Thursday, 29 April 2010

Death by PowerPoint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Goldman Sachs Intro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the Defense of My State, But Advice Too


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Threat from Ambien


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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