Friday, 31 July 2009

Cash for Clunkers II

Somewhere over in DC today....senators and congressmen wept....the "cash-for-clunkers" effort had sunk in just six days. They were happy a month ago....discussing this on TV and openly bragging how this billion would make America great again. The GM, Ford and Chrysler guys compared this effort to like Moses holding back the Red Sea.

So now.....what next? Well....the boys say they will shove $2 billion now into the fund.

Yep, it took six days to spend a billion....so how long does $2 billion last? Maybe another ten days at best.

My guess is that the bulk of guys interested in doing the clunker deal....didn't show up during the first week. So I think almost seventy percent of America....has yet to show up at GM or Chrysler to get their deal.

The curious about this whole mess? The guys who designed the $1 billion "cash-for-clunkers" deal? Its the same group designing the universal health care program. This worries me.

Your tactic on Monday? I'd be first down at the Ford shop and beg the guy to sell you a Ford. Tell him you hate those damn Chrysler guys....bunch of Democrats....all of them. He'll probably hand you an American flag as you make the purchase, and give you a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Six Days of Clunker Heaven, Then?

So.....barely six days into this....and to be truthful....the money was gone by the end of the fifth day....the "Cash for Clunkers" campaign is hereby suspended.

The White House is having an emergency meeting and basically asking "how the hell did this happen"?

The amusing thing is that a number of people were in the mindset of going over to the Chrysler dealer or GM dealer....and getting a significant deal, but hadn't made the trip yet.

What happens now? I'm guessing that amongst the billions laying around....they will find $3 billion more....to carry it through mid-August, and then terminate it. They will announce it by Sunday (nice to have a chat-show topic).

Here's the thing....if you were ever thinking about doing this....you've got to start on Monday and have the deal signed by Tuesday. My guess of the $3 billion extra placed on this....is that it will barely last ten days, with a massive flood of buyers coming in.

Was it a failure? Well....maybe it should have been $2k max. If it barely lasts three weeks total with the original one billion and another three billion infused into it.....then I wouldn't be bragging too much about this. And what you have to remember.....Ford is making big money off this deal too....and they were already in a very good position to start with.

So as the sun rises on Monday, and you look at that clunker of yours.....don't even stop for donuts or coffee.....go straight to the Ford dealer and make your deal.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The "H" (Hypocrite) Word

I listened to this twice. It pretty much screws up any "rush" job on passing legislation for the next year or two.

Gimme Me Some of That Money


So, in the midst of the $750-odd billion bailout, some $80 million got handed over to the NEA folks (National Endowment of the Arts). If you were from Ripley, it'd be NDA (National Dowment Arts, and just forget that "En" stuff).

From the $80 million, then apparently, $50k got tossed to some horror-porn flick.....to help in its production. The Arts folks aren't saying much. Apparently, this is regularly done and folks don't typically ask stupid questions about stupid movies or stupid art.

Naturally, being from Bama....I sat to ponder this stuff. I am a poor fellow who has never had a "artsy" chance in life. I'd really like to turn a leaf here and get "artsy". So my question is.....ifing I had this idea for a love-romance-porn-trailer trash flick.....which would be "artsy".....could I get $80k to make it?

There has to be some paperwork involved, but I'm sure I could find a Democrat who'd help me fill this out and get some drunk Auburn artsy professor to sign off that I was liberal enough to do the job.

My working title? "How Betty Got off the Trailways Bus and Became a Trailer Trash Hottie".

I would be filming mostly on location in Bama. I believe I could shoot the entire movie in twelve days....with 2,200 cases of beer and 800 pounds of bar-b-q as enticement for the actors and actresses involved.

I would write the script myself....mostly dwelling on the state of trailer trash and how life was unfair for them.....toss in a midget vacuum sales gentlemen.....a trailer fire.....some left-wing environmentalist who get doped up by the local Baptist minister....and a LTD launched into a local creek at 80 mph.

I'm not sure about public release....but to be frank....I don't really give a damn if anyone ever watches it or not. Once we run out of beer and bar-b-q....the film ends....no matter what.

So could you guys guide me to a NEA "dealer"?

Saga of Employment

As most of you know….I’m in the job hunting business right now. My job is a contracted position, and the government intends to transform it (and 24 more at the site) to GS positions. I can’t apply….because of the stupid German visa situation that I placed myself into back in 1999. I would need to leave for twelve months and then be able to apply for a job in Germany as a GS employee.

I came to a sudden realization yesterday in the midst of work. It was one of those “Oz” moments when you’ve suddenly had the curtain pulled and realize a massive hoax.

Out of the twenty-five guys who are affected….two currently have GS job offers back in the states and will be leaving within six to eight weeks.

An additional two are in a major search pattern and I think they will have GS jobs back in the states by November.

I’m in the continuing to search pattern and hope to be gone by December.

At least three more people that I know….will likely have other jobs before January rolls around (the end date when the contractors terminate and GS occurs).

So out of twenty-five, there are likely eight slots which won’t have an incumbent. Everyone else is happy-smiley and been told that they are the incumbent and thus will have an inside step to this game.

This is when reality set in for me. As I’ve discovered, there are a hundred resume responses for each GS job advertised now. So they are setting up these remaining seventeen folks who think they are guaranteed a job. They aren’t, and that’s the curious thing.

Some folks will wake up in the midst of December and realize that they are amongst five people being interviewed, and two highly qualified folks who are already GS members in another local base organization….will likely have a chance to beat them on the job deal.

As each member goes through this….the organization may find that only ten of the seventeen incumbents made the cut….and the remaining seven do the automatic dump and leave for contractor jobs as quickly as possible. This leaves the position vacant….perhaps up to two months. Potential turn-over? Zero. Things being left undone for 60 days or more? Yep.

Adding to this amusing event….is the fact that the normal movement of contractor work to GS….takes around eight to twelve months. They intend to make this step in less than six. If everyone did their work correctly….it might work. No one within base personnel has ever accomplished a project like this error-free.

The cherry on this cake?

My company came up yesterday and advised us that this was all “rumor”, even though the AF briefed us completely a week ago. Then they hinted that this has been a miserable failure at EUCOM headquarters at Stuttgart when they started this in 2006, and barely twenty positions have ever switched over.

Then we were told that if this ever got to the end….if you really didn’t want to work for the government as a GS….the company would come through for you.

You can already see this game being played out….the company offering us cash and stock to vacate and leave at the bitter end….and avoid the government deal. This would kinda screw over the AF position but nobody really cares at this point.

The unit is all happy-smiley. The commander is all happy about this changeover. The contractors are all happy, at least for the time being. But the truth of the matter is….there is huge mess.

Adding to this episode….there is massive turn-over coming. And a lot of new people, the non-incumbents….are going to question the way that things are run.

I really don’t want to lay this out in front of the rest of the guys….because it truly is a fairly risky period and could be very negative for a number of folks. They all feel they have a guaranteed situation, and the truth is….it is absolutely without any guarantee.

The Pants Problem

Over in Sudan.....there is this woman who apparently faces up to 40 lashes for wearing clothing....that the local Sudanese authorities deem...indecent.

The gal? Lubna Al Hussein. She normally writes for a local newspaper and has even done some work for the UN in Sudan. She got arrested back three weeks. Her attire that got her into trouble? Well....pants, a blouse and headscarf. Yep, pants.

As a kid in Bama, and this was in 1971....we had this funny rule in the Bama school system that girls had to wear skirts, period. There were no exceptions. I can still remember this being brought up at school PTA meetings where parents wanted their daughters approved to wear jeans and the rule pointed back to the county board of education folks....who wouldn’t discuss this with anyone. The rule had been around since the 1930s.

It was around 1973 that they finally agreed that it was a stupid rule and allowed teenage girls to wear jeans. I remember the episode, and how immediately almost every single girl wore jeans. I also remember that a number of the older members of the community disapproved of this idea of women and jeans.

Forty lashes? How do we arrive at this magic number? That would be a curious thing to ask, but I’m guessing its some 80-year old guy who pulled it out of the air, and dates back 400 years. Why not 13 lashes? Is this part of the round number syndrome?

The accomplishment of some punishment like this? That’s the thing....there is none.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Perceptions Are a Funny Thing

There’s a great Fox article today….regarding the International Space Station and a new Canadian astronaut onboard. As Bob Thirsk started his grand six-month stay aboard the station…..he says that “Earth's ice caps have melted a bit since he was last in orbit 12 years ago”.

Then Bob added “a very thin veil of atmosphere around the Earth that keeps us alive. Most of the time when I look out the window I'm in awe. But there are some effects of the human destruction of the Earth as well. This is probably just a perception, but I just have the feeling that the glaciers are melting, the snow capping the mountains is less than it was 12 years ago when I saw it last time. That saddens me a little bit."

Here’s the deal Bob…but I think this is mostly a perception….but there is an international conspiracy underway….for total and absolute destruction of the earth. Once this is accomplished….it’ll be just Democrats and environmentalists left alive….and maybe a handful of CNN folks.

I’ll add this….this is probably just a perception….but I’m starting to think of astronauts as 3-star nickel-and-dime engineers without much to brag about.

I’ll add this….this is probably just a perception….but a 96-ounce big-gulp at Circle K….seems smaller and maybe only has 46 ounces of fluid and 50 ounces of ice.

I’ll add this….this is probably just a perception….but a trillion dollars isn’t really a trillion of whatever I grew up with in 1977.

I’ll add this…this is probably just a perception….GM and Chrysler cars are 3rd rate vehicles and not worth the price tag attached.

I’ll add this….this is probably just a perception….when half the banks in America are in trouble and Senator Snuffy says he can save them….I don’t think he knows what the heck he is talking about.

I’ll add this….this is probably just a perception….septic tanks seem to overflow more today than in 1974.

I’ll add this….this is probably just a perception….NASCAR really isn’t a sport.

I’ll add this….this is probably just a perception….a guy standing on the space station can’t eyeball and size up much of anything.

That’s about all the perceptions I have today….but I’ll have more tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

H. R. 3200, the VFW, and Military Retirees


Simply to toss another log on this health care universal policy episode. I blogged earlier about what I'd found....and this strange lack of comment from the VFW. Typically....the VFW guys always have an opinion on everything and readily provide data about things that would affect military retirees.

This is their page on current bills in the house and congress. Note: H. R. 3200 doesn't appear. They don't support or deny support.

Then you start to dig. Their database has the page sitting out there....with virtually nothing of value on it. A few bits indicate where it sits at the current time.

Nothing.

VFW playing stupid? Or is it beyond them and their agenda? This is the curious thing. Typically, they are on top of any bill which could screw up military retirees. They don't even have an opinion.

So I went over to MOAA...which is a credible retiree association within military circles. They have some comments on the topic...which I found interesting:

"It’s too early to know for sure. There are three major health care reform bills currently being discussed in Congress. We’ve spoken to staffers in both the House and Senate, and have been given pretty consistent assurances that there’s no intent to alter military and VA health care coverage or benefits, or to tax those benefits under any pending reform plan. Nor is there any plan to somehow roll military health coverage into a broader government-run plan".

At least these guys are talking to the members of the House and have some decent idea. Most of us...would readily agree to just keep things as they are. We aren't 100 percent happy....but we sure as heck don't want Canadian health care as our system.

Minimum Wage Hell

When you sit there and work in a minimum wage job....for years.....it's crap. There is no denial about that. Walk around your town and you can find a quarter of the service jobs fall into this category.

The McDonalds folks? They tend to bring you on at minimum wage, and at some point....six to twelve months....they pump it a quarter. And maybe at some other point, it gets pumped up against by a quarter. Frankly, it barely serves any purpose but making you think you are getting ahead....but you aren't.

When you've accepted this type of employment, you've condemned yourself and maybe your entire life. There are likely guys that I went to high school with.....and today make $8 a hour ($320 a week before taxes).

The adjustment of the fed's to a higher rate? It's probably a necessity but it truly doesn't fix anything.

A guy needs to use the jobs for a year or two....prepare a resume....and move on. You can't stay in one job or one business. You have to accept change and find jobs that eventually pay $10, and then onto $14. You've got no choice. You can't allow yourself to just fall into the pit and stay there.

This is not a government solution....it's a personal one. A guy has to prepare himself mentally to just keep upgrading and moving on. Stagnant attitudes....just leaves you standing there with less than $2k a month and no real future.

The GatesGate Episode

I have allowed a couple of days to pass before adding commentary to this Boston Gates episode.

First, after a long flight and two weeks on vacation....you can just imagine anyone...including myself....arriving back to the house and no key. Jet-lag would be setting in and I'd be pretty tired and upset. Yeah, I would have asked the cab driver to help find this mystery key to enter the house. The minute any cop arrived....yeah....I would have been helpful for 60 seconds and probably then got upset at any hint that he was after me as a criminal.

Second, this is a rental property that the professor has rented. Whats strange is that he has lived there for a fair amount of time....and the neighbors still didn't recognize the guy. When the cops wanted to know about the ownership and who you are....most of us would have had them get the neighbor out and just identify us. The professor didn't do that.....for whatever reason. I suspect that no neighbor has ever met the professor in person or knows the guy beyond seeing him come and go.

Third, the cop sounds like he gave this guy a good fifteen to twenty minutes to simmer down and get collected. There has to be some cooperation for this ID method and owner situation to be fixed up. The professor never calmed down. So the cop said....what the heck....take him onto the station and let him explain there. After twenty minutes of a tirade and no real cooperation....I would have done the same thing. I got better things to do....then waste time with a guy who is now suspicious in nature and not cooperating.

Fourth, you've got a president who wanted to make his observations on the cops....and used the word "stupid". There are 10,000 words he could have used. This was one of a dozen that should have never been used. Then while using it....he felt totally comfortable. I watched the video clip....and it amazed me that he just rolled this off and never hesitated.

Fifth, we come to the daily press conference where Tubby (the White House press dude)....suddenly has the president walk in and announces that he really can't understand how people have taken offense to his comment and that this just ain't right. He even continues on to say a over-reaction occurred with the Cambridge police department and the arrest was totally unnecessary. He's never been on any patrol with any cop or seen the various situations that a cop could walk into.

It was a bad situation....some professor lost his keys....and triggered an entire event that involves the president of the United States. Heck.....how many people each week end up in a situation like this? I worked with a guy once who lost his house keys three times in one month and the worst that came out of that was rekeying the house doors twice.

So the worst thing to come now? The professor will have a break-in within two months....and the cops will call the local TV station to come out while they slowly go through all the questions. Then the professor will have another break-in.....with another long drawn out police visit with the TV station recording. The robbers know that the cops won't react to any report at that residence. Why ask for trouble? And the bad part.....you end up with some President who is involved in local little troubles and the press corps eventually asks about baseball scores in Birmingham or hog prices in Jackson.

Before Action


Somewhere in the midst of the Great War...WW I....there stood a young Brit who had a talent of poetry. W.N.Hodgson lived a short and full life...dying at the age of 23 in the trenches of France (in 1916).

He wrote a eternal poem which is worth remembering:

"Before Action"

By all the glories of the day
And the cool evening's benison,
By that last sunset touch that lay
Upon the hills where day was done,
By beauty lavishly outpoured
And blessings carelessly received,
By all the days that I have lived
Make me a solider, Lord.

By all of man's hopes and fears,
And all the wonders poets sing,
The laughter of unclouded years,
And every sad and lovely thing;
By the romantic ages stored
With high endeavor that was his,
By all his mad catastrophes
Make me a man, O Lord.

I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of Thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say goodbye to all of this;--
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.

Honduras: The Saga Continues

As the sun set yesterday in Nicaragua and Honduras...it was a fairly big mess at the border. Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya did actually make it to the border....crossed it....and then within half an hour or so.....returned to Nicaragua.

The Honduran solders kept the border secure and refused entry.

As I watched this on CNN unfold....it was like some circus episode.

There were many 100 actual supporters with Zelaya in this convoy and at the site at the border. There were almost the same number of folks there.....as reporters. They took tons of pictures and video. Half the time, you couldn't see anything of Zelaya except that white cowboy hat he wears.

He made a grand speech....did interviews with dozens of news guys....and then announced that he was setting up camp at the site.

He says he's waiting for more supporters, and his family.....to join him at the site. I would imagine his wife is all excited about visiting at some dirt site in the middle of nowhere...in the midst of summer....with bugs and mosquitoes everywhere.

I thought he'd take a day or two to reach the site and draw this out....so it surprises me a little. What can he do at this point? Nothing much.

The Honduran government is proceeding with its planned election on 29 November of this year. So it's around 120 days away. Once the election occurs...this argument by Zelaya is finished.

I read up on this election business. It has two interesting aspects. First, typically, the Honduran authority normally sets up a 48-hour period before the election....with NO booze to be sold anywhere (even in bars). I'm kinda amazed by this directive. We would have trouble with this in the US if we tried to implement it there.

Second, Honduras is a fairly remote state. You have voting stations in some isolated remote village where a guy has to drive three hours down a dirt road (barely at 30 mph), to get over to the county seat and announce the official tally at the remote site.

So this opera continues on....and I think Zelaya will sit around for ten days....drinking beer and posing with journalists....until they start leaving because there is no story. The last guys out? CNN. They are fairly desperate to get some points out of this story.

Hot Lusty Wine: Forbidden in Bama

Deep in the heart of Bama, we have a board that meets on occasion. In a state full of Baptists and moral "giants"....this board has the job of protecting every citizen of the state.

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board went out on the limb and said to stores and restaurants throughout the state....NOT to sell the wine from the Cycle Gladiator bunch. Their label has some hot lusty long red-haired French gal of ample proportions about to board a bike in the nude.

Their logic? The damn label had been rejected by the agency. Someone within the AABCB and gone out years ago and wrote liquor regulations prohibit labels that are offensive or immodest.

To be honest....Bama is the first state to decline Cycles Gladiator. And to be further honest, it had sold in the state for at least two years before someone on the board woke up and actually did their job.

Cycles Gladiator is a historical name of sorts. It originally started out in Paris (maybe another reason why the board has issues)....by some eccentric guy who wanted to build state-of-the-art bicycles. The guy? Alexandre Darracq. In this 1880s/1890s period....bikes were like the original DVD player....every guy had to have one. So tons of money was made by companies that appeared out of nowhere. It was the posters that went out to the sales shops that interested guys in the magnificent bike that Darracq sold.

So the same concept is used in wine....guys see this hot nudey gal on a bike, on a wine bottle....and they gotta have it.

Naturally, since I drink a fair amount of red wine....I had an immediate interest in this (not because of the damn label). So this bottle of wine is a bit unique. It's dark in color....lots of berry and lightly hidden hints of green olives and chocolate (so described). Personally, I really don't like the idea of mixing olive taste into a wine but maybe it adds something.

I went over to a wine site and read up on what you'd use this wine with....beef, chicken, pasta dishes, savory appetizers and tangy cheeses. Savory appetizers and tangy cheeses? Where the heck would a Bama guy get this kind of stuff? Now, if we are talking about cheese wiz and saltine crackers....ok, but I got the feeling they mean real elite party food. In Bama....you might have to drive all the way over to New Orleans to find stuff like this.

I must be honest....I haven't ever bought a wine because of the label. Either it has a unique taste or it's damn cheap. In this case, at $9.99 a bottle....I might question if its worth drinking. Me personally, I awful stuck on Lambrusco (not a brand but a general type of Italian wine that regular folks drink)...it's cheap, red and fruity, and goes with just about anything....to include salted peanuts and dippy stuff. It generally only comes from the Lombardy region of Italy and elite drinkers frown on this....hence the reason for its cheapness. Amusingly, on a trip back to Bama four years ago....I saw it in Wal-Mart for $6 a bottle. You can buy it here in Europe for $4 a bottle....but hey, someone's got to pay for Wal-Mart profit.

Now, I have been known for buying beer in Denmark...based strictly on the label (Elephant beer for example).

So as the sun sets on Bama tonight, and you've driven over to the beverage shop to get yourself some Cycle Gladiator....and you realize it's forbidden in the state...then you start to calculate the distance to the Tennessee, Florida, Georgia or Mississippi border. You poor folks in Montgomery....you guys are screwed...it's a fair distance to the border.

You can be thankful that the Bama Beverage Board is actively working to protect your innocence and virtues. Face it....you would have sat there and drink the whole bottle with Wanda...got kinda peppy...looked at the cover...and started to get funny ideas. Next thing you know....throughout the whole state....guys would be buying the wine and have hot lusty stuff with their Wanda...and then you got major problems with the Baptists. So thank God....we have AABCB.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A Moment of Analysis

I watched the clip of the President's news conference this week.

There were three things I noted. First, I've come to the point of questioning the necessity of having reporters there and asking questions. You end up paying this guy $400k a year, plus another $100k on travel cost. Why not just get a dummy...like in the picture....dress him up....and put a speaker in his mouth and let the producer back in Atlanta ask the questions?

What I saw from the press in the conference....was a third-rate attempt to be a pretender or wannabe journalist. The questions basically sounded like something that a kid in the fourth grade would ask the president. Why pay $400k a year to some ABC guy to present this garbage?

Second point of analysis.....it became amusing how the president would be given a 22-word question....which needed about 90 seconds to really answer.....and he gave five to eight minutes of an answer....although it really didn't fit the question in the first place.

Am I the only one that noticed this? It almost was like some senator whose been trained to limit his response to seven minutes and he's been trained to speak up to 6.8 minutes of saying mostly chitty-chat or senator-spin responses.

Perhaps we should just give the question to the president in the first place a week ahead of time and let him practice his precise and concise answers? Oh, I forget.....we already do that presently.

Then the final point of analysis. There is this moment in the press conference....where we learn that we need to create a new national health-care program.....to cut down on government spending. So the trillion that the government is asking for.....really is saving us money? Right?

I kept thinking....maybe I misunderstood the whole program from the start. Maybe there's a secret 400-page annex that he's been reading and everyone else is forbidden to read until it passes? Maybe this is like the book....1984....where "War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength.”

There are better ways of explaining this entire project.....and this was a 2-star moment at best.

The numbers? Four press conferences since day one. The first had a viewership of 49 million. The second was 40 million. The third was 28 million. This weeks? 24 million.

To be honest here Fox didn't do super-well with its show that played.....So You Think You Can Dance.....with around 7.2 million. The combined "BIG" networks carried around 20 million with the press conference.

Fewer people are watching each time. The next episode? I'm thinking he'll have to do another by September, when the health care package finally passes (it's hard to forecast, but if they don't do it by October.....it's dead this year and it won't come back in 2010). The next news conference numbers? I'm betting on 19 million. At this rate, in 2012....he'll have fewer than 10 million watching.

How I Got Used to Rationed Health Care

For twenty-two-odd years, I had absolute medical coverage via the Air Force. If I had the flu, I could make the sick call hours at 0730 and get a pass for work (it might take two hours to be seen but it was simple). If I had a broken finger, then they rushed me around...got the x-rays.....and set it in a matter of three hours. When I had food poisoning....sure I ended up waiting almost four hours to be seen, but they eventually got to me.

So there came the day of retirement and I elected to stay in Germany and work as a contractor. I looked at the free care deal as a AF retiree and the cost of the package via the company ($340 a month), and I decided to settle on the AF offerings.

If I gone back to the US....there were TRICARE packages within the miltary system that would have cost me something minor but moved me up in status. Being overseas in 1999....meant that I took the one and only option as a retiree....rationed health care.

It was six months later....that I wanted to be seen for a back pain....and discovered that I rated low enough, that they couldn't see me that entire week (this was on Monday). The second week was full. So I was offered Tuesday....going into the third week. I sat there....in a fair amount of pain but this was my one and only option.

Around 1 January 2000, I was sking in the Italian Alps and had this fair sized Italian gal hit my ankle and by the end of the day....I had a huge amount of pain. The next day we were driving back to K-town, and I figured on Monday....I could be seen at the base. I was wrong. They were nice about this, and said if it was a real emergency (like broke)....go to the emergency room.....otherwise, it was going to be ten days before they could see me. I popped a number of pain killers (not the nice ones that the Doc would have given, but the over-the-counter type), and got by. Most of my pain had disappeared by the tenth day, so it didn't matter about the appointment any longer.

There are around six episodes like this, up until 2004. The AF started to reprioritize retirees overseas and I bumped up a notch or two. I suddenly was able to get an appointment with usually three to five days of waiting....which I've come to be happy with. The hitch to this? Need a specialist after that appointment over at Landstuhl? It might take ten more days to see that guy. But you know....unless I want to pay the insurance coverage via the company and just say "free health care is worthless".....I'm stuck.

If I went back to fifteen days of waiting....what would happen? What if this was the norm across the board? Well...the emergency room would start to turn into the normal waiting room....with two hundred folks showing up between 8AM and 12AM. They would try to turn folks away, but folks would start to invent various extra ailments to ensure they didn't get turned away. The two or three doctors on shift at the emergency room.....would be trying clear this group out.....so another two hundred could show up by 1PM and start the next shift. All you need is one two real emergency episodes.....major car accident or chainsaw accident, and then the two hundred folks get pushed back into mid-afternoon.

What's curious here is that fifty years ago.....for half the problems that we have today.....we never went to the doctor. You had to have bleeding or be in really bad shape to see a doctor. Today, got a cold.....see a doc. Got a cough, see a doc. Business has increased.....but the ailments haven't. The neat thing about this rationed stuff? Well....if the doc has a nice TV in the waiting area....I could probably catch up on alot of Jerry Springer shows while waiting.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Honduras: The Tony Strategy


There in the moist and tropical jungles of Central America....a mustached gentleman with a Glenn Ford-style cowboy hat....sits in a sport utility vehicle....and is mounting a caravan. Typically, in Bama...we’d say convoy....but the CNN folks who are in the hot, damp, moist, and humid jungle....think that caravan is a better term. It sounds almost British.

Deposed Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya has decided enough is enough....he just can’t wait anymore....and has begun the grand tour of Nicaragua to Honduras. Zelaya supporters are in the group....along with a dozen or more reporter SUVs.

The plan? He’s driving up to Esteli today....which is about ten miles from the Honduras border.

Esteli is a fair sized town...100,000 folks in the region. There isn’t a McDonalds there....but they do have a couple of 2-star hotels. I would imagine the boys will stop for the night. Reporters will try to buy up what cheap booze exists in the town and prepare for the grand arrival in Honduras on Saturday. Course, he might decide to pause in Esteli for Saturday, Sunday, Monday....heck, maybe for the entire week.

The CNN team is probably desperate at this point for a grand show in Central America. They’ve come across as lacking any knowledge or understanding of events in Honduras. They will likely run live all day on CNN International (my least favorite channel) on Saturday.

What should we expect. Troops will be at the border. They will stop the convoy. Words will be exchanged. What Zelaya is hoping on....is the Tony Noreiga-scenario.

What is the Tony Noreiga-scenario? Well....when Omar Torrijos....the grand President of Panama was kicked out in the mid-1960s. Omar spent a day or two in Mexico and then decided....what the heck....he’d fly back into Panama.

Omar was smart and gutsy....he picked David....which is a bare remote outpost in northern Panama. David has one runway...barely 5,000 feet long. It had one small battalion of barely 100 soldiers and one commander of no real significance in the entire country....Tony Noreiga was that commander.

Omar lands....sits down with Tony. And then Tony says.....we are with you, and off to the capital city of Panama....go this convoy of twenty military vehicles and some staff car with Omar and Tony inside. As they progress in the summer heat....or winter heat, take your pick.....phone calls go out across the country and the guys in charge start to freak out.

Tony had barely 100 man with him. It could have been 10,000, as far as the new leadership in Panama cared. So the two guys who ran the coup in Panama (and it was a coup, no doubt).....jumped up and left the country.

So no-name Tony is promoted to the Chief of Police and Military, and Chief of Intelligence. Tony bypassed the normal system of promotion and then suddenly was number two.

I’m thinking Zelaya is hoping on the same scenario. Somewhere out there....in the hot, moist, humid, freaking jungles of Honduras....there is some junior officer with 100 men. If he switches over to support Zelaya....the road to the capital is clear.

My guess? Zelaya is dreaming and there was only one legendary Tony Noregia.

And CNN? Well....they will interview Zelaya hour after hour....making a legend in CNN....and later a great follow-on after Wolfe's show on Sunday mornings.

Leadership Day

It was quiet a shocker.....the President saying “stupidly” and aiming it toward some Boston cop. Then the President said he was shocked anyone cared about what he said. Then he couldn’t apologize for anything said....because he still meant it. He did want to indicate that he thinks the sergeant involved is an outstanding police officer.

This is the kind of mistake you’d expect from a first-year CEO or university president who doesn’t have much leadership or executive training. You tend to calculate your statements ahead of time and then measure the pain that your institution will bear after the statement. In this case....he never did, and his associates who he relies upon to make up for his lesser skills....never did either.

I was hoping that would be it...but then the cop involved....has made direct comments back at the president. Then, the entire cop organization of Boston...have surrounded this guy and voiced their support. Will the media just allow this to drop? That’s the real question here now.

So you’d think that was it....but then Non-Czar Hillary....working as Secretary of State....decided that she’d label the North Koreans as a bunch of “kids”.

Apparently, the North Koreans stood up and then labeled Non-Czar Hillary as a "primary schoolgirl" and calling her unintelligent. They hint now that talks are finished and completely dead. Even with bailout and stimulus offered....they even called those offers “nonsense”.

Hillary’s mistake? The same as the President’s mistake. There is a fundamental lack of leadership and executive skills in both cases. Both individuals are acting like they are in a political campaign in Illinois or Kentucky.

It took me fifteen years in the Air Force to grasp the significance of a commander getting his speech ironed out prior to a meeting or a unit-call. People rely on leadership to deliver a concise and dynamic idea. I once sat in a one-hour meeting with a new 1-star general....who gave us a speech that had nothing to do with our mission, our focus, or our interest. He was our boss and we just sat there in hopes that this would eventually have a purpose....but it never did.

The first time I ever came across a knee-jerk reaction commander....he had made a decision with half the information that he needed for the situation. Rather than wait another twenty-four hours....he reacted....wrongly. He was fired seven days later because his boss lost confidence in him.

This past week....over in France...there was a curious episode that falls into this line of thinking. A fire erupted near a military gunfire range. This was over near Marselle, France (southern side against the Med)....and some Foreign Legion drill instructor apparently decided....against the orders given to him....to use tracer rounds. Its been awful damn hot and everything is dry....so using these kinda rounds is just plain stupid.

For you without a background in the military....tracer rounds are great at night because they illuminate the air and you can see what you are firing at. Kinda like the 4th of July in a way. But they carry a incendiary mixture. So they set fires easily...especially in a dry area, which this was. So a fire started up and burned around 2,700 acres. Houses were damaged but no deaths.

Apparently….as the firefighters and cops got around to discovering the cause….they just went ballistic. The local police chief went out and strongly criticized “the imbecilic actions of the military”.

The military has suspended the guy who gave the local order to do this and they are kinda sorry....but the real problem is that you see a guy who should have been thinking about his actions....since he was in charge....and done the right thing.

Leadership is a funny thing....you have to carry enormous weight on your shoulders.

The Right Guy for the Wrong Job

My associate at work has been working on a humanitarian reassignment....ill health in his family....and the Air Force tends to be somewhat compassionate (at least they make the attempt). So they came to agree with his request this week. He is fairly happy about that part. But in approving this episode....there is the problem of what job they are giving him.

He's kinda like me....in the intelligence field....although he's a guy that tends to ask alot of questions and then ask more questions, and then asks more questions. The Air Force needs guys like him. He is fairly intelligent and actually can react to a conversation and think while on the run.

Sadly, he's from the Dakotas....and there wasn't much of a choice on bases where they could offer him a position. So he's going to a certain base and will be leaving intelligence for a while....to be in services. Yep...services. You know....those folks who run the library, the gym, the base hotel, the chow hall, the baseball fields, the recreation center, the golf course, and the after-school activity center for kids.

If you had to pick the wrong job to hand this guy....this would be it....but for different reasons.

He will begin analyzing these guys on day one....just like an intel guy, and then start to take apart their programs and projects. The regular guys will be threatened by this. He will actually start to make them think about their strategies....which most of them would just like a simple 9 to 5 job. He'll ask customers what they really want.....which will bother the regular crew.

He will be a threat to established procedures and established people.

The plus side of this...is that he just might bring thinking and analysis into the services crowd. He might actually make people think and vastly improve what they have. He might actually turn the base club into a profitable enterprise, or make the chow hall into a gourmet restaurant where people beg to visit, or turn the kid's center into some giant motivational center. He might force the library into having a Socrates day once a month or get them to acquire a huge Greek-thinker's collection of books. He might convince the golf course to start up a housewife's association and get 40 non-golfer gal's started up and becoming significant golfers.

So in the end....they probably did bring the right guy in for the wrong job. Call it an accident or just plain destiny....but it's like bringing booze into a Bama dry county.....something is going to happen for sure.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Your Three Minutes of Health Care Insight

After living in Europe for almost fifteen years now....and traveling a fair amount....I will offer some analysis that you can't find in the media.

Across Europe....universal health care is a mixed bag of failure and success. Some countries have been utter failures (UK)....some have have had mixed success but with emerging problems (France, Germany, Spain, etc).....and finally, there are the few who've had great success (Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Finland).

Rather than dump on the negatives and failures of various countries....let's examine why universal health care worked in a handful of countries....because we just might learn something unique.

The five countries with great success? Its a funny thing....all are mostly rural in nature. Sure, they've got the capital city....maybe a dozen odd-ball towns of various sizes, but the majority of folks live in rural surroundings. None of them are significant when it comes to population....which makes it interesting how you develop a major medical system around a mostly rural population.

When you travel out into these countries....you start to notice that booze is typically taxed to the hilt. If you want a simple beer....no problem. Beer is usually not terribly taxed....but anything else? Whiskey can cost $40 in Sweden for a simple bottle that you'd buy in Bama for $18. So they don't drink the hard stuff.

Then you start looking around for hardcore alcoholics.....and you just don't find them (well....except in Finland). Looking for a AA group? You might have trouble in finding them. Most of these guys who do have problems....just live with it.

Sports injuries? Well....folks just don't play hard or dynamic sports like they do in Texas or Bama. No football. You might have some ice hockey or soccer....but thats about it. So teenage boys don't end up in the emergency room very much.

Looking for heavy or obese folks? Well....you don't really find them in these five countries. Those in the rural communities tend to live pretty good nutritional lifestyles and there just aren't any McDonalds around the corner for them to find.

Heavy drug usage? Switzerland has a slight problem but it's with heron. Looking for meth or crack or cocaine in any of these countries....you don't find it. Rehab being necessary for a drug habit? Well....you could raise your hand but most communities won't have it and you might have to travel and stay in a two month program somewhere in the far distance from your hometown.

Fancy med centers like you'd fnd in Nashville? Well....no. You go to a 25,000 population town in Denmark and there might be a couple of small public clinics....run by a couple of doctors each. There might be one real hospital in town but its small and probably has half the customers you'd expect in a US town with the same population.

Lifestyle differences? Yes....and you can't just limit it to diet or walking. Speed limits are in effect. Kids don't get into trouble much because you don't get a license until 17 or 18 usually. Stress in Denmark? Ha....you could test a hundred Danes and barely six of them would complain about stress.

Pitbulls? Forget it. In all the weeks that I've been in Denmark....I've never seen a pitbull. On the various trips via Switzerland.....never.

Smokes? Well.....they tax the hell out of a pack of smokes. It'll be hard to find a guy who smokes more than a pack a day. Cancer? Well....if they don't smoke much.....for some reason....they don't develop lung cancer much.

Toxic areas in your hometown or region? Forget it. The governments visit and heavily regulate any industry. You can't dump or just release toxic anything into the environment.

So you start to add up this analysis. People don't need doctors much. People don't need clinics or hospitals much. People don't need drugs much. Whatever they pay....is enough to cover the system they want.....because they really don't utilize it like an American would.

So you are scratching your head. We can't possibly get to be like Denmark or Switzerland. True....absolutely true. So can we repeat their success? No....not under any circumstances. Can we try? Well...if you tax booze and smokes at huge levels and start to forbid stressful lifestyles.....maybe so. But you and I don't live in an imaginary world.

So in three minutes, I've taught you a massive amount of wisdom. What can you do with it?

Honduras: The Saga Continues

Normally, most folks are lucky to hear Honduras mentioned once a year. In the past month....it typically comes up once an hour on CNN and some folks actually can point it out on the map now (although they can confuse it with Florida on occasion).

Today....our good buddy and former Nobel Peace Prize winner down in Costa Rica.....President Oscar Arias....got all peppy and happy...he just presented an updated proposal to end the crisis (at least he says this is the answer).

Naturally, it gets the title of the San Jose Accord. Most times....when these guys get weepy and teary eyed over peace accords....they got to name it after some city or region.

The amusing thing....Zelaya (the deposed dude)....says that the talks are mostly failed now. And the Honduran side says that they want more time to examine the document. Naturally...the more time that goes by....means the closer you get to the normal election...and this whole discussion is null and void at that point.

What’s in the new document? Well.....automatically....the deposed dude....President Zelaya gets to return and be president again. Then a creation of a unity government is created....meaning that a bunch of folks in present charge now....get fired. Then early elections are held. The Costa Rican concept says that no constitutional change will likely occur....so you can imagine that Zelaya isn’t too happy with this concept. He wants the election to allow him to run a second time, which violates the Constitution (you get one four-year period). .

The funny part to the document...is that some kind of “Truth Commission” is created in the end and documents all the terrible things that have happened. I’m guessing that Zelaya probably doesn’t like this idea too much and it probably would make him look awful foolish, unless you stacked the deck with a bunch of dimwits on the “Truth Commission”. To be honest, “Truth Commissions” rarely work the way you think. A bunch of folks get blamed for various crimes but typically....these aren’t court cases because you can’t get the right witnesses or proper evidence. Then you have to work with a odd ingredient at the end....a strange group of guys who just walk off grinning with total innocence.

Honduras offered the idea that they’d examine the document and come back in a couple of days. The Supreme Court in Honduras has already said that they will not accept the wording....they were kinda upset that Zelaya just plain went against their ruling in the first place, thus triggering the involvement of the military.

So, the best we can say....if this were an opera.....twelve fat ladies have sung, but we are still barely through the first stanza, and we may need thirty more fat ladies to complete this opera.

Coup, You Know


It’s tough working for CNN. The boss says you gotta write up a Honduras update….and use the phrase “coup”… Then you start looking at the event….and it just doesn’t smell like a coup.

A coup typically involves a lot of violence….alot of gunfire….alot of bullets…and national music on the radio and TV for days. In this case….we are missing almost all of these. What we do have is some humble guy (least he says he is humble)….who got shoved out of bed and told to board a plane to leave the country. Coup? Well….it doesn’t fit well.

So you start trying to use the thesaurus, but coup d’etat just doesn’t fit right.

Overthrow doesn’t fit.

Revolution doesn’t fit.

Rebellion doesn’t fit.

Takeover doesn’t fit.

For a guy from Bama….coup’s just aren’t something you typically write about or utilize in your 2,144 word vocabulary. The odds of using coup d’etat? One in a million and it’s probably one of those Caribbean cruises that your wife Wanda begged out of you but you ended up landing on some island that staged some coup d’etat while you were buying knickknacks over in the port.

Heck, even if the Republicans staged a vote miscount in Bama and rigged up the ballot for some nutcase to become governor (like that would happen, you know)…..no one would be yelling “revolution” or “rebellion”. You might have five guys in some Mobile bar break some windows or someone call up Fox news to report something, but folks aren’t going evaluate this any higher than a NCAA football game.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Socrates-like Thinking? For an Eval?

Every year, you have to write an eval for yourself as a contractor. The boss usually reads it….changes a couple of words, and then it’s signed and finalized.

My company is not one that I’d brag about…nor shall I name.

I decided to test the waters in this eval and write an eval with Socrates in mind. So I wrote up this grand eval…..and in the midst of it.....tossed in ”Uses Socrates-like thinking in analyzing operations…..Pursues the role of letting those who would move the world…..first move themselves”.

If you read it….it’s a fairly cynical slam. I had a bet going with Ms NO (New Orleans)….I was doing Socrates and she was doing Shakespeare. The thing is….she left three weeks ago….right before eval’s were going to be finalized. So we shall never know if Ms NO’s Shakespeare quotes made it through the system. In this case, I won….although she might argue (as sarcastically as possible).

So the question is….what do I do for the next quote? Plato? I’m pondering this. Maybe I’ll do Andy Griffith.

Pondering

There is this mist in the morning...as you sit on a lake and wait for things to become clear and focused within your vision. Mist is mist, and you really don't have anything to quicken the pace of things at your disposal....at least you think that way.

For a kid from Bama, I missed out on an enormous part of life. Never once in the whole twelve-year school period....did we really sit down and discuss Rome, the Greeks, Plato, Socrates or Aristotle. In the six year period that I attended Louisiana Tech, University of Maryland, and three odd community colleges.....there was not a single class that I had….that covered this period of history or philosophy. I was perhaps 35 before I picked up a book on Roman history. I was forty before I read Plato and Socrates.

So this is this huge pit of knowledge and philosophy that I’ve missed. It is a strange thing....that when I finally came to get into Socrates and the masters of thinking, logic and stoic values.....I came to realize that I had probably bypassed a great introduction and then walked in that direction of life anyway.

Letters of Seneca is a mountain of personal philosophy that probably every single kid of sixteen ought to read and be forced to analyze. I picked it up a year or two ago and found so much wisdom....that I wondered how I came to miss the book. But there are dozens of Greek philosophy books like that.

I’ve often wondered how so many Greek men of wisdom came to be. It’s a period of human history that overflows. Here are these Greeks who have finally mastered the art of agriculture and gardening. They have easily figured out how to grow more than enough to feed themselves and you can see this community which wrapped up all the essentials of farming...and got time on their hands to think.

So these guys are sitting around....blacksmiths, farmers, carpenters, wine-makers, etc....and they were comparing notes. Socrates was famous for quizzing folks on procedures and processes...then asking them why they had to do it that particular way. Folks got smart, and they did it by thinking and pondering.

After reading through the fundamentals of this period....I kinda wonder what would have happened to me if I had read up on Socrates and Letters of Seneca back when I was 16 years old. If my history teacher had wasted an entire semester discussing this....rather than the continual saga of American history, which got repeated four times over six years....I might have gone a different direction in life.

A Trend With Implications

Over the past six months....in north Alabama, there have been two mass family killings. The first occurred with a high school associate of mine...with her son, her sister-in-law, and her niece being killed by her brother. This episode of the past week....was over near Huntsville. Same kinda deal....wife and near-by family killed by a husband. Not a lot of details. Local folks are a bit spooked by this because it wasn’t the typical “just-shoot-the-wife-only” scenario that they are used to.

A society change perhaps?

I’m going to suggest two things that are underway and likely going to create a new dynamic in every local town. First, folks are reacting to stress in a totally different fashion than they did thirty years ago. Between relationship disturbances, spiraling economics, head-to-head encounters with families, and legal fights that go into five different directions....folks have finally peaked out on multi-tasking living.

Second, while the cops don’t want to get into this detail....the meth and drug connection. These guys are doping up and getting a one-mistake mindset. You walk into a grocery...say the wrong thing to “Snuffy” over in aisle six near the muffins, and then he just looks at you. You leave the store and get half-way home....then “Snuffy” pulls up even with you and fires a shot your way. The cops never want to do a drug test on these guys....because it’d just confuse the jury later.

I’ll go and forecast that we start seeing one of these episodes in the state every single month. We’ll eventually have to carrying pistols with us when we go to Piggly Wiggly or just to the gas station. Got bad relations going on with in-law who might be a meth-head? Best to have a gun around. Going to the CO-OP to get some paint? Carry a gun. Your sister-in-law acting nutty and violent? Carry a gun.

Something ain’t right about this situation.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A Phone Call


Sometimes, I get a wrong phone call here in Germany. It averages around four times a month.

This past weekend....near 7PM on Sunday evening....I had this call. It was a German guy and he started running off in a hurry....in German. In the background, I could hear ambulance sirens, yelling in the background, and fire trucks. It took around 30 seconds to get him to stop, and then I kinda mentioned I was American and this was a wrong number. He was sorry, and then hung up.

I kinda sat there and paused over the call. Evidently, this was one of those circumstances that would have been interesting to know the situation. The caller was either calling to announce he’d been in an accident, or calling to let someone know that their house was on fire.

For two days, this has kinda bothered me. Things happen, and you’d just like to know the final outcome, even though you don’t know these people. Heck, maybe two beer trucks collided.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Hog Wild


Just two cents of analysis...the Ag department came out today...after Drudge knocked them down on government waste in buying pork (ham), and said the contract in question purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191 million, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound. They were quiet proud of this and wanted Drudge to know that.

The only problem with this....is that Food Lion is selling ham by the pound...at 79 cents and I saw one price with Piggly Wiggly for ham around 82 cents.

The amusing thing...was that stimulus funds were used for this $1.50 a pound purchase. Even in Bama, you can find a better hog deal than this. If you read the contract....the government only got two offers? Two freaking offers on a contract? What am I missing here? There should have been forty or fifty. So this company that won....did they bid on last year's election results as well?

For a while, I was allowing illogical thoughts to overcome my way of thinking. These hogs? They are likely special hogs....from New York....fed beer daily....allowed to watch NCAA football on Saturdays....given Brazilian peanuts as snacks....and allowed to listen to classical music in the evening hours as they lounge. Heck, maybe we got a swell deal at $1.50 a pound in this case.

The Term is "Borrow"

About once every other week....my brother, the engineer, will tear loose from analyzing technical things, and give you a five-star analysis of a current events situation. This one came from last week....and you have to pause and consider the end comment carefully....it is a Bama moment:

"...no matter what it costs, we're going social.

If taxpayers don't pay it, the Chinese or Saudis will (with a title-loan, and we get to keep the car -- so long as we turn a blind eye to human rights abuses).

That's the new approach with both our political parties... do what you want, regardless of the costs, and borrow as much as you need from China, Saudi, and others.

Want a unpopular war, borrow money.

Want to prop up banks, borrow money.

Want to keep some car companies (and unions), borrow money.

Want to get universal health care, borrow money.

Its like the US government is a 19yr old gal at college, that just got her first credit card."

In a way, it's a sad woeful commentary over what we had and what we lost.

The Admiral Speaks

This past week….we had an email in the office from our big 4-star general (really an admiral) that runs all of European operations for DOD. Normally, you rarely pay attention to stuff these guys say….it’s a $5 comment that you tend to forget within ten minutes. This time, it was different. This Admiral Stavridis is a common sense type leader. I can’t say that he comes from Bama….but a lot of his dozen-odd bits of wisdom sounds like something that you’d hear from the heartland.

His bits?

First, always speak up and write with simplicity and precision.

Use humor when possibly…it relieves tension.

Prepare for the key events that occur.

Stay in shape.

Talk for yourself….be your own spokesman.

Spend time on personal matters.

Carve out time to think, and share those ideas. Get feedback.

Take time to recharge and energize.

Don’t make decisions in haste or under pressure.

Details do matter but you need to be willing to accept new ideas and concepts.

Understanding the overall process of how things work….does matter.

Finally, don’t always trust your team or the lawyer involved to tell you what the law or regulation says. You might want to actually read it yourself and grasp the full impact of the law.

It was practical advice that works for Airman Snuffy, Sargent Snuffy and even Captain Snuffy. This Stavridis guy might be a bit smarter than you’d expect. The best leaders that I met while in the AF were the “coach” type….who sat down and explained the big picture and their strategy. They needed the team to function in one fashion and deliver….so they were willing to invest time to see that happen. The worst leaders were the ones who simply handed out vision after vision….without any inspiration or reasoning.

Exchange Student "Hell"

There’s a great story off CNN last week....about young foreign high school exchange students. Apparently, a number of these guys in the past year or two have come up and found themselves in a “nightmare of neglect, malnourishment and abandonment by those supposed to protect them”. I’m quoting CNN....whether completely true or not....I cannot say.

So now, the authorities have awaken from a deep slumber and are seeking criminal charges. In fact, even the State Department is trying to admit....to any reporter who will interview them....that they failed in some way to protect the kids.

"We at the Department of State recognize [because we] are responsible for this program we have to make sure we are aggressively overseeing this program and make sure children are well-suited," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

It is kinda amusing....because the state department has no real connection to this program except for the visas they issue and frankly....they would need a staff of three hundred people to properly manage this....which means more government cost for a program that ought to cost nothing.

Over in Lackawanna County, Penn....the DA is convening a grand jury to look into a possible crime where twelve exchange students were involved. He hints that they were treated in an improper fashion....improper food, hygiene, etc.

Here’s the thing....for the past year, I’ve been watching this German program which features five German kids each week....and it changes week to week....who are foreign exchange students. A couple went to the US but the vast majority went to other countries.

Out of every ten show participants, I’d say that five are in total shock upon arrival at their destination and shown a very unpleasant home situation.

There was the one 16-year old girl who showed up and was to live in a home in Chile. The house had dogs and they had crapped all over the place. There was mold and mildew on the walls of the bedroom. There was a terrible smell to the place. She spent one night and the next day packed the bag and went to a hotel downtown (dad had been smart enough to give her a credit card). The program folks went into a huge retreat and somehow found another place....which was “ok”....but you could tell that this 16-year old kid had expected alot more.

As each week’s episode comes and goes....you see a program which is very questionable in terms of what they offer these kids. There are positive stories though.

There was the 17-year old German boy who ends up in a rural community in Minn and finds that everyone is overly friendly and the house is great. Then he finds that there is absolutely nothing to do. The family sits around on a Sunday afternoon watching NFL football and he just sits there....questioning why no one is doing anything.

The purpose of this whole foreign exchange program....is to offer a different view in life of foreign lands. Maybe in the 1950s and 1970s....it had a totally different prospective and maybe it was run alot better. But today.....it’s not exactly a four-star program, and I’d question myself if I sent a kid of mine off to it.

The part I like about this...we will end up with some bureau within the state department now...funded by Americans...not the foreign exchange students....to monitor this entire episode. There will be a grand office building....three hundred GS workers....nice modular office furniture.....a $100k conference room with VTC capability....a travel budget of $32 million.....and at least sixty vehicles for these guys to travel around the US and meet exchange students. Meanwhile, North Korea is still waiting for its first exchange student.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

1969?


Fox has this "impact" presentation today....that 1969 was the big change-year for the United States. It goes through a number of events, and they make a fairly big case.

I've been of a slightly different mind...that 1967 and 1968 combined....lead to any big emphasis in 1969 (our golden moment of this perceived change in America).

1967 was the year of race riots in Detroit and NY city. For all practical purposes....Detroit started dying after that point, with no hope of return. Toss in the Arab war of that year...and the continuing results of the Vietnam war....and you have a wave starting to sweep across America.

1968? Martin Luther King's assassination simply tripled the wave. The shooting of Bobby Kennedy? He would have sailed on and easily won the election in November. The Nixon years would have never come. No Watergate.

Oh, and let us not forget car of the year in 1968....the Pontiac GTO....which was the greatest classic of all time.

So I'll let Fox march with the emphasis on 1969....but to be honest here....it was 67 and 68 that set up our "golden year".

The Larry Summers Survey

The President has this 5-star adviser working for him....Larry Summers.

Larry is an awful smart dude....well....at least the President believes this.

Larry said this week that the terrible economic free-fall has ended this week. Naturally, you'd be curious how he came to this decision. Did he use a calculator? Did he task the entire Harvard School of Economics to study this? Did he get the news from NBC?

Well....Larry says the number of people searching for the term “economic depression”.....via Google naturally....is down to normal levels.

Apparently, searches for this phrase....were up four-fold when the recession deepened in the earlier part of the year.

So Larry says this shift goes to show consumer confidence is higher.

I paused over this for a while. I pondered.

If I typed in "trailer trash hotties" and found the number of searches were less....could I say that the number of "trailer trash hotties" were on the decline?

If I typed in "NASCAR" and "beer", and the two terms equaled a lesser Google rate....would this mean that people are drinking less at NASCAR events?

If I typed in "porn" and "BBW" and the two terms equaled a lesser Google rate....would this mean that guys are checking out hot BBW gals less?

I call this philosophy of research....the "Larry Summers" survey. The results mean something....but it's the kind of results that you'd read while drinking your fifth Whiskey Sour or your fifteenth beer.

If this guy is the best that the President has for economics....then I might be a bit worried.

Snow


Pretty neat picture from this week.....snow fall in Buenos Aires.

What might be curious here....first snowfall in 89 years. It is winter there....as some of you from Bama might fail to realize.....but to be honest....it just doesn't snow in Buenos Aires....ever.

Naturally, Al Gore wasn't there to observe it....he was sitting back in Tennessee....sipping Colombian coffee and enjoying the great AC he has in his mansion.

Positive Themes



It is an interesting bunch of billboards, around a 1,000 of them with maybe ten different themes being utilized.

They are correct....in that the media, some political figures, and some nuts have gone out and convinced the public of a massive terrible event. Before the 1929 collapse....most folks in the US didn't really get excited about recession. They all knew that it would come and go. It might last three or four years....and you kinda accepted that.



Somewhere in the midst of the 1930s....the government reached the conclusion that just letting it fix itself....was not the right thing to do.

So we learned the art of spending billions....to speed up the process. Results in the 1930s were mixed....we probably hurt the economy as much as we helped it.



I would imagine that the billboards will have some positives. Heck, maybe even some president will drive by and have a idea after seeing them.

Honduras: Real People

Translation of the sign:

"Honduras is an example for the world.

We don't have oil nor dollars, but we have balls!"

The Saga of Honduras Continues

There is an update to the saga in Honduras...which likely won't be fed into many of the US mainstream media outlets. A Spanish-language newspaper (out of Spain)....reports that Honduran officials have seized computers found in the Presidential Palace, formerly belonging to deposed President Zelaya.

Its an amusing thing...the vote that Zelaya was fixed up. The vote itself violated the national constituion, and triggered the Supreme Court of Honduras and the Military to react. So this was fixed and there were even certified results of the vote already typed up and in document form....ready to print....although the vote was at least ten days away when Zelaya got the boot.

To make the dramatic point....as one of the DA's showed reporters...was the already documented voting results from the Technical Institute Luis Bogran, of Tegucigalpa. Normally, there would be around 345 people voting....but there were 550 ballots already fixed and ready to go....450 in favor of the Zelaya proposal. Thirty votes were against. So not only did he add almost 100 votes from non-existent people...but then the rigged nature of the ballots makes this all a joke. The left-over numbers? Either blank or nullified.

So you would have watched a vote occur....where the masses of the country could have voted totally against the guy...and it wouldn't have mattered.

Note, in case you did miss it....the ballots weren't printed in Honduras...they were manufactured in Venezuela.

Course, as you cruise via MSNBC, ABC, CNN, etc....you keep asking about stories like this...but they really want publish them or mention them....unless someone calls their bluff.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

My Interrogation, Your Interrogation


So this morning....we learn that the White House is considering overhauling interrogation techniques.

In fact, they kinda want to create a entirely new and small team of professionals drawn from across the government. Based on a couple of reports....this new group of fellows would come from a number of agencies and organizations and they would only be used for for "high-value detainees". The neat thing from the reports....indicate that that the group would not be limited to just the CIA dudes....they would be from walks of life.

Then they would devise bold and new methods of interrogation....which would be drawn from scientific evaluations, focus groups, psychology behind television ads, and just about anything that you can goggle.

I sat and paused over this....pondering. Basically, we are saying that even guys from the National Park Service, the Forestry department, the Peace Corps, and even the State Department....could participate in this episode.

The development of new methods? I'm already betting that a developmental grant program is underway at five major universities and they are gathering college guys to test interrogation and practice S&M bondage sessions on.

This is all pretty neat in my mind....a bold new world of interrogation....going beyond anything Cheney could have ever dreamed of.

We could "entertain" folks with fifty hours of dopey Sesame Street episodes prior to bringing in the real interrogation team. We could offer only fatty diets of burgers and Dr Pepper for two weeks straight before offering them a chance to speak to a real interrogation dude. We could paint their cell wall pink and dress all the guards in pink....to make them confused. We could offer them M&M's but only the red type (the one that causes cancer). We could diet Coke as the one and only beverage choice.

New professionals....new plans...new interrogation techniques....new devised studies to invent new interrogation programs. You can smell something funny here....as if Cheney himself wrote the script to some 2-star drama on a White House promising "change"....and it meant everything would have to change.

So, if the folks in Europe were furious before over Gitmo and interrogations....should there really be any higher anxiety now over this stuff? As someone wrote a few weeks ago....it's not what you say that counts...it's your actions that count.

Just a Universal Minute

The mighty campaign for universal health care insurance continues on this week. Just some notes and moments of analysis.

First, if you pay attention to the original problem....we had around 65-million folks in America without health care insurance. The other two hundred and thirty million were covered....in some fashion. So the emphasis now? Rather than fix the issue of the 65-million....let's aim at some master concept for three hundred million...oh, and lets not mention legal or illegal aliens because they would be part of the final fix with this plan as well.

Second, this week we learned that the rich will fund or pay for this whole thing....via a surcharge on taxes. Doesn't matter how you play your lifestyle or your tax credits.....you will donate to the system. Naturally, the rich guys are asking questions now. Some of them are small business owners....so they got hit twice...paying for employee's health care now and the surcharge....so they aren't very happy.

The curious thing is that the cost involved are barely calculated so what ever surcharge is settled upon....will be adjusted within two years because it's not enough. Then will come the issue of no paid salary while in the hospital....so the surcharge will be enlarged again to cover that problem. Then comes the issue of rehab for every man, woman and child....whether from drugs or alcohol or whatever....so the surcharge will increase again.

Adding to the episode of the surcharge....is the fact that the rich will likely come to Senator Snuffy and ask for a tax credit to cover what they are putting into the surcharge. So in two years, the IRS folks will approach the president and say that the overall pot of money....is $200 billion less. He'll grasp the problem and ask for a second surcharge to make up for the tax credit.....this pay for community college or job training. Senator Snuffy will come right back with another tax credit....and then another surcharge will be added. Eventually....rich folks will pay nothing in taxes but fifty percent of their income will be devoted to surcharges on taxes.

Third, we learned this week that the bill is now 1,000 pages. Naturally, you can't find a single Representative or Senator who has read the whole thing.

Fourth, we learned that a state commission up in the wonderland of Massachusetts (the state with universal health care currently) came out and recommended that Massachusetts change how doctors and hospitals are paid. They basically want doctors and hospitals on a budget as a way to control health care costs. What does this mean? You get X-amount of healthcare and your doctor can only make X-amount of pay, and a hospital can only make X-amount of profit. The sign of rationing heath care? Yes, the first basic step. Watch for the graceful exit of twenty percent of the public doctors in the state over the next three years. You want an appointment....call three weeks ahead of time and hope that they can help you.

Finally, some religious groups have come out....in very small forums....and noted that they don't believe in medical establishments and this infringes on their religious freedom. I read one commentary on this and scratched my head in disbelief. They are correct.....they can just pray over a snake-bite or cancer, if they want. The idea of making them pay $1000? Well....I can see this episode being challenged to the Supreme Court and tossed out. Maybe congress will give you a $1000 rebate so you can give it back to them?

Just my two cents of analysis.

Alien Damn Invasion


Ok, so this is what we know. A junior high in the UK....370 kids, wanted to inspire its young pupils to do some creative writing.

So their idea was, to have a UFO land at the school and abduct one of the teachers....taking the kids all out to the site of the abduction....and then ask them to write a report.....portraying this entire abduction as "real" to the students.

You can already get a feel for the events that unfolded.

A fair number of these 7 to 11-year old kids left the abduction site in tears....very shaken....and not so sure about their security now.

The curious thing....not only did the school management team go along with this whole thing....but then the local cops cooperated (helping to put out sirens and flashers....littering up the field with "debris" from the spaceship).

Parents....to say the least.....went nuts condemning this episode.

As the episode unfolded in the morning....the head administrator of the school came out and informed all the students that a alien craft had crashed at the school.....and at some point....Joy Law....the school's learning support teacher (the gal who gets stuck with the special kids) was apparently abducted.

So this entire "learning-experience" continued for the whole school day. By the end....Ms Law rejoined the kids and assured them that she hadn't been abducted and that everything was back to normal.

A number of parents have spoken up about their kid's and the effects. Some kids can't sleep. Some are still chatting about the idea that they might be abducted one day.

I pondered over this episode....held in the UK and came to several observations.

First, had this exercise been held in Bama....most of the kids would have left the school within thirty minutes....retreated back home....and informed the family of the events at the school. Then the entire family would have barricaded the trailer and put every bit of firepower in the hands of every member of the family....even twelve-year old Johnny who witnessed the episode at school. It would have taken a week for the Sheriff to convince the community that this was bogus. Meanwhile, Johnny would have insisted that anyone coming to the house is likely an alien in disguise.

Second, if you were the 12-year old British kid there.....and Ms Law came out at the end of the day....why would you believe her? Couldn't she have been a clone or pod? You know....like in those great alien movies? Why should you trust her today? What if the whole school administration staff were all pod folks? You just can't be sure.

Third, in the old days.....you used to show some picture of three monkeys on a elephant and ask folks to make up a story. It was pretty simple. If you felt radical....you might asked them write a story on Uncle Earl who fell down a outhouse toilet hole and was stuck overnight in a bit of a mess.

Fourth....to be honest....I would imagine that half of the students at this school are screwed up from this point on....and will absolutely believe in UFO's and aliens. They will repeat the story of the special Ed teacher being taken....as though it was fact. Even thirty years from now....it will still be messing up their lives.

Finally.....if there had been only one kid.....say one smart creative, sarcastic, sly, witty kid from Bama in this group....and he knew of this entire plan by the school.....then he would have added his own spacecraft damage parts at another point of the field...unknown to the cops or the administrators....and left some dead birds. He would have then led the kids to discover this and then churn up the whole adventure....with the cops freaking out and the school administrators thinking that they unleashed something terrible.

I'm a advocate of creative writing. But this type of exercise achieves nothing. You end up with kids questioning everything from this point on.....maybe the teachers are telling the truth....maybe they are lying. Then you might as well just cancel school and teach folks how to stack watermelons at the grocery.

Just Naughty


Out in Arizona....near Phoenix....there is this business. Basically....you've made a mess of the whole house....you really don't want to clean it yourself....and you call these gal's to come out and clean for you. The nifty thing....is that the name of the company is Naughty Housemaids. Naturally, they will clean either topless or fully nude.

So far, folks in Arizona haven't made this business illegal....like you'd do in Dothan or Red Bay or Tuscumbia, Bama.

The gal who runs this operation.....Wendy Racquet....mandates that she will wear rubber gloves but thats about all that she has to wear, ifing you have a full desire for extreme house cleaning. She's run the business for three years and admits that business is going ok, even in these bad times.

She gets calls from guys and couples.

This is in Arizona and I'm guessing a fair number of the "clients" are guys over 60 and retired. They invite a friend or two over....sipping beer....and watching the housemaid clean the kitchen. Afterwards, for hours....they probably chat over the excitment of the stove clean or the tub clean episode. They probably get all peppy thinking about the windows being cleaned. Then they even get all smiley when they think about the dusting of the coffee table in the living room. Man, that's hot stuff.

I'm thinking that some guys are looking at this and already contemplating a new business....Naughty Mechanics, and maybe even Naughty Barbers. There are endless possibilities....well...up until Naughty Septic Tank Repairmen.

Could Have Been Tragic


At some point this past week.....the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile crashed.

The best we can say is that the driver needed to turn around....got into someone's driveway....thought they were in reverse, pumped the gas and roared through the front of the house.

As luck would have it....no one was home. It was by the grace of God....that no one was home. Imagine yourself sitting there....watching Bonanza in the afternoon...sipping a Dr Pepper...smoking a cigar....and then this giant wiener vehicle crashes through the house and you lay there crushed and dying....with the last image in your mind....of Oscar Mayer. It would have been tragic.

The cops say they won't issue a ticket....I'm guessing they don't want to be the guys known in the state for giving out the first ticket ever to the Oscar Meyer guys. The owner of the vehicle says insurance will pay for the house and the vehicle damage. I'm guessing Oscar Meyer representatives showed up the next day with box of free hot dogs just to smooth over the owner of the place.

The really sad possibility was that this was rigged....just to get free coverage via Fox, CNN and ABC....but I'm guessing I'm the only one out there with this conspiracy theory. My theory would have been that Oscar Meyer is in need of extra attention and will be rigging up dozens of accidents like this....to get on page one of the news. A team....referred to as the "dog-team" runs this operation and has various plans. Their intention.....world domination of the hot dog market. This will culminate with a weiner mobile accident at the White House.....and the President runs out to get a free hot dog after the initial moment.

Yes, I may have had too much Dr Pepper....that's true.

The Passing of Cronkite

As a kid, I can remember the evening news with Walter Cronkite on CBS. His passing today brings back up this memory.

It was a curious thing....almost everyone watched the CBS news at that point in time. Cronkite was regarded as "the authority". Both ABC and NBC were minor-league in nature compared to the numbers that Cronkite pulled down. If Cronkite said it....it was regarded as fact.

By 1969, Cronkite had determined that the war in Nam was bogus and unwinnable. He'd been there....he'd seen the war from various angles....and he knew the various games that the government used in justifying the war. So he took the news bureau and simply opened up the front curtain, letting you see the various negatives.

For the government, it was something that they'd never experienced. One nightly newscast would sit there and cast doubts on the war and trigger discussions. As days and weeks went by....the support of the war kinda evaporated. Cronkite had become an icon for some and an enemy for others.

Over forty years have passed. Most of what Cronkite said was correct. We can probably add in another hundred bits of new information that has been gleaned from publications and officials....that makes the war still a discussable topic today. For the government, news went from being a reportable fact....to being a tool for changing the government. It was the end and beginning of a new era.

The sad thing today....is that you really don't have any Cronkites around.....just a bunch of used-news sales folks....who will tell you just about anything and just wink at you when they are done.

Friday, 17 July 2009

IF

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....they'd have engineering guys doing medical work, and communications guys doing maintenance work.

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....they'd reshuffle all operations, functions, and intercom numbers every six months....just to see if things got better.

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....they'd meet and discuss problems for about an hour, and then meet next week to reargue the same problems, and then meet the week after that....to reargue the points again.

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....the computers that would break....would require a ticket from some team which might come out in two or three days to advise you that you have a broke computer.

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organizaion....the Captain would decide to move some guy from modular 1-X-4 to 1-X-12 but his intercom number wouldn't be turned into a job order till the day after he moves....and he wouldn't have communications for six days at least.

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....there'd be a bunch of contractors on board working for Captain Kirk....who would all be whining about the poor pay conditions of their company that Kirk hired. Eventually, some Romulan organization would buy the contractor company and make them into a defeated force working for Kirk.

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....work would stop around 1400 each day while half the crew walked to the BX onboard to get a double XXL Chinco-Chinco coffee "blitz".

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....the damn entry badges or the damn entry doors would break on a weekly basis and you'd be waiting for some guy named Gus to arrive and use his 'holy' wrench to fix the problem.

If the starship Enterprise ran like my organization....United Federation of Planet holidays would not be off days for the contractors and they'd all whine because they had to use regular leave to appropariately take the day off.

It's an amusing analysis of how well the Enterprise works.