Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Art of DC

As you walk around DC, you can't help but admire the statues and "art" left out in the public view. The issue is....after a while...you start to question what is art and what is not.


I stood there looking at these two pieces. One was a steel tree of sorts and the other was some carpenter effort at illusion. Some dude got paid a fair amount of money for each. And I would likely question the value of both.

So as you walk around DC....keep an open eye. When you find these two....ask yourself if this was art or not.

The Fall of Man

I spent the morning over in DC....at the National Art Gallery. For a guy from Bama.....I kinda hate to admit that I have an interest in art. It might be taken the wrong way.

So I spent two hours walking around.....gazing at magnificent scenes and the imagination of very creative men.

Then I came to this piece....."The Fall of Man". I stood there for about five minutes....admiring the scene and the ideals behind it.

For a guy from Bama.....my vision is this handsome guy named Larry....sitting in a pasture.....tending to his goats. Somewhere in the heat of the day (it was fairly warm because Larry got to the point of removing his clothing)....Larry's gal Wanda came over to the field. It felt rather hot for her too.

You would refer to Wanda as a wholesome gal....amply built.....and probably capable of hauling a bushel of corn easily.

Things go well in the field for Larry and Wanda....with the mountains in the background....and they reach a point of happiness. The title of the painting...."The Fall of Man"....leads you to think that Larry's great weakness in life for Wanda.....was the downfall.

I, however, sat there and viewed the entire painting. It hit me at some key moment, that I was missing one last element of this painting in my mind....this damn Persian cat in the lower left corner.

The artist spent a heck of a lot of time putting that cat on the canvas. He didn't just toss the Persian on the picture....he spent lots of time making sure that every inch of the cat was accurate and fit well.

It hit me.....the Fall of Man....refers not to Wanda, but the Persian cat. Yes, that vicious cat....which demands attention day after day. Once the Persian enters your life....it's downhill from that point on.

So that was my analysis of the Fall of Man. I realize some of you may have better art values than me. You have to realize that being from Bama.....limited my artistic background...and set me back thirty years, so I do have some catching up to do. And yes, I might envision what was in the picture a bit differently.

The neat thing here....is that I barely saw half of the National Art Gallery.....so I've got tons of more painting to see and touch.

What Marlin Taught Us

I sat and pondered over this Sea World episode of the past week...where the trainer gal got dragged down by the whale and eventually died.

If you flip through MSNBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NBC, and Fox....you had hours and hours of coverage over the whale, the trainer, the park, the profits, the what-if's, the comments of park attendees, the analysis of animal trainers (some were just lion trainers but for some reason, they were experts in whales too), and just comments from regular people off the street (I suspected half had never seen a whale, if you asked me).

It was not that long ago that Siegfried and Roy act had their tiger episode....where some lady in a funky hairstyle in the front row attracted the tiger's attention....and things went wrong. In this case....this trainer gal in Florida had a long pig-tail....and I'm guessing that flipped out the whale in some fashion or he thought it was a fish.

Frankly, when you start messing around with any animal....you get a wide-open score card. You could bring up a dozen elephants to Bama and spend ten years training them to play soccer.....to have folks stop by your farm and pay $5 to watch elephants play soccer. Then one day....your best goalie....Larry the Elephant....gets just a little upset and stomps on Wanda (your wife who plays the ref in the game).....you just can't blame Larry.

It is a funny tendency that we have....that animals can be purely safe and our "buddy".

We all sit and watch Animal Planet....and feel that Lions can be made "safe". We've watch clips of how some guy taught a 500-pound guerrilla to eat peanut butter from the kitchen table. We've watched shows where a huge horse was personally trained by a 5-year old kid.

The truth is that you could have a 500-pound guerrilla around the house for ten years....doing your laundry....clearing the table....and even sitting with you in the evening while the two of you watched Dancing with the Stars and feel perfectly safe. Then one day.....an ant appears on the kitchen table....and Kong suddenly grabs ahold of you and starts whoomping the heck out of your head. You can't predict that moment or why it sets off your "buddy".

So in the end....we go back to Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.....where animals are animals....and you'd best keep your distance and just let Jim get the life whoomped out him by the guerrilla. That was Jim's job and Marlin paid him to take the punishment while Marlin sat forty feet back with the camera. Marlin wasn't crazy....he knew what could happen with wild animals....even if they pretended to be friendly.

Our Strange World

We had an unusual episode unfold here in the local area about two weeks ago, and yesterday...most of the story finally came together.

There is this El Salvadorian guy...Elmer Zelaya...who is forty-one years old (this is key to remembering).

Elmer was living here in the DC area...just across into Maryland...up until second week of Feburary. Elmer's visa was running out by late March.

Elmer had been staying with relatives and had made some money while working in the DC area.

During the time living up in the DC area...Elmer had become friends with a young lady. Well...we must be honest...the young lady was eleven years old.

Discussions between Elmer and the young lady (eleven) got pretty serious in the past month or two....and they decided to pack up and move to El Salvador. Elmer let her know that judges in El Salvador would marry them up with no issues. So off they drove.

Naturally, the family got all upset...the cops got involved, and the chase was on.

Somewhere...in the midst of Tennessee...a Tennessee State Trooper pulls over this pick-up driven by Elmer. The first story was that the young lady in the truck was his daughter. The cop looked at the picture from a bulletin and arrested Elmer on the spot.

From what cops can figure....Elmer had been fairly close contact with his young lady for the entire past year.

The cops were curious about intentions here...and the young lady said that the two had talked at length about “what they wanted to do when they grew up and about how they loved each other.”

I'm guessing the cops will find enough charges to hold Elmer for at least six years in prison. The thing is...when Elmer finally gets out...I'm wagering his young lady will finally be eighteen and standing there at the gate waiting for him.

It is a sad tragic tale in one sense....which shouldn't have happen. But you have to stand there and ask yourself how some forty-one year old guy gets into the mindset of having a relationship with a eleven-year old girl and even discusses marriage?

Other than one suspicious cop in Tennessee...the two would have crossed the border and been in El Salvador two days later, and probably married on the third day.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The "Lamar" Factor

There was a comment or two today...from analysts...over Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee at the health care debate.

Typically...most senators you tend to view...lack any real skills at getting a point across. They can make a speech or read some point paper...but they don't have "people" communication skills.

As Senator Alexander came into the debate...his style and grace was something that you couldn't prepare to battle. When he speaks...he's speaking from the level of a common guy on the street and setting the stage for folks to comprehend things.

At best in today's senate...you have perhaps five individuals of the level that Senator Alexander plays from. He's not a genius. He's not a high stakes lawyer. He's not an economist. He's not a business man. Lamar Alexander ends up being this simple guy who reads and then asks questions.

After you watch various clips and comments from the debate yesterday...the "Lamar" factor starts to play out with most people. They probably wanted an intelligent debate and a display of facts on the table....and I think Senator Alexander probably started the direction of the debate.

As comical as the debate ended up being...you end having some appreciation of the moments of Senator Alexander...which was probably the only four-star moments of the whole "show".

Fun While Traveling

Imagine if you will...you've mentally prepared yourself for a fair amount of air travel. You've traveled an hour or so by car to the local airport. You've walked through the parking and concourse area. You've played the TSA game with the security guy and tried not to get aggravated. You've waited an hour for the flight to take off. You've gotten onto the Delta flight finally...and sat down. And now...the two stewardesses are engaged into a debate, that grows more hostile...minute by minute.

You sit and feel entertained by this. You've seen regular people argue at bars and pubs. You've seen people get angry at funerals and company parties. You've witnessed people blow up at their girlfriend, their neighbor, or grandfather. But you've never seen stewardesses engaged in a hostile argument.

The reality of this...is that it actually happened out in Rochester, NY...and the Delta flight apparently emptied the passengers back into the waiting area while the flight waited for replacement of the two ladies involved.

I sat and thought about the situation. Typically...the airline is the guy in charge...and in this case...he was the guy who finally made the decision.

Typically...had this been a former Air Force pilot....he would have stood up...walked into the fracas and told both women to "shut up". The leadership qualities would have kicked in and the pilot would have been in true charge of the situation. In this case...I'm guessing very strongly that the guy in the cockpit...wasn't a former Air Force pilot...and he was one of the cheapo $45k per year pilots that the airlines have gone with in the past decade.

My second observation here...is that any passenger could have stood up and told both ladies to shut up. But they didn't. They simply continued to watch the event.

The management guys are going to take a long look at the two women involved. They probably will demand that they both go and take anger management classes.

If you step back and view the event...it's actually a great script for a movie. There has to be some conflict between the two women...that's been brewing for months or years. The right moment? The right conflict? Who knows?

So as you sit and try to relax as you walk through the cattle gate to get from one point to another...there is this new element. Tag team action between the stewardesses might turn out to be better than WWE wrestling.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Your Homeland Security Folks

The Independence Institute went out and asked for government data. Eventually...it took a Freedom of Information Act effort....but they found that the Homeland Security folks....just in 2008....lost over a 1,000 computers or laptops.

Total cost? Around $13 million.

What Homeland Security said in the end...was that NONE of the lost computers contained sensitive or classified data. Having worked for the Air Force or DOD for over thirty years...I would say the chance of this statement being true...no sensitive or classified data...is about 1 percent. And if it were true...then it'd be the case of a bunch of guys having computers or laptops that they aren't using for daily business...which they really wouldn't want to admit.

What happens from a case like this? The congressional folks will eventually ask enough stupid questions...and Homeland Security has to hire 3,000 folks to control the losses.

How do items like this disappear? There are basically two ways. First, you turn an item into disposal but you screw up the paperwork so that it doesn't get removed from the list...then you move to another organization and the 'memory' of the episode disappears entirely. A year later....the organization is trying to clean up this mess and can't grasp that they've already turned the item into disposal.

The second way? Guys leave their laptop out in a open office....and then return tomorrow to discover it gone. In-house theft. With the thousand odd items...I can only imagine that over half fall into this category. Leadership really hates to stand around and start pointing fingers at their own people....so they avoid the discussion entirely.

So, it's your money...stolen from the guys who supposed to be protecting the homeland. And they swear up and down...that nothing sensitive or classified was lost.

You want to have a drastic effect on theft? Thin client...a dummy terminal...like we had in the old days. But don't worry...we never learn.

Debate Clean-Up

The best quote from yesterday's health care debate? It comes from the London Times:

"Watching American politicians argue about health care can be seriously damaging to your health. Symptoms include migraines, extreme fatigue and sudden violent urges."

The worst moment from yesterday's health care debate?

There was this moment when John McCain was responding to something...and then President wanted to step in and remind John that we aren't in the campaign mode anymore and he was President. I've watched that 90-second exchange around five times and must admit the low class comment from the President made him look like a Italian political figure.

For those of you who missed the debate...don't worry...you probably didn't miss anything worth viewing. In fact...if a choice between seven hours of debate or seven hours of Tom and Jerry cartoons...I'd pick the cartoons.

Just Observations from the Debate Today

I've watched around 75 minutes of the health care debate from this afternoon. I can't bring myself to watch anymore.

Three simple observations. First, the idea of a debate between the Republicans and Democrats...with the President as a "ref"? He kept throwing flags like some NFL referee and I kept thinking....we didn't really design the job as President to be this kind of character. After eight of these flags....I just started laughing.

Second, if a retired guy had to sit there with his wife for the whole six or seven hours....watching this go back and forth....he would have been edging real close to the remote control after two hours. I'm guessing 3,000 wives probably had to call the cops this afternoon over a relationship issue brewing from the TV show. A handful of guys likely got clobbered, shot, or knifed.

Third, about fifty percent of the folks on the screen were 65 or older....and frankly, I'm shocked that they didn't fall asleep toward the half-way point of the show. I scanned the room in the first twenty minutes and kept thinking if this were a real office meeting for six hours.....folks would be freaking out and falling down on the floor.

Frankly, I'd rather the President stay presidential and the congressional guys stay like idiots. Once you start mixing and matching here....you tend to fall into the Mussolini-trap and the public thinks you are some kinda character actor....and not a president.

The Mighty Micky


Somewhere around fourteen years ago, this house cat arrived, Micky. He'd been bought off by customer number one, but they came back four months later with huge issues over his shedding hair....and so here was a 8-month old cat who was going to have problems in finding an owner. Obviously, I didn't really think much over the deal....and so he came to be the house cat.

For around ten years....I can't really say that I noticed him too much. There was the episode where he followed me outside one evening, and I re-entered without him. Sometime around 2AM, I woke up and could hear this cat whining at the front door....and walked down to let him back in. He never left the comfort of the front door and felt sure I'd come for him sooner or later.

About four years ago, I began this nifty trick of feeding him snacks...one at a time in the kitchen. Sadly....a week later.....he made it permanent and sits there in the kitchen each morning to get twenty-odd cat snacks.

In the past week...the Vet has come up and finally hinted of an impending kidney situation. The best you can figure.....this fifteen-year old cat probably has six months to go....maybe eight.....and he'll progress to cat-heaven.

There are several things gleaned from the Micky-period. First, Persians are terrible at sticking to you. If you walk from room to room....they tend to walk with you. Second, Persians like the sun.....and will actually work to get sun burned if you give them a chance. Third, Persians need a trim or cut about every three months. If you wanted the poodle of cats....this is it.

The Mighty Micky has probably had a five-star deal. In the past year....over $1,200 has been thrown at Vet bills for him. He got the best food....the blanket to sit on....and if he threw up on the couch....you just overlooked it. He will likely be missed for more reasons than you can imagine.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Woes of Montgomery County

There was an interesting story in the Washington Examiner today. Over in Montgomery County...the county political machine got together and forged a nifty tax deal which was directly aimed at millionaires. For a brief time....it worked.

Then...the county started to notice revenue amongst its population gone. Actually, they now say that between 2007 and 2008...the county lost revenue income amounting to $4.6 billion. There are several beliefs here...that some folks simply lost a chunk of their money (possible), some folks died, and then they come to the idea that folks packed up and left.

This wouldn't matter much...except they are lost at this deficit of $761 million.

The millionaire tax? Well...if you make $1 million....you pay 6.25 percent on that. Thats the local method of getting at your money when the state and federal government hasn't done enough.

How many left? Presently...the county is showing 216 of these folks gone...which is bothering a good number of the guys in charge of the county.

Some of the leadership have been told that folks just said "enough" and left while they had a chance. Some folks have countered this argument...saying that millionaires haven't left California and New Jersey when they did their big millionaire tax.

I pondered on this a while and read up on both New Jersey and California. It's a curious thing. Both states started a status which is the 'part-time' resident situation. If you own a house and basically limit your time to something like 30 to 60 days a year in the state...you disqualify yourself as a full-time guy and avoid alot of these taxes. So the California and New Jersey millionaires got smart and just found another house in another state...moved into it and play the 'visit' game.

What does Montgomery County do now? They could get tough and try to track down the absent millionaires...but I'm guessing they've got themselves safely into Delaware or West Virginia.

The county could sit down and start cutting...but frankly, you'd have to carve up police and fire services...along with library hours cut in half....and probably avoid all road construction for the next twelve months.

Chasing the millionaires away? Yes, they may have done something stupid. You see the same logic in DC with senators and representatives. Eventually...these rich guys pay some lawyer and tax consultant....to advise them on what country to park their millions....and they quietly move the money. Whatever gain was imagined...rarely ever occurs. So you just lose more money.

Another Study

Fox News put up an interesting news item today. Some smart guys got up a study at the University of Toronto...and basically said that belief in God plays a positive role in handling the treatment of depression and anxiety.

How these psychologists ever came to suggest this topic for a study...is worthy of a study itself.

They came to state there are brain differences between believers and nonbelievers....which would invite a thousand questions.

So you toss enormous stress on a guy....who is a believer....and he simply puts himself at work...accepting the woes, sorrows and pain. He survives with no issues. You toss the same load on a guy who is a non-believer.....and he starts to fight the woes, sorrows and pain....but can't relieve himself of the burden.

What you come to in the end....beyond this topic of God or religion....is simply a belief in something that leads to 'acceptance'. The Greeks had this word.....stoicism. With this Greek belief....you accept what has happen, and just keep going. Stopping to sit and ponder the problems....leads to anxiety and stress. The Greeks came to realize that.

I suspect that eventually.....some folks will start to review this university study, and stoicism.....and then look further into the human mind. When you sit and imagine a guy taking a simple wagon team from the Missouri territory and heading across the Rocky Mountains in the 1840s, to eventually end up in Oregon....it took belief in something to force yourself to the end. Nothing comes easily in life.

Our METRO

The safety meetings concluded yesterday over our subway system (METRO). These weren't localized safety meetings...these involved the NTSB and congress.

We've had a number of accidents over the past three years and most folks in DC are now asking questions. The safety and trust feeling is good, but not great. You never ever pick the first car to step into...you always aim for the middle cars or end.

At some point...the congressmen threaten to take over METRO. Luckily, the cameras didn't pan the METRO staff because I'd be thinking they'd have a smile on their face.

If you went to the executive staff or the board of METRO...they all basically want the Fed's to step in...because the cash flow simply isn't there. They want your tax dollars to make METRO run.

Currently, there is a federal subsidy that comes from the US government to METRO and is supposed to help keep the cost down because so many member of the US government travel by subway or local bus to work each day.

The real issue? By the time you toss in operations cost and maintenance...with new cars every decade or so...and then the pay, the benefits, and the pension...METRO is basically bankrupt or barely surviving.

So it was great publicity with the congressmen wagging their fingers at METRO and making a threat...with the papers all pumping up folks that this threat will change the way that things run. It won't.

Tomorrow will come...we will step into the subway cars...and simply say a silent prayer in hopes that we can arrive at some destination with a lousy subway system that can't survive.

The Teachers Dilemma

Here's the deal....there's a school in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Currently...and they have a graduation rate of 48 percent. In fact, some news organizations are reporting that in the national test episode...around seven percent were able to do math at the level expected.

A decision was finally made this week....all the teachers, support staff and principal....were fired. This adds up to around seventy-four teachers involved.

The principal had this plan originally....asking the better teachers to take part in a after-school program to get grades up. Yes, you can call it tutoring....or whatever. But to be honest....with less than fifty percent graduating...that was not really going to help very much. The teachers? Well...they said they would consider it...but only with more money...and the school said no way. So the union got involved, and today...this clean operation started.

The school board says that fired teachers can ask to be reinstated...but it'll be picky over who gets hired and comes back. I'm guessing they have a list of folks who are incompetent.

When I went to school...we had around a 90-percent rate of passage. You always tended to have two girls in the eleventh grade who got married and left....and at least three or four folks who suddenly left to join the Marines or start at the lumber mill. The key to this decision was usually boredom in the class or bad grades. Nothing much has changed in thirty years except a higher percentage.

I sat and watched the poor teachers in Germany who weren't that capable of educating...who just dumped information and assigned homework. Their expectation was that the kid would do the homework, grasp the issues via homework, and learn mostly via homework. What you tend to find is that around November of each year....this massive after-school tutor operation starts up...which you the parent have to pay for. I laughed over this when I realized that it was mostly retired teachers who ran the operation and were picking up $5-$10k a year as a professional tutor because the real teachers weren't capable.

One of the great issues within this system...is the inability of teachers to simplify information. You toss out twenty math problems which don't make relative sense. If you hinted that Joe has a garage and has fourteen employees...and then start the students to thinking of how math works in the real world. You could introduce thinking to this math problem and make folks think about the final impact of how businesses work. Today, with modern math...it's just a formula. What the formula gives you...isn't really part of the thinking process.

The question left for me and this Rhode Island group of teachers...is what happens to the guys left at the end if they don't get rehired? Do we have a stimulus plan to help the incompetent teachers? Can we retrain them into something more productive? Can we turn them into Census folks? Can we turn them into truckers or brick layers? That's the real question left.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Well, It Might Be

My brother...the engineer noted this story today.

Up in the northern reaches of Canada...working for the National Research Council's Canadian Neutron Beam Center (near Chalk River)....this engineer...Lachlan Cranswick came up missing around 18 January.

The thing about Lachlan....is that he's a nuclear engineer.

So folks are a bit worried about the implications.

The cops went through his house...nothing gone. The billfold was there....the passport, the bags, etc. The curious thing was his front door was unlocked, but beyond that...nothing was missing.

Some suggestions have centered on the idea of him going for a long walk and just falling off some bridge or some cliff. But they've searched high and low for the guy.

So a nuclear engineer is missing. Naturally, some folks (my brother included)...can only see this as a diabolical episode...possibly involving the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, or even the evil French. Engineers don't run off and get lost....at least in the eyes of other engineers.

I sat and pondered on this a while...and strongly believe that some Amazonian Bama gal...with a house-trailer...a collection of Elvis 45rpm records....a passion for brilliant Canadian wussy nuclear engineers...and a pallet of Molson Coors....has kidnapped the wussy Canadian nuclear engineer.

She's likely brought him south to Bama...to entertain her and enlighten her on these evenings when Andy Griffith ends and there's no episodes of Lost on TV.

I realize my theory is probably not going to hold much water but it's hard to imagine Chinese spies showing up at Chalk River and asking about where the nuclear professor lives. The same is true for North Korean spies or even French spies.

So deep in the heartland of Bama tonight...there's likely a chat on neutrons and protons...with some Bama gal totally fascinated and cooking up catfish for her new found boyfriend.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Pledge

Xavier Becerra is a Democratic congressman in California...who got into some trouble. At a meeting recently...as they were opening the meeting there in California....someone in the audience jumped up and wanted everyone there to receite the Pledge of Allegiance.

There was a bit of laughing over this...but eventually everyone...include Represenative Becerra recited the pledge. The problem is that this all got video-taped. Then it got put on YouTube.

Some folks are getting all upset over this congressman and his amusement of the pledge request.

I sat and pondered over this.

Did George Washington ever recite the Pledge of Allegiance? No.

Did Thomas Jefferson ever recite the Pledge of Allegiance? No.

Did Abraham Lincoln ever recite the Pledge of Allegiance? No.

This is the curious thing about this pledge business. It didn't come about until 1892. It was invented as a method for folks to show their patriotism in a public setting. You wave the flag...you push the pledge...everyone feels some American spirit...and then you go home feeling gleefully happy.

It's a simple four-line pledge which gets tossed into any school setting or public forum. It was a simple thing in the 1960s to just get everyone to recite it and then get onto regular work. Today? Folks question the pledge.

If you asked folks if it existed in the 1850s...the vast majority will say 'yes'. Few know it's history.

A lot of people walk around as Republicans and use this tactic in public forums...like this one in California...to get at people who question the pledge. In the mind of these Republicans...making anything about the pledge a joke....is serious business and good to use against Democrats.

In the end...the pledge ends up being a "tool" rather than anything else. I realize I might not be making some folks happy....but we actually got by very well for 120 years...without the pledge. Makes you wonder if we really need it in the first place?

They Work For You

If you were running the Pepsi legal department...and woke up one day to find that you'd hired nine lawyers in your division who used to work on Coke's team handling lawsuits...would you be nervous at realizing who you had on your staff?

If you worked for Burger King's legal team...as a chief of the legal operations staff, and found that you had nine guys on your staff who had done legal work for McDonalds in the past year...would you feel kinda nervous?

If you worked for the legal staff of the Baptist ministries....as a chief of legal operations, and discovered that you had nine new lawyers on your team who were part of a satanic rituals legal support staff...would it bother you?

So after you pause and ponder these questions....put yourself in Eric Holder's position. He hired nine guys....minimum...in fact...he doesn't even know the true number past nine...that were lawyers for Jihad players in Gitmo in 2008.

The hint came out around Christmas that he had at least one on his staff. The senate came up and asked him to give them a number. Presently....he's kinda skipped by this question as much as possible, but this week...we know its a minimum of nine lawyers on the Attorney General's team who had work with Islamic terrorists in Gitmo.

I sat and pondered over this. The odds of having one of these guys hired with the Attorney General's office? It's one of those one in five hundred chances. The odds of having three? It starts to go into one out of 3,000 chances. So you start to scratch your head. With so many lawyers in America...the odds of this is rather silly to consider.

But then we come to a curious scenario. Here are Bob and Ted...former Gitmo defender lawyers who now work for some part of the Attorney General's office. They are having lunch with Edgar and Cal...and this topic of court action against Jihad guys comes up and where you have the case. Bob and Ted get invited later into the big meeting. They want the legal cases put in a place where the Islamic guys have a higher chance of getting off the hook. Bob and Ted want it in New York City. They pretty much sell this whole concept. So Edgar and Cal package this and brief Eric Holder. Eric buys this...without really knowing the vast influence of Bob and Ted...who are both laughing at how naive the Attorney General's staff and Eric Holder himself is.

So after this entire mess of putting the court case in New York City arises...then Eric Holder goes back and asks the logic...and then finds Bob and Ted. By this point...Eric is beginning to feel pretty bad about this mess. He convinced the president to stand by this mess....but truthfully...he's standing there and hoping that the senate doesn't start to glean all of the Gitmo lawyers...because it just might be more than nine.

From a management prospective...there's some big screw-ups here. A regular manager working for Wal-Mart or Pepsi or Microsoft...would be fired. But in this case...I don't see that happening.

The 5-Star Web Page

I spent ten minutes this morning....looking over the White House web page of the newest health care universal plan...this time...the President's plan.

I must say...their web page is really nifty. Most pages lead you by way of a very simple question (what if I already have a policy, for example). In fact, I'd give an award to the web page designer for the best designed page of the year.

So, some observations.

It amazes me that you can take 2,000-odd pages and craft it down into thirty or forty web pages. Yes, it does amaze me. Course...then I'm wondering why don't we just use the web page as a bill itself and throw the 2,000 pages away. I guess we can't do that because then we'd be missing something. And that's the same missing stuff that isn't listed on the web page.

The next observation is that someone....who is really unknown....read all the pages of the President's idea (probably 2,000 pages)....and came down to thirty to forty web pages. Who is this guy? I'd really like to meet him. So far...from CNN, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS and even Time...we have yet to meet anyone who claims they've read the whole thing and can comprehend it. Note...I said comprehend within this requirement.

The last observation? I kept looking for the mechanism that would limit cost or growth within the health industry. I looked at the methods that the government would use to curtail costs. The only real method that I noticed...was that the government would limit the insurance industry from pushing up their prices. This sounds ok, but if you told a barber that he could only charge $8 for a haircut....and next year when he wanted $9...you refused...then he'd just spend one minute less on your hair and likely leave the top "as is". When you complained...he'd just butcher your hair. This idea of control has consequences in every single industry.

I came to the end and while I thought the pages were designed really great...it was the content that left me asking more questions. Oh, and the taxes or fees behind this whole thing still wasn't explained in a comprehensive method. Do I pay $100 more a year? Do I pay $300 more a year? Do I pay $1000 more a year? And if I pay more, do I get less in the end?

Those are the sad questions that still can't be answered.

In some ways, I wish we were like the Netherlands with twelve million people...and you could actually lay out a plan with everyone's name attached to their salary and then a price tag at the end. This would make this all so simple to grasp and approve or toss out.

A Limited View of TV

I have a short list of shows that I religiously watch on TV. Even though I've returned to the heartland and have 99 channels.....I'm pretty much limited to around fours shows total.

First, there's House. I started with the medical show three years ago and got absolutely addicted to it. And I will readily admit that Cuddy is my fantasy woman.

Second, Lost. The long and short of it...it is the best written script ever conceived. Sawyer...our dude from Bama...probably the best representation of Bama that we've ever had. The state ought to hire him and put him in 30-second ad's to invite folks to Mobile.

Third, Seinfeld. Over all those years in Germany....I rarely got a chance to watch more than five episodes ever. Since arriving in early January...I've watched around thirty episodes...and found it to be five-star humor.

Fourth, and final...Axmen. The History Channel runs this nifty program on Sunday evenings...the lumberjacks of Oregon and the Swampjacks of Louisiana. Frankly, I don't miss a single show. The curious thing is to listen for the bleep signal...which typically occurs about every 75 seconds. I don't think you can go more than four minutes...without a bleep. The thing that amazes me...is the amount of work that I'd never volunteer for...yet these guys readily jump right into the midst of it and don't say a word.

Oh, and I would put Dog, Bounty Hunter on the list...but it's still too early.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Teleworking

Teleworking? I realize it's a foreign concept for you folks from Bama...but a moment to introduce it to you. Basically....your boss gives you a laptop, and then he lets you work from home. Maybe one day a month, maybe two days a months, or perhaps even four days a month. In fact....your boss could even let you work every other day from home.

The neat thing about teleworking is that you really don't have phone calls interrupting you. You could spend two productive hours building a spread sheet...when it would have taken six hours to build it at the office.

The negative? Well...you just might sit there for eight hours....sipping coffee and watching Oprah.

After the big snow episode here in DC from two weeks ago...everyone kinda woke up from their management world and realized the impact of all of us sitting at home for four days. So there's a discussion that suddenly got dragged up across all government lines in the past week....maybe we ought to make a bunch of folks into teleworker-types.

Naturally...since the vast majority of us have PC's at the office....this means the Dell guy is almost weeping. This could involve a sell across various government agencies of 100,000 laptops.

Here's the kicker. Over an entire year...on average....we have maybe two days where snow or ice might be an issue. So we could end up spending alot of money playing out this teleworker game. On top of that....once all these guys get the laptop...why not set up a regular schedule where they all take one or two days each month to work at home? We could even call it an "Oprah-day".

The odds of this happening? I don't know. I'd like to think that we are all better off having folks appear in the office and answer questions face-to-face. It's hard to see this making things better in the end.

My Metro

About six weeks ago...the Metro here in DC (my subway and bus company)...came out to warn everyone of impending rises in the cost of tickets.

What they finally came to discuss...about three weeks ago...was no cuts in service and a 10-cent rise for about six months (more or less), then things would go back to normal. Everyone was fairly happy and willing to go along with this deal.

Today...we come to find out that this was not the final word on cost issues or a rise in daily tickets.

Here's the new deal...we will likely go from $1.20 which was the January rate...to $1.50 (a 30-cent rise). This is fairly hefty to most folks. A temp fix? Oh, I think we are past that point.

But hold on...we aren't finished with rising the rates. The airport shuttle...from $3.10 to $6.00. The bike locker fees? Going from $70 a year to $200 a year.

Oh, and there's a pretty fair hint that it's not a temporary thing...but a everlasting thing...with more likely to come in 2011.

So you'd sit there and wonder about some things. The Metro crew came out and said that $40 million of their 2010 shortfall could be fixed by a federal handout. Well...they admit that this was mostly an optimistic view, and really won't happen.

So where is the cost accelerator? Pensions and health care for it's employees. The Washington Examiner actually got them to admit it.

I sat there and thought of California and all its various problems. They will be bankrupt by summer unless the federal government steps in. Salary structure and pensions are what drove California to be virtually bankrupt.

Metro? At the current rate...I'm expecting one-way fairs to go from the $1.50 they hint of....to around $2.00 by the end of 2011. At that point, I'm better off to drive a vehicle to the Pentagon everyday...it'd actually be cheaper than Metro.

Here's the problem that occurs...why would you take Metro? You could see half of all current riders just give up. The issue starts to be...a giant system that requires hundreds of millions for salary, health care, and pensions...and they can't afford it. The whole Metro system....within five years...would likely collapse.

The Seven-Day Rule

Quietly...and you probably won't hear it except on the Business-related news...Citigroup has come out and said...at least for its customers in Texas...that it now wants seven days notice before you come in and empty out your account.

They give the warning because federal law requires it. Otherwise...they would have just posted it at the door and you would have been shocked at the note as you stood there.

The interesting thing here is that it was for Texas only but somehow got inserted into a national newsletter so everyone across the US thinks it's for them as well.

Those hints from Senator Snuffy, Representative Wanda, and the White House...that we've turned the corner...that the economy is improving...that banks are now safer...think again.

If you were living in Texas and had an account with Citigroup...it's a pretty sure bet that you are talking with your accountant...your lawyer...your neighbors...and you probably will empty out your Citigroup bank account within thirty days.

The possibility of a run on Citigroup banks nation-wide? That's probably something to think about as May and June come around. It is a huge hint that nothing about this economic mess is finished. If anything...we've moved to stage two where folks start to think in a radical sense.

Folks might even start thinking of clearing money from banks and putting it into safe deposit boxes, safes in their basements, or bury the cash in their backyard.

How Beck Came to Great Britain

Somebody made a decision to take Glenn Beck's hour...and export it to the UK. So in the past couple of weeks...Beck has been appearing on the UK Fox channel. There are various comments that you could make about this...but frankly...it's a business decision and likely to challenge a number of British folks.

So as this event unfolded...some folks in Britain decided it was time to get tough with advertisers...and ensure that it was a failure. So they went out and punched everyone who was advertised as hard as possible...convincing them to drop commercials on the Beck hour. This past week...these 'tough' guys patted themselves on the back and expressed a happiness over their successful efforts.

Normally...at least with the standard expectations of the past three decades...this would typically mean the end of the Beck show within a couple of weeks. If you can't make any real advertising money...you can't continue the show.

Needless to say...like a number of things that have occurred over the past twelve months...standard expectations are being tossed out. Rules for liberals and conservatives don't work much anymore.

What Beck's crew in the UK will do...is fill the Beck hour with ad's from other Fox-related shows...and basically take over the time slot. If you own the slot with the number one position...whoever is number two...can't expect great or profitable rates on advertising. And the same goes for number three.

The business guys at Fox know the deal. They've got Beck at the 5PM slot and he's got full control over viewership. For ever ten viewers that Beck has...the number two guy is lucky to have three viewers. And the number three guy is lucky to have two viewers. Their advertising rate for profits? Lousy. No one can walk in and ask for a raise if he's got lousy numbers. You're stuck in number two and can't ever advance for your career or your pocket.

You have to be a bit amused over the glee shown by the UK crowd and how they stopped the Beck advertisers. In their mind...Beck's show is finished on the air, and they've won. Two decades ago...it was logical and correct. Today? A World of Warcraft-like strategy has developed. Own the ground and make everyone respect as you are number one...even if you aren't making the real profit. The number two and number three guys are locked into their positions...and they can't advance.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Our First Depression in America (1819)

I sat and did a fair amount of research this afternoon. The internet...frankly...is a lousy place to research on economic history. I probably would have to go the Library of Congress...to find any decent books or documents to my topic...the first economic depression of America.

I got into this pondering last night after watching Beck and grasping all of the recessions and depressions that America has endured.

The curious thing...is that we've repeated this process...over and over. It's funny though...if you Google depression....you end up with the 1930s "Great Depression". That's basically the only depression that they want you to know about.

After a while, I came to realize that most economical experts...aren't historians. It's virtually the same with environmentalists...none can recall any event past the 1960s....and in terms of bad weather....it's a three-year memory that most of these guys have at best.

An economical expert isn't going to waste his time talking about 1812 because that doesn't any impact on today. The same issue exists with 1880.

So I went around to fifteen sites and gleaned what I could for the first depression of America...the Panic of 1819...as it is referred to.

Apparently, most folks think that its start really came from the War of 1812...and it was simply a delayed thing.

Strangely enough....when you look at the top five things of manufacture in those days (NOT cars, TVs, steel, frozen pizza or chainsaws...if you were curious)...it leads back to cotton. Cotton made men wealthy in the South, and made bankers on Wall Street wealthy as well.

It's a curious agricultural situation. In this period of 1812 to 1819...cotton is really the big money maker. You grow the stuff...you pick it...and you market it...worldwide. So ships come in from France, Britain, and Europe....and you sell it at a profit. Prices tended to be stable...up until period. Then...a collapse came and vast speculation started to occur.

Adding to this fury...was the issue of credit. We could easily compare to this banking issue today...where home loans went into this fantastic twist...but then the home pricing scheme came to collapse...dragging the banks down. In the same way....these credit organizations...got themselves too deep into a market where cotton prices weren't going to readily recover.

So as the credit organizations and individuals started to fold....banks got caught in the middle. Sound familiar?

You still had the same amount of cotton....like we have the same amount of houses today...but moving the house or moving the cotton...without real credit...simply wasn't going to happen.

The American cotton market went stagnate....just as home purchases today in Arizona, Florida, and California have gone stagnate.

Banks started to go back to credit organizations/individuals...wanting their money back. Folks with loans....were called to pay off the loans...which they couldn't. So foreclosures of cotton farms, credit institutions, and businesses started to occur.

Remember...lots of folks were happy for the past decade...acting on a good good cotton sales environment and buying into the market, the credit, and the trade business.

Blame? This is the curious thing. Newspapers (our media of the time)...sat and blamed Wall Street, the banking industry, and political folks. Naturally....since this was a disaster that affected mostly southerners....then it came to pass that northerners had to be blamed for part of this.

Sound familiar?

So from 1819....through part of 1821...this episode continued on. At some point...the cotton prices stabilized, the credit industry rebuilt itself, and life got back to a norm.

Although, this is a curious thing. The US government didn't pay out a single penny to fix anything. No banks were bailed out. No credit industries were given hand-outs. No cotton farms were given stimulus checks. No political figures visited a single region to get their pictures taken or have comments written for distribution to the voting establishment.

The only end result? Andrew Jackson ended up getting a huge plus in the 1820s because of the bitterness. Naturally, you might want to note that Andrew Jackson was a southerner....and supported to a great extent by the southern vote.

There are three things to draw out of the Panic of 1819.

First, whatever minor regulation existed before the depression or panic...created an atmosphere afterward that everyone felt the government needed to control things more. Yes, barely forty years into the republic...and the tendency of the public was that only the government could halt such a mess from happening again. The newspapers suggested more rules...and eventually...congress did some minor rule changes to make folks happy.

Second, blame got tossed around enough...to be one of the ten causes of the 1860 attitude of North versus South. Some folks didn't get over this panic and suffered financially for years and decades. The media of the time...the newspapers...didn't help the matter, and likely fanned the flame even more.

Third, and final...the panic simply came to an end...new credit came...and the cotton market stabilized to go back into full-swing. Not a penny of national money or taxes came to be used. Stimulus never got discussed. TARP money simply wasn't an idea that they were going to discuss. The government allowed people, banks, and businesses to fail. It didn't step in. The sun rose eventually over American, and life went on.

Now, you could sit and imagine this great moment where the President of 1819 might have stepped in....tossed out $76 million (the $750 billion number of today)...saved the banks, the credit organizations, the businesses, and did stimulus to pull folks back into line. But the sad thing is that whatever debt we incurred there in 1821...would likely still be on our plate today...and we'd still be paying our debt of that generation off today.

So, that was your history lesson for today. I realize most of you don't really care about how our first depression came about or why it was significant in a way (it did help pave the first road to the Civil War, if you didn't notice).

Sorry if I didn't use Beck's chalkboard or preach to you in a more formal way.

Teachers That Make a Million

Today....out of the New York Post....came a short and curious story over pensions. The paper apparently went out and asked for Freedom of Information details on teacher's pensions in New York City.

The results? There are 738 teachers making a pension greater than $100k, and even three folks making more than $200k. When they reviewed the entire package....the teacher's retirement deal is one pension fund that the city runs....which is the most expensive.

There wasn't a lot of comeback from the union or the pension folks. The problem here is living in New York City isn't cheap. A guy needs a minimum of $50k just to have a decent apartment and simple lifestyle.

The catch to this entire topic is that pension costs mount and spiral upward. You end up standing there and having to figure a pension deal for a guy at age 60....and he might actually live another twenty-five years. If a guy is pulling in $150k...and lives just twenty more years.....you've pushed out $3 million for one guy. If you asked the guy who votes on stuff like this...how he can afford this in a decade....he just sits there quietly and can't respond.

We can go to just about every major city....and look at the cops, the firemen, and the city staff...and they've all got the same issue. No one is sure how things will be funded in two decades...or if they can be.

Face it....it's a financial mess that is unfixable.

Movie Review: Period of Adjustment

I woke up early this morning....real early in fact....and couldn't sleep. So I turned on the TV. Somewhere between the Home Shopping Network and some crime show.....was the TMC Channel....with a strange comedy of sorts.

Period of Adjustment.

It's a Tennessee Williams piece, which is kinda shocking....being a comedy. The curious thing is how well it fits for today.

Two GI's returned from the Korean War.....married....issues with their jobs, their wives, and their vision of a future. It works well in today's atmosphere for guys returning from Afghanistan or Iraq.

It's one of those movies that you'd probably never see on your local channel. I've come to appreciate TMC and its vast library of movies from the 1930 up to the 1960s.

So, if you've got two hours and ever notice Period of Adjustment coming up.....feel free to sit back and enjoy a four-star movie that rarely got noticed.

Five Moments of Observation

First, Tiger Woods and the Friday "weeper". It didn't really matter to me what Tiger Woods said in his confession on Friday. I don't care. The only person who might really care? His wife. Otherwise, this is mostly just a soap opera with forty-four players, and a thousand TV analysts who want to let you know their in-depth knowledge of Tiger and his troubles.

In four months....Tiger will likely appear on Oprah....to apologize again. And a week after that....maybe he'll appear on Larry King. Eventually....you're tire of the Tiger woes.

Second, as tomorrow comes and all these wonderful credit card "fixes" occur....compliments of Senator Snuffy and Representative Wanda....expect something different to occur. The boys in DC were supposed to fix various problems and give you the protection you needed over the credit card mafia.

The interesting expectation? Your fee's which were mostly non-existent for the past decade? They are quietly going to occur. There's already discussions about this....with thirty-five percent of all credit card deals now involving a yearly fee. It'll grow and all of us will eventually pay some kind of yearly fee. This is the credit card "fix" for the congressional "fix".

Third, the passing of Al Haig reopens a vast repository of history. For the best and worst of history in the 1970s and 1980s....there's Al. He delivered brilliant moments and uttered great speeches. He also did some really stupid things at times and probably wasn't the greatest at common sense. Al was Al.

If you asked Al one simple question....he could answer it in three simple lines. But the more complex a question you gave him....the more of a unanswerable response that he gave. In the end...if you wrote a book on the guy....it'd have to be 3,000 pages....and you'd still miss a quarter of his life.

Fourth, in Bama....there is a tight race of sorts going on with bingo. On the sinner's side....there is the threat of the evil that bingo brings and the sad spiraling of American society into hell. Yes, bingo will only bring you closer to hell.....so they say. Sadly, in this case....there is opposition with folks agreeing that legitimate bingo can be played in Bama....and the money could be distributed out to various educational causes....which makes everyone guilty of gambling in bingo....feel good.

The truth of the matter is that bingo is a working man's and retiree hobby. You don't have the upper class playing it like poker or roulette. So when Aunt Sally takes $120 of her monthly $1000 social security check out to the bingo game this weekend....it's a social environment that she's craving and getting. She's happy. There's no neutral point with bingo....that's the blunt truth.

Fifth, another episode of Lost came this week. Instead of answering questions for the last season....they are merely doubling up on more questions. This past week's episode gave us a moment of brilliance as Sawyer took a moment to hint of his favorite book of all time....Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. For about three seconds....I was amused beyond my imagination. Being like the fictional character of Sawyer....I'm from Bama and Of Mice and Men is my favorite book of all time as well....I could only grin.

As for the moment when they buried John Locke six feet down....in the holy sands of the lost island.....I sat and wondered over the medical marvels of the island and how it fixed John Locke's legs when he arrived on the island.

Where he could not walk.....the island found a way to heal John Locke and bring him whole. So as they said their words over Locke's grave and left.....I'm pretty much convinced that in a episode or two in the future....the sands will move above John's grave.....and he will be brought back to life. If you gaze at the picture over at the Lost sight that they use for this season's appearance of the crew....it's a "Jesus-like" table where John Locke sits in the Jesus-position of the table. I think this is the hint of Locke's rising, and his moments of being more than just mortal.

What We Should Know

I sat and watched the CPAC episode last night with Glenn Beck's one-hour history "lesson". In some ways, the "lesson" leads people to sit there and think. It's hard to get that feeling with any of the CNN analysts, the MSNBC talkers, or the network news guru's. Most of their agenda is to do a news dump and you just believe what they say....and then move on. Beck is tempting you.....he wants you to pick up books and investigate what else lies out there.

So I sat and pondered over the concept of recessions and depressions. If you type in American economic depressions.....you get Google's long list of topics on the "Great Depression". I sat there and laughed. It typically leads to Wiki....and a long-winded discussion on the Great Depression. I wanted the whole list. So it took around a dozen attempts.....before I finally got the entire list of depressions and recessions since 1776.

Note, all of the following data came from Wiki...so you have to trust it to a degree. It may not be 100 percent complete or 100 percent accurate...it's just Wiki-accurate.

The events:

Panic of 1797 1796 – 1799

1802–1804 recession 1802 – 1804

1812 recession 1812

1815–21 depression 1815 – 1821

1822–1823 recession 1822 – 1823

1825–1826 recession 1825 – 1826

1828–1829 recession 1828 – 1829

1833–34 recession 1833 – 1834

Panic of 1837 1836 – 1838

Depression of 1839–43 1839 Late – 1843 Late

1845–46 recession 1845 – 1846 Late

1847–48 recession 1847 Late – 1848 Late

1853–54 recession 1853 – 1854 Late

Panic of 1857 1857 June – 1858 Dec

1860–61 recession 1860 Oct – 1861 June

1865–67 recession 1865 April – 1867 Dec

1869–70 recession 1869 June – 1870 Dec

Panic of 1873/Depression 1873 Oct – 1980 Mar

1882–85 recession 1882 Mar – 1885 May

1887–88 recession 1887 Mar – 1888 April

1890–91 recession 1890 July – 1891 May

Panic of 1893 1893 Jan – 1894 Jun

Panic of 1896 1895 Dec – 1897 Jun

1899–1900 recession 1899 June – 1900 Dec

1902–04 recession 1902 Sep – 1904 Aug

Panic of 1907 1907 May – 1908 June

Panic of 1910–1911 1910 Jan – 1912 Jan

Recession of 1913–1914 1913 Jan – 1914 Dec

Recession of WW I 1918 Aug – 1919 Mar

Depression of 1920–21 1920 Jan – 1921 Jul

1923–24 recession 1923 May – 1924 Jun

1926–27 recession 1926 Oct – 1927 Nov

Great Depression 1929 Aug – 1933 Mar

Recession of 1937 1937 May – 1938 June

Recession of 1945 1945 Feb – 1945 Oct

Recession of 1949 1948 Nov – 1949 Oct

Recession of 1953 1953 July – 1954 May

Recession of 1958 1957 Aug – 1958 Apr

Recession of 1960–61 1960 Apr – 1961 Feb

Recession of 1969–70 1969 Dec – 1970 Nov

1973–75 recession 1973 Nov – 1975 Mar

1980 recession 1980 Jan – 1980 Jan

Early 1980s recession 1981 Jul – 1982 Nov

Early 1990s recession 1990 Jul – 1991 Mar

Early 2000s recession 2001 Mar – 2001 Nov

Late 2000s recession 2007 Dec - 2009 Dec

So as you gaze at this list and feel kinda shocked over the extent of recessions and depressions...then you wonder why Wiki kinda leans with just one real reminder..."The Great Depression"?

So in our minds tonight...as we prepare to sleep....some questions.

Before the 1930s...the US government rarely did anything to fix or solve an economic recession or depression...so does it really matter that the President, or Senator Snuffy, or Representative Wanda, or news analyst Ted don't really know much of anything?

If we undergo a recession every five to eight years on average....do we need to get real worried?

Shouldn't we relax and already start expecting a short-term fix and return by 2015 of another recession? And another recession by 2014? And another recession by 2022

If recessions occur this often...shouldn't we kinda get used to this?

At the end of WW I....we endured a depression...then entered the "roaring twenties", which everyone always gets all happy and peppy about. Isn't it interesting that we endured two recessions in the roaring twenties? Strange how we never did get that history lesson in high school and college over those two recessions in the midst of a boom period....isn't it?

How much history do we really know?

There...I've left you with a good twenty minutes of pondering. Beck is right in one degree....we really don't know alot.

American history in high school was a joke.

American history in most university classes was a joke.

You are left with self-taught moments and reading on your own....to figure out what professors didn't give you.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

My Anxiety

Every morning, I walk out to the "Pike" and climb aboard the bus to ride to work. It's typically a seven minute ride to the Pentagon.

I've come to a point of anxiety, for some odd reason, at a stage of this trip.

At the middle point, I crest the hill where the Navy Annex lies....and there is this 5-star view of the Potomac River, the Washington Memorial, the Capital building, and the Pentagon. My anxiety starts at this moment....with the view of the Pentagon, and this image in my mind of 9-11. I can visualize the Pentagon on fire. I wasn't there.....and I have no real connection to the building other than my fifty odd days of work there so far.

It's a 60-second thing. I pause there....stuck on the view of the Pentagon. It bothers me. The bus will eventually make it's way to the bottom of the hill....and then I can concentrate on parked cars, cops giving hand signals, and weird people on the bus.

I'm almost up to two months here....and it's not improving. It's a sixty-second episode that occurs each day, and I'll probably have to get used to it.

How To Get Like Joe Stack

After the IRS attack this week by Joe Stack....I sat down and envisioned how guys get into this type mess. And this is the sad, tragic truth.

As Jimmy, Barney and Carl work for Piggly Wiggly....they live a nice quiet life. They pay taxes and over a forty-year span, they've never met a single employee from the IRS or been audited. They make just enough to pay their bills, have a house, and buy one or two new cars in their entire life. They aren't happy....but they aren't facing issues like the IRS.

So then we come to Marvin. Marvin got aggressive around age 25. He got his degree, got a great sales job with the father-in-law, and started climbing up. By age 30, Marvin was ready for his first big independent move.

Marvin took his life savings of $25k, borrowed $50k from the mother-in-law, and borrowed $80k from the bank. Marvin's service and sales business slowly took off, and he barely made any substantial profits for two years. The accountant had a simple and easy task of reporting everything.

Then Marvin started to pick up more sales and by the end of the third year....he had some real profits to show....at least $75k for the year. The accountant did the IRS returns correctly, and Marvin paid out over $22k to the IRS and the state.

Marvin hires another employee or two for the fourth year....picking up almost $180k in sales and profit for the year. IRS? Well....the accountant takes the forms and it's around $55k that the state and IRS collect in the end.

Marvin by this point.....talks to Larry....who knows this accountant who finds special loop holes to avoid taxes. Marvin lets the old accountant go.

The fifth year? Marvin clears almost $300k in sales and service....and this dandy new accountant finds enough loop holes to only force Marvin into paying $70k in taxes for the year.

The sixth and seventh years look just as good, with Marvin using the same guy, the same loop holes, and avoiding the taxes that he hated.

Then one day....IRS pulls out an audit. Then they say that these loop holes that were used.....aren't fitting. They look back.....and there are three years of this. They now say that Marvin owes around $140k more for the past three years. Marvin's accountant? He's not exactly helping much now.

Marvin hires an attorney. Just the letter to state his position.....costs around $1k. Over the course of two years....Marvin fights via this tax attorney. At the end of this episode....not only does Marvin lose and have to pay the $140k with interest.....but he has to figure up the attorney cost here that amounts to $60k. Figure $200k for a sudden loss.

So whatever retirement funds that he'd put in for the past seven years.....it's gone. If it was a 401k deal, then there's the ten percent fee built into that loss as well.

Marvin is almost back to square one, except he is still clearing $300k a year on his business. A normal guy would be happy, and just fire the tax accountant.....and get back the guy who did all the paperwork right in the first place.

Marvin isn't happy......so he goes back to thinking that the government is screwing him.....and wants to attempt more loop holes. Every three years.....he faces the audit and tosses more money to attorney fees, which eat up his life savings.

By age sixty.....here are the three guys over at Piggly Wiggly (Jimmy, Barney, and Carl), and here is Marvin. Basically....they are all at the same level. Marvin may own a business that pulls in $400k of sales and service a year.....but he's given $500k over the years to attorney costs and IRS interest situations. They have all climbed to the same position in life.

The moral of this story? Be happy at Piggly Wiggly....and give up these bogus dreams of a independent life as a business owner. Unless you accept forty percent of your income going to the government or state in some fashion.....you really aren't going anywhere for the rest of your life. That's the sad honest truth.

Oh, and don't worry....whatever real money that Marvin did make under the table.....his wife took that when she divorced him. Just so you got the end of this sad tragic story.

The 51-Scenario

As things unfolded this week....the 51-vote deal (for the senate) to get some kind of universal health care package passed moved to the next step.

The meeting with the Republicans? I'd say at this point...it's pretty much a useless effort. You'd be just as well off to go and attend a Jerry Springer show that day.

So what happens next? This package of sorts....which is probably fifty percent of what they'd originally envisioned....gets passed and for one weekend on various talk-shows....it's the only thing that folks can find to discuss. After two days of discussion....most folks will ask how exactly this improves anything, and then the media circus will tear down the tent and move onto Tiger Woods or a new banking scandal.

We then move to a curious event. You've got around a dozen states that either have have or will pass legislation to question the authority of the government over this. Various attorney generals will proceed to the Supreme Court, and it's a fairly interesting case that then develops. The court? Based on the Constitution....they will likely toss the legislation and put the entire question of health care back at step one.

The blame here? Squarely at the Supreme Court. I think at this point.....this is the only point of this entire game. You gain a segment of American society blaming either the Republicans or the Supreme Court for lack of health care.

An orchestrated effort? Perhaps the intended purpose from June of 2009 to today? This is hard to say. I hate to compare politics to wrestling but you are starting to see these various scenarios laid out, where step one is bad guy #1 meets good guy #1, and this alliance develops, then they break up and battle each other. Then good guy #2 gets involved, then the wife of bad guy #1, and then the ring announcer announces that he's really a wrestler in disguise.....and then a royal rumble occurs.

If this is the best that we can do as a nation or a republic.....then it's pretty much the end of civilization and reality. The only hope now....is that Dusty Rhodes and Hulk Hogan arise from the ashes and take on all the good guys and bad guys.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Crazy-Like-A-Nut Defense

The UAH shooter got herself mentioned again in the news today. Apparently, her court-appointed attorney....Roy W. Miller....spoke out and said that Amy Bishop has severe mental problems. He associated her issues with paranoid schizophrenia. Then he said that she has a major problem in reaching conflicts with people needlessly, then becoming obsessed with the conflicts.

I sat there and pondered what this Huntsville attorney said. Basically....he's admitting that half the women in America are in this category.

I realize I'm going to get into trouble for saying this...but this guy laid out some pretty hefty comments which fit a fair number of folks.

The other point which I came to ponder...is that she was married for roughly twenty years. Her husband had to realize what kind of mental condition that she was really in. He basically sat there and endured it? And the kids? They sat there and endured it as well?

In California or New York...this tactic of declaring a guy insane typically works in a case like this and the person ends up in some mental facility for twenty years and then gets released.

In Bama....I'd be guessing that this crazy-like-a-nut defense typically doesn't do much in a jury situation. Most folks on a Bama jury...have crazy relatives who drive cars, operate power equipment, own weapons, and attend church on Sundays. So they aren't going to readily buy into this deal. Don't forget we vote insane folks into public office, buy lumber from them, and often hunt with them.

She will eventually carry this into court....get a guilty verdict and get a death sentence. I will agree that she will carry all the way to the Supreme Court in declaring that she should just be confined in a special hospital, and it's hard to say what happens in the end.

Toyota's "Bring-It-On" Attitude

The congressional committee who has oversight over cars and safety.....has been pushing to have the Japanese President of Toyota in front of their committee.....mostly so they can bash him and give some points to GM, Chrysler and Ford.

I pondered over this for a few minutes today while riding the bus home from work.

It will be a funny moment, which none of these wise men from the House have envisioned....where a foreigner will be sitting there and chatting away in Japanese. They've never really had a foreign guest in a moment like this.

With every question that they pose....remember....these are long-winded political figures who spend three minutes asking a one-minute question.....then there will be a three-minute pause while the question is translated into Japanese. Then the President of Toyota will have a minute to arrange his thoughts....give his three-minute response....which then takes three minutes to be translated.

Think about this.....one question taking roughly thirteen minutes to accomplish.

Sitting at this table will be around fifteen political figures who want their picture broadcast widely and connected to this moment of Toyota-bashing. Each guy....if he's really lucky.....gets one stupid question to ask. So figure you get fifteen questions over a three hour period.

Imagine the minute-by-minute analysis by CNN....racing to translate what the translator gives you into what-he-meant.

About seventeen minutes into this mess...CNN will cut to a peanut butter poisoning case in Red Bay or a report on a Pabst beer truck overturning on I-95.

At any moment in this meeting....the Japanese President of Toyota could say in a very bold statement that his companies "....makes the best damn cars on the face of the Earth, and American cars can never reach the quality that real Americans demand."

As he says this in Japanese....here are some idiots from Congress grinning ear to ear on camera and not realizing what the the guy is really saying.

So for Ford, GM and Chrysler.....once the wise men of congress finish bashing Toyota for you....and next week, we learn about bad brakes on the F-150, or a bad accelerator on the newest Chrysler.....then you have to face the same invitation to congress. So as you begged Representative Snuffy to blast the Japanese....eventually, he'll come back to insult you.

Finally, some thoughts for any of you really thinking about this. Toyota still makes the best cars on the road in America today. If given a choice between the quality of a $15k Toyota or a $30k Chevy.....it's still the Toyota that does the job in the end.

The Deficit Commission

I sat and pondered the new commission created by the President....the Deficit Commission. There are three simple observations.

First, legally....it has virtually zero power other than telling the President what he should do.....but congress could easily rig the deck of cards to overcome the brilliance or the stupidity of the Deficit Commission.

Second, since you need fourteen votes out of this entire group of sixteen....to push a recommendation onto the President.....it pretty much insures that few if any recommendations survive and make to the President's desk.

Finally....I sat there for a while.....pondering this. If this was such a great idea....as analysts on several networks lead me to believe....then why not use the same type commission.....in fact....the same guys would be ok with me....for a universal health care commission. Yeah......since we need wise men to advise other wise men who will advise other wise men who will advise other wise men.......yeah, you know what I mean.

I like this "wise-men commission" idea. It helps to get a bunch of guys with free time out of the house and into a free food and coffee deal. These Deficit Commission guys would have been sitting around....watching Oprah....painting their garage....or maybe even attending really boring bank meetings. So we've helped them escape that......and maybe they can actually make a suggestion to dump high-grade toilet paper from government purchases and go to the cheapo-one-ply stuff.

The IRS Attack

I sat and watched the video of the after affects around the Austin IRS facility. There is one simple observation that I can make. If you attack a office building of this sort....around 0930 in the morning....there ought to be a fair amount of deaths in the building....and there weren't.

Everyone on a coffee break? You have to sit there and ask yourself how so many folks were not harmed in this matter. Were they at some training seminar? Were they at a morning meeting in another part of the building? Were they simply all late because of traffic this morning?

I'm a statistics person....and frankly, I would have expected something very tragic out of this event....and it just didn't happen.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A British Trend

There is an interesting story of sorts over at Breitbart today. The bottom line? Eight out of ten men by 2020.....will be too fat.

If you British ladies were laughing.....you'd best read the rest of the report....seven out of ten British women will be too fat by 2020.

The folks over at Oxford did the research.

One of the key features of this study....was long-term analysis. So for those who might still be around at 2050...a sharp increase in people suffering strokes, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes will occur.

There were some positive signs....especially with kids kinda leveling off at a certain point.

So I sat there and looked over this statistical data. There are some interesting thoughts. First, if you had to pick a lousy country with national health care.....it's the UK. So whatever problems exist today....begs the question of how the heck they can possibly manage more strokes, more high blood pressure, more heart disease and more diabetes. Frankly, the system is maxed out and unable to take much more.

Then I came to a curious thing. Three out of ten British women won't be obese in 2020. But they will only have two non-obese guys out there for themselves. So some British women are going to have to accept chubby guys or have a life of misery (or they could go lesbian and avoid the chubby guy question entirely).

The typical British political response to something like this....is to tax fatty food or fat people. The social use of taxes to fix all problems is one of the curious oddities of the British culture.

I'm left to wonder how this will play out. Sometimes....scientists are wrong in their analysis....and using questionable data. You can only hope that in this case....or face a very different society by 2050.

Frank's Days

There's a point in life...where you'd like a low-stress environment after a certain age.

Me? I'd say the age of sixty.

My dad would likely say seventy.

My son would likely say twenty (don't trust anything this kid says).

I was reading the paper today.....a favorite hobby of mine....and noted that eighty-six year old Senator Frank Lautenberg got put into the hospital over the past week....for a bleeding ulcer. It's a pretty severe thing....with various factoring contributing to it.

The thing is....here is a guy who has to show up each day in DC.....and play Senator. You have to act stately, competent (even if you aren't) and avoid saying really stupid things (it's hard once you get past seventy to avoid saying some dumb things occasionally). Just on Friday of last week....he returned from a trip to Haiti to see the death and destruction.

I kinda feel sorry for Frank. He likely has fatty foods served each day over a the Senate cafe. And this traveling agenda is probably not the greatest thing for him.

There's some point where a guy should just hang it up and enjoy the golden years....and sadly....for Frank.....golden years in the Senate probably add up to much.

The Weapon

New reports now indicate that the UAH shooter...Amy Bishop....started firing and almost immediately stopped firing (after hitting three victims). Witnesses now say the guy jammed almost immediately.

Typically....when you go very cheap with weapons.....with either rifles or pistols....the jam factor grows proportionally. A guy thinking a $300 gun will do everything asked and provide supreme firing power....ought to examine the real quality behind the weapon and the manufacturing company.

I worked with a guy once who went out and found some dealer in Arizona who had Chinese AK-47s. Don't ask me if they were legal or such. My work associate bought one and went out to some out-back location....with three hundred rounds of ammo. He wanted the thrill. The thrill lasted through about eight rounds, and then the first jam occurred. When he finally got things back to normal.....he fired off five or six rounds....before the next jam. The gun never functioned like he thought it would.

Later, I was sitting there and thinking about this. This was a typical Chinese military weapon (or so he thought)......so if some Chinese solder got into a hostile situation....he'd be lucky if his gun lasted three seconds. This is the kind of situation you really don't want to get into.

So as we look at the Bama case.....Amy Bishop likely bought the cheapest weapon possible in this senseless crime.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

How You Get Your Daughter Through Murder

The UAH shooting there in Huntsville continues to take strange turns.

This morning....if you catch the right pieces through the various media organizations.....we come to this question that I've had for the past twenty-four hours....how do you get your daughter released from a shooting episode in Braintree, Mass from twenty-four years ago?

If you follow the episode.....Amy Bishop who shot the three professors discussing her tenure at the university.....shot her brother with a shotgun back twenty-four years ago. The cops came....brought her in....and then the word was given for the cops to release Amy back to Mom. No DA involvement. Why?

So this morning....we learn that Amy's Mom was on the Police HR board of this town of 33,000-odd folks. She was a player in promotions and hiring. Every guy on that force....owed his position in life to Amy's mom.

The records of the event? Gone. That is now easily explained. Mom's position helped.

So the Bama cops are standing there. They have to view Amy Bishop as a psychotic nut who has been a threat since her teen years. The people who just looked the other way back in Braintree? Well....there are various players who still exist in a public position. I'm thinking that Bama is going to request that they come down and explain their actions then.

Evidence on the table? There's more than enough at this point to ensure an execution....which Bama still readily approves. The folks up in Mass? They will be furious over this....but to be honest....they kinda let a problem go away very easily. Amy is an absolute threat.

Think of It as Poker, Sorta

We are two weeks away from the President's royal rumble....the meeting between the Democrats and Republicans on health care.

Let me pull the curtain back for a minute and let you view what will be laid out.

The true emphasis of this is that nothing can actually come out of the meeting. The hard core Democrats have a dozen major things which must happen or they won't vote for the heath changes. The Republicans have pretty much set the whole current process into the corner. Nothing from the 2,000-plus page bill can pass. The President now realizes the poker game is basically lost and he's standing with a hand that is lose-lose-lose.

Rather than concede this poker game and say he's lost to the public....which is what most President's would do (and even Rep Pelosi would readily concede at this point)....he's gone to the next level of losing poker. He wants everyone in the room to see his cards and let them comment on how they would have done better in this poker game if they had done "A, B, and C". In fact, he wants them to view the cards in public....on national TV....and offer their opinion of the losing cards.

After enough of these opinions on how lose with the hand of "cards".....the President will stand up and offer this passionate speech (memorized of course) and speak for about three minutes on the rights of people to have health care in America. It will be this five-star moment....the plea of poor mothers, the plea for unemployed folks, the plea for marginal pay folks, etc. It'll be a moment that you'd almost weep over.

In a normal situation....at this point....the Republicans would look like idiots and have to fold up their tent. Their gains over the past 100 days disappear overnight. Their strategy of facing up to the Democrats collapses. And the chances of getting seats in both the Senate and House disappear as night falls across the heartland. At least that should be the final outcome of this meeting.

The thing is.....if the Republicans were thinking for a moment and preparing themselves.....they could probably change this outcome.

I would select only twelve Republicans to attend the meeting....no more than that.

I would have one Republican well versed in tort reform....likely a lawyer at heart.....and let him passionately set the stage for a major change that would likely trim eight percent off the national costs for health care.

I would have one Republican well versed in the idea of letting insurance companies set up policies that go beyond state lines. A national program would likely have a major effect and decrease costs by a minimum of six to eight percent.

I would have one Republican whose only purpose is to argue the idea of higher deductibles for a generalized policy concept. Face it.....if you had a guy who had previous health history which was negative and you offered him a chance to sign up for a policy which involved the first $6000 each year to be on his own cost....and then the policy kicked in....with the same rate as most other folks in America....then he'd be open to the idea.

The other eight Republicans? Just there for looks....that's all.

Then the twelfth man. I agree with Charles Krauthammer. Bring in Rep Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. I would place Paul at the end of the room and let him quietly sit there until the President's passionate speech where the Republicans should fall apart. As quietness fills the room...Paul stands and pulls out a thin book from his jacket pocket....entitled "The Constitution".

At this point, Paul lectures the President on rights. Having a car, is not a right. Speaking up to another individual is a right. Sales of beer is a right. Having cheap car insurance is not a right. Having access to internet is not a right. And finally....Paul will let the President know that he's taken millions of Americans down a path and made them think that they actually have a right to health care. They don't.

The President will stand there and it'll be a moment that he hadn't anticipated. There is no comeback that can settle this debate with Paul. If the President still argues that it's a right.....it becomes this national debate about the Constitution and it's effects. With two supreme court replacement episodes anticipated this year.....this is the wrong time and wrong place to talk about the Constitution and its true character.

As the meeting ends that day.....the media will put the spin on the event.

Here's the thing....nothing really gets achieved to be passable. So the Democrats go to plan "B", which we already know that exists. It's the creation of a mini-bill of sorts which fits for the "51-vote" passage scenario. It'll be a bill without much to brag about other than passing a true-Democrat supported bill. Most health experts will stand there laughing because it's basically beef stew, but without beef, potatoes, salt, and pepper.

It'll be a moment worthy of Saturday Night Live....except there's no laughter by anyone. And the millions who thought that the Democrats had every card in their possession to fix a problem....wake up to realize that the Party is really marginalized and without a vision. This was a poker game with the all the right cards handed to the players on one side....yet they simply couldn't bring themselves to win. And the best they could do....was to show the losing cards in their hand and ask for the opinions of the Republicans on how to play a bad hand of poker.

Unbreakable

From one of my 99 channels I can view....is ION. Since the day that the technician hooked up the package and I started viewing.....I've been on ION four times. The amusing thing....is that the ION folks have one particular movie.....Unbreakable, which is exactly what I viewed on those four times.

ION must run Unbreakable at least twice a week. Don't ask me why or the logic. ION's thrust in the market is to put gusto and boldness back into people. Give them some enthusiasm.

Me? I'm addicted to Unbreakable and probably could watch this Bruce Willis classic daily.

I always wondered why the networks never took the concept of Unbreakable and put a TV show up with the idea. It has all of the ingredients of a five-star show.

What will I be watching next weekend? You can already guess.

The Kindness of Submission

As most of you know....I read the British press a fair amount. Today....an article from the Daily Mail popped up.

Apparently...a couple of British ministers have gotten themselves into a bit of hot water. They came up recently and wrote up some fine sermons which dealt with "modern women's" lack of obedience, which naturally is a major part of the blame for Britain's high divorce rate.

The Vicar involved? Angus MacLeay. He actually came up and spoke to his congregation at St. Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks, Kent. His recommendation? Wives ought to "submit" to their husbands.

A couple of days would pass and the local Curate.....Mr Mark Oden kinda jumped into the discussion and spoke about the issue of divorce and that things would only get better if wives would just submit.

For some crazy reason.....a whole bunch of women had problems with the sermon approach to wive's submission.

One quote left in the Daily Mail: "How can they talk that way in the 21st century?"

Naturally, that quote was spoken by a woman.

I paused over this whole mess. If the Baptists in Bama ever get ahold of a copy of this sermon.....they just might get new and fresh ideas (better than the anti-booze take). You can imagine some minister in Red Bay.....standing up and recommending a wife kinda take directions from Jimmy Joe or Karl Wayne. It'd take about sixty seconds to pass before the wife in question would cut loose and stomp on the minister in question.

Here's the thing though. Up until the early 1900s....there was a line of division amongst marriages. I won't use the word domineering or submission here.....but one side of the marriage kinda accepted things a bit more than what you'd expect in today's society. And the other side of the marriage probably took a slightly more "strong" approach to the relationship.

This arrangement of sorts....has ended. Over the past fifty years....we've accustomed ourselves to a new and bold world.....with bold relationships. The problem now is that you have to teach people the skills of cooperation and 'give-and-take'. These are not people-friendly skills that readily come to most folks....male or female.

The ministers in this case have opened a can of worms. They'd prefer to take the quick and easy approach.....just getting women to give up and become submissive to fix an entire problem. Out of a hundred women hearing the sermon....they probably convinced three women of this being a good idea. The other ninety-seven would prefer something slightly different.

So for the next six months.....a bunch of women are going to chat all day along about this terrible attitude within the church. A bunch of men will sit down at the local pub and laugh over this continued religious chat and the upset feelings amongst women. And a bunch of radio-talk guys are going to have hour after hour of chatter over the concept of submission and hint of what it means in the bedroom. It promises to be a grand year.

I love Britain.