Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Common Sense Tuesday

So lets get these stories right.....

The White House press secretary now says that the “U.S. doesn't want to become 'political football' during bloody Iran crackdown”. I heartedly agree. In fact, I believe it’s left to the leader of the free world….French President Nicolas Sarkozy to say something and mean it. Note how I said that….”leader of the free world”. I’ve bestowed that title upon the only guy who has guts to say something.

The president has this swell deal worked out with drug companies to save $80 billion over ten years. Huge episode. So, it sounds so good that he workd this out....maybe he could talk to McDonalds and get a $40 billion savings over ten years with burgers too? Maybe a chat with Pepsi to get a $25 billion savings there over ten years? Maybe a septic tank replacement savings of $1 billion over ten years? I mean, if this is all possible....just sitting down and chatting with guys....why not spread this around?

Then I came to ask a Bama question....if you were giving up $80 billion in savings.....this means a $80 billion loss in profits. Naturally, its a pretty dismal thing when you volunteer to take a hit like this. I looked over at drug company stocks today....they are pretty much average. Logic dictates that if you give up profits....then stocks drop like a rock. That didn't happen. Is there a funny smell in the air? Do you smell that? If stock owners aren't worried and stock companies aren't worried.....about losing a massive amount of profit....that can only mean that they didn't lose anything. Think about the deal....you never get nothing for free.

Minneapolis is paying $200k....to get people to drink tap water? When banks are failing, GM is dying, and the unmployment situation is so dire.....they toss $200k to get folks to drink tap water? If you had just put up beer advertisements....you would have recovered a bit of your investment via tax revenue....but tap water?

The Thing About a Good Deal

My brother got into a light discussion yesterday over the coming car cash bonus. It’s a $4,500 deal where you take your old car and trade it in....although the car dealer must crush the old car....rather than resale it.

For my brother, this was a difficult decision....he was of a diesel Volkswagen mind, and had an appropriate vehicle to trade in....his old truck. As much as he dreamed of this Volkswagen....you could tell that this wasn’t a easy situation. A guy becomes stuck on a truck and even if the truck is only worth $1,500...you still feel bad about trading it in.

Then my dad got into this mess....he has the old farm truck which probably hasn’t been on a paved surface in ten years, and is likely over twenty years old. It’s value? Probably less than $100. Strangely enough....the only one initially against the deal was the border collie who considered that truck as one half her property (note: not her picture above).

The more this discussion went....the less attractive it became.

I sat and thought about the offer....course, I have nothing to offer and don’t live in the US anyway. I spent ten minutes in the BX new car sales area at lunch....and viewed twenty Chrysler, Ford and GM products (except trucks). I came to the decision that they didn’t have anything that I felt good about.....they were all crap.

I’m guessing that some guys will talk about this.....maybe even visit the dealer once or twice....then come back to the old pick-up and just say ‘no’. This might be one of the few times that redistribution of wealth just doesn’t work. The guys who might really get into this.....are the same guys who are making $22k a year at Pizza Hut and can’t afford a $500 a month car payment anyway.

So the debate is on in my brother's mind....the diesel car would be swell....but a guy has to have a truck, and then if you do the trade....where do you pick up a decent truck....which turns this into a pile of thinking worthy of a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Adding to this....is his momentarily thought of getting a Volkswagen diesel pick-up....to pick up on hot lusty hippy chicks. The only problem is....they don't sell it in the US. Well....and a second problem of all hippy chicks being over 45 years old now and living above the Tennessee line.

So resting at home right now and feeling better about the dad's truck staying...is the border collie....who suspected that common sense would override stupid irrational thoughts.

Now Czar Councils?

Apparently, the White House will be announcing the formation of a White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers today. Supposed to be run by Larry Summers, who happens to be the president’s economic adviser although most folks claim he doesn’t have much contact with the president these days and is mostly around because his natural good looks and charm.

I sat for a while thinking about this.....it’s basically a Czar council. It was bad enough when we just had Czars appointed, but now Czar councils? And what exactly will do they do that congress itself cannot do? My hope is that they set up meetings in Flint, MI at the Marriott and help increase the bar business around Flint. Toss in some hookers, some corruption, and then you got a dandy council.

Iran in Turmoil

Today, the Revolutionary Guards of Iran warned that they just won’t tolerate any more revolution activity on the streets of Tehran or any other Iranian city.
I paused over this quote, and kinda laughed....it’s ok to be revolutionary but only if you were in first and then established. Any revolution after that point just doesn’t matter. You have to be part of revolution version 1.0....and not some later 2.0 or 3.0 effort.

What eventually happens? Well, the boss of each little Revolutionary Guards team believes his guys will fire when ordered. At some point, as we learned during the Russian revolution....some guys eventually ask if it’s ok to shoot citizens of the country. It kinda violates ethics and such. Then they turn and shoot the boss of the team.

There is some magical point where everything starts to fall apart and the snowball starts to roll down the hill. It’s basically a period of eight hours, when some group of guards refuse to carry out their order and then people start calling other folks and reporting who is doing what and where. Once you have armed guards siding with riot folks....it’s a pretty quick slide to the graceful or ungraceful coup that occurs.

What have the Revolutionary Guards done to quicken this pace? Well, they arrested the daughter of a former big-wig of the Islamic Mullah team....who isn’t really saying he approves of the current mess. Adding to this curious mess is the fact that the grand Mullah who has been passing judgment left and right....apparently got moved with his family to a more secure place near the airport. Typically, if you were in a Latin American country and moved near the airport....it’s a sign of things expected to unravel quickly and you need to leave country in the future.

Here is the comical thing about this event....if things do unravel and more central political players arrive in Iran, then the entire mid-east peace plan has to be entirely rewritten and various players are left out in some mess with no support (physical, emotional or financial). The US might suddenly find itself with no enemy in the region, and then be left with South Korea, Ossama Bin Ladin, and a bunch of narco guys in Mexico as the only serious threat for America.

How To Ruin a Good Welcome

Yesterday, out of the London Times…was a fascinating story which I will lay out in typical Bama fashion. The original article was written by Jeremy Page and Rehmat Mehsud.

My version:

There amongst the woes and sorrows of Pakistan….there came the day when men of great religious passion and devotion arrived. These were the Taliban. They arrived in February when the snow and wind tend to make life difficult and miserable already. These men of religion were welcomed by the locals because they stood and proclaimed their fight against the terrible foreigners residing in Afghanistan.

So days and weeks went by. Some of the locals came to find brotherhood and solidarity with their new Taliban friends….who were men of religious passion and devotion. Some even joined them.

Strangely enough….the locals began to voice opposition to the Taliban and their ways. There was no respect over the elders of the region. There were various criminal elements to most of what they were involved in. Then, there was an issue with disrespect for local customs….which was the defining moment of when a visitor is no longer welcomed.

So about three weeks ago….some elders finally came out and said enough…..the visitors needed to leave. There were approximately five villages that they had started to occupy and solidify their operations. Within just a day or two after that….a suicide attack on a local mosque killed 39 locals. There was no doubt over who did it.

What occurred next was likely the straw to break the camel’s back. The Taliban came to the elders and then casually mentioned that the women who’d become widows from the suicide attack….ought to be given to the Taliban men. I can imagine them standing there and citing some kind of Muslim tradition…which was kinda invented because it just didn’t fit into the Muslim religion that most of the locals had learned about. You can kinda imagine the general attitude of the elders at this point.

There was a light pause here….probably for an hour, I would assume or guess….and then the elders called for any able-bodied guy from thirty surrounding villages….to get their weapons and come what we what we in Alabama refer to as a “gentlemen’s posse”.

The curious thing….over a thousand local gentlemen came out with guns ablazing.

Right off the bat….the local Taliban boss was shot dead. Then they burnt the houses down a couple of houses where the Taliban were defending their selves. Some reports indicate that they were still busy in the last couple of days with what remained….maybe around 150 Taliban members in one final village.

Naturally, the ‘gentlemen’s posse’ doesn’t have much intention of taking prisoners. It’s pretty much an all-or-nothing cleansing. When you have a bed of cockroaches….you do the job right.

The locals don’t have much good to say by the whole experience. Most of the locals even point out that if the Taliban had stuck to just performing religious education peacefully, they would have been welcomed for years and treated as part of the community. This was never their intention….they were “gangsters, looters and plunderers.”

I sat and read the story twice. It’s a fascinating event. Almost every single Taliban arrival in a fresh new community has resulted in a “dump” on the local elders or leadership, and then movement toward their brand of community….not the one that has been there for a hundred years or a thousand. What was accepted as normal, is now immoral…at least in the eyes of the Taliban.

This really isn’t an Islamic revolution or radical Islamic front….it’s a forceful change on what local’s considered normal. There is an absolute lack of respect.
Every process of the Taliban’s “house-warming” involves immediate change to the local’s lifestyle, and interrupting the customs of the local community. You can go across Lebanon, Iraq, and every location on the face of the Earth over the past ten years. It’s the same scenario. In a very short period of time, you do everything possible to make yourself disliked.

In this case….you cross the magic line of being accepted and then being treated as an absolute threat to the community. The curious thing….is that this wasn’t the Pakistan government who reacted or the US Marines….this was simply a local group agenda of smart farmers who respected their elders and had their centuries-old customs.

So this was the tale of 150 days and how a bunch of guys screwed up big-time, and then lost their lives while pretending to be wannabe gangsters for Islam. Today, they are dead gangsters.

Tourism and Grant Money

There is an argument brewing in my hometown (the big city of Florence, Bama)....over the tourist bureau.

The boys apparently have a lease deal with the local hotel operation at the Marriott, which runs out in a year or so. The boys aren't of the mind to stay at the Marriott....even though there is parking, easy access, and it's simple to find.

Instead, they want to move to another area of town....the centralized Sweetwater district, which is basically dead. Apparently, its very near the depot area of Sweetwater. They think that a grant or two would puff up the Sweetwater area.....maybe a few bars and pubs.....and then it'd catch on as a "hot area" of Florence to hang out. They also think they can readily sell the historicness of downtown Florence as a reason to come and stay downtown.

Frankly, I started laughing. Lesser parking. More difficult to find. And access might be a question mark. As for the historicness....well....it's absolutely true. You can draw a one-mile circle in the midst of Florence and literally nothing has been modernized in forty years. Somewhere around 1980....business and action left downtown and moved to the outskirts of Florence.

There is some historic nature to this town and maybe in the longrun, it becomes like the pyramid concept of Egypt, where old stuff draws people to spend money and come. I would be shocked but then it just might occur.

The amusing thing behind all of this....is that it's always US federal or Alabama state government grant money that triggers an event.