Friday, 30 April 2010

Destiny in DC?

We have a strange sort of event unfolding in DC. There was this long chat between the teachers union, the city management folks, and the school management folks.

Basically, there had to be a pay raise of sizable proportions.

There is this provision to hand the teachers an extra $20,000 to $30,000 a year for student improvements on test scores and other measures. You can imagine the teachers and their satisfaction to agree to this whole deal.

However, the money that was involved in this deal....well over $20 million...hasn't been found in the DC budget. The mayor has no extra funds to cover this.

So what's the deal?

Well...there's this very dislikeable school management gal...Michelle A. Rhee. She's on the top level of being somebody big within the Obama administration. The problem is that half the teachers dislike her and a vast portion of the city's residents dislike her. She's out to change the school system....in a massive way.

Ms Rhee has this "friendship" with several foundations. They are prepared to donate the money....yep, up to $20 million....to cover this entire pay raise. One problem....they demand she stays.

So, there's this election in November. The current mayor likes her. The candidate to oppose this current guy....hates her. If she is fired by the other guy....the whole pay raise is gone.

So enter yesterday....the chief financial guy for the city and he kinda admits this is awful dumb to promise a bunch of teachers something that isn't concrete.

She absolutely has to survive the mayor's election, for this raise to occur. So it's up to the teachers to find ways to be nice to Ms Rhee...or lose $20k a year in bonuses.

So, you have to be scratching your head. Here's someone that some foundation is willing to toss $20 million as bonus money toward teachers...and is tied to an election....and Ms. Rhee has to be around not just this year, but next year as well.

Funny...2011 comes to an end.

Then 2012? The timing of this game...makes you kinda wonder about the real purpose of Ms Rhee and the success of the DC school system.

The foundations involved? the Walton Family Foundation. the Robertson Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Broad Foundation.

There was this point in 2008...where Caroline Kennedy was starting to generate a huge interest and was destined to get Uncle Ted's Senate seat. There was a strong belief that she'd sit there for four years and then become the VP when Joe Biden stepped down. Then they learned she was a lousy speaker.

Is Ms. Rhee the next VP candidate? Hmmm. It's strange how this deal hinges on foundation money for the teachers and she keeps her job for the time being...when half the city wants her gone.

The Bogus Story


Ok, I don't usually consider stories like this for my blog, but I'll give in this one time.

There are these Indian specialists, studying this old dude in India....an 83-year old guy....who says he hasn't eaten or sipped water in seventy years.

Yeah. I know....stuff like this doesn't happen.

He also says he hasn't gone to the bathroom much either. I paused over this for a while....if you weren't eating, then there's not much to ever come out the other end....at least you'd like to believe that.

Some military doctors are involved in this....because they'd really like to prove this to be factual and use this "technology" for development.

So they've got this guy in a 24-hour observation situation, with a team of 30 specialists watching for three weeks.

Yes, they did think he was strange and they've put two cameras up in the room to make sure he's not sneaking food.

There's a guy like this in Germany....religious cult dude....who claims the same thing. His story goes along the line of twelve to fifteen years of no water or food. I didn't ever ask about bathroom trips, but obviously, it'd be hard to dispose of anything....if you aren't eating.

Bogus? Yeah. Absolutely. I'm already betting the crew watching the crew is completely bogus. The military claim? Bogus, I'm betting. And yeah, he's probably sipping bacon fat through some straw every hour to sustain himself. If it was hot enough, like you'd have in India, then you'd just sweat the bacon fat off. Sustaining yourself? Well...nobody from Bama will swear sustainment off bacon fat, but it'll do for three weeks if you have to.

Sorry, it was a story I hate to blog on....because I know it's bogus. The sad thing is that four thousand folks in Bama will stand around tomorrow....chatting about the Indian dude who hasn't eaten in years, and hasn't touched liquor or water.

Forty Years and A Lesson Learned

Forty years ago today.....four students were killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University, Ohio.

For the anti-war front and the media at the time....this was a major turning point. There was to be a major confrontation at the university. The university....the local town, and the state....basically put up their arms and then asked the National Guard for protection.

There is a legendary story here.

Sometime around 1992, I came work with my boss....who was a Kent State graduate. He attended Kent State six years after that episode. He spent four years there. And he had different prospective than you'd expect.

First, an entire generation had come and gone in six years. Few if any of the students there at that point....knew anything much about the episode. It took exactly six years for the whole legend to start fading.

Then came the nature of the students by the late seventies. The war was history. Sports made a comeback. Parties became the norm. Life switched back to a norm.

Then he started offer a unique analysis. Prior to 1980, campus security consisted of a couple of wannabe cops. They gave out parking tickets and arrested drunk students. There was rarely any arrangement with the local town or county on police support.

By 1990....every significant town had folks for riot-control. They started buying body-armor and preparing for assault episodes. Campuses worked out agreements and had relationships with city and county police departments.

As he noted....a Kent State anti-war group today....wouldn't face National Guarsmen....they'd face some fairly rough characters from the police department. The clobbering method would have replaced the Guardsmen techniques. Only hardcore protesters would have played out some game as they did forty years ago.

Imagine yourself a campus administrator. You've had damage done to the buildings and some fires, with various radical students talking tough.

So you start to worry that parents will come to fear this violence and remove Johnny or Melissa from their campus. You'd like to ask your cops to help but they don't handle this kind of stuff easily. So you call the governor and you get Guardsmen.

Things go from bad to worse...as the Guardsmen use what they know to fix the situation and protect themselves.

By the next summer, after the deaths....a number of parents have the decision made to remove Johnny or Melissa...to protect them. Or if they were high school kids considering Kent State....they dropped that idea and found safer accommodations.

Could any of this happen today? No. Most administrators would gather up problem folks....and bring them into a board session very quickly. There's a point of no return.

If you invite trouble....then the potential for the university to have lawsuits tossed at it for unnecessary harm or death is major. So out on the street you will go.....and as you try to enter another university....they might just ask a question or two and deny you access at the next place.

And then? Pima County Community College....where you learn diesel mechanic skills or basic accounting, and just forget those protest skills.

So forty years have passed. We've learned a valuable lesson. Committing violence to fix a problem...usually just screws up things even more.

If dad was stupid enough to pay $65k for you to attend some facility for four years....pay for all your beer, pizzas, condoms, chap stick, room & board, and gave you enough date money to get high class babes....why the hell would you screw this up by hanging out with a bunch of loser protest dudes?

Maybe, just maybe....dad got smarter over the past forty years....even if you didn't.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Death by PowerPoint

This is an actual PowerPoint slide that was prepared for American generals to "visualize" the various dynamics of Afghanistan.

I worked in the intelligence and operations field of the Air Force for over twenty-five years of my life, and this is as bad as it gets on slide presentations.

It would take a guy at least thirty minutes to take in all of the graphics, the small-font sized messages, and the relationships involved.

I worked for a commander who once built a 140 slide presentation (it was a three-hour briefing) to drive home his point. The people on our staff who had to view it and help him...literally beat their head against the wall over how intensive this whole briefing presentation had become.

In the old days....before PowerPoint....you basically worked hard to build eight slides and fix up a twenty-five minute meeting at max (hoping to drive the point home in twelve minutes). A guy today could tell the whole Revolutionary War story, via PowerPoint, in two hundred slides.

The curious thing about this slide presentation here....is that the General who was coming into Afghanistan....banned this particular presentation from being used for any officer coming into Afghanistan. He considered it an insult that someone had taken the complexities of such enormous topic, and bullet-ized them into some PowerPoint briefing.

I'm just guessing here....but he probably did allow the briefing to be regularly given to congressmen and senators. But since they never understood banking or investing....they probably don't understand much about Afghanistan or warfare either.

A Goldman Sachs Intro

After the political bashing of the Goldman Sachs folks....I figured a minute or two of insight might be worth something now. I sat and watched about an hour over yesterday and today...felt inclined to say something.

There are three types of investors in the world. First, there's "John" the simple five-percent guy. He's happy that he takes small risks and generally makes five percent...sometimes eight or nine percent.....and hangs around with guys to brag over a gain here or there. John might have $3k....$30k....maybe even $100k. John doesn't buy stocks and sell them a month later. John gets advice from his fishing buddy or his boss....and does ok.

Then you have "Orson", who is in the $250k range or more....and hangs around with golf buddies to get critical bits of investment knowledge. He expects a minimum of ten percent, and is really aiming closer to twenty or thirty percent gain in a year. Orson is a risk-taker. He does futures and options. He'll buy cattle-futures when he knows nothing really about them but his golf buddy gave him enough knowledge to pull off a eighteen percent gain over sixty days. Orson tends to lose drastically several times a year, but he often pulls out these major wins too.

Finally, you've got "Jim" who is a member of some golf club that demands a buy-in of $200k, and a yearly fee of $50k. Only the high and mighty associates attend this golf course. He knows various people who know various companies are about to acknowledge a fortune gained or a fortune lost...so he knows how to play the options and futures market. He's often aiming for a thirty percent gain as a minimum. He'll talk of the one deal where he made sixty percent gains in just one year. He has a tax accountant that lies and is just so close to always being audited. Jim is a major risk player....but he's always on the verge of vast fortunes or vast losses.

So here is congress that created this great game....futures and options, oh, and the hedge market as well.

You see....every rule that Goldman Sachs used...was legal. Your congressman gave them the rules. Your congressman....is a real expert at writing tax laws, investment laws, and banking laws. They write at least a thousand pages a year to cover all the things important.

So Goldman Sachs used every single rule that they were given....did precisely what they are....a legal gambling house. You want to make a bet...they will entertain it. That's all that options and futures really are. And the hedge market falls into legalized gambling as well.

At some point in 2003, it was obvious that house prices in Florida, California, Arizona and Vegas...were climbing at a rate of five percent a year. It was a bogus spiral upward. Every bell and whistle in congress should have gone off. Did your congressman say anything? No.

The mere fact that housing prices in Arkansas, Idaho, and South Carolina generally stayed the same over a five-year period....with barely a one or two percent gain...should have been enough to ask why? Then you would have asked how any American could afford a $300k house, if they made only $60k a year? How about a loan that was on a $300k house, and the buyer was only putting down $30k as a down payment?

Yes, your idiot congressmen and senator were standing there and saw all of this. They did nothing. No one is asking stupid questions of them now....but if you understand the three investors....then you start to understand who the customers of Goldman Sachs really were. They weren't the little investor. And maybe a few of the medium-risk guys might have bought into Goldman Sach's ideas....but the big buyer? It was the big investment risk guy. The truth is....none of us feel sorry for them. And if your retirement investment fund bought into it....it was because of pressure by you....to produce high rates...and take the risk.

The simplicity of investing....is the more you risk....the more you gain, or the more you lose. It's just that simple.

To the Defense of My State, But Advice Too


In a rare moment today, I had to stand up for a while and defend you Bama guys. I was challenged, and at least for thirty seconds....I shielded you guys.

This past week or two, Tim James...Republican in Bama....running for governor...came out with an ad speaking to the necessity of making English the one and only language in Bama. His one and only point, was to cite the driver's license test.

I came to the defense of the heartland...we are the one and only state banning the sales of women's pleasure devices (dildo's for you folks in Gadsen). Folks in Bama believe that it's sometime necessity to protect folks, by taking enormous actions. So maybe this makes sense.

We also believe within Bama of the concept of dry counties....at least fourteen are dry, and not about to change. So again, we are doing this to protect folks.

So ensuring that there's one and only one language around...for us to learn...would help to ensure we are hindered by forty phrases in French or Spanish that we might have to learn...to buy something in Red Bay or Demopolis.

I defended as best as I could...but the more I thought about it....the less inclined I was to vote for Tim James.

Why are there twelve driver's license exams? Well...it's because we have two hundred or more professors of some type in the state from foreign countries....teaching subjects subjects which they are absolute experts on and they have a decent use of English but we tried to make them feel "at home" and offer the driver's test in their language.

Not only do we have those professors....but we have at least two or three thousand foreign students in the state at University of Alabama and Auburn....getting a four-star degree at a decent price...and we decided that we'd make them feel "at home".

We also went out and advertised our state as a retirement community....for lots of Americans...and lots of folks from outside of the US. We also wanted to make them feel "at home".

You see....alot of our signs and driving rules...are awful dang similar to rules in China, Indian, and Germany. To also be kinda honest....at least ten thousand Alabamans....can't read. So they didn't exactly take the same test as the twelve possible tests. They actually got someone to read it to them.

So, this is an effort by another political figure to get folks all stirred up....and make the Democrats get into a defensive mood.

If you wanted to make things kinda interesting here....why not suggest to Tim James to have a driver's test for everyone over the age of 65 every five years. We likely trim two thousand folks a year off the road, who are plainly dangerous. These foreign drivers? Well...they are alot safer than some 90-year old guy with bad eyesight and refuses to wear glasses. So, if you see Tim...offer him some old fashioned Bama logic.

Oh, and not to stir this English-only state a bit more....but you know...if you just offered up Latin, Greek philosophy, and Roman history in Bama schools....you might have the smartest kids in America within one decade. But Tim's not likely to suggest that.

Name Game

I was standing around in the last day....and this guy told me this story there in the Pentagon. As far as I know....he's truthful, and it's a actually true story.

A couple of years ago, here in the local area....some black gal got all into this African heritage business. She decided that she really needed a neat African name, and got some African guy to give her a suggestion. She liked the sound of the name....and eventually went through the court to have a legal name change.

So her buddies and co-workers got use to this new name, and just accepted it after a while.

One day....someone from Africa met up with her....and kinda mentioned that she had a funny African name.

We don't know what exactly the ill meaning of the name....it might have meant "butt-of-the-elephant", "dopey hippo", or even "red laughing lion". There are a thousand funny combinations that her name might have meant....and this 'friend' of hers....probably wasn't a good friend.

So after a few weeks of contemplating the mess created....she decided she'd go back to the original name, and had another legal deal done.

So, the moral of this story is simple.....whatever you grew up with....in plain English....just might be the best damn name that you'd ever need. And if you were contemplating something drastic.....either do your research. And if you need some help from me....I'll offer up "Monty Rock" for you guys, and "Candy Dandy" for you gals.

The Threat from Ambien


Somewhere over the Atlantic a day or two ago....some guy awaken, and then kinda spoke up that he had a bomb, and his passport was bogus.

Naturally....things don't go well too well after you've said something like that. They were supposed to fly to Atlanta....but the pilot aimed for the nearest airport (Bangor, Maine).

So they dragged of Derek Stansberry. Now, you should know this. Derek was a Air Force airman for a couple of years....worked in the intelligence field....had a fairly high-classed security clearance (meaning he'd been checked out pretty intensely). Derek got out of the Air Force last year and had a pretty decent job with the US military down at Stuttgart, Germany. His purpose in life was to examine Africa data.

So the cops have dragged Derek off and done some fairly in-depth questions.

There is this interesting aspect of Derek and his travels.....which makes it difficult for him to sleep. I'm guessing the long trips to Africa catch up with a guy after a while. So as he left Europe, he popped a Ambien pill or two.

So there is this thing you should know about Ambien pills. They do help alot of folks sleep. Folks will swear on them when they really need help. But there is this side-effect of Ambien which is widely known.....you can have hallucinations and euphoria.

Yes, you could awaken in a sleeping state....think you are somewhere and you need to say something as part of the dream....which really isn't the dream you think it is. So you play out this sleep experience.....then wake up to realize that you really screwed up big-time.

Some examples? A guy can go to bed with a Ambien pill....wake up around midnight, and jump into his car to drive around. Mentally, he is in control of the vehicle.....but when he actually does wake up hours later....he won't remember the driving experience or where he went.

Sleepwalking? Yep, a guy could walk around the house or the neighborhood in his underwear for an hour or two....before he sits down....and then suddenly awakens.

So Derek was popping this pill.....and it's pretty likely that he was hoping for six hours of really relaxing sleep. In the midst of some dream....he said something...then got into a bunch of trouble but never realized what the heck he was doing.

The cops are talking federal charges and possibly several years in prison. The bosses from his old Air Force unit will likely stand up for him....and do their best to defend his character. I'm guessing he will get a fair amount of probation (maybe five years), and be ordered to drug tests on a monthly basis to ensure he never does Ambiens again.

So if it wasn't bad enough to worry about Islamic nuts....now you have to wonder about Ambien-doped up folks.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A Goldman Sachs Day

So let's stand back from the Goldman Sachs episode of today and look over what various representative said...like Mr Levin.

First, hedge funds, options and futures....are all legalized gambling. If you think otherwise....consider the implications. You are simply betting on something to occur, and if so, you profit. If you guess wrong, you lose. It is that simple.

Second, who wrote the rules for hedge funds, options and futures? Well....guys like Mr Levin and dozens of other congressmen and senators. They spent years crafting the wording and the profit margin. Don't worry....they don't anything about this business...so they asked the experts to help them write the rules.

Third, as congressman after congressman offered up criticism over the collapse of the housing market....I kept wondering where they were in 2004 when this spiral was already obvious? Did they just want to skip a big mess or were they stupid enough not to grasp it?

If you lived in Florida, Arizona or California in 1997, and watched housing prices go upward...it was a simple deal. You bought a house for $200k, and six years later, it was worth $275k. Another two years, and it was $285k.

Gaze over at Tennessee for housing prices between 2000 and 2008....in most areas....house prices went from $150k to $160k in a eight year period. In some areas....it stayed at virtually the same level,and never moved.

What idiot would accept this trend to be logical?

If you wanted a house in 2008, and you went to the bank....it was a harsh reality if you had to buy a $410k house. So you went out on the limb and put down barely $40k and then hoped that the mortgage rates would eventually work out. They didn't. You came to lose the house easily.

The banks did their job....they used every tool that congress and the senate gave them....to help regular people buy houses. If folks couldn't buy a house....it would have upset congressmen terribly.

So tonight as the sun sets in DC....you've got a bunch of folks sitting in their upscale apartments and patting themselves on the back for some great comments against the Goldman Sachs guys. The truth is....it was all legal gambling that they authorized.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The Dinosaurs That Roam

It won't be on the nightly news tonight, or mentioned much in your newspaper tomorrow....but figures released today....by your friendly Audit Bureau of Circulations...show that the average weekday circulation fell 8.7 percent for the prior six months (as ended 31 March).

In case you were wondering...Sunday circulation fell as well (just over six percent).

The nifty thing is that all of the top twenty-five newspapers in America....showed losses...some more than others, of course.

There's an interesting aspect of this decline. Some folks think that we aren't seeing the full and in some cases bright part of the picture.

There is statistically almost 100 million adults who still happen to read a printed newspaper everyday in America. Even newspaper websites are still being hit at a high record.

So you sit there and try to imagine how exactly these guys will survive on...and you can't project out more than a year or two. Let's imagine in a hostile election year....say 2010, which we are in the midst of now...that some major paper decides to use every single bit of juice and dollar left in it...to help sell a message. What happens in January 2011 with that paper? Can it survive? Can they just terminate another fifteen percent of the paper and continue on...with fewer people reading?

I'm not sure about this anymore. Two years ago...I would have said yes. Today....with marginal profit....you'd have to pick what to print and what to dump. Then you start to irk regular readers who wanted the crime blotter, the regional news, and local sports analysis.

So there's a trend. In six months...let's stand and see how the trend continues along this line. You just might be watching a necessity for the government stand in and offer some financial help...to keep your Boston paper up and running...or your Nashville paper up and running, or your St Louis paper even.

A businessman would sooner or later come to a conclusion that he must be printing something that people disagree with...and find a way to change. But then, these aren't businessmen. In fact, it's hard to even describe them as journalists. You go and figure what they are.

How the System Works

If you took time to notice...some kindly Illinois law makers...yes, democrats...have spoken out and said its time to bring the National Guard into Chicago to "protect" the city. I was kinda laughing over this...basically, they are admitting that the cops are not doing enough and can't possible bring safety to the city. There weren't any comments by the police union...which kinda puzzled me. They typically wouldn't stand and let a statement like this go without a comment.

I believe this is tied to the idea of Arizona demanding more protection to go against the border (3,000 National Guardsmen requested).

If Arizona can make such a request, then Illinois can make a similar request. Heck, Bama could request 10,000 Bama guardsmen to protect dry counties against the terrible business of booze and drinking. California could even ask for 4,000 guardsmen to protect Beverly Hills and the rich elite folks.

It's like a chess game. The house will debate these requests and realize that they can't honor any of these...because they'd have to honor all of these. So the Illinois folks basically checkmated Arizona.

Any of these states could bring their own guardsmen onto the front lines...if they were willing to pay the bill...which none of them want a $10 million a month bill for 2,000-odd guardsmen. And that doesn't include fuel, bullets, or bottled water.

Mines Aren't Safe, Period

I sat and watched the coal miners memorial service. Naturally, I made some observations.

Over the past fifty years....the President of the United States had not been to a single funeral of a single miner. It was rather odd that this turned into a Presidential experience today.

Then came the strange event of VP Joe being at the same event. You never saw an event with Cheney and Bush together at an event ever....after 9-11. In the past four months...I can recall at least four events that both have shown up. I'm kinda wondering if they feel pretty frisky and unworried about an attack at one location by the Muslim dudes taking both of them out?

I came to the end...with cheering and I had this odd feeling...it wasn't much of a memorial service...at least to me. With all the political guys who showed up...it turned into something that would be best left with no description.

What happens next? I'm going out to make a bold prediction. There's going to be a report handed to the president of umpteen violations by this company for safety....and then another forty thousand violations by other coal companies throughout the US. Then the President is going to say that companies can't manage safety...so the government will need to run safety.

You naturally know what comes next.

A coal tax...and that filters into a government program that manages miner safety. The companies will then be left out of the deal of safety.

Sound like a joke? I would wish that...but to have all these political guys show up, and having a cheering episode like this...it's an odd thing.

My suggestion if they suggest such a safety tax on coal? Well...admit that airlines can't run their safety program and have an airline tax for safety.

Then admit that Pepsi trucks can't deliver safely....and have a government program that runs their safety program, based on a Pepsi tax to the public.

Then admit that dog catchers in America can't do their job safely...so we need a government program to run their safety program...with a tax involved.

Then admit that Hooters can't run safely....so we need a safety tax and a government program to run Hooters.

You can see where I'm going with this. The other idea I have....is to stop all mining....period. Admit nothing is safe....and just relocate them to some other location to hire out in a prison, or run a Six Flags operation. Face it, mines aren't safe, period. We knew that two hundred years ago....and nothing has changed.

My Trip

I spent the weekend in Bama....visiting the old homestead.

It was an interesting experience. I haven't been through a tornado watch in twenty years. Sure enough....at darkness filled the skies on Saturday afternoon....I stood outside and suddenly heard the siren come on in the local town (four miles away). I gazed at the cows...all facing one direction (it's hard to find eight cows that statistically would all point in one direction at one time). I obviously had a bad feeling...and it only got worse (the second siren from the next town over (another four miles) came on then.

So I went in the house where my folks and my brother were sitting and watching Channel Nineteen weather (they are the trusted source, more or less). They had the weather dude on and here was the track of the storm. It was twenty miles from us and it'd never come any closer. But we stuck to the TV watching this.....almost like a NASCAR event.

The weather dude went on for forty-five minutes....describing who should stay and who should run. Minute by minute analysis was handed out.

Thirty years ago...they'd basically say there was a storm and give some basic ideas about where. This was absolutely precise and you had dozens of statistics to pour over while watching.

I'm guessing everyone in the country was watching this....and getting some excitement out of this....although it wasn't going to ever touch down in our county.

Then it came to an end. It was like a climax of a NASCAR event....the thing was done and you could rest now.

In the old days...you ran to the storm cellar or the basement and just sat there hoping nothing happened. Things were vastly different now...with technology at our front door and in digital format.

I really don't care to repeat the experience again...it'd been years since the last experience and I just don't get the thrill like some folks.

The Arlington Funeral

Friday morning....I attended a military service at the Arlington grounds.

This was a Chief in our organization...I never met the guy. He'd been in the hospital since late last year, under cancer treatment....and died in early March. Strangely enough, the chapel and grounds at Arlington require a reservation...because of numerous WW II vets passing away and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. So they had to wait until last week to run the memorial service.

As the chapel part ended....then came the horse carriage and the flag detail, with the drummer. Behind them....there stood the 250 of us....and we marched out onto the street, and then turned a corner to enter the grounds.

It was the first time for me to attend a service and actually see the grounds at Arlington.

It's an awkward thing....you gaze at the stones...with most having names and which war they fought in. There are dates, and some have medals written on the stone.

Onward we marched.

It was roughly a mile into this march that we turned the corner and reached our chief's final destination. There was a gun salute, and then they settled him into the ground.

I stood there for about five minutes....gazing at all grave stones...literally tens of thousands. It didn't bother me. But I reflected long and hard over their contribution. Some lived through battle and returned home, and died a decade or even fifty years later. Some died with less than a year of service. Some were lost onboard their vessel or sub, with just a stone there.

I walked out alone....back the opposite way than the rest of the guys. It was a mile or so....to reach the visitor center, and then head toward the Metro station. I was hot and thirsty by this point...and ended up stopping immediately as I entered the Pentagon to gulp down three big glasses of ice tea.

For those are coming to DC for a weekend....if you have to prioritize....put Arlington in the top three things to see. Even if you spend an entire afternoon there....it brings something to your heart and soul to walk around there.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Your SEC

The SEC....your Securities and Exchange Commission....has a basic mission of watching over the evil folks at Wall Street.

Today, we learned that while they were busy watching the evil guys at Wall Street....they surfed and browsed alot. They also checked out "hot booty", "lusty chicks", and "crazy babes".

Yes, they were checking out pornographic sites...while using the fancy and upgraded hardware they needed to watch Wall Street.

The inspector general for the organization noted 33 times (at least that they caught) where SEC members were doing some pretty interesting analysis.

I sat there and read through the big pieces of this report. They had a top-dog attorney working at the SEC....who spent up to eight hours a day....downloading some really hot videos. The IT guys say that when he ran out of disk space...he just started burning everything to DVDs. Naturally, he kept these organized in boxes around the office (good talent he probably picked up at law school).

From the SEC team....at least seventeen of these "players" were in the senior staff level...making at least $200k a year.

When you sit back and look at the problems that the SEC missed with Bernie Madorf and the various Wall Street organizations....you start to wonder if senior leadership ever knew what was going on or if they spent most of their hours cruising the internet? And now the SEC is still regarded as the watchdog....still?

The Air Force has a simple method when they detect these events....they track it right to the PC and then to the right guy. They have the audit trail. They tend to prosecute you and if you owe money for time spent on this event...they go after that money. Your clearance? It's taken.

Nothing from this report indicates that the SEC ever did anything to punish these guys....so I'm curious what they did do.

Just Do It

It's an interesting day in New Jersey. The state governor...Chris Christie...is on a mission...to shut the last two rest-stop bathrooms on non-toll roads...to save $270k a year.

He's at least honest about this: “We just don’t have the money for the bathroom facilities.”

So early next year....these bathrooms will shut down....on Interstate 80 at the Pennsylvania border and Interstate 295 at the Delaware border.

The positive side of this is that the parking areas at the rest areas will stay open for truckers to park.

Now, you might sit there and say this is a tragic circumstance....but consider American history. Up until the 1950s...there weren't ANY rest stops anywhere along the nation's highways. You either pulled off at a gas station or stopped by the road and did your business. We weren't shamed or anything....we just did our business.

I suspect the governor knows this precise truth.

So early next year....as you folks tour through New Jersey and need to relieve yourself....feel free to do the Jersey thing and just "do it". Yes, stop by the road....and let go. Don't feel shame...it's the Jersey way and we ought to all return to our roots.

And as you relieve yourself...think of the millions you could save across America if we just ended this roadside bathroom business. We could save enough to actually pay for healthcare....maybe.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

It's Really Not That Funny

My patience to sit and watch an hour with CNN's Larry King kinda ended five years ago. I consider the show to be ok for about fifteen minutes...and then it's time to hit the mute button or head toward Animal Planet. Whatever magic Larry had....is long gone.

This week....we got another comical ten seconds of Larry on Tuesday night. Larry brought up a guest (I'll even leave her name out but it's a comedian who does mostly negative comical stuff to please her audience).

At some point, she tried to make a joke whether on whether Sarah Palin should pose for Playboy. The comic said "I think she should go for it."

I watched the clip of the episode. It was really funny (1-star gut-humor at its best)...and the stuff you laugh at once you've gulped down six beers.

Larry then responded...."Agreed."

I'm not even sure if Larry was mentally alert enough to grasp the joke or attempt at humor.

But then we come to the funny business of the week with Larry. After his wife accused Larry of playing around with her sister and chatting up the possibility of divorcing him...we then learn that Larry's wife was screwing the Little League manager for her two kids. In fact, Larry's wife bought the Little League manager a BMW and had a nifty schedule worked out...so she got her man...while Larry was interviewing folks at night.

Yep...so as Larry probably sat there uttering his "agreed" to the suggestion of Sarah Palin posing nude....Larry's wife probably was getting "homer" and "out" tips from Karl the Little League dude. Meanwhile, Karl was driving back home in the BMW that Larry's wife gave him for excellent stud services.

There's a good joke in this blog....but it has little to do with Palin posing. And somehow.....Larry is a part of the joke.

The DC Game

It's kind of a puzzling thing. We are on the surge toward marijuana being legalized (at least in the medical form) in DC. The city council is hot on this....and some folks think the city could get a massive "Amsterdam" thrust into the tourism market....where people would have yet another reason to visit DC. But there was a hint of a problem yesterday.

Apparently (and I'm not the expert on this)....there are only a couple of companies that manufacture medical marijuana (at the level and grade required to call it medical marijuana). Some say three....some say five. Well...the city council's bill, which has passed.....has some stipulations about how this works. The business folks who have examined the bill and the actual method that this works....say that no company will have any interest in the method that they've been told to operate. The profit margin is too low to attract interest.

The city council isn't saying much. And you can tell that they really don't have the slightest idea of how this will actually operate. Someone else is writing the bill and telling them what to say.

My guess is that they will have to write an addition to the original bill.....and allow massive home growth of medical marijuana to make any of this actually take place. No one is sure that this is the best or right idea over this entire mess. If you simply open the door and say one group can grow large-scale....for legal sales.....then why not large-scale for open-street sales? You can see where this is going.

If I were a betting guy....I'd say that this is not going to turn out too well. DC political folks are about the last group that you'd trust to get something right. Yesterday, for example, there was the suggestion that they are considering a 10-cent gas tax.....to pay for mass transit. What few gas stations still exist in the District....will likely fold up at this point, and shift operations over to Virginia. Nobody is going to volunteer to pay another $1.50 per tank just to run the mass transit system.

Just another day in paradise.

The Litmus Game

Somewhere in the vast bit of news today....someone came around to the President and asked more intensive questions about his Supreme Court pick (yet to come).

So he responded: "You know, I am somebody who believes women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction. I don't have litmus tests around any of these issues but I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights".

Then he added: " Part of what our core Constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that."

I sat there for a moment...almost buying into this. Then I asked myself...where exactly in the Constitution were these women's rights? I know where the people's rights are listed.

Once you start to buy into his argument, then you are left to ponder where exactly will you list the stupid people's rights, the rancher's rights, the doper's rights, the peanut farmer's rights, the business owner's right, the property owner's rights, the organic farmer's rights, the senator's rights, and yes....even the homeless guy rights.

So once you grasp all of this, then you ask yourself how he can avoid not having a litmus test. The answer is....he can't. He actually is foolish enough to think that he can word it this way, and most folks won't be smart enough to grasp the meaning of his statement. So you need to word the question in the right way...."How would you avoid using a litmus test, if you needed someone really into women's rights, but not people's rights?"

As long as people isolate themselves in a state of naive nature.....they can avoid this entire question and just worry about Channel Nine weather weather reports, and the purpose of pink flamingos in the front yard.

Just An Observation

I have the privilege to stand in a room and listen to a Air Force Lt Col and a Marine Major discuss management concepts. Then I proceed down the hall to listen to a Army Captain discuss management concepts with a Marine Gunny Sergeant. Then I can stand by the exit and list to a GS-14 discuss management concepts with a Army Captain. Then I proceed out the door and stand in the Pentagon hallway to listen to one janitor discuss management concepts with another Pentagon janitor.

The sad thing is....that I could take one janitor and inject him into the Marine Major's meeting, and the janitor would use all the right lingo (timelines, suspense, cost margin, and dual-purpose delivery)....and actually could run most of the same programs. I don't want to suggest the vice-versa situation....because things would start to fall apart then. We sure don't want the toilets in the Pentagon messed up because of bad management concepts from some high ranking folks.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Arizona and the Upcoming Law

There's a nifty little story out of Arizona that will finally make news today. The Arizona House decided to pass a bill that will require anyone running for President (in Arizona)....to show his or her birth certificate. Otherwise...you can't get on the ballot.

There's still a formal vote required, and the governor has to sign the law.

The media gives the indication that it will all pass through and be easily signed by the governor.

Impact? There will be a Constitutional challenge to this within two months. They've got time until November 2012....to have the Supreme Court to toss the law out. Presently, with the way that the court is made up....I don't think the state law will be tossed.

There's also this added impact of another state...especially from the south....passing a similar law. I could imagine at least three states having a law like this in the end.

There are only two scenarios to the end result with President Obama. First, he could just whip out the birth certificate and end all this stupid speculation. A review will likely come to curious oddities with his birth certificate (my own speculation). It might list no one as his father (his mother wasn't on great terms with the guy by the time she entered the hospital). Or it may list the father as a British citizen. With either scenario....I think it's not a challenge to his ability to run...but it tears up the legend that we've gotten used to.

The second scenario is that he doesn't enter his name and does a write-in campaign. With a strong tea movement in Arizona....I wouldn't give him the win in 2012 there. So maybe it's not a big deal and doing the write-in vote is a different but acceptable answer to the problem.

I've generally regarded this challenge to the birth certificate to be a major joke. The problem is that the President doesn't want to end the joke, and few if any folks from the family history come out with supporting stories.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Sachs Man

$994k?

Somewhere in the buildup of the last Presidential election.....Goldman Sachs (our guys who are in deep trouble this week)....found various ways to hand the Obama campaign $994k.

Some questions finally arose yesterday over this....and whether the President ought to hand the money back. I'm pretty sure he won't do it. But there is a bigger question here.

Since they've been used this week as the "bad guy"....is there some kind of deal arranged with this legislation underway....where they are "punished" terribly.....and then find this miracle way not only to recover, but to surge to new all-time profit levels within a year or two? Do they have the inside method of arranging the legislation to put them ahead of every other Wall Street organization?

Me? I'm betting on it.

At this point.....I think the Republicans are likely grining and thinking this is a pretty good deal to ask questions about. There's no answers....but it certainly makes folks look bad. And the President? Well....here he takes money from a failing bank and he has to deliver something....otherwise, there's no fairness to the system.


Monday, 19 April 2010

A Skeptical Investment Deal

Imagine yourself standing there and a buddy comes up to suggest this investment opportunity. There's this B-class movie...the type you'd think of for drive-in theaters....called Macon County Line coming out. There's a futures exchange where you can invest (it's really a bet, but investment folks call this a futures investment deal).

So you put down a $1k and discover six months later after it comes out that it's pretty popular....in fact, it's making tons of money. Your $1k....is now $2.5k. You more than doubled your money.

Well....some folks are working on a movie futures exchange. So far, not a single trade has occurred. Some senators and congressmen are seriously against it because they think it's corruption and greed written all over it. The other problem is that the studios tend to hide the success or failure of a movie....which makes a true box-office receipt questionable.

But onward we go with the development of this idea.

You have to admit....three or four times a year.....a movie comes out and it's really bigger than anyone thought it would be. Macon County Line was one of those movies that made a ton of money in 1974/1975. No one would have guessed that. Drive-in's were carrying it week after week....and people came back to watch it several times over the summer.

I have skepticism over the entire futures market. Doesn't matter if we are talking hogs, cotton, grapes, or peanuts. Anything can occur....and suddenly your $5k is worth $10k, or it's worth $2k. You tend to win big or lose big. That's not the kind of deal that you'd invest on.

So there's likely a couple of guys out there thinking of a neat movie title....."Flames over Boloxi", which involves a wrestler, a female nuclear physicist who strips on the side, a midget named Karl who write love poems, a retired NASCAR racer turned minister, and a Icelandic domineering gal named Val who continually winks at everyone (it's a physical disorder, not a love attraction). It's a guaranteed winner, and I'd have to lay down $3k on the movie futures market with this script.


A Murder Upon a Murder

We had a murder here in the DC back in 2002....at a nice brick home. A child and her father were killed. The murderer was found....and sent off to prison. The home was being robbed, and things unfolded in a very sad and tragic way.

Around a year later....the home was put up for sale. And this up and coming school administrator bought it. Apparently, he was never told about the murder as the house sold, and then later learned about it. He didn't make a big deal out of the situation.....at least at the time.

Two days ago....the school administrator....considered one of the most elite of the DC administrators....was found dead in the house. Murdered. Some items were stolen, and his vehicle was missing apparently. The SUV was found this morning....around fifteen miles away....in the far east tip of DC. No clues so far from it.

Cops are sitting there and shaking their heads. Nothing makes sense.

I read through the story.....it sounds like another hit-and-run robbery....and the administrator walked into the wrong room at the wrong time.

There's this issue of buying a house where a murder occurred. It's different from where a family member just passed away or had a heart attack.

When I lived in Germany....over in the next village....there was a violent murder where a guy killed his wife and child, then killed himself. The house was one of those $500k houses in the local area and prime real estate. When the property finally transferred over to the bank (the guy still owed money)....the bank found zero interest in the house. It took around four years for them to finally dispose of the house and nothing was said over the price but I suspect they lost half the value of the house.

I don't think I could buy a house like that. There's some uneasy feeling when a violent crime occurred in the house. It's the same feeling you have on a Civil War battlefield.

Back to Dunkirk, Yet Again

In 1940, they came....by the thousands.

As British men of war sat on the beaches of Dunkirk, France....with their backs to the sea and the Nazsis in front of them.....things were dire.

So the British government, with the help of thousands of private boat owners....came to pull their countrymen off the beach and return them to the safety of the British Isles.

Today, with the volcano mess in fifth gear and airlines at a virtual shutdown....there are thousands of Brits stuck in France and Europe....trying to make it back home.

Yesterday, the idea came forward by some private British boat owners to rescue them. The French government crossed this off....I think more in line with the enormous task involved.

Today, the British government has spoken and said that it would start the process of running the "rescue" itself. This time....I don't think the French will deny them.

Security Minister Lord West also spoke up and indicated that commercial vesselss and amphibious landing craft could also be brought into this dramatic 'rescue'.

There is some feeling tonight that air travel will relaunch tomorrow....at fifty percent of the normal level. Although alot depends on the volcano and its effect.

You have to sit there and grin a bit over this 'rescue'. No one a month ago would have dare speculated about air travel being brought to a standstill. If the US tried to have its nuclear summit this week....almost no European leader would have attended unless they went by vessel.
What happens if this volcano continues on for a month or two? The vacation and air travel industry would come to a standstill....with bankruptcy likely to follow. A halt by the volcano in three months wouldn't matter....it'd already be too late. The world is not accustomed to such a delay.

So tonight.....people around Dunkirk are likely sitting there and contemplating what may happen on their shores tomorrow or Tuesday. A mighty 'rescue' force may arrive to bring the 'boys' home....once again.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Two Aussies


I came across these two guys the other day...both Aussies of course. So if you need a light-hearted moment....enjoy.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A Card that Invites Questions


As most of you know....I read a fair number of newspapers. I don't brag about this much in public. But this allows me to come across little stories that make you stop and ponder.

This week...from the Flint Journal...15 April, they reported that a local guy called up the cops. He'd lost his billfold.

Apparently, there were some critical documents in that billfold. There was the ID....which is always very important. There was the social security card....fairly important. And then, there was his medical marijuana card.

This billfold was apparently lost as he was pumping gas into his car over on Fenton Road in Flint.

I sat there a while....and kept wondering why you'd want to admit to the cops that you had a medical marijuana card. Course, I am from Bama, and I'd normally be thinking that this would trigger some cop to ask three or four extra questions that it'd be better not to answer.

So I sat pondering. How many folks are driving around today with a medical marijuana card? Fifty thousand? A million? I don't know.

Not being in the business of buying medical marijuana...I'm kinda wondering how you'd use it. Does it work like the Sam's Club card? Do you get a discount like at Costco? Is there a picture on it? Do you have certain brands of marijuana that are noted on the card as OK? Does the card work across state lines? If you flashed the card as a ID for cops....would it bring on added questions?

These are the questions that I ponder. Here's the other thing....which triggers a question now...is there a guy driving around Flint now....with this stolen medical marijuana card and using it to get his requirements?

Oh, and if you were wondering about the picture....yeah, I did some research. This California card cost $99. Some doctor examines you and pronounces you in need of medical marijuana. Pretty nifty.

Fake the Fake of the Fake on the Fake

Out in Sacramento this week, some story popped up with a fake tea party player. I won't publish his name, kinda feeling sorry for the guy.

He apparently got talked into this by some "friends".

Several folks have begun noticing folks at these tea party meetings and demonstrations that don't fit. They've even gone to the extent of confronting them and identifying them. Then the cops get involved....and kinda help the guy to escape from trouble. Sadly, you end up with your picture being taken.

Fakers? I'm trying not to laugh over this. When all the various liberal demonstrations came in the 1960s....the right-wing guys were never stupid enough to become a fake player in the groups.

The same thing came in the last five years with the anti-war crowd....there just weren't any fakers within their cause.

So it's interesting in a way to watch this fake business start up now.

The problem I see is a personal one. You show up as a faker and play out your role. At some point, CNN captures your face and sign. It gets into the press. You show back up at the environmentalist front, the far-left-liberal front, or whatever game you are playing....and Barney says he questions your "faith" or "loyalty".

You try to explain your falseness and they start to wonder if you are being false now.

This is a bad game to start. It's like trying to talk big at the Baptist church that you condemn all drinkers....then show up at the neighbors to get completely drunk on Saturday night....then show back up at church the next day to condemn all drinkers again.

Our Bushism Guy

“…whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower”

I stood for two days and let the President's comment wander around in my mind. It was in the midst of the nuke conference....and he needed a 4-star comment that journalists would take and run with. Instead....it turned into a 4-star spear that they tossed back into his lap.

Frankly....it was precisely the same comment that I'd expect out of George Bush....especially in the last three years of his Presidency.

I sat there and pondered over five or six quotes that he could have used:

"....whether we like it or not....sex is great".

"....whether we like it or not....taxes are screwed-up".

"....whether we like it or not....women in tube tops are hot".

"....whether we like it or not....beer ought to be sold in every Bama county".

"....whether we like it or not.... politicians are fools".

"....whether we like it or not....Joe Biden is a fool".

"....whether we like it or not....General Motors and Toyota are both in failure mode".

"...whether we like it or not....Fox News is the only fair and balanced news organization on TV today".

"....whether we like it or not....Bama has a better football team than Nebraska".

These are all Bushisms. Sadly.

So are there guys sitting around America....thinking whether we like it or not....America's military is still a "bull" to be reckoned with? Could it be that some dopey guys with fried brains are wasting time thinking about this? You could think about football or Dancing with the Stars or statistical analysis...but to waste it thinking about the US military's might?

Something is wrong here...really wrong. But let's start with the Bushism. It's about as stupid as you can get...and we are barely 16 months into this Presidency.

A Unicorn Pony


Once upon a time....in a faraway land...there was a company....that dreamed a dream. They wanted to make millions.

So they built an imaginary land....and put imaginary warriors in the midst of the land. They connected the dots, built the server, and sold subscriptions. And so began World of Warcraft.

The boys at WOW make tens of millions per month...and were fairly satisfied. This week....they decided to try a bold new concept...selling unicorn ponies at $25 a whack. Well...yeah, they called the little fella a Celestial Steed...but after a while...you realize he's just a unicorn pony.

The boys at WOW made $2 million in one hour yesterday...off unicorn pony sales. You have to sit there and laugh about this. All of these digital warriors sitting around their house or apartment....gathering up weapons and points...and now owning a unicorned pony...to make things complete.

I paused over this event and pondered. If you could make $2 million in just an hour....selling some stupid unicorned pony to a bunch of idiots ($25 each)....why not sell them a digital "GI Joe-walkie talkie" or a digital dose of penicillin when they get bad off sick in WOW-land. I could rake in $100 a month from each one of these idiots....and retire by age forty with tens of millions in my pocket.

My son is a WOW player (something I really hate to admit)...and I'm pretty sure (I don't want to ask)....that he also spent $25 for his unicorn pony. I pondered over this a while and realized that you'd typically have to feed a pony....so somewhere out there...sitting and grinning over the next step...is a guy who invented digital hay...and he's likely from Bama (just guessing).

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A Problem in the Hands of the Innocent

Sometimes, you come across one of those articles...that makes you ponder for a while. Some woman in Britain is reporting that she has been diagnosed by a doctor....to having a persistent genital arousal disorder....after she fell off her Wii Fitness board. She says....she damaged a nerve.

This gal...who we will leave unamed....lives in Manchester, England, and says that she has these intense sexual urges up to ten times a day.

It'll apparently occur just about anywhere....for any reason....like a "twinge" building up and before she knows it....it turns into a "trembling orgasm."

Doctors are saying that these type of sensations can last hours, days or even weeks.

I sat here for a while and pondered over this issue. Certainly, it sounds like folks ought to avoid the Wii Fitness Board at all cost....especially if they were from Bama...otherwise, they could become injured and be fairly aroused all the time. Imagine, some gal working at Wal-Mart....all up into this disorder. Imagine Carla at the Catfish Cabin....with this disorder and trying to handle your order. Put yourself in the shoes of Ellen at the Dollar General Store...trying to handle your purchase when an attack occurs.

I believe that the Wii folks need to put a work of warning on the side of the box...."Intense Orgasms possible with this item". Tis is the only way to protect folks.

The Man Who Would Not Be Mayor

The city council up in Tracy City, Tenn will have to pick a new mayor now. Normally, this kind of story wouldn't really matter. But the funny thing is that they just had an election. The problem from the election is that some dead guy (he'd been dead more than just a week or two)....won.

The dead guy....Carl Robin Geary....got around 268 votes. The second person in this two-way vote...got 85 votes.

The city council will fix the problem by appointment....but then this leaves you to pondering.

I grew up in the south, and can readily admit that this could happen in any community. There are several reasons to this situation.

First, when you show up to vote....and look at the ballot....it's often hard to visualize who you are voting for. You might have even been a fishing buddy of the guy or the pall bearer.....but then you are standing looking at their name on the ballot, and without a bit of thinking...you mark it. In your mind....ever how crazy it sounds....you know the guy and haven't connected all the dots that he's been dead for two weeks.

Second, in a two-way race....in a small town especially...between a dead guy and a possibly disliked second candidate....there's this southern logic that you ought to vote for the dead guy.

Third, if the dead guy was a Democrat and the second living candidate is a Republican...you'd naturally vote for the dead guy. Don't ask me why, but we southerners do have this tendency.

Fourth, there's this promise business. If you promised the dead guy back four months ago that you'd vote for him...as a true southerner...you can't back out of your deal. You gotta carry out your promise.

Fifth and final....some folks who really hate local politics and the various arguments that erupt in town hall....may think that a dead mayor solves alot of the problems.

The bad thing about this deal...is some guy already wrote the obituary on Carl. It would have been the cherry on the cake....just to insert "elected mayor" into this and Carl's relatives would have been a bit perked up as it appeared in the newspaper.

So out there...at the gates of heaven....stands Carl and he's looking down on this whole thing. He probably had bold ideas and fresh initiatives...and a new firetruck on his to-do list. In the end, this is just another one of life's little twists and turns.

A Hundred Days

One hundred days. It's been that long. Today is my anniversary. I've been in the US for one hundred days.

Counting? Yes.

I probably had different expectations, and so far only half have come to pass.

I'm surviving without a car....Metro isn't that big of a deal. I'm getting into my job but it's not anything that I'd brag about. I'm making money but I'm paying Virginia taxes. I'm an American but find myself as a stranger in an even stranger land.

I'm watching the History Channel and Animal Planet almost daily. I'm feeling less stress. My blood pressure has decreased. I wear a tie daily. I read two newspapers each day. I drink two gallons orange juice a week.

Maybe the next hundred days go well.

$40 Million Under the Car Seat

There's an amusing story out of DC today....over money and teachers.

Last year in DC....they realized a major shortfall in funds to pay teachers. So they came up with a list of 266 teachers and support personnel to let go. After the list came out....then came the announcement that some were fired because they were incompetent. Some were also fired because they had reports via the security folks on their "relationships" with students. Some were fired because they were simply junior on the totem pole and were picked off because of luck.

Well....today, we learned that the budget guys who told the DC educational chief to cut because of budget problems....used the wrong numbers. The education budget office holds around $40 million extra in their vault....than expected. Yes, they "found" new and fresh money.

In Bama, we'd ask some stupid questions and wonder IF MORE new and fresh money could be found, but apparently, that wasn't important here.

So, naturally the fired teachers all want to be rehired now.....a year later. Even the city commission in DC suggest that (remember, it's an election year and votes count).

The key thing now is the DC educational chief has promised pay raises to teachers to get them onto her next plan.....so she says she can use that forty million to pay out the bonuses and higher pay. You can guess the reaction of the current teachers....don't rehire a single teacher, and full speed ahead.

I sat there laughing over this.

This is like your wife announcing that she found an extra $1400 in the money jar and she's buying a new piano for the living room. This is like your son going through the garage....finding a old sign from the gas station that closed, worth $2k, and then saying he was going to spend it all on fireworks.

I still go back to my original question....how much MORE is sitting out there? I'm betting that these budget gurus have screwed up a number of things....if they mismanage $40 million.

Just another reason why I hate this local area.

Doctor Nurse

There was a nifty article in the paper that discussed this growing idea of putting nurses up as potential doctors.

The concept revolves around this problem of fewer doctors anticipated in the future. So they think the typical nurse with a 4-year degree, and a 3-year practitioner program.....could fill some squares.

I saw a surprising trend with the Air Force back in the late 90's....when they took a number of their nurses and developed programs to put them up front and possibly the next-best thing to be a real doctor.

The day came where I actually one of the "PA's" work on a medical problem of mine. It was a simple flu episode and I really just wanted a slip to get home and rest. He did the things you expected, signed the note....and I went home to rest.

If you look at half the work that your typical doctor does.....any nurse or PA could do the same thing. Even half of the drugs you get these days....could be accomplished by a nurse instead of a doctor.

A threat here? Yes. Doctor's aren't going to quietly accept this idea. They went through almost ten years of schooling and owe tons of money to someone. They don't want competition.

From a history point of view.....just one hundred years ago....you basically had a science background from some university....studied under some doctor at a metropolitan hospital for six to twelve months....and called yourself a doctor. It was pretty simple to earn the title and folks didn't argue. Over one hundred years....we've raised our expectations.

I'm suspecting that fifty percent of the medical requirements we have in most counties could be done by a nurse with extended training. You could start to review cost and realize that half you bills could be vastly different. But would you accept a nurse's opinion over your issue? That's the key point to this argument. If you won't accept a nurse telling what's wrong.....then this falls flat.

Voting in Virginia

There's some kind of debate going on now in "my" state of Virginia....over guys with felony records who want to vote.

The Governor hints that if they write a essay and request their vote back....he'll consider it. No one really clear on this effort. I'm guessing he will hand out some votes and deny some votes....just to look both fair and unfair.

I have a problem with this denial of vote business. If it's such a wise idea to deny a guy his vote....why not deny them their right to pay taxes as well?

There is this basic idea of paying taxes and then having the right to toss out the representative....if they screw up tax resolutions and the way they spend the revenue. No taxation without representation....it's that simple. So if any guy with a felony record living in Virginia wanted to write a essay on this....feel free to take my topic and apply it to the governor's essay. No promises though....I don't think the governor wants to hear about votes and taxes being tied together. And he'll likely remind you that you do have a number of rights in being an American....but you don't have the right to vote. That says alot.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Nuke Neighbor

For the last day or two...this nuclear summit of sorts has been underway here in DC. The media has chatted up a storm over the summit and its anticipated results. After a while...you start to stand back and visualize this "game" in the real world.

Imagine yourself in the rural sections of Bama...owning a house...and wanting to protect that house. So over the years...you acquired sixteen guns and placed them at strategic corners of the house. You put up a sign early on....along the highway...advising that you would have the right to shoot anyone who came on the property and threatened you. Generally, in the early years....other neighbors had the same situation...the same sign...and the same attitude.

Neighbors have come and gone....with some passing on. Some new neighbors have an enlightened morality, and a different prospective on life. Most of the "shoot on property" signs in the region have been removed.

Neighbors worry about even the mention of weapons. Some claim that it's anti-social, anti-human, and simply wrong.

So you come one day....to make the neighbors all happy. You remove the signs and claim a new status in life. The "shoot-on-sight" mentality is gone. You even agree to sell eight of your sixteen guns. The neighbors tell you that this is the greatest moment of the neighborhood....and that things are much safer now. They can feel good about you as a neighbor.

You smile. You grin. You shake their hand and tell them that things are really different now.

But Uncle Karl from down the road looks at the situation and you...and shakes his head. You have eight weapons remaining...of which five are semi-automatic with a thirty-round magazine. The eight weapons are still at strategic locations around the house. The signs removed? He knows that you will still shoot anyone that trespasses and threatens your home or safety.

In actuality, Uncle Karl knows that nothing much changed except a bunch of dimwits saw you take down your sign and sell half your guns.

Our naive nature, and incompetent news experts help to facilitate a charming situation. Whatever occurs with the Russians this week over Nukes...and the Nuke Summit....is mostly a feel-good situation that helps us sleep better tonight.

The Mighty Micky

So it came to pass...the 15-year old family cat finally had to be put to sleep. The Mighty Micky's health had deteriorated over the past six months and he had gone blind in the past ten days.

Pets come and go....their lives are a quarter of yours...at best. If you have some luck....they might have a dozen tricks that they show you...and only you, when the time is right.

This Persian had perfected the belly rub begging posture. He knew how to force you into hand feeding him...snack by snack. And he could sense immediately when any door was open to allow him access to the outside.

This was the cat that begged to lay in bright sunlight for hours...and got sunburned.

This was the cat that could sense when you freshly washed a bathroom rug and would throw-up a hairball on it.

Somewhere out there....at the gates of heaven....you can sense that some angel is already being manipulated by the Mighty Micky. His innocent looks will deceive him....the cat has domination in his mind, and will work day and night to gain absolute control.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Better or Worse Generation Crap

They took a poll and asked folks about the next generation being better or worse.

Fifty-seven percent said the next generation will be worse.

I sat there....pondering over this poll. Polls aren't worth much. Over a third of America believes in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Sea Monster. Probably half of America believes in aliens and UFOs. You've got ten percent of the country that still believe Jimmy Carter was one of the great presidents of the last fifty years.

So over half of the population believes that the gravy train has finally come to an end.

I sat for a while and considered all the implications....and frankly, I don't stand around measuring if the next generation is better or worse....than do I care.

Thirty years ago....I didn't really have huge expectations when I traveled. The airline didn't really matter. The arrival time could be an hour late. The food on the airline could be one-star but I'd likely eat some of it. And most of the time....my bag got to the other end.

Today....same expectations. The airline doesn't really matter. The arrival time could be an hour late. The food on the airline could be one-star but I'd likely eat some of it. And most of the time....my bag get to the other end.

Thirty years ago.....I made a simple wage and ate out once a week. I wore regular clothing. I stayed at family lodge hotels most of the time because I was cheap. And you could grill a good steak for $4.

Today.....I make a simple wage.....I might eat out twice a week now. I wear the same regular clothing. I stay at mostly family lodge operations because I'm cheap. And I can buy a decent steak for $7.

So I'm not buying into this better or worse generation business. Life is what it is.

We probably have the same ratio of trailer trash demon-women today as twenty years ago. We probably have the same number of guys carrying a chain saw in the back of their pick-up as twenty years ago. We probably have the same number of women wearing tube tops as twenty years ago. And we probably have the same number of guys who drink Pabst Blue-Ribbon as twenty years ago.

So don't bring up the worse generation business with me....it won't sell.

Friday, 9 April 2010

The Greatest Job in the World


It's a greatest job in the world kind of day.

If you lived in Bama....you would swear the greatest job anywhere, is working at the Catfish Cabin and grilling pure and simple catfish all day long.

If you lived in Texas....you would swear that running a Friday night rodeo is the greatest job in the world.

If you lived in Florida and wrestled gators....you'd swear that was the greatest job in the world.

If you lived in New York City....you'd swear that driving a taxi is the greatest job in the world.

Well....out in Copenhagen this past week.....the face of reality came up against people who had the greatest job in the world. Carlsberg brewery workers faced a hostile change in their great job. The management folks changed things.

First, there is a new alcohol policy. You can only drink beer now during lunch hours in the canteen. Prior to this week....you could drink all day long.

Second, there were coolers all throughout the brewery where you'd stop and just pull out a beer....free of charge.....and just start sipping it. Those coolers have now been removed.

Third.....a anti-drinking list of rules have been read out to the workers.

You can imagine the feelings of a employee....thirty years on the job.....given free beer all his life....and probably has sipped at least twenty beers a week on average. It has to be a painful experience to sit there and imagine how you will ever accept such a change.

The odds of Carlsberg beer having to pack up the plant and make it somewhere else because of hostility? I'd say it's better than fifty percent.

So one of the greatest jobs in the world.....disappeared this week.....and a teardrop fell from a guy or two in Denmark.

The Smoker

I've been watching this story unfold over the Qatar diplomat who lit a cigarette onboard a plane and when they knocked at the toilet door, he joked that he was just lighting up his shoe. Naturally, the airline folks and security TSA folks.....didn't take any of this as a joke.

He's being asked to leave now....by the end of today.

I sat and paused over this story....and looked at the picture shown here of the guy.....and frankly, I don't think he was smoking a cigarette. Oh, he was smoking something.....but I have serious doubt about it being tobacco.

The behavior he displayed after they knocked at the door....it's like a guy who's on a high. It was a typical joke that mary-j-u-wanna dude would make.

I'm guessing as he gets back to Qatar.....he'll make the talkshow circuit and make several jokes about lighting up his shoe.....and everyone there will have a big laugh about this.

What would a smoker say? Well....if they didn't have all these stupid anti-smoking rules.....he would have smoked at his seat and everything would have been cool.

Just my two cents on what happened.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Just Another Metro Episode

Around 1:18 yesterday....out on the Metro subway tracks in DC....some gal climbed off the platform and laid down to get hit. Suicide-by-Metro attempt.

This kinda brought the entire line to a halt and it took a number of hours for normalcy to return to the DC Metro line. The woman? As of last night, she was still alive....but barely.

I don't have much of a problem with someone just wants to commit suicide. The minute that the person starts to involve anyone else....I'm pretty much against them in every possible way. You see alot of this these days. Suicide-by-cop, suicide-by-car, suicide-by-bus, etc.

The thing about this attempt in DC.....everyone onboard the train was affected. The train driver will likely never drive again. The folks who had appointments throughout the afternoon or had to reach important destinations were delayed by an hour or two. And all of this over a desire to make this a public offering? I don't buy the excuses that this person might offer.

If you want to do something bad enough....you will just simply do it. And you should be more than capable of doing it by yourself to settle your own score. Past that point....involving others....you seem to have some motive to punish as many people around as possible. This punishment mentality just isn't acceptable. People didn't ask to be a part of your episode, and they certainly don't want to hear your discussion over this act.

My two cents and rave of the day.

Virginia and Its Label

Imagine if you will....that an event occurred that lasted about five to six years, that didn't effect you, your dad, your grandfather, or his dad. Imagine that this event came to pass and really didn't determine your future....at least in a positive sense. Then finally imagine that now.....a governor has determined that this event....Confederacy month in Virginia....gets brought up and charged up by the state governor.

This week....for the first time in eight years.....it's back on the table. Folks are a bit disturbed about it, but Governor McDonnell says full speed ahead.

Frankly, I don't buy into the honor of Confederacy month. This government of sorts lasted six years at best and then dissolved.

The state choses not to remember it's 150-year-plus period where it was part of the King's Crown of England.

The state also choses not to remember it's 12,000 year period of association with the American Indians.

If you honor the Confederacy....you might as well have Virginia Indians month and King's Crown month....but they won't dare do that.

The number of facts you can get out of the whole Confederacy period when discussing government activities only (and not the war)? Pretty much limited to fifteen pages of history that's worth mentioning over a six-year period. It wasn't exactly a long and productive period.

So Confederacy month will come and go in Virginia, and be marked by a couple of speeches.....mostly over the war (never the government itself), and life will go on. The amusing thing is that it's the war that really counts in this whole debate. Folks get into this part. But if you tried to associate government activities into the discussion....folks would just look at you and ask why would you bring up such a boring topic?

So my two cents on my state of residence.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Little Bits

There were several bits of news today.....that really weren't worth remembering but you do have to ponder over.

First, some smart guys came out and said eating five servings of fruit and veggies per day.....doesn't stop cancer or prevent cancer, period. So you can stop that crazy stuff that you were doing, and go back to eating Ho-Hos, Texas fries, bacon, and peanut butter from the jar. I realize most of you guys from Bama never knew about the suggested five servings of veggies and might have been eating seven servings of veggies because Grandma always said to do it.....but you chill a bit and just relax now.

Second, John Edwards mistress has decided that she will appear on Oprah in about four weeks. I paused over this and thought about what she would say. Somewhere in the first five minutes....she'll likely let you know that John is a stud, got awful lusty feelings, and likes special oils rubbed on his body. The question here....is.....do you really care? Frankly, I really don't want to know much about John's sexual habits, lusty feelings, or trailer trash hook-ups. I don't even want to know he wears boxer shorts or not.

Third, some airline decided it was time to charge you for carry-on luggage. Yep, just one bag could run you $45 for a carry-on. So even if you had a Wal-Mart plastic baggy that you tossed in a pair of socks, underwear and a t-shirt for a flight down to Orange Beach, Bama over the weekend.....they'd charge you $45 for that plastic baggy. Think about that, and then start asking yourself why you don't take Amtrak or Trailways buses?

Fourth, someone wrote up a list of the fifty most stressful colleges in America. I went down the list. These were all the fancy places where Johnny Junior pays $24k a year just for tuition (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, etc). I looked and looked for Bama and Auburn.....but just couldn't find them. So I'm guessing Bama colleges just aren't that stressful. Course, it could be that guys aren't that stupid who go to Bama or Auburn, and they don't feel too stressed out other than waiting for Grandma's beer money to arrive, or if the football coach quits.

Fifth, the LA mayor (Antonio Villaraigosa) has decided that his budget is so weak....that he's closing up shop two days a week at non-essential services (libraries, parks, etc). But the unions in LA came out today and said they'd investigate if he (the mayor) had the actual real authority to determine this and force it. The funny thing is that the city accountant also came out today and hinted that he thinks....unless something happens....that there won't be enough money to cover salary structure for May. It'll be curious how the union reacts then if there isn't salary money to cover things.

The Trouble with Taxes

There's talk now of a national sales tax.....a VAT....and the President's team is actually ready to push it.

It's kinda strange over the timing of this and why now it finally makes sense. So some observations are due.

First, I sat and watched the VAT in Germany function....it's now 19.5 percent. It used to be around 13.5 percent (before the wall came down). Most folks were accepting of the 13.5 percent....today, they question the necessity. The problem is that VAT has become the augmentation tool in Germany to go hand-in-hand with income tax. Yeah, they never got rid of income tax (figure 18 to 35 percent, depending on your income).

Second....the way that VAT works....is that they already figure the whole cost as you shop. So when you go up to buy a new Ford F-150 truck, and the sticker says $22k, that includes the VAT. If you were chatting on the actual real cost without tax.....(if it were 10 percent VAT), then you'd have a $20k truck in front of you.

Third....what would be a fair VAT? I'm guessing it'd start at five percent. They'd naturally keep all income tax continuing on. Your town, county and state currently running with a five percent sales tax? So we'd just add the two together..... totaling out at 10 percent. The key to acceptance is to start low, and simply build onto it every three years or so.

Fourth? VAT kinda invites people to negotiate (based on what I observed in Germany) and iron out a personal deal on services. You need a plumber to replace a kitchen sink.....it turns into a Saturday job and cash.....so you avoid the VAT. So within a year, you begin to notice that the services sector has decreased in nature and spiraling downward, yet no services company is upset.

Alot of Republicans are generally upbeat about a national sales tax, but their vision was to radically change the income tax rates and perhaps set up a plain flat income tax level of five percent for everyone, and then offer up the VAT rate of five to ten cents on the dollar. The VAT deal mentioned so far....doesn't say much about dumping or reducing the income tax rates.

What's amusing about this is that it has plus-up tendencies with Republicans and most independents. If the administration had come out in April of last year....before the universal health care bill.....a great deal of independent support would have gone with the administration and maybe stuck with them through the health care bill. As it is....the White House is backing up five steps and trying to recapture independent voters now....after they've lost so much support.

My guess? Republicans will smile over this and say sure.....you can have a national sales tax of eleven percent (instead of five), and we bring income tax down to a flat rate of around seven percent. The White House will say "NO".....because that messes up their fancy math work (they expected a massive gain against the public).

So the fight will continue on.....with no real chance to fix anything related to taxes because it all turned into a gimmick to make more tax revenue, instead of actual structure change.

The Conventional Big-Stick

I sat and watched some news clip this morning....two "experts" explaining how they were so happy about America finally giving up it's nukes and it's nuclear stance. They carried on for about five minutes and I finally just walked out of the coffee shop when I had enough.

There are people who will get all weepy and say how nuclear holocaust is now avoided. Frankly, I don't buy that story. You still have Pakistan and India.....who hate each other and probably will use nukes one day.

You also have various private groups who have nuclear technology and bomb notes.....and would like to attack various western nations if given the chance.

The curious thing is that the US hasn't used nukes since 1945....so the odds of us ever using them is kinda questionable.

I don't have a problem with this no-nukes plan.....but I don't see war coming to an end.....conventional bombs are the preferred weapon of any target expert. I sat once and watched a couple of guys pull out the results of the Bosnia War and our use of conventional weapons. These guys could point to one end of the bridge which was the actual target and how the bridge was simply disabled with one bomb (and not the 20 that we would have dropped in 1944).

So conventionally.....the US is pretty much king of the hill and nothing radically changes tonight as the no-nukes idea continues on.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Ten Simple Rules

Last fall, I had a Lt come up to my desk and ask how to "invest". He didn't mean bonds or mutual funds or CD's. He wanted a simple story to stock investing.

Ten years ago, if you had said that I'd know much about investing of any kind....I would have laughed. A guy from Bama? Back around 2005, I sat down and looked at my mutual fund investments, and I realized that I wasn't getting the 'bang-to-the-buck' that I thought I was. So I sat down and read up on stocks.

Eventually, using my famous farm mentality from Bama....I came down to ten things that a guy has to know and understand to invest in stocks. The Lt knew I'm famous for taking alot of things and using my farm mentality....turning them into ten simple things to remember.

So I sat there for thirty minutes and laid out these ten simple things.....and I've decided to publish it via the blog. Remember....I'm not a Donald Trump, but I doing my own investing and not relying on some idiot hired at some company to do it for me. I don't lose money....and I tend to make at least eight to ten percent a year on average.....which is better than CD's or bonds.

So number one, buy stocks you can grasp and understand. Don't buy hyped-up technology or new-fangled energy stocks that require intense knowledge. Buy stocks that you see on a daily basis (Texaco, Wal-Mart, & Cisco). Buy stocks that have been around and have a good reputation.

Number two, never buy stocks related to ships, aircraft, drugs in test phase, or anything of a chaotic nature. The first time you have a boat to sink....you lose twenty percent of the investment overnight. The first time you buy into American Airlines and a crash occurs....you lose money overnight. Chaos is not worth the effort.

Number three, treat your investment plan like a mutual fund. Call it a name (Bob's Best Funds is a fine name). Act like a mutual fund director. Write down some basic rules and establish a foundation for your plan. Your goal is to act like a real director of some Vanguard fund....and treat yourself richly when possible.

Number four, P/E, dividends, and the "line" are important. P/E is a term that you see when you look up a stock. Basically, it's the stock priced divided by it's earnings per share. You want a P/E thats less than 20 when possible.....and never over 30. P/E is a good indicator that the company is headed in a positive direction.

Dividends? Well.....most stocks pay them and some don't. I made the rule that my stocks had to pay a dividend of some type (even 1 percent) so I could tell it was actually making profit. A good company that doesn't pay dividends? Sonic (you know, your burger joint in the South). Sonic has never paid a dividend but still does well on gains. Can you find huge dividend players? Yes, there are stocks which pay six to eight percent of the stock price.....and really help your profit line. So a dividend matters, in my book.

The "Line"? Well, when you pull up a stock in Yahoo financial....and examine the whole picture of the stock, there's this graphic chart with a line. You prefer to have a line over the past twelve months where it's a upward trend. Up and down lines means heavy trading and losses that occur on a frequent basis. A flat line is ok, but you won't get gains out of such a deal.

Number five, foreign stocks. Here's where you think about things. Some Canadian banks and railway companies have done great over the past year......but you have to pay foreign taxes. Some ore and natural gas companies out of Chile have done great over the past year. There are a number of really great companies in Australia that are worth investing in. The issue comes back to following foreign countries and their own issues in business. If you have time to watch Australian bank stocks, then go for it.....if you don't, then stay out. It simply adds more homework onto you.

Number six, the ups and downs of Cramer. Every day on CNBC, around 6PM, there's Cramer. There are lots of good bits of advice that he pumps out each week, and you can learn about individual stocks here with ease. Cramer isn't always right, but he explains things. The intensity of the show is what bothers me.....and I usually limit myself to fifteen minutes per night.

Number seven, A $20 stock has lots of potential gain. First, you could easily get a dividend of 4 percent a year ($1.60), then add in ten percent in growth ($2), so your $20 stock after twelve months is $23.60. That's better than most mutual funds, and way better than CDs or bonds.

Number eight, you select your "dealer" carefully. A number of stock traders offer $6 trades and you simply run a balance with them. Even if you've only got $4k.....that's enough to get a taste of the business and play the game. By kicking out the mutual fund guys....you cut out the middle guy and the charge that they put on handling your mutual funds. This charge typically isn't huge, but if you get up to $100k....they are simply taking your money away from you for something you could do yourself.

Number nine, profits mean taxes. So if you clear $2k after a year of wheeling and dealing....anticipate losing $400 from that. Never lose sight of this tax game. Keep records, because it just might help avoid issues later with the IRS folks.

Number ten, NEVER anchor yourself with stocks. If you feel that this stock is a loser.....dump it and move on.

So the stocks I would suggest? Samuel Adams Beer (SAM), Toro Company (TTC), and Baytex Energy Trust (BTE). All three have a spiraling line going upward and positive growth. The beer guys know how to market great beer.....Toro makes lawn equipment which sells each spring....and Baytex is a oil and natural gas company that makes profit each and every month.

Plains All American Pipeline (PAA)? A natural gas company that pays a 6.4 yearly dividend (that's a four-star deal). It's trend has been pointing upward for almost an entire year and looks to rise another $10 in value this....so adding that to your dividend only makes it a great deal.

A guy can screw up.....by simply aiming for too high of goals and expecting to make twenty percent growth a year (way past the norm). A guy can fall into the trap of buying a quick riser and then watch his stock fall apart over a seven-day period. So you have to think ahead of time and get a simple strategy. Don't expect to be a millionaire. But you should expect to make more than cash lying in a simple four percent CD account.