Monday, 28 February 2011

A Ponzi Government?

Not that it really matters....but Bernie Madoff (the guy who lost billions for his investors, intentionally)....made a comment which got out in today's news: "The whole government is a Ponzi scheme."

He didn't have to elaborate or go into detail because most folks would probably agree with his analysis.  And it probably didn't help the union folks or Democrats in Wisconsin making a statement like that.  The neat thing about Ponzi schemes....after the mess falls apart....is that everyone unaffected stands around grinning and talking about how they weren't part of the Ponzi scheme.  If a government....city, county, state, or national....fell apart because of this.....the amount of grinning might be alot less than anticipated...because we were all part of the deal.

Observations

I've sat and read through the Wisconsin updates for the weekend....with little actually going on.  Supposedly by tomorrow....the cops are supposed to escort everyone out of the capital building and a cleaning crew is supposed to arrive to clean up an enormous mess (anticipated, but no one can say for sure).

The one interesting idea that I came across in one forum.....to open up the flood gate and let everyone and anyone form unions. Then you start to negotiate with unions in competition.  An example would be the current teacher's union in one county waking up to realize that another union has stepped in and offering labor at a cheaper price.  Where these teachers would come from....one can only guess.  But the idea is thought-provoking.

You might have two unions bidding on a police contract in one city for 150 cops.  Of course, the cheaper bidder has to be written into state rules where you have no choice....you pick the cheaper guy.

I kinda like this idea but then you are opening up the floodgate and allowing a herd of elephants walk through your front yard.  You might fix your problem or you might double it.

Another guy had this idea of having only one union for the entire state....no cop unions, no teacher unions, no clerk unions.  It would force alot of cooperation between different groups.  I didn't really favor this idea too much because it'd be hard to get teachers to sit down and work out issues with cops or firemen.

The good thing?  The news folks have more to talk about....during what would be a typically dry period.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Charging up to 2012?

Typically, the year after a minor nation-wide vote and before the nation-wide Presidential vote....is a pretty low and boring year.  We weren't supposed to be locked into mortal political combat until October when folks started to show up in South Carolina and Iowa....to start a movement on the primary season coming up shortly.

There is currently a mess going on in Wisconsin...with fourteen Democratic state senators sitting out in Illinois and the union standing there in Madison with a fierce hour-by-hour opera going on....is simply charging up the voting public.  Toss in the fact that a recall effort is apparently going forward on a couple members of the fourteen.  And I'm guessing that the pro-union folks will do a recall effort on Governor Scott Walker.

Helpful for the normal citizen who complains about taxes and is tired of political 'battles'?  No.

The recall rules in Wisconsin are fairly tough and it's hard to imagine one of the fourteen being recalled....let alone five or six.  As for the governor....if they went into an election....with millions spent by outsiders....unions might be shocked in the end to see Governor Walker win, and an enormous amount of union money spent on a lost cause.  And this only adds debate to wasted funds a year before the Presidential election.

The small-town guy who might waste four hours a week watching charged-up news coverage....probably doesn't care for this debate except for fact that he doesn't want increased taxes.  If the union members can survive with no increased costs....everyone would just let the mess keep going at the same level it is today.  I kinda doubt thats possible though.

It's almost like watching a couple of die-hard wrestling guys go at each other on TV.....and build up some big fight over at the state capital arena....which you can attend.....for $79.  You run down....get all pumped up watching Cowboy Steve whoop up on Texas Karl....while some guy in a fancy cape runs around the audience pretending to the manager of Texas Karl and he's acting all crazy.  As the match ends...you stop off....have four beers at Toby's Grab-and-Go....and chat with everyone for a week or so about how realistic everything looked.  Then you finally come down off this 'high' and admit it was mostly all fake.

I think by the summer of 2012....most folks will consider the Presidential election to be mostly all fake, and start pointing out the various guys running around in fancy capes and pretending to be something they just aren't.  

Saturday, 26 February 2011

From Where I Grew Up

They held a meeting this week at the school where I grew up and spent nine of my twelve years.  Basically, they've (the county board) has come to admit that declining numbers are driving the board to consider making this a elementary school only....dropping the seventh through ninth grade.

I read through the local article.  They have 172 kids in the school....seventy less than in 2002.  The board can't keep the high school open in this case and wants the locals to ship the kids off to one of two other schools in the region.

It's the same case that folks are talking about in various parts of the US....the money isn't there and you need to do thing smarter to make this all function.

The curious about this small town school is that it's existed since the early 1920s.  The main building is traditional brick and was a major part of this town's existence.

I have positives and negatives about attending this school.  It was a small atmosphere....barely twenty-four kids in my class.  From the first grade to the ninth grade....there's only four or five kids that appeared or disappeared from the class.  The teachers?  Half were lousy....half were brilliant.  The lunchroom used to serve a stew once a week which was five-star and I could have easily done seconds and thirds.  The heating was geared to the 1940s....it either was maxed out at 100 degrees in the class or it was sixty degrees and barely functioning.

One could bring up the small town Christian community and how the school fitted around that standard.  You didn't have crime or much in the way of weird stuff.

My guess is that the school will change into an elementary school....and within four years...shut down completely.  The board will put the school up eventually for auction after that.   What stood for ninety-plus years....will likely come to an eventual end.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Just Some Observations

Just some observations of looking around from the porch this morning.

Charlie Sheen?  With his show now finished and his antics widely displayed....I'd say that he's unemployable.  No one is going to touch him with a ten-foot pole.  His bank account?  It'll be depleted within twelve months.  Wild way to end a career.

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks guy?  Well...by court order, he's going back to Sweden now to face rape charges.  The humor part of this story yesterday?  His attorney got all pepped up over the way that Sweden runs rape charges.  It's a total and absolutely closed court, with just the lawyers, the accuser, the defendant, and the judge.  Julian's lawyer felt this atmosphere was totally unfair and they needed a transparent and open atmosphere....like WikiLeaks.....to give Julian his innocence.  If I were Julian....I'd start preparing for a 18-month stay in some Swedish jail.  And he might be shocked that someone else rises up to run his "toy" (WikiLeaks).

The name Gaddafi?  It's interesting to look back over the President's bold comments finally coming....against Libya, but never mentioning Gaddafi.  The word Libya was mentioned at least a dozen times in this Presidential statement.  The name Gaddafi....never once.  Maybe he forget the guy's name.  Maybe there's a rule in the White House never to mention a crazy guys name.  It's just hard to figure why the name never got mentioned.

It's a big thing in Alabama this week...Census numbers came out.   Montgomery, which is the underarm of the state...actually grew by 2.1% over the past ten years.  It now stands around 205k.  Birmingham?  It slipped down and lost 30k folks, and barely sits at 212k folks.  Does this mean that Montgomery is turning a corner and establishing itself as a nicer place?  I would kinda doubt that.

Worrying About Your Place in Life?

There's an article out today....by Mother Jones (the magazine that usually wants you to view things in a different light).

Here's the deal....there are apparently three perceptions in America over wealth.  First, there is the actual wealth distribution in America....which you can see on the first line of the chart.  Eighty percent of America has all of it's "wealth".  The chart was fairly simplified because you really can't get across vast economic points because 98 percent of America are functionally dumb about economics (especially the Harvard and Goldman Sachs guys who bought into the Madoff funding business).

The second line on the chart is what Americans "think" it is on wealth ownership, although I pondered over this for a while and wondered if fifty percent understood wealth beyond the double-wide trailer, the Ford F-150 in the yard, and the $300 Tunica Casino trip planned for April.

Then you come to the third line....where Americans think wealth ownership ought to be.  So the idea of this line...is to suggest that you need to redistribute this wealth.....in order to meet expectations of where Americans think ownership ought to be.  This was also a puzzling moment for pondering.  Americans also think political figures should be honest and legit, but that simply doesn't work.  Americans also think that wrestling is real, but that's simply not true.  And Americans also think trailer-trash is a harsh term to use but they use the word anyway.

Mother Jones would like for folks to visualize a guy's wealth as something they can manipulate and change.   If he had a good idea or just a long strand of luck....then it's not really his profit....it ought to be shared.

I'm guessing fifty thousand folks will view the chart and try to imagine this in some positive light.  The truth of the matter is...folks might want to just use this spare time worrying about other folk's wealth....and just put a little extra into their efforts...and they'd slowly crawl up and be part of the next level (more wealthy than the previous level).  In the end....folks might have a bit too much time on their hands to worry about insignificant things.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Up in Smoke

Somewhere in the midst of all the news for yesterday....the Justice Department came up in the midst of something fairly unusual.  They admitted (they actually disclosed it but who knows the difference between admit and disclose anyway).....that they want to require the tobacco industry to admit in public that smoking causes a multitude of medical problems and kills over a thousand Americans each and everyday.

I sat and pondered over this.  They stood in front of a federal judge and asked him to order companies to say these words in advertisements.

For the past twenty-odd years....I've come to notice when I did hang out with smokers.....they'd open a pack of smokes....and you could see that advertisement on the side....."smoking causes cancer".  I'd stand with the guy under the shaded area or tree.....watching him pull out a cigarette and light up.  The advertising didn't really make any difference.  You could have put a diseased liver or kidney on the side of the pack.....and he'd have still smoked.

The truth is....this whole idea of bringing "truth" to the public....doesn't sell.  It doesn't change the guy's desire to smoke at all.  This game by the Administration to push these guys in TV advertising?  It's just to put more money into the hands of TV media....and nothing much else.  It accomplishes nothing.

So I'm going to offer a billion dollar moment of advice to the administration and the anti-smoking lobby.  You want to have an effect?  Go and require all tobacco sold in America to be all-natural and chemical-free.  That's it.  Simple dried tobacco and nothing else.  No additives.  No coloring.  Nothing but natural tobacco.  People would start to go through a withdrawal process in the first twenty-four hours alone.  They'd attempt to smoke more tobacco to get the perceived chemicals....but after a week....it wouldn't matter.

That's it.  Go all-natural and you could bring this entire game to an end.  But the truth is....you really don't want that part of the game to end.  You just want money to pour into another pot, so you can use in some magical method that you'd dreamed up, and sell folks on some ideas that you have.

That's the reality of my advice.

An Update

I blogged recently about the Birmingham affair where 160-odd folks were to be sent to Anchorage, Alaska...compliments of the city council...to attend a national community meeting.

So now, an update.  The city council finally decided that the $360k was just too much....and getting too much press....so they cut back to 28 folks.  They haven't decided on the method of transportation but I kinda doubt it will be a charter airline.

As for how the 28 folks are chosen?  Well, this might be the next fight.  There are 130-odd folks now hostile and angry that they will be left off this dream trip to Alaska (every guy from Birmingham has dreamed of Alaska in the summertime, if you didn't know).   There will be hostile feelings about this to linger for months and years.  There will be the identification of you being the Alaska-traveler and how you got to the glorious Motel Six in Anchorage by promising something to somebody.

The good thing here?  Well....from the other 300 communities in Bama.....I'm guessing that they might be lucky to afford five folks total.  Thank God that Birmingham has funding laying around to support events like this.

Lets Get Psychological

This blog concerns a very controversial story that you won't hear much about today.....straight from Rolling Stone magazine (I actually haven't read a single copy since the late 1980s, which might say something if you think about it).  In this case, the story was picked up by a couple of other news sites.

Here's the facts.  The US Army in Afghanistan....ordered a team of highly trained soldiers who specialized in psychological operations.....to manipulate visiting American senators.  Yes, Rolling Stone lays out this fantastic story.  The reason for this manipulation?  The Army wanted more troops, more guns, more funding, more jeeps, more butter, more non-alcoholic beer, more California almonds, more waffles, more flags, and more desert boots (my list, not Rolling Stones).

Then, as this magnificent plan unfolded....one officer suddenly came to grasp this operation and tried to stop it....then got "railroaded" (this is a term from the 1980s....the current Army would have different terms....but the Rolling Stones crowd burned out their last real braincells back in the 1980s so this is the best you get).

The targeted crowd?  Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin.  Then you had Represenatives Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee.  Add onto this...Admiral Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I could mention that the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan and a German interior minister was on the list, but it'd just make you ask questions why you'd want to bedazzle a Czech ambassador.

I sat and pondered over this.  Typically, when a Senator or Representative is traveling in such an environment....they have a PR guy traveling with them and taking video of such visits for their future campaigns.  They are using sound-bytes during the visit for the video taken.....to show them in the best possible light.

They always meet some lowly private in a chow hall area....who really didn't want to eat dinner with a bunch of political dopes who don't care much for him or her anyway.  Plus the political dopes keep asking (while the camera rolls) if the Army isn't feeding you enough or if you have a good cot to sleep upon.  Then they always come to let you know that folks back in Iowa, Arizona or Wisconsin miss you and applaud your efforts.  The private never wants to mention that he hated Iowa or Arizona and couldn't wait to sign up and leave the damn state.

I sat there and kinda wondered if Rolling Stone realized that civilian versions of the psychological operations crew exist, and work for various media outlets....like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS, the Finance Channel, the Golf Channel, ESPN, and a host of other networks.

I kinda wondered if Rolling Stone realized that civilian versions of the psychological operations crew existed at Time, Newsweek, the Today Show, the View, New York Times, and even Hustler Magazine.

I kinda wondered if Rolling Stone realized that civilian versions of the psychological operations crew worked for virtually every single Senator and Representative in the US government....plus the White House folks as well.

I kinda wondered if Rolling Stones reporters realized that even within their own magazine...that they had the civilian versions of the psychological operations crew working for them.

Lets cut to the bottom line.  If you were going to look for real news and count Rolling Stone as one of your sources of news....be aware that most of the Rolling Stone prospective died out somewhere in the late 1980s....when Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and Bangles were hot music.  Luckily for Rolling Stone magazine, most of the dopey-headed dentists of a bygone era still subscribe to the magazine and keep it for patients to read.

Quote of the Day

"This is a scheduling issue. The president will meet with Secretary of State Clinton this afternoon. We will have something to say out of that meeting. If possible, the President will speak this afternoon or tomorrow."

- New White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking on the Presidents lack of response to the crisis in Libya.

I sat and paused over this commentary today.  Nine days without any Presidential response since this Libya mess has started.

Then it hit....there's likely a calendar for the President and he can only respond to events in the world like this except the 2nd Tuesday or the 4th Thursday in each month.  The rest of the month is spread out with other important observation dates circled (NFL comment day, medical care comment day, Egypt day, eat low fat food day, pumpkin day, Ford F-150 day, aggravation day).

It's hard to be President and continually come up with brilliant or witty comments.  I'm guessing three guys are hired on and spend most of the day watching TV (Jeopardy, X-Files, and Animal Planet)....hoping to find witty things to perk people up and give them enthusiasm over the administration.

I don't think we should knock this method.  There are three hundred events each week that occur, and you just can't expect the President to have something to say over stuff like this.  In the old days...when Taft or Hoover were around....you were lucky to get eight comments a month....so with modern technology....you need to appreciate what you get today.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A Nostradamus View of Wisconsin

I will put on my Nostradamus hat and predict the outcome of the Wisconsin mess.

First, in around two weeks....with no Democratic state senators returning....the governor will take his action of handing out dismissals to 1,500 state workers in the state.  These 1,500 folks will get upset in a hurry and ask the union what they will do to protect them.  The union will stand there and likely be pushed into the corner....they will have to strike across the board throughout Wisconsin.  It'll be a brief three-day strike....with the Governor not moving an inch.

The 1,500 folks will then ask the union what is next....and the union representatives will just stand there and scratch their heads.  Then they will ask the President to send in a former senator to negotiate this situation.  Some poor retired senator who didn't really care to work anymore....gets a call the next evening by the President and is rushed out to Wisconsin.

The Governor is kinda surprised because there's not much to negotiate.  What's done....is done.  The Senator will chat for an hour....trying to figure out what can be done and at the conclusion....realize that if he just had something to offer....but there is nothing...then he could get something out of this deal.  So he leaves and reports negative results to the President.

So finally, the President calls the union folks and suggests this radical approach.  Offer up a two-year suspension on collective bargaining in the state of Wisconsin.  A week will pass because no idiot in the union structure wants to announce this as a strategy.  So they finally offer a two-year suspension, and the governor counters by suggesting a five-year suspension.  Finally, they come to agree on a four-year suspension.  They won't dare call it a suspension of collective bargaining....there will be some invented term that a Harvard guy invents....which confuses everyone, especially the union membership and Fox News.

The Governor calls back the 1,500 workers and everyone pats themselves on the back for successfully beating down the Republicans and the Governor.  The truth be told....collective bargaining disappears as a unwelcome guest for four years and will simply reappear again....at another time....another place.

As for the twenty other states in similar circumstances?  Well....the four-year suspension deal will suddenly appeal to a bunch of folks.

As for state bankruptcy.....which hasn't been mentioned at all over the past month?  Well....somewhere in the midst of the summer months....California will finally appear in Congress and ask for some legislation that will allow a state to declare bankruptcy and then rewrite all pension fund requirements.  If you thought that this episode in Wisconsin was a big mess....just wait till summer comes.

DC, The Lincoln Navigator, and Woes

I blogged a few days ago about this political mess brewing in the locals of DC....which probably won't make it into any national news item.  I won't rehash that part....but there is fresh new bits and pieces over the city council man involved and his fancy Navigator.

Apparently, as things unfolded and this Navigator was being hauled to DC....it was against a deadline of sorts.  The city's inauguration was coming up shortly and they wanted to have the vehicle ready to go upon arrival.  There was one problem though....as two cabinet members and two city administrators got personally involved and probably were all putting in two or three hours a day in this episode...there was the issue of the tag.

The original paperwork was not on hand to process and get the vehicle a tag so it could be part of the city inauguration.  Rules are rules....you need the original paperwork at the city tag office.

Well...someone decided that this was a circumstance of which a copy would be sufficient.  You could ask the tag folks how many times in a one year period they'd do this without the original...and they'd admit it just doesn't happen.  You could go to most tag offices throughout the US....and nobody processes paperwork without the original vehicle registration paperwork in front of them.

So far, no one can cite where this exception to policy exists.....at least on camera.

The Navigator?  Well....as of yesterday....the city councilman who triggered all of this has now given the vehicle up.  He thinks that it's become a magnet for attention.  The problem now?  The lease can't be dumped for at least seven months, and I suspect that there is a fair amount of money to be put down....to cancel out of this.  What will the city council chief drive in the meantime?  No one knows.  He'll probably keep quiet on this business for a while.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Truth About Teaching

There are two things I learned today about teachers and education.

First, out of Sacramento....at Rosemont High School....they made it a priority to offer up a Japanese language class.  In fact, it's an advanced Japanese class.  It's a curious thing....they can't find a teacher who can really teach it....so they found a long-term substitute, who doesn't know any Japanese at all.

Course, you'd sit there and ponder on this a while....a full-up class.  Kids intent on learning Japanese.  And no one in the room....even the teacher....speaks the language.  Yes, it only makes sense in California.

So this is how it works....they watch movies in Japanese and take notes.  This is the comment from a kid in the class who is taking Japanese III.   The sub has a background in Asian studies....so they can cover culture and history, after they finish up the Japanese movies.

I thought about this for a while, and then it occurred to me that if you were to select any decent movies to learn a language....then Godzilla would be the best choice.  Course, you'd need subtitles.  After each Godzilla movie....then you'd need to discuss everything you saw and how Godzilla was good and bad at the same time....eventually saving Japan a hundred times and never asking for much in return.

The problem here is that some kids might take exception to Godzilla....and their parents might complain that he's not caring enough or compassionate enough to offer the bad monsters a chance.

Course, you can imagine this punk kid....sitting through three years of a Japanese language class like this, and then running off to Florida State where they have the real Japanese language classes, and discovering that the movie wasn't the best way of learning a foreign language.

Then I came to the second story which is a bit comical.  Out of Wisconsin....someone finally woke up and realized that only 32 percent of 8th grade kids in the state...can read proficiently.  The rest of them?  Well....it's less than proficient.

So you sit there and start pondering about this.  Over sixty percent of the kids in the eighth grade in Wisconsin....can't read what's really expected of them.

The curious thing is that they spend over $10.3k a year on each kid.  So you'd expect results for money like this.  That's almost enough to buy half of a brand-new pick-up.

Yes, there's some problems with the American public sector school system....but it's best not to bring this up because....then what?  Fixing it?  You'd just have to toss more money at the problem.  So you are best not to admit anything and hope that Johnny can read 3rd grade level English by the time he graduates, and maybe he takes advance Japanese languages....to watch all the Godzilla movies....which helps him later in life at the city roads department.

By The Numbers

There's an interesting science report out today....affecting folks from Bama. It's from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Apparently, Bama is fairly bad off....having one of the highest concentrations of couch potatoes in America. I spent a while reviewing the data....and then I got around to pondering.

It's interesting report....because they went down into the county level and started to show where potato-ism is serious and where it isn't.

It's a curious thing....I grew up in Lauderdale county which if you gaze at the map....it's the county in the upper left-hand corner.  And basically....the data says that folks there....just aren't couch potatoes.  They were actually a lot better off than regular folks from the rest of the state.

Of course, this is a curious thing....why are things different in Lauderdale?  I looked at the map and then kinda noticed that most of the tan-colored areas.....are "dry"....which means they are in the middle of God's country.  Or at least the local deacons would stand up to say this.

Having lived around Lauderdale for the first eighteen years of my life....it's also obvious that folks tend to do things the hard way.  If you had a septic tank issue and had any backhoe equipment available....you'd send it away immediately and want to do everything manually (digging inch by inch with your cousin Karl). If you had hay to haul....you'd want to do mostly by hand....just to get that true feeling of hard labor.  If you had a choice of cutting down a tree with a chainsaw or ax....you'd flip a coin over the choice.

Then there's the fix-it-yourself issue in Lauderdale.  When you had the truck axle all broke....you'd avoid the dealer and the local garage guy....and order the part yourself.  You'd spend all of Saturday and Sunday doing the repair....just to proudly say that you avoided paying the garage any money.  The same is true with tractor repairs, dishwasher repairs, and lawnmower repairs.

The curious thing is that a couple of guys from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention probably didn't spend more than four hours in the county....collecting their data and then moving on.  So the folks in Lauderdale earned their rating...mostly by luck.

From My Homestate

As most of you may remember from last week's blogging...I chatted for a brief time on the Birmingham 'dream-trip' to a community conference up in Anchorage, Alaska.  The present cost...if this were to happen was around $360k.  If you remember the details....it's totally funded by the city, and when it all came to light....a number of newspapers asked how a almost-bankrupt town could afford this.

Well....now an update.  Last night the Mayor of Birmingham stood up and suggested three steps to save on this trip....thus letting everyone still go.  The idea of lessening the 180-odd folks has yet to be grasped.

The ideas?  First, he suggested that delegates ought to stay two to a room.  Second, he wanted the trip to start a day later....thus cutting out one entire night at the hotel.  And finally, he wanted to find another charter flight or use commercial tickets that were cheaper (if this were still possible).

The problem I see here....is that you have to find folks who are willing to share a room and can hook up with another member.  This invites some guys to call up a gal on this group and ask her if the two of them could share a room for the sake of saving Birmingham money.  You can see where this would go.....weeks after the trip....a bunch of rumors about Joe and Martha, or Larry and Suzanne, or Monica and Marty.

The commercial tickets idea?  I'm guessing it's a bit too late and the other folks who want to attend this conference have taken up most tickets.  The private charter may be the only way besides Greyhound Bus of getting there in time and leaving on time.  Anchorage is a bit far....you know.

Toward the end of this city council meeting....the local media folks asked the mayor about the stupidity of of this expensive trip (boondoggle was actually used)....and the mayor wanted everyone to know that the neighborhood associations had this right....unknown to most folks.....to spend the money they've been allocated.  The mayor then admitted that he just didn't have the power to override their votes.  He didn't explain what mythical or imaginary votes that they had....which might have been interesting to know where these votes came from.

Again, if you are from Birmingham.....I can understand why you don't acknowledge this publicly much.  I do feel sorry for you folks.  However, if you are looking for a roommate for the hotel deal....I'd suggest to find someone who carries a significant miniature liquor collection with themselves....as this will be important in Anchorage.  

Mobile Representation

I sat yesterday and listened to one of the absent Democratic state senators from Wisconsin.  He wanted everyone to know that he's at work each and everyday....via electronic means.....even though he's out of state and not in the capital statehouse in Madison.

I sat and had a fair laugh....then pondered over this reality....representing folks via electronic means.

If I were to take this serious, then I could envision people getting elected into a position and actually working out of a condo in Hawaii, or a hotel in New Orleans....while representing their state.  You'd cam into a session....hit a button to speak....and then cut loose with really negative comments  on your opposition, while sipping a Pabst and watching a episode of Judge Judy in the background of the hotel room.  Something doesn't make me feel good about that kind of representation.

Wisconsin is a representative democracy....meaning that people representing voters run the state's affairs.  This isn't a place where everything is put a ballot and voted by the residents of the state.  Most folks view representative democracy as meaning real, live and participating efforts....within the boundary of a statehouse.  So it's hard to visualize this as being representative.  Toss in the fact that folks are sitting a state away....and it just gets more difficult.

Toss in the fact that you might step out of your hotel room, and Randy (your 12-year-old son) might step in and suddenly start representing folks at the legislature....without anyone figuring this out.

How would you pay taxes?  If you are sitting up at a hotel a state away for two months.....representing folks....shouldn't you be getting paid, and that new state ought to be getting a portion of your check for their taxes?

This Wisconsin state senator doing the interview to explain this....wanted everyone to know that he had the latest technology at work.  Does that include virus type software?  No chance that your communications are being intercepted by some Chinese government guy named Hung?  No chance that a kid in Iceland is reading everything you are typing to your voters in the state as you type it?

I'm just not buying into this mobile representation thing.  A real statehouse is like a Greek opera in progress.  There are people falling over themselves.  Stupidity is tossed out on a minute-by-minute basis.  Negotiation is taking place in the hallways as folks sip coffee and toss down a cinnamon roll.  Anger is obvious....but smiling takes place to reassure folks.  You can't convey or discuss things via electronic means and achieve the same results.

I'm pretty sure that Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would be rolling on the ground right now.... laughing...if they were around.  I would imagine that this is a circumstance that they probably wouldn't condone.  But this is the reality of 2011....folks sitting in a Best Western a state away, hooked to the internet, representing their voters, and likely sitting there in their underwear with a Packers T-shirt on.  

Monday, 21 February 2011

My Business Idea

Finally today, I came up with a business idea that can't miss.  I watched the video-clips this weekend of the bused-in folks to Madison, Wisconsin....and came to realize that over the past two years....between the Tea-Party folks and these Union guys....private bus companies have to be making a bizillion dollars (more than a trillion for you folks from Red Bay).

So my idea is simple.  Buy four or five Greyhound buses (classic and upgraded)....and have two companies staged (Union Busing and Big Tea).  The signs on the side of the buses would be removable so when the folks wanted to see pro-union buses....I could cooperate and make things happen.  If folks wanted see pro Tea-Party buses....I'd just flip the bus signs around.

Naturally, I'd hire only Latino drivers who spoke mostly only Spanish and a little bit of English so that there'd be no discussion with Juan and the passengers over politics or public sentiment.  

I'd have plenty of beer on pro-union buses, and plenty of ice tea and soft drinks on the Tea Party buses.  I'd even throw in fresh pizza on the way back from the rally so everyone would be full and sleeping mostly (naturally....an added cost on the bill).

I'd have special music to make the union folks happy and patriotic music for the Tea Party folks.  I might even offer up a video or two....like repeats of the Super Bowl which would make both parties very happy (except the New York folks).

I would anticipate, with the help of Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and various radio shows.....that this protest theme will continue through for another decade....which would spell profit for my two bus companies.  The only problem I see...is eventually....someone from Fox News would figure out my scheme and that I was ripping everybody (left and right).  And the truth is....yeah.....thanks to the media and a bunch of folks with nothing to do in the free time....I would take advantage of them.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Quote of the Week

“They never performed an exam–he asked me how I was feeling today and I said I’m from California and I’m not used to the cold, so he handed me a note.”

-- Christian Hartsock.

Christian was at the Madison rally yesterday in Wisconsin.  The note given to Christian?  It's good from the 16th through the 25th.  And no....there was no exam.  So if you just say you aren't used to cold weather...that's enough in Wisconsin to get off-time from work.

Some Advice

To be honest....I've been at a total of three demonstrations in my entire life....and they were kinda by accident or as an observer.

I watched the video from Madison, Wisconsin, and I've gone through the fifty odd pictures that have been posted across the internet of the demonstrations.  Then I sat and pondered upon what I saw.

Frankly, there needs to be a training camp or classroom environment set up to train folks on how to demonstrate.  If you go into a demonstration, and your message or sign is stupid.....folks take note of that and you lose points.  In the case here....the sign conveys Sarah Palin is running around and shooting dogs, which MSNBC has yet to report (they've reported her shooting bears and small varmints but not dogs).  So folks read the sign and kinda associate your participation as a joke.

Then we come to the Hitler folks.  For most of you who relentlessly keep bringing up Hitler and the Nazis.....it worked in the 1940s and 1950s....but time has passed and to be honest....it doesn't sell anymore.  If you asked a dozen kids around age fifteen....most can't even associate Hitler with Germany, and three of them might say that Hitler came from Texas originally.

Even if you thought Hitler-mania would work....you need to just Hitler's face and not some other joker from Milwaukee or Madison.

The stupid slogan business?  Well....if it sounds stupid when you say it ten times....it probably is stupid.  And folks see this on TV....talk to the neighbor, and they all have a laugh.  You didn't accomplish much of anything.

Then we come to the kids that you have out and participating in the demonstration with you.  If the kid is under fifteen....you can bet that he or she is mostly miserable and begging to leave after 60 minutes.  It may look great for the camera but most folks shake their head because Johnny barely knows the multiplication tables and you've got him jabbering away about pensions and unfairness.

Conversations with reporters?  If you do a bit of weed before coming out to the demonstration and start acting dopey....stay away from the reporters.  If they ask a funny question and you are all pepped up on some 4-star weed.....then you say some silly stuff and everyone has a laugh.  Again, your message isn't selling...it's just sinking.  Dump the weed for the day and try to act straight and coherent when the MSNBC reporter comes around to you.

Using signs with profanity?  Don't worry...MSNBC will not use your sign in any report....neither will ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN.  Oh, but don't worry....Fox News will use it and you look like some dimwit with twelve key phrases that all start with "F**k" at the beginning of each.  Your message tends to sink because the profanity wasn't necessary.

Clobbering or taking on anti-protesters?  Oh please....is that the best that you can do?  Is it necessary to show how potentially violent that you can be?  Tripping up a Tea Party guy makes you look superior?  Ripping up a anti-demonstration sign in front of cameras makes you look strong?  Your message sinks fast in a situation like this.

Finally, your friends, neighbors and boss watch episodes like this on the twenty-four a day news channels. If you look stupid....don't you think that Grandma will call you tonight and ask if you were doped up when at the parade?  If you say some extremely controversial things....don't you think the boss will remember these?  If your neighbor listens to your lightning-strike commentary and identifies you as a nut.....that ID won't go away for years.

So, if there ever was a case to have a training camp, this demonstration in Madison probably showed that to be true.  Just some humble advice from a guy who just watches and observes things....and not much of a radical on anything.

My Neighborhood

Occasionally, I will share a moment from the DC region with you.  DC is like some third-world banana republic....where anything can happen.  The topic today?  A SUV.

Elections came last year, and a new DC city council chief was elected....Kwame R. Brown.  On the rank game....the mayor out-ranks this guy but that's not important in this case.

A couple of weeks passed after the election (early November) and the incoming guy (Kwame) let the city government know that he wanted a vehicle of special signficance.  Even though the city of Washington DC is $400 million in the hole....he wanted a special vehicle for his transportation around the district.  It had to be a 2011 Lincoln Navigtor L series....extended wheelbase....fully-loaded...."black on black" in color.

The city went out and procured a Navigator of such....but then it came to be realized that it had a gray interior....so it didn't meet the "black on black" color requirement.  Naturally, the city was stupid enough to accept the first vehicle....and they can't get out of this lease.  Nothing much is said about what happened to vehicle number one....which is the odd part of this story.

So onward, the procurement folks marched....toward this very special vehicle.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the L-model....it includes a 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, power moon-roof, navigation system, a full-up DVD entertainment system in the back with eight-inch screens and a 600-watt sound system.  For ninety-nine percent of us....it's not exactly the kind of vehicle that we dream of....but this is Washington, and things are different here.

Around early December...some local leasing agent toward the procurement folks that she'd found the ONLY such vehicle available within six states (yes, things have become that critical).  The cost?  $1,769 a month....but sadly, it didn't have the rear entertainment system, and the interior was "stone" (not black on black).  The procurement guys accepted this vehicle.

Kwame?  He came to view the vehicle and said "no".  He just couldn't be seen in public with a stone-colored interior.  It had to be black-on-black.  This vehicle was signed for....so the city got stuck with a vehicle that it didn't need.

Luckily, someone went beyond six states, and found this one of a kind vehicle sitting in Kansas City.  Yes, it is a bit away, but in the business of making Kwame.....Kansas City means nothing in terms of distance.

So they talked on and on.....then someone in Mississippi found one at a dealership in Coldwater, Michigan.  My guess is that the Mississippi guy does big leases and was willing to pay the extra cost to get the one from Michigan.  The cost now?  $1,963 a month.

It was black on black....or so they told the District procurement guys, and somehow....someone would drive this vehicle over from Michigan to meet the end of December deadline date that someone had invented at the beginning of this mess.  You will note....no one asked for pictures.

So the vehicle arrives in DC around 29 December.  Funny thing.  It had a two-tone interior and it was charcoal black with tan seats.

Yep, the Mississippi dealer and the Michigan guy had rigged up this entire lease....figuring they'd force DC to accept something they didn't want....at a higher price.  The DC guys went into a panic.  They tried calling both the Michigan guy and the Mississippi guy.  Neither answered their phone for some odd reason.

The District guys finally decide to show Kwame the vehicle, and he ends up coming back and saying he's happy with this choice.

Man-hours involved?  Probably over two hundred man-hours from the District procurement office.  The guy in Mississippi?  He's smiling because he screwed up a deal and still got his money.  The District?  Happy because Kwame is happy.  The budget?  Well....over two years...they will spend around $48k for this leased vehicle.  It'll be turned back to the dealer in Mississippi and I'm guessing he's got a dozen guys lined up to buy Kwame's vehicle when it finally comes back.

Don't worry....by 2013, we will likely repeat this entire episode again as Kwame wants to replace his two year old "hood-car".  So if you see Kwame around the District....just wave....if you can see him through the shaded glass.  And for you folks wondering how the District survives with its budget issues....don't worry.  We got Kwame.

Finger-Licking Good Gone?

It's not to be something that will appear much in the US news.....but the key phrase of Kentucky Fried Chicken...."Finger-licking Good" is about to disappear overseas and might disappear here in the US.

The chief executive of KFC for the UK and Ireland is dumping the phrase.  He says it's food-centric (whatever that means), and they need to communicate the positiveness in a better fashion.

I sat there when I read this in the London Telegraph....thinking this was a bit odd.  They put the comment in the business as well....which was even more odd.

I grew up with the phrase....finger-licking good.  When you stopped at KFC....it was a four-star chicken meal and nothing less.  I'm puzzled by this monumental change.  Food-centric?  What's this supposed to mean?  KFC doesn't sell tampons, cigars, or flashlights.

I'm guessing there is some third-world group that finger-licking good probably offends.  I don't know the group and I'd rather not waste time guessing on which nationality has a problem with finger-licking.

So in the future....as you stop by KFC.....and you notice 'finger-licking good' signs are gone....you will shake your head and enjoy the chicken.  Things change in life...except for the Colonel's secret recipe.  We can only hope it doesn't change.

The Only Winners

As this mess has unfolded in Wisconsin over the past week....I've come to mostly amused.  It is a comic opera of sorts.

From Friday and Saturday....a twist occurred.....with doctors appearing in the crowd of protesters (mostly teachers) and handing out excused medical letters.  Basically, it's a form letter and says that the doctor has examined the patient and given them that work day (or the next work day)....off.

Typically, you have to show up at doctor's office and have an actual exam.....and maybe in half the cases....the doctor will sign something to suggest that you should be excused.  Flu, fever or cramping are enough to do this.

In serving twenty-two years with the Air Force.....I was able to get a grand total of two excuses (for three days total) off.  It wasn't exactly easy to get such excuses while in the military.  When I retired....we got no sick leave as a contractor.....so you didn't ever ask for such excuses (they were worthless).  Over the past year as a actual government worker....I have yet to have any excuse necessary (in some ways, I should thank God for decent health).

The problem with these dimwit doctors in Wisconsin at the rallys.....is that they were videotaped handing out the excuses.  There was no exam.  The doctors were signing one after another.  No fee was collected (I'm guessing his or her hospital will be curious about how these were paid for).

A number of folks now have these excuses and will use them in the coming week.  I suspect someone will approach the state medical board and request an investigation.  The last thing that a medical board would want to do....is get into political affairs....but they would be required to open a case.  I would speculate that they will call the doctor in and they will ask a dozen questions.

Discipline in this matter?  The board might just give a verbal warning and get off the hook.  Some folks might take the amusing step of moving to a court environment and challenging each single case where the excuses were presented.

In the end....a bunch of lawyers will be involved and charge fees to the state or to the teachers or to the doctors....to clear up the mess.  The lawyers are the only winners when something like this occurs.

Today?  Well....its a fresh day and I would speculate more fun and amusement in Wisconsin.  What we need....is a fantastic three-foot blizzard to dump enough snow to keep folks at home.  But I kinda doubt we'd be that lucky.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

4 March 2011

It's an odd date.  Up until the last month...I would have imagined that 4 March 2011 meant little to nothing to me.  Today, unless Congress and the President come to an agreement....a government shutdown will occur.  The 4th is a Friday and it'll likely close with no solution on the government budget.  I'll sit around that weekend and watch the news.  Come Monday....I'm not expected to be at work....at least officially.  The military folks I work with....will be directed to continue providing support and working.  Me?  I can't stand staying in the apartment....I learned that lesson last year during the blizzard episode when I spent nine continuous days in the apartment.  So I'll probably walk in and just keep working.

It's a odd feeling.  A company wouldn't ever allow itself to be in this situation.  The last time this occurred....it was in the mid 1990s and I remember that we were assured via our military bank on base that we'd get money in our accounts (compliments of the bank) and life would continue on.  If memory serves me on this topic....I've been through this three times....but none lasted more than three or four days.

In this case....I'm currently expecting a five-day shutdown, and something worked out by 13 March.  The difference between the 1990s and now.....twenty-four coverage via the news networks.  I could see a significant stock price drop for that week.  I could see a couple of economic experts appearing on TV and starting a huge worry across the nation that things might be worse than we think they are.

So the 4th will come, and I'll sit back to watch the show.  It's kinda like a weekly episode of Gunsmoke now with the government.  The show keeps going on, and the bad guys keep dying off.  And as long as Matt keeps appearing....things ought to work out ok.  The day that Matt isn't there, and we get stuck with Festus....we might ought to think about Costa Rica again.

Fleeing From Wisconsin

I think in some fashion...God arranges world catastrophic events....to shuffle up the news format. We sat through a long political period with news....then we got a fresh prospective of Egypt and toppling governments....and then this week....chaos in the streets of Madison, with people fleeing the state.



After a bit of pondering....I started to think that there are different ways of viewing the fleeing. First, there is the state tourism ad. FLEE Wisconsin to safe Bama. I thought this slogan would help bring more Wisconsin folks over to Bama and pump up our tourism in the state. Naturally, we'd need to make hand-outs and let folks know in Madison that they'd be safe in Bama.  Folks could stay for days, weeks and months....at Bama motels and lodges.  We'd offer up catfish, hushpuppies and NCAA football to keep them entertained.

Second....I came to this idea of fleeing.  Typically....folks flee third-world places....like Egypt, Haiti, Iraq or Nigeria.  If this concept of fleeing Wisconsin took root....then the whole state would end up with a third-world status...or in this case....a third-state status.  There would be CNN reporters swarming the state and asking folks if it was safe in Wisconsin, and some guy from Dilly, Wisconsin would stand by the barn and wonder if he'd missed anything from the Channel Four news this morning.

Third.....CNN, Fox and the other media folks don't have a huge number of "flee-experts".  So they'd have to out and find some oddball guys who've actually been in a flee situation before.  We might get a totally different prospective on life from these flee folks.

Fourth.....sometime in the next week...when you can't sleep and get up around 1AM....you will find some guy advertising the offical 'Madison-Flee Kit' for $319 (discounted down from $459).  There's be pancake mix, beef jerky, peanut butter, and a case of Pabst....to get you by for the first 72 hours of fleeing from Wisconsin.  You'll pause there for a while....thinking about this....being late of course. Then you will pick up the phone....even through you live in Iowa or Mississippi.....and buy a Madison-Flee Kit for yourself.  Call it fear....call it a prudent action.....but you will buy a kit.  The neighbor will see the UPS guy deliver it....and ask questions.  Then he'll but a kit. Pretty soon...everyone on your street will have a Madison-Flee Kit.

Fifth and final....some idiot will make a movie called "Escape from Madison" starring Nicolas Cage.    After it comes out....someone will finally ask what the heck this flee business is all about.....and a couple of politicians will stand up....grin....and admit it was just a show piece for TV.  Then and only then....will the Madison Flee Kit advertisements stop.

That's how silly our world has become.

Imported From Detroit

From the Super Bowl....we got the million-dollar ad from Chrysler and Detroit.  To be honest....it's one of the best ad's in years.  It sells Detroit as much as it sells Chrysler.

At some point in the ad, there is the phrase: We aren't New York City.....We aren't the Windy City....We aren't Sin City.....and We certainty aren't the Emerald City.

After a while of pondering......I wanted to add more onto this ad.

We aren't New York City.....We aren't the Windy City....We aren't Sin City....We certainty aren't the Emerald City....We aren't the Garden City (Savannah, Georgia).....We aren't the Golden Gate City.....We aren't the Alamo City....We aren't Eternal City (Rome)....We aren't the Iron City (Pittsburgh).....We aren't the Beer City (Milwaukee).....We aren't Copper City (Butte)....We aren't the Charm City (Baltimore)....We aren't the Rubber City (Akron, Oh)....and we certainly aren't the Magic City (Miami).

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Ripple Effect

Quietly today....it was hinted that several states are now admitting their economic situation is such....that they may not run a primary vote in 2012.  It's a hint....nothing more.  The thought will provoke a number of folks to start thinking about implications and how money should be spent in the soon-to-come primary season.

Let's imagine that six states say no primary vote is possible and then swing to a caucus system like Iowa.  You meet on a Saturday....discuss things for three hours and then in your group....you vote.  Some guy at the state level takes up a tally from each county and then announces the vote.  In this case....you might not spend as much on TV ads and concentrate on key people in the community to sell your message.

For the Democrats....this sudden change wouldn't matter much...except for the senate and house situations.  For the Republicans....it'd create a massive shift in selling your candidate to certain states.  A guy like Huck might suddenly pick up more votes and shock the media because states were too broke to run a normal primary.

When the Bad Guys are Good Guys

I rarely write on Germany these days....it has to be a significant story to tell if I blog it.

In the last week....a couple of punks in Berlin got into one of the subway stations and started an assault. Their first guy....they beat pretty bad and he's in a coma right now.  Hard to say if he makes it or not.  The second guy they were going after....came up to a stranger in the subway station.

Typically, being a stranger in a subway station doesn't mean much.  And if you were the stranger watching these punks chase after the second guy....you might have backed off in terms of helping the second guy.

But this stranger didn't back off.  He didn't need to.  You see....he was a member of the Berlin Bandidos motorcycle gang.   He didn't move an inch.  There were others around him....witnesses as the newspapers describe these guys....who just stood by and were not going to do anything.

The Bandios guy?  He apparently parted his jacket enough to show the punks that he carried a weapon, and that by itself was enough to stop the brutal situation going on.

The cops now?  Well...this Bandios guy just walked off after the situation ended.  The cops would like to speak to him but so far....they haven't found him.  I'm guessing the weapon hinted by other witnesses will be a problem for the Bandios guy to talk much about.

In recent years, these youth attacks in major cities have been almost a monthly thing.  They pick a guy at random and just lay into him.  The Bandios guy was the only guy within a mile of this assault who was prepared to take down each punk as necessary.  The German cops may not like that suggestion....but it's way that things work in Germany, sadly.  And it just shows.....a bad guy might be your best friend....when its necessary.

A Parody for Madison

Live from our correspondent....Hammad Husan, in Cairo-Madison.

Hammad Husan: Hamza, it's tough out here.  The people have spoken and are attempting to take down this Hosni-Scott Walker governor-for-life individual.  Even though he has only been governor-for-life for about forty-five days....it feels like a century here in Cairo-Madison.

Hamza, I've been out all day with the true people of life here and gotten to know them well.  We had waffles early this morning.  By nine, we had slipped away from the protest and ate sprinkled donuts at Dorthy's donut shop on 3rd street.  Later at noon, we slipped away again and had some delicious chicken over at the Hooters on East Springs Drive.  Around two in the afternoon, we were offered a six-pack each from a union representative to help with our thirst.  And we ended the day with six shots of Jacky D's.  It was a fabulous day.

Hamza, we talked all day long to various protesters who are school teachers.  Every time I introduced myself....they asked where Egypt was and I happily provided a map to show Egypt.  Each remembered something on TV in the past week but forgot that we brought down the mighty Murbarak government.

Hamza, we expected more a big fight today, but luckily, the kind folks of Illinois offered sanctuary to the Wisconsin Democratic state senators in the form of a water-park resort.  Today, they are safe and enjoying the hospitality of Illinois and flying down water-slides.

Hamza, in closing....we, the people of Egypt must stand strong with our brothers in Cairo-Madison and help bring down the dictatorship of Scott Walker.  Only by standing against democratically elected representatives....can the teachers of Wisconsin win in the end.

The Discussion over Maturity

Some smart folks did a study off in Europe.....and they found that young folks in Spain now take six more years.....to reach adulthood or maturity....compared to their associates from twenty years prior.

I sat and pondered over this.  Obviously, some pretty intelligent folks conducted this and it makes me wonder what they used as maturity measurements.  To be a gifted engineer or scientist....you have to have a yard stick.  This is the one common theme of these fancy engineering schools.  Somehow....by the end....you remember this yardstick thing and use it in every study.  So what kind of yard stick exists for maturity?

Getting a job?  Buying a new car?  Drinking properly?  Owning a lawn mower?  Wearing clothing that actually fits or gives you a real look?  Eating something besides pizza?

Then I started to ponder....this study was aimed at folks in Spain.  What is the measurement of maturity for young folks in the US?  I know folks that I work with....at age thirty....who have yet to reach maturity.  In fact, for some....I don't think they will reach what I consider maturity until they are way past forty-five.

I'm guessing this will end up in a discussion with some University of Iowa folks eventually, and they will come to realize that there is a state-by-state maturity level.  Some kid in Iowa at 20 is five years more mature than some kid in California.  And at that point...the feds will realize that we need to equalize maturity around America in some fashion.....with a federal program (soon to be called the "Bring Maturity to America" Law).  For some odd reason....the logic will be that only money can bring maturity....along with the federal government.  We will all shake our heads....and wish we lived in a third-world country where you were fully mature by age sixteen.

Cairo to Madison

I've been watching events unfold in Wisconsin over the past four days.  Quiet amazing.  Kinda like Cairo in a way....reminds you of a third-world area.  Radical Islamists.......oh.....no.....radical teacher union supporters have converged as of yesterday onto the streets of Madison.

You get the impression that CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, and ABC have moved their Cairo crews over to Madison and are trying to interview people on the streets.  In one case....I thought the national media guy was actually wearing the same Middle Eastern garb while interviewing some teacher on the street.

The whole cause?  Well....not to brag like California, but Wisconsin is fairly near bankruptcy if current trends continue.  A couple of idiots from the Republican Party got wise on employee cost and benefits that have been handed out for years and years.  It adds up.  State employees barely pay anything on their health care package (a fairly decent deal compared to most states) and they pay nothing into their pension deal.  The state governor wants to dump the state rule on unions because he just can't continue this trend.

The response from the union folks?  Keep things like they are and just tax the rich more....especially industry.  To be honest, there really isn't much industry around Wisconsin.....compared to most states.  Industry and major companies in the state are monitoring this because higher taxes on them means they have to edge up their costs and frankly, in a declining financial period like we are.....it's a bad idea to trim on profits.  You generally end up losing customers to the competition.

Adding to this mess....the teachers ended up on Wednesday coming over to the state capital.....and in a few rare cases....bringing their students with them.  I'm not if Junior ok'ed this with dad or if he just thought he might score in Madison better with the babes they have there.  The teachers thought this would teach the kids something.  Most folks are kinda laughing over this report because they were paying teachers to teach.

Then we come to yesterday's chief event.  The state senate was going to take up this topic and finally vote on taking down union standings on contracts. But Wisconsin has this funny rule.  You have to have one member of the opposition party there.....to vote on anything, or you cancel the day's business.  So they had nineteen Republicans lined up but all of the fourteen Democratic senators from the state were missing.

Folks got worried at some point.  Where would fourteen Democrats be?  By the rules...if they are in the state....they are supposed to be at work.

So folks started looking for the fourteen.  No, they weren't in Michigan.  Nope, they weren't in Canada.  Nope, they weren't in North Dakota or South Dakota.  Then finally, they turned to the Best Western Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, Ill.  Yep...it appears that the Democratic senators from Wisconsin are lounging at the Clock Tower Resort.

I looked up the Clock Tower Resort.  Pretty nifty place.  It has Illinois's largest indoor water park.  They offer daily specials as part of the room deal....so you can put on the bathing trunks and slide all afternoon long on the water slide in the park.

Now the curious thing is if you check Trip Advisor.....the majority of comments fall into the "terrible" category.  For me personally....that's a pretty big signal to avoid this place.  I looked over these....bad housekeeping, negative feelings about renovation underway while staying, and then someone wrote "hotel towels were worse than hospital towels" (that's a stinker if you ask me).

So you have to feel sorry for this group of Winconsin state senators (Democrats of course).  They really didn't do any research on this and I'm guessing one of them remembers coming there a decade ago when the resort was in better shape.  They are likely sitting there at the bar in the resort....drinking Coffee Frappe, Watermelon Juleps, and Lemon Drop Martinis.  You can imagine this crew....talking Wisconsin state politics at the bar, and the locals of Illinois are all standing nearby and wondering if there's a convention at the resort with other important state legislature dudes or gals in attendance.

The sad thing here?  The local media out of Wisconsin actually figured out where the guys were....in less than eight hours.  That says alot.....that you could escape the state, and Channel four out of Madison could still track you down eventually.

The governor is mostly upset with the fourteen folks.....mostly because legislature is in session, and lounging at the Watch Tower resort just isn't cool.

At this point, comparing things to Egypt....I'd say the best plan ahead is to let the Wisconsin state National Guard folks take control of the government for six months and to allow free and independent elections.  The state politicians would be allowed to flee the state...preferably to Illinois.  And we could all hope that the state National Guard tanks could be kept in the Madison depot.....avoiding any show at all....mostly because half are broke and would have to be dragged around by tow trucks and the rest would require Sargent Duffy at the controls but he's still recovering from the Green Bay Super Bowl victory a few weeks ago.

The end where the fat lady sings?  Well....in this case.....just as Egypt quietens down.....we get something else to keep us peppy and avoid going back to real political chatter on CNN and Fox News.  That's a positive in my book.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Just Something To Remember

It's hard to imagine....two years have passed with the $814 billion stimulus package.  At this point....shockingly enough, around $168 billion has yet to be spent.

If you ran into a bar and told forty people this....most would start asking questions.  It wouldn't matter if you were Republican, Democrat, Independent, or radical environmentalist.  Most folks have this funny idea that the entire bucket of money has already been spent.

This is kinda like Grandma baking cookies and five days later....she tells you that there are still lots of cookies left in the jar.

This week...one of the rookie Representatives in Congress came up and sent up a bill....to take down the $168 billion and just send it back into the Treasury.  The current bet is that it will pass via the House but the overwhelming number of Democrats in the Senate will ensure it stops right there....and even if they didn't....the President would take the next step to stop it.

Some people still argue over the way that the stimulus was organized.  If you'd given the money to people via tax refunds, then it would have flushed out into the public sector quicker and been spent on store goods, cars, or covering house payments.  The economy might have picked up quicker.  The strength of the stimulus ended up being leveled across three years and it probably hasn't been very well noticed after the 12th month.

So as you sit and sip on your beer tonight....pondering the dealings of government business....pause for a moment over the meaning of $168 billion laying in your hand.  Once you decided to spend it on something....even if it's two years later....you ought to continue spending it on that something.  That's government logic, and you shouldn't argue with that.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Few, The Proud, The "Tanners"

There's an interesting article today that appeared.  Sometime shortly, the IRS HR department will begin to recruit and hire Jimmy Joe (or Larry, or Donna May) .   Jimmy Joe will be excited and happy over being fully employed.  He'll eventually show up around at the office and then discover his job in life.....monitoring and handling the tax reporting of 25k tanning salons in America.

Yes, it is part of the ObamaCare medical program and supposed to bring millions into the government.  Why they get picked on and not tattoo parlors, greasy food joints, high school football stadiums....is just dumb luck.  They got picked first and the rest can simply wait for their turn.

I sat and pondered over this bureau or division.  The "tanners"....they will likely refer to themselves as.  I'm guessing morale will be a continual problem.  The chief who takes this division....might stick around for twelve months before he finds better circumstances.  The average stay for a "tanner"?  I'm guessing most move on after three years.  It's not a job where you'd brag about your work or who you took down today.

Corruption in the tanning industry?  Yeah, I'm guessing some folks will start to cheat a bit and report just half the hours or half the income that the government thinks.  Eventually, we might even see some folks who give up on paying for their hour a week....and just buy a cheapo Vietnam-made tanning bed for $199.  Then the "tanners" will start to figure this out and realize their tax game is drying up.  A smart boss in the "tanners" might just keep his mouth shut so that the 81 guys can keep working while they really only have half the 25k tanning operations still functioning.

In a way, it reminds of the revenue folks of the 1930s who got into the anti-still business of the south.  The revenue crowd made a brief name for themselves and the movies.....then kinda disappeared into the sunset.  I believe the "tanners" will do the same.  The positive here?  Eighty-one folks are about to be employed, and for that....we should be grateful for an American republic which stood by the tanning industry for several decades....and then jumped on them for another buck of tax revenue.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A Moment in Time in Cullman

There's normal speed.  There's turbo speed.  And there's dry-to-wet county speed in Bama.

Today....Cullman slipped into the world of alcohol....forever damned if you ask of the the local Baptist ministers.  A license package was taken over to the city hall in Cullman today.  The paperwork was actually finalized around 1:40PM for the local Catoma Mart (over at the intersection of Eva Road and Alabama Hwy. 157).

Precisely thirty-five minutes later....a beer distributor drove up and unloaded stock at the Catoma Mart.  There weren't any drums or bugles....or a marching band.....or deacons from the local church to urge patrons to avoid sin by drinking.  In fact, we really don't know who the first guy in Cullman was at the Catoma Mart to buy a six-pack of beer.

The sad part about this.....it might have been some out-of-towner who just stopped to top off his tank and just saw beer up on the counter and bought a six-pack....never knowing that a mere hour before, it was a dry city.

My guess is that around 5PM.....a group of guys began to show up and bought various six-packs....and then drove home to watch the local news and sip cold Budweiser.  They'd done it before but this time....it would have felt legal and ethically ok.

Somewhere in the history books....for Cullman....the Catoma Mart will be legendary.

Local Corruption and $ in the Bra

Living in the DC region....means that you have to read up on corruption almost daily.  Today...we had another update on the former Prince George's county chief executive (Maryland)....Jack Johnson.  Jack was leaving his office toward the end of last year....but the FBI came to realize that he'd taken thousands in bribes....so they rigged up a bust.

The curious part came out today....as the FBI was at the front door of the house and Jack's wife Leslie was calling up her husband to get instructions about the money they had in the house.  You can imagine the scene....FBI at the door....Leslie talking to Jack on the phone....and the FBI guy listening into a tapped line.  So this was the conversation:

Leslie Johnson: What do you want me to do with this money? They are banging (the FBI).
Jack Johnson: Put ... put ... put ...
Leslie Johnson: What do you want me to do with it?
Jack Johnson: ... put it ... put it in your panties and walk out of the house.
Leslie Johnson: No, but I mean all this cash, Jack.
Jack Johnson: Put it in your panties, Leslie.

The curious thing about this scene is that Leslie had a $100k check in her hand which she was supposed to flush down the toilet.  She had started out stuffing money in her bra....and apparently got to a point where there just wasn't going to be anymore money to put into the bra....when this call occurred.  Jack's advice was to stuff the rest into her panties.

If you were wondering about the size equation of Leslie....she's not exactly a 200-lb gal.  I'd guess that she's maybe a 120-lb gal at best.

This whole thing led me to ponder....how much money, in 20's, could you toss into your bra and panties for a gal this size?  I'm thinking at best...$30k.

I'm guessing the FBI guys listening into the conversation were mostly laughing.  It was crazy to keep that much cash around the house....just waiting for a bust like this.  When the FBI finishes....then you have to worry about the IRS folks asking questions.

The only way for Jack and Leslie to avoid a bunch of issues here....is to finger the other county council folks and lay out the method of how things work in Prince George's county.  My guess is that a bunch of folks have emptied out their house and cleansed their hard drives....waiting now for the cops to arrive at the front door.

Plane Versus Bus?

There are times that I hate admit being from Bama.  This week...another episode came up to remind of that.  The Birmingham City Council folks recently figured out another week to get themselves deeper into debt.  The story made me laugh for the most part.

When the episode finally got noted in the news....then the council folks stood back to realize how many folks were in on this act of stupidity.

The deal was....they were to spend $360k to send 168 local Birmingham folks to a national neighborhood convention in Alaska.  Curious?  It was supposed to be in Anchorage and involve the Neighborhoods USA conference.  The Birmingham City Council had dreamed up this idea to charter an entire plane and just take folks up there.

Reality sat in this week and the leadership of Birmingham finally settled back and decided that further review was necessary.  They hinted that alot less folks would be going to Alaska.  They didn't say how many.....which meant that further analysis would be necessary.

At some point in the discussion.....Councilperson Lashunda Scales stood up and reminded everyone that neighborhood leaders are unpaid and you need things like this to improve the morale and motivation of the community volunteers.

Then at another point....the chief of staff for the mayor stood up and made a brilliant comment: the higher cost of the trip was dictated by the distance.

I would imagine that the analysis of the chief of staff could be worthy of a Nobel Price for Science or such.  I sat and pondered over this.....it's 4221 miles.  I checked and thats how far it's from Birmingham to Anchorage.

My suggestion for the 160-odd folks....round up three Trailways buses with two drivers on each bus.  Give everyone a twenty-pound bag of grocery items from Piggly Wiggly....mostly ham, baloney, cheese, Baby Ruth bars, Hostess Cupcakes, pecans, and a loaf of bread each.  Toss in sixty cases of beer, Mountain Dew and buttermilk for everyone to sip.  Then you take off and stay on the road for 90 hours straight.

You have to figure in six stops for gas and flushing out the toilet onboard. Plus an hour or two at the border of Canada while everyone gets their picture taken with the Canadian customs gal (Wanda Jean).

The neat thing is that these Bama community leaders would get a chance to meet each other and up close.  They could chat about Bama, football, NASCAR, neighborhood crime, septic tanks, John Wayne movies, their family sorrows or such.  They could play poker the entire way.  They could sip free beer and buttermilk.

I'm pretty sure after 90 hours straight on the bus....they'd get off in Anchorage....make a speech or two....and be ready to jump right back on and head for Bama.  They'd likely arrive back and never bring up any community business the rest of their lives....and probably curse travel by bus like the rest of us.  Total cost for three buses to Alaska?  Well....by the time you toss in the free bag of food, the free beer, and the clean-up cost (lots of flushing necessary)....it'd be around $100k.  We'd save some money and help make folks really motivated to fix up their neighborhoods and avoid trips like this in the future.

For you folks in Birmingham....I offer my regrets.  Most towns in Bama won't be sending anyone to Anchorage but we don't really need to meet with other folks to tell us whats wrong with our town.  We kinda already know whats wrong....and it's a money problem (the lack of it).  It didn't take a trip to Anchorage to figure that part out.

DC and WalMart

Living in the DC region.....there are things to occur which make you shake your head.  There are very few WalMarts in this region.  You'd think that there'd be a dozen WalMarts within thirty miles of Arlington, and there just isn't a significant number.

Over the past year, WalMart has come up and declared a project to put four stores over in the DC region.  You'd think that folks would be excited and all pepped up over the store coming.  Instead, there is anxiety and fear.  The latest got mentioned in the Washington Post today.

The locals are now talking about these new WalMarts in DC being a magnet for shoplifting.  One ward commissioner actually suggested that DC teenagers wouldn't even hesitate to come in and steal from the store.  The DC ware commissioner then suggested that DC's youth would end up with criminal records because of WalMart (yes, actually blaming them).  WalMart came right back to suggest that they would have adequate security in each and every store to put enough fear into customers not to rob them.

Other residents speak of a fear that WalMart would harm the Mom-and-Pop shops around the region.  To be kinda honest....if you ask folks, they admit that half the stores that were around in the 1980s....have collapsed because of crime anyway.

They had a rally against WalMart yesterday.  It was a pretty serious event....where seventy folks did show up but the Washington Post admits that twenty were associated with the media, so there were barely fifty protesters against WalMart.

At some point.....I've started to think of DC as being some third-world banana republic island....totally unconnected to the rest of America.  To have so much media attention focused on anti-WalMart behavior....and yet.....in the whole district, there's probably a 90-percent approval rating for WalMart.  It just doesn't make sense, except in DC.

Monday, 14 February 2011

How Things Work in DC

Back about two years ago....the top executive of the DC school department....fired 74 teachers.  You have to understand this....DC has the most screwed up school system in America.  So anything they did....would be a step forward.  The only problem with this mass firing...was that the top executive never gave the 74 fired teachers a chance to explain themselves.  Each had a reason to defend themselves, but never were given a chance to give that simple explanation.

This past week....the appeal process worked.  The 74 fired teachers were reinstated, and were supposed to be paid roughly two years of back pay.  The newspapers have gotten around to the case against each individual teacher.  Some examples:

1.  She had the habit of skipping meetings.  Then she violated professional protocols with the school administrator.  Then when the administrator sent an email to her detailing her poor habits....she responded back by mass e-mail to the entire school staff....to let them know how incompetent she was.

2.  This teacher had pretty poor classroom management skills.  The teacher started going totally absent around 5 May 2008....and never showed back up when these firing recommendations went forward on 13 June (five weeks later).  No explanation where they were....but it apparently wasn't a big deal to the teacher.

3.  This teacher simply could not manage in the classroom.  They couldn't develop a lesson plan.  And they really didn't like suggestions given to improve themselves.

4.  This teacher had such a 'rude and aggressive demanor' that the administrator had to bring in two assistants to help manage students in the class.

5.  This teacher simply didn't have any lesson plans.  When they suggested that student failure rates were high....the teacher couldn't grasp the significance of that.

6.  This teacher had 24 late-showings and twenty complete days out of the class......after a long sick leave period.  Curiously....these were mostly call-ins....on Fridays or Mondays.

7.  This teacher got around to playing religious gospel songs in class.  When students complained....the teacher told the students to go to hell.  The students were upset about that suggestion and reported the teacher.

It's a curious group.  If the DC school chief had only allowed each one to post a commentary over the accusations....they'd all been permanently fired.  As it is....all of them are coming back.  Even the gospel music player.

In most states....the school would have put out a major report on each teacher and then they never would have been hired anywhere else.  In this case....all of them are coming back shortly in the DC district.  If this was me....I'd find one school for all 74 teachers, and put them all together.  It'd be interesting to watch this develop.

Just how things work in my neighborhood.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Lessons of Gun Registration

In the US....Gun Control lobbyists often talk about gun registration.  They'd like to make every citizen register their weapons and have a database to 'watch' folks.  A number of folks take this as an intrusion into their private lives and believe the database does little except tell you statistical numbers.

This week in Germany, an interest thing occurred.  Germany requires absolute registration of gun owners and guns.  There is no way to avoid it.  You can't buy a weapon unless you are a registered gun user. You can't sell a weapon unless you are a registered gun user.  This all invites various regulations about sales, storage and safe use of weapons.

It's a funny thing.....these databases were held by each German state and not exactly shared out to the national government in Germany.  No one had ever said much about this and you get the opinion that the cops didn't really care one way or another.  The law just says register...and that's what folks do.

So all this gun data finally flowed into a national database.  There are around 1.7 million Germans, out of 80 million, that own a registered weapon.  The interesting thing is that Germany can admit that they hold around six million guns.

Folks are waking up around Germany and kinda shocked over that number.  The cops are shocked because they kept saying public that there were around ten million weapons in Germany...so they were way off on their estimate.  In the private sector, folks are shocked at the extent of weapons....especially in Bavaria....where a quarter of the nations weapons are owned.  This would be like saying the US had 100 million weapons and Alabama held a quarter of them (which they just might anyway).

The reason for pushing the Germans into merging their data?  The EU started a rule that said you as a country....to be part of the EU....had admit the official number of weapons in the country.

For the next week or so....folks in Germany will discuss the numbers but it really doesn't change much of anything.

The curious thing is if you tried to start a US federal law of registration....you'd likely have various states pose issues and ask questions.  As you look at the trail that Germany took....it's several decades of effort to get registration to the point where it's all computerized and accepted by gun owners.  The idea that you could start a similar program overnight or even over a four-year period in the US....would be impossible.  So each time you sit and watch some political chat forum where folks talk of gun control and they want a German-style program....ask them how long it took Germany to adapt to their situation.  They will likely grin and admit it was a couple of years, and you can challenge them that it's more than likely to be four decades.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A Trend?

There's an interesting trend out of Nebraska.  The state....like most other states....has a fair number of recreation areas, state parks, and state lakes.  When the state was wealthy and going through a vast expansion of its recreation possibilities....folks really didn't add up what it costs to run something like this.  They just found the cash to buy property, and procured the area.

Things now have reached a point where life isn't that simple.  The state government admits now that each and every state recreation area has a cost associated with it.

In the past couple of a months....a new idea has taken root.  The state is working out deals to hand a couple of state recreation areas and parks....over to local counties or towns.  It certainly won't be a major group but it's a trend.

Thirty years ago....most towns didn't really grasp tourism or the profits associated with a lake or camping area.  They've sat there now and noticed that a grocery store near a local camping ground....actually makes a fair amount of money, and tax revenue flows into the town via city taxes.  They've noticed that two gas stations around a local state lake now flourish and make a fair income strictly from lake traffic.  A local hotel which saw the lake as a threat thirty years ago when it started....now has now grown its business to the extent that it's booked up completely from May to October.

I realize that some folks might be hostile toward local governments running state parks but times have changed.  More corruption?  Well....this could happen if people step in and consider this lake property their own personal operation....but the state hasn't given the local town or community the property.  They merely have granted the title of operator to the town or county....nothing more.  If the town screws this up....the state could step back in.

I suspect that ninety percent of the state parks and state lakes in America....could be run by the local authorities.  I also suspect that operational cost would controlled better by the local town council and fees could be better managed.  Will some fees increase?  Yes, but it's the necessity of actually improving these parks to attract more people that make that a necessity.

Now, if the federal government could get into the same state of mind.