Saturday, 31 July 2010

Something to Ponder

Ronald Reagan uttered this once: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

You can imagine yourself standing there...on the streets of some small town in Bama, and this guy pulls up. You show some friendly nature....reach out a hand to shake the fellow's hand. Then you let the guy know that he's welcome to the town.

His response? ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

You pause and twist your head a bit....then you let the guy know that you can't think of many things that he could help on.

He responds that he'd like to repave all of the main drag through town. You think about this for a while and state the obvious that the road might have a few potholes but....wouldn't it be a fair sum of money to waste on such an endeavor? He responds that it's government money....and it's ok. You decline because you think it's a waste.

Then he responds that he'd like to build a new water plant. You ponder on this....the old is twenty years old and running ok. He says that it's only capable of supporting 5,000 residents....while his new one would satisfy 10,000 folks. You think about this and over twenty years....your town has grown from 1,805 residents to 2,106 residents. You state the obvious....wouldn't it be a fair sum of money to waste on such an endeavor? He responds that it's government money....and it's ok. You decline because you think it's a waste.

Then he responds that he'd like to build a new community center to replace the one built in 1972. The building is kinda old but the roof is ok and no one is really complaining about this. You state the obvious....wouldn't it be a fair sum of money to waste on such an endeavor? He responds that it's government money....and it's ok. You decline because you think it's a waste.

Then he responds that he'd like to beef up your police department with new cars, new SWAT weapons, a new building and new uniforms. You stand there for a minute and ponder this. You have three full-time cops and four part-time guys. You make more than enough off speeding tickets. And the police station was just renovated five years ago. You state the obvious....wouldn't it be a fair sum of money to waste on such an endeavor? He responds that it's government money....and it's ok. You decline because you think it's a waste.

Finally, he responds that he has the funding to build a new municipal airport, and could arrange for one small airline to land four planes a day to fly locals out to Atlanta. Most folks drive an hour up the road to some regional airport and that's been going on for thirty years. No one has ever said nothing negative about this deal. You state the obvious....wouldn't it be a fair sum of money to waste on such an endeavor? He responds that it's government money....and it's ok. You decline because you think it's a waste.

The government guy starts to look confused. He wanted to help you.

You finally put your arm around his shoulder and let him know that help isn't exactly what you were dreaming about at night. And unless he wanted to cut your taxes....there weren't many reasons to overstay his visit in your town.

Just something to ponder.

Lack of Credible Evidence

The Portland District Attorney surveyed the mess, and finally called Al Gore this week....to let him know that his problems were over. There just wasn't enough credible evidence (at least not yet).

Al probably sat back in the easy chair....sipped a Michelob beer....and kept thinking about the astonishing amount of luck that a plain country boy from Tennessee can have. He went to Nam and never saw a day of action. He didn't put any effort into education but still pulled degree out of Harvard. Then he got into divinity school at Vanderbilt and shuffled around there. Then he got into politics and eventually got to be Vice President of the United States. And finally, he did something special enough to get a Nobel Peace Prize.

A country boy can't have this much luck.

What's next? It'd be a natural tendency to ask that. I'm personally hoping that Al meets up with Jessica Simpson and marries her. Then we could have a 5-star reality show.

As for lack of credible evidence? Well....it happens. Unless you tape the incident or have a witness....the DA can just toss the case. One would hope that it wasn't taped....because that would mess up this entire case....you know.

Farmers, Cash, and a Dopey Program


Small time farming in America...is dying. It's been dying for the past fifty years. There are dozens of reasons for this...and it's not worth arguing about. This week...someone pulled the curtain back and you glimpsed an amusing part of this small farmer saga. The bulk of the story is compliments of News Busters.

Back in 1997...four hundred black farmers sued the US Department of Agriculture. They basically said that discrimination had been going on with farm subsidies. Farm subsidies had been going on since 1982...so there were fifteen years worth of problems, if the judge agreed. He did.

When the smoke settled...the court decided that $50k for each damaged individual was fair. How he arrived at this round number...doesn't matter. Most everyone involved in the suite was completely satisfied with this $50k number. The end-all number of folks injured at this point...was simple to pinpoint.

Something clicked. Two thousand more black farmers jumped into the law suite, and they were added to the $50k group.

Then, something clicked again. Just over twenty-two thousand more black farmers joined the situation for $50k in damages.

It was free money at this point and you merely filled out some paperwork and said you were a black farmer and you'd been damaged by the US Agricultural Department's policy.

Around two years after point...the USDA and the US government came to this point of saying "Ok"....here's $50k for 16,000 black farmers. These were the folks who met all the conditions and showed enough proof to move to the payment line.

A funny thing was revealed at that point. There were close to 70,000 black farmers who claimed that they were wrongly denied their $50k in damages. They were upset.

Enter the US Census folks...who accidentally turned this 2-star event into a 4-star event. They basically said...across the entire nation...there's only 39,697 black farmers in existence (2007 figures). And as if it mattered...their numbers were less in the previous decade. It's best not to talk about that though.

So the most black farmers that you could dig up....are roughly 40k black farmers. Yet you have the sixteen thousand paid and the seventy thousand saying they were screwed over and denied their money. Think about that for a moment.

To fix things...even wrong things....congress passed a farm bill in 2008...with $1.25 billion attached. This was supposed to fix all 86k black farmers....even though we know there just weren't more than forty thousand.

So the curious part of the story now twists over to US Department of Agriculture's own Sherry Sherrod (the Breitbart story of the week....who was fired and then rehired by the Agricultural Department).

Sherry and her husband own a farm cooperative. They ended up with $150k as their damages paid out. The deal was supposed to be 'per farm or per farmer'....so they somehow figured out the right wording....and somehow got three times the prescribed amount of money....as anyone else.

Naturally, you'd have to stand there and scratch your head over the method of counting and payment. Then you'd step back to the 70,000 black farmers mentioned and wonder where they came from.

Somehow....I have this vision of a couple of ACORN guys sitting there and figuring a free cash deal....and rigging up paperwork for not just dozens....but hundreds and thousands of folks to just claim farmer status and hope for some stupid US Department of Agriculture administrators to just hand out the cash.

So if you stand and ponder over this for a while....you come to admit that there's a mess brewing on the stove. How many folks declared fake farms and claimed fake farmer status? How many got double or triple their payments because of the method they filled out the paperwork? You just don't know. Should a Presidential Commission come into play to figure out what went wrong and reclaim money? There's a list of problems here.

You have to wonder how this gets fixed....if it ever does.

Friday, 30 July 2010

A 99-0 Game For One Winner

Ousted Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday she will sue a conservative blogger who posted an edited video of her making racially tinged remarks last week.

By the end of this week and the talkshow circuit....you had this impression that the fired-then-rehired Agricultural Department employee Shirley Sherrod intends to sue Andrew Breitbart.

The charge? Well...defamation is probably the only thing that would be worthly in this case, but it leaves a big question mark.

If Breitbart didn't say anything...and all he used was edited video sold to him from a third source...of Shirley at some NAACP meeting...can a judge see defamation? My humble guess? No.

I watched three different interviews on clips this week of Shirley telling her story over and over. At some point....I started to wonder why she isn't nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her actual real life achievements.

Who could she sue and and likely win against? Well...the Agricultural Department for unlawful pursuit of terminating an employee against normal regulations and rules. I actually think she could take on the government's position and probably get $4 million within the scope of things. But she doesn't want to sue the Agricultural Department.

Andrew Breitbart? I'm thinking he'll hire up a fancy lawyer and prepare for a case which may or may not ever come. As for Shirley? Well...she won't hire this fancy lawyer for her case...she'll depend on a NAACP-provided lawyer...just my humble guess. There'll be discussions on Larry King or a number of outlets...to show off her case and how things will go. Chances of the case starting before the November elections? I seriously doubt it. This is a case to start into 2012 and try to tear down general US feelings around a new Republican congress.

Shirley being used? Well...I'd hate to suggest this. But frankly...she's running to just about every friendly news source for an interview now...and we've all seen more than enough. She can't sell her case much more than what she's got right now.

The folks over at the Agricultural Department? They have to be grinning over this whole mess. They acted stupidly and in the vast majority of firings each year...they'd spend tens of millions on lawyers and a vast sum on paying fired-employees for being wrongly-fired. In this case? Nothing...not a single dime. It's like waiting for the absolutely perfect one-inch rainfall in a drought-stricken area of Mississippi in the midst of July, and it falls so slowly and perfectly that it saves every single stalk.

It's win-win-win deal for the Agricultural Department. Heck, not even Katie Couric asks why they were so stupid in the first place. And it shouldn't be this way.

My Anacostia Day


My organization had a bar-b-q today....which naturally, can't occur at the Pentagon (fire rules, you know).

So this was to be held over at Bolling AFB....which is just across the river from the Pentagon. It's in DC....but it's an area of DC that you probably don't really want to travel through.

Adding to this episode....remember....I don't have a car and I do all my travel via METRO. So I made this decision to travel from the Pentagon....via METRO....to Bolling. It's simple....go via the subway to the middle of DC, then take the green line over to Anacostia. Then, there's this bus from there to the front gate.

Well.....things came unhinged at the Anacostia Metro station. I stepped out with my co-worker (a black New York City gal)....and realized that this is a part of DC that you don't normally go to. I was the only white guy amongst the 300 folks that I could see. We quickly made our way to the W4 bus and thought we'd be near the front gate in ten minutes. We were wrong.

About sixteen minutes into this trip....I realized we missed the gate. To be honest...there are no signs on this street at all.

So we got off and got on a return bus....and began asking about where to get off. The passenger I asked....had this blank look. She was a local and lived in the neighborhood her entire life....yet knew nothing about the base. My co-worker talked to the bus driver.....and he gave us this blank look. Both appeared to be weed-smokers...just my humble opinion.

So we went back to the METRO station and met some more interesting characters....and spent forty-five minutes waiting for a return chance.

It was at this point that I had this image burned into my mind of Anacostia. I could not imagine myself standing there at sundown. This wasn't a crack haven or some drive-by shooters hangout in Memphis. It's just an area where a guy like me simply didn't fit. I felt fortunate to be standing there with my black female co-worker....and I can only imagine what the local folks had in their mind of my appearance.

Then....by the some form of luck....a military shuttle bus pulls up. We realized the potential and quickly got onboard. Twenty minutes later....we entered Bolling.

If you've never been to Bolling AFB in your life....it is a rare and unique place. It's barely half-a-mile wide and at the end....there's a park facing the bay....which faces out to the Pentagon, Ronald Reagan Airport, the Capital and Arlington. It's the best view of any place in the region.

The funny thing is that you've got this really screwed-up location of Anacostia sitting there....and five hundred feet over....is this five-star landscaped Air Force Base.

At the end of the day....luckily....another associate from the office was driving home and dropped me off....so I missed the chance to see Anacostia again.

The Chevy Volt


The Chevy Volt came up this week. The President has done a big show with the car...talking it up.

I sat and read up on the car. It's over $40k to buy it. The car runs primarily off the batteries...up to around forty miles. There's a small engine...which is tied onto this but it's primary purpose is to recharge the batteries. So off one tank of gas and the recharge involved...you'd get around 300 miles total.

The attraction to the car is that you could drive to work (say 15 miles away)...plug into your bosses electrical ports....recharge while there...and drive home.

Naturally...you don't think about money being involved with this recharge. You don't even consider that the boss will freak out once he grasps the cost of your recharge at his place. And then you have to wonder about how long the batteries will last (my guess is four to five years)...and how much they want to dispose of the batteries (I'll bet over $1,000).

Chevy thinks it'll take off. Personally...after reading up on it....I have doubts.

The government will get into this big-time. I can see the Air Force buying ten thousand the first year....mostly because they were ordered to do so. They will brag after twelve months that they saved millions from lesser fuel purchased. Then they will come along in two years to admit they have huge electrical bills. Then the day will come when all ten thousand require a battery switch-out and they have to pay the disposal fee....and you can figure a minimum of three of these over the lifetime of the car.

How many might sell in southern states? Unless you live in the beltway of Atlanta or Nashville....I don't see any of these getting sold. These are likely a urban seller...at best.

So I can applaud Chevy for trying to get ahead....but I seriously doubt this is the big wonder that the President spoke of.

Charley's Best

I watched probably five different news reports tonight over Charley Rangel. The congressional ethics episode is going into fourth gear right now...and the chance to negotiate with the group of eight (four from each party)...was missed.

For Democrats...it's a lousy moment to have Charley around. Republicans would have forced someone like this to resign for the sake of the party. Democrats would like Charley to resign, but so far...he hasn't found a need to do so.

His district? They'd still vote the guy into office this November. I think Charley could be caught with a suitcase of $5 million at an airport...and still walk away from the episode claiming that he just didn't know you couldn't carry $5 million in cash on you. He could probably dump fifty pounds of horse manure on the house floor...and just say he didn't know that you couldn't do it.

What happens now? If I were betting...I'd say we go into September and this legal setting...with Charley defending himself. It'll be a short case...and they will come to agree on most of the charges. The punishment is a question mark. Just fining him won't be agreeable...and I doubt that they want to really kick him out.

Just the Numbers Please

Only an observation that someone made to me today....from the WikiLeaks episode.

There are 70,000-odd messages released so far...and potentially...it could reach 90,000 messages.

Consider that an average message is around 1.5 pages long.

So potentially you've got around 135,000 pages of text to read.

Not a single congressman or senator read 2,700 pages of the text for the universal healthcare bill...and it's hard to find even one single American that admits that they read the whole thing.

So compare the 2,700 pages of text and 135,000 pages of text.

Who's going to sit there and read this...even from the geeky guys? From real journalists? From the Taliban? Or even from the New York Times?

When an intelligence analyst or operations guys writes an intelligence message...you can guess the readership to go from a dozen folks up to maybe 1,000 readers. In this case, you've consolidated all these messages into one library...and still...the odds are that out of 90,000 messages...maybe ten guys might read 1,000 at best.

Just something to think about.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

It's About the Money

There's a shocker to occur in a few weeks in California. Today...the governor finally stood up and said that towns and every public entity...need to admit on a public web-page...what their executives are making.

There's no guarantee about this being accomplished...no law exists to force them. But each town that does it without any worry...and each town that remains...causes a little ripple effect.

You can imagine a town council meeting where two hundred folks meet up and ask what the top twenty executives of the city make...and the idiots on the council just grin and say that it's hard to come to a realistic number. That'll be the last meeting that they hold in public...as a public official.

The shocker? I'm taking a wild guess here that some towns of 4,000 in population...will wake up and find a city manager making $250k, and the next twelve guys making $150k to 240k. It's going to be hard to explain this...or the pension deal...without the public asking stupid questions.

The end of the end? Yeah....it might be a rough August and September...leading up to election day in November.

California Woes

Statistics are something that I often admire.

Today...via the LA Times and some really brilliant guys over at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research...we learn that one in five California folks....admit they need mental health care.

Yep, just about five million California adults admit they've got some kind of mental or emotional issue.

The news folks want to let folks know that these massive cuts around the state budget is harming the state ability to reach out to the lesser folks in California. The medical folks are worried that massive cuts are coming.

For me...we've got major issues if one in five California folks are having serious emotional problems. You have to start judging their stability to stress...their reliability to comprehend the law or social requirements in life...and finally...the safe nature of life there is called into question.

The best way to help folks there? Well...maybe a state-run twenty-four hour a day channel with some Doctor Phil characters continually running around and talking to folks. Maybe lots of cheap mind altering drugs on the open market might help. Maybe we could run Oprah re-runs on another channel. course, we could just take bus-loads of California folks out of the state and filter them amongst regular folks in Missouri and Arkansas...and just put them to work.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

There's a Bigger Problem

My brother wanted to point this out...from the Bama headlines..."local minister upset". Not to go into too much graphic detail...but out of the Wal-Mart over at Cullman...some local minister noted that some highly disturbing pictures were on the men's underwear package.

Naturally...he ran to the store manager folks....got them into this complaint...and eventually...by the grace of God...got the underwear recalled.

I sat and pondered over this....kinda wondering about how bad the picture was on the cover of the underwear...and thinking it was probably designed by some Chinese guy anyway. Then, it hit me....only three out of ten of us Bama guys wear underwear anyway....so this really isn't much of a big deal.

Now, if there's ever was an upsetting picture of a half-naked woman on a bag of chewing tobacco or dog food...that's a different story, and we need immediate action (or reaction, depending on who you are).

Further Wiki Shock?

Yes, there were two other developments today.

First, some folks found messages with names of cooperative Afghanistan guys. So their lives are now endangered. My guess is that the US government will have to offer to remove them from Afghanistan and resettle them (at our cost) into the US. WikiLeaks hasn't said anything yet...but their big claim over the weekend was that nothing was going to harm individual's safety. So they were fairly wrong about that claim.

Second...and a bit more interesting. As folks read message after message...they start to realize the vast value of this 90,000 message bucket....is worthless. Alot of these reports concern Sergeant Joe's team who met up with Sergeant Bob's team in some village....and the two of them wrote some three page message about local threats, local customs, and local screw-ups.

People tend to think that only 'experts' or analysts write intelligence messages...and that's simply not the truth. Anyone, from a lowly Private....to a four-star general....could write a message.

At some point in my career....I was the Caribbean area analyst. I contributed around one paragraph (five lines) per week...to a intelligence summary. Half of the stuff I wrote...involved unclassified wire service updates over some possible coup or some military equipment purchase or some treaty discussion. I'd usually add two lines onto the story...discussing what this meant or added to the situation. Naturally, it turned out to be totally unclassified because of the wire service contribution in the first place.

I'm guessing at least ten percent of the material you read in the messages...will follow the same line of effort....forty lines of unclassified observations...and maybe four lines of analysis that might border being classified.

The curious thing here...will the Taliban put their "Karl, Marty, and Woodrow" into a fancy cave somewhere...and ask them to review the 90,000 messages and tell them the secrets that the Americans know? Yes, I'm guessing they will be that stupid.

So the best thing to do? Bring in 300 Army guys and ask them to start writing 300,000 fake messages. Then find some dopey Army private to release them to WikiLeaks...and hope to keep the Taliban analysts (Karl, Marty, and Woodrow) tied down for years trying to figure what's really important or not.

You can imagine Ossama standing there....and then getting this funny feeling that they know his underwear size, his best turban, and his favorite Porky Pig cartoon....but they can't find him? Something ain't right.

Immigration Exit?

It was kinda amusing this morning to wake up and read that there's a anti-immigration group existing now...that wants the government to start a "exit-post" for illegals to safely return to Mexico.

This idea? Well...at different points along the border...there would be this US government-run exit facility where an illegal knows it's safe to walk into and they open the back-door to allow the guy to enter Mexico.

Who would run this? I'm guessing the ICE or border patrol guys would be the wrong folks because they hunt illegals....so you'd have to start an entirely new department of friendly and happy border control guys...who only want to help folks exit, and nothing else.

The odds of this happening? I'm guessing it's pretty remote. But the fact that the idea has come up....shows that people are starting to think outside of the loop.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

How Things Work


Once in a while, you find a stupid but true story.

There is this natural gas company....El Paso Corp....that is 'pure evil'. The boys from El Paso Corp wanted to build this natural gas pipeline from Wyoming to Oregon. It was deemed a terrible environmental threat. Never mind the fact that it didn't cross any interstates and was going across some of the most unlivable territory in America.

Two groups of environmentalists stood up and accused El Paso Corp of serious environmental issues. The list of potential damage ran on and on and on. The two groups? Western Watersheds Projects and Oregon Natural Desert Association. They just couldn't let the boys from El Paso Corp get away with this.

So weeks led into months....and El Paso Corp finally realized the solution. Pay the guys off.

So over the weekend....quietly....El Paso Corp agreed to a twenty million dollar payoff to these two environmental groups. They both shut up quickly and quietly about environmental damage potential. Shake-down? Yeah....without any doubt. Neither environmental group was really serious....they just wanted cash. Since they are charity-related groups....there's virtually no cash involved.

In a way, you have to laugh about the outcome.

I'm guessing the money will be split 50-50 on this deal. But it's the use of the money that becomes amusing. The money can only be used for two purposes (from the agreement). Sagebrush habitat and buying grazing permits from ranchers.

Naturally, you'd scratch your head over this. The sagebrush habitat? Well....I'm guessing they have a couple of PhD guys that they'd like to help fund because the boys in sagebrush study....really don't get much research money. So they will hire up a couple of folks, and probably bring some 'interns' into Oregon to develop sagebrush. We can never have enough sagebrush....if you ask me.

As for the grazing permits. If you target one county....I'm guessing the money would last five years and pump up the permit cost in the counties around that county....making ranching life and cattle grazing an expensive lifestyle. This way....only the Hollywood crowd would be able to afford a loser of a ranch.

A hustle? Yes, without doubt. Both groups learned the trade well and were prepared to stall the natural gas pipeline for months and years. For the El Paso Corp folks....twenty million was worth the effort.....it would have gone to lawyers to fight the environmentalists anyway.

Note: map from BLM files.

WikiLeaks and the Shoe That Fell

The full WikiLeaks story came out today....tens of thousands of classified documents. By the end of the day....folks simmered down for a while and then examined everything....then came to this amazing moment....it's all secret or below information. No Top Secret information.

I sat there smiling when I read that. The Top Secret mafia had this funny rule for a number of years. No active USB outlets on a computer and no ability to burn to a CD. They had that for a reason. So this Private Snuffy character who wanted to make a big deal....was limited to what damage he could do.

What happens now? Well, the Top Secret mafia are going to likely suggest that they know the right method for the direction ahead. Their method will likely start to be embraced.....as much as folks hate the idea.....and this vast computer network of secret computers will be changed. The miserability index is going to the max. A whole bunch of guys are going to remember Private Snuffy for a long time.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Lord of Chocolate?

Hidden in your business news...which ABC probably won't mention tonight on the news...is this really interesting piece.

This rich dude...Anthony Lord....went out on an agenda. He wants to corner the chocolate market. Today, he owns 241,000 tons of chocolate....seven percent of the world's market. The belief is....with weather in some countries acting in his favor....and some markets cooperating (perhaps illegally).....he will drive the price of chocolate sky-high.

Naturally, for you folks who prefer Baby Ruth or Snickers or M&M's....this is pretty serious. In the next month...you might walk into Wal-Mart and notice your chocolate choices doubled in price.

In fact....Anthony might hold out long enough....and get the price per pound more than tripled.

What can the US government do? Well....we could establish a committee on chocolate, or a Czar on chocolate. We could go out and use US federal funding to buy chocolate as well.....driving the price down....or up....depending on how we do this.

So my suggestion here? I suggest you go out and buy as much chocolate as possible....and start hoarding it. Yes, it may drive the price even higher....but you don't want a chocolate shortage.

Banks

In case you missed it....the 100th bank failure of the year occurred late last week. At this point in 2009, we were at 64 failed banks. As the president says, we are in full recovery. We just don't grasp the nature of this recovery....kinda like an alcoholic saying he's quit whiskey but he still guzzles rum.

More banks to fail? Yeah....I'd expect that.

Shouldn't the bank reform act fix this? Well...maybe if we wait long enough...it might....but if you wait long enough without any bank reform....we'd run out of failed banks anyway and nature would just fix broke banks.

Two Pentagon Events Today

As most of you know...I work in the Pentagon. I had two unusual events today.

First, I went to the Pentagon barbershop. It was my first trip. The lady grabbed me at the front door....and in four minutes...she was done. I stood there in shock...the last four-minute haircut was in 1977 at Sheppard AFB, Texas.

Over the past twenty years....I typically ended up with German gal cutting my hair and it turned into a 12-14 minute experience. At one point on a trip to Turkey....I had the twenty-minute experience with my nose hair trimmed and the ear hair burned.

It was interesting to watch this Pentagon haircut. She had a vacuum cleaner hose attached to the trimmers....and had most everything cut in two minutes. And the amusing thing is that it was $10.50....which is four bucks cheaper than the mall barbershop I tend to go to.

The second experience of the day centered on this post office chief in my organization. I came to meet the guy today...a Vietnam War vet and one of those characters that you wish a book would be written on the guy.

The fascinating thing was that he was a sniper during his tour in Nam....which makes him a bit of a odd character to start with. Snipers are different in dozens of ways. They think differently and react differently.

Then he came to mention his passion...jazz. And it's not just a listener. He actually is one of those amateur musicians who goes out to Las Vegas and opens for jazz acts there once a month.

I came away fairly impressed. These postal folks tend to have quiet reputations that they don't brag much about...and then you kinda learn this entire different side to them.

So it was an interesting day for me.

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever is a pretty dangerous bit of mosquito-carried fever to get.

You end up with a 103-104 degree fever. You have terrible eye pain. You start to suffer from serious dizziness. Then comes the headaches. And finally, you start coughing up blood. If you haven't gotten to the doctor by the second day of issues...your odds of living start to go down real quick.

In Africa...it's a pretty high rate of death because you don't get seen till the last day or two before you die.

In the US....we had Dengue Fever wiped out in the 1960s...compliments of DDT. Course, around that same time....DDT became illegal, and you can't use the stuff today.

Well....Dengue Fever is back. Folks in southern Florida are starting to notice this now. The local authorities are a bit nervous about this because there's not many ways to counter the Mosquitoes carrying the stuff. Don't even bother mentioning DDT.

So if you were enjoying the back patio or the front porch....and you notice any kind of mosquito issues...you might want to invest in some spray or some netting. And if you notice any kind of fever at all...don't hesitate to be seen.

Your "Friend"?


Here in the DC area...to show how naive and stupid folks are...this cyber expert built up this character for a social site. It was a 'hot, lusty, femme, fatal gal'....with a terrific picture (bogus of course).

Within a month, the fake computer gal, who worked for some US government agency...had 300 'friends'. Course, they didn't list who the 300 were...but you can figure they were all males...probably within the US government.

The emphasis here was that folks aren't asking questions...they just 'attack' and become friends with just about anyone.

The WikiLeaks Story

For those who kinda sat there this morning and trying to figure out this WikiLeaks story....an introduction.

Some Private Snuffy in the Army....within the Intelligence profession...got disenchanted with the US government and "the war". He couldn't stop the war, but he could influence the war. So he downloaded tens of thousands of intelligence documents over six years. This Private Snuffy handed the documents over to WikiLeaks...who sat on them for around six months.

At some point...in a chat with a civilian who Private Snuffy felt he could trust...he laid out his entire plan. The civilian looked at the mess and told the authorities. Private Snuffy got arrested. He's now under lock and key with the US Army. Snuffy's dad has said bluntly at times...this kid has screwed up big-time.

So over the weekend....the chief of WikiLeaks...who the US government has been looking for....released the tens of thousands of documents.

The story they tell? A war that has twists and turns....never improves....and there are vast numbers of people who are absolute liars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Various folks wrote messages over the past six years...and they paint an environment where there is no predicted outcome with the war. You can't trust anybody in Pakistan's government, and the corruption in Afghanistan makes even New Orleans appear like a collection of Catholic saints.

For the Obama administration...this really comes at a bad time. It doesn't help in putting a vision forward to conclude the war...and puts everybody on the defensive. Senators will now sit and ask how everyone was always so positive when they met with them...but negative in reality.

The chief of WikiLeaks? Well...folks kinda want him now. I suspect that he'll have a problem in avoiding capture. He's in Europe...or at least the experts think that. I suspect he's probably living off someone's sailboat and trying hard to avoid detection. When finally captured....the US will ask for him to be brought into the US, and face a hundred counts of crime.

As for Private Snuffy? Well...there's the potential for 10,000 charges now. If I were the Army prosecutor....I'd line up each individual charge. He could end up with 10,000 years easily. When he enters jail...I'd probably make sure that he gets a unique environment...no news, no TV, no internet, and no books to read except fiction. This way, he won't have to worry about anything.

The war? This could be a catalyst of sorts. If the war can't be won....which the leaks imply....then it might be time to figure the exit and save us time, money and lives.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Taxes

Massachusetts is about the last place on Earth that you'd want to own a yacht. They don't fool around....6.25 percent sales tax...then a yearly excise tax on top of that. So if you happened to own a yacht in the neighborhood of $7 million (let's say)...then you owed $70k a year for the excise tax.

Now....for most of us...we'd sit and pause over this. That's a fair sum of money. Naturally...we'd think about the idea of owning a yacht if we had the money, but this whole thing about taxation would bother us.

Well...over this past week...John Kerry the senator...and the topic of yachts came up.

John apparently likes yachts, and he apparently bought one. But here's the funny thing...he just didn't want to buy it in Massachusetts, and he didn't want to keep it in the state either because of the excise tax.

Naturally...this type of situation invites a state like Rhode Island to exist. The folks over there....hate big taxes. So they rig up this deal where you just pretend to be part of the locals there...and pay regular taxes (unlike Massachusetts).

This brings up in conversation the question of why you just don't see many yachts hanging around Massachusetts...and the locals kinda think that they are mostly just regular folks without any funny habits like this. It's reached a point where most rich guys have figured out the whole scheme....and don't really care to pay taxes.

What happens to John Kerry now? He says that the boats stays in Rhode Island for maintenance and repairs...and that it's available for rental there. He kinda laughed off this whole story, and his accountant says that John's yacht is safe as it is.

We have a funny nation. There is this patch-work of state tax apparatus vehicles where things count for you and against you. If you own three houses in three states...you have to worry about who will claim you as a resident. Then you worry about how many days you spend at the vacation house in California because it might be enough to get you into a taxation bracket.

Life isn't simple. And neither is taxes.

Our Single Best Super-Duper Program


“Social Security is the most successful social program in the history of the world."

- Harry Reid, 24 Jul 2010

I sat there and tried to imagine what might be number two, but then I kept thinking to myself that we must be awful pitiful if Social Security was that successful and just about broke.

In fact, if I were the Republicans and in charge in 2011...I wouldn't dare do a thing to fix up Social Security because Harry is usually right about stuff like this....well....I'd like for him to be right.

Something worries me though....I just don't know what.

Movie Day

I went out and watched a movie today. At least it got me out of the apartment and into an very cool place as the temperatures sat around 101 degrees.

I sat and watched Inception. Basically, if you got into Matrix...you probably would get into this movie. It requires you to go off and think outside of the box. And at the conclusion is fairly positive...compared to most movies you watch today.

The big part of the experience today? I stood there yet again and was shocked over the pricing of sodas and popcorn. A small Coke ran around $4.25, and a small popcorn around $4.50. So you are spending around $10....and if you had gone XXL...it'd been $15. I felt silly with this pricing scheme. Maybe those fifteen years outside of the US influenced me on this and the rare occasions that I ever went to a theater during that period...but spending $10 for a little bit of popcorn and a average sized soda....just doesn't cut it.

I realize the theater guys are desperate for profit....but the popcorn is lousy, and the Coke has a funny taste...like it's pretend-to-be Coke and not the real thing. It would upset me greatly to learn they have some Wal-Mart cheapo Coke offering instead.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Patience

So imagine you are Bristol Palin's dad...and this Levi character has come back around to convince your naive daughter to go ahead and get married. Never mind the fact that you are married to Sarah...or facing cameras....or having a lot of folks to tell you what they think.

I sat briefly after watching an update yesterday...and kind of thought through this mess. I'd have to let the idiot daughter go full speed ahead...and I'd probably hand her $10k for the wedding and honeymoon, but I'd probably decline an invitation to attend...and just try to forget about this mess until she calls up in two years to admit that Levi is an idiot and she needs a place to stay.

You can generally spot a loser like Levi from 100 feet away. In this case...I can't toss the guy out on the lawn....cause the wife would look bad on TV...and I can't beat him with a baseball bat because ABC News would interview Levi immediately after the beating to find out about his feelings.

So I would end up accepting this and just wait till things shifted back around. Patience is the key.

JournaloLism

A basic introduction to the JournoList...which you may have seen laid out this week in the press...but not alot of explanation.

This was a 'club' of sorts...which you had to be invited into...and you had to be a journalist and a liberal-thinker. Naturally...it was a secret club. It was run by the Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein.

It's aim? Well...it was an open forum where guys could chat and get each other pumped up on the Democratic agenda...and toss around 'attack-points' on the Republicans, Fox News, and anything that they felt the need to attack.

All total....it had around 400 members when it was disbanded. An asset to President Obama's campaign? There's not much doubt that he couldn't have gotten the right coverage, the right attacks on McCain, or the 'message' out to the voters...without this group of merry men and women.

As it came to be disbanded...there was this mechanism left of the old forum...the e-mails and chat sessions. For some reason...protecting what they said in private...didn't seem important.

Along came Tucker Carson from Fox....who picked up the legit rights to the site and the contents of the forum. Naturally, Tucker put his band of merry men and women into analyzing what was said. Tucker has put a little bit out each day this week. Some folks think that Tucker may have an entire month of negative comments to dump. No one knows for sure.

There are some observations that I can suggest from reading the comments this week.

First, since the 1970s, adult leadership and management of news groups have disappeared. You've got a bunch of journalists running around with immature behavior, and it's being tolerated by the big houses of the media....along with the sponsors of negative journalism. Everyone wants to be a political agent...not an actual journalist.

Second....from the vast list of names mentioned in the group of 400 folks of this private chat club....you come to look at their status in life and how they relate to wannabe NBA stars. The problem is that most of our NBA stars of today don't hold a light to players of 1968. They sing praise about themselves...but they don't match up. The Journanolism group are the same way...they don't match up.

Third....you get the impression that none of these Journanolists have a single identification with the heartland. Charles Kuralt always impressed me by going and recharging his himself to real people. If these characters would go out and spend six weeks in Mobile or Tulsa or eastern Oregon...they'd discover that a significant number of folks don't read their stuff.

Fourth....there are probably 5,000 pretender journalists out there. Once they carve each other up enough....then what? Time is dead. Newsweek? Dying. CNN? They've been spiraling for a year now. MSNBC? Surviving off fumes. We're up to around fifteen years of this attitude...what happens in the next ten years? Unless the US government comes up to prop up all these agents of political influence (pretender journalists)....it'll be hard to see survival.

So it's a mess. Here's the funny thing...I don't think any journalist today or any news media around...really wants to fix anything.

So I have this funny idea of a solution.

Congress and the Senate agree to a meeting schedule. They meet for 75 days early in the January. Starting 1 May...all of them are dismissed and sent to their home state. They can't stay in DC or travel around the world...they have to remain in their states for the entire month. They actually have to meet real people from their district or state. If they leave their home state in this period...unless a personal emergency or funeral or for healthcare...they lose their voting privilege for one month (real simple process).

As 1 June comes...they meet for the entire month, and then leave by the 4th of July weekend for four weeks of summer. Starting in early August...they get sixty days of time to meet...and then dismiss for the rest of the year.

Yes, I'm cutting out a vast amount of meeting time for Senators and Representatives...which forces CNN, ABC, Fox, and Time to all concentrate on other boring stories.

The fuel to this fire is finished...and MSNBC will be sitting there in May...trying to tell a segment story on forest fires...rather than some idiot Democrat or Republican. The ABC team will be stuck interviewing real folks night after night...and not Congressmen or Senators.

This is the only way to fix this. It takes out the fancy analysts, the "experts", and limits folks from attempting to write 2,700 pages of text which no one would ever read anyway.

Just an humble opinion.

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Mess

"We are starting to have trouble finding oil."

Words spoken by former commander Thad Allen (now retired and working directly for Homeland Security and still in charge....in some manner...of the Gulf oil mess).

On a daily basis....depending on which news service you read....there are between 500 and 1000 vessels out trying to find oil to collect on the surface. In recent days...they appear to have peaked out. Course, the Gulf is pretty big area and it's possible that things have peaked (we'd like to believe this).

Maybe BP is reaching a conclusion and can actually open up a keg of beer to celebrate over this peak. There are a lot of folks who've worked continuously since day one...and probably would appreciate a couple of days off right now.

As for the damage done? Well...yeah...some businesses are a year or two away from returning to normal. That's the sad part about this whole mess.

You'd hope that there is a government agency out there...whose job is to write down lessons learned and force folks to remember not to do stupid things. My guess is that this will all be forgotten within three years...and repeated again within seven. That's the sad part about this story.

The Henge Story

Some guys in Britain had this suspicious idea of a another Stonehenge. This week, they admit that they've found...pretty much across the field from the first one.

For those of you who've never been to Stonehenge...it'd be best to describe this big open cow-field....with a road running down the middle of it...and you see this big rocks over on the right side. You pull over to a side road and then realize this vast parking lot which is intentionally dug out so you can't see it.

The tour boys want their cash out of letting you get close and personal to the rocks...so you have to pay...to see anything up close and personal. You circle the thing...never getting within sixty feet of it...and eventually realize you are in the midst of a cow-field...with some big fancy rocks that someone dragged up to point toward some direction.

I'm sorry if I spoiled your vision of the mythical legend.

This "twin" of Stonehenge...is being checked out closely. It's about half a mile from the big one....and lacks stones (obviously explaining why it was missed for centuries).

The key thing about this Stonehenge...it's got 22 holes...and instead of rocks...it's got evidence of wooden posts.

So I pondered here. Over four thousand years ago...there were probably these two British dudes...Larry and Earl. Neither guy was that bright, and they had this aversion to hard work...at least in the minds of most folks.

Larry and Earl eventually came to this funny idea of putting up some logs in the ground...calling it a special place for observing stars...and it was called "Loghenge". It was possible...in Larry's mind...that you gained a vast appreciation of time, the sun, and bodily fluids...by standing in the middle of this.

Earl went out and hauled up dozens of local folks who all got into this log circle...and wanted to feel 'special'. The key plus on this deal...was all the babes were into this trendy log business.

Weeks passed...months passed...and some guys got to feel kinda negative about this whole mess. Larry and Earl were taking up valuable crop time by pretending on special events with the sun and stars. In fact...neither guy really worked much at all.

So Monty and Erwin came out one day...and spent two weeks hauling some big hefty rocks around. They figured out the dimensions of the logs planted in the ground and the direction of things. Larry and Earl watched on and could not figure out the ultimate purpose of this.

Finally....Erwin announced to the crowd gazing at things...that this was the new and improved Stonehenge...with authentic 'magic' rocks...and lit up a fire in the middle with a bunch of funny smelling vines and such tossed on top that raised up a huge aroma. The babes quickly circled Monty and you knew that new spot was a 5-star joint.

Larry and Earl? Well...logs just aren't the same as stones. So as the days passed...both guys took to drinking...and eventually fell down drunk in the midst of their log appartus....and at that moment...one of the logs which had rotted a bit.....fell over on the two guys...killing them both.

Days passed around the area, with a lot of folks talking about Larry and Earl. At some point...the folks over at the Stonehenge held a ceremony to bless Larry and Earl...and every year...on one special day....the sun would cross some rock, and that was the special day to remember the two guys.

Folks from miles and miles would come to honor Larry and Earl as the years and decades passed. Eventually, they forgot their names but remembered the purpose of the Stonehenge as being a nifty place to meet...consume some beverages...and meet lusty babes from the local area.

And that's how Loghenge got forgotten and Stonehenge continued on.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The USDA Firing

I sat back for two days to watch this entire firing of Shirley Sherrod unfold and have come to several observations.

First, after watching the entire video of her speech and going through comments of local farmers in Georgia...I'd have to say that she's a 5-star individual. When a farmer says "she done us right"...it tends to carry a lot of weight. You can't find a single person in Georgia so far...to criticize her...and I think that's really saying a lot for a government official.

Second, it's odd to me how you fire a government employee this fast. Over thirty years associated with the military and it's various government employees....it typically takes a minimum of two months...and possibly up to twelve months...to fire a guy. If I wanted to fire someone...there's folder you pick up and then you complete some checklist...and just that act alone...will take several hours to fill out to start step one.

Those idiot lawyers for the SEC in DC who cruised lusty hot videos on their government computers last year? None were fired. The idiot who used his government VISA card to buy a bunch of Gor-Tex jackets right after Hurricane Katrina for FEMA folks....was simply handed paperwork but never fired.

So it's kind of unbelievable to me that some goofballs out of DC could find some rule to force her into quitting...in just three or four hours.

Then, there's this funny issue of them coming back to say 'sorry' over firing you, but offering you a job to teach race relations instead of your old job? She declined that...without much thinking. They felt she'd be a great teacher of cultural sensitivity....especially their stupidity of firing her? That part, I just don't understand.

Finally, we come to this trigger for the firing...Glenn Beck. Shirley readily tells the story that the White House was jamming the USDA and hyping up the whole Beck thing. So Beck is this powerful now? The White House is willing to do stupid things...just to counter Beck?

I'm thinking there must be a team of seven guys out there...meeting at 5PM DC time. I'm thinking of this imaginary make-up: two are Rahm's guys....one guy is from the DNC strategy team....two guys are authentic bloggers who feed internal e-mails to ABC, MSNBC, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, CBS, and NBC....and then the final two guys represent George Soros in some fashion.

The team probably has 90 minutes to summarize the damage done by Glenn's show that day...then they feed this forty-line message to the President's Blackberry. The President calls Rahm...discusses the problems of that day's broadcast....and then pushes out the counter-attack for the next day and the various media outlets.

Fear of Beck...is this what we've come to? Some Presidential administration that runs its offense like a defense...against one broadcast show?

When folks suggested a lack of maturity in the administration last summer...they might have been right.

So here's my final bit of advice...two choices. First, the White House needs to offer a contract to Glenn Beck of $2 billion a year to run NPR...either into the ground or into non-existence...it's his choice. Glenn would gladly take the job and probably stay busy destroying NPR. It'd be worth the effort to get him off their case.

Or the second choice....put another chair in the Oval Office....bring in Bill Clinton to manage the administration completely...from 8AM to 5PM...and just let President Obama attend social events. Beck's agenda would go downhill and the country would get back to the glory days of the 1990s.

My guess is that we will simply watch another 6.5 years of this amusing game continue....and learn to live with it....like CBS learned to live with Katie Couric...you know.

Real Sports

A federal judge came out today...and said that competitive cheerleading is not an official sport.

This was all in relation to a college's efforts to be fair and spend the right amount of money on sports...so this college told the university women's volleyball team that they were "finished", and the volleyball team sued.

Frankly, there's a list of sports in my mind....that AREN'T sports. Like NASCAR, golf, and probably horse racing.

I'm wondering if the courts may get some more tests here...or if someone might be willing to go up to the Supreme Court and let them decide on cheerleading. This might be the one time that Chief Justice Roberts bends the conservative rules....and favors his liberal side in support of cheerleading.

Al's Woes

While you stand in line tomorrow...gaze over at the newest National Enquirer. Revealed in the newest copy? Al Gore has two more police investigations going on....for some lusty stuff. Naturally, they involve female massage therapists.

One is over a Beverly Hills luxury hotel episode...during a 2007 Oscars event...and the second at a fancy hotel in Tokyo.

The quote from the Beverly Hills event?

'Take care of this.'"

At the time, Al was pointing at a manly part of his body.

I'm guessing that there are dozens of these massage therapists waiting to come out of the woodwork now....all fessing up that they were Al's one-minute babes.

What doesn't make sense here...is a guy like this should just pack up and make a monthly speech in Bangkok...and stay at a fancy hotel there for a day or two.

I'm thinking Al will probably simmer down and avoid news folks for a month or two...hoping they forget about his past activities.

Twelve Simple Steps

A number of years ago...I was the number two guy in a systems shop. I came to want a simple checklist over a radio system that the Air Force provided. If it went off...you had to know various steps to bring it back up.

So I asked the contractors to provide a simple checklist. Three weeks later...nothing. So I sat there with thirty minutes of nothing much to do....and wrote a 12-step process on how to bring the radio system back up. It was small enough to fit on a 5x8 card vertically.

Two weeks later...the contractors finally came to me with their product. It was a five page product. I sat there in disbelief.

There was a picture on the first page of the various nine buttons and switches...with each identified.

Then came this vast description of what each "could do" but the truth was that we only had ONE setting for what we desired.

I asked the contractor in question....if he couldn't make this short and simple. His boss really didn't think that would be appropriate. I asked why it took five weeks. He said it took he around three complete days to write this entire version. Then his boss sat on it for a couple of days until he could proof-read it.

Then it went to a company peer process. Then it went to a secretary who specialized in English grammar usage. Then the division chief for the contract company had to read it. So they had invested around forty man-hours into this product.

I wrote mine in thirty minutes, and then printed it onto a 5x8 card vertically....and put in a simple plastic sleeve by the radio.

I took their product...sadly....and put it into plastic sleeves and then into a complete binder, which sat on top of the radio.

For some reason....at least for the next twelve months....the airmen and NCOs always went straight to my 12-line sheet....rather than the five-pager product.

I used to laugh about this....except when they discussed the pricing scheme per hour of contractors.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Reality of Oakland

It won't be discussed much in 'big' news media...but the Oakland City Council met yesterday and decided to ago ahead with the plan to license four marijuana production plants. We are talking industrial-sized facilities here....with full up growth, packaging and processing.

Yes, we are the threshold of a US city turning into a "Wal-Mart" of marijuana. My best guess is that the authorization of four facilities will double by summer of 2011, and probably reach to twenty by the end of 2012.

The reason? Oakland is operating with the philosophy that they are now approved and won't face any federal trouble. The other side of this story is that they believe that the effort will make millions of dollars in taxes and sales for Oakland. They also have this funny idea revolving around "green-jobs".

How do you convince folks that this is a great idea? Well....they produced evidence over the past couple of years of a rise in electrical fires in the city....due to marijuana being grown indoors with poorly wired lights.

You have to stand back and look at this entire effort and what will likely occur.

First, Oakland will end up with a Amsterdam-like label. They will also end up with tourism, with folks traveling hundreds of miles...to come and buy joints freely. I'm not suggesting that Oakland is a true Amsterdam-like city....because it's probably one of those towns you'd rate after Memphis and New Orleans.

Second, the minute that we switch national administrations....the Republicans will arrive and then shut down everything. So if you were stupid enough to invest heavily into this big-production scheme....you have a short span of time to make success and cover your bills.

Third, the mom-and-pop operations throughout Northern California...probably will be taken out of business or vastly limited on where they can sell their wares to.

Frankly, I'm NOT really sold on the tax and revenue side of this. People might get used to this, or they might start to cheat on the system and sell off to the side....avoiding the taxation game entirely. I'm guessing the cops won't care...because they aren't going to arrest anyone for anything relating to grass sales. Then you have the final touch of reality...government regulations...even at the city level....can only increase (you only have to step back and look over the past forty years).

METRO Story of the Week

Most of you know that I bring up the subject of METRO...our bus and subway system....almost weekly. It's never a positive comment....if you will notice.

This week....we had the older gal who is the Metrobus manager.....who was suspended for 13 days (don't ask why this was rounded to 13 days....in METRO...it just is).

The reason? Well....she came out to a graduation speech back at the end of April....and gave this speech which apparently was deemed as "inappropriate and offensive". Various comments were made against older folks, young black dudes and Asians.

On the positive side....at least this episode didn't involve any wrecks or crazy folks with METRO. You really have to admire the public affairs guy who works for the organization. He probably works sixty hours a week.

My Snuffy Story

This is a true story. There was a defense-related operation of high importance....around the late 1970s in the US. They had main frame computers, with technology that was mostly centered around the mid-1960s.

There had been talk of upgrading but they were continuing screwing up the design by adding and subtracting the future system that ought to be delivered. So they were surging ahead....with equipment and software that was outdated.

The code was the key to the effective operation of this highly sensitive system. It was a group of mostly junior NCOs who sat around and added or deleted the code.

If you talked to the leadership....none of them grasped the significance of the code....and they saw the massive apparatus as more of a "Taj Mahal" than anything else.

Behind this entire group....was a contractor team....who had the big job of making sure that the outdated system simply kept working....one way or another. Naturally, they were paid well.

One day, Sargeant Snuffy....a junior NCO....came up and was basically labeled a malcontent kind of guy. The leadership decided to dump on Snuffy.....and make sure that Snuffy was pushed out. Snuffy was one of the young guys who wrote code (that mattered in this case). The military was finally successful in the end....pushing Snuffy out of the military.

They asked Snuffy what he was going to do as he out-processed. He said....he'd stick around the local area and wait for a job.

Around a month later....someone in this massive computer complex began to realize that the system was starting to take longer reaction times. Folks started to note this as a daily event. The contractor team checked pieces and parts. The government guys got worried. Folks wrote code to speed up the process....but the next day....it just got slower. The leadership got fairly worried over this. Their massive dreams of this forthcoming new system....was several years away.

At some point of desperation....someone remembers Snuffy. They decide that via the contract vehicle....they could bring him in.....after all....his clearance was still open. So the company offers a very temporary kind of contract to Snuffy. He comes in....and after twenty-four hours....he's speeded up the process by fifty percent....finding a glitch here and there. Another day passes and he finds another problem. After a couple of days....Snuffy has the system back at 100 percent.

Naturally, the leadership was viewing the whole apparatus as the "Taj Mahal" and didn't really stand back to ask why Snuffy was successful when the others weren't. They just wanted it to work.

The company ended up offering under-appreciated Snuffy a job, which paid very well. Snuffy came in and helped to make sure the old and obsolete system that the government owned....kept working.

The guy who told me the story....simply stood back as all of this occurred....and just kept shaking his head at how no one asked questions at the end....they just accepted this idea that Snuffy was really smart.

The Washington Post Second Article

The second part of the Washington Post articles on contractors and intelligence occurred today. A good bit centered around the way that contractors cost more than government workers.

There wasn't much argument against this 'cost' factor.....which I found kind of funny.

The government gets stuck into this corner because they see a necessity to do something with a deadline involved....and once you start thinking this way....your operation is screwed if it's 100 percent government worker.

An example. When Larry, your government worker leaves....you quickly move to get a replacement. There's an ad, resumes are sent in, and this long process starts up. From the closure of the ad....until the new guy arrives....it could well be twenty to twenty-four weeks. If there are screw-ups or problems....add another sixteen weeks....maybe even twenty-four more weeks.

In my government agency....we advertise these government jobs. When the job closes.....there's this typical four-week period where the HR filtering system goes into effect and eventually dumps the folks felt qualified. We had a case recently where three resumes were handed. I think our guys were hoping for at least ten to fifteen. As our guys read the three resumes....none really showed any potential. So we re-advertised.

The second time around....there were more choices but then we ran into a funny episode. The number one pick said "sure"....but he wanted to enter NOT at step one of the grade offered.....but like step three (a $6k difference). This took up another week as we finally declined him and moved to candidate number two....who repeated the same game. Finally candidate number three ended up agreeing to step one and we closed this somewhere around week 37. Contractors would have taken six weeks max....from closure of the ad....to the guy arriving.

There's this other problem involved in the game as well. Clearances. In a lot of cases, the government is willing to hire the guy and wait four to eight months for him to get a clearance. This means that Larry arrives and just sits around....collecting checks....and doing nothing as we wait for his security clearance. The contractor team? Well....they hire the right guy with the clearance ready to go. They don't wait.

Then you have this odd plus-up with contractors. If you have a project which has taken off and suddenly is important....you can turn to a contractor team and say that you need 100 intelligence support folks in three months for a major project. You write the preferences of the 100 positions, and then the contractor goes out to hire.

If these were government positions....by the time you figure the fight with the local HR folks, and the various forms of paperwork involved....then you've got around eight to twelve months involved in the process. The contractor team beats that every time.

The Post fails to ever consider retirement costs in any of their article....which I found interesting as well. The typical contractor company? They offer up a 401k deal....and that's it. You get three bucks for each three you contribute, and that's the end of the retirement deal. You invest for your own future.

The government? Well...first, there's the retirement pay at the end of your career, which could add up to $60k a year if you keep making the steps at the right time. It could even go beyond the $60k. A regular clerk for thirty-five years....could easily walk away with $30k. Then you have TSP.....the 401k government plan....where they match your funds just like the company does. So they are paying more long after you are gone.

The need for computer experts that the Post mentions? Yeah....the government is massively entrenched into bigger and better hardware and software. Frankly....they can't maintain an edge....without paying for the expertise. But go over to Sears, or Vanguard, or Google. They are in the same boat and hire the same kind of help.

My feeling over what the Post is aiming at for an agenda? Probably another OMB organization that functions like a hiring post similar to what the government workers have. This massive apparatus is what makes government employment comical....being applied against contractors? The aim is a bunch of bureaucrat guys running the doors to the contractor kingdom? You just crossed off half of the advantage of using contractors.

So far, the journalism factor of these two articles isn't exactly surging toward that Pulitzer Prize....if you ask me.


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Good Movie Script?

If you haven't followed the story...there's a number of Afghan mlitary guys who were brough into the US to a Air Force installation for English classes...and they were to go onto more classes within the US military. At some point...around 46 of these Afghan guys simply walked away. No one completely sure where all 46 are located.

A search has determined the location of some of these guys...but it's an amusing episode when you start to pull the curtains back from this episode.

How did the guys walk away?

Well....the Afghan boys had this fascination with BMWs. It's not the BMW that you envision....it's "big Mexican women". Yeah....they had this lusty fascination with BMWs.

So around this base where they were....they got into the social environment and then things got a bit lusty. Some of the BMWs...were legal immigrants...and some were illegal immigrants.

You see...the ladies kinda knew how to move around without documentation. They'd done it for years and the Afghan guys learned from their lady friends.

So this adventure of sorts....which starts out at Lackland AFB, Texas....has an interesting trail.

The Air Force actually put this together. The Afghan guys started to meet up at night clubs in the local area....Tiffany’s Cocktails and the Mirage....along with the Graham Central Station. Grahams...for those of you who might care....features Jello night.

You can imagine this image....a bunch of Afghan dudes....at a Jello wrestling event....picking up on big Mexican women....legal or illegal.

Out there today....are all these Afghan guys....pretending to be Mexican guys....and having hot lusty relationships with big Mexican women who are probably illegally in the US. This is almost a 5-star script for a movie....but I just don't know who'd play the Afghan 5-star guy (maybe Brad Pitt?).

A Bale of Hay Per Day


There's an interesting story over at the Local today....from German researchers.

There's been this odd thing that medical folks have noticed over the years...that kids who grew up on farms.....didn't have that many allergies or asthma....compared to the 'normal' crowd. I never really noticed this....but apparently some folks have noticed it.

Well...researchers now say that barn dust tends to protect kids from ever getting allergies and asthma.

There's this plant substance...a sugar molecule (arabinogalactan) and it plays a role in your immune system.

Apparently, the researchers ran around testing barn dust in several countries in Europe (Germany included) and found this arabinogalactan is kinda common in hay used to feed livestock.

The key to this research? You need to get heavy doses of this early in life. Course, the doctors were looking for a pill-like formula for this fix. Me? I was thinking to dump all of these round-bales and work-easy solutions and put these punk kids back into the hay fields to haul real hay and sniff the stuff up close and friendly. There's nothing better than sweat-absorbed hay on your arms and face.....then you combine that with the feel of climbing into a 80-year old barn and sniffing the dusty air there.

Heck, we might even be able to charge folks money to help improve their immune system. An afternoon in July.....94 degrees.....moving 150 bales of hay. And top it off with a catfish plate and some pecan pie that evening.

The Harvard Factor

There's an interesting article over at the New York Times. I don't usually give them much credit....but it's a pause-and-think article.

Two smart Princeton sociologists...Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford...did this research into the folks who go to Harvard....or rather, who gets accepted into Harvard. The emphasis of the research? Black and Hispanic kids had a slightly easier time of getting accepted....Asian kids needed the higher grades typically to make it.....and rural/working-class white kids could just about forget about it.

What worked against you? Well....you could count 4-H, Future Farmer's of America, ROTC and the typical associations that you'd see in the rural aspects of America.....work against you. Yep, if you were big in 4H....you were doomed on your application for Harvard.

I sat there and read the entire article, and then pondered for a while.

Speaking frankly here....the last thing on my mind in 1977 upon graduating from high school....was attending Harvard. I can't think of a single kid where I attended school of ever thinking of such an act of stupidity. From the whole state of Bama? I'd imagine less than three kids having this on their list of aspirations.

It isn't just about going to a school with no real NCAA football team....it's about this stigma tied to you. You'd have to vow to never return to Bama because no one would ever take your degree serious. Take a look around today at business and financial analysts with the big losers at AIG and Goldman Sachs....Harvard grads. Being labeled "Harvard" didn't really help much.

In the world of reality....dreaming of Harvard....is pretty much bogus. Imagine yourself standing there....with a bunch of loser guys whose ambitions in life are mostly working for loser banks and financial organizations....or sipping brandy at some private club in Jersey where a bunch of Harvard guys stand around and admire each other's rings.

So, this accusation of Harvard slamming the rural or working-class kids? It's probably the best thing we have going in America. It's preventing kids from joining up with a bunch of idiots and getting labeled as a "loser" in life.

Just my humble two cents of observations on the topic.

Bob's World of News

It's only a short observation....but over the weekend when CBS's Bob Schieffer had a chance to ask the attorney general.....Eric Holder.....about the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation scandal....he didn't.

Bob runs “Face the Nation” and you'd tend to think of him as being a guy who is on top of news.

Today, Bob admits....that he was on vacation the week before....and "....apparently, it got very little publicity. And, you know, I just didn’t know about it.”

I read the comment and kinda laughed. Basically, Bob is admitting that he's a Time and Newsweek guy.....waiting to catch up on things a week later via their fine publications.

So the value of "Face the Nation"? Well....as long as it's old news they are covering....it's a pretty decent event. Otherwise? You might want something more of value.

The Doomsday Event


In recent days....if you read science journals, you will find the mention of methane in the Gulf...which has gone to millions of times the 'normal' amount.

Scientists are at a loss to explain this.

This occurs only after the BP event...which has people wondering about what BP might have done, or perhaps just by time itself without any aid from BP.

The thing is...around fifty-five million years ago...a catastrophic event occurred. Most of life on Earth was destroyed from the last methane 'blast'. The fact that this methane amount is increasing....leads some independent thinkers to go beyond normal thinking. Methane doesn't double or triple up easily.....and to go up by millions.....leads you to only a few scenarios.

Hints of the federal government knowing of the impending situation? Well....there are $40k fines now if anyone tries to show in the effected area. Just being the press and trying to get within a couple of miles of the site....gets the fine.

The fact that new fissures are being reported as much as 30 miles from ground zero....is another problem....from where methane is now escaping.

So amongst the thousands of things you typically worry about....here's the 500-pound guerrilla that's sitting in the room. There's no way of predicting anything. And the worst prediction? You might not need to worry about social security reform or the universal health care package or the ill health of 10,000 US banks anymore. Even the price of gas at $10 a gallon.....won't measure up to this event, if it comes.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Intelligence of the Washington Post


Today, the Washington Post came out with their glorified "intelligence" piece. A full four pages which covered the vast nature of contractors and intelligence. They are hoping for a Pulitzer Prize out of the deal...I'm thinking.

I spent around thirty minutes reading through it this morning.....and came to the observation that it was mostly worthless and only somewhat truthful.

First, they wanted everyone to know the vast intelligence apparatus right now working for the government. Somewhere in their vast graphics....there this mention of DISA....my organization. DISA stands for Defense Information Systems Agency. Basically....we don't do intelligence. Yet, the Post wanted to include them anyway. I sat there laughing....a bunch of computer geeks labeled as intelligence guys? There were three or four other examples like this.....so my confidence in their article was shaken.

Then we came to this whole big piece on construction of intelligence buildings. Well....DISA got tossed into this deal as well. It was interesting....because not only are we not intelligence folks....but we were ordered to relocate by congress as part of the base realignment plan. There were no options. So my headquarters out of DC.....was told to pack up and build up a facility at Fort Meade....around sixty miles away near Baltimore. Naturally, the Post didn't mentioned any of that.

I looked over the other construction comments....and I noted another five or six base realignment plans in progress....all ordered by congress with no options. Note, the Post guys didn't mention that.

Nor did the Post mention that a number of these construction projects were attempts to consolidate intelligence folks from several sites at one central facility....which made sense, but the Post wasn't bright enough to figure that out.

Then we came to the use of contractors....which they really wanted to show that it was a problem but you kept wondering when they were going to explain why. It was generally a fairly limited answer there.

Then finally, we came to this piece of comparing all the intelligence groups and the various things that each already do internally.....and duplicate things that other folks do. This was a humorous piece.

You see.....if you belong to DEA intelligence.....you have a certain amount of interest in human intelligence around drugs and the drug market. If you work for CENTCOM, you have a certain amount of interest in human intelligence around the Middle East. If you work for SOUTHCOM, you have an interest in human intelligence around Central and South America.

Well...the Post folks wanted you to think that consolidating pieces of human intelligence or the various other pieces here....made great sense. The problem with this idea is that you end up with this massive headquarters complex producing "vanilla" human intelligence thats supposed to make CENTCOM, SOUTHCOM and DEA happy.....but it won't. Each needs certain things analyzed in a certain way and delivered in a certain way. So this Wal-Mart approach to things....like the Post would like to suggest....won't work.

Yeah.....the Post is really happy about this effort and put probably 1,000 man-hours into this massive piece and the anticipated articles to come over the next month or two.

I wondered who exactly was feeding them their "facts" and what the anticipated changes were that the feeder wanted to accomplish. The Post has some agenda....whether they know or not. Obviously, this waste of man-hours was worth it for someone.

The Post has issues. Every month, I question why I ever subscribed with them.....and wish that six-month subscription would come to an end.

John Edwards

It's been decided now that a movie will be made about John Edwards and his vast political career....and his affair.

When I read this over the weekend....I sat there and kept thinking....who would watch something like this?

If you had a choice of the John Edwards movie or Hee Haw from 1974....you'd pick Hee Haw.

If you had a choice of watching Columbo in Spanish or watching the John Edwards movie....you'd pick Columbo.

If you had a choice of watching a three-hour documentary over Peruvian witch-doctors curing folks of hemorrhoids or watching the John Edwards movie....you'd pick the documentary.

The question will be....where is it played? The theater circuit is just about zero on this. I can't see CBS or NBC or ABC paying for something like this. TBS won't touch it. The Showtime or HBO guys might be stupid to touch it. Then you only have the USA Network folks or the Lifetime channel.

I'd be guessing less than 250,000 folks watch it on premier night. And half of them will likely turn the channel by the half-way point to all-star wrestling.

There's just no interest in John Edwards. The funny thing here.....is that John was fired up and possibly in contention at one point to be the VP. Yes, instead of Joe Biden.....we could have had John Edwards. Then things kinda fell apart as his vast love life came into the big circle.

I remember the big fight at Wiki.....folks trying to get comments from the news into Wiki and the editors fighting them off and saying that you can't print such matters unless the BIG media says it's true. Then CNN caved in and the whole story was fact from that point on. Wiki eventually put the whole story out.....and the rest is history now.

So, sometime next summer....there will be the John Edwards story. I do have pity on you folks who have nothing better to do than watch it. My advice? Every time that the John character looks into the camera and says something stupid.....toss a shot of Jacky D's down. Maybe by the half-way point...you'll be drunk enough to remember little about the movie.

The Bama Tuition Game

There's an interesting note over on Alabama news today...about college tuition. Folks have kinda woke up and realized that the cost is soaring...to go to college.

Bama's A&M tuition went up from $2,332 for two semesters to $6,976.....over a ten-year period. The folks over at UAH.....jumped from $2,942 to $7,492.

Where does the cost come from? Well.....you have retirement from the professors and staff that has gone up each and every year. Then toss in the building maintenance and utilities cost.

Stopping the rise? It's practically impossible. You could influence the problem by maxing out on classes each semester.....which means taking six course instead five. There's a deal where you can max out and get the sixth class typically for free....but most students wouldn't dare cram another class into their schedule.

My advice? Start the first year over at your local community college and get the basics done for half the price that the big Bama colleges would charge. Make the kid live at home and eat supper there. Entice them....into saving a couple of thousand for the first year. It's true....they will miss out on booze, parties and real football. But they will have a chance to save some money and actually get the better grades for the first year.

Where will we be in five years? A higher tuition of course. At some point, it'll be $10k for a kid to pay just for tuition only at Auburn.....not even counting room & board or expenses. Then Jimmy Joe will cost you $24k for everything from a car, gas, beer, pizza, tuition, board, and date money. And you will wonder how an honest guy from Bama can hand Jimmy Joe $100k for four years of college. That would have paid for a house, or five new Ford F-150s or a bar-b-q shack out in Cullman.

Something ain't right about this....except the kid will get discount football tickets for you. And maybe that's what really matters.....if we are talking about Auburn or University of Alabama.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The BMI Game

Part of the stimulus package involved a change to the healthcare system that we have today...which cash was pushed toward doctors and clinics for electronic records. In exchange for stimulus money usage....by 2014....your doctor was supposed to report back to the US government your body mass index.

This BMI...would include your height and weight....with a scientific calculation or two....and you can pronounce the guy as regular, borderline, overweight or obese.

Naturally....you are scratching your head and wondering why the US federal government cares about this. And some folks today....have started to question what exactly the government intends to get out of this magic number.

My first introduction to BMI came exactly twenty-four hours after I returned from DESERT STORM in 1991. The Air Force had decided that this BMI science was ready to use and they'd incorporate it into our weight program.

It was a funny feeling. I came back from the war having lost around a dozen pounds. I was actually about six pounds under my max and felt very comfortable walking into the orderly room. Then they pulled out the tape....measured my gut and neck....and pronounced me overweight. I was going to be pushed off to the overweight program....just twenty-four hours after returning from the war. It was a nice welcome....so to speak.

Then a curious thing happened. The guy taking the measure suddenly had orders a week later....and this matter was forgotten.

I went into the gym and explained the situation....and the 'expert' there then offered his advice. I was to bulk up on neck muscles and do sit-ups. It took three weeks, but I sliced an inch easily off my BMI. And another three weeks went by as I sliced a second inch off. I was fixed for any future test.

The BMI? Well....it's mostly a joke. It fantasizes about this body "look". If you can achieve a 19-inch neck....which is silly....then you can carry an extra a little extra on your gut. A guy could still carry 230 pounds.

So we go back to the federal government's use of BMI. If you ask for such information and demand it....doctors typically comply.

So the next time you walk into the doctor's office and they mention BMI....just smile and say you are six foot six and eighty-eight pounds. Refuse the measure business and just tell them to write down what you said. The nurse will argue but I suspect the doctor will agree and just note this for the government's database.

So sometime in 2014....the President will awaken and be told that the nation is amazingly healthy.....and for some reason....most everyone is exceptionally tall and everyone weighs around eighty-eight pounds. The President will pause and say that's not possible...and then rush out to pass another law that says TSA cops must be present as BMIs take place.

Just my two cents.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Idiot Kids

We have another 'kid' aiming for a round-the-world sailing expedition (alone).

This time? A Dutch 14-year-old. Up until this week...her mother was standing against her wishes and trying to use the Dutch court system to ensure it didn't happen. In the last couple of days...the mother finally gave up and is just agreeable to anything this girl wants to do.

Some folks in the Netherlands have pointed out that this is a long voyage and interrupts her schooling....and her social development. But apparently, there are enough idiots in the Dutch system to ensure every kid gets a chance to screw themselves up.

Naturally, if she does survive this effort...it'll be a great encouragement for 12-year old girls...and maybe next year...we can get another younger kid to attempt this....and maybe eventually we can get some seven-year old kids to make the attempt as well.

At the heart of this....is money. You can't buy a vessel capable of circling the globe for less than $40k. You need food and beverages for such a trip...so add another $3k. Go figure in the communications and solar power gear for another $4k. Who has this money? This would be curious to know. Rich parents? I doubt it. Rich sponsors or media folks? Hmmmm.

Eventually, some kid will disappear in the Atlantic and we'll say it was stupid to think this was smart for a kid to attempt this. But we have to wait for a kid to die...before we are willing to say it in public.