Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ten Things a Guy Should Know Before Moving to DC

I'm about to start eleven months in DC, and there are a ton of things I've come to learn about my local area....which would have been nice to know before arriving.

First, for safety purposes....once you cross the river from Virginia into DC.....you are basically in a zone of conflict.  It'd best to describe it as that place where Kurt Russell was dumped off into and told to recover the President, and had to fight his way out.  On any given day, some lady could come up to you near a coffee shop, and stab you in the back....and not even mention a word about your looks, your billfold, or your political feelings.  Heck, you could be at a funeral at 1PM, and get a few guys riled up enough to shoot you as you drove off in a car.

Second, while most folks think that Mexicans are the predominant Latino group in America....if you live in the DC region....it's the El Salvadorian guys.  Ninety-nine percent of them are friendly folks....the other one percent are affiliated with the M-13 cartel guys.

Third, forget about finding a Super-Wal-Mart in the area.  You've got a fair drive, and just accept it.

Fourth, tourism is a major deal.  The amusing thing is that after you've been here sixty days and know the layout of the area....tourists actually start asking you questions on where things are.

Fifth, METRO carries an amazing number of folks around the area on a daily basis.  It's mostly a miracle that it runs as well as it does and accidents are just a monthly thing.    Learn to accept METRO and ride as much as possible to lessen the stress of parking and getting those $129 'boot' tickets.

Sixth, coffee consumption is a significant part of your life in DC.  If you were drinking two cups prior to arrival....you will be drinking four cups after arriving.  And you won't even pause when the dopey coffee lady says 'six buck' for your double caffein-double maple El Grande cup of coffee.

Seventh, just a plain vanilla studio apartment will run $1000 a month within the region of DC.  If you live twelve miles south....you can get a $850 two-bedroom apartment.  The question is....do you want to battle the interstate in getting into DC each day?

Eighth, if you eyeball a map of DC and look slightly to the right and down...within the district....then draw a big red circle around that area.....you'd best avoid it in daylight or evening hours.  Don't accidentally come off the interstate or get off at the wrong subway station.

Ninth, the general basic package for cable TV consist of 100 channels.  To be kinda honest....eight of them are of value, and the other 92 are worthless.

Tenth, on a typical day at a mall....stand and count foreigners....and then accept the fact that four of ten folks are first-generation Americans at best.  Yes, you are a stranger in a foreign land.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Tube

This coming Monday will be a special day.  It's the beginning of an era.  This is the day when you can walk into a Piggly Wiggly or Kroger store or Sam's Club....and buy Scott toilet paper....in the natural tube-free roll.

I realize some of you hadn't ever thought about this necessity of life.  I've often sat in dorms, Air Force office buildings, the Pentagon, airports, combat zones, and porta-potties, and thought about the impact of the end piece....the cardboard item itself.

My guess is some environmental guys just suggested that this would be a good idea, but everyone just shook their head over how to make tube-free toilet paper.  Then, in a moment like you'd expect....they'd call for the Auburn engineer and put him on the spot.

Yes, in desperate times like this....it's typically your Auburn engineers who give up a weekend of NCAA football and cow-tipping....to gauge the process and then generate the plan.  They will produce the product on a Monday, and then sweat through three hundred days of quality assurance testing and lawyer discussions within the company...before the CEO finishes everything and approves production.

Our lives are changed.  By the end of 2012....I would imagine most all toilet paper in America will be tubeless.  We will forget about the tubes within a decade, and the engineer who designed this....might be up for a Nobel Prize in the distant future.  For these reasons....remember this Monday, because it is special.

Drinking for the Republic

Upon joining the Air Force, and getting introduced to dorm life....I came to grasp the drinking game.  It might happen once a month....it might happen once a weekend.  Typically, the rule was a list of five to ten key phrases or words or commercials were listed on a sheet by the TV.  Each time one of these were mentioned....you had to take a shot of something.

This action typically meant that you had to have an entire bottle of something around, just for your enjoyment. While you'd expect this to be extreme drinking....you'd typically have a dozen shots over a 2.5 hour period.

It's a silly game and childish in some ways....but it's the kind of thing that guys dream up on their own.

Well....this week, there's more "kids" out there, dreaming up the next version....for Tuesday evening of next week.  This all has to do with the expected news media frenzy that will occur.  What will be the key phrases? Well....I saw a list floating around today....suggesting some phrases:

Tsunami = drink
Historical = drink
Catastrophic = drink
“Barney Frank is in trouble” = drink
“Speaker Boehner” = drink
gridlock = 2 drinks
uneducated voters = 2 drinks
corporations bought the election = 2 drinks
Illinois went Republican-—chug

I realize that this is pretty unacceptable behavior, and illegal in a dozen Bama counties where "dry" means something special.  But it's the comedy of these election shows that matter now.  It's like a NFL half-time show.  I'm expecting in another decade that your local grocery will want to prepare party trays designed for "winners" or "losers", and Hollywood stars will start showing up to give their impression of the evening's results.

My advice....if you want to play the drinking game in this case.....look for a low-grade alcohol to use, and have a bunch of snacks around to supplement your stomach.  And by 11PM, just give up because twelve states will be total chaos and unable to say a winner.

Just an Observation

I've sat and watched this cargo plane and terrorism plot unfold this afternoon.  There is one and only one observation that I will offer.

There is nothing....absolutely nothing...that Yemen manufactures, that is imported into the United States.  Not soap, vanilla-smelling hair-shampoo, peanut butter, chocolate, WWE wrestling tapes, septic tanks, toe clippers, butter knives, ball bearings, false teeth, beer, or printer cartridges.  Nothing.  So when some idiot shows up at a FEDEX shop or UPS shop, or any freight delivery company in Yemen, and wants printer cartridges shipped to the United States from Yemen....this stupid grin ought to appear on the freight guy Larry's face.  

Friday, 29 October 2010

My Chair Story, II

I had to go and buy my organization (deep in the bowels of the Pentagon) some chairs.  I admit, we do a lot of sitting, and I was kind of told by the boss that I'd better find real ergonomic chairs that would last ten years.

Our old chairs?  They were $200 type chairs bought almost a decade alo.  They had no ergonomic value, and were in terrible shape the past year or two.  Folks complained about back troubles, their hips, and various ills.  So I went and did my research.  I found the perfect office chair, under a government contract, for $466 each.  It was the Cadillac of office chairs.  It included a ten-year warranty on every piece and part.

I thought this would be simple.  But the boss started with the first issue....two buckets of money.  One was $25k and the other was $116k.  I had to break this into two purchases.

This request did had to route via three different levels of folks to give me permission to move to the contracting group of my organization.  Hour by hour, day by day, and week by week....this went on, and on.  I had roughly six weeks to complete this deal by 1 October.  After that, I lost all the money.

I finally got the two packages through, and hit the contracting officer.  A week later....she informed me that she only had package #1, and that the $25k package rested with another person.

A day later, my gracious contracting lady informed me that since I was over the $100k level....this was a small-business required situation.  My choice for a chair was tossed out.  I was a bit angry, but ok, just get us some good four-star chairs.  Well....only one small-business company bid on the chair choice.  I was shocked.  But here was the thing....while my choice was $466....this new small-business choice....was $560. Roughly a $100 more per chair, and I had no extra funds.  So I decreased my number.

My commander was upset about this....and even more upset when we found out it wasn't a US manufacturing company....but a Canadian company.  We wanted to cancel....but ended up in the corner.

Then the shock came....my choice for the $25k deal?  Fully accepted and no issues.

Weeks passed, and all the chairs came this week.  Frankly, I was mildly disenchanted with the $560 chairs. First, each box must have weighed eighty pounds.  Then you had to put them together....three pieces to each chair.  But they do sit well, and I can accept them.

The curious thing came yesterday....my only customer with a complaint.  Two hundred and forty-odd chairs total....one person complaining.  First, he observed they were not made with recycled materials (he wasn't joking...he was totally serious).  Second, they weren't fire-retardant.  Yep, neither chair was qualified for that....but frankly, being a guy from Bama.....fire-retardant nature isn't on my top three hundred priorities.

I have vowed now....never to buy another chair for this organization.  I'll have to leave if this issue comes up again.

Pretty Versus Lusty Versus Buffalo-look

The Buffalo News kinda of reported this today....teachers from Buffalo...for 2009....used up $9 million worth of taxpayer-covered cosmetic surgery.  You have to understand....this deal is all part of their teacher contract deal with the local area.  To also be honest....it amounts to something like nine percent of the district's spending on care for employees or retirees in the teacher system.

There's alot you can say over this.  I paused and pondered upon this picture.  Down in Bama, we just don't have this kind of benefit in full view of teachers.  To be honest, even if you offered up some kind of plastic surgery deal...other than boob jobs....most Bama teachers would likely never ask for a deal like this.

Another side to this story though....my humble opinion.....is that maybe teachers up in Buffalo need the plastic surgery because of their looks.  Maybe down in Bama....folks are blessed for looking cute and manly....in a purely natural sort of way.  A guy might put on a fresh pair of Hanes underwear and feel sharp.  A Bama gal might put on a bit of lipstick, some cheap perfume (Secret Obsession for $2.49 by Amazon), and some $9 shoes from Walgreens (the cheap stuff they have by the counter) made in Peru....and she'd be hot by Bama standards.

The Buffalo teacher folks probably fret a bit about their looks....hoping that a handsome guy or some hunk of woman will stop by and admire them for ten minutes.

Course, the other possibility is that some Bama family has moved into Buffalo and some Bama kid made the comment to a couple of teachers that they don't match up to Bama teacher beauty, and this upset the sensitivity of the teachers to demand this package in their job situation.

The good side of this is that Pentagon never offered me any plastic surgery deals when they hired me up.  It'd just be wasted money as far as I was concerned.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Saturday in DC

Saturday here in the DC area represents this massive and unbelievable mess.  First, there's thirty thousand folks running in the US Marine Marathon....and you can figure at least another sixty thousand folks watching this event.

Then you have the Comedy Central crowd with Jon Stewart's meeting down by the capital building.  While Comedy Central is projecting this to be around 80,000 folks.....some strong indicators are now bouncing around the 150,000 number.

So you have two diverse groups....trying to use public transportation, and somehow working to get over to the Pentagon or to the Capital area....and maybe as many as 200k folks, with the regular tourists as well.

My advice?  Stay home or stay south of the river.

My Local Town

We had a nut arrested in the DC area yesterday...over here on the Virginia side.  Islamic character, who wanted to remembered in some fashion, and he advertised somewhere (I'm guessing) that he was available for nut-case Islamic planning.  Naturally, some FBI guys realize the implication....just walk up and say they are real Islamic nuts themselves, and they've got a big plan but need him to fill in all the squares.

Our nut then meets up, and gets all peppy.  He volunteers to do the planning and surveillance.  So he comes back and he's got this plan of bombing four Virginia METRO stations (Arlington Cemetery, Courthouse, Pentagon City, and Crystal City).  At that point, it was a done deal, and the cops arrest him.

He could have killed hundreds of folks (not thousands as Channel Four indicated).  You have remember that these backpack bombs have a limit.

The interesting thing is that he's a naturalized citizen from Pakistan.  Got a degree.  Was fully employed.  Was living the American-dream.

I would speculate he's got five to seven years of prison for planning this.  You have to feel sorry for the guy.  He had a good life lined up, and his religion upbringing apparently went into a curve.....making him think thoughts that weren't rational.  He was willing to do a self-styled suicide.   He was a Muslim first....before being an American.  He lost his compass in life, and was a loser from that day on.

The Lady and the Cellphone?

Ok, so view the seven minute clip. Here's the thing. This guy has a point...the lady in this clip...from 1920...is holding something, and talking through it. I watched the clip three times. I am convinced that she is holding a cellphone. The problem is...she shouldn't be. And if she is....what does this really mean in 1920?


The Wrong Folks to Mess With

You aren't hearing much on the topic....at least for the next couple of days...but WikiLeaks is about to come up gasping for air.

Yes, it is true that WikiLeaks is going to publish more classified Pentagon messages.  And a month from now.....I expect them to release another batch of messages.  And a month after that, another batch of messages.

Frankly, the drama is now dead.  The public doesn't care much.  The key sign?  They hinged the big releases to involve certain key newspapers in Europe, and the New York Times.  To be honest, people of influence have kinda dropped the New York Times, and its significance in the world is less than a decade ago.  So public outage is pretty much a little above marginal.

As for my original hint of gasping for air?  Well, that has nothing to do with the Pentagon's secret messages.  Instead, it has to deal with secret Russian email, from Russian businessmen, Russian government officials, and from Russian folks of importance.  WikiLeaks somehow got itself into a position of acquiring these....I'm guessing via an American "helper" (strictly a guess).

What Julian Assange and the remainder of leadership of WikiLeaks haven't calculated....is that the Russians have KGB and Mafia guys on the payroll.  If they aren't happy....they kill people.

I suspect that WikiLeaks has taken on a five-star treasure of leaks and just figured that the Russians would act the same way as the Pentagon....in a civilized manner.  That was probably a stupid gamble.

Over the next couple of weeks....I'm expecting the WikiLeaks management crowd to dwindle quickly....as they scatter and admit they don't want much to do with the mess.  Julian Assange?  I think he'll disappear for a couple of months.  Just a humble guess.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Our Future?

For a number of weeks...on the campaign trail....the President used the slur-pee and car-in-the-ditch routine to sell supporters at his campaign stops.

In the last day or two....he's now switched over.  The ditch routine has run full circle....so now we've gone onto buses.

We now hear: "We can't have special interests sitting shotgun. We gotta have middle class families up in front. We don't mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back."

The curious thing is that January will come and a new Republican-run house will be around.  Nothing gets accomplished without negotiation.  The President will have to make two or three speeches....to lessen all of the soap opera-like speeches that he made over the past six weeks....and mend his fences.

The amusing part will come when various news interviews come, and everything has to be very polite and forgiving in nature.  Naturally, there is a limit to this and I suspect by August....his rhetoric will shift back to "evil Republicans" because the next election cycle will start up.

I sat and pondered over this.  Are we in a new society where you have twelve months to accomplish anything politically....before you have to launch into a WWE-wrestling-like mentality?  A society geared toward twelve months of happiness and then twelve months of down-in-the-dirt politics?  Is this our new schedule?

I suspect that we are all getting tired of this mess, and it'd be nice to have some idiots in the White House, the Senate, and the House....whose number one priority is to chat about NCAA football, septic tanks, episodes of Gillian's Island, and the plus side of a Ford F-150 pick-up.  I hate to suggest such a fix....but this might be the only thing left for us.

Quote of the Day

“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” he said. “In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. … No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years.”

Spoken by VP Joe Biden today

I sat and pondered over this quote.  Pepsi came from the government?  Well....no.  The paperclip?  Well....no.  The lightbulb?  Well....no.  Microsoft Windows?  Well....no.

I have to admit that those Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) were conjured up by military research, mostly because GI's refused to eat the old canned rations.  I could also go along with the logic of safety improvements coming from government research to some degree, but Volvo did the other fifty percent.  Yeah, it's true that alcohol-in-a-tube that we all use in the winter to combat flu and stuff....came from government research.

Before World War II, there really wasn't any research arm of the US government.  Most of what we see today....came since the 1950s.  We might be able to give Joe some room on this....but it'd be only a marginal area of space.

Power Corrupts

Sometimes, good intentions are dealt a severe blow.

The Prime Minister of Italy....Silvio Berlusconi....had this idea.  Let the mayors of Italy have more power.  They could correct things that went wrong, keep a mess from becoming serious in nature.  At least, that's what he thought about his 'greater powers' concept.  It was supposed improve public order.

Off in the midst of southern Italy, along the coast....lies this town of Castellammare di Stabia.

The local cops got new orders in this tiny town....scantily-clad women are now to be fined.  Course, you'd ponder over this....what would be defined as 'scantily'?  This list included necklines that plunge (you know what I'm referring to), mini-skirts, and jeans that hug a bit too low (like what you'd see at a local mall on the bottom of the hips of a 16-year old girl).

This order by the mayor was supposed to combat anti-social behavior.

Needless to say....locals didn't take kindly to the Mayor's order.  So some protests were held...mostly with women in mini-skirts.  I pondered upon this....typically, a good protest means yelling, cussing, and anti-government slogans.  The idea of women in mini-skirts being a protest didn't really match up with my vision of a good protest.

At some point, the reporters got the mayor to explain part of this scantily-clad policy.  Mini-skirts themselves weren't forbidden....or classified as scantily clad clothing, unless they were 'so' short that they leave the undergarment showing.

Course, I'm from Bama......and I tried to imagine this vision of the mayors.  It sounded like mini-skirts were ok except when you saw the ladies underwear (or maybe the lack of underwear?).  Then it started to all make sense.

I read on through the article....the mayor hadn't just done business on mini-skirts...he'd had a number of bans put into place.  For example....cussing in public was now forbidden.  Playing soccer on the streets or open park areas was forbidden (you could play in soccer fields).  Then he got into sunbathing.  The ban with sun tanning in public was seemed to be a bit excessive but maybe folks were laying around on the public streets and showing more skin than advisable.

I have this feeling that the mayor isn't long for politics.  The next election will come, and sadly, he'll go (my prediction).  There's this phrase....'power corrupts'.  I suspect that it fits well for the mayor.  He might have done well and just signed up for the cussing situation on year one.  Maybe somewhere in year two.....he could have done something on sun tanning in public.  Maybe the third year....something else.

I hate to suggest this.  But the truth is that political figures don't need to accomplish a bunch of things to say they've become successful.  Folks kinda appreciate one or two really good measures, and that's typically enough to make folks happy.

I'd close this but I'm kinda curious now about visiting this town.  The photo I attached?  Yeah, I found it on a travel log and taken in the town.  Yeah, if you ask me.....they might have a problem with scantily-clad women.....but I can't say this for sure, unless I personally visited and had a chance to confirm it myself.  You understand my ethics here....of course.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Observations of a Vote

Yesterday, this topic came up.....a number of states are discussing the idea of letting non-citizens vote.  The intention here...is that these guys are here on a VISA....paying US taxes, owning US property, putting their kids through an American school system, and they deserve this right.

Naturally, some folks have brought up the issue that citizenship was always thought to be part of the voting process, and this screws up they felt was the "norm".  Oh, and the idea that ninety percent of non-citizens are Democrats bothers some folks.  This ninety-percent hasn't exactly been proven but folks think it.

I sat and pondered over this.  In the beginning....you couldn't just vote in the United States.  There were rules.  Basically, you had to be a guy, owning property, and a freed man.  When you come around to the 1812 election, you could be sitting in a Georgia county, and be one of six hundred men in the county who could vote.  Naturally, this meant on election day that you showed up in the county seat.

This journey to the county seat would likely take half a day and you left way before the sun rose.  You'd arrive around noon....get free whiskey compliments of one political party....vote.....and by mid-afternoon try to find your way back home, while mostly drunk and accepting the weather as best as you could.  If you ever wondered why so many guys came down with pneumonia in November and died by early December....you can understand the issue of weather and drunken behavior.

At some point, after the Civil War....black men had the right to vote.  Being a land-owner came to be a problem that got worked out but then folks had this poll tax business to overcome the lack of property.

By early 1900, then came the issue of women getting the right to vote....which some states had serious issues with but others just grumbled about it and accepted it.

Then came the Constitution change where 18 year old kids were considered an adult, and got their right to vote.

So today, the next modification?  Non-citizens?

I was pondering the next decade.   Once you allow non-citizens the right....the discussion of age comes back up.  Why limit adulthood to 18 years old?  Why couldn't we go down to 15 years old, and allow these kids to all vote?

But why stop there?  If you own property in three states...why couldn't you be allowed to vote in all three state elections?  You, your wife, and your kids....should have the right in all three states.

But why stop merely at this point?  Why limit this to the living?  If you were alive in the past year, and past away, then you ought to have the right to vote in that year's election....especially if you already filled out a absentee ballot.

The way I see it....we could generate 400 million ballots and votes in an election year and get this into an interesting situation.  Heck, we could charge $14 as you enter to vote as a handling fee, and make a couple of billion dollars for the government.  We could even offer up a two-for-one vote situation with a forty dollar service fee attached....and pay off national debt in just four elections.

Why Things Are Screwed Up

My associate in the office....had lived down in the Carolinas up until early January, and then accepted this job at the Pentagon (like me).

He'd put himself into a very successful position....making six-figures.  For the last five years....he'd accepted a huge amount of daily stress and worked over fifty hours a week...every single week.  At some point in the fall of last year, he had a serious black-out and the ambulance got called.  The ambulance toted him a distance of about four miles.

My associate thought his health insurance policy cover the ambulance, and up until this weekend....had continued to believe that.  Then this letter came up.....which had gone to his old residence.

The letter was from a collection agency.  Basically....the health care policy only paid a certain part of the ambulance trip (probably around $250).  The other $850?  They didn't cover.  So the ambulance company sent this bill out to the old house....got no response...then handed it to a collection agency.

My associated called up the collection agency over the weekend.  They wanted the $850, and then they had a $500 fee now tied into this whole thing.  You can imagine this conversation.  The agency wanted to let my associate know that his entire credit rating could be screwed with.  My associate asked what good would they do (he had no intention of buying another house for several years)?

In the end....my associate finally wrote out a check for $850 to the ambulance company.  He kinda explained to them that he didn't appreciate the way this was handled and the whole problem of moving.  I'm hoping he has some luck and they tell the agency to stop their actions.  But if not....this $500 fee becomes a silly topic.

We all sat there....contemplating this ride.  Basically $250 per mile, to get him over to some hospital.  In Bama, up until the early 1970s....if you were bad off....your cousin or relatives pulled the pick-up....tossed you in the back....and got you to the county hospital in thirty minutes.  If you got there dead.....then that was the way God intended....at least that was the way folks thought about things like that.  Today?  Folks have an expectation of living....and these ambulance companies are willing to charge $1000 a trip....to give you that extra thirty percent chance.

Personally, I'm living in the 1970s right now, and advised my associates to just toss me in a pick-up and dump me at some emergency room.  I'm not picky, and I'm not about to pay $1000 for some fancy ambulance ride of eight minutes.  If they want to dump me in the ambulance...it'd best involve free Pabst beer for the eight minutes, a tube-topped hostess, some fancy ribs, some Sweet-Home-Alabama tunes in the background and highlights of the Auburn football game from Saturday on a big-screen TV.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Poll Thinking

I sat and read USA Today in the afternoon.  There's this odd poll that was done.  Would you be willing to live 'rent-free' in a house, that had a ghost?

Fifty-one percent said yes.  Forty-nine percent said no.

I sat and pondered over this.  It's one of those stupid polls that normally, I'd never answer.

First, and foremost, I'm really not much into ghosts.  Yeah, you might call me a non-believer.  If you walked up and suggested this house would be free for rent....and then bought up a ghost story over the house....I'd probably ask what kind of ghost this is.

First, are they a young ghost or old ghost?

Is this a ghost with limited intelligence?

Is the ghost a liberal or conservative?

Is this a hot lusty sultry lady ghost?

Does this ghost have any good decent stories to tell?

Is this ghost anti-NCAA football or anti-NASCAR?

Does this ghost have a sense of humor?

Could this ghost be far-right-wing? Or perhaps a progressive?

As you can see....my ghost perception requires some answers.  I'm guessing this will offend some ghosts....but you know....if this was a fairly conservative female ghost, witty and a bit lusty, then I'd probably have some patience to accept the ghost deal.  I'm guessing that most ghosts would be a bit upset with my questions and prefer not to admit that they are a mixed-up liberal ghost with no sense of humor, and about as intelligent as a sixth-grader.

60 Minutes

Last night, I watched 60 Minutes.  It's rare, I admit....simply the timing of NFL football and various programming....and there I was.

It was, by far, one of the best episodes that I've seen in my life.  Here was a 15-minute segment covering these poor folks in San Jose, California.....who've lost jobs....and have spent over 18 months looking for work.

I sat totally amazed....they just wouldn't leave.  I would have put 90 days into finding work....and after that....packed and moved to various southern locations where IT jobs still exist.  Yeah, I would have given up on the $200k work level real quick.  Even the $100k work level.  I realize that various bills would have occurred, and I owed taxes to California (bankruptcy would still come to my doorstep).  But it would have been the right decision.

I sat amazed....people were that stuck on staying there and being miserable.

The one lady....an office manager....was making $70k a year, and now having to picking up bottles and cans.....to augment her unemployment income.  She wouldn't leave?  That was the amazing part.

The water cooler chat today at the office involved mostly this....instead of the Packers beating the Vikings, which surprised me.

There is this element of common sense that I think has evaporated from folks in California.  I could understand a guy making a decision to hope on some six month long episode of good luck occurring....but eventually, I'd have to pack and leave.  Yes, I'd likely go to some job in Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta, or Huntsville....and I'd take a significant pay-cut.  But I'd be working, and accept the fact that the "BIG-JOB" was gone, and life was going to be different.

Just a humble observation.

Just A Moment of Pondering

The WikiLeaks episode continued this past week....with the next release of intelligence messages.

I sat and pondered over this mess.

You can sit there and imagine these geeky WikiLeaks folks...sitting around and reading intelligence messages written by E-2's or 2Lt's with barely a year of military training...and trying to grasp what they meant by "movement", "causalities", or "estimates". Then you take into consideration that the geeky folks never took any social science classes in college...and the worst threat they ever faced was a MAC hard drive that failed on a Sunday night before exams.

The amusing thing is a bunch of geeky folks are pretending that they are serving the world and providing “justice”. These are the same folks who don’t believe in copyright protection, and anarchism tends always be in their top ten priorities.

Then you look where these "heroes" of our society live....strangely enough...all live in free societies with the biggest worry is having adequate bandwidth. They all count on cops being there to protect them from evil. They count on the sewage folks providing adequate sanitation.

So at the end of the day....Jimmy, Freddy, and Julian will protect us all from evil. The only question is...who will protect when Jimmy, Freddy and Julian lose their perception on life, and start to harm us? A Wiki-Wiki-Leaks organization?

No Chance of Motel-Six

There's a story I latched onto this weekend...involving the President and his entourage.

There's a trip to India planned shortly.  The President's team has rent out an entire hotel....near the Taj Mahal....which involves 570 rooms.  To be honest, there are dozens of other rooms throughout the city rented for support personnel (security, communications, etc).

It's an interesting deal....renting an entire hotel complex to ensure the safety and security of the President.

I sat and pondered over this deal.  Almost all of the first thirty Presidents limited themselves to US or Canadian soil, as President.

President Wilson would have gone over to France to negotiate the end of WW I but his stroke kinda prevented travel (you can believe the recovery from the flu, but the story no longer works in light of real history).

We come actually to President Roosevelt for international travel, and the beginning of this problem.  Up until the 1980s....a President could typically reserve an entire floor and that was pretty much the extent of this 'rock-star' status.  Over the past ten years....things have doubled up.  Even now....folks are a bit shocked at the idea of an entire hotel being rented.  Who pays for this?  You....at your Pizza Hut job, your bank teller job, your customer service job, or perhaps your farm job.

I would speculate that when President Andrew Jackson traveled....he probably took up two rooms at some boarding house of a respectful nature.  He got one room, and his administrative aide probably got the other room.

I would speculate that when President Hayes traveled....he probably took up to three rooms...with a security guy or two included.

Calvin Coolidge?  Cal was awful cheap and practical.  I would speculate that he stayed with relatives and friends mostly....and might have taken a cheaper room when necessary.

The curious thing is that a major element of our national budget now pays for rock-star status.  Frankly, if we really got around to discussing this....we wouldn't be happy.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Imagination Unlocked

It was January 2008.  I could see the future.

Hillary Clinton was destined to win as President.  The banks in America were rock solid.  Chrysler and GM had major issues but were still selling well.  Foreclosure rates were minimum but Florida was already at 45 houses per 1,000 for the year.  There weren't any angry folks in the heartland.  MSNBC and CNN were riding along with great evening numbers.  Nobody really knew much of that Beck fellow with Fox News.  And a bunch of Democratic senators were sitting in DC....happy with their jobs, their statistics, and their upcoming election in 2010.  Life was good in January 2008.

This train derailed, and things went into a different direction.

The one person with the most disappointed view....yet comes now to be the happiest in November 2010?  Hillary Clinton.  The re-election of the President will absolutely dependent upon her accepting the VP seat.  The win is dependent on her and Bill selling the nation on some message.  Hillary supporters get another train-ticket to ride yet again.

Foreclosure, bad banks, and stupid laws that only congress could pass were obvious.  GM and Chrysler are surviving but by a marginal effect.  CNN would like to make a real profit but lately that hasn't been obvious.  Newsweek got sold off for a $1.  And a bunch of old Senators and Representatives got shoved around, and some are going home.  Some Republican members are having to admit they never were Republicans, but then discovered in an election year that attitude was stupid to admit to.

In the heartland, some folks discovered some guy named Beck and suddenly got charged up on American history.  Calvin Coolidge suddenly took on a second life and looked like Ronald Reagan from the distance.  People started talking about Jefferson, Franklin and Washington like they were neighbors of theirs.  Folks started to admire something called character.  Strangely enough....the 5PM time slot....which used to be reserved for Gilligan's Island, Bonanza, and Rockford Files.....flipped over to Fox News.  And Grandma came up to give every kid in the family a copy of the Constitution and demanded a quiz whenever they visited....before they got any cookies.

If you'd tried to write this entire story over three years as a script to a movie....no one would have believed you. If you had suggested this on a talk-show....folks would have laughed you off the stage.  The mere thought that some moment of madness by some some Chicago bonds expert Rick Santelli.....that would generate thirty million angry people to get involved in a normal off-year election....would be silly.  To suggest a Tea Party in 2010....would have been viewed as a joke.

Forecasting the next two years?  I don't think you can make such reliable predictions anymore.  I expect the 2012 election period to be the most miserable period in American history since 1860.  I expect John McCain to retire as a senator within two years.  I expect nothing of significance to be passed via the house or senate for the next twenty-four months.  I expect CNN to lower their expectations for viewer-ship.  I expect the Tea Movement to continue for another twenty-four months.  And I expect Hillary Clinton to extremely happy over the future in front of her.  Only Hillary and Bill can save the Obama campaign, and they can write any requirement down....and expect to get it.

Just humble observations.

We Thought It Was a Simple Charger

Around two months ago....the President showed up at GM's plant and got all peppy over the Volt. This is the new GM product which will run off batteries.  At the time....folks questioned the wisdom after hearing the Volt ran around $41k (not including state & local taxes).

This week, another piece of the Volt puzzle came into play as a guy had a test period with the Volt and realized further implications.  The home charger would run to almost $500 (so if you wanted a second charger for work, just double that).  The nifty about this charger....is that you don't just buy the box and plug it into the wall.  You have to pay some certified electrician roughly $1,500 to install the box for you.

But wait.....we aren't finished.

This one good charge will get you 40 miles in electric range.  Naturally....you might question the $2k you have to pay....just to get it charged up.

But wait, there's more.

In this test situation, the home owner then discovered that they were on a low-tier of electrical usage....so they naturally paid less than bigger homes.  The addition of this Volt-charger, apparently pushed the home owner up a notch or two....so the cost factor was a good bit more than desired.  But then a more fascinating piece of this charger came into play....this electrical hook-up was separate from the house....so it didn't count as home usage.  This was in California but you can imagine state-by-state....every single hook-up will be different.

For GM, the Volt represents a fair amount of investment.  The US government will likely be one of the big buyer's of the car (and it's charger)....and eventually the same US government will come around to admit their their electrical costs have jumped substantially.  You can imagine this massive structure of chargers for all of the federal cars in California.  All hooked up on some industrial scale system and the federal budget folks trying to figure out how to do things cheaper.  Eventually...someone in a meeting will suggest that there's this thing called gasoline and it's alot cheaper than electricity.

I don't see the Volt ever becoming a major car in sales.

The Art of Screwing Up

Lots of interesting things happen in DC.  You folks in the heartland miss out on this massive soap opera that occurs daily.  Today....the DC cops got called over to the Georgetown University.

Over the past two months....there's been a number of robberies and violent crime related to this historic campus.  Things are apparently upsetting the norm, and even the campus management crowd are asking more questions than usual.

This morning?  Someone walked by a room in a freshman residence dorm.....and there was this funny chemical type smell.  They called the cops.  The cops come....then evacuate all four hundred residents.  Georgetown is this upscale, private university, that parents pay $40k a year between tuition, room & board, and pocket money for Johnny or Sally to be 'happy'.  It's not a cheap place, and they really don't want issues on campus.

The issue for the evacuation?  A meth lab.  The cops have two of the freshmen under apprehension and will likely charge them with some serious crimes.  You can figure at least five to ten years for each.  I'm guessing by 10AM....two father's were getting calls and then getting their attorneys involved in this mess.  The boys will be bailed out by tonight but their future is questionable.

As a minimum....they are finished at the college right now.  Their records will reflect the reason for the dismissal.  The ability to get into another prestigious college?  Zero.  The chance of getting into Montana State University?  Maybe a fifty percent chance.....after they've done rehab and their jail time.  I suspect that political donations to the local parties will occur and help in shaping their case in the end.  Both will likely have to pay for the clean-up and damages (figure $200k) and have to spend at least twelve months in some DC jail.  The parents will have to be happy with that deal.

As for the kids who live in the dorm?  Well....it's defined a a chemical hazard area as of this morning.  It typically takes two or three days for a clean-up team to go through and detox an area and sign off as "clean".  The kids in the dorm will have to be housed locally, or in hotels....probably through Monday night.

More dorm inspections?  Yeah, I'm guessing that a weekly inspection will occur and involve five to ten percent of all the rooms.

For the cops, this is a strange event.  Here were upscale kids.....likely getting a $1k a month for pocket money, with free room and board.  They were guaranteed a great job in life after four years.  All they had to do was drink beer, eat pizza, attend class, and get marginal grades.  Why screw this up?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

What If They Just Stood Up?

Over the last twenty years...I've sat and watched various episodes where political debates and situations were dominated by an agenda that knocked the Republicans back a notch. They just took it and growled about it.... pursued things as best as they could. In Bama, we'd label them wussies because of this "don't mess with them" attitude.

The curious thing with this Tea Movement....is that things have kinda gone a different direction. And when some moderator or "control element" would kick in...to knock the Republicans back and they were going to take that normal stumble....the Tea Movement guys suddenly pick up the slack. I've watched a dozen episodes since July occur. This video-clip below...is the latest.

Basically....you don't ever have the Pledge of Allegiance uttered in a sitting like this...unless you get down to a small-town atmosphere. It's typically not the norm. So when someone calls for a point of order in this debate....with the League of Women Voters gal.....and she puts them down in quick fashion....then the Tea guys unglue the event very quickly.

The negative? The 2012 Presidential race promises to be an event that will shock people. I'm not exactly positive about that...and ponder upon the implications.

The Ambulance Woes

During election periods....there are always ballot initiatives which kinda surprise you. Here in the local region, the Maryland guys have an interesting deal up for state vote.

If it passes, Maryland would have a rule where a fee would given to folk's insurance companies of $300 and $800 per ambulance ride. Never mind the fact that most cities and counties already fund the guys....this would be extra money in the pot.  Some folks think that the city and county management folks would lessen their money given, but this isn't a promised deal.

Then you have to take into account the overall rule.....this fee assessment to your insurance company might not be paid.  There's more than just a few insurance companies which don't cover this except in car accidents.

Then you consider that this is for county residents only.  This got me to reading into the rule.

If you are a uninsured (in any fashion) state resident....you don't pay.  Non-state residents?  You'd get the bill yourself.  Course, you might just walk away and the county wastes $2k in going after you for $350, that's the comical side to this story.

The part that amazes me....if you had no insurance at all....you get the free ride.  The folks with insurance....end up funding your free ride over to county general or the city emergency room.

Maryland is a funny place.   The odds of this passing?  No one knows.

My Reality

Early voting has started throughout America.  So folks are showing up at county and city offices to vote.  This week in Texas.....reported by KHOU, there was a problem at a voting station.

Some gal showed up with her momma and wanted to vote.  Everything was in order....except the voting guy pointed at the shirt this young lady was wearing....which was a 2008 Obama for President shirt.  You couldn't vote with this shirt on.  The guy suggested just turning it inside out, or putting something over it.

Course, the lady got infuriated.  She thought this was a new rule....but they pulled out the rule and it was from 1985.  She wasn't happy.  Momma was all disabled so she needed help but the guy in charge wouldn't allow the daughter to enter the voting area...wearing the Obama t-shirt.

So the daughter and mother left....but the daughter is vowing to return shortly to vote.

I sat and pondered over this.  Being from Bama.....if I grasp the rule correctly....you can't wear a political t-shirt, under any circumstances.  But you could dump a bucket of water on a lady's t-shirt (braless of course) and she could readily enter and vote for any idiot she wanted.  Wet t-shirt contest....in a public voting station....ok?  But no Obama or McCain or Vote for George Washington t-shirts?

Reality in America....2010.

Oh, and I'm sorry for you folks from Bessemer or Gadsden over my choice of pictures.  I realize you folks never partake in wet t-shirt contests, and only have read about such activities from faraway places like Knoxville, Montgomery or Huntsville.  But don't worry....you can vote like this.  Just don't wear a politically-minded shirt.

How Money Burns Holes in Your Pocket

Bringing greater transparency and accountability to the workings of state capitals across the country.

If you had $1.8 million in your pocket, and were trying to think of good things that you could do in life.....would the statement above be better than helping the poor rebuild the homes in New Orleans, helping to feed the starving in Haiti, or helping people with housing troubles because of the economic times?

I was pondering over this George Soros deal to National Public Radio (NPR) involving $1.8 million, which would pay NPR to have two reporters in each US state to cover only state capital business.  This comes from George's Open Society Foundation.

It's pretty bad now when you sit there and listen to four hundred various reporters explain whats going on in DC in an average week....and you literally want to weep over the insignificance of DC, and the idiot four hundred reporters.

I spend around twelve hours a week watching various news programs.  There are three simple observations about DC politics.  First.....for every forty hours of political time invested....there's actually only one minute of real production (if I use an engineer's measurement).

Second, folks now know more political names and faces....than they know from their local church, NFL football team, or the cast from Lost.  Daily operations via the media turns the republic's political figures into soap opera actors.  Doctor Reid is having trouble with Doctor Mitchell.  Nurse Pelosi says alot of things to upset the staff in general at the hospital but can't be fired because "Days of our Political Lives" would be lost without her.  And there's some Tea Movement guys at the front desk who want part of the hospital shut down because it's empty anyway.

Third, we have to admit...we are now entertained by this...which is a sad moment of reality.

So we turn to the $1.8 million and this effort to go beyond just reporting DC politics hour-by-hour, and now bring political news from Pierre, South Dakota at the same level?  Or will we sit there each evening and catch a one-hour session of political updates from Lasing, Michigan....wondering if the state bingo law will be enforced or changed or updated?  Or will we sit and listen to NPR each evening in Bama....to get informed updates on dry versus wet county status in the state, or listen to hours of bingo discussion?

This infusion of politics in our lives.....makes us better?  It makes us more transparent?  It brings accountability into our lives?  Politics in DC has not improved a single bit in terms of accountability over the past fifty years....corruption still occurring on a daily basis....by both parties.  

This is the best that George Soros can do with $1.8 million laying around?  I think George might want to just invest the money in banjo lessons and redo the landscaping to his backyard.  That might be a better investment.

Analogy of a Dashiki

Alicia Shepard is the ombudsman for NPR.  She's the one who is supposed to guide the organization on journalism ethics.

Today....to offer her vast analysis over Juan Williams and his firing.....she spoke: "I can only imagine how Williams, who has chronicled and championed the Civil Rights movement, would have reacted if another prominent journalist had said: ‘But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see an African American male in Dashiki with a big Afro, I get worried. I get nervous."

This was supposed to be her analogy to show people how "fair" things are supposed to be.

I sat there for a while....pausing over this comparison.  An African-American guy in a Dashiki with a big Afro.  Nervous?  Me?  Worried?  Me?

I reviewed a moment of history over forty years in America.  How many African-American guys in a Dashiki and a Afro....ever did a mass killing?  Answer?  None.

In fact, if I were on an airplane, and some Islamic character was a threat....the one guy I could probably count on is the African-American with the Afro....whether he had the Dashiki on or not.  It'd be a race between me and him over which one could take down the Islamic dimwit faster.  Later, we'd share a beer and compliment each other on the technique of taking down a fool.

Alicia Shepard....I realize you've got a pretty good job with NPR....but I suspect that your vast analysis has kinda sunk to the bottom of the harbor with the anchor.  If this Dashiki comparison is the best you can whip up....I'd start looking for a job with the city newspaper up in Boise.  In fact, I'd like to challenge you to find a case where a Dashiki-dressed guy in America has ever gone out and killed anybody.  Come on......you've got brilliant thoughts on this topic....surely, you can support your statement.

For NPR....a suggestion here.  Your brand-name has slipped.  Your sales job is comical.  I'd almost suggest that you guys are attempting a Monty Python-moment.  Perhaps it's time to hire some Islamic guys to run your ombudsman program and do a daily show on Islamic life in America.  I'm pretty sure your consumers would enjoy the entertainment.

Friday, 22 October 2010

A Dose of Modern Society

One of the interesting stories that wasn't going to be reported much....up until the Juan William's firing at NPR....was this $1.8 million deal from billionaire George Soros (actually his foundation, but it's still his money in the end).

The $1.8 million (expected to be a yearly donation) is supposed to cover a new "wing" of the NPR side of business.  It's a curious thing.  It's not for classical music, opera or jazz.  It's not for international news.  Instead, it's to put two NPR journalists in every state capital.

We don't know much beyond that statement.  I'm guessing NPR hasn't asked many questions, and they'd prefer not to explain how this will work or why it was necessary.  So I'll answer it for them.

There will likely be a senior journalist hired that will really be a part-time job for some local newspaper from the state capital.  He likely already covers the political side of the capital....so it won't be a big deal for him to put ten hours a week into writing or speaking on more state politics.

Then, we'll have a junior journalist...likely straight out of college in the past year and they will get a chance to study under the senior journalist.....mostly to develop connections and prepare to take the senior slot in five to ten years.  Don't worry....NPR can find a way to dump the senior guy by that point.

Together, the two will do a radio update link each evening....and maybe pass fifteen minutes of what's happening in the capital.  It'll be softball tosses in the beginning.  The two will appear as supportive to each side as possible in the first year.  By the early part of 2012....things will slide a bit as they start picking more on conservatives at the state level.  The timing of this....going with the election of 2012....if you were wondering.

A curious thing will develop by this point....where your local stations will start to note more of these reported events by the dynamic duo in the state capital.  You can imagine the channel eleven folks getting a report from Gus and Charley....then repeating it as fact....whether it was 100 percent fact or 10 percent fact.  The local guys won't be bright enough to figure this out.

Eventually, Fox will appear in the state capital as well....and have one of their guys reporting via the state stations associated with Fox.  Strangely enough, the Fox reporter at the state capital will report a very different group of topics from the NPR dynamic duo.  Locals will notice this after three or four months.  Some folks will ask how and why....but no one will be able to figure this out.

Eventually....there will be Glenn Beck-like characters in every state....discussing each evening the comings and goings of your local political folks in Little Rock or Montgomery.  You will get furious and then jump in the pick-up to drive over to the state capital (something you've likely never done in your life).  You will find two guards to the state capital entrance....facing 3,000 angry conservative guys.  Even the state agriculture commissioner will wonder what the heck happened and how 95 percent of the state residents now know him by his first name.

Months will pass while the nation descends into a massive mess where folks talk politics sixteen hours a day.  Even sports bars start to close as political chat bars open.  Topless bars notice things decreasing and add a conservative stripper and a liberal stripper.    For some reason, the liberal stripper always mentions health care as she disrobes...but ninety-eight percent of the guys never catch that mentioned topic.

Eventually, another part-time journalist program will be developed by NPR to place in each of the 3,000 counties of America....which will then report the political comings and goings at your front-door step.  After three months....you will be able to name all seven members of the city council and all nine members of the county commission.  You will know that county commissioner Bob Smith is mostly drunk while at the meetings but he's a democrat and that's acceptable behavior....as your NPR host will educate you on these matters.

At some point....some folks will finally have enough of this and put a layer of tar on some local NPR host....then run them out of town.  The same folks will journey down to the state capital and look for the two guys there....layer them up with tar....and run them out of town.

NPR will be very upset about this tar and chasing-out-of-town business.  Yes, very upset.  Then some journalists from NPR...will ask for pay raises for the trouble involved....and discover NPR isn't appreciative of their efforts at the state and local levels.

In a way, it's a brilliant move by Soros and his machine.  Within a decade....your distrust in American politics will have pumped itself up to maximum power.  You will grow to hate NPR, journalism, and anything to do with "news".

Analyst Versus Commentator

Remember Alien versus Predator?

I sat and finally watched the movie about a month ago on cable TV.  Halfway through...I was ready to turn it off....I just realized that they were just about equal in terms of evil....and it wasn't entertainment after that point.

Today, we came to find out that NPR has this concept called "Analyst" versus "Commentator."

After this got explained to me (certainly not by NPR because it would have taken an entire hour and involved some UCLA Professor named Wendy who writes books on exciting but dead poets from the 1700s of France) via a web site.

When NPR hires folks to speak on the radio...they want to make a difference on what the person can say on their own.  Juan Williams, before he was fired, was a analyst.  Apparently, if Juan had been a commentator...he could say just about anything he wanted to say. Analysts can only state facts...end of the story.

I sat and pondered over this job description deal.  A commentator can say just about anything they want.  If you work for NPR and want to chat on septic tanks and state some obvious negative things about them, it's ok if you are a commentator but as a analyst....you can only state facts.

As a commentator in Bama, if you wanted to talk on dry counties....you could say anything.  As an analyst, you can only state the number of dry counties and the statistics behind being dry.  Your length of discussion is about six minutes max.  The commentator could chat for hours on dry counties and actually make you weep over how great it is to be dry.

A commentator could chat for an hour over trailer homes and offer you a vast amount of wisdom.  An analyst?  Well....he could talk about how many trailers get sold....how many get destroyed by tornadoes....and then wrapped up his five minutes with everything but a recommendation for or against buying a trailer (only the commentator could have gone that far).

It's comical in a way that folks think this way.  Running a radio show like this?  Well....maybe if you had a team of one commentator and one analyst.....it'd make perfect sense, but no one runs a show like that.

So I'm back to Alien versus Predator....pure evil versus pure evil.  NPR's division of commentators and analysts?  Once you realize the complexity of this mess....it' best to switch over to Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel.  At least in their world....a trucker is a trucker.

Selling An Agenda?

Today, the President came out and kinda admitted that he may not have taken all of the time needed or the effort required.....to explain initiatives of 2009 and 2010 to the public.  He says that he'd like to take some responsibility for that.

Basically, he says that if he had done a better job talking about these things.....then you'd feel better today and vote for Democrats in November.

I sat and paused over this....pondering.  There are three observations.

First, in 1975, American Motors came out with the Pacer.  From day one....it was viewed as a loser.  It didn't sell well.  The market that it did thrive on?  Extra large folks came to view it as the most perfect vehicle ever made....because it had lots of space.  Beyond that...it just didn't sell.  The public didn't buy off on the marketing ever.  There's this point where you have a lousy product, and it doesn't matter about speeches or ad's.....because people perceive things in a different fashion.

Second, as we watched stimulus come and go, then the saving of GM and Chrysler, then the saving of the banks, then came the cash-for-clunker episode, and then came the immigration chat of 2010.  None of them came off as a decent sales job.  They were all crafted in a way that most people questioned in some fashion.  Would better cooperation between congress and the White House have fixed these issues?  Maybe....but for almost every single problem to be seen as difficult to grasp or support...one might think that the agenda was screwed up from the start.

Third and final....what happens when people just refuse your message and your agenda?  This is a odd question for the administration to grasp now at the end of year two.  Luck isn't the answer....nor speeches....nor effective Presidential effort.  At some point, you have to modify the agenda and go for something different.

I suspect 2011 will be a very ineffective year for any accomplishments.  Maybe that's a positive thing.  But it tends to show the White House as uncooperative, as much as the House Republicans might be.  Both might end up doing a 'no-sale' to the public.  Right now....hostilities are running negative and I might not want to be shown as uncooperative.

Just some simple observations.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Juan Williams and NPR

I watch around two hours of the O'Reilly show each week.  I admit, half of it is mostly entertainment...and little to do with real news.  He does bring on opposing views and I tended to like this part more than anything else.  Course, one of those folks....was Juan Williams....a sort of liberal colunist from NPR.  Well...up until today, he worked for NPR.

Juan was asked on O'Reilly's show about his perception of Muslim folks.....and he gave his own personal view.  By the standards of NPR.....you can't answer a question like this unless you just say you "love Muslims."  The NPR management decided Juan's answer was too polar....and dumped him.

Now, I have to be honest here.  NPR is desperate about their finanical situation and they really need to dump about half of their $200k a year managers and journalists.  I realize you are kinda shocked over this topic....that they'd have all of these big-name guys as managers and journalists....working for the US government.  But they came to realize that they were extended on costs about a year ago.  Bluntly.....they've got major problems and need a turn-over....to help fix the budget.

Juan's comment probably helped the budget guys.  For you folks thinking you could step in and take Juan's job, and take home Juan's pay?  Well....I'd figure on a thirty percent cut on the next guy in that position.

As for Juan?  I actually think that CNN will pick him up and prepare him to be on the 8PM slot within four months.  This new CNN news show is not showing numbers and I suspect Juan might be given a chance.  Course, Juan might be offered a job with Fox News.....and shock the public by accepting it.

As for NPR?  They might find a few more complaints about Juan's termination.  I suspect in January that the Republicans might finally demand some face-to-face meetings.  The trouble is that you can't really cut NPR....it's such a foundation and you'd need the President's cooperation, which you won't get.

So I had this idea.  We force US military bases to close and units to move.  We've forced the FBI to relocate operations.  We've forced various elements of the government to move over the past twenty years.  So why not dictate that NPR and it's entire operation (out of Washington DC)....move....to a cheaper and lower-cost-of-living area?

I was thinking....Nashville.  In the center of the country.  Plenty of open room.  I'd actually be nice and give them double the amount of office and studio space that they have currently.  I'd pay for each employee to move (he'd have to sign on for three years in Nashville as part of the deal).  In exchange....every employee would take a twenty percent pay-cut.

I suspect that most everyone with NPR would refuse to move.  So we'd start this new marvelous NPR unit in Nashville, with brand new people.  A new attitude.  A new view on life.  And you know....I think we'd all start to listen to NPR more....and appreciate their new prospect on life.  Yes, a change would help those NPR folks greatly.  We should help them along. I'm sure Juan would agree....they need a change.

Civics 101 Failure

Separation of church and state.

It's a simple phrase, that we've heard a thousand times. If you go out and ask most folks, they will say it's in the Constitution. This topic came up during the senator debate up in Delaware this week. Ms O'Donnell came to say it wasn't part of the Constitution...which jerked the chain of all the law students in the audience. The media had a good laugh...for maybe thirty minutes. Then something unusual happened. Folks pulled out the Constitution. It''s not there.

Yes, a shocker, isn't it?



So lets go back to civics 101 and read the Constitution one more time. There's one phrase only concerning churches throughout the entire Constitution. The state will not establish laws over churches. That's it....simple and pure. That's all that the Constitution says. Nothing else. There's no mention of them being separate because you can't even make a law saying they are separate.

The separation of church and state? It's a Supreme Court phrase dreamed up in the 1950s. The court could make a quote but it's not a law....so the boys are safe on that.

The law students at this debate? Well...it's best to say that they should have demanded better professors but I'm sure this is a less-than-honored law school and if you can just get into a practice where you can sue McDonalds for extra hot coffee or help some guy jerk his tatto artist around for a misspelled word on his butt....then you've got a great piece of paper to certify your skills.

As for the journalists of CNN or MSNBC? Do you guys have a copy of the Constitution around? Would you like to borrow my copy? My advice is for you guys to stick with global warming, wet t-shirt contests, and pumpkin-carving fests in Macon, Georgia.

We've got a problem in America where idiots think they know the Constitution, and then they want to change it. The problem is that they don't even know what it really says, and they just chat on the topic like Burmese wild-monkeys.

Oh, and if you want to continue the game....you can quote from the Soviet Constitution where they did actually write that "church and state will remain separate". It's best not to quote the Soviet Constitution.....because they used to change it every single year, so you had to continually get a new copy to stay updated on the latest grasp of Soviet law. Also, you might notice that no one says Soviet anymore, and you might to ask why. That's in my civics lesson 102.

The Car Story

It's nifty living in the DC region.  You start to grasp things that are a bit different from Bama or a normal state area.

For those of you who didn't know....this area (Capital Virginia, DC, and Capital Maryland)....have state governments which are fairly broke.  For years, they operated with fancy budgets, built fantastic empires, and paid nice bonuses each and every year.  Last year, the dam broke...and these local government offices are plain broke.

So a new chapter was written....tax officials in this region are now taking extraordinary measures to collect millions in delinquent payments.  Lots of folks are simply broke and can't pay their property taxes, their vehicle taxes, or even their personal taxes.

I was reading the Washington Examiner this morning....they quoted that $40 million in the local area is owed just overdue real estate taxes.

The boys are now taking on new ideas to get income.  They give you a notice....then they drive up to your house.  They hook the cable up to your car, and legally grab it.  For the first couple of months....that worked and people would show up to pay something on their taxes.  But now?  The tax guys admit that folks don't care....and they won't show up to get the car back.

One of the counties in the local area will refuse to re-register your car if your taxes aren't paid up.  So in effect, you could be in a position where you can't drive to work..... and you are simply stuck with public transportation as your only way to keep working.

The longer that this current economy continues in this trend....the deeper this mess will get.  Imagine all of 2011 running at the same pace.  State tax collectors will likely find themselves eventually stuck with a bunch of 15-year old cars and no real market to sell them.  At the other end....are government services folks (library managers, traffic cops, and parks management) wondering how things will run in the long-term.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A Latino Shift?

It came with no fanfare yesterday....Fox News Latino, the web site.

Agreed....it is only a web site, at least for right now.  My guess is that Fox News will expand this by spring of next year and launch it's own newscast in Spanish.

The implications?  For decades, it's been a fact that most Latino votes are destined for the Democratic Party.  The best guess is that seven out of ten Latino votes go Democrat.  It's a strong and healthy part of the projection of the Democratic Party.  Candidates make a couple of speeches and always sponsor a couple of bills to show their interest.

My suspicion is that a dedicated Fox News channel....would lead to a shift.  By 2012?  Maybe five out of ten Latino votes would move to the Republican side.  That's not a big shift, I will admit.  But it starts to limit the effect of a guaranteed stance by one particular society in America.  In effect, it integrates them into choices and the ability to draw conclusions from true or false reporting.

I suspect 2011 will be a very interesting year.

Count Again

For about the last nine months, I've been on this Mayan 2012 calendar episode.  I had some belief in concept that bad things might actually happen by the end of 2012.

Today, this comical bit of news came out that the Mayan calendar had to be interpreted using something other than absolute fact.  Some smart guys sat down and claimed they understood the method of Mayan counting in twenties.  Don't ask why, just accept the fact that Mayans were really into twenty (my guess is that they counted their fingers and toes).

So there's this suggestion that the dreadful threat of 2012....probably isn't accurate.  In fact, there is even a suggestion that the end of the calendar....may have already occurred....thus meaning the end of the world has come and passed already.

These kind of stories usually ruin a good legend.  I already had to classify Bigfoot and Nessie as bogus.  It'd be a hard thing for me to accept another bogus legend.

Pentagon News Again

Whilst it won't be spoken much about in the news today....the Pentagon had another shooting.  The best we can say is that some guy, with a high-powered rifle, from the southside direction, fired five shots around 4:45AM this morning.  He hit a window and the side of the building.  Cops locked down the building and parking lot....but no indications of anything.  The thinking is that it came from the interstate....although we've got a dozen buildings close enough that some guy could have shot from the roof or one of the windows.

It's an odd time.  Most of the thugs from DC would already be home by 2AM.  You rarely get shootings after 2AM in DC.  And these shootings always involve a pistol or machine gun.  Conventional wisdom says that a high-powered rifle involves some nut-case or disgruntled military guy.

The curious thing is that the Pentagon cops are always proactive, so I'm suspecting a wall of some type placed up around the interstate to forbid a view.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Glass Roof Spiral

Today, out in public....it came that the Crystal Cathedral of California....one of the biggest megachurches in America and where "Hour of Power" started....filed for bankruptcy.

They owe a fair amount of money (around $43 million).

This was the 'toy' of Robert H. Schuller Sr.  'Dad' had kind of fired Junior a couple of years ago....a difference in opinion where the church should be going.  My impression was that Dad saw the church was big enough, and Junior wanted to grow the megachurch in a bigger and bolder operation.

The problem in the current economy is that megachurches require a substantial amount of captial to run weekly operations.  A family under a hostile economic umbrella....might have given $2k a year to their megachurch.  Today?  It might be $500 a year.

For the old fashioned churches?  I suspect that they have been hit to a degree, but they didn't have a piano player that they were paying $45k a year to, or a nursery-director that they were paying $55k a year to.  The small churches might have sent their minister and two deacons to a convention on $700 for the entire week.  They might have painted the whole interior of the church themselves with $80 of paint from the local hardware store.

Local churches will survive on.  Megachurches....if this economy rumbles on for another twelve months....will find few options and likely half of them will fold up by the end of 2011.

Course, if you were a true political player....you'd suggest a stimulus package where megachurches could get government welfare, and survive until the good ole days return.  But it was hard enough to convince folks to save GM and the banks.....now the megachurches?

Compare It to a 18-Year Old Car

About ten days ago.....a federal judge came out and said "don't ask, don't tell" simply wouldn't work for the military.  The Pentagon stood back and wasn't sure of their position anymore.  Finally, last week, the administration said it would fight judge's order.

This kind of confused folks.  The administration ordered the Pentagon to prepare for this moment about eight months ago that gays would be accepted.  They don't like it and have been trying to grasp how they could make it work.  The stance was appearing to shift, going for the gays.  Now?  A fight?

Imagine you bought a car eighteen years ago and knew from day one that you had problems with the car....your mechanic kinda denied issues.  Everyday, you drive the car and see these problems.  Nothing happens.  Then after eighteen years....somebody comes up and says something....then the mechanic agrees?  Something about this challenge and the judge....makes you scratch your head over this.  A federal judge now agrees of serious issues but the administration wants to fight on?

Here's the deal.  The President wants to walk into the 2011 period with five or six major issues that work against the Republican-controlled house, and a 49-member Republican Senate.  

The President will suggest that he can't fix this and needs the Republicans to fix it.  They will insist that it's not in their top twenty issues.  Then the Republicans will insist that the President or the Court can fix this.  So on through 2011 and 2012....we will watch this game unfold. 

By the end of 2011....I would speculate that the gays will start to ask stupid questions.  Doesn't the President have executive powers?  Doesn't the President agree on their problem with DADT?  But he'll keep coming back to an argument where he can use the gay supporters to his agenda.  

Disbelief?  Comical?  Hostility?  The real amusing part to this discussion is that the Log Cabin Republicans (the gay side of the party) are the ones who brought the case up with the right Federal judge.  This probably upsets alot of groups who were in the supporting wings of the administration....and having to explain to college kids why the President has to fight court rulings.   At some point, the college kids will ask what executive orders mean, and the comedy will go to the next level.  

Monday, 18 October 2010

A Hole Lot of Holes

Sometimes, in the middle of a political race....political figures will say some pretty stupid things.

Over the weekend....Senator Harry Reid spoke up and tried to compare President Obama to a trapped Chilean miner.

I sat and pondered over a comparison like this.  You could compare the President to a NASCAR driver, a NCAA football coach with two losses in a row, or perhaps even a thirsty sailor on liberty with $64k in his pocket but stranded in a dry Bama county.

This comparison was explained that George W. Bush had dug such a huge hole, that when President Obama finally showed up....he was himself  in a "hole so deep that he couldn't see the outside world".  Naturally, Harry did added that "It was like the Chilean miners, but he, being the man he is, rolled up his sleeves and said 'I am going to get us out of this hole.'"

From what I remember last week, the miners couldn't do a thing, and actually needed some folks who were outside the hole to figure out how to remove them from the hole.  But I'm guessing that Harry didn't catch that part of the news.

Course, if you wanted to use this hole analogy, then you'd have to wonder how stimulus fits into the hole.  I pondered upon this, and felt that stimulus was like whiskey poured into the hole for everyone in the hole to drink while sitting in the hole....and didn't have much of anything to do with getting folks out of the hole.

Then I started thinking about absorbing two car companies while in the hole and then developing a strategy where the GM and Chrysler would be in the hole with all of us.  Ford would have course, been up on the top looking down, and asking if we needed any advice on how to run things....but it's best not to get into details about that.

Then I wondered about saving banks while in the hole.  Basically, you'd be handing them a shovel while sitting in the hole and asking if they feel like digging out of the hole.  Bankers don't tend to know much about digging so everyone would just stand there and gaze upon the landscape of the hole.

I'm kinda hoping that Harry doesn't make comparisons like this in the future.  If Harry doesn't win in November....he'd have to go back to Nevada and just work on new hole strategies and comparisons.  It might be interesting to ask him questions next summer after he'd had enough time to analyze a bunch of holes.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Ten Things I Need to Get Straight

1.  Folk get charged up when Michelle Obama speaks?  And that gets them to come out in numbers to vote?

2.  The entire CNN crew who run night operations from six to ten, hasn't had positive numbers for eighteen months.  The changes?  Some new news show with the former governor of New York who quit because of hooker issues?  And this is supposed to do what?

3.  Fox came out in the new season with a show called Lone Star where the chief character is married to two different women and runs around living two completely different lives?  And we were expected to take this serious (it lasted two episodes)?

4.  With the exception of Senator Russ Feingold....there's not a single Senator or Representative who is putting out a positive spin or even speaking on the accomplished health care bill.  Russ is currently running behind his Republican rival.  And the President has to run in 2012....with this as his number one accomplishment?

5.  MSNBC spends an average of thirty minutes per day, between 6PM and 10PM....chatting on ex-Alaska governor Sarah Palin.  Here you've got a person who isn't a candidate or running for any office....and they measure up for thirty minutes of time via MSNBC's four hour evening discussion?

6.  California is very likely going to vote marijuana as legal in the November election...and the federal government promises that it won't stand by that vote?  The attorney general has to even promise that he will enforce the law in this case but can't list the other forty odd circumstances of law that he won't enforce in public?

7.  WikiLeaks and these listed secret documents from the Iraqi War to be exposed....will change everything?  Really?  When?   How?

8.  Lindsay Lohan is still considered a contender for movies?

9.  Shovel-ready jobs mean.....ready to start?  Really?  I remember that catch phrase, but for some reason, it just seemed odd to me then.....and now as well.

10.  So Jackass-3D is drawing massive crowds this weekend?  And folks are coming out to the movies to watch some idiots do stuff that would break bones?  And this is entertainment?

The Whore Factor

Typically, if you use the word "whore" in Bama....it's typically in the backyard or in the garage with a couple of guys around....discussing some woman's behavior which you might appreciate but you won't admit it in public.  Some ladies might use it but it's got to be a tight circle because you don't want to slang the word whore around much.

This week, in California....whore got tossed around a bit because of this governor's race with Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown.  Jerry has an associate, who'd he prefer not to identify who can be heard in a phone call identifying Meg as a "whore".  It was a political operative getting this call.....and probably laughing as he taped the whole thing.  Course, it's not Jerry saying it (Jerry would only utter this in the backyard or in the garage....like most of us Bama guys).  At some debate, Jerry was finally pushed into the corner and had to apologize for this this utterance of "whore"...by someone else....to make Meg happy.

The media stood there....trying to figure out how many times in a 40-line article that they could toss the word "whore" around.  Typically....after three times, you've milked this cow clean, but some guys were pretty good at this....getting official comments from political folks who felt this way or that way about "whores".  Then they could always use the Webster's definition of "whore" and get another line onto the article.

By the end of the week, I was wondering if this was over, but then the head of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) came out, saying that yes, Meg Whitman was a whore.  So it's a lot of whore-slanging going on currently in California.  I'm guessing someone will eventually come out and say it's hurting their feelings, then it might stop.  

I stopped and pondered over this.  Supposed they had used the "B-word" or spoken of Meg as a "nut"?  Would that be any better?  If any of this had happened in Bama....a bunch of Baptist ministers would have spoken up and done their best to bring the conversation back into a civil matter quickly.  You can't have "whore" thrown around on Channel Nine, or at some high school football game, or in Sunday school class.

And Meg?  Well....I'm thinking she's been called "whore" a hundred times in her life, and this might not be the last time.

The Dead Campaign Vote

Sadly, we've come down to the point where dead people help in campaigns now. Yes, we have dead people voting in elections. Yes, we have dead people collecting social security. But now, a new episode in American history....with dead ex-Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska...giving the dead "wink" over onto the Lisa Murkowski who is now running as a write-in vote in Alaska.

Will Alaskans jump onto the dead bandwagon? It's hard to say. Ted Stevens is like Elvis Presley...or at least up until he got charges put on him before the last election. I suspect that 3,000 voters were sitting there and waiting for a "sign", and this is it....and Lisa gained those 3,000 "vote-for-dead-Teds-support". And secretly, I suspect that at least 300 dead Alaskan voters will come to help Lisa's situation. So maybe this all counts for something.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The View

One of the odd episodes from this past week...was Fox New's Bill O'Reilly who visited The View.

Up until the snow period this year....I had only watched ten minutes of The View in my life.  During the days home from work because of snow....I probably watched 45 minutes over a one-week period.  Frankly, I'm amazed that anyone takes the show serious.  Most of the conversation is what you'd expected out of doped-up or drunk women.

This episode with O'Reilly?  They got around to asking Bill about the Muslim Mosque in New York City and the issues over it.  They asked Bill for his opinion.  Bill gave it.  At some point, two of the ladies jump up and claim they just can't listen to Bill no more.....and they leave.  They won't come back until Bill apologizes.

I watched the clip twice, and have to admit this.  I agree with the women.  The minute you can't agree with a man....the first thing you need to do is jump up and leave the room.  The guy will usually sit there and explain his opinion two or three times to whoever stayed around....then he'll grin as he says some apology, which you know is bogus.   The ladies will come back out.... grinning....and thinking they bested the guy on national TV. It is sort of comical, if you think about it.

The thing I like about the ladies defending Muslims in general....is that when you bring up the Catholic religion topic....the same ladies would dump heavily on the Vatican or Catholic priests because of a couple of bad priests.  The same logic that works now for Muslim guys.....ought to work for the Catholics, but it doesn't with these ladies.

As for O'Reilly?  He has to be sitting there and wondering if he can get another invite back.  He'll probably ask them how they feel about the NCAA bowl situation....get their response, and then march out of the room all hostile...grinning as he does it.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Only in America

The Palm Beach Post reports an interesting episode today.

Apparently, some gal, wearing only an open robe (you can sit and imagine this for a moment)....drove up to the gates of Lion County Safari, and then drove through without stopping.  Naturally, you can guess they've got a few lions in the park.

According to her....after they got the vehicle stopped.....she spoke out about terrorists coming to kill the animals.

The guy in charge of the lions....stated that the woman did seem to be unstable, then added:  "She was wearing a robe that wasn't even closed."

The park guys somehow got her cornered and then got her back out to the main gate...hoping the cops would come....but they got there too late.  She took off.

I sat and paused over this story.  To be kinda honest, I've wanted to work at a Safari park my entire life.  I always thought it'd be the place to hang out and just look sharp in a Jungle-Jim safari hat.  But this episode makes me desire the job even more.  Imagine....standing there....and some gal in a open robe drives up.  Yep, you don't have things like that happen at the Pentagon or in Bama like that.

Tonight....somewhere in Florida....there's some gal all worried (probably out of meds too) over terrorists coming to the local safari park.  I'm guessing one of her kids probably told her some story....which got her all confused, and then set off this strange event.  It could only happen in America.

No More Polarizing

Up until moving to DC....I used to spend two to three hours  a week listening to NPR.  They have a couple of shows that were worth listening.

Negatives?  Yeah, there are a couple of issues that always bothered me.  Science Friday used to average one show a month on global warming, which I got to a point of disbelief, and later became amused at the number of ways they answered a question without a scientific answer.  Then came the political news shows where they advocated some group of a unusual nature....with questions that always made the group look really good, but then you could always guess which group would get the tough questions.

This week....an e-mail came out to NPR employees here in DC....with implications over the Jon Stewart comedy rally coming up shortly.  I was kinda amused by NPR HR's warnings to the staff:

- NPR journalists may not run for office, endorse candidates or otherwise engage in politics. Since contributions to candidates are part of the public record, NPR journalists may not contribute to political campaigns, as doing so would call into question a journalist's impartiality.

- NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies.

- You must not advocate for political or other polarizing issues online. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form (including your Facebook page or a personal blog) to express personal views on a political or other controversial issue that you could not write for the air or post on NPR.org.

- NPR journalists may not serve on government boards or commissions.

The one that caught my eye...."polarizing issues" might destroy any creative sense left in the NPR staff.  I suspect that HR and the journalists are discussing this at length....and maybe NPR is giving the hint of downsizing, and this "polarizing" might be a good way to anchor folks back into the 1970s mentality that they started out with.

The fact that HR is warning them over their online chat groups....indicates that management has gotten tired of explaining to congress why certain employees can say a bunch of stupid stuff....and thus get away with it.  In January, it's likely now that the Republicans will control the House, and will have a strong hand in the Senate.....and in this time of budget cuts which will come....NPR might be a place to carve off five percent of the budget and let some of the more expensive journalists go.

Just a humble observation.