Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Geography of a Terror Trial

So where should the New York City terror trial be held? If not New York City, then where?

I sat and pondered over this for a good hour or two....and came to five choices:

1. Club Gitmo. Face it....we've got the facility built. There's a airport and harbor there. We have a couple thousand Marines ready to take down any threat. It's a US installation with water, electricity, septic tanks, beer, and plenty of fast food. Local issues? None. Possible threats? None. Extra cost? Zero.

2. Rent a cruise boat and anchor it off the coast of New York by twelve miles. Surround it with four US Navy vessels and put three hundred Marines onboard. The cost? Probably around $3 a month for food, booze, and clean sheets. Security? Never an issue. Threats? Well....other than backed-up sewage and refueling every ten days, that's about it.

3. Death Valley. First, it's a national park....so there's no rental cost. How many Islamic characters might show and make a threat? I just can't see it happening. Facilities? Well....we toss up a dozen military shelters, a big shade for folks......and a ice cooler. Folks around Death Valley getting upset? I kinda doubt it. In fact, other than a bunch of reporters freaking out over the heat....I don't much of a problem.

4. Northern Alaska. Let the military set up a base of operations in the some mountainous area. Bring in a dozen temp buildings and get people squared away to accept remote conditions. If some Islamic characters show up....they might be surprised about the reaction of local Alaskans and how many weapons they all have.

5. Finally, there are a couple of Atolls out in the Pacific that the US owns....lock, stock and barrel. Put up a couple of temporary buildings and a support vessel of some type....and start the case. I wouldn't worry about Islamic characters appearing out of thin air. As for protection, let the US marines put up some protective details and just let the case go as quickly as possible.

The truth of the matter is that nobody in the US wants this case in their backyard. That's how bad this whole thing has become.

Mighty Newburgh

The saga of the terrorist trial in New York City continues.

The trial appears to be headed to Newburgh, NY now. It's a town about sixty miles north of New York City. So downtown Manhattan is now safe. As for Newburgh? Well.....I just sat and watched an interview the the Orange County commissioner (Newburgh's area).....and basically, those folks aren't happy at all.

The commissioner's threat? He says he can shut down roads throughout the county, and he might have another dozen powers that the Federal guys never anticipated as being a threat. I'm guessing various lawyers are stepping in and making suggestions here. The power to turn off electricity? I don't know.....but I'm guessing that the county commission just might have that power. The ability to turn off water and sewage? Same thing.

There may be a federal building in Newburgh....but it is awful dependent on the county for functions. From water, sewage and electricity, to garbage and security....the county has a major function in how the federal building there works.

I'm guessing as the next week unfolds....Newburgh is going to show itself to have more powers than the Federal government realized. What's left then? If you want any terrorist case held in New York state....which appears to be the agenda.....then you are left to a Army or Air Force base. No county can truly threaten its local military base....without a massive reaction. If a commander deems some local town or county is threatening him, his mission or his people....he orders a ban on that district. That means no purchases, no beer sold, and no tax revenue. A six-month long case.....could bankrupt a local town if a commander put up a ban.

The other alternative? Go to Gitmo, and run the case there. Over the past week, I've heard several political figures from both parties starting to suggest this. I don't think the President wants to admit defeat yet....but it'll be curious how he overcomes the mighty powers of a little town in New York state.

Bullets That Go Nowhere

One part of the President's agenda unveiled this week....centered around $8 billion going to bullet-train construction.

No one is saying for sure where the $8 billion will go....but the smart guys are already betting on California. There are at least a dozen plans sitting out there.....almost all with zero funding. You see....selling bullet-trains....just ain't that easy.

This is an interesting history and business lesson. The French, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Germans to some degree.....have bullet-trains. All of these....required massive government funding to make them functional. To be kinda honest.....none of them today....truly pay for themselves, and so other "funding" ends up coming out of somewhere....to make the whole thing continue on.

The key feature of a bullet-train....is that you go from point "A" to point "B". One train station to another train station. The speed? Typically over 200 mph. The luxury? What would be a eight hour trip by car....occurs in less than two hours.

The issues here?

First, you have a special track requirement and you can only go from point "A" to point "B". Say in this case, LA to San Fransisco. If you want to go anywhere else...it's the vanilla track and 75 mph. So you spend mega-millions, to make this special track occur.

Then, you start to ask who makes this run from LA to San Fransisco.....and would be willing to just park their car, travel to San Fransisco.....and get there to be in a car-less situation? The answer? Very few people. You have to remember.....the ticket for this experience from LA to San Fransisco....is going to likely be the same costs as a airline ticket. So you have to calculate in this idea of how you travel around your destination location for a day, a weekend, or a week.

Then, we come to riders. Typically....it's not the lower-class workers who ride such a train. Remember....this is a $100 ticket typically....or more. So it's a decision that a middle-class or upper-class family is making.

Then, we come to time. If the amount of time equals airline travel....is there any advantage of a bullet-train over an airline? No. There really isn't any real advantage....unless maybe you count the station downtown in San Fransisco as your real final destination and your 4-star hotel a block away makes the perfect place to stay.

Historically, there are lots of plan's sitting on the shelf because no one can find real funding for this idea. The plan of getting a bullet-train from LA to Vegas? Of all the plans out there, this is the only one with financial payback possibility....the rest are built on imaginary profits without incentive.

The German effort? Well....they built their bullet-train track from the Frankfurt airport (one of the major hubs of Europe), to Koln (about 100 miles to the north). The sell here was the business side of operations sitting in Koln and quick easy access to the Frankfurt airport. The ticket? Well over $80 one-way. Who rides? It's about seventy-percent business related traffic. The mom's and pop's usually just drive down with their car or take the regular train which is a quarter of the train price. There are other plans on the shelf, and some will be built....but truthfully.....the Frankfurt train isn't a greatly profitable deal and I would question if they make any real profit to pay off the construction.

So this $8 billion is more or less a pay-off to someone. My guess is that political folks in California will make a fair 'profit' off this deal and some of their friends are in the construction business. It'll take three or four years to build this and it'll go well over the $8 billion mark.....requiring the US government to fund another $5 or $7 billion to finish. The profit? Don't be asking silly questions like that. It'll never show a real profit.

What this really does....at some point about six years into the future....is cast a giant shadow over future construction in America of a bullet-train system. People simply don't travel by train any longer in America. It's one thing to travel forty miles by some Metro-like system.....but the idea that you would travel 400 miles by train? No.....and speed doesn't influence that decision. In six years.....the numbers will be added up and we will realize that bullet-trains are a farce and the airline industry will breathe a sigh of relief.

The Meeting


At my age....I've probably attended around fourteen hundred (1,400) meetings in my life. Meetings are long and drawn out. Ninety percent accomplish little to nothing. You would beg to get out of some of these. When a meeting runs past one hour.....I tend to start rubbing my knuckles and daydreaming.

This week.....I finally went to a meeting that was the most fascinating meeting (in fact, the only fascinating meeting) of my life. If you were charging money to attend.....I'd actually pay $3 at the door to attend.

So you are scratching your head, and wondering about this meeting?

Well, it's the Pentagon building facility meeting. Yep.....it's the big guy of the Pentagon that runs all of the engineer business and projects related to fixing or keeping the building open.

The guy running it....a comedian of sorts. I would wish that some reality show would come up and just walk with this guy for eight hours a day....and put it on TV each night.

I was utterly fascinated.

You see, the Pentagon is about sixty years old. It's not a perfect work of art. It's been rebuilt dozens upon dozens of times. 9-11 shook the building at its roots.....but truthfully, you can't harm this building.

So on a daily basis.....there are all kinds of things going on....toilet spillages, power outages, broken escalators, broken fryers over at Popeye's Chicken, and water fountains that need to be fixed.

So for an hour, I was entertained. The meeting went from topic to topic....with history handed out every two minutes on this problem and what happened in 1988....and how this problem led to this fix....which led to another problem later.

The odds of me returning? Well....my new guy coming into the office is supposed to attend (he arrives next week). But I'm thinking (probably selflessly) that I ought to be attending this meeting.

So for an hour each week.....you might see me gleefully smiling over a silly meeting but in my mind, it's best damn meeting that a guy could ever attend. And yeah, I'll be there.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Just a Bit of Booze

There is an interesting story over at World Net today...about Representative Nancy Pelosi....her travels....her excess....and her alcohol.

It's not a very positive story...and it begs alot of questions....which Rep Pelosi is not going to answer. Before the 1980s...it's hard to find an episode where the head of the House or Senate got their own transportation via the Air Force. In the past ten years....it's been on a surge of sorts.

I'll let you read this entire story over at World Net. But there are two curious things about this report.

First, you start to think that maybe it's time that the Air Force was tossed out of this business.....and just give both the head of the House and the Senate their own contracted out jet....with a nationally-advertised budget. Be fair....toss them around $10 million a year to run around to funerals, meetings in London, dinners in Brazil, and whatever else they'd like to go and see. Once they hit the $10 million point.....they are finished for the year. Treat them like kids if necessary.

Second.....maybe it's just me....but there's an awful lot of heavy booze mentioned in the purchases and servings onboard Rep Pelosi's travels. A lot of booze. Now, she travels with an entourage....five or six members of her staff....maybe her family. But I'm looking at this, and I'm thinking that someone in her group has got a serious drinking problem. We aren't talking about just a small problem either. Maybe the Representative herself? I don't know.....but this amount of booze mentioned in limited reporting....makes me think of serious alcoholism.

I'd hate to suggest a Bama-county philosophy of "dry" for all senators and representatives. But let's think about this.....it's not my job to pay taxes.....and pay for some senator from California or some representative from Arkansas to booze up freely. I'm kinda curious what the heck we are paying for in the offices....and in the planes....and if this is from our tax dollars.

BCS Hell

So, with all of the emergencies facing the federal government today....as of yesterday....the boys have decided to pile one more log on that fire. The BCS Bowl Championship series.

Yes, the Justice Department has said that it will now review the mess...and offer up an opinion. They didn't say what it might be....but just the sheer admission of review...has to have the BCS guys shaking in their boots.

You see what is at the heart of this...is a rigged up system where approximately sixteen teams are "in" and fixed to be the champion...year, after year, after year. Out there...in the midst of this....is Utah State and Boise State...who have finally recruited and gotten themselves into a strange situation...national winners of a major scale. Yet, because of the arrangement for bowl games....neither can crack the system and be a national winner.

Let's even go one step further...there are probably twelve teams beyond the "Bowl-16" that we know of...that could be a national champion but the series is rigged against them.

Why a rigged deal? Money, TV access, and national audience. It's pure and simple. You are a member of the sweet sixteen group....you are legendary already around the nation. Boise State? Folks in Georgia have likely never watched a single game...ever....with them. The money? Well...we are talking about hundreds of millions for the town that gets one of the top three games.

Should the Fed's get involved in this? That's a curious thing. Most folks hate the idea of some Senator or some Congressman to be deep into BCS 'rigging'. They hate for the President or the Attorney General to be deep into BCS 'rigging'. But since the BCS committee itself won't fix it...you've got yourself into a pit.

My prediction....the President will need a group of experts to sort this out...so he'll call in former college presidents of the University of Nebraska, University of Alabama, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Florida State, etc. Yes, you might note that they are all members of the 'sweet-sixteen' group who got all of the bowl deals. Then they will have a three or four guys from Princeton to balance out this mess...mostly business degree guys who've been with failed Wall Street operations. Together, they will forge a new and improved failed BCS system....to help make America better and progressive.

There, I said it. A BCS system that is bold and progressive.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Jihad and Global Warming

This week....in the midst of various bits of news....we suddenly came to hear once again....from Osama bin Laden, chief of Al Qaeda.

It was a strange and awkward moment. Via the press at Al Jazeera....we got to hear Osama blaming the US and developed countries.....for climate change...then adding that the global economy should immediately abandon its use of the American dollar.

The quote: “Talk about climate change is not an ideological luxury but a reality. All of the industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis.”

So I sat there....pondering over this....and I came to two observations. You have to remember....I'm not a rocket scientist or Harvard guy or a CIA analyst.

First, here is this guy...sitting way out in the boonies of Pakistan....probably living most of the time out of some cave. You can imagine him getting few if any visitors. You can see him drinking tea and reading from the Koran three or four hours a day.

So then, this guy appears....Jimmy Jihad, from London probably. Jimmy sits there....chatting like a mad monkey....all over global warming, climate change, and impending death of mankind.

Osama sits there....and buys every single word. It was as much comic propaganda that you could possible imagine....with Al Gore's video probably running in the background. Tears likely flowed from Osama's eyes....and he decided then and there....Jihad had to include the fight on global warming.

So you can imagine these fantastic moments....where Osama got "religion"....and pumped up the millions of Jihad fighters....to save the world in the interest of climate change.

Then I came to observation number two. It takes an absolute idiot to believe the vast majority of climate change information. If Osama is that naive and dim....we just might be using the wrong tactics in taking him down.

Out there tonight....Osama is sitting there...a tear sweeping down his cheek....looking over global warming, and hoping that Jihad somehow fits into fixing this mess. This is almost like a scene out of a Mel Brooks movie.

Hot Steamy Unlusty Stuff

If you go over to Fox News...there is this item over John Edwards and his mistress, and some sex tape (Fox Quote):

John Edwards' former mistress filed a temporary restraining order seeking to wrest control of an alleged sex tape that is at the heart of a tell-all book about to be released by a onetime Edwards confidante.

I kinda sat there for about three minutes...envisioning a sex tape...with John Edwards, his hot lusty babe....and then I asked myself....what idiot would want to see, view or even pay for such a tape? The more I thought about this....the more my stomach tossed and turned....and I was thinking about taking some Rolaids.

So, we've come down so deep in the pit....that we'd actually be willing to watch John Edwards in some sexual act? I just can't see this happening. And the act by the mistress to gain control? Well....she might be hoping that she could market this better....but frankly....most of us would pay $3 to ensure we didn't have to watch Johnny doing the wild thing with his lusty gal.

The Freeze Issue

A number of folks came out today....especially from the Democratic Party...to say that any "freezes" to exist...MUST include the Department of Defense. They didn't mention Homeland Security...they are safe, but those evil DOD guys must be put in the "freeze" department to make everyone happy.

I sat and pondered over this for about eleven seconds. Then I came to an excellent suggestion.

Since there is a round-number in folks mind...for DOD to volunteer...I'd like to make this real easy. Normally, the SECDEF would pass the hat and tell everyone to cough up 1 percent of their total budget....so they find various pieces and parts to toss into this bucket...to equal the magic number to make the Democrats happy.

My suggestion? End the war on drugs. Pull back every penny we pay various governments who pretend they are actually doing something. The truth is...if they really had an effect...cocaine and all the other drugs would be going up in price. They aren't. So there is zero affect on the war.

Yeah, I'm suggesting a pretty radical play here. Pile up all the millions and all the manpower involved in the drug war....and just say enough...we aren't winning. What would be the reaction of the Democrats over this suggestion? I would bet that they would suddenly hush up and scratch their head over this sudden 'fix'.

Course, we could go up to Boeing and say the tanker competition is dead again (the third time)...let those poor Washington state Boeing workers (mostly Democrats)...stand there in a furious state of mind.

The truth is that this all sounds good on TV and in front of the media. A month from now...they will have forgotten the whole thing.

Myths and truths of the Pentagon

Myths and truths of the Pentagon:

- A battleship in the sub-sub-sub-sub-basement of the Pentagon? No...you'd like to believe that rumor (or the one about UFO's held deep in the bowels)....but's not true.

- Ten percent of the women dress like tramps. Well...yeah...that might be somewhat true (say 3 percent). I sat today in the food courtyard, and probably saw a dozen women inappropriately dressed. The gal with spiked heels and the skirt which started eight inches above her kneecap? Yeah, she was trampy.

- Water is pumped in from New Jersey. No, we get fresh Virginia water....really.

- They charge $175 bucks to "unboot" your car. Yeah, that is true. If you park in the wrong parking lot, or don't put the right sticker in the right place....you pay.

- Half of the basement is being gutted for a Super-Walmart. No. They'd like to do that...but it'll never happen.

- Sodas are cheaper in the machine...than at any restaurant in the Pentagon or the food shops in the Pentagon. Absolutely true. It's a buck from the machine. You can't beat that price.

Movie Review: Wild Strawberries

I watch foreign films...a good bit.

The other night....on one of the 99 channels I have...there was this Swedish movie with sub-titles....Wild Strawberries. A 1957 movie with Ingmar Bergman as the director.

It actually came to be a 4-star movie and I was kinda surprised about how well it was crafted for the story.

The thing is...most Americans rarely ever watch movies with sub-titles. There are probably over 5,000 great movies and TV series sitting out there...all in foreign languages...and we will likely never see them.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Problem with Bad Ethics

It's an interesting end to the review by the authorities in the UK over the climate change scandal and the stolen e-mails.

The authorities are very clear....the university broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public viewing. Britain has this law.....the Freedom of Information Act...which mandates a government entity will turn data over, if requested. The University of East Anglia and its leadership...broke that law.

But here is the fascinating thing...the Information Commissioner's Office decided that while the University failed here....they can't be prosecuted because the complaint was made too late.

I sat there laughing over this. You basically have a major breakage of trust and honesty...not to mention a huge violation of ethics...and the government can't do anything.

Naturally, there is something that can be done. You drag up the president of the University...and the folks who are at the heart of maintaining the data...and you toss some ethics violations at them...and demand they be fired. Since you can't trust them anymore....there's not much reason to keep them around.

As each week goes by since the e-mail release...I tend to find another event that really challenges me to trust the global warming crowd. This event...with no legal method to threaten the players with jail time or a fine...simply adds a significant layer of distrust on the whole cause.

It's like some minister standing in a church....quoting a chapter out of the Bible.....but it was an entirely fictional chapter which is non-existent. After you realize this...would you really listen to this guy again?

Will anything happen to terminate these guys? It's hard to say. This is the UK...and folks have been fired before. It'll depend on the press and how they come down on this news.

Andy and Barney Today

In my hometown....which shall go nameless....in Bama, this week has become a 5-star spectacular episode.

The town police chief (a one-man office of sorts).....has a number of part-time deputies (doing it free but getting "credit" in some fashion to help get a real deputy job later). There are around seven of these guys.

Over the past year or two....things in this town of 300-odd folks, and an extended area of 2,000 probably.....have gotten a bit out of hand.

We can't directly point a finger at "Andy" or at the "Barneys".....but they pretty much upset a big group of the locals. So the town council got dragged into a dilemma. The best we can say presently is that "Andy" got spared (presently), and all the "Barneys" got terminated or relieved.

Furious "Barneys"? Yes, without much doubt.

Here's the problem....and it's going around every community in America today. You've got wannabe cops who basically want to play cops and play the intimidation game. They'd like to get paid, but for the time being.....they'd do it freely and work up to get a real job later.

The issue with wannabe cops? They aren't interested in the local citizens or law or their town. To be honest....they'd like big-time crime but they wouldn't know how to handle it if it did occur. They'd like to impress people with their vast professionalism.....that leaks oil like a 1966 Farmall tractor.

So we've gone from the Mayberry era with a simple but honorable Barney with one bullet....to some incompetent fools who are even lesser than Barney Fife. Barney would have been defended in a town council meeting by a hundred members of the community. These "Barneys"? They really didn't have that kind of support. That kinda says something.

Oh, and as if I left "Andy" out? Well....a real "Andy" would have put his "Barneys" in place....but this guy couldn't. So he is lesser the "Andy" as well.

How long does "Andy" stay? That would be a curious thing. My guess is that he's talking to associates and working up some deal in another town. Once you get bad vibes, you start to take measures in a different fashion.

Feeling Good About the Freeze

Here's the thing about this dramatic topic to be put out tonight with the President, and the upcoming "FREEZE". The President's agenda....a couple of key groups still continue on....but the rest are frozen for three years....to save America.

It does sound great.

But sit and ponder this. The President presents this budget. It passes. Senator Tubby comes up six months later....getting a call from his buddy in the Forestry Department....serious issues and budget problems. Senator Tubby rigs up this one-time bill.....to put road and bridge funds in a bill and hand the Forestry guys $455 million. Whatever they really lost....they got the money back.

Representative Stinky....gets a call from the National Park guys in his state.....serious issues with their budget. He sits down....rigs up a nice bill to give this one national park group around $12 million for a upgrade project and cabin enhancement deal. Whatever they really lost....they the the money back.

So as the smoke clears....and clears.....and clears....you begin to realize that nothing really and truly got cut. The money just got shuffled and shifted. And the truth is....you feel good, and still have nice cabins out in your local national park area.

It's a feel-good deal. And life goes on.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

How a Paper Slowly Dies

Four months ago....out in New York City....a Long Island Daily in a fair amount of financial trouble...ended up getting sold off. The paper? Newsday.

The new leadership of the paper looked around and finally said it was stupid to offer news freely on the internet. So they put up a pay wall. You could read the paper online....if you paid. Otherwise, you had to buy the paper in print.

The price? $5 a week. If you paid it....you could log on and view their daily news.

How many folks in the past 100 days have signed up? Thirty-five.

Yep. That's it.

To make this work, Newsday spent four million. To this date...if you use math and really try hard....you can figure that they've earned $9,000.

How long will it take to recover the $4 million? You can figure hell will freeze over before they ever pay the $4 million back.

The paper is simply standing there and not saying much....and no, it doesn't appear that their profit margin has improved very much (although they don't chat much in public about that).

Monday, 25 January 2010

New York City and Mr. Kelly

The police commissioner of New York City....is Raymond W. Kelly. There is likely another another soul in the city there.....as respected as Mr. Kelly. When he typically says something.....you can pretty much bet your paycheck that he's accurate. Cops respect him. Political figures respect him. Even the news media respects him.

Today....he came out and laid down this mess of trying these terrorists in New York City.....as currently planned by the US Attorney General. It's a four-star mess. The curious thing is that no one ever came and asked his opinion on this matter. No one from the Attorney General's office....no one from the mayor's office. No one. So Commissioner Kelly says that examinging the use of Governor's Island....is now on the table.

If you don't know much about Governor's Island....it's a unique place. It's about a half-mile off the coast of Manhattan, and about 172 acres of property. The city basically owns the whole island and there is no true business operations or even people living on the island.

You see....what Commissioner Kelly is beginning to grasp...is that this entire trial is about to become a huge magnet for trouble. The present location and the people living around that location? Furious.....they don't want the case tried downtown, period. The Commissioner is beginning to add up the amount of trouble.....and he's going to likely tell the mayor and the attorney general where they can hold the case. If they decline....that's ok....but the New York City police are a key player in this game....and Commissioner Kelly doesn't have to play his team in this effort.

This then bring us to another interesting episode. The millions in extra security for this case? Well....someone is going to eventually turn to the Attorney General and ask for the cash to pay for everything. The cost for security? If it stays downtown......I'd bet on $75 million. If it were moved to the Island....maybe half that amount. Note: these are my numbers.....not any official office.

So quietly tonight....the attorney general is sitting there and wondering how he has to play this game quietly with the cops of New York.


Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Ellie Light's Problem (Plural)

I often find stupid stories...that make you ponder...so here is a letter from a Philly newspaper...19 Jan 2010:

A year ago, if we'd read that employers were hiring again, that health-care legislation was proceeding without a bump, that Afghanistan suddenly was a nice place to take kids, we'd have known we were being lied to. We knew the problems President Obama inherited wouldn't go away overnight.

During his campaign, Obama clearly said that an economy that took eight years to break couldn't be fixed in a year, that Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires, and wouldn't be an easy venture.

Candidate Obama didn't feed us happy talk, which is why we elected him. He never said America could solve our health-care, economic and security problems without raising the deficit. He talked of hard choices, of government taking painful and contentious first steps toward fixing problems that can't be left for another day.

Right after the election, we seemed to grasp this. We understood that companies would be happy to squeeze more work out of frightened employees, and would be slow to hire.

We understood that the banks were lying when they said they'd share their recovery. That a national consensus on health care wouldn't come easily. Candidate Obama never claimed that his proposed solutions would work flawlessly right out of the box, and we respected him for that.

Today, the president is being attacked as if he'd promised that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never did. It's time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can't just wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Ellie Light

Philadelphia

So, here is the curious thing. Ellie Light wrote this and was from Philly. Strangely enough....over the next couple of days....Ellie Light also wrote the same letter and had it appear from thirty-odd newspapers in the US...each time stating another home town which she was from. Naturally, it was the town where the newspaper was based.

How do you accomplish something like this in terms of getting a letter published in a newspaper? Well....I've written around five letters of such note in my life....and in each case....the newspaper called me or sent an email to ensure I was who I said I was.

The odds of getting your letter in thirty-odd papers within a seven-day period? This is another issue.....it can take up seven days minimum and maybe up to fourteen to actually see it published.

Here is a moment of pondering. Go and ask each newspaper to pull out the original letter and the address on the letter......I'm prepared to bet that none of the thirty newspapers can do this. Yes, NONE of the newspapers will be able to identify the address or email or show evidence that they ever called or checked on the reality of the person.

I'll also ponder this.....that Ellie Light is really living out of one house....not thirty different ones in thirty cities.

Finally, I'd ponder that the guys who run these thirty-odd newspapers.....probably aren't subscribing to any brand of ethical thinking.

As for the real Ellie Light? She's probably a cigar-smoking Tusla truck-driver, who likely six-times married, an Elvis fan, and does needle-point. I'd really like to believe that....and not that she resides in DC and works for some political agenda team who has access to thirty-odd newspapers who don't ask questions.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

A Warm Comfy Bed

As most of you know....I read alot of British newspapers online. Today....there came this odd story.

There is a Holiday Inn (the London Kensington Hotel)...which started up this free service this week. It is a one-of-a-kind...at least as far as I know. They will offer a free five-minute "human bed-warming service". This involves, if you call them up....a staff member who will run up to your room....dressed in a all-in-one sleeper suit (some bunny suit)....and they jump into your bed while you stand there....and heat it up while you wait.

So you are sitting there....like me....and pondering this.

The thing is...if you've ever been to the UK....they keep their rooms 'damn-cold' and you turn the heat on as you arrive to the room. So if you get there around 6PM...even by 9PM....the bed can still be a bit chilled.

In the old days....folks used to take around this stupid hot-water bottle...fill it up....and toss it into the bed for ten minutes to get it warmed a bit. Naturally....none of us today carry such a bottle.

I sat there...pondering over this. Standing there....late....tired....and this 50-year old hotel employee gal..."Jessica"...arrives in some bunny outfit to heat the bed to the proper temperature. For some reason....I have problems in seeing this as logical. Naturally, "Jessica" will be chatting away about London affairs, the newest bit on stage in London, the red bus accident by Piccadilly Circus today, the terrible fog rolling in, the terrible shows on BBC tonight, and how she came to divorce "Roger", her fourth husband.

Eventually....I'll be coming to London for one purpose and one purpose only...naturally staying at the Kensington Hotel....and requesting "Jessica" because I really enjoy the five-minute chat more than the heating of the bed. You see...when people travel alone...there is always this moment when a brief exchange of small talk somehow relaxes you. It makes you feel less alone. And I suspect....people will come to find this bed-warming experience to be more about interaction and chat...than bed-warming.

This is an odd thing to offer, and it just might be a million-dollar attraction.

And yes, I realize some of you have this lusty thought in your mind about bed-warming and one-piece bunny suits...but remember, these are Brits...you know. Unless Emma Peel from the Avengers arrives for the bed-warming...I don't think you have much to worry about.

Union Joe & Banker Bob

It has been roughly 48 hours since the dramatic news that the Supreme Court struck down the law over limits of business and union contributions to political campaigns. I will offer this observation.

First, while everyone is running around the media and telling of you of the impending troubles of this dramatic change....actually, over the years...both the unions and businesses have figured out a dozen various ways of getting past this law, and dumping plenty of money to their hired hand or against their sworn enemy. I realize this is a shocker to some of you.

If you walk back to Hillary's election effort...there in the midst of it...was this Korean family...who were each writing various checks in the thousands to Hillary's campaign effort. We aren't talking about a measly $500 either. Comments were made by various news analysts when this came out and it looked awful suspicious....like some high name Korean corporation effort...but nothing ever came of an investigation.

So while the news analysts of CNN, Fox and ABC run in circles telling of the woes to come this fall...I'm basically going to make the suggestion that the money spent this fall...likely equals mostly what the average amount was always. The banks, the corporations, and the unions...will dump the tricks they used...and go back to direct deposit. That's it.

Now...if there were more cash...not that I would suggest that...but who would benefit?

This is the question that you won't hear by CNN.

Cash is no good unless you openly spend it. So you are in the midst of a campaign...running a good show....and here comes the teacher's union to help you out with $300k. You can't hold it...you have to spend it.

So here are your options. First, you could hire some big-name associate from DC to come in and help run your show...and pay him his $30k a week that he demands (note the fact that big name guys from DC showing up in Tulsa probably won't be worth a penny in effort). You could walk into the local newspaper...which probably is bankrupt and all happy to see you with money in your hand. You could walk into the local AM station and do two hundred commercials in the midst of NCAA football games. You could even walk into Channel 9 of Boise with the $300k and bring smiles to the manager's face.

So basically...it's political stimulus.

I realize you are freaking out from this suggestion...but really and truly, it's stimulus with newspapers, TV, radio and big-name pretender political experts. So as you sit there and think of this as stimulus....then you start to believe in it as being a good thing. Because all stimulus is good....right? Well...we've been told this...even if it was shovel-ready stimulus....it was still good.

So as CNN, Fox, and the Today Show geeks go and chat like wild monkey's on this topic....you can sit there....resting and reassured...that it's really more stimulus for America...and feel good.

Face it...for you personally....does it matter if you see some political figure fifty times in a month on TV or three times on TV? So as Union Joe and Banker Bob dump the money this fall...don't get too upset. Nothing much really changed. You've still got the same ole corrupt political figures that you had before.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Resort Gitmo

This morning....I came across this little minor story...that I doubt anybody from CNN or ABC or Fox ever mentioned. The US Army has prepared about a hundred tents...big enough for ten folks each...at Gitmo, for Haitians found on the open seas trying to make it to the US because of the earthquake.

Apparently, there is this plan out there....to ensure some transit facility, for escapees of Haiti.

I started laughing...the sheer mention of Gitmo and Haitians....would get a huge number of international America-haters up in arms. How could America dare shove a thousand Haitians up into Gitmo? Well...then you consider...what the heck do you do...when you come up on a boat out of gas and forty miles from the US coastline and eighty Haitians on board?

But here's the interesting thing. You take a Haitian dude....in a poor country...hungry and starving...and he's been out on some damn boat for three days with almost no water....and then you put the guy in a clean atmosphere....three meals a day....clean water....clothing handed to you....and you start to have an appreciation of Gitmo and what it offers. You offer up cable TV, Maxwell House coffee, donuts for breakfast, and a bar of cheap Dove soap....and suddenly you got a guy all weepy-eyed.

You might even consider Gitmo a four-star hotel and resort....but just don't mention that to the America-haters.

An Imaginary Storm

Yesterday came the news of this bank overhaul deal. You could sit there and watch stocks slide....news analysts running around to explain what the President really said....and a bunch of bank executives huddled up in the corner.

Let's examine reality. The banks in America pay a fair amount of money to all one hundred senators. It's their hush-money, their bribe-money, their campaign-money....you pick whichever. They will meet up in the next month with their hired hand, and lay out what will be acceptable and what will not.

Then Senator Snuffy will walk up and establish this concept of a reasonable overhaul of the banking sector. There will be three or four reasonable changes that have a minor effect on the banking sector.

The President will stand there...with this massive overhaul plan and find himself winking at everyone...hoping that he can just suggest something, and it'll happen. It won't.

So spring will come and go, and this 4-star moment will be worked up in the house and senate....with this passage of their bill...not the Presidents. The bank executives will come on TV and swear up to God almighty that this was a long time in coming and will clear up all their terrible woes.

And by summer....the banks can go back to whatever sneaky patterns they had and get on with real business of screwing over people with excess money in their pockets. For you guys who do your own investing...use bank CD's...and drive a pick-up....then your life pretty much stays the same.

Air America, Gone

From my vast life....I've probably heard about 400 minutes of Air America. To be honest, it was a five-minute period here....a twelve-minute period there....and a six-minute period in between.

I came to laugh over most of what Air America put out. Out of every ten discussions....one probably found some decent theme that I could listen to and find as a good debate.

Who listened to Air America? Well...that was a problem. They never had a real station in Texas, Bama, or Kentucky. You could get them via the internet....but then it wasn't that easy to travel and get them around the clock.

So after all these years....they ceased to operate this week. I think they knew it was dying last year....and simply tried to carry it on through to 2010.

The question would be....why can't a liberal agenda network work like Rush? It would be interesting to have a Rush-like liberal in existence today....to offer some views to balance out the spectrum....but frankly, it's not happening. It hasn't happened in twenty years. The "Ed the Red" effort? Well...he's done ok but he's the three-quarter Rush...so you simply wait for something better.

Air America died a miserable death of sorts....it never got to the real public....it never had four-star capability....and it lacked growth of any type.

So somewhere out there....there are probably around 18,000 folks who woke up this week...to find the network gone....and scratching their head now. What to listen to now? Well...maybe the Doctor Laurie show....or some local flea market operation.

So let's all open a Bud...salute the tree out in the yard, and think of kind thoughts for a minute...as the Air America ship sinks.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Second Day in the Big House

So, two days now in the Pentagon.

Some observations. First, one cannot imagine the size and scope of the building. You could walk for days in circles. The maps they have on the wall? They might give you a one in ten chance of actually getting to where you want to go.

Food? That was a curious thing. There are around fifteen places in the place where you can eat. McDonalds, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, etc, etc. So you can eat fairly well for about $9 for everything.

My bus stops within 300 ft of my apartment and dumps me within 300 ft of the Pentagon. The problem is going home....where today, I got on the wrong bus and ended up six miles up the road from where I should have been. I was lucky....standing there for 45 minutes....the reverse bus came along and took me back around to the Pike.

The amount of construction that goes on almost daily within the structure is the surprising thing. Various offices are being modified and changed. Walls go up....walls go down.

I walked by the gym today. It's actually a four-star gym ($30 a month to join). They've got a pool and a full-up work-out area.

There are lots of people...who've been here for years....and you can see it on their faces (the 1-hour drive to get to work).

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

British Weather and the Spiral

It is an odd event...since 1922, the BBC has utilized the Met Office of England to forecast weather. It's a contract thing...everybody always respected the Met Office and their weather forecasts for the national weather angle.

So this past week....we learned that the contract is up for bids...and it's a funny thing....the New Zealand weather office is up and possibly going to be picked as the winner of the BBC contract.

What happened?

Well...last summer...the Met Office screwed up royally and predicted the summer weather. They simply did a bad job and the public even laughed over the predictions given out. There is this point of responsibility....where the Met Office has lost respect.

The Met Office has run around and done some stupid thing with global warming along the way as well....so they have this list of problems that the public has attached to them. The funny thing....is that the New Zealand weather guys....just might steal their contract. This would be like some Canadian weather group walking into Bama....and winning all the contracts to predict weather in Alabama for the next five years.

So thats where we stand.

ZOMBIES?

Word out on the street tonight....is that Haiti's voodoo priests...are starting to chatter about this sanctioned ass burials as an improper way to handle the tens of thousands of dead from the earthquake.

They have voiced this complaint to the Haitian national leadership.

The voodoo priests believe now....that this may invite zombies....which means bodies brought back to life by supernatural forces.

I sat there pondering this. You have to realize...probably 75 percent of the Haitian general public...believe in this stuff. All it takes is one or two fake rumors....and the whole society will fly off the handle.

But then you start to realize....the US has placed several thousand Marines in Haiti now....which is a curious event. There is an aircraft carrier off the coast. So you start to wonder if there is some military anti-zombie plan in the works. Plan 9604-6? The plan to counter zombies in this hemisphere?

Could the Marines counter the zombie threat? Could we stop this threat before it comes to our shores?

Out there tonight.....across the heartland of Haiti....folks are actually discussing this and believing it. That's the funny thing about this whole topic. We can joke about and perhaps even dump it into the imaginary bucket....but frankly...it's believed.

So at some point here...if some CNN reporters disappear for a day or two....folks might get this funny idea...and start to wonder.

As if we didn't have enough to wonder about already.

The Day

I spent the day across the river....in DC. My first real trip over into Sin City.

So I started with the Smithsonian...the American History building. It's free...you know. I spent around three hours walking around. It was a curious experience.....I had always dreamed of going to the Smithsonian and this was my first real visit. Every kid in America ought to get a day in the American History building.

The curious thing is that they utilize alot of graphics and there was the Presidental area. I had never quiet grasped the fact that from Andrew Jackson....on up to Grant....these were all one-term presidents. Lincoln may have won the second election but he never served it. So there's this long list of Presidents who just did one term and walked away.

I reached a point of overload and finally left after two hours. I walked up the street and came to the World War II memorial. It's a interesting place.....no place to really sit and observe it. The fountain is turned off during the winter period....which lessens the impact of the moment.

I walked on up the mall and hit the Vietnam War memorial. There were forty-odd people gathered....and one guy pointing out someone he knew to his relatives. It was an emotional moment for the guy....he was animated about the guy and went on to describe several events. On a spring afternoon.....there are probably dozens of folks who come to visit like this.

So I finished up with the Lincoln Memorial. It became this odd experience. There were around a hundred people within the Memorial....so it was a bit crowded. I stood and watched this 35-year old woman reading off the "Seven year and fore score speech" to a seven-year old kid. The kid didn't care. She was gazing at all the people. I looked around at a dozen parents who had dragged their young kids to the Memorial and the kids didn't care. There is this point where dragging a kid off for a DC trip doesn't make any sense.

The thing about a walk around DC.....is that you really have to walk. We aren't talking about a measly two or three miles. A five-hour trip means at least five miles of walking. You eventually get to a point where this walking gets to you. But you've got no choice. DC is basically this wide-open zone where walking is mandatory.

So that was my day. And I've got another 52-odd weekends like that.

Monday, 18 January 2010

You Could Write Like Steinbeck

It's an interesting deal. You go to Amazon, under the Kindle area....and you publish your own book. Naturally, it's in digital format....not paper. You keep 35 cents of every dollar made as your profit, and you keep the rights to the book. The price for the book online? You the owner.....set the price.

I sat and pondered over this. It used to take a mountain of effort to write and publish a book. You had to send the publication to various publishers and then sit and wait two or three months for someone to say they liked the book. Then they got into the profits of the book....where you might get a tidy check of $5k or $10k or $20k, with a certain percentage of the profits (usually a tiny amount). The publishing company got to rake in the big money.

So this presents some interesting choices. A guy could sit down and write two hundred pages of advice on hunting and fishing in Bama.....and actually sell three hundred copies of his book (mostly to his buddies)......at $2 a copy.....he'd actually go home with about $200 in his pocket. Another guy could write various bits of drama at his high school reunion with three hundred pages of text.....and maybe take home $400 for his effort.

A guy could even take his blog, and find the best two hundred writings....and put them into some book for Kindle, and maybe take home $500.

Does this change the landscape? Yes, anybody can now be a published writer....and at $2 a book, you just might be able to attract a couple hundred folks to read your book. The negative side of this is that we might just triple up the number of writers in America and dump alot of crap on the market for folks to read. But considering the amount of crap that real book companies are already dumping onto the public.....maybe it doesn't matter.

So, if you are sitting there....fantizing over some dream gal at the local Dunkin Donuts and you've got this real neat fantasy romance ("Wanda @ Dunkin", I'm giving you the title of the book already)......then you could publish a money-winner. Or if you need real juicy stuff.....how about a fictional piece covering a corrupt county commission and their stimulus package that went astray? Or, my final idea, a humorous piece on a rural female veterinarian who gets kidnapped by crazed Mennonite farmer to tend to his dog?

Who knows.....in twelve months......a bunch of Bama guys may be running around and claiming they are published authors and possibly in the running for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Stranger things have happened, you know.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Car Rental Hell

I had done ok with my rental car business since arriving. Yesterday, I was supposed to turn in the vehicle and go car-free.....but the Sears guys had my bed to come in....and would not deliver. So I made this decision to swap in the small car....get a SUV....and pick up the bed to take back.

The Alamo guys gave me this Ford SUV.....and barely 50 feet out of the place....the air pressure warning came on. I thought....I had already circled the vehicle and everything looked ok......so I figured it was a minor issue. I drove out to Wal-Mart, then onto Sears....and finally home.....almost 30 miles in length.

I pulled into the apartment complex and looked at the tires....and one was 70 percent flat. Yep. And it was hot as heck. I was lucky the tire didn't blow out.

So this morning, I put on the spare.....and checked it out.....big screw in the tire. I'm guessing it has a slow leak. The problem is.....I don't really want to pay for a stupid tire that already had issues before I picked it up.

So I filled the tire up with air this afternoon.....and will put this original tire back on the vehicle just outside of the airport....and see if I can just turn the dang thing in and not get assessed an entire tire on my costs.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

National Geographic Channel

There's this new show coming on the National Geographic Channel this weekend....called Taboo.

I sat there looking at the 1-minute clip this morning. It basically covers drugs, sex, booze, and just about anything that you wouldn't discuss on the back porch of your house with most folks except your cousin Marvin who spent time in Nam and spent a whole week in Bangkok on R&R.

I pondered this.....some whacked up TV show.....that you might expect on Fox or HBO.....but instead, it's the National Geographic Channel. Frankly, this is another one of those reasons why I dislike that National Geographic folks. Their management team makes you laugh over their trend. It's shock value at best and they really want you to come back to the National Geographic Channel because they've got hot women, hot topics, and lusty sex.

There was a time when you mentioned the National Geographic and you had a fine publication that studied various geographic topics and foreign societies. As a kid, I can remember spending two hours going through the monthly copy of National Geographic and enhancing my vast knowledge on the world. Today? I wouldn't subscribe to the magazine and I wouldn't advocate the magazine to any kid.

The Hood Shooter

So the Army finally completed its review of leadership over our Army major who did the shooting in Fort Hood.

The Army decided that at least eight leaders within the Army....just plain screwed up.....and never did their real job of evaluating and managing. These eight guys will be disciplined in some fashion.

From the beginning....there were various hints over the last eighteen months that Major Hasan was up at Walter Reed....and the management staff could have taken various steps, but never did.

I've watched over these news reports, and frankly this is the medical profession of the Army that screwed up. Had this been an intelligence unit, or a supply unit, or a infantry unit.....I think the leadership would have done what was supposed to be done....and likely had him pushed out of the Army. But the medical profession is different.

I've come, over thirty years associated with the Air Force.....to note that there is a bit of difference in management styles once you enter a medical facility. They are least likely to kick out a 'problem-child' and probably the last that would ever kick out a mental-issue guy.

The thing here is that any one of the eight guys being disciplined....could have stood up at some point and just plain laid into this junior officer and established some tough standards. The guy didn't readily show up for PT....he had weight issues.....and he continued to harp on a anti-US line. Just one guy could have stopped the guy and pushed him out....but it never happened.

Friday, 15 January 2010

A Bit of Dew

So I was standing there at Wal-Mart yesterday and saw this case of Mountain Dew (Throwback). Its the old fashion stuff made with real sugar (as it was before the 1980s).

I am a Mountain Dew freak (after Pepsi).....so I was curious about the taste. The first soda was not that appealing....I was expecting the fancy taste. But you know....after three of these now....I'm actual starting to like the taste of real sugar.

Naturally, I'm from Bama and I'm curious a bit here. Is real sugar dangerous or hazardous to my health? Does real sugar trigger cancer? Does real sugar do terrible things to my body? It's funny.....I've actually gotten used to the fake stuff.

Could I stick with Throwback? Well....yeah, I could. Will they bring it back? I kinda doubt it but you know.....they actually brought this back for a limited edition and they might actually see some favorable reaction....and go national with the stuff again.

It's Your Government at Work

There is an interesting story over at The Hill today......on how the government is failing you.....because federal workers have better computers at home.....than at the office.

I sat and read this story.....coming from Peter Orszag.....who manages the Fed bureaucracy program for the President.

Pete says that people came to work twenty years ago and found fabulous hardware and software at work.....much better than what they had around the house. Pete says that's all changed now....and you....actually have the best equipment at home.

I sat and pondered this for a while....and then started laughing.

I had the responsibility of doing lifecycle for the Air Force for almost fifteen years. I had an organization of 150 folks, and an extended group of another 200 to worry about. I started to find about ten years ago.....that most folks didn't need workstations.....they just needed regular PC's....and then I found this massive cost effort started to rapidly decrease. A regular PC ran round $750 and a workstation ran around $1700. It was simple and easy to save everyone money. The speed, the capability, and the graphics.....virtually met every single requirement that customers could dream up. Oh yeah, and yes, there were the five or six guys who had huge needs for graphics ability.....so I spent the $1700 to buy them the workstation.

As time went by, I did the same thing with printers....eventually settling on a simple HP laserjet and spent barely $1100 a printer and started to get smart about color printer requirements (we really didn't need a dozen around the entire complex....we just needed five).

In the last year.....I actually got down to a $550 PC that had all the things that a guy needed.

This story here? It's bogus. What you've got are a bunch of folks blaming their woes on computers. What the government is hooking up for you.....is a massive computer program which some player out there (maybe Dell, maybe HP, maybe IBM).....is going to get this billion-dollar contract. Yep, they figured out how to squeeze the government at the right position and get more profit.

And if you wanted to have more fun with these guys.....ask them how many of their staffs are actually familiar with Excel? I'm willing to bet that barely thirty percent of most government offices know the full capability of Excel. Ask the same folks if they know how to build a web page of any simple design.....and watch their puzzled faces show. Basically.....they have a problem....but it's a training issue....not a computer issue.

Sometimes.....you'd really like to hope in competent people working for the government. And I still have that hope....but something is telling me it's mostly a fantasy.

GPS Heaven and Hell

I've been here almost ten days now. The first few hours upon arrival in Arlington....I got lost downtown and spent ninety minutes wandering in a circle. The next day, priority number one, I bought a GPS.

Over the past week, the GPS has proven it's value a thousand times over.

Yesterday, came the first hint of trouble. I had to drive up to the "Rock" (Rockville, MA) to visit my cousin. It's set to go for the shortest period of time to get to point "B", meaning it tends to use the interstate as much as possible.

This was to be a 39-minute trip. Barely ten minutes into this trip....I began to realize there were issues. The GPS wanted me to cross the river into 'sin city' (DC).....and I was to drive through the boonies of DC. Then I came to this point where Key Bridge is located and under renovation....and the GPS kept wanting me to cross when I couldn't. On and on, the GPS kept me wandering around west of DC, and finally into Maryland.

There, I discovered this massive traffic tie-up. So finally.....around 100 minutes into this 39-minute trip....I arrived at my destination.

I still regard the GPS as the greatest device of invention over the past thirty years. There is nothing that could strip away that title. I could go from coast to coast without a map and feel absolutely comfortable in knowing that I'd arrive. The only question is.....would I face a thousand road construction detour episodes?

Thursday, 14 January 2010

It's Your Tax, Not the Banks

Just two cents of analysis from a Bama guy whose not a rocket scientist. All day on the news today...this "monkey-chatter" over a tax over the banks....by the Fed's to settle 'issues'......brings me to a minor point of analysis.

If anyone stands up and taxes a bank....the truth is that the bank doesn't cough up the money from their invisible pile of cash that they keep just inside the vault door. They instead go back to the customers who actually have accounts...and up the various charges for little actions they perform.....and then gain the necessary tax revenue to pay the government.

So if you don't grasp this.....it's you the customer who will pay this bank tax.....and not the bank. So the Feds.....if you don't grasp it.....are simply taxing you (the little guy).

It's a nifty game. Only you lose money.....the banks will never lose on this deal.

North Korean Tourism?

Yesterday, North Korea came out and said they wanted to help pump up US tourism to North Korea. I did some reading, and since 1987.....when the North Korean leadership decided to accept some tourism.....there's only been around 2,000 total Americans who've made the trip into North Korea. Thats about the same number of tourists that Nashville gets in a two hour period on arrival in the city on just one day.

The head of tourism in North Korea thinks he could get up to a 1,000 American tourists per year.....if thing work out ok.

So I sat there.....pondering this.

What idiot in the US would want to make the run to North Korea and spend a week there?

This is kinda like saying you'd like to tour the slums of Bombay for a week, or touring a septic tank convention in Oklahoma City, or going to a Baptist convention in New Orleans but swearing not to drink or carouse while there.

I can imagine the tour price is going to end up being $999. You end up flying from Chicago on some Air China flight to some unknown destination in China.....then they put you on Air Kim and fly you into the capital city of North Korea. You get a free shot of some funny tasting alcohol upon arrival (maybe 3 percent alcohol, to be honest). Then they whisk you in the back of some army truck to some hotel dump in the middle of nowhere and give you a towel....a bowl....a spoon...and complimentary bag of peanuts. You stand there in the hotel compound for a week....listening to speeches of the dear leader over a speaker....admiring the mountain peaks from the distance.....and sip some low-grade rice wine. Then you shake hands with some guy who is the second cousin of the dear leader.....and leave.

It'll shock me if they get a 1,000 Americans a year to go over....but then there are some crazy folks out there.....who would beg for a chance like this.

My advice for a guy who does go over.....take an entire bag of Snickers and hand them out to everyone you meet. In five years....the whole government would fall because of the Snicker handout.

The Underwear Bomber

The case with this guy in Detroit gets more interesting as each day passes. We now know that not only did he board the flight in Amsterdam without luggage.....but the guy didn't even bring a jacket. You would think.....at least from a Bama prospective.....midst of winter....in December.....going through the coldest place in America.....that a guy would have some kind of jacket. To me, this would have automatically set up big bells. Yet, no one got worried? Something is wrong here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Clock Boys

Over the years, I've come to notice various groups of folks that exist.....and they have some club of sorts. Like the VFW guys who meet, drink beer, and discuss war generally.

Then you've got the Auburn graduates, who meet, drink beer, and discuss either college parties, football or the best way of digging a septic tank.

Then you've got the environmental guys who meet, drink beer, and discuss the collapse of civilization.

Up in the upper layers of society, we have another club of sorts.....mostly intellectual dudes who meet, get all peppy, and then discuss world destruction. They refer to their vision as the "Doomsday Clock" which gets moved up or down depending on how close they think we are to the world being destroyed (which is worse apparently than the collapse of civilization).

So the boys have met, and the Doomsday Clock....as of 3PM tomorrow....will be adjusted. And this adjustment....is going to the negative point....meaning, we are advancing toward world destruction. The curious thing here....is that we are doing this without George Bush. This has to be worrisome to some folks....that things would go negative, without George Bush around.

Frankly, I'm thinking a bunch of guys associated with this clock business....don't have much in life to worry about. They ought to spend more time down at the VFW or at Wal-Mart....and get a life.

This Jay Leno Thing

Frankly, I don't give two cents for this entire discussion going on with the Jay Leno thing. I haven't watched an entire Jay Leno show in eighteen years. I sat and watched about ninety minutes of news yesterday....and I swear....at least twenty minutes of this was dedicated to Jay and his woes....or NBC and their woes.

So to put this into prospective....Jay Leno was supposed to retire. Jay was supposed to sink off into the sunset.

Then, the boys woke up and realized that Jay still had potential. So they created this show for Jay....different time slot but the same Jay. It was a loser, and the local stations hated it.

Meanwhile, this Conan character....wasn't blazing trails with his new deal.

So some wizard at NBC came up and decided that they could repackage Jay...for thirty minutes....move the tonight show....which had been at this slot since Moses parted the Red Sea....and fix all their problems.

Conan is unhappy or at he pretends to be. Fox is hoping to grab the unhappy Conan. Jay is standing there and wondering how this will end.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting there at 1030 last night....and there's some great stuff over at the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. I'm wondering what this whole mess over Jay and Conan is about. Then I flipped over to the QVC channel and saw this great Bushnell Weather FX 3-day AccuWeather Forecaster (batteries not included).

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

International

I was at the mall yesterday. It's an interesting place to just stand there and watch people.

The curious thing...is that I see more women in burkas in one day....than I'd see in an entire year in Germany.

We aren't just talking about the hair-covering type. I saw three gal's dress with the hide-your-face burka in the middle of the mall....and just stood there in a moment of shock. This is Arlington, and I'm guessing I'll have to get used to this.

It's the none-black & non-white thing that's going to take some getting used to. In my neighborhood....I'd guess that twenty percent of the population is El Salvadoran. Around town, I've probably bumped into three hundred Pakistani or Saudi folks. And I've come to bump up with some Sri Lankan folks.

I seem to remember a bunch of German idiots always saying that Americans simply aren't international in nature. Well....I'd say the international thing....has come to America and we have more or less accepted this as the "norm" now.

Dennys & IHOP

I stopped and had breakfast at Denny's on Sunday. I had big expectations....it was my first visit to a Dennys in ten years.

Well....it was a breakfast that I could actually rate worse than the Golf Course at Ramstein. The ham was as thick as four sheets of toilet paper....the toast was from bread four weeks old....and the coffee tasted like freeze-dried from a pouch.

Yes, it was one of the worst meals of my life.

And the hash browns? Burnt....as much as you could possibly burn them....and they were fairly crunchy.

For a guy who had been outside of the US for fifteen years....it was a fair let down.

So yesterday.....I stopped at IHOP....and had one of the best breakfast meals of my life. Yes, I did have to pay $17....but frankly.....it was what I was expecting at Dennys.

Maybe it's a good thing that I'm car-less in five days for a year. I'd end up at IHOP every other day otherwise.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Saturday

So I'm checking out of the Hyatt today. The apartment is really not ready but I don't care to pay another $140 a day here either (remember, $21 a day for parking alone, and $9.99 for internet service which is lousy). So I won't be blogging until Tuesday night.

I'm supposed to visit my cousin...the Methodist minister over in Maryland on Wed...which should be an interesting chat. I'm pretty sure she won't try to convert me....a Baptist minister would take full advantage and try to bribe you with a bottle of Jacky D's to come on out and become a member of the church. The Methodist are low-key....hoping that you just have a moment of weakness and admit that you'd like to vote Democrat, save the morals of the world, and do the coffee & cake thing at least one a week. Basically....they will talk to church. So I'm just hoping for a bit of fresh cheese cake out of this meeting.

And I'll have to find a barber by Friday to get a haircut....which is be a pain to find a plain-old barbershop in Arlington. They all want to call themselves a uni-sex shop....which is a phrase that worries a Bama guy a bit.

Papa John's Pizza

I got to a low-energy point yesterday...and really needed a pizza. So I stopped off at my neighborhood Papa John's (my first trip there).

It's an interesting little shop. All of the guys are El Salvadorian. It's a funny feeling....in the midst of Arlington and DC.....and I kinda feel like a foreigner.

The pizza? Four-star. After fifteen years of lousy Anthony's Pizza from the BX, and the German style pizzas.....it's a pleasure to eat a real Papa John's pizza...which the El Salvadoran guys really know how to make a fine pizza.

Just Take the Job

It's a curious thing being back in America and observing the 'new' culture of today.

I'm sitting in my room last night...which is just across from a huge window and the elevator. Around 7PM last night....some gal was out near the window and my door...chatting like a 'mad-monkey' and I could hear the whole conversation clearly.

She was some up and coming theater actress...and just gotten a call for a new job (a major upgrade) to a new theater operation. She was in her late twenties and bothered that she'd only been with the current guys for six months....and just didn't feel right in accepting this deal. Basically she wanted someone to say "yes, take the better job and better pay, and be happy".

So the first call went to her sister....who said the right thing after ten minutes of chat. Then it went to some friend...who spent twelve minutes telling her to take the job. Then it went to some guy....who spent around ten minutes telling her to take the job.

Frankly, at this point....I was almost ready to open the door and tell her myself....to take the damn job.

This game of people talking on their cellphone....bothers me. They say an awful lot in public and they don't even realize it. This is the one odd thing of difference between here and Germany. Germans don't air personal chit-chat like this.

IRS

The IRS folks have been in the news for the last day or two. Apparently, the statistics for questions answered are lousy and a bunch of folks are all upset....mostly senators, congressmen, and people who claim they are working for the common man of America.

The deal here is that if you had a question....there is this place you can call.....and from over 75,000 pages of tax code....Lil Joe, Arnie, and Ingrid will be able to readily answer everything you ask.....and be mostly right. Actually the folks who claim they are trying the situation.....think that this correct answer business should work about 98 percent of time.

I sat there.....thinking if you took a maintenance handbook to the ninth degree for a International Farm-All tractor....all 1,656 pages.....and called up the best tractor mechanic in Iowa.....you'd get the mechanic's answer which might be totally different from the book answer. The plain truth is that when you toss out 75,000 pages of text.....the odds are that Arnie and Ingrid over at the IRS.....just ain't going to be able to help you a single bit

Yet, the guys for ABC, CNN and Newsweek can't grasp this. Statistically......things have to be improved or the system is a failure.

Well.....the system is a failure. Once you went past 300 pages of tax code.....you pretty much made this a brain-operation procedure.

I had a co-worker who owned horse property in Montana for five years. She improved it by putting up a $3k barn. She got ready to sell it and actually made around $65k profit over what she paid for it five years before. Tax-wise...she should have paid some tax off this profit. Some senator from Montana wrote into the tax code.....a simple provision that covered six counties in Montana...and basically wiped out 99 percent of the tax liability over profits for a horse ranch.....if you met some basic conditions. She did. But hardly anyone around the area knew of this tax exception except the big-wig accountant

How many folks know of this deal in Montana? Who knows? How many deals exist like this in every state? I'd bet thousands. How many IRS guys know of this Montana deal? I'd bet less than five guys.....all Montana IRS guys.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Fatties

‘When the aliens come, they will eat the fatties first.’

This is the ad campaign of a major British gym and health club...into the new year. To be honest..alot of Brits are furious about this slogan and getting more hostile as each day passes.

Being from Bama.....I pondered this long and hard.

First, you'd have to assume that aliens only eat Earthlings....which has never been proven, yet.

Second, you'd have to assume that aliens prefer a bit of fat on their meat, which also has not been proven, yet.

Third, if you were an alien, and come all this way to Earth.....wouldn't you prefer Catfish over an Earthling?

I had a problem in seeing how this would all work, but then you'd need a fair amount of imagination to see a alien in the first place.

So all these Brits are looking at this ad....getting upset.....getting worried.....getting disturbed.....and started to think on Earthlings being a bit of tasty meal for some alien dude. Frankly, I think they've got a pretty good life....if this is the worst that they can worry about. If I were a British guy.....I'd be more worried about meeting some nice looking, lusty, and gorgeous British gal......which would be just about impossible to come across.

Greece

If you haven't been following the government of Greece lately......they've kinda fallen, and can't get up.

Financially, they've finally come to admit that they pretty much in a California-state of mind. They have a huge revenue & tax issue.....and they can't cut the budget in a fashion to save the country. Even the President there has kinda admitted in public that things are awful bad.

So someone got around to asking the EU if they might be ready to help out Greece......like the Feds will help California in the next couple of months. And the EU said "no".

So this kinda puts everything in Greece into a crisis mood. Either they cut a massive deal across the public sector....to include education and welfare....or they come to a failure point with the government likely failing.

The thing with all of these political figures.....from California to Greece.....is that they owe lots of people. And screwing over those potential voters or associates...just ain't a thing that you'd like to imagine. So you are between a rock and a hard place.

California Tax Credit

The governor of California laid out this wonderful tax credit....to entice you to build a house. It's around $10k...and there is a limited budget for it.

What I found curious about this.....is that they have all these empty houses sitting there....because of the housing market crash. Banks are begging to sell at below normal prices (even forty percent). The job market is pretty well screwed and not going anywhere because of all the current taxes.

So I sat there.....pondering....what idiot would want to build a new house in California? Frankly.....I can't think of anyone.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Arrival in Arlington

So I've arrived.

It was a strange episode.

First....all that security that they kept talking about being different......wasn't. In fact, I'd even say it was less than five years ago.....but that's just me talking.

Then, I had "curly" at the Detroit airport...the customs bag checker dude. I got into line and five minutes later noticed that mine wasn't moving. The other three lines were. For each three they did individually......Curly was doing one. Out of every three he did....he sent one for a physical check of their bags. I've never seen this slow an effort. I was there in line for almost an hour.

Then, I got to the Ron Reagan airport...which I came to discover....it's awful damn small.

Then, I came to the experience of trying to get downtown....with no GPS. That was a mess.

Then, I came to the room episode....and all they had was a handicapped room.....so I took it.

Then, this morning....I had breakfast at Bob & Ediths diner.....where the steak was about as dried out as you can possibly get it. I was pulling so hard on the knife...that the cheap fork bent in half.

It could be worse....so I'd best not complain.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Mighty Earth

Sometimes...there are bits of science news...which carries almost no weight at all.

Sometimes....there are bits of science news...which carries a hundred thousand tons of weight.

This week....came an interesting article over with Science Daily (31 Dec 2009)...which basically said the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere...really hasn't changed in the past 50 years. In fact...it hasn't changed in 150 years, which pretty much covers the entire industrial revolution period.

I was rather shocked. We can pretty much say now that plants and oceans can consume vast amounts of C02 emissions...which were supposed to create global warming...and there's still the same amount of C02 as there was in 1850.

This all comes from an article by Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

At some point around 2006, I began to notice global warming enthusiasts were now shifting over to say that the bigger threat (note: any threat to life is a threat, but now we have some folks saying 'bigger' is better)...is C02 emissions. It was a great argument and presented vast areas that you could tax the public on....and pass the revenue to third-world countries...which is generally the answer to all our woes.

As for the damage this report does? Well....the EPA now has problems in getting its facts lined up and continuing this path to managing C02 control over US society and US business. I'm guessing hour by hour....the EPA is losing its battle now. The mighty Earth cannot be beaten when it comes to C02...it will consume all.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Bring on the Dogs


It was a puzzling episode, Ben Nelson, senator from Nebraska and a Democrat....in fierce issues with his Medicare deal in the universal health care package....has asked South Carolina's attorney general to "call off the dogs"....with the state official's threat to challenge the constitutionality of the Medicare package deal.

I pondered this for while....why any Nebraska dude would use the phrase (call off the dogs)...and frankly, it's hard to understand why he'd be bothered over this special deal if it was all legit when he discussed it with Harry Reid. It would appear that he's bothered by the threat on the deal....and how this might get dragged up to the Supreme Court. I'm guessing the Supreme Court will quickly toss the entire deal....without much thinking over the issues. Just a humble guess.

Then being from Bama....I pondered what kind of dogs those fellas from South Carolina have....that would bother Nebraska folks. I eventually came to conclude that these are fierce poodles.

The curious thing about Ben in the last day or two....is that he now insists that Senator Harry Reid....put in special language within the universal health bill...which was merely a "marker"....exempting Nebraskas from its share of Medicaid expansion...and this merely part of a bigger plan in the legislative strategy to press for an “opt-out” of Medicaid expansion for all states.

Several media outlets have spoken of Ben's words here. It's curious that since day one...Harry Reid hasn't mentioned this part. It's curious that Ben Nelson would wait an entire week...just to let everyone know that this was just part of a bigger deal. Why would anyone wait....to clear the air on this?

At some point in the days of Rome....it became obvious to some that some senators had advanced to a point in life where they couldn't grasp the full discussion at hand and couldn't carry out their duties...and the Rome Senate simply took action to "retire" them. I'm thinking that Ben Nelson is way over his head with the US Senate and probably past his prime in grasping various implications of what he votes for.

Just an observation....you know.

GPS Woes

Over the past couple of weeks...there have been several folks who used a GPS system out in the boonies and really got into deep snow and had to be rescued.

Each blamed the GPS for their problem.

I sat and pondered over this. I've had a GPS for two years now...and will swear by it. But you know....you really need to use it and understand what it gives you. If you say to take the shortest route possible...it will do that, but you can't calculate that this route is safe or makes sense unless you pull out a map and start to analyze where it's asking you to go.

I once accidentally set my GPS to the shortest route possible...and ended up adding 1.5 hours onto a trip because it was looking at mileage only in savings. I quickly learned to use the default setting and never mess with this optional area.

In the cases demonstrated in the news...almost all of these folks got a brand new GPS and didn't fully grasp how to use it. So...it's their issue...not the GPS device.

I hate to suggest it...but you almost need to make people come to some 2-hour class...just to understand a GPS and the threats that it might pose.

The Post Office Will Save You, Maybe

The order came this week from the President. The US Post Office will apparently play this magnificent role in distributing medical aid in the event of a biological attack. This was an executive order...so they can't really refuse it.

The best we can say is that various government agencies, local law enforcement and the US Post Office are supposed to work on a model of sorts. Then the distribution of medical countermeasures would occur. Naturally, you need a biological attack first....in case you were wondering.

The quote from the order: "This policy would seek to: (1) mitigate illness and prevent death; (2) sustain critical infrastructure; and (3) complement and supplement State, local, territorial, and tribal government medical countermeasure distribution capacity."

I sat there....not wanting to insult my dad's old occupation (rural carrier for the United States postal folks)...but seriously...this is the actual plan and the guys you expect to deliver essentials?

So I visualized this movie...a post office movie. Starring? Maybe Bruce Willis or David Hasselhof?

The theme would be this huge regional post office which could save 300,000 people in this area....but the incompetence bred over 100 years...has made this a questionable act. The mail carriers argue over union rules. The manager is doped up on pain-killers twenty-four hours a day and is in the midst of a trans-gender operation. Back-office Willy (played by Ben Stiller) is their only possible hero, but he's got girlfriend problems with a Argentine dance hostess.

So DC postal headquarters sends a special team to this regional post office...made up of crackerjack office freaks and no real management skills. All of the delivery vehicles fail (they switched to bio-diesel for some reason) and a sudden and massive delivery of Wal-Mart boxes flood the distribution center.

I'm willing to share my script with the right producer ($2,000 and a pallet of Pabst would be sufficient).

I stopped at the point to seriously ponder this. How would the various government agencies, law enforcement, and the Post Office folks ever meet? These are three groups which would never meet in any room, for any reason. You could even call for a meeting in New Orleans with free booze and six weeks of five-star hotel support....and they still wouldn't meet.

This all looks good on paper....but my guess is...when the crap finally hits the fan....you will see the President call up FEDEX and ask if they can deliver...and the CEO of FEDEX starts to weep and say: "Yes, sir....we can deliver until hell freezes over". And the President gives FEDEX a $50 billion contract to save America in a crisis. Honestly....it can only end in such a classic moment.

Apophis and the Threat

There is an interesting story which came out about a week ago...discussing this asteroid Apophis.

For a fair amount of time....folks have known Apophis is heading toward the Earth's direction. Some odds started out at 1 in 36,000 that it would come near the Earth to be a threat....then it went to 1 in 400,000 and higher. These numbers get tossed around in science publications and the media. Everyone is all happy that these scientists are that smart and can pretty much say this is not a threat.

This week however....some Russian scientists came up and said that an effort is necessary to absolutely ensure the asteroid will not hit the Earth.

Some folks are scratching their head over this. Why worry if the odds are 1 in 400,000 of hitting the Earth. We can agree....it would be a catastrophic collision if it did hit.

Basically, the Russians want a couple of hundred million.....mostly from everyone to work on this asteroid killing device. They even used the quote: "We are talking about people's lives."

I pondered on this. Apophis is about 1,150 feet in diameter. If it did hit the Earth, it's believed to be able to create an area of destruction of the size of France (which is fairly big). There is some argument....just destroy the asteroid or just move it....which either would be fine with me.

So what's going on?

There are two scenarios here. First, the one where the governments are lying and it's fairly close to hitting the Earth....like 1 in 6 chances or so (my numbers). Would NASA lie? Well....they've made up stories on global warming without any issues.....so what would a bit more lying cause?

The second scenario is that the Russians have finally grasped the method of getting money from everyone by making them all worry about false conditions....like global warming. So they want to get in on the big money deals. By making up a big worry here.....you suddenly trigger governments into some false sense of doing something when nothing is required. Kinda like climate change and global warming.

So the question is.....should we worry about something that might occur in 2036? If it was to occur and the truth came out tomorrow....then the stock market would fall a 1,000 points in one day. You'd have hundreds of thousands of mentally ill folks committing suicide.....all in one day. You'd have massive government fraud suddenly go turbo.....and nothing would be saved for any event.

It's hard to judge this situation. Maybe the Russians are lying. Maybe NASA is lying. Maybe this or maybe that. Seems like a fine movie for some guy to make.

Not Even a Game Anymore

I came to a point about ten years ago where I just stopped watching NBA basketball. It was a league filled with wannabe stars who were pretending to be in the same league as Walt Fraser, Larry Bird, and Freddy Brown.

Christmas eve night....yet another reason why I can't stand immature behavior of the players. There were two guys on the same team....wrapping up after a game....and they drew pistols on each other in the locker room. This was apparently due to some gambling debt between them. I won't mention names...but one was an NBA all-star....which in this wannabe-league...doesn't mean much.

Apparently...having pistols in such a building is a violation of sorts in this town. The cops are checking the situation out and the DA is involved. Some charge will be invented and I'm pretty sure both will get probation of some type...and then the NBA management staff will get involved.

At one point within the NBA....you had to exit out of college at the end of four years and a degree...to make the NBA. Then they got rid of that rule because a bunch of guys were ready to leave after a year or two. So then they even went and made it where a kid could finish high school and go straight to the league. Somewhere in the midst of this mess...they lost half of the maturity that you got with college grads. And they really don't care...it's merely a money-making game and nothing else now.

So this is how I lost my appreciation of NBA basketball...and how it'll never return.

Friday, 1 January 2010

2010

This will end up being a radically different year for me. After fifteen years in Germany.....I've packed to leave. Of all places on the face of the Earth, I will end up in Virginia. I will be car-less in less than two weeks.....for an entire year. And I will be in a foreign land of sorts.....with one out of every six in Arlington being a foreigner.

My tax relationship with the Germans will have finally ended. This twenty-odd thousand that they took through various means (income, sales, pension, TV, property, autobahn, and gas taxes)....comes to an end.

This absolute rigid way of life that Germans toss onto everyone.....will be a thing of the past for me. If I want to toss batteries into the regular garbage....I will. If I don't want to separate paper from plastic.....I won't. I won't consider the implications of using Du instead of Sie when discussing something with my neighbor.

I'll finally have real newspapers to read....or not read. I'll finally sign up for the Wall Street Journal and actually read first-class journalism.

I'll have dozens of news channels.....but probably only watch one.

I'll have talk radio but probably never listen to more than an hour a week.

I'll have access to Glenn Beck....but will it matter?

I'll be four hours by bus from New York City.....but will I actually take the risks of traveling to the City?

So 2010 is a bold year for me.