bigwigs out of DC....from McCain to Ryan and at least 150 Republicans who'd appear on Sunday chatter shows....gushing over how they'd have a better idea and fix the terrible dilemma that ObamaCare laid upon the nation.

It was a farce...a hoax....a joke....and never worth discussion.

This is part of the problem of the Republican Party now.  They have so much hype and theatrics built into their operation....that you can't tell where fake chatter starts and ends.

What should you expect now?

1.  Ryan is practically worthless on leadership, and some challenge will come up to replace him.  Frankly, if I were him....I'd leave the chairman job, and move to some other occupation after the election in 2018.

2.  Democrats shouldn't say much of a happy note.  ObamaCare is losing participants every year.  It's built to have a very limited life.  By the GOP screwing this up....it's laid out a very short string of survival....maybe four to six years before various states, and a large number of the public are complaining bitterly.  Single-payer is the only method left.

3.  If the financial bill comes up and faces the same type of GOP division....then you can assume that the big-plus-up that would have occurred in November 2018's election for more Republicans....will never occur.  In fact, you might be able to assume that 25 House seats will shift over to the Democrats, with two or three Senate seats also going to them.

4.  For Trump?  New reality.....the GOP is fractured and unable to be of any benefit.  He might as well assume this for the remaining three years, and just make the best out of a marginal situation.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sears

If you read through various business journals over the past week....there's a sense of Sears coming to an end....maybe sooner....maybe later.  It's an odd feeling.

I grew up with the local Sears which operated in some 'giant' location in the midst of Florence, Alabama.  It was mid-town (well, in the sense of what mid-town means in Florence).   In retrospect, I doubt that you could have put more than 100 cars in the entire parking lot.  So on occasion (especially around Christmas), you had to park on the main street and put a nickle in the parking meter.

My folks would have made the trip into Sears about every six weeks.  It was the obvious place for clothing, tools, or Christmas toys.  I can still remember the Christmas catalog which would arrive in early fall, and you'd have an entire hour of enjoyment checking out what they offered for sale.

Across the street was the Sears annex where lawnmowers were sold, and tires were available.  My dad bought tires from them on a random basis.  At some point, he flipped to Wal-Mart and their tire shop.

By the late 1970s....that location had reached it's maximum usage and they swung Sears around to the new mall on the end of town.

Over the 40 years since....I've probably been in a Sears at least fifty times....mostly for clothing or shoes.  In the past decade?  I've been in Sears once.  I'm probably one of the reasons why they are in the negative position that exists today.

The thing is that they always had quality clothing or shoes, but beyond that....they were in a competitive situation with a dozen other companies and Amazon.  When I needed plain white shoes for the office....I went to Landsend and ordered via the internet.

I see this end as some comment to an era that is closing out.  Radio Shack (sinking at the same rate as Sears), Grants, Big "B" Drugs, Circuit City, CompUSA, Woolco, Zodys, ABCO Foods, Blockbuster, Tower Records, Price Club, etc.  It is a totally different environment today than in the mid-80s.  You can drive across various urbanized areas now and see various large store-fronts which are empty and waiting for the next start-up and their eventual failure.  At best, you probably have six to ten years of life upon opening some store these days....before you stumble or meet up with real competition.

So I have this image in my mind....Christmas....mid-70s....and this small town Sears decked out in Christmas decorations and lights flashing. That's the Sears that I remember.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

When Happy People Aren't Happy

The UN has some department which has the function of determining your happiness....as related to your country.

I know....you sit amused that such a department would exist and people would actually get paid to rank people by their happiness.

Yesterday, the ranking was updated for 2017.

Norway now ranks as the happiest land on Earth....displacing Denmark.  Over the past year, something must have happened to make Danes less happy, and Norwegians more happy.  A logical guy would ask what, but then you'd come to realize it might be something as simple as weather, some soccer league action, or a movie which came out to thrill Norwegians.

The rest of the top ten?  Well, it's an odd thing....Denmark, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden make it into the top ten.  All Nordic countries....all have a Viking heritage element.  One might come around to ask the UN folks if there is a favoritism deal going on, or if they are very pro-Viking.

Over my life, I've spent time in Denmark (six weeks), Finland (one week), and Iceland (one week).  There are several key elements in life that you come to notice in these countries.

First, it's extremely expensive to live any kind of life.....even a marginal life.  On my scale of a regular meal at McDonalds....where it might cost $4.90 to have a full-up burger deal in the US.....in Denmark or Finland....you are talking about a minimum of $7 for the same deal in local currency.  Don't ask about Iceland because they shut down their operations a couple of years ago (it was too costly to run and make a profit).

Second, booze and smokes cost a heck of a lot.  Taxation ensures that you don't drink the hard stuff....just the beer and wine.  Go look for teens smoking and you will notice very few because they can't afford a pack of smokes.

Third, gasoline....especially in Denmark....has a hefty tax attached to each liter sold.  So you don't drive much.

Fourth and final, there is this odd aspect about a happiness scale, the suicide rate for the Nordic countries, and the continuing escalation of anti-depressants issued out in Nordic countries.

I noticed in the last week that Iceland did the math and figured out that roughly 12-percent of Icelandic adults are on some anti-depressant.  If you look at the scale of this and trend....they are within five or six years of probably hitting 20-percent of the nation on some kind of anti-depressant. From a 2015 report, you kinda notice a trend building up.  These same five Nordic countries are in the top ten of dispersing anti-depressants.

Reason given?  I think there are three central reasons for the high rate of anti-depressants in these countries:

1. This July sun-up hour total (roughly 22 hours per day) and the December sun-down total (roughly 22 hours per day), if you use Iceland as the example.  Your sleep cycle is continually messed up and trying to recover.

2.  In most of these regions, you are in a self-contained 'cabin' situation.  There are vast areas of Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden which are fairly rural.

3.  Once the medical profession got all wrapped up in accepting legalized happy-pills (instead of marijuana), it was fairly easy to just start handing out the pills if you met these prescribed conditions.

So the question to ask now.....if the UN rated these Nordic countries for happiness, and they were hyped up on happy-pills....are they really happy or just drugged-up happy?  Without the happy pills....would they be as happy as you think they are?

It's best not to ask questions over this whole happiness thing.

Monday, 20 March 2017

We Just Don't Care

I came to notice this morning a survey by C-SP*N this morning....they discovered that only 43-percent of the people they polled....could name one single member of the Supreme Court.

Yeah, most of the court have been on the job for five years, and their names get mentioned in the news at least forty times a year.

I think if more surveys would be done, there'd be some sad truths learned:

1.  My guess is that more teens (15-to-19 years old) can name members of the Kardashian family more so than members of the Supreme Court.

2.  More guys from Louisiana can name more NCAA football coaches than members of their delegation from the House and Senate (total of eight).

3.  Most women over sixty can name more soap opera characters from their favorite show, than name members of the House of Representatives.

4.  Most New Yorkers, if given a choice of watching an hour of politicians chatting or watching a rerun of The Sopranos.....they'd pick the mafia family over the political talk.

5.  Most people from Oregon, if given a priority listing of true events versus fake news....would rank Bigfoot higher on the truth scale than the Russians hacking into the 2016 election.

6.  Most NASCAR enthusiasts can probably name more race-car drivers than members of the Senate.

7.  Most Baptists can name more disciples of Christ than members of the Supreme Court.

8.  If Speaker of the House, Rep Paul Ryan, were to walk into the primary Walsenburg, Colorado cafe....the Huerfano Cafe...to have breakfast, I doubt if 20-percent of the crowd would be able to recognize him.  Ten-percent might suggest that he's some reality TV show guy, or some male model from New York City.

9.  Most residents over forty in Alabama can name more University of Alabama quarterbacks over the past three decades for the university, than name the seven current Representatives from the state.

10.  If you asked just in general....for folks to name the VP candidate for Hillary Clinton from 2016....I doubt if more than 40-percent can cite the guy's name.  Even folks who voted for Hillary....might have trouble.

Here's the thing....no one really cares.

None of these Supreme Court Judges, Presidents, Senators or Representatives are really doing things that affect us in some personal way.  Some folks might get hyped up and charged to the max....but if you had to go and cite names....other than Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, President Trump, President Bush, and Senator Ted Kennedy (he's been dead for decade, if you didn't know)....that's about it for recognizable names.

 Maybe it's a shock for journalists or the national media, but this is reality.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Trump's New Budget Target

It's an odd piece that popped up in the news this morning.  President Trump is preparing his first budget, and in the middle of this....folks kinda noticed this....he zeroed out the normal $445 million that would have gone to PBS, NPR, and went on to eliminate the money for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, along with the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.

NPR and PBS?  So far, nothing said.  I suspect they both knew it was coming and mostly hoping that it'd be a fifty-percent cut, or maybe a two-year gradual thing.  Well....it's all cut, and would be effective as they pass the budget.

The Senate and House?  From the Democrats.....they will freak out.  The Republicans?  There might be five or six GOP Senators who will fall on their sword to protect PBS and NPR....the rest?  They will grin and just say it was time to cut the budget.

I remember NPR in  the early 1970s and the great book readings, classical music, jazz, and theater readings.  It was a great network in the beginning.  Somewhere in the middle of the 1980s....they turned into some news network....classical music started to disappear unless it was late at night, and culture and literature was something that you only got on weekends, and in limited doses.

What will happen to NPR and PBS?  I suspect a lot of pressure will be brought upon the Senate and they will find five or six GOP Senators who won't agree to a total zeroed-out budget.  So Trump will offer them a simple bone....a twenty-five percent cut now, and a total cut by 2019.

If I were NPR....I'd start to look at the headquarters location....in the midst of high-cost DC....and opt for a lesser environment.  Maybe Colorado Springs....maybe Nashville....but somewhere that is half the cost of DC.  And then I'd tell all the employees that we will move you there on our 'nickel' but you give up 40-percent of your current pay.

Both NPR and PBS can survive on....if they are careful on their budget and dump the idiots making $200,000 or more.  Who knows....maybe NPR will sign off the air in two years and just admit they can't do it without government support.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Trump's Tax "News"

After you read over the brief three-line story (that's really all there is of the two-page 2005 tax submission of Donald Trump)....you are left with three simple thoughts.  I will get to those in a minute.

Who dug up this 2005 return (only the first two pages)?  No one dug it up.  Pulitzer-winner David Cay Johnston simply got it in the mail.  No source.....just two simple pages.  One might admit that Johnston has written pieces on Trump in the past....mostly critical, so maybe someone thought he'd easily accept these two pages.

Value of the two pages?  All it says is that he made $150 million in income, and paid $38 million in taxes.  That's it.  You don't get the other pages which note which stocks he sold, or the NY state tax form, which might have noted that he paid another $10 million to them.  But no one bought up the state tax side of this story (notice that).

So my three thoughts.

1.  Trump made a copy up himself and sent it to Johnston, knowing precisely what he'd do with it.

2. Anyone who wants to make a big deal out of unfair shares of taxes.....need not complain about Trump, BUT instead about the Senators who write the code and ensure unfairness across the whole system.

3.  For the next two weeks.....all that MSNBC will talk about is unfair taxation, and the result?  Trump has led them to some public anger and to wipe out the current tax code entirely, fire IRS, and just have a straight flat-tax for companies and individuals.

News?  No, this is all fake news to get people up to some point of anger and accepting massive change.  Brilliantly done, if you ask e.