Thursday, 30 September 2010

In the Old Days

In the old days...before the 1970s...every union in America...except for the teacher's unions...were basically corrupt and run by American mafia.

Frankly, the mafia was proud of their efforts and generally...they kept 'yes' men in position all the time as top guys of each union. Across America...the mafia stayed on top of the unions and flushed 'profits' quickly into their hired folks in each union who did nothing but show up and pretend to work.  It was a 'honest' profession where local union #1214 kept your cousin Vinny with a stable income of $75k a year, for doing nothing.

Things changed.

This week, the union, Service Employees International Union, got visited by the FBI.  They are under investigation.   Sadly, it has nothing to do with Italian crime bosses, the mafia, or Vinny (who has been gone for two decades).  It had to do with accusations from some guys terminated a couple of years ago.

The story goes that SEIU had a couple of guys working, and taking sums of money.  They were winking at each other, and then walked out the backdoor with thousands of union-earned hard capital.  At some point, this became obvious and the head of the union...then Andy Stern....yes, the same Andy that is a great buddy of the President today and gets free entry into the White House...ended up dumping these guys. They got fingered and ended up with criminal reports.

We don't know the full extent of what the fired guys ended up having to pay or do to fix their crimes....but they came back and started talking recently about Andy.  Now, he's under investigation.....just like they were.

It's a curious game.  Andy was big into the political business and running around talking up what you'd consider a socialist type atmosphere (something that the mafia would never have done).  Andy got to some degree of stardom, and this book deal suddenly fell into his lap.

The Simon and Schuster book team came up and offered this fantastic deal to Andy....an advance of $175k.  It's quiet a significant amount of money for a guy who hasn't exactly written major pieces of work in America.  To make this entire deal work....SEIU came into the deal (which typically a union would never do)....and they agreed to buy 28,000 copies.

The book from 2007?  A Country That Works.

I looked up the book and it had two basic groups of viewers.  One group wrote four stars to the evaluation and then talked up the great positives of redistribution of wealth and how to run America.  Strangely enough....the second group wrote one-star evaluations and noted that it was mostly "Andy-chat" and led readers in circles with nothing obviously new or worth reading.

The thing here....is that Andy was still the chief of SEIU....a major American union with over two million members, until April this year.  He 'suddenly' retired and wanted to consider free time to handle personal matters.

I stood there and started laughing.  I'm one of those guys whose spent lots of man-hours observing ethics and always balance things heavily in life and at the office on simple ethics.  There are obvious violations where you aren't just stupid, but doing something that could get you jail time.  This book deal?  It's got lots of ethics violations written all over it.

I sat and pondered this.  What guy is offered lots of cash up front to write something, and his company or organization ends up as a key part of the deal.....offering to buy hundreds or thousands of copies of the book?  I sat there for several minutes contemplating this.  I couldn't think of a single deal ever like this.

The comical thing?  Typically, if you get over X amount of books sold, you go into another level with your profits from the book company.  We don't know Andy's contract but I'm guessing it was 10k in sales and Andy's cut off each book went up by 50 percent.  Now, I'll admit....it might only be $3 off each book to start with, and maybe the enhanced deal is $5 for each book.

The publisher?  They rigged up this deal, and Andy basically convinced his union to jump in and buy these copies.  What happened to the 28k copies?  Andy didn't say....nor did any news group out there that I noted (from 15 different sources).  I'm guessing they hauled out copies at every major group meeting and just gave them away.

What happens now?  The FBI will hand this matter over to a DA in six months....and I suspect that a case against Andy will exist.  Someone has to explain who approved the 28k book purchase by SEIU.  Frankly, I don't think the mafia would ever have been this stupid or naive.  The mafia would never have bought into any book deal....unless they had a major cut.  The mafia would have laughed Andy out of the room if he'd suggested this deal and they got nothing in return.  Andy, by the end of 2012...will face some court and pay some lawyer a fair amount of money from his stash (every penny he made) to keep him out of jail.

I'm not suggesting a return to the mafia, but after you look at this deal and the book company involvement....with the mafia, everything was kinda simple and understood.  

Glory Days & Nights

"....glory days tour."
-- quote from Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos on the President's tour to Madison, Wisconsin

"....recalling his glory days on the 2008 campaign trail."
-- quote from CBS's Early Show's Chip Reid on the President's tour

It's odd that you could have two guys...on the same day....using the same phrase.

What would cause this?  Well...these news guys have their teams out on the road alot.  In the hustle and bustle of travel, you often have the teams in the same hotels.  So the guys sit around at midnight, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and pumping each other up.  In the midst of some shots of Vodka, some guy will utter some phrase.  Everyone will look at each other....grab their notebook....write down the quote, and the next day pepper the nation with this quote from a bar in Madison.

Course, it could be from the White House staff who eagerly buy booze for reporters and hope that a catch-phrase is written down....but I'd rather not think those thoughts.

Across the River, More Shootings

Almost daily, there's some event in DC that makes you shake your head.

Two days ago, in the midst of a funeral in broad daylight....some gang members show up to taunt another gang who were showing their respects at the funeral.  Words were said....guns were drawn....and then everyone jumps into cars to run down the midst of U Street in DC.  Shoots were fired, and the lead car ends up hitting a couple of cars, then flipping over.

One guy dead, and another seriously injured.  No idea if the flip or the shooting caused the death.

The cops have one of the guys who gave into this chase, and are hunting for a second guy.

"This was one of the most brazen shootings that's ever happened in D.C." was the quote from the Mayor over the shooting.

It used to be that these shootings all occurred in evening hours and folks would just stay in their house after dark...and it'd be safe. I've noticed probably a dozen daytime shootings since I've been here.

The curious thing is that congressmen and senators just look the other way....avoid certain sections of DC entirely, and just accept a third-world behavior in their backyard.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Upset Feelings in Virginia

A few weeks ago...the Pentagon came out late one day and announced that it had to save a bunch of money...and was cutting a command out entirely (US Joint Forces Command).

I have to kinda discuss Force Command in a way that you'd understand. It's a joint group of Army-Navy-Air Force folks...without any real firepower. They would simply get units in the US directed to them in a major conflict, and take charge.  It's a headquarters by itself.

This Force Command has one unique character...there are way more contractors than military or government civilian. And because of this reason....it was like a magnet for cost ($$$$). This is why Secretary of Defense Gates just got up one day and said "no more".

The thing about this cut...unlike any directive to ever cut before...there was no committee or internal structure to measure things. This became apparent today as congress started receiving questions from the Virgina governor and the various senators/representatives from the state.

The amusing thing to this Command....is that if you'd gone around the top forty generals throughout all the services...and asked where to cut...almost all would have pointed down to the limited value of this organization along the coast of Virgina.

The shocker is that no apparent analysis or information is forthcoming on the topic by the Pentagon. Congress is going to likely demand more than what they intend to provide.

My guess? Somewhere out in Stuttgart, Germany is this other command...AFRICOM...which is dedicated toward African operations for the US military. I'm kinda suspecting that the Pentagon will be forced into the corner and "pay-back" Virginia in some fashion...which I'm betting that AFRICOM will be told to pack up by 2013 and head toward coastal Virginia. The number of folks attached? Well....it's likely to be just about the same number, which should fix a bunch of frustrated Virginia lawmakers.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A Study on Ineffectiveness?

There's a big story in Fed Times today over my organization....DISA.  We aren't exactly a big organization, but here in the Pentagon and local area....we are the 'beacon of light' over communications.  Frankly, we tell everyone in the Pentagon and the US military....how to run their communications, in a consolidated manner.

Around three months ago, Mr Gates....our big Pentagon boss....got around to asking some big questions on his staff, and found that a number of folks didn't know who did what.  In fact, there were contractors hired but the staff under Mr Gates just didn't have a grasp of who did what or why.  So he challenged them, and basically brought DISA into this discussion.  At some point, they made a decision and it got explained today.

The communications folks underneath Mr Gates....will come to work for DISA.  Yeah, there will be some carved off for contracting. Yep, there will be some carved off to the Cyber Command folks.  But DISA ends up with this mission of supporting Mr Gates and the internal communications of his office.

I kinda felt proud of this announcement.  It's like K-Mart admitting issues and asking Wal-Mart to take over operations.

Well....that lasted about a minute, until I got to the bottom of the article.

One former senior Senate defense aide questions moving any NII functions to the Defense Information Systems Agency, asking: "Why would you move parts of the most ineffectual office in OSD into DISA, which is the most inefficient organization in all of DoD?

Yeah, well, it's a fairly harsh accusation....DISA being inefficient and such.  Yeah, well....it's hard for me after nine months to argue against this comment.

To put this in a good prospective?  I sat and pondered over this, and came back to a Bama-like situation.  Working around this organization is kinda like being invited over to bale some hay and haul it for some local guy.  The problem occurs when we (DISA) arrive at the field of hay.

First, six guys will wander over to the baler and ask for the certificate paperwork that it's in working order.

Second, two guys around the barn will begin asking for a plan on how each bale will be laid out in the barn.

Third, one guy will halt the operation until a safety review is done.

Fourth, two guys will refuse access to the one jug of ice-water on a 95 degree afternoon because it's not marked "pure water".

Fifth and final, eight guys will refuse to move any bales until a consolidated plan is written and agreed upon by forty-four different parties (some live out of state and just couldn't make it that day).

Yeah, so I kinda understand this 'slam' on my organization.  Course, this would make a great masters degree evaluation as you take one ineffective group and layer them over another ineffective group.  Can we improve the ineffectiveness by fifty percent?  Can we lose some of our ineffectiveness?  It's a dynamic thing....which you'd best just forget and hope that things can only get better.

Open-Book Cheating?

There's this big deal being made in the press over FBI agents cheating on a test.  I finally sat down and read through the details today.

Basically, congress determined that no one was sure that the FBI knew or understood the 2008 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (lots of nifty FBI details that concerned operations after 9-11).  So they demanded the FBI agents go and read the manual and then take a test.

The comical thing about this....was that it could be a open-book test.

So now, there are accusations about a number of guys who copied notes....advised other folks on what was on the open-book test, and twenty-two FBI guys are accused of cheating.

I sat there for ten minutes.....trying to contemplate how an open-book test could ever involve cheating.  The Air Force introduced me to open-book tests years ago.  They would hand you the regulation, and then ask you to read the five-page reg, then take a twelve-question test.  I sat there the first time, and asked the guy if he was sure about this open-book thing....and he just grinned.

Later with the University of Maryland, I had two or three of these tests.

It's hard for me to envision open-book tests and how legit they might be.  Then I have to imagine some folks who actually would accuse me or someone of cheating on a open-book test?  We've got serious issues here, but it started with the idiot who felt a test was necessary and then grinning over the idea of just making it a open-book test.  Too bad doctors never get opportunities like this....or nuclear scientists....or engineers...but at least the FBI thats supposed to protect us....gets to score this way.

The Sense of a Dime-Turn

Up until yesterday, James Heselden owned one of the most popular and growing companies in the world....around the famous Segway.  If it wasn't so dang expensive....probably every single farmer in America would be out and about on a Segway to check his cows and mend fences.

Yesterday, James took one of his two-wheel scooters....the off-road version....on a pretty dynamic trip, and ended up going off a cliff on his property.  Based on comments in the British news....he simply came around a corner and likely failed to apply brakes early enough....and then just rambled off down the side of the cliff, dying right there.

There are a million ways for a guy to go in the end.  You'd prefer it being in a dramatic fashion, without alot of pain or grief. You'd certainly like to add the element of adventure into the moment.  I doubt seriously that James had much of a chance to think about that last five seconds.  He probably kept thinking that it'd stop on a dime....and with a bit of loose dirt....he guessed wrong.

Will it change the perception of the Segway?  No.  I think if the price ever gets low enough....there's hundreds of thousands of farmers who'd jump up and buy one for practical purposes.  And over the course of that next year....probably 300 of those farmers would also go right off some cliff or hillside as well.

Deep into my family history....going back to the period between 1800 and 1840....one of my ancestors in his elder years had a blind mule, and ended up on the side of some cliff.  Something spooked the mule....maybe even a bee came up at the right moment....and the mule and my relative went off into the great beyond.  Folks make mistakes like this...misjudging distance and just how things can or can't turn on a dime.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Friendly Ambassador versus The Other Style

According to the news today....the UN promoted 58-year-old Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman as head of the U.N.'s Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Now, you would sit there and ask what exactly does this mean?

Well....she's there to handle and promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  And, she's also the person detailed out to meet up as the world ambassador to any aliens who might arrive and visit.

I kinda wondered over her qualifications but some professor came back in a news piece and said that she was just about the best person on the face of the Earth to act as the take-me-to-your-leader chief.

I paused over this and thought about this a while.

There are various scenarios which would play out here.  First, if the aliens met up in the US....all bets are off and President Obama would technically want to be the guy there.

But then you'd have various issues.  For example, if the aliens landed in Arizona....the Arizona governor (mostly hated by the President) would demand to be part of the welcome committee.

If the aliens landed in Bama, then the state governor of Bama, along with both Auburn and Alabama NCAA football coaches would also demand to be part of the committee, along with the state agricultural commissioner probably too.

I'm thinking these aliens don't really care much for a five-star meeting and would just land to meet Gus who owns the Dairy Dip on highway 56, and his cousin Marshall who failed the tenth grade twice.  Gus and Marshall would extend a handshake, and then start up a conversation.  The boys would eventually reach into the back of the pick-up and pull out a six-pack of Pabst to offer the aliens.  Then this long-winded conversation would start up about the route that the aliens took to get to Earth, and Marshall would ask if it'd been quicker to turn left at the Milky Way.  Then the boys would offer some beef jerkey and ask if the aliens had any preferences for NCAA football.  Later, they'd just shake hands and everyone would go on home.

Meanwhile, back in some bunker in New Mexico....these five actual alien guys are sitting there now and wondering why they didn't ask to meet the friendly UN ambassador instead of those stupid Air Force generals.  That line about free food and beer led to them being in the bunker and having to spend a fair amount of time listening to some idiots trying to interrogate them.

Life ought to be real simple, and for some reason, it just ain't that way.

On the Road Again

This is one of those stories that guy would tell at a general store or gas station where farmers would meet for a coffee in the morning.

Sometime last week, this guy named Matt (from Minnesota) went over to the bank and took out $1k.  Eventually in the day....he called up his wife and said he'd been kidnapped.  Matt said that two men had taken him and figured that they would bring him harm at some point.  He also said he was in Iowa....although the cops later traced the call and said he was actually in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

A day or two later....the cops found his van over in Chicago's South Loop.  Matt wasn't anywhere there to be found.

Over the weekend....cops found Matt at a construction site in Vegas.  He appears to be ok but hasn't explained how he got to Vegas, and why he didn't call his wife right away when turned loose.

I'm guessing there are issues here best left unexplained.

The thing is....alot of guys would like to just take off and run off to five or six states over a week, and end up in Vegas.  If you went to any gentleman's bar or coffee shop....I'd bet that fifty percent of all guys would readily jump up and make up a story like this with just a little bit of encouragement, then take off for St Louis or Reno, or even Tulsa.

As for Matt now?  Well....I'll bet he claims that they drugged him and he doesn't remember much of anything.

Elsewhere in America...on some road to Iowa tonight....is some lady trucker with a smile on her face, and some fond memories of Matt and their seven days on the road.   It's best we not ask about what happened....you know.

New 2010 Dope

I sat and watched about 90 minutes of political chit-chat yesterday.  It culminated with twenty minutes of Christiane Amanpour on ABC.

At some point during Christiane's show.....it finally hit.  The reality of 2010.  Here they were, with "experts", discussing the 2010 senator races and sticking almost exclusively with the Tea movement candidates and questioning their credentials.  Then I asked myself, what's different in this picture?

Over the past forty years....in every single election year....we never came around to discussing state-by-state senator elections.  I would imagine that over 2k hours of media time from MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, NBC, CNN, and CBS have been put on this topic of state senators or representatives.

I sat and noted various races since 1980, and most media outlets might have discussed governor races but it was a brief two-minute update here or there.

I could walk into a mall in Gadsen, Bama, or Midland, Texas.....and ask one hundred folks to name candidates from various races....and it'd be like some fantasy baseball league where they would rattle off the senatorial candidates in Alaska, Pennsylvania, Delaware, California, and even Florida.  You could ask the same folks to name the state capital in each state....and you'd get a blank stare.  You could ask the top three questions of the mentioned states....you'd get the same blank stare.  You could even ask folks to name any movie of Lindsey Lohan....you'd get the same blank stare.  You could ask folks who the host of Wheel of Fortune is....and you'd only get half the crowd to answer the question.

Something has changed in America...for the negative.  You've got a news media trying to sell perceptions or just propaganda to boost your feelings over something.  The sad comparison here....is that it's like dope. You get on a high or good feeling when someone bashes some political group.  Once hooked, you stay with those supplying you the dope....and until you finally max out and come crashing down.

I sat there and came to a state of laughing over Christiane Amanpour over this vast discussion on Delaware politics.  Christiane has one area of expertise....international relations.  She does a decent three-star job with that topic.  Here she was....trying to act serious, motivated, and knowledgeable about Delaware politics. I just couldn't take her serious.  It was like watching some Bass Pro Shop salesman talking up ladies evening wear or giving a recipe  for some fat-free sugar cookies.

We've got problems in the heartland, and we may not even realize it.  It's a new version of dope, and we aren't even using cash to buy it.  Even our local marijuana dealer, would accurately say there's something wrong here.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

NBC & CNN

It was an odd week.  NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and CNN President Jon Klein were fired.  Both networks have serious financial issues and a lack of viewership at certain levels.

For NBC, they were actually discussing a contract with Katie Couric....since she was going to be let go by CBS over their dismal news polls.  No one at NBC ever discussed the position or how they would use Couric, but you got the impression that she was going to pull a hefty salary.  You could hear the toilet flushing already.

Then you could toss the Jay Leno episode onto the NBC problems.  Jay hasn't exactly pulled the old ratings since coming back.

CNN?  Well....for the prime-time period, they are absolute losers compared to Fox News.  To replace Larry King, they were bringing in Piers Morgan.  It's still a question if Piers can fit into the job or bring even the dismal numbers that Larry was bringing in over the past three years.  Anderson Cooper?  He can't compete and he's part of the problem with CNN at large.

Since early 2009, in terms of news, most all of the major players have been losing viewers except Fox News. Currently, Fox News is standing there with a pretty strong lineup that no one can break through.  I suspect that even if Fox News decided to let go of one or two folks.....they'd find another four-star replacement within three weeks and go back to clobbering the competition.

Radical changes at NBC or CNN?  That's going to be the question to ask.  In two weeks, I expect both networks to announce their replacement management team.  For CNN....there's a question over what direction they go to be in the same league as Fox News.

Frankly, I doubt that either want to make a radical move of substance.  So expect more of the same into 2011 and probably 2012.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Just Something To Ponder

Lisa Murkowski.

Someone pointed this out during the week....since the Republican loser in the primary intends to now run as a write-in vote for Alaskan senator...can anyone really spell her name?

There's about twelve ways that you could spell Murkowski, if you really can remember it.  Would the local guy from Homer be able to remember the right way?  Would the judge who handles the write-in stubs there....be able to qualify what the guy wrote and what he meant?

In Bama, this would be a serious issue.  In most small towns throughout the state of Bama....there's always five or six votes for some NASCAR driver or some NCAA football coach.  It's usually a joke, but at least you can spell the guy's name.  In this case....Murkowski?

It'd be a funny thing if you could find another Lisa Murkowski in the state of Alaska right now, and encourage her to run....then you'd have a Lisa A and a Lisa B, and the write-in crowd would be puzzled over which is which.

This is an amusing situation to ponder upon.  Typically, you don't have to think about things like this....and you just pull levers one way or another.

I'm thinking Lisa is sitting there at night....having a Pabst, and wondering how stupid this game is....but you got to act serious and pretend you can still win....for something.

Government Worker Threat

This week, the Republicans came out and mentioned their threat against government workers in 2011.  They don't have the votes this year, but they will in January.

The deal?  They want to freeze adding new employees unless you are into security organization.  The deal would be a one-year operation where if a guy retired or just left....you couldn't refill the slot.  You'd have to wait until this one-year freeze finished up.

I sat and pondered over this, then I started laughing.

As a contractor company, this would be a five-star moment of stupidity for the US government.  I'd come up as a contractor company and lay out the basic design of each single government organization.

Once the freeze starts....I'd walk in and hire away thirty percent of the leadership of the IT branch support, and then find the top layer of the best twenty percent of the IT technicians....to hire away.  Then I'd slip over to the HR department and take the ten percent of the best leadership amongst each organization.

It doesn't matter what you do then, except wait.  Around 60 days into this freeze....there'd be problems starting up.  Around 100 days, software wouldn't work, servers wouldn't be reliable, and web pages would freeze.

There would be the normal retirements and the normal folks just quitting.....and by day 120....there would be a major mess starting to develop.

Across every single government organization....major failures.  So congress then gets nervous with this stupid Republican strategy.  They suddenly want a unfreeze.  So they start this process, but its a funny thing, the HR departments lack real leadership because the contractor companies were smart enough to steal them as well.  So this quick-to-change-your-pace moment is now gone.  Everyone now admits it'll take five months to get back into gear....maybe longer.

The only answer?  Hire contracting companies.  It's a funny thing....they've got the HR guys who know how to recruit for the government positions.  They also have the dynamic IT guys and leadership that they hired away.  The contracting companies want big bucks to fix this issue though.

So by the end of 2011, there's a ton of money spent on contractors to make up for a stupid Republican strategy.  The money they were supposed to save?  Flushed right down the toilet.

I laughed over the Republicans game-plan.  If you wanted to screw up the government even more than what we have now....you'd let these idiots carry out their plan.  The Tea movement?  They'd take this one-horse trick and start to dump on the Republicans just a badly as they were doing the Democrats this year.

And the silly thing?  Go to any company and ask them if they would do a worker freeze....and they'd kick you off the property.

"Freaky French Fun"

This is a story that most of you Bama folks had best shy away from and just skip.

Folks down in southern France....near the resort town of Cap d'Agde (best to pronounce Cap-d-Agggde)....have a reputation.

Frankly, it took decades for them to be known throughout France, Europe and the world....as France's "Naked City."

Basically, if you were into nature and just laying around the beach with nothing on, this was paradise.  You could hang out at a pub....drinking till you were fairly wasted....with nothing on.   You could stop in at a ice cream shop by the beach and guzzle down some chilled peach ice cream while wearing nothing.

Alot of folks got around to thinking of Cap d'Adge as a great place to even bring kids because this nudist thing was so acceptable and wonderful.  A family-minded nudist theme was adapted in the past decade and this just piled more and more cash into the banks locally.

Course, eventually....someone had this idea that being nude on a beach was just step one.  Why not invite the swingers to Cap d'Adge?   So these adult theme hotels started to pop up by the beach.

Naturally, as most folks from Bama would ponder upon and realize....it starts to upset the nude-theme folks greatly to have swinger-theme folks around.  The two parties just don't mix.

Over the past couple of years, it started to become obvious that wild sex was occurring out on different parts of the beach with swinger folks.  This stirred up the local political folks greatly because they just wanted clean living nudists at their beach.

The mayor has jumped into this mess....trying to find a nifty middle point, where swingers and nudists could both enjoy the thrills of Cap d'Adge.

It's an odd problem.  Most folks from the US can't possibly imagine how you'd end up with a mess like this.  It'd be like inviting a wrestling event to be right next door to a international model show, or having the Democratic National Convention in the same town as the Republican National Convention on the same week. Nothing good can come out of a situation like this.

I'm thinking Cap d'Adge has a problem is now impossible to fix.  The swingers probably love the atmosphere, and the nudists think it's paradise.  They will simply fight this out and the locals will end up filming all of this for some reality show that they will sell to M-TV or the History Channel.  I can already see this on the history channel....maybe called "Freaky French Fun".

Just a Sheet Please

For those who didn't know....California is in a budget crunch.  In fact, its so bad, that the legislature is sitting around and arguing mostly, while not getting to real cuts in business.

This week, an email started up around the California state parks team.  Unlike most states that have a dozen states parks at best (except Texas who has around fifty, of which eighty percent are north or south of Dallas), California has around around 270 state parks.  You can imagine the cost of running just plain clean up and ranger support.

So the budget episode is just on a continuing talk and talk and talk situation.  If they don't pass anything by 1 October....most folks now believe the toilet paper in state parks will run out that first week of October.

I sat and pondered over this.  Folks would come to a park for the afternoon....and they'd have to bring a roll with them.  If they were lucky....with a family of five....one roll would be enough.  But then you could imagine Dad's coffee kicking in and a bout of diarrhea with Micky Junior.  Then you'd have this moment where Mom realizes there's only four sheets left and she yells for everyone to make a run to the car and they'd be heading home or to the nearest grocery store.

The sad thing here is that they pay out over $100k a year to ten thousand retired state and local employees.  Just by cutting 40 folks off this list, you'd have enough to cover the whole state budget for toilet paper for the year.

Finally, I got around to thinking about the business side of this.  If you hired 250-odd illegal aliens and had them placed at these state parks after 1 October....with toilet paper for sale....you could probably take home $1k a week on sales from each park.  I'd be fair.  I'd sell a roll for $1.50 and just smile at folks who complain.  If they were unhappy....they could just pack up and go to the grocery.  I'm betting I could be a millionaire within a year off this idea.  But I'd have to count on the idiots in the legislature to continue their argument.

A Humorless Moment

Stephen Colbert appeared in Congress yesterday.  It was by invitation....a discussion over jobs and illegal aliens.

It's best to say that no one took anything he said serious.  And it kinda shows how far down that congress has come in the past thirty years.

If you went back to the 1800s....you didn't have these type of affairs.  They never would have dreamed up comedians or TV stars or Hollywood types showing up at Congress.

Did it help anything?  No. Did it hurt anything?  Well....if you were a Democrat in a tight race....your opponent will bring this out about your friends bringing comedians into Congress for nonsense....while folks are unemployed.  Apparently (it would be suggested), they've got time to do stuff like this but not save jobs.

I rarely watch Colbert these days....while I will watch one or two shows from Jon Stewart a week.  I just don't buy the act or the humor of Colbert that much....it's the same category as Jay Leno or David Letterman.  You might find two good punch-lines per evening and thats not enough for me to stay up and watch.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Lost a Billion Lately?

When I joined the Air Force, I came around weekly to balance my checkbook. I knew within $5 how much was in the account. Most everything was done in check form, so it was easy.

By age 28, I was only balancing my checkbook every two to three weeks, and probably was within $40 of knowing how much was in my account. I was starting to use my ATM card twice a week at that point, so it was a bit more difficult to envision my precise amount of cash flow.

By age 35, I was only balancing my checkbook once a month, and I was probably within $150 of knowing how much money was in my account. I used a maximum of two checks a month by that point.

By age 45, I was only balancing my checkbook once every sixty days and probably was within $400 of knowing how close I was on my account. I might have written four checks a year at that point.

Today, I probably tally up my financial life every two weeks, and can predict within $300 how much I have in my account.

We all are changing our habits from what we did years ago. It's ok, as long as we are only managing a couple thousand bucks.

Today, the Virginia state governor came out from an independent audit that he ordered....and now admits that he has over $1 billion in road funds that was never known about.

Shocking.

There were signals that the finance folks of Virginia were really lost on highway funds....so the audit became a necessity.

Now, it's a positive thing because they will dump into road projects immediately.

But there's this question. Was this just a plain screw-up? Did the accounting department just toss the money into an account that nobody knew about? Did the state finance department load up their organization with incompetent people? You just don't know.

It's got to be embarrassing to admit you work Virgina state road finance....and folks just stand there and ask if you lost any billions lately?

This Furlough Idea

There was this odd federal news moment today.  There's a Republican suggestion of requiring all federal workers to take two weeks of unpaid furlough for 2011.  The odds of passing this year?  Zero.  The odds of passing in February of 2011 after the Republican house arrives?  Perhaps fifty-fifty chance.

We sat and discussed the matter around the water-cooler.  Basically, you could invent this in a simple fashion....giving everyone ten days of unpaid leave that you must use.  The neat thing is that you could hang these all on a Monday or Friday....and have another ten 3-day weekends attached to the year.  The negative?  You basically lose 1/26th  of your pay for the year.  Course, the curious thing is that you'd pay less on taxes, and the government would be deprived of its tax revenue from hundreds of thousands of federal employees.

The willingness to do this?  It was an odd thing.  From the five people that I talked to over the whole day....all five were acceptable to this.

I pondered over this and eventually came to agree that I'd settle for the idea.  In fact, I was even thinking of this nifty way of taking furlough Friday and a furlough Monday through two pay periods, and enjoying this nifty four-day weekend.

So we'll all have to settle back and wait for this 2011 dream deal, and see how things turn out.

2012?

I sat and read a forum comment today....where the idea of Hillary resigning early and then running for President in 2012 might occur.  I laughed for a minute, and then pondered upon this idea.

Frankly, we've never had a scenario where the President went into a primary race.....got beat by a challenger, and the challenger won.

Could Hillary carry Iowa and the first five primary states?  This is a odd question.  I think she could carry all six of the first states.  If this occurred....could the President come back?  Maybe.  None of the first six states are really substantial.  You also have to remember the method that the Democrats have their electors lined up.....there are dozens of folks who aren't assigned to states, and have independent votes on their own.  I'm thinking over half of these guys are pro-Hillary.

So it's a odd scenario.

Could the Republicans beat Hillary?  With the choice of Palin or Newt or Romney?  No, I just don't see any of the three doing it.  Chris Christie of New Jersey might be able to.

The odds here?   I'd laugh and give it a one in ten chance presently.  But if you see her visiting Iowa in the spring of next year.....you might want to ask why.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Car Issue

This is the image of a Chrysler crew on break at a plant up in Detroit. What you don't see....but the photographer did see...would be the group of guys smoking a joint as well.

Ever wondered why certain things on new cars you buy are totally screwed up and the dealer is pulling his hair out because his guys can't figure why something doesn't work right?

The fascinating thing is that these guys all think they have a right to the job and start jumping up to go nuts when a car-maker suggests that he's leaving the state.

The same guys would go nuts if Chrysler or GM started talking about a random drug test and possibly firing any guy that they determined was drinking on the job.

The last Chrysler I bought was from the 1986 period. Over the first year, I noticed five things in the interior that were screwed up in terms of the fit. I accepted these things. The last GM I owned was a Dakota pick-up from the 1995 period. I noted around twelve things that were odd with it after a year.

Around six years ago, I got into European cars. Frankly, they don't let a substandard car leave the factory. They don't allow drinking at a German car plant. Nor would you be staying long if they suspected you had drug issues. There's a difference in terms of quality.

My advice here....if you were thinking of a new car....and you look at this picture.....then I'd cross off Chrysler. And I'd think long and hard about leaving GM on the list of potential dealers.

State Affairs

I am a Virgina citizen. To be honest, I just don't get that feel for being a Virginian. Deep in my heart, I've still got Bama somewhere.

This week, I was sitting there and suddenly came across the Virigina state seal. I'm not even sure that Bama has a seal. If Bama did have one....I'm pretty sure that 94 percent of the folks wouldn't know it or even care. If you asked half the folks in Bama what might be on the seal....it'd either be Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant (our former Bama football coach), a NASCAR race, or a catfish. This is kinda sad to admit.

But turning back to Virginia.....I gazed at this seal. It's two guys in togas, with one apparently having whooped up on the other, with a fairly large stick. There's a crown involved, so we know the whooped guy had some royalty involved.

There's probably a story involved.....Larry got tired of Marvin's rules. Larry and Marvin got into a fight. Larry was a backwoods kinda guy who didn't wear shoes because they hurt his feet. Marvin liked to walk around in a purple toga and look macho. And then one day, Larry had enough of this mess and gave Marvin a good whooping.

Somehow, a couple of drunk Virginia guys probably got all peppy about this legend, and convinced everyone their seal needed to have something besides a NCAA football legend or NASCAR. So it was done.

How Things Go Off-Track

“Get out there and spread the word."

-- President Obama to Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based and Community Partnerships

It's an odd situation. With public support for the health care package declining, the President is now going to religious forums and trying to pump them up and get support via their network.

I sat and pondered over this. Across the US...it's around sixty percent of the nation now (based on various polls) that have issues with the universal health care law. You can toss another ten percent who just question the financial side and don't believe it can ever take off.

So the strategy cooked up now to get people convinced and lessen this sixty percent number....is via religious persuasion? The comical thing is that the automatic reaction by some pro-health care minister is use Genesis 4:9 and the 'brother's keeper' words.

You can imagine a number of these Tea movement folks sitting there in church, when this comes up. About three minutes into the minister's pro-health care package sermon....someone gets up and takes their wife's hand...and then walks out of the church. Sixty seconds later...a second couple with kids up and walks out. Another sixty seconds pass and three families up and walk out the back door.

By the end of the sermon, while you started with 250 folks there....now you've got 180 folks left.

By that evening, the seven deacons have had phone calls over the minister. Thirty folks have called and demanded he be fired. Now the deacons are left to wonder over their enthusiasm with the heath care package. Two of the guys might be willing to just laugh this off. A couple of the guys might be worried. They decide to do nothing.

The next Sunday arrives. There's around 150 folks in the audience. Donations are a bit less. The deacons worry about this but stand firm.

A month passes. The audience stands firm at 150 and the deacons now admit they've lost a hundred members. They send their most respected member out to the families who quit. After a week, he reports back that they would all return if they fire the minister.

Now the boys sit there and contemplate this. They eventually decide it's acceptable. They call the minister up and relay the decision. The minister responds that they ought to look at the contract. They then realize that they have to pay him an entire year's salary if he's fired before such and such date. They fire him anyway, and then spend most of the next twelve months with a happy congregation but heavily in debt because of their stupid minister that they fired.

As for the minister who got fired? Well...it's a bit more difficult now to find work, and he ends up as some unemployed guy seeking a church that fits his political frame of thought.

A year from now, the President announces that there's a serious number of ministers throughout America unemployed, and his team is working on a new stimulus package to help these guys (kinda like the 'shovel-ready' program, but called the 'pulpit-ready' program). You will sit there on the back porch....Pabst beer in your hand....wondering how this stupid mess started in the first place.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Matter of Statistics

There's a story over at AOL today...over UFOs. The story goes....that a group of Air Force officers (all senior guys) are going to meet early next week and lay out the fact that UFO's have been visiting US military nuclear sites for over forty years.

They will all agree that most of this involves simple surveillance, although....some type of probe occurred during some episodes....and the nuclear weapons were then in a malfunction stage.

Most of the major news organizations will skip this Washington meeting of the Air Force officers, or laugh it off.

Years ago, I worked with a guy who was a security policeman in the mid-70's, assigned to nuclear missile silos in the northern tier of the US. I had known this guy for three years when he discussed this story, and had absolute trust over what he shared.

He'd been in the Air Force for a year...providing guard duty at the various sites....when one evening they had a "visit". There were four of the SP's at the ground site....two inside the fence or station next to the missile silo, and two in a truck outside the site.

The UFO dropped down during the evening hours and they sat there and observed it. They called in the report. My associate, in the truck, eased out and they circled the UFO as it hovered. It was a visit that lasted five to ten minutes. The boys in the truck finally started easing toward the UFO, and then it started to rise up, and eventually took off. All four cops saw this.

The shift ended the next morning, and they were supposed to be off-duty by 7AM. The cop station took their report and then turned the four over to a civilian guy.

The guys were isolated and then their report started to discussed with 'peppered' questions. For a good two hours, they stood by their facts. The guy kept coming back....'are you really sure?'

The civilian guy was trying to convince that they hadn't seen much of anything. The guys had finished a all-night shift....and by 10 AM, were tired. One-by-one, they started to fall back on their report, and changed piece by piece. They were not sure of anything.

My associate? He admitted that by 11 AM, he was dead tired and knew that this had to end....so he just started grinning and said he'd change his entire report to a unknown aircraft in the area.

A week passed. Then came another UFO over the silo. This time....it released a beam of light down into the silo, and the officers down below started calling upstairs and all upset. The missile and the control system was going bonkers. Data was going out....and the officers in charge of the system were watching something that was supposed to be impossible.

The cops all watched the UFO, the beam of light, and listened to the officers. The next morning....all were taken down to the central point. Here was the civilian guy who they'd seen the week before.

The guy asked the four cops what they'd seen. They all grinned and said "nothing". Just unknown aircraft flying in the area. The two guys from deep in the silo wanted to write this extensive report detailing everything.

The civlian guy turned to the four cops and asked again if they'd seen anything.....they just grinned and said "nothing". So the cops were dismissed and went home to sleep off their shift.

My associate didn't know what happened to the two officers but figured they wrote the report, and then the civilian guy played the game of challenging every word. They probably stayed there until noon when they figured out the game (officers are a bit more dense than enlisted guys).

My associate refused to ever report anything of a UFO suspicious nature ever again. In his mind, he knows that the US government knows something beyond whatever has been mentioned in the public. For whatever reason, it's necessary to keep things at this level and never say much of anything else.

I'm a statistical guy. I've come to absolutely believe that one planet can't be a product of one accidental circumstance, or some religious belief which fits awful tidy until you ask a question or two.

The government likely knows more than what you'd suspect. They also know that nukes are no threat against these alien guys.

These Air Force officers will meet and discuss their experience next week. It might be covered by AOL News.....and a couple of newspapers, and that will be it. It'll raise your curiosity, but let's admit it....you'd really prefer not to find out that some alien dudes have enormous power and could pose a potential threat to your life. So it's best to just laugh this off, turn on Ice Road Truckers or WWE Wrestling, and just get back to your simple world.

Political Strategy?

The White House unveiled Operation "Michelle" yesterday. They are setting up the travel schedule and getting the President's wife geared to run through several states to help local politicians in their run.

I looked over this list, which is a rather odd group. No southern states. Mostly all stops for Democratic senators in serious trouble and likely not to win:

Wisconsin: Sen. Russ Feingold
Illinois: Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias,
Colorado: Sen. Michael Bennet
Washington state: Sen. Patty Murray
California: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Barbara Boxer

The problem is that the economy tricks people into asking questions...which the Democratic senators can't readily answer.

Things are fairly screwed up and folks ask about how & why the Democratic machine prioritized a bunch of things that had nothing to do with the economy in 2009 and 2010. Now? The best strategy is to bring Operation "Michelle" to shift gears?

This is kinda like when your mechanic keeps telling you about the repair job to keep your 15-year old car running, but avoiding the cost factor. When he finally admits it's $3k...then you go home, drink two six-packs of Pabst to forget your woes and the next day...you junk the old car and smile at the mechanic who kept hinting of better days ahead.

The Best Friend

There's a great article out of USA Today that went into an emotional moment with the death of pets. It laid out this modern change in society that has occurred over the past couple of decades. Pets aren't pets anymore. They are our immortal friends that we can't mention to husbands, wives, co-workers, sons, daughters, parents, neighbors or our best associates.

There are people today that have developed this bond for their dog or cat....and frankly, it's the only true relationship that is balanced (all in favor of the cat or dog).

I had an associate once point out that when older relatives come to visit for weeks or months....you start to have issues. Your bonding to that older relative isn't quiet the same. When you do special things for them....you really don't put significant regard to the quality.

My associate then pointed out that as our pets grow older and fall into this same category....we readily volunteer to drive five miles to pick up special dog bones for our 10-year old collie. Or we spend an hour combing the ten-year old cat because it's the right thing to do.

When the older cat begs for attention, we readily provide it because they've given something in return that isn't measurable. When the old dog begs for a walk in the middle of snow, we get up and do it without thinking.

Our pet is more than a pet. They've become a friend that we can't imagine being without. We won't admit that to anyone.

So enjoy a good five minute read with USA Today and this article.

Out of Silver Bullets?

In the past six months...there's been five or six 2-star speeches by the President. I can't remember that many in the first year...but there are rather odd phrases given to fit into his strategy of the audience:

"Long before America was even an idea, this land of plenty was home to many peoples. The British and French, the Dutch and Spanish, to Mexicans, to countless Indian tribes. We all shared the same land."

I paused over this speech given in the last couple of days by the President to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In terms of facts...Mexico (16 Sep 1810) came about over thirty years after the Declaration of Independence. It was a comical mention which kinda hints that the speech writers don't know much American history (or Mexican). If it sounds good....write it.

Then came this idea of the "shared land". You have to remember that it's one notion....one concept....one dream....and you fall into line with everyone else. You can claim some ethnic background, but at the end of the day....you are American, and nothing else.

As for the other players?

Well....they come from alot of places: Afghanistan, Akrotiri, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bassas da India, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bouvet Island, Brazil, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Christmas Island, Clipperton Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dhekelia, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Europa Island, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Gabon, Gambia, Gaza Strip, Georgia, Gemany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Glorioso Islands, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guernsey, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Holy See (Vatican City), Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jan Mayen, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Juan de Nova Island, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, North Korea, South Korea, Kuwait, Krgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mexico, Micronesia, Federated States of Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Navassa Island, Nepal, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paracel Islands, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Spain, Spratly Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Svalbard, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tromelin Island, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, Wake Island, Wallis and Futuna, West Bank, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zambia, & Zimbabwe.

The key feature here is that we've got alot of special folks and we tend not to give out that many special waivers or favors. If we started doing that, then we'd need to raise up the Tonga flag on 8 November, or the Sao Tome flag on 21 December.

As for the poor speech decline? I would speculate that the bucket of great speech material has been mostly used up by the President. At this point....he probably has five or six four-star speeches left between now and November of 2012. I'd probably lessen my engagement plan and try to save up....because every speech that folks find in a humorous way....it's a strike against you.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Bonus Humor

Some smart folks over at Vanderbilt University finally sat down and did some analysis on teachers.

The topic here....if you gave a teacher a bonus, would that help raise student's test scores? This took Vanderbilt three years to gather data and finally come to a conclusion...and basically, the answer is that bonuses do nothing to help the test scores.

They used Nashville as the site of data collected.

I'm going to guess that folks will be shocked and amazed over with the teacher union crowd. They had said all along...if you'd just toss in another $5k or $10k....teachers would suddenly wake up and really do better in the classroom. It's kinda like offering beer to a college student to do better with his grades...and you assume it'll work in the end.

Some advice here from a humble Bama guy. Instead of offering bonus money to make more students raise their grades....offer termination if they can't improve their student's grades in twelve months, and make it simple to start with by five percent improvement.

I suspect that if you had this simple logic of do your job or find a new job...like the rest of us...then you'd find methods to improve student's grades (or you'd lessen the test matter).

Why The New Season of TV Sucks

I watched the new Hawaii 5-0 and The Event last night. By the end...I felt issues.

This new Hawaii 5-0 is peppy and modern. Danno has emotions. The boss is likable. The Korean guy from Lost kicks ass. The Borg-gal from Battlestar Galacticia is hot.

The story moved along and the bad guys either got arrested or killed by the end.

I have my doubts that I'll go back and watch the new Hawaii 5-0. For some reason...I liked the old series. This is like taking Miami Vice and reinventing it with two lesbian chicks from the Bronx who moved to Maimi. Or taking Barnaby Jones and putting it back on with some washed-up star like Burt Reynolds. It just doesn't work.

As for The Event? It's supposed to be "24" and Lost combined. At the end...I felt like I needed to time a shot of Jacky D's about every six minutes to make The Event understandable.

They are taking a storyline spread out over a year....and splicing it up into twenty-odd scenes per show, and shown in a totally random fashion. You get a shot of something from twelve months ago, then six minutes of something from yesterday, then a two-minute piece from nine months ago, and then back to an event that lasted five minutes which occurred today.

Imagine an entire season of 26 shows...with twenty scenes per show...with five years of this spread out. There's no way that you'd ever grasp the significance or absorb enough of this...to make any sense.

So I've decided to drop The Event...and watch Ice Road Truckers or Swamp People on the History Channel instead.

A Bedtime Story

Across the spectrum of jobs in America....I consider the profession of economist to be the most confusing and likely the most over-rated job in America. I've often wondered how a kid could finish university and even find a legit job in his study area of economics.

Yesterday...a group of economists released their opinion. They had determined that the US recession had ended in June of 2009 and thus ended a 18-month longer recession....longest since WW II.

I paused over this...kinda grinning. The real estate market in Arizona, California, and Florida is still fairly flat. There's more banks this year which have failed than in all of last year (note: we still have three months to go). We had folks telling last week that one in seven Americans are in a state of poverty.

I'm not an economist, and I admit most of my vast knowledge on business is due to the Wall Street Journal...but I suspect these guys who say it ended in June of last year can only be right if recession number two has started up. Otherwise, I have my doubts about their analysis.

The curious thing is that historically....at least before the 1930s...recessions occurred about every ten years and last twelve to eighteen months. The US government policy was typically to do nothing, and you'd emerge.

For the recession to have ended in June of last year....means most of what Bush did in his final twelve months...must have worked. I can say that because our 5-star stimulus package hadn't even hit the streets by May of 2009...and most of what the 4-star deal for Chrysler and GM hadn't really had a chance to take-off. This analysis of mine might be up for debate...but its about as good as what these economists say.

So you can go home tonight...open up a Pabst and sit on the patio wondering what makes things different now from June of last year. Then you might open a second Pabst...a third Pabst, and eventually drink up the whole six pack...before giving up and going to bed. Words of an economist will just put you to sleep...sooner or later.

Another Day in Paradise

Living in the DC area....there's always a bit of humor that makes your day. Apparently, over the weekend....the President was scheduled to show up at some dinner and give a speech. Some local gals from Maryland got tickets and drove down to this evening event.

The ladies drove up in a 1993 Lexus and parked within 400 feet of the building where the speech was to be given. They asked the cop standing there if it was ok, and he said "sure".

They attended the whole dinner, and came back out....and their car wasn't there.

So they asked the cops. The cops admitted that they had moved dozens of vehicles for security reasons. But this tag didn't show up on their list.

The ladies got fearful at this point.....their car had been stolen.

Back and forth this went....late at night.

Finally, they went over to some hotel and checked in....$175 roughly for the hotel. The cops promised to keep looking.

By the next day....redressing in their evening attire because they had no suitcases or such.....they met the cops once again. Nothing.

So they called one of their husbands, and he came.....and they were just going to drive around for a while and just head back home.

About 800 feet away from the place they parked.....here was the car. The cops never noted it or the idiot tow truck driver who moved it.

The ladies jumped in the car and were preparing to drive home. One lady asked the other if they should tell the cops....and the upset lady said no.....let them just keep looking.

You have to laugh about episodes like this. It's another reason why you should use METRO and avoid driving anywhere around the capital area.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Wicked Old Witch of Delaware


Over the last couple of days....several media folks have suddenly wanted to talk up on the Republican candidate for Senator in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell. The story goes that Christine was into witchcraft, and that she may represent a whacko type group (such as the Tea Movement).

For the record, Christine got into the Wican religion in her youth.....and hasn't been around this stuff in twenty years.

I paused over this mention of witchcraft. I pondered for a while.

I'm kinda wondering if Harry Reid is a bit fearful now of having a real witch in the Senate? Is he worried? You have to remember....she's a witch....and not one of those voo-doo gals who do the little doll and jab it with needles.

Would the other Democrats in the Senate be worried over possible witchcraft being used against them? Are they afraid of what she might conjure up in terms of spells? You know...witches could fix up love spells....to make guys get all dopey and stupid. This could even affect John McCain, and perhaps turn him into a lovable big teddy-bear.

Is there a chance now that we've finally triggered fear in the heart of all liberals.....by bringing in a witch? I watched CNN mention this and they desperately wanted me to worry about this. I saw the same on ABC, MSNBC, and even Fox News. They've basically worked hard to convince me that folks are now worried about this witchcraft business.

So what we are saying here....is that the wicked old witch of Delaware may actually exist and we've got to do everything possible to make sure that OZ stays pure and safe? Keep the witch there in Delaware, and preserve the innocence and purity of the Senate?

At some point, a guy from Bama starts to ponder over this for a while.....and starts to think that a bunch of folks with journalism degrees are mostly working themselves into a situation where they can write movie screenplays rather than real news stories.

Sixty Minutes & Jimmy

I had a chance to watch Jimmy Carter last night on 60 Minutes. I held the view in the early 80's that Jimmy Carter probably had no real executive background. I viewed his "act" as mostly like a uncle who lived in the neighborhood who repaired mowers. He always had sixteen of them disassembled and sitting on the bench....telling you the various problems with each....wanting to fix them and wishing he could add another sixteen other mowers....but never having the full know-how or the parts to do the job right.

The Sixty Minutes crew gave him time to tell his stories and woes....and by the end....I still viewed the Carter years as mostly a comical period when you wanted leadership and you got something less.

Jimmy wanted you to know that he passed a huge amount of legislation....far more than Clinton, Bush, Reagan and just about everyone. CBS never challenged that. It is kinda true, but as you dig into the business of the 95th Congress which carried him through the first two years of the administration....you realize that he had a Democratic majority in the House, and a 60-member Democratic Senate. This was filibuster-proof. Jimmy didn't care to mention that part of the deal.

Generally, for every three positive things that he got passed....he also got two stupid things into the mix as well. Most historians will agree that the handling of the Panama Canal came to be a mess by the end. There are dozens of other pieces of legislation that came the same way.

At some point in this conversation on Sixty Minutes....Jimmy then expressed this hostility of full control over the legislation business....but then having folks demand something in return to get their support. You could tell he was gritting his teeth.

Here he was with full power in both the House and Senate.....and folks were demanding a favor to support his agenda. Jimmy had no background in understanding DC or how things worked. He'd never gotten into any negotiation in his entire life. And he started to stumble.

By 1979, the filibuster-proof Senate came to disappear. Now, there had to be more discussion. More negotiation, more favors, more hostility to be mentioned in the press.

By the end of this 60 Minutes piece....I kept thinking this has a curious look similar to the current situation with congress and the filibuster-proof Senate episode. You can see several issues with the current administration and how they fit into the Carter-model.

By the end of four years with the Carter administration.....most folks didn't have this positive feel for a national president. They had this image of some guy who was less. Toss in the Iranian hostage episode....and it was a guaranteed loss.

The tipping point of the 60 Minutes piece? Jimmy wanted everyone to know that he had an opinion and he would just state it anytime he felt like it. He sent the letter to the UN Council to counter President Bush on the Iraq action, and he felt his judgement and letter were appropriate under that situation. I'm guessing he won't feel bad if he reads my blog because I'll offer the same type of judgement.

The Unacceptable Change?

There's a couple of comments from the Sunday political comedies where the administration and elites of the Democratic party intend to create a new strategy.....saying that the Republican party is about to be taken over by the Tea movement. I read over five or six of these commentaries and eventually started laughing.

It's like these writers were all given notes by someone to say basically the same thing.

I'd like to ask a few questions but I doubt that the press or media will answer them.

Aren't the statistics showing showing Democrats joining the Tea movement.....and likely make up a minimum of fifteen percent of the effort now? And isn't there fairly significant Democratic participation in the south?

If this were anywhere near being true....what about the environmentalists who've taken over a significant portion of the Democratic National Party? What about the union guys who've taken over a segment of the Democratic National Party?

So, there's ground rules where a political party can't evolve? And the Tea movement is breaking one of those ground rules?

The chief worry of the Democratic Party? They worry about the changing of the other party?

Lets get this right, America votes and elects a president whose big campaign slogan is "change", and it's "change" that is only limited to the Democratic Party?

It's comical in a way....around fifty days until the election, and the best strategy that you can create is a discussion over the other party instead of talking about the things you've accomplished or the things you want to do. In a typical news setting....real journalists would notice this and ask why, but we live in a odd world where journalism died in the 1980s.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

My Morning

I spent the morning at Arlington Cemetery. It's one of those places in Washington that you need to see and experience. My general advice is to avoid three-day weekends or anytime in July. There is parking there, if you want the stress of driving in. The METRO station is about 300 feet from the entrance. Cost? Nothing. But if you want the guided tour with the buses or wagons...that will involve some cost.

From the top four things to see.....the Kennedy tomb is within five minutes walking from the visitor center. I was expecting something huge and grand....and it's a bit more simple than that.
From the Kennedy site, it's a good ten minute walk over to the Tomb of the Unknown. It is a hilly walk, so don't think this will be a easy walk.
From the Tomb of the Unknown....it's a good ten minute walk over to the Arlington House. For months, I've been noticing it from the Pentagon. I kept thinking this Arlington House was huge, but once you climb to the top of the hill....it's really a fairly small house with a grand entrance.
Then, you've got this fifteen minute march out to the far extreme northeast corner of the cemetery. In fact, you reach a point where there's a gate, and you have to exit the grounds, and then about 500 feet away, is the Iwo Jima Memorial. It is huge and highly impressive.

My advice? There's no sodas, ice cream or anything that you can buy at the cemetery. Bring a bottle of water with you. If you tire easily on hilly walking....this may become a problem and you ought to use the bus service. I spent the morning walking and got fairly exhausted after two hours there.

There are a number of odd things about the cemetery. There are wives buried there. There are kids buried there. If you can find the steep incline where the Thresher crew are buried...it's just headstones and nothing else (they were never found).

If you wanted to make a day out of this, then start here in the morning (arriving by METRO), then leave and cross the Key Bridge (less than 500 feet from the Visitor Center. It's a 10 minute walk over the bridge and you then arrive at the Lincoln Memorial. You can hit both it, the cemetery, and the WW II memorial in one day before you call it quits. The Smithsonian METRO station is about a twenty minute walk from the Washington Monument, which is just across the street from the WW II point.

If you aren't up for walking four miles in a day...then don't do it. Rely on the bus tour business and make it simple.

What They Didn't Want to Say

Here in DC, Arlington, Alexandra, and southern Maryland, public movement (trains & buses) is "METRO". It's all one big enterprise. There's a number of problems with this operation, which now seem to pop up every week.

This week, the discussion came around to the METRO Smartrip card. It's a card that works like a credit card. It's got a chip embedded and you swipe it across a screen on the bus or the entry of the subway to relieve you of your money. The swipe goes back to an account that you charge up via cash at a machine once in a while.

The METRO folks have had this new technology for several years and are very proud of the card and simplicity of getting customers in and out of the subway or buses.

The METRO folks were thinking about this idea of making the card cheaper but then came to an interesting discovery. This whole process....the systems, the software, the card, and the technology....were a great sales idea. So when they bought into it....they bought pallets of these SmartTrip cards. They went back and were going to buy some more cards because they noticed they were down to just a year or two of these cards left.....then found that the company wasn't making these anymore.

You can imagine the technology company involved....grinning as they said this. These METRO guys will have to advance....whether they like it or not.

Without the particular cards to swipe....the whole mechanism comes to an abrupt halt.

The folks speaking for METRO were careful about the way they said this....and I kept thinking they'd explain to the public how this is going to trigger a problem within two years. But they avoided this discussion. They hinted that cellphones or some other common replacement would be around by then that you could load money and just swipe.

They are guessing.

The problem here is that every subway station has at least fifteen of these scanners. Every bus has a scanner. So you've got a massive system that requires things to work precisely.

It's an interesting mess. Within twelve months....they will have to expend a fair amount of money, on top of track maintenance, operations, elevators, escalators, and labor cost. My guess is at least ten million by the time they wrap this up. Then the anger of customers having to toss out another $5 or $10 for a fresh card to fit the technology will come up.

Reason #46 Why DC Sucks


I could probably wrote a 500 page book on why Washington DC....as a city or civilization, is one of the most comical places in the United States. Sadly, I've only been here nine months to notice this.

Another thing came out in public this week....involving a court case in DC....which put a fascinating DC law into proper prospective.

DC has this law....where it's illegal for a guy or gal to ride around or walk around...acting as a hired guide....unless they first plass a test, and then obtain a licenese (via the city, and pay the fee of course).

When I read this in the news...I started scratching my head on this. The law covers everywhere....grassy areas, roads, streets, sidewalks, subway areas, and even inside buildings.

There's a case going through the court system to challenge this, and no one is sure if it'll beat the deal or not.

Now, if you were with Grandma and the relatives and just walked around pointing out buildings or dopey park rangers....that's ok. If you were leading a bunch of German tourists free of charge because you felt sorry for them....that's ok. The minute you were doing this for money, you were in violation.

Talking....more or less....has to be controlled, if there's money involved. I pondered over this for a while. It's a odd way of controlling things. On one side, if you had some idiot explaining the function of the Supreme Court to run the Library of Congress, this would make perfect sense. But you'd have to wonder just if this was such a swell idea....why not make congressmen or senators take a test like this before entering their positions each January?

The other side of this leads you to wonder who grades the test and who exactly certified them in the first place? The city council? The mayor? Some local college?

The good thing is that when you do come to DC for tours and some lady steps onto the bus to act as your guide.....you can feel assured that she's been tested. Hopefully, your driver just knows where the heck he's going.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Dayton Fantasy


Typically, an Alabamian fights over football, wrestling, drinking in dry counties, and accusations against his political affiliation. This week....some Bama folks stood up to fight for jobs. Actually, they were fighting to steal jobs from Ohio.

There's this intelligence center up at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, where 3,000 intelligence jobs sit. The Bama congressional delegation sent a letter to Army General Ron Burgess who heads up the Defense Intelligence Agency asked about relocating these jobs to Huntsville.

This would actually consolidate a lot of intelligence around the ballistic missile and space analysis functions already there at Huntsville.

Naturally, this letter upset a number of Ohio folks....especially some politicians from up there.

One response was that this was an effort of one state trying to steal jobs from another. I sat and paused over that.

Frankly, Bama has been actively doing this for over a decade now. We even tried to take the Volkswagen plant and have it put in Huntsville as well.

But you have to view this in the opposite position. Why aren't folks trying to come and steal jobs from Bama? There's all these technology and fancy engineer companies in existence there in North Alabama....why not try to steal those?

For some reason, no one is really interested in coming down to steal Bama jobs. This could lead you to two conclusions. First, no one can come up with a great argument why they should move to a more expensive state, pay more state income taxes somewhere else, or face up to more crime as part of the move. The second conclusion could be that once a guy gets used to Bama living...why would he ever want to leave (sarcastically said of course)?

So we come back to this letter to the general and whether something might happen. My guess is that the general really wishes these Bama guys had never sent this letter. He now has a bunch of idiot Ohio political figures calling his office and wanting his opinion on something that he doesn't want to think about.

As for the 3,000 intelligence guys in Dayton, Ohio? They probably are sitting there on the patio this evening...sipping a Pabst...eating some bar-b-q....and wondering how their lives would change in Bama.

Call it a fantasy or a dream...but they sit and dream of NCAA football, husky & lusty Bama gals, leaf burning in the yard on a cold October Bama afternoon, flea markets, Baptist church revivals, 1,500 square foot garages, some neighbor named Wendy who wears a bikini top twelve months out of the year, and a all-you-can-eat catfish platter that would make you weep all evening long at a cost of $9.99.

At that point, these Ohio guys start grinning and thinking "Bama" everyday of the week. Heck, maybe the General is now thinking "Bama" too.

A Story That's Not Woeful

Yesterday, the Washington Post had a very serious and woeful story over this family in the DC area...the Waleses....who have two kids with serious health issues.

It was a long and very depressing over the family, and the chief item that the reporter wanted you to know....was that the family was to be kicked out of their home. They'd missed payments, and were behind. The community was behind them. The local church was behind them. They wanted to stay in the home. They had supposedly worked hard to get the loan rearranged and thought that they'd be approved....and they weren't.

Throughout this really sad piece....I bought into the story, and felt someone ought to do something. Here was a former Air Force guy....retired, with a pension, and now working with a yearly salary of $120k. His wife was a former Air Force vet and had a disability payment of $800 a month. At this point, I started scratching my head. This couple had a significant amount of money coming in. Pension of likely $22k a year, disability payment of $10k roughly a year, and $120k a year? The couple has a four-star health insurance plan that actually covered the vast amount of hospital costs for the two kids. Something ain't right.

Then the reporter lets you know that they'd had some issue from 2002 and gone bankrupt. So they come into DC and buy another home in 2006 with a massive loan. I started scratching my head again. Wouldn't competent bank folks stand up and stop them at the door? No. The bank said sure.....here's the loan paperwork and readily agreed to this mess.

So here is the curious thing....they buy a 2,200 square foot house for $415k. Their down-payment? Five thousand dollars. With 6.375 interest, their monthly payment was $3,300.

$3,300 a month for your payment? What idiot would sign up for that kind of deal? Toss in two cars, which I'm guessing are both on the fairly new side, and you've got at least another $1000 a month on car insurance, registration & taxes, and the car payment.

By the end of this, I really didn't feel woeful or sad over the couple. I wish their kids a lot of luck in their medical process...but this is a couple that really needs to find themselves a house outside of the beltway....maybe halfway to Richmond....and just rent it for two or three years to get their mess cleaned up.

I realize that some folks will be upset with me over the sad medical story over their kids and this terrible mess with losing their house, but it's another American family that really haven't ever grasped their financial situation. You put down $5k for a $415k house, and you want me to take you serious? As a minimum.....you should have had $75k, and hopefully around $125k for the down-payment. No one should have prepared themselves for $3,300 a month on mortgage.

This is just one family out of thousands across the country that never understood finances and were willing to put themselves into serious jeopardy. The banks allowed them to do this. And we all sit here now in a downward economic spiral.....because of stupidity around the entire room. The protectors of the gate....the banks....should have done their job, but they just didn't grasp that part.

UPDATE: (two days later) The bank involved in this deal has come up....especially after newspaper coverage, and created a brand-new deal. The couple is having a lawyer review this but likely will accept.

The comical thing? It's now turned into a forty year mortgage. Imagine this....with a couple who are both in their late 40's. The cherry on this deal? Even at the end of the forty years.....they still have to pay $100k to take full ownership.

So you can imagine the bank sitting there and collecting payments for twenty-five-odd years and they each pass away.....having made easily made payments worth $500k on this $415k house yet still having fifteen years of payments to go, and the bank takes full possession. So it's almost like a lease deal, and the couple gets nothing in the end. A lose-lose-lose scenario, which everyone likes.

Friday, 17 September 2010

DC in a Decade


A couple of years ago in DC....some smart folks came in and started this effort to sell the DC council on the idea of rent-control. There could have been some plain nods....and there could have been some dopey politicians who never understood the whole concept. The political folks bought this hook, line and sinker.

A strange thing started after the approval of this deal. Property got bought up.....fixed....and then converted into condo apartments....expensive condo apartments.

So the local folks....who were mostly black and on the lower side of incomes....suddenly found various neighborhoods that were undergoing renovation, and the prices were way beyond their lifestyles.

There's a funny thing about DC politics. Up until the 1950s....it was a mostly white population, and the vote ran along Democratic lines but mostly white candidates. By the mid-1960s....blacks held the population majority and black politicians began to show up....all Democrats of course.

At some point in the 1990s, it was obvious that the school system was now totally corrupted and a joke. Folks wanted to fire teachers but the union just grinned and said no.

City services were dismal, and declining.

So this effort over the past decade has been underway to rebuild DC. The black population is beginning to question the motivates and the direction.

So we move over to these upscale condo deals. The smart guys now say that by 2014....enough of the properties will have switched over and 30-something rich white will have taken to this new atmosphere. The vision by 2018 is this town where it's more of a upscale area where people ride the METRO, hang out to drink cappuccino, and fancy clothing shops appear on every corner. That's not old DC, and you can imagine the anxiety here.

The political landscape by the end of this decade will be quiet different. In fact....it could just be fifty percent Republican....which might shock the locals now greatly.