Friday, 25 July 2014

The Graduate Senator

It is one of those odd stories.

Someone kinda suggested to the Army War College to go back and look at X-research paper from a Army officer that attended the university about a decade ago.  No one from the university crew will say who suggested this...but the results are this....this simple fourteen page report has around 98 citations attached to it (all done correctly apparently)....but basically copied word-for-word....from an existing paper of the period.

The guy involved?  Well....he's the stand-in guy for North Dakota's senate seat....a Democrat.  Yeah.....he's running in the fall.  Yeah....it really shook up things a bit.

The Army War College?  They simply asked him to present himself and answer a few questions.  The worst of scenarios?  They revoke his master's degree.  For a Army officer....it's pretty much kick-in-the-butt.  You can't really fix this, and if all is proven true.....it's a done deal....just a couple of weeks of chat, and they make their decision.

What Senator Walsh says?  Well....he kinda admits he may have just lifted an entire paper to fill this void, but it's OK because he was having PTSD episodes at the time.  The Army?  Normally, the Army guys would all fall over each other and say "sure"....but this is the Army Staff College, and these geeky Army folks are a bit different.

My observation?  Well....if you say you had PTSD back in 2007....who is to say that right now....you don't have PTSD?  Can we allow some Senator to remedy himself and just he's pure and clean now.....no issues?  I just don't see how.

I can see future military leaders always caught in a lie....just say you got PTSD, and you get off the hook.

My belief?  By late August....the Army War College will have met and discussed the fourteen-page paper and it's affect.  PTSD won't be discussed.  They will simply say a sixty-day review will take place within the university....and shortly after election day in November....they revoke the degree.  Maybe it has no effect on the election.....maybe it does.  But it's not a player until after the election.

As for purity in master degree programs?  It's best to say that if you really went into every report and thesis written over the past twenty years....at least twenty percent would fail the purity test.  Incompetent individuals?  No....just people under stress....and the program is more than they expected.  So they cut corners.....fill in the voids, and pay the idiots their $40,000 for a certificate that you can hang on the wall, and gets you a $30,000 pay-raise.  That's life.

Russia and Capital Flight

There's a phrase that got tossed around a good bit in the last week....."capital flight".  It's used on rare occasions.....and some reporters have used it recently to talk up Russia and it's long list of issues that worry the billionaire guys who hang out and run the business side of Russia.

To put capital flight into a localized perspective.....imagine this guy in Bama....who has done well financially.  Small community, you made $250,000 this year off your franchise operation down on highway 4.

Normally, after you pay your taxes....you'd turn around and invest the remainder into real estate, or expand your business.  You might fix up your house.  You might buy a new big-screen TV from the local guy selling them.  You might buy a new Chevy from the dealer twenty miles away.  You might buy a pontoon-boat for your weekend pleasure from the local dealer.  You might do a number of things, but you are mostly parking that money left into localized things and spending it on the local level.

Other locals are in some way....sharing in your success.

In capital flight.....you take the funds left after taxes, and quietly shift it completely out of the state.  Other than house renovations or airline tickets for you to continually enjoy luxury in distant regions.....you don't spend a dime on local items.  No real estate investments.....no car from a local dealer.....no pontoon-boat from a local guy.

No one in the local region.....shares in your success.  What you are admitting....is that you are fearful of someone screwing you over, tricking you out of your capital, and don't want the risks associated with any local banking, investing, or purchases.

What Russian oligarchs kinda figured out since 1990 when the Soviet Union fell...is that there is no safe place in Russia to park billions.  Every time some idiot gets forced or pushed into banking with Russian banks or investing into Russian real estate or industry.....it goes into a black hole, and the success rate is marginal.

So, the money moves out of Russia.  The most popular places to park the money?  You can go into Paris, London, or Rome.....to find various upscale homes and condos which have been bought and are currently empty....just sitting there with cash holding it's value.  Go into New York City and you will find the same business going on, with the Russian billionaire folks parking money.

About a decade ago....the Russian billionaire found ways to get residency into Cyprus.  They brought bundles of cash.  The Cypriot banks were falling all over themselves in the beginning. They had people wanting to build new resorts and hotels on the island, and this new fresh money helped to start a trend.  But the billionaires kept coming up with more bundles, expecting the same generous rate to continue.

At some point, the Cypriot banks got to a point of saturation.....too much cash....no lucrative way to get a fair return. But they couldn't decline this great funnel of money.

 So, the bankers started to take in risky loans....hoping they'd pay off and making their new Russians friends happy.  Well....perhaps in the first year of this strategy....it worked to some minor degree, and then risk lead onto more risk, and eventually....the Cypriot banking system fell into a mighty big pit.  They had massive debt owed to regular Cypriot people.....small-business Cypriots....rich Cypriot business people....and to their rich Russian friends.  That was the issue of 2013 that had to be dealt with.

The Russian billionaires?  Well....they've had a bit of a fallout with Cyprus, but frankly where else are they accepted so easily....with a reasonable amount of transparency?

All of this leads back to capital flight....Russian profits which aren't staying in Russia.  You'd sit there and think about this, and start to ask....well....aren't the locals peeved and kinda upset?  Yeah.

In 1990....Russia hit the top of the population chart.....150-odd million in residents.  Even with the birth-rate drifting downward along general terms....Russia sits at around 143-million residents today.  Based on varying numbers....what the economic experts say is that three million Russians have packed up and left over the last decade.

Who made up the three million that left?  The National Post article cited engineers, scientists, doctors, and entrepreneurs.  The best and brightest....packed and left.  Whatever money that Russian is making off oil and natural gas....these people aren't saying too much in terms of results.  They were disenchanted, and felt betrayed in some ways by capital flight.  If the system of banking and investing in Russia is that screwed up for the billionaires....what does it say for the regular smart guy in the middle of the mess?


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Meet the Press?

For a brief period over five years....I got attracted to "Meet the Press"....the Sunday morning political chat show.  That came to an end in 2008....as Tim Russert passed on.  I can basically say....that Russert's version of political chat kinda carved up on both Republicans and Democrats.  It was one of the few shows that put both groups into a serious discussion of topics.

After Russert came Tom Brokaw.....and it only took one episode to get me disconnected from the series.  I didn't see Tom as some real journalist.....he was more of a pretender, whose job was to make Democrats look better than Republicans.

Tom's period lasted only as long as the battle took place and a real replacement came  on the air.....David Gregory.  I've watched bits and pieces of Gregory's version of the show.  Once in a while, he stages a fine piece of political commentary....then you run into one entire show that is developed as a one-sided argument on a topic.

The numbers of Meet the Press over the past five years?  Dismal.  The network isn't making any real revenue off the show.  The bosses have decided to let David Gregory go.

The replacement battle?  Chuck Todd (the NBC White House guy) and CNBC's dynamic duo of Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough (Morning Joe Show).

It's more of a race of who brings the show further down.....rather than revives the show.

I can't say much for Chuck Todd.....except I think you'd just get David Gregory version 2.0.   Whatever weaknesses were developed into the show.....Chuck would simply carry them on, and ensure nothing much changes (my humble opinion).

Brzezinksi and Scarborough?  If they used their normal morning format....it'd be more of a news of the morning and rapid laying of facts on the table....then move on.  Intense political discussion?  No.  That's not their standard.

Brzezinksi leans more to the left, but is active on discussions and asks some tough questions at times.  Joe Scarborough?  He's a pretend-to-be-Republican, who runs through news at a rapid pace.
I'm not sure the show would improve much with either choice here.  To be honest....over the past decade....folks have become inundated with political chat.....and tiring of it.  It's like NFL football chatter.....we've all gotten tired of five guys sitting there and talking over the Giant's quarterback situation, the rebuilding of the Dolphins for the sixth time in ten years, and the what-if scenario of Green Bay versus so-and-so on a minus-4 temperature day, and snow falling in the Green Bay stadium.

Personally, I'd like to see NBC hire up three unknown barbers from Iowa.....just let them chat for thirty minutes on national topics, and let the show develop from that point on.  Maybe bring on a guest barber from Alabama occasionally to shake things up......perhaps even hire up some Mexican barber to show up and talk over economics.

On the positive side.....at least there's plenty of stuff on the Cartoon Network to watch....if Meet the Press really screws up.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A New Immigration Idea?

This 'flood'  of illegal immigrants continues, as I watch the episode continue on various news fronts.

I sat down last night and added up the population of El Salvador (7.9 million) , Guatemala (15 million), and Honduras (6.3 million).  It comes out to roughly 29 million residents.  They add up size-wise....to Alabama and Mississippi combined.

Maybe the real answer here is to simply enquire if the three countries want to just join up with the US, and become one or two new states.  We might as well admit of the twenty-odd million illegals in the US.....probably around fifty percent of them come from these three countries.

Yeah, there would be a fuss from various political groups (both Republican and Democrat).....but let's face it.  The border is unsecure, and will never be really fenced up to clear out the issue.  Toss in immigration reform which pops up every ten years as a major player in US politics.  We could simply end immigration from ever coming up ever again.

The transparency angle?  Well.....a bunch of corrupt thugs in all three countries would start to get noticed and arrested more often.  Probably in a decade....we'd start to clear out the bad guys in their politics.....open up some industry operations....throw in some US banks....spend a bunch of money roads and bridges....and bring in a major league baseball team or two to the region.

Reactions by the Canadians?  Yeah, they might want to get in on the deal, and we'd have to just all Canada later to be five or six states.  Mexico?  Yeah, they'd eventually want in on the action.  Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, and Panama?  Yeah.....we could probably combine them into one single state.

If you don't really have a border that is secure....then why bother pretending otherwise?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Bama: Happy versus Unhappy

There's this financial analysis organization....Advisor Perspectives....that did up this fancy piece of work on how much money....in a relative state.....makes you happy.

For Bama....the magic number that they came to....was $69,300 (for the entire household).  For some oddball reason.....folks considered this number to be the point where you emerged from being unhappy, and went to being happy.  In Tennessee, it was $67,265 (roughly $2k less).  In Mississippi, it was $65,850.  (roughly $4k less).

Naturally a Bama guy would look at this and start to ask stupid questions.

Where does happiness and unhappiness merge up and become this dollar amount?  Could you be unhappy in Bama making $100,000?  Could you be happy in Bama making $21,000 while working at Piggly Wiggly?  Could you have two brand new Fords in your carport....completely paid-off, with a pontoon boat on the lake, and be unhappy?  Could you go from from one stage of happiness with $75,000 one day, to a big stage of unhappiness the next day....if the hay barn burnt down or your $4,000 spring lawn job just dried up and died off?

Most folks from Bama just don't see happiness in the same fashion as Advisor Perspectives.  You could have some gal who got repented at the Baptist Revival last week....sweating up a storm with the AC off in the church....newly divorced and almost bankrupt....working for minimum wage at Burger King, and just feeling like a million bucks in terms of happiness.

You could have some guy....graduate of Auburn and a 1988-89 member of the Auburn NCAA football team (reserve team)....in perfect health....pulling in $65,000 a year selling bogus upscale lawn furniture imported in from China....and just totally unhappy because his wife ran off with the county clerk's wife (lesbian thing), his dog got run over by the county garbage truck the same day, and his barber of twenty years is retiring.

It's odd things that makes a Bama resident happy or unhappy.

There's the problem of a dry-county versus a wet-county.

There's the issue of the maintenance status of your daily vehicle, and just how often it's going into the garage.

There's the content of the minister's Sunday sermon, whether it's awful harsh on some associates of yours.

There's the NCAA football issue....if Bama can actually go undefeated for the whole season or really screw up things by losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

There's the summer heat issue....if the temperature average could just stay around 88-degrees for the bulk of the summer, and just go over 95-degrees for five days in August.

There's the issue of your five brief days of summer vacation....and if you will spend it in Aruba just drinking hard whiskey and rum for hours on end, or spend it on the streets of New Orleans mostly drunk on mystery beverages (remembering little of the trip), or spend it at Branson, Missouri just in quiet luxury and buffet breakfast/lunch/dinner spots.

There's the issue of your mower, and if it'll last one more season.

There's the issue of relatives coming to visit....not for hours, but days or maybe even three weeks.

There's the issue of some meth-head having moved into the abandoned property across from your woods....and you keep hoping the cops find out about this without you having to identify yourself and get your name into some report on your neighbor.

There's the issue of some neighbor coming over daily to chat over 500-odd topics to waste forty-five minutes of your afternoon....that you don't have time to waste.

There's the issue of your leaking basement wall after a storm.

There's the issue of five tornado 'warnings' over the past month in your area of the county, and you think about the thirty seconds of time you've got to get into the basement.

There's the issue of your husband buying imaginary weapons for some game at $50 a whack, and you can't convince him that there's no true value for the $50 pretend-sword.

To say $69,000 is enough.....well.....it might as well be $690,000....or $6,900.  Things just aren't that simple in life to say a magic number is happy.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Ultimate Pizza Delivery Job

A couple of miles south of White Lake, along highway 2 in North Dakota.....is Stanley.  It's not much of a town....maybe 1,700 folks living there.  Being around forty miles south of Canada...it's a place where you wouldn't really think much about business operations....salary.....or capitalism.

This past week....off the Carpe Diem site....someone put up an ad related to Jimmy's Pizza (local franchise).  They needed a driver to deliver pizzas.  Typically, you don't make much.  But this is the era of oil rigs, fracking, and guys making $100,000 a year easily.

Jimmy's needs a delivery guy bad....noting they will pay $36,000 a year ($3k a month) on base salary.  Jimmy's is willing to put up to $100 a month into a retirement account for you (matching of course).  Jimmy's is offering one week of vacation for every six months of employment, along with $1,000 as part of the vacation deal.

The hinge to the deal?  Well....there are several....positive and negative.

First, they want you to work six days a week....for roughly 49 hours.  Most guys get negative about anything beyond forty hours.  So this might be difficult to accept.

Second?  There's tips, and Jimmy is hinting that you might be able to pull in $20,000 a year on delivering pizza.  You sit there and kinda work on the math....figuring forty-nine hours a week, and probably 200 deliveries possible, with a tip of $3 per episode....equaling $600 a week....times fifty-two.  In actuality.....you might be able to even take more than $30,000 if you figure the math right.

Third?  Stanley is about far north as you can get and winter starts early around late September with a stiff breeze and cold temperatures.  You might have to use snow-chains a couple of times during the winter, and your delivery vehicle might ought to be a four-wheel-drive jeep.

Fourth?  The sun goes down early in this region during the winter months, and the sun stays up fairly long in the summer months.

The odds here is that they will find a person to quickly sign up.....then deep into December's brisk weather....find that this guy just doesn't have what it takes and is quickly leaving for some warmer region.

Delivering pizzas?  For probably $3,000 a month (taxable) and another $2,000 a month (tips on the impossible to tax game)?  A guy could live out of a RV trailer.....do this for fifteen years, and retire by age forty as a pizza guy.  If only things were that simple.  

Book Review: The English Tradesman (1726)

By Daniel DeFoe

Well....it's a curious book.  DeFoe is supposed to have only written one great book in his life....the rest are just pushed aside.  I've been picking up several of the other books and now come to disagree....most all of them...are good reads.

I should note....this book (published in 1726) was updated a hundred years later (1839) with some better footnotes and fresher material (long after DeFoe died).

The English Tradesman is a book which DeFoe goes to educate the English on craftsman skills.  Yes, it's the first book written over business and how to be a complete tradesman or businessman in the world.

Chapter by chapter....he lays out the various skills that you require.  From writing in a concise way....to being pleasant but firm in your attitude.  Stories of a personal nature are thrown into the mix, and make for better reading material.

If you were taking a college business section.....needing to write a report on skills of the tradesman in the 1700s...compared to today, this would make an excellent platform to base the paper upon.  In essence....nothing much has changed in 300 years.  Craftsman today....need basically the same skills as they needed in the old days.

Simplified book....easily read over a weekend.  Not complex.....and certainly written in a easy format.  I'd recommend it for the 16-to-20 year old crowd....in the midst of a high school project or college course on business.

Simply Observations

Yesterday, about an hour after the Malaysian flight was shot down over the Ukraine....I flipped my TV over to RT (Russia Today).....Russian news....minute-by-minute....in English.  They had their two guys covering this and giving a pretty accurate picture of what is seen at the site.....lots of images sent from Russians down in the region.  So there's folks calling in and giving eye-witness commentary.  In fact....these two guys in a row.  So these two Russian bystanders.....eyewitnesses....giving a vivid image of what's going on and the wreckage.....all being translated from Russian into English.  Strangely enough....both get to some point about a minute into their commentary.....that the local Russian militia (the freedom fighters going against Ukraine)....don't have the missiles to reach this height.  It was rather odd.....two bystanders....saying virtually the same thing....almost word for word as the translator did the comments.  Yes, rather odd.  In fact, to the point that I'd think this was all thrown into the media mix to convince people of something.....when it's possibly not true.  RT might be an innocent bystander in reporting what comes in.....but you get this odd feeling that some folks in Russian-Ukraine did something rather stupid and need to cover it up.  As for Putin's reaction?  I'm guessing that his chief down in Ukraine is visiting these idiots who fired the missile today, and suggesting they need to clear out and get as far from the civilized world as possible.

From over in Israel, if you really dig deep into the news (not the standard ABC, CBS, NBC stuff).....you will note that the Israeli military asked the UN to allow them to inspect a UN school site in Gaze (controlled by the Palestinians).  It's written into the rules that the UN must allow inspections.  Oddly enough.....there in a storage room....missiles.  Now, in the real world.....there's just not much of a reason for a school to house missiles.  So the UN is terribly dismayed by this episode, and promising to explain this later.  As for ethical consequences here?  Why would you not target schools and hospitals....if you kinda figure out they've got missiles hidden there?  What idiot would put missiles into schools and hospitals?  Just makes you wonder.

Some statistical guys came out and basically said there are approximately 1.6 percent of American society which is gay.....with another .6 percent saying they were bi-sexual, and one percent just saying they weren't gay, bi-sexual or straight.....leaving you to wonder what the heck they were (my suggestion is bondage, or an alien species).  The study....from the government naturally....says very strongly that there is no health difference between the groups, but then oddly enough admits that a fairly high number of gays are binge drinkers, and suffer from various psychological ailments.  Oddly enough....straight women were more likely to say they were really healthy....when compared to lesbians who noted various ailments.   What's the bottom line to the survey?  Well....out of 300-million Americans, there are probably 4.2 million gays.  The survey didn't know the state-status or urban versus rural part  of the story....maybe for a good reason.  If you knew more straights lived in Arkansas than any other state....it might disturb you, or if you knew that twenty-percent of California is gay, with the rest of the nation near .02 percent....it might disturb you.  As for the "other-minded" folks (neither straight, gay, or bi)?  Well....three million stretched across America....doing something, but we aren't sure of what.

Finally, Edward Snowden (our NSA guy) gave a brief interview of sorts....commenting on a number of things.  One of them.....that he's firmly convinced that IF he'd just be allowed a jury-trial rather than a judge-trial.....he'd get an innocent type situation, and his "peers" would see the truth.  Maybe if this was Hawaii or California.....in an OJ-like setting, he might be right.  In the other forty-eight states?  I'm fairly convinced that the charges laid out....would be noted on a guilty situation for Snowden.  He kinda noted at the end.....negotiations with the State Department are kinda stalled on this idea of him returning to conditions that he prefers.  My humble guess is that he'll live out his life in Russia, unless the Germans rig up some bogus deal to bring him into Germany.  Otherwise, he'll never touch US soil ever again.