Thursday, 31 March 2011

Yes, It is True

Yes, it is true....NATO is now in charge of the air campaign in Libya, so you folks in Iowa can breathe a sigh of relief that America isn't in charge of anything related to Libya.  Naturally, it is an American General who runs NATO operations in Europe....who takes orders from the Pentagon....who takes orders from the President....but you folks in Iowa don't need to know about how things work.

Yes, it is true.....the US is about support ground operations and give the little guys fighting the Libyan government weapons.  Yes, it does sound like Afghanistan back in the late 1970s but lets avoid that topic.  Yes, there are probably laws that would be broken in a weapon hand-out like this....but lets avoid that topic.

Yes, it is true....twenty-five letters have arrived at various locations throughout the US, noting that the Islamic guys have 160 nuclear bombs in the US.  Yes, the letters say they are set up and awaiting the command to detonate by remote control.  The FBI is taking the threat somewhat serious but frankly.....they really don't want to search all of the US for these nukes.

Yes, it is true....the President did win an award for "transparency".  He apparently didn't want this published too far and didn't allow reporters into the room to see him getting the award.  Apparently, being transparent isn't anything you want to be proud of.

Yes, it is true....the President is now calling for big cuts in oil imports.  This was proclaimed a great policy by the media.  It was a strange thing.....it didn't explain what areas of the US were going to be opened up and allowed to drill.  It won't be Alaska, the coast off Texas or California or Florida, or anyplace where the environment might be damaged.  So it really sounded good....but it just made you wonder how you'd ever get to the intended target.

Yes, it is true....the budget crisis has reached a point in Alabama where they've decided to toss 3,000 of the 4,000 non-violent crimes folks in prison.....out onto the street.  These are folks within twelve months of being let out anyway, and the state budget guys are pumped up....believing this will truly save money.  As for the potential return of the 3,000 within two years for new crimes?  Well....it's best we don't talk about that.  Maybe they will move to Mississippi and turn into their problem.

From My Neck of the Woods

It was an interesting day in DC yesterday.  Former DC mayor Marion Barry....now a city councilman....got all peppy at a rally of taxi drivers in the District.

It's a curious thing.  Some folks have decided that there are way too many taxis in DC.....around 8,250, and they want the number shrunk down to 4,000.  They haven't explained how they decided on the 4,000 number and it's certainly not based on science or statistical data.  Naturally, this type of action upsets a bunch of taxi drivers, so they met up at the City Hall and complained in a loud fashion.

At some point....Marion Barry stepped out of the building and addressed the crowd.....starting off with "Shame on you".  Then he laid into the taxi drivers.  "Many of you are not from America. We do things differently here."

Then he kinda flipped from one side to the other....say folks could be disagreeable, and then pumping everyone up with the comment "You cab drivers are the hardest working people in the city, right?"

The curious thing about this suggested change is that it has to be a "medallion" system....which means you get a chance to buy a medallion and then be a part of the action.  Barry's rules in this draft are suggesting that folks would be classified into separate categories for DC residents and those who aren't.  Then you'd have a category for underserved areas....and finally one for low-emission taxis.

There are two pieces of concern for the local taxi guys. First, most believe that "friends of special friends" will be applied and bribes will be paid out to ensure your chance of getting a medallion.  The odds in this case?  My opinion is around the 100 percent point.  Various political folks will get a $1k here or a $4k there type payment, and the taxi king at city hall will get the green light over giving out the medallion.  I'm guessing you have to reapply every two years for this....if you wanted the scheme to continually pay you back more bribes.

As for the second curious thing?  Presently....a significant number of DC drivers are foreigners.....not the local community folks who've been here 100 years.  You can imagine the hostility by the generational folks over these foreign guys muscling into their territory.  I realize suggesting a black monopoly might be the final appearance on this taxi thing....but I'm willing to wager that the current make-up of the taxi drivers will change drastically once this passes.

Yes, after a while....you have to admit....it's like living in Bolivia.  You get used to it.

Note: one other curious note.....our buddy Marion Barry bought a fancy but older model Jaguar (pronounced JAG-u-R) about six months ago.  He took the tags off his old car and simply put them on the new car.  No registration of his vehicle has occurred.  Someone finally woke up and realized this....asked questions, and got this funny answer.  Marion bought this Jag but the dealer had issues with the registration. Six months later.....there's still problems.  Marion promises.....as soon as this is worked out....he'll register the car.

If you were wondering....typically if the cops from Virginia or Maryland caught you in this type of scheme....you'd have the car impounded and you'd pay a fine (over $200).  As of yet, no one has messed around with Marion.

If you were wondering....if a dealer can't produce a registration on a used vehicle after six months......it's likely to be stolen.  It's best that we not bring this up or suggest that Marion bought a stolen car from some local dealer for a really great price.  And don't worry....he'd never drive the Jag over into Virginia or Maryland, because they would impound the Jag if they saw it.  So he's pretty much confined to a 10 by 10 mile piece of territory, until this gets fixed.

And, yes, this is the way they do it in Bolivia as well.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Lawn Chairs

I've come to notice a lot of creative talents up here in the DC region....that you wouldn't typically see anywhere else in America.

This week....the city council of College Park, Maryland woke and decided they had a problem.  Too much lawn furniture on the roofs of houses.  So they passed a law that says you can't sit on a lawn chair on your roof (even if you own the house).

Naturally, this has a $200 fine attached to it and is supposed to encourage safe behavior amongst residents....mostly punk college kids.

This has upset the kids there....saying it's their lifestyle and safety is not an issue.

So I pondered over this.  Here's how it became a problem.  Kids got to a point where they wanted a balcony-like atmosphere at their local house and it had a slightly slanted roof.  They climbed out a window and put up two or three lawn chairs....opened up a case of beer....and just sat on the roof for hours on a Saturday while discussing the events of life.

I'm guessing since furniture is now out....the kids are not idiots.  They will merely adapt and put out blankets and just have picnics on the roof.  Then the city will outlaw picnics.  Then some kids will hoist up two or three old lazy-boy recliners and use them on the roof since lawn furniture is what got banned.  The city will react and toss that out.  On and on....this will go....until the city council has outlawed just everything possible.

Monday, 28 March 2011

From My Neck of the Woods

Sometimes...when reporters reach a point where the news is just not good enough or interesting enough....they invent new news.  So the Associated Press sat down and wrote some list up.  The significance of the list?  The stress-free communities in America.  Course, they had to be some financial indicators over unemployment, bankruptcies, and foreclosures.  Then you whip this box up and down and out pour the least stressed counties in America.

The curious thing?  My county here....Arlington....was number four.  Out of 3,141 counties in America.....we made number four.  I looked at the top three....two counties from Kansas and one from Nebraska.  So we are in a odd group.  Even after those four....the next six mostly all revolve around Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota  and South Dakota.

The most stressed communities?  Seven out of the ten are in California....which ought to tell you something.

How does Arlington make it on this list?  A bunch of folks here work for the government in some capacity....so they haven't experienced downsizing (at least not yet).  If you looked for housing issues....well, if a guy had to move and his house price has decreased.....he just rents it out to cover his bank payment.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ms Couric, Exit Stage Left

Yesterday....the word finally went out.  CBS will say adios to Katie Couric in June.  They will have quietly admitted that the Couric experiment....started on 5 September 2006....was a four-star failure.  They basically locked down their numbers from the first 100 days and never advanced past that point.

I will readily admit that I mostly laughed when I accidentally landed on the CBS nightly news and caught 60 seconds of Katie before I clicked onto another channel (preferring reruns of Baywatch to watching Katie).  She was a Today Show host and nothing more.  She simply wasn't a journalist and her ability to translate events across to people....reminded me of a used-car dealer.  You could have brought up any news topic, and I could have predicted the political slant given by Katie in ten seconds.

What surprises me the most?  CBS came out about twelve months into the Couric experiment and admitted that this wasn't going anywhere.  There was a open discussion in the media that CBS management was examining it's options.  She could have been used for Sixty Minutes but then it'd be a full-time gig, and the other guys there would have been furious at the pay rate Katie got....for a lousy 12-minute piece of production once a week.  They couldn't terminate her.  And the length of the contract really put them into a bad position to do anything else.

What happens to Katie now?  Rumor has it that she is working on a daytime chat show.  Some network idiot somewhere is trying to talking his boss into hiring Katie at an amazing rate....and let her chat for an hour each day.  So far....we don't hear much about the success of this and I suspect that none of the three networks want to discuss this.  Oprah's new channel?  Maybe.  We might even hear Fox discuss matters with her for an afternoon gig.....for a lesser price of course....but she'd have to re-slant her vision of life and I suspect that'd be difficult for Katie.

So an era will have come to an end.  I suspect the entire staff will party hard on the evening of her last production....without her of course, and be happy over a change coming.

The Fall of Detroit

A guy could write a good book on Detroit.....kinda like the fall of the Roman empire.  Once a mighty city, and now a legendary city laying in ruins.  The Census results this week really took a chunk out of the enthusiasm for the city.  They will likely lose out on federal funds unless some political folks jump into the process and just hand them bundles of cash for being Detroit and nothing else (like they would have done anyway).

So I'm about to offer five simple solutions to Detroit....if they wanted to rebuild.

First, ask for a federal three-year program (probably to cost $300 million) to tear down every single house left abandoned in the city and convert these one-acre properties into a forty-year forestry project.  Got a city block with twenty-five houses and eighteen are abandoned....drag them to the ground and plant a dozen pines on each site.  Exempt them from any real estate action for forty years.  Use the $300 million to hire up locals to accomplish the destruction and the reforestation of the city.

Second, bring in fifty investigators and a couple of federal DA's.  Got any corruption to appear....federal charges and you get marched off to jail.  Root out any temptation for corruption in the city.  Any idiot wants to run for office and give favors away.....let them take the risks and face twenty years in prison.  No deals....just jail.

Third, find two or three federal organizations and mandate that they have to open a 2k personnel operation in the heart of Detroit.  Doesn't matter if it's Homeland Security, the VA, or the military.  You need cash flow of a federal nature into the city to help bump them up a notch.

Fourth, create a federal tax credit for businesses which make $5 million a year or guys who make over $100k a year.  You have to set up operation within the city limits.....and for the individual....you have to live  within the city limits.  The first year.....you get nothing on credits.  The second through the fourth.....a thirty percent decrease on all your federal taxes.  The fifth and sixth?  A fifty percent decrease on your federal taxes.  Then it ends.  You are enticing folks to think long-term and demand improvement in the local city.  Naturally, it's a problem to create a Detroit-only rule like this but that's the problem for Washington to work out.

Fifth and final, accept the fact that Latinos will eventually become a power in Detroit politics.  It may take thirty years....but they will eventually control a substantial part of the city political system.  You'd best become a good neighbor on all fronts.....to all ethnic groups.

When A Scenario Fails

This is what we know.  Out in Pottawattamie County, Iowa....they wanted to hold an emergency reaction exercise.  The local county emergency services organization, the firemen, the cops, the ambulance crews, and even some folks from Homeland Security in Iowa....were to be all involved.  Everyone was happy and really peppy over this exercise.  Then, the scenario was laid out.....and things started to fall apart quickly over the exercise.

The scenario?  Well....it was to involve a "anti-immigration” pro-gun kid from a local school.....going nuts....and getting in a racial-spewed episode.  A number of the locals got all upset and then the local school system started to get phone calls to their employees suggesting threats to them or the buildings.

So yesterday, they canceled the exercise.


The Superintendent of the local school system admitted he was as shocked as everybody else when the scenario was finally put out in front of him.  Never once in the entire group of meetings they held....was the scenario ever laid out.  In some ways....he hinted that if it had....it would have been stopped right there on the spot.

The curious thing....at the county level now....is that the political folks are reacting in an amusing manner.  They are simply shocked at how people took this whole scenario thing.  To them....it was just a fictional piece of work and not to represent anything real.  I'm guessing that most will tell you that they see this kind of stuff on ABC or MSNBC all the time.

What remains?  Well....the cops are now busy....checking out all these threats.  I suspect that five or six folks will be arrested and charged with something.  The problem here....once you go into a Iowa court and charge a guy on making a threat against officials....over a fictional scenario....the whole court will erupt in laughter.  The charged guy will say his threats were fictional, and that he was just part of the exercise.  The judge will look at the clock and realize that this is a mess....declare the guy guilty and give him six-months of probation.

I pondered over this mess for a while.  Typically, an exercise has a lousy scenario that is written by some guy with a year or two of college.  Nothing much of a creative nature is written into a scenario.  No one would ever give a scenario writer a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.

In this particular case....to make this a right-wing nutcase and involve illegals?  You start to strike close to home and give people funny ideas.

My guess is that it'll be two or three years before another exercise is held.  The guy writing the script?  He'll be told to make this threat coming from a North Korean kid who moved to Iowa and hates America....has brought a BB gun into the school and threatening school bus drivers (not school kids), who just happen to be members of some union and all are paid double-time for being held captive (in their contract).  Then, and only then....will the scenario be accepted by the locals.

The Science of Decisions

My organization offered up a class situation and I accepted.  So this week....I attended a two-day lecture on the science of making the right decisions.

There are various tools I've used over my life to look over a problem and come to a decision.  I wouldn't refer to them as science tools....but they tended to work.  This class kinda took things to the next level and laid out various methods that you could improve on your right decision statistics.

In some ways, I probably benefited from this.  At some point....a number of methods came back to methods my dad discussed forty-five years ago and I've used these as compass points in my life.

The emphasis in this instruction method is that you need to involve all the key players in a problem....so that they all feel part of the solution in the end.  There are times that I can agree with this....but frankly, if you ran a division this way and continued to have group meetings on a constant basis to make decisions over problems....you'd start to have too many people arguing over the finer points of their ideas.  In essence, you'd get bogged down.  There is a time and place for group decisions....and beyond that....you'd best listen to the comments made and make a autocratic decision to move the situation along.

What surprise me the most after this seminar episode....is the amount of science and thinking that has been poured into decision making.  There are people now who spend their entire lives studying how situations developed and how people made decisions.  This is something that has just come along in the last generation.  I suspect in twenty years that every single major company in America will have decision-maker analysts.....to advise over what has been said and what ought to be done.

So after two long days.....maybe I'm a little bit smarter on decision making.  Maybe.

Friday, 25 March 2011

From My Homestate

Down in the south....there are a handful of things that get folks excited enough to jump in the pick-up and drive twenty miles....risking traffic tickets at a high speed. At the top of that list....a fire at a propane tank business. Yesterday....over in Huntsville...was such a fire.

The news guys didn't comment on how many showed up, but I'm betting a couple thousand folks were there and calculating the potential explosion (that didn't come). At the end of this...they probably all drove over to Hardees....had a burger and fries...and commented all the way home about what potentially could have happened.

What Might Have Been

So the story goes today....this group of Hispanic-looking guys....in what appears to be an official US Marine van....are in Marine uniforms.  Everything about this looks legit and it's just US Marines returning from some event from across the border in Mexico.  You can sit and imagine....they went over....had lunch, some beers, and discussed Marine tactics.  Everything looks ok.

So the US Customs guy (a former Marine) walks up and asks one stupid question.  What is the Marine birthday?  If you asked a Navy guy about the Navy birthday, or an Air Force guy about the Air Force birthday, or a Army guy about the Army birthday....they'd just scratch their head.  Strangely enough....Marines are taught in bootcamp to remember 10 November 1775.  Every single Marine knows this and will recite this as absolute fact that they are older than the nation itself.

The Hispanic guy in the van....dressed like a Marine....just looked at the Customs guy and mostly grinned.  The game was over at that point.  They were all just some Latino guys trying to sneak into the US....wearing US Marine uniforms and riding in a Marine van.

It is a comical event in a way.  If the guy had simply done five minutes of research....and answered this one simple question....the Customs guy would have looked and done a thumbs up at his Marines....and let them enter.  Now?  I'm guessing every single Latino guy sitting in Mexico....is reading through Marine manuals and memorizing every single detail in case they attempt this and get a question thrown their way.

The amusing thing?  You could imagine this situation where some Marine Sargent was there at the border station....jumped in the van and told the Marines that they needed to get back to the barracks right away.  They drive over to Marine Post.....enter....and Sarge brings them into some barracks where they simply play along although speak next to almost no English.

Days pass....weeks pass....and the fake Marines integrate.  They march.  They fill sandbags.  They toss grenades for practice.  They build foxholes.

Eventually, because of the claim of lost paperwork.....all are re-enlisted into the Marines and sent off to Afghanistan.  They get training on tanks, jeeps and computers....end up back in Arizona where they ask themselves how they ever got into this mess in the first place.  At some point....some auditor shows up and asks why one platoon has eleven guys in it....all with the first name Jose.  Then the whole thing falls apart.

Characters

Moviegoers sat down, and they voted for their top favorite movie characters of all time.  Their number one choice?

Forrest Gump.  I admit....after hearing this....I was kinda amused and felt it was a worthy choice.  The curious thing is that it's a Bama guy....Winston Groom....who wrote Forrest Gump.  I always had this feeling that Winston simply combined six actual real folks he knew in Bama into one character....and this ended up being named Forrest Gump.  Adding to Winston legend....since that fateful day in 1986 when he finished the book....most everything written since then has been non-fiction and either related to American history or Alabama football.

Getting back to favorite movie characters....I paused over this and spent an hour my top ten favorite characters in no order (leaving out Forrest because they all kinda rate second to him):

- Elwood P. Dowd, from Harvey.  Jimmy Stewart's eccentric character kept you amused and mostly laughing throughout the entire movie.  At the end....you respected Elwood.

- Roger O. Thornhill.  From North by Northwest.  Just a regular guy....picked at random....having a bad day....who ends up at Mount Rushmore.

- Captain John H. Miller.  From Saving Private Ryan.  Admittedly, the first twenty minutes carry the entire movie....but about halfway through this....you really want the Captain to survive and you know he can't.  He's the glue of this entire movie.  You might think it's Private Ryan....but the Captain is holding the fortunes of life in his decisions.

- Maximus.  At the conclusion of Gladiator....you feel like Russell Crowe has delivered a five-star performance.  The story and the character make the movie worth watching over and over.

-Inspector Jacques Clouseau.  Over and over, you want this wicked French inspector to fail.  He can't get anything right, and the chief is mostly correct in that Clouseau is a fool.

- Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund.  My favorite duo, from Casablanca.  Rick is this everyday kind of guy who mostly drinks, gambles, and hates Nazis.  He spells out the truth and you'd suspect that if Rick was given a chance to move to New York City....he'd turn you down flat and just stick it out in Morocco.  As for Ilsa....she was Rick's girl, period....without any doubt.

- The Joker, from the Dark Knight.  In the end, Heath Ledger gave his best performance ever, and you had several moments in the middle of this movie where you felt the joker might be the only guy around....true to his heart....and by the end, you reshuffled your opinion to stick with Batman.

- John Coffey, was written into form by Stephen King.  There are probably forty-odd King characters that might be worth remembering....but at the conclusion of the Green Mile....you sat and wondered what King really intended John to be.  You had your own interpretation of John Coffey, and you kept thinking that there was more to this story than met the eye.

-  Sylvester Marcus.  I suspect you are scratching your head....but Sylvester was this extremely-focused California beach guy from Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, World.  There are twenty significant characters from the movie....but Sylvester is the one I most prefer.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

To Heal the Unwilling

There is an excellent article over at the German Der Spiegel today.  I won't go into a vast number of details, but it basically lays out that the whole Libya campaign is being run by a coalition of the 'unwilling'.  The Germans hint left and right.....that from the various countries participating....even to some minor degree the Germans....no one wants to be a willing partner in this episode.

Der Spiegel correctly points out that normally....Gadhafi would be viewed as a bad guy and typically gets lots of folks on some wagon.  For some odd reason....folks want to stand around the wagon, but no one really truly wants to get on the wagon or guide the wagon....even the Italians.

So, after a long bit of pondering....it finally came to me.

This is typically where the President ought to quietly go to the phone kept in the secret bunker....call up George Bush....and ask him to report in a pilot bomber leather jacker to a government building, and take charge of the whole situation.

I would assume that Bush is sitting in Texas....waiting for this call.  He knows that no one has any willingness left them....and he is the last of a dying breed of guys willing to make a decision and just accept the guts, glory or screwed-up mess.  The French don't have anyone.  The Germans don't have anyone.  The British lack a guy like this.  The Spanish, the Canadians, the Italians, and even the Danish lack such a guy.  The Russians?  Well....Putin hasn't any issues and would readily give Bush a run for the glory, but Putin doesn't want any press coverage or Nobel Peace Prize labels over his actions.  For Putin....it's just personal satisfaction.

I'm guessing the White House is sitting....contemplating the situation and if the Bush-option is really the best to use.  They will run the numbers....ask MSNBC if they can quickly run up the anti-Bush flag if necessary.....and prepare for this monumental moment when Bush is called back into action.  I'm sure Spiegel is preparing a anti-Bush campaign to turn loose....once the war is in a favorable status within the press.  You need a guy like Bush.....for occasions like this.

In the Real World

In recent days....because of Libya....some folks have quietly stood up and made the comment that the President ought to give up his Nobel Peace Prize.  They've made the comment in various media markets (TV, newspaper, and blogs).

Today, the White House finally decided that the President needed to stand up and defend his NPP (Nobel Peace Prize for short).  He certainly did not see Americans jumping onto this 'dump-the NPP' situation.  Americans stand against dictators left and right.....as we just don't want people butchered.

Then he laid down the law because he got the NPP mostly because he had to deal with two wars already going on (Iraq and Afghanistan).  Speaking from El Salvador on his Latin America visit....he reassured folks that it's strictly the work of the UN at hand now....because they signed all the paperwork.  Most folks from El Salvador just looked on and clapped because they never had Bush to ever visit in his eight years.

My thinking?  Well.....if he'd such a swell job with two wars and a NPP.....if this were like poker, then you'd double up.  So my suggestion is to give the President a second NPP.  So far, in the history of the NPP.....no gal or guy has ever taken home two.  I searched the basic rule book and have yet to find any NPP rules to dictate you couldn't win two NPPs.

The selling point of this second NPP is that you consolidate the war business into a start-up situation, then award the NPP....then repeat this over and over.  The gravy to this idea is that you make the pro-war crowd really peppy and happy....then you get the NPP crowd to crown you as a peace-maker and give you the second award which makes the elite peace folks of the world happy.

Naturally, this means that in two years (provided things work well in November 2012).....we repeat this with another war......maybe Cuba (it's got to be mostly a loser of a country....like Libya), and then award another NPP.  With the time left at the tailend of the eight-year Obama period.....we might even be able to get a fourth NPP as a knock-down punch.

Yes, war....peace....NPP.....war....peace....NPP.  It's a great scripted concept and makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

My Honest Opinion on Libya

This is what I privately think.  About six weeks ago as folks sat and watched events unfold in Egypt....a couple of White House power-players sat and discussed what happens next.  There are two topics which probably took place: Libya and Saudi Arabia/Bahrain.

The boys probably sat there a while....without any CIA influence or military analysts.....watching mostly CNN and MSNBC.  The think-tank folks came up and suggested various things.  Our power-players wrote some notes and waited.

Days passed.  Then, all heck broke loose in Libya and to a lesser degree....Saudi Arabia/Bahrain.  Nobody cares much for Tunisia or Egypt.....because there's no oil.  But Libya and Saudi Arabia/Bahrain are different.

So the White House quietly told the Pentagon to watch Libya carefully.  At some point, there's this topic brought up on CNN and MSNBC over a no-fly zone.  The Pentagon guys likely got all nuts over this because you really can't order one from Menu A and two from Menu B.  There is a certain order to military action.  But the guys over at the White House just didn't grasp that part.

So the French started to plan up this help-Libya operation.  Naturally, the Italians and British quickly jumped in as well.  The US?  Well....I suspect the Pentagon really didn't want any part of this mess.  So the boys looked at the calendar and figured to time this start-up with President Obama out of the US.  He couldn't be readily connected to this.  Don't ask me the childish notion of how you think that....but people actually believe it.

Toss in a quick UN resolution, and we got ourselves a 1-star war.  It's against an enemy that Italy probably could fight alone.....if they were really into this, but they aren't.  Egypt could invade Libya and win an all-out war in ten days....if they really felt like it but they didn't.

So here we are.  No generals want to discuss this in public because they don't have the script and have no idea what step will occur next.  The Russians are mocking the Americans.  Some idiot pulled out the President's comments from three years ago and he said no President could declare a war without congress.  Yes, he looks fairly naive but then that's acceptable.

What next?  The Saudis are kinda sitting there and hoping that the riots decrease rapidly.  They really don't need their government to fall.  If it did....and you folks happen to own SUV vehicles.....then you'd best prepare for $5 gas within four weeks.....and $7 gas within six months.  Course, that would really hurt any election in 2012....if you think about it.  So you can't afford collapse in Saudi Arabia/Bahrain.....now, can you?

Just a humble opinion.

What You May Have Forgotton

Jimmy Carter ran against Gerald Ford in 1976 after the Watergate Hearings.  For Ford, it had been a tough bitter fight with Ronald Reagan and it was to be very close.

Carter won the national vote by barely 700,000 votes.  If you look at a map....almost every state west of the Mississippi voted for Gerald Ford.  Carter picked up the south....with the key states of Texas and New York.....thus winning election....barely.

It was not a sure thing, and the key was people in the heartland upset over Republicans and Watergate.

Four years pass.  Ronald Reagan runs against President Carter.  Out of leftfield comes John Anderson who is what you'd term as a original Tea Party kind of candidate.  Anderson takes five million votes in the national election....most of which are independent voters and it's supposed to be just an opportunity for hostile voters to say something to Carter without helping Reagan.

The problem here.....is that Reagan carries a eight-million vote surplus across the US.  There are only six states that carry a Carter plus-up.

The curious thing that I noted being around this era...was that everyone had an opinion on Jimmy Carter.  It tended to be mostly negative.  Around five million voters from 1976 to 1980.....lost their attitude on Carter, and shifted to either Regan or Anderson.

2012?  The odds of President Obama maintaining his 69 million votes?  I'm having doubts that he carry those type numbers.  He could still win if the Republicans put up a candidate with no real support.  But the 2012 Democratic vote will likely push itself to just make the 60 million level.....if you ask me.  And a third-party guy to detract from the Republicans?  It'll be difficult to imagine such a scenario in 2012.

If you had approached Jimmy Carter in 1979 and suggested a huge loss coming.....he wouldn't have believed it.  And I doubt that he would have done anything different.

Just a Trend

The Census is a significant thing for American cities.  It could plus your representation within the state, give you a better position for state or federal funding, and establish your status as a national city.  It could also be a negative bit of news, and really bring you down a notch.  That's what occurred in Detroit yesterday.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out......Detroit fell drastically.  Their population is now at 713,777.....that was the same level they had in the 1910 Census.....which means a one hundred year fall.  Naturally, the mayor would like a recount, but I doubt that the Census folks will agree to that.

What I found amusing about this trend....is that across the US.....Latinos were picking up on population areas left and right.  For Detroit....the Latinos barely added 1,500 folks.  So that kinda kicks the city one more time....in the fact....that it doesn't even attract a Hispanic to come up and settle.

The cherry on this cake?  There were over 180k blacks who said adios and just plain left.  There's probably a good story here....where some guy talks things over with his wife, packs up a U-Haul, and moves to New Jersey.  Some mother is furious over crime and hauls herself and the two kids down to Memphis.  Some widower guy finally decides enough, and leaves for Houston with just some suitcases and a 1991 Ford F-150.  You could probably make an entire movie over the ex-Detroit crowd and what they did as they left town.

There is one question left.  What happens in 2020?  Will the Census show even fewer folks?  Will the town shrink down to 650,000 by that point?  Will it even go past that to 590,000?  It would be a curious thing.  I doubt that they've hit the bottom yet.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Conclusion of the German Polar Bear

Final conclusion of Knut....the German polar bear who just collapsed dead in the zoo?

Brain disorder.  He was destined from birth apparently.  Curious thing....his mother dumped both him and his brother....refusing to care for either at birth.  The brother quickly died and Knut survived only because a zoo-keeper took up his care.....twenty-four hours a day.  The mother probably knew that both had some brain disorder.

What now?  Folks are now suggesting to stuff him and put him off in the Berlin Natural History Museum.

It's a curious thing....there are only two famous German bears.  Knut obviously.....but folks tend to remember Bruno from 2006....who wandered around Bavaria and eventually had to be shot (officially the last German bear in the wilds).  If you were curious....Bruno was stuffed and put into the Bavarian Natural History Museum.  I know.....because I've toured the place and seen the bear.

From My Neck of the Woods

When you chat about the District of Columbia....typically, it has to do with stuff beyond federal politics.  Typically, there are three District topics you can bring up.....corruption, crime, and schools.

Today, folks started to learn that the magnet school system is pretty screwed up.  Normally, this is where the smartest kids end up.  In the District....because you really don't have that many "talented" kids....you kinda push the envelop and continue getting kids into magnet schools....even when they shouldn't be there.

So the story goes.....the clerks running the grade input with the computer system over at the major technology magnet school (McKinley Technology High School)....which has a 97-percent graduation level....finally admitted that the principal had been hyping up grades.

It's a funny thing. This guy actually came out and said he was a teacher....and would hand in the reports to give kids grades on classes taken. Most folks would scratch their head because principals never....ever....teach a class. This guy was giving various grades away in civics and technology.

An investigation is underway and it appears that this went on for several years. The number involved? No one will ever be able to say accurately.

The curious thing here...is that this guy helped a number of punks who probably shouldn't have been at the magnet school....continue on.....and graduate.  Then with grades and certificate in hand.....they went to local community colleges and universities.  Professors likely stood there....surprised that Junior wasn't that bright on history, civics or technology.....and held the whole class back as the professor tried to teach them.  Somehow....the professors would drag these limited students on....and eventually help them get degrees.  At some point, an employer would be standing there....wondering how this limited and mostly incompetent graduate ever got out of high school....let alone graduate with a 2-year or 4-year degree.

You can see how things work here....just by one idiot principal at the right place.   And the future of this technology magnet school?  I'm guessing the graduation rate will start to decrease.....and eventually drop to around sixty percent.  Folks might wonder why.....but this is the District, and frankly....you got crime and corruption to worry about at the same time.   Just a little prospective.....from my neck of the woods.

The Arlington Cemetery Saga Continues

Over the past year....Arlington Cemetery has met up with a bunch of issues.  They had to fire the chief and the number two....because of incompetence.   This week, we had the newest issue pop up.

Somewhere back about a hundred years ago....the managers of the cemetery got around to allowing reservations.  Now, you'd scratch your head.  This is a military cemetery and you'd think it'd be first-come...first-serve.  But it simply couldn't work that way.

Some folks came up and insisted that they wanted to right to have their wife buried next to them....which military tradition allowed.  Course, that meant that as you buried one....you had to allow a open spot.  Somehow....at least through the 1920s, the 1930s and the 1940s.....this reservation system worked.  The thing is....it was all based on 3x5 cards.

You can imagine a 624-acre cemetery of a vast nature....but the idea that this whole thing was held together by 3x5 cards really taxes your mind.

Up through the 1970s and such....it still kinda continued.  But evidence this week shows that things started to get uncorked in the 1980s and on.....as promises made....simply couldn't be kept.  The number of dead GIs and their spouses....was taking the management staff way beyond what they could handle.  When Uncle Joe finally died and Junior showed up to bury him next to his brother.....the spot was already filled.  Over and over....folks found this to violate the "promise" made that they could be next to each other.

So folks are upset and they've turned this into an Army investigation.  Congressmen will likely get involved.  I can't see how they can right any wrongs here.  You certainly aren't going to dig someone up because he got buried in the wrong place.

As for a promise to reserve spots?  I just can't see Arlington run this way.  If you want to be buried there....it's the honor of the situation....and not some reservation system.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Just Some Observations

First....Newsweek decided to conduct a test of American government....across the public.  The results?  Thirty-eight percent failed.  I sat and took the test myself....and I had trouble with two questions out of the thirty-five.  Their comments about this high note of failure?  We simply aren't smart enough to govern ourselves or manage our votes.  I sat there for a few minutes contemplating their analysis.  A moment of pondering occurred.  It's a funny thing.  They told you what their test group of Americans made on the test, but not what the Newsweek crew made.  They didn't want to admit their writers and editors....might be just as stupid as the typical American.

Second....some folks woke up today and accused President Obama of war crimes.  They were basically backed into the corner because of the way they had pointed fingers at Bush after invading Afghanistan and Iraq.....so the American invasion of Libya deserved the war crimes accusation.  I sat for a while and laughed over this commentary.  I imagine that George Bush (the junior) is sitting there and mostly grinning now.  Any country that wanted to toss up war crimes charges on GW.....has to include President Obama, and that really screws up things for the media to explain to the public.

Third....some idiot executive from CBS hinted that he wants Charlie Sheen back at Two and a Half Men.  I can't imagine why.  You'd have to sit and wonder every single day if he was on his bi-polar meds or off.  And your back-up plan if he failed to take meds?  Yeah, like I said....some idiot at CBS.  These are the same guys that terminated in one year.....the Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw, Green Acres, and Mayberry RFD....when they were all in the top twelve shows on the air.

Fourth....the government admitted that housing sales in February are the lowest in ten years.  The experts then proclaimed that if things didn't shift around in six months....then recovery simply wasn't going to happen.  Kinda curious....the cheapest prices in a generation.....and you still can't entice a guy to buy a house.

Fifth....Sammy Hagar, a former lead singer for Van Halen....spoke out today and said that he'd been taken by aliens and probed.  Or.....at least he thinks he was.  The chances of Sammy having been taken by aliens?  Well....if you had a choice between taking someone from Crosby, Stills, & Nash....or Heart.....or Van Halen....then I'd always pick Van Halen.  And Sammy would be the best guy to check out for Earthling folks who might be a bit doped up.

Sixth.....Knut, the German polar bear is dead.  If you were into international celebrities....this was the polar bear cub whose mom dumped him....so a zoo-keeper stepped in and spent twenty-four hours a day with Knut for about six months.  They had to order the zoo-keeper then to stop the watching business and just turned Knut loose with the regular bears.  He was a star....of sorts.  So three years passed, and Knut had some seizure over the weekend, and just propped down dead in the polar bear zoo waters.  Cause?  No one is for sure.  My guess?  I think he was poisoned and killed by anti-polar bear enthusiasts.  Eventually, it'll be proven....and then a couple of Germans will write a script for the Sunday night Tatort (cop-murder show) series.

Seventh....North Korea came out yesterday and spoke to its people.....to use their pets as an early-warning system for earthquakes.  This was in response to the Japan problem of predicting when to run for the hills.  The curious thing about this.....no one in North Korea has enough food to feed their own family, so the mere idea of acquiring a pet makes you wonder how they'd feed to the pet and keep them alive, while awaiting the earthquake.

Eighth.....AT&T bought the US side of T-Mobile.  Thirty-nine billion was spent.  I spent twenty minutes today....reading through business journals to figure out how you'd ever get the thirty-nine billion back.  The simple truth?  This is not a merger....you more or less paid your thirty-nine billion to squash a competitor.  Was it worth it?  Well....you still have Verizon to compete against, and I'm betting AT&T really never understood this T-Mobile deal.

Ninth....the US wants to charge $5.50 for all foreigners entering the US.  It's kind of a fee for the Homeland Security crowd.  This means....if you were a Mexican coming across the border to work today in Tucson and return home tonight.....you had to cough up $5.50 for gringo guy before he allowed you to enter.  Naturally, some folks are visibly upset by this and wants Americans charged the same amount as they enter Mexico or Canada.  Most everyone in the US government is trying to figure out ways to charge fees....and get away with it.   Eventually, if the IRS wants to audit you....they will request you come over to the office and pay them $100 for the privilege of being audited that afternoon.

It is a fascinating world that we live in.

Perceptions Change

I always had this image in my mind of Wall Street being a big hustle and bustle kind of street....with the fancy bankers walking up and down the street.

After my trip last year to New York....I came to realize that it's more of a pedestrian walk-way and not that much of a fancy nature.

Lots of tourists?  Yeah....everyone who comes to NY City....wants to see the world renown street.  Then after you stand there for thirty minutes....you really start to downsize your view of the street.  It's not quiet the "giant" that you thought.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Memory List

A few weeks ago, I blogged over the upcoming downsizing of my old school in Bama.  The county board is discussing things but it's a pretty good bet that it will go from a ninth grade school to a sixth grade school.  It's been well over thirty years since I was around there.  There are a number of memories involved in this small town school.  Over the past week or two...I've settled on ten memories of note.

1.  The heat.  By the sixth grade....we were in the 1920's built complex and got introduced to radiator heat.  For some odd reason, I tended to always sit next to the windows and the radiators for the next four years.  I came to realize the implications.  For a young guy who ate sausage and eggs for breakfast....baking away at 90 degrees in a classroom for the morning....you'd come to release gas by noon.  You weren't allowed to open the windows, so I'd sit there and sniff the various gases released by myself and a dozen other folks.  Spring was a welcome pleasure because you could finally open the windows and avoid the gas attack.

2.  The beef stew.  The school lunchroom offered up a five-star stew mix.  Even by todays standards, it was something that I gave high reviews to.  The curious thing was that you could barely find any beef in the mix....with a lot of broth....and huge chunks of potatoes.  I actually miss the stew today.

3.  Earl.  We had this kid Earl who arrived round the fourth grade.  Earl basically didn't listen to anyone....even the teachers.  About five or six months after Earl arrived.....he was messing around on top of the school propane tank.  Three or four girls....along with at least one or two boys....went told Earl to get off the tank.  He refused, and they dragged him off (in a fairly severe fashion).  Earl got terribly upset, and ran off toward the general store (not the teacher or the principal).  He apparently called his momma and she came to lecture the teacher and principal for not controlling their punks.  Earl left, and never came back to our school.

4.  Halloween.  The school had a event fixed up to raise money to pay for various bills.  To lay out the complex nature of this evening.....there was the front entrance and the steps leading up.  This was where the older kids who'd left the school tended to hang out and swap gossip.  You'd find out which guy had a new car, which girl was marrying a guy from Cherokee or such, and which guy had joined up with the Army.  Once inside the door was the hallways....where the locals gathered to swap their gossip.  Then inside the basketball gym was the bingo area on the right, the cake-walk on the left, the basketball toss in the rear, the palm reader in the hidden room, and the fishing prize on the far right.   For some odd reason, it's a unique memory that sticks in your mind.

5.  The tomato juice.  The government had some program around the 3rd grade where they offered up juice for kids in the afternoon.  So you'd be marched off to the chow hall and given a glass of tomato juice.  I could never understand why they picked this.....other than higher nutritional value (I assume).  Occasionally, you'd be offered pineapple juice or apple juice.  I reached a point after about forty of these glasses of tomato juice that I hated the stuff.  I won't even touch it today.

6.  Ninth grade math.  We had this amusing chapter in the ninth grade....where maybe four kids out of the entire class comprehended these mathematical formulas.  The teacher stalled on this situation, and I would swear....even today....that we wasted almost ten weeks on this one chapter.  I got to a point where I lost all interest in math and mostly counted tiles on the ceiling.  At some point, the teacher rigged up a dumber-than-dirt test and arranged for almost everyone to pass.  Sadly, maybe nine kids out of the twenty-four actually understood any of this formula business.  I realized ten years later a basic way of teaching the same formula business from scratch and it'd take 30 minutes to get ten kids all up to the same way of thinking.  Sadly, you can't work that way in real school.

7.  The Library.  The county built up this fine library for the school.  Throughout the fifth and sixth grade....as it was new....we went down there for an hour each week and picked up various books to read. Somewhere around the seventh grade....things declined drastically.  I don't think I even made it a single time in the ninth grade to this library.  It was curious how my interest was lost in just a five-year period.

8.  Four Math Teachers in Four Years.  This was a curious school.  Most teachers stayed thirty years and retired.  For some odd reason, when I got up to the sixth grade, they started swapping out teachers almost yearly.  Each one had a totally different way of viewing math and you just kept getting different views every single year.

9.  Bathrooms.  The main bathroom for guys up in the big building was probably the most unsanitary place that you could ever envision.  I tended to do most of my business at home before leaving in the morning....and just hoped to avoid the bathroom every single day.

10.  Banana Juice.  We had some girl engage the history teacher one day on the possibility of there being banana juice.  This topic went on for almost forty-five minutes, thus relieving us of any history lesson for the day.  Afterwards, I went to an encyclopedia to find out if such could occur because the girl made a great case and the teacher took the whole thing as a joke.  Naturally, we should have asked the science teacher, but she probably wouldn't have answered this at all.  She had trouble just admitting evolution "might" have occurred (we skipped every single chapter for four years on evolution with her science class. I didn't even know about the topic until I graduated from high school).

Just An Observation

I have spent part of the week...watching some news media sources finally ask why the Japanese aren't all peppy and acting like Americans would. The end answer here...relates back to the Samurai tradition of five hundred years ago and this term Bushido.

The Samurai ended up with a number of ideas that stuck to Japanese society.  People tended to believe in their attitude and tradition.

So I went looking for quotes that relate, and these became kinda interesting:

Singlemindedness is all-powerful.


Tether even a roasted chicken.


Continue to spur a running horse.


A man who will criticize you openly carries no connivance.


A man exists for a generation, but his name lasts to the end of time.


Money is a thing that will be there when asked for. A good man is not so easily found.


Walk with a real man one hundred years and he'll tell you at least seven lies.


To ask when you already know is politeness. To ask when you don't know is the rule.


Wrap your intentions in needles of pine.


One should not open his mouth wide or yawn in front of another.


A straw hat or helmet should be worn tilted toward the front.

One should not be envious of someone who has prospered by unjust deeds. Nor should he disdain someone who has fallen while adhering to the path of righteousness.


Intelligence is the flower of discrimination. There are many examples of the flower blooming but not bearing fruit.


You eventually come to realize that these are people that you'd respect in any situation.  They don't get excited.  They don't run around looking for ways to screw people over.  They don't invent corruption via politics.  I must admit....they are folks that you wouldn't mind having as neighbors.

A Twist

Last Saturday night....here in my local area...over across the river in Bethesda, there was a murder.

It was a strange episode to start with.  Here was a upscale street of dozens of fancy stores along a main street.  Among them, a store that specialized in yoga clothing. The shop? Lululemon Athletica.  You'd kind of scratch your head....a murder at a upscale yoga clothing shop?  Doesn't make any sense.

The story goes....there are two employees left at the end of the day.  They walk out.  A phone call occurs around twenty minutes later that one employee (a junior person)....needing the senior one with the key....to come back and reopen the door.....so she can pick up something she left.  Both ladies arrive at the door....it's left unlocked as they proceed in.....two guys enter with masks and gloves....and the senior employee...Jayna Murray....ends up sexually assaulted and dead.  The second lady is assaulted and tied up. Cops find the mess the next day.  

Folks in Bethesda are shocked.  The cops are puzzled more than shocked.  It's not a typical crime for that town.  Nothing makes any sense.

Within days, there's this fantastic amount of money as an award to hunt down these two guys.  The survivor....the junior employee is very helpful.  These guys are a bit unusual....one is around six foot tall and the other is vastly short (maybe five foot five inches).  Nothing is spoken about the racial make-up of the two....but everyone seems to have this opinion that it's two black guys.  But there are no pictures or video to prove that point.

Strangely enough....there's an Apple store next door which has a camera or two.  The cops take video from that evening....figuring they'd see the two guys.  Strangely enough....they just don't have any pictures of two guys around fitting that description.

Then the forensic folks step in.  There ought to be semen because of the sexual assault.  But there is none. In the world of cops....that takes out a male assault.  So now, you start to wonder....was there ever two men in the yoga shop?

Last night around 7PM, the cops have a press conference.  They've arrested the junior employee of the yoga shop who was the one and only survivor.  The gal?  She is Brittany E. Norwood, twenty-eight years old.

It's a curious thing.  Two people outside the store watched this unfold as the ladies came back to the door....there was a argument of sorts.  The forensic crew finally came to a conclusion that neither woman was sexually assaulted......which can only mean that one killed the other.

It's the kind of situation that will likely be turned into a movie.

Some Observations

It's been a curious mix of news this week.

First, a judge up in Wisconsin stood up and put a hold on the recently passed union limitation law. This mostly has to do with the open meetings law.  The Republicans there say that they will fight via the court and not try to go back to the legislative process again.  The Democrats appear to be mostly happy with that....mostly because they'd have to run off to a Illinois resort hotel again, and they really can't afford that.  My best guess is that this will go to the Supreme Court....who will mostly shake their heads because this is mostly a state episode and they'd all rather just stay out of state affairs.

Second, the Justice Department finally wrapped up a investigation into the New Orleans Police Department. Surprisingly enough....they found all these various acts of misconduct. The cops there were actually using excessive force, performing illegals stop and seizures, and were openly doing some racially-slanted tactics. Court action? Yes, but this would all go into a federal court with lots of cops, lawyers, and media folks. In five years....my guess is not a single cop will end up jail because of lack of sufficient evidence to convict in a real courtroom. Just a humble opinion....but this ten-month investigation likely does nothing but headlines.

Third, Charlie Sheen will be touring twelve US cities apparently.  Its hard for me to figure out why folks would shell out $60 to see this guy go nuts on a stage.  It's likely the first time in US history that folks pay for a circus-like act with a bi-polar guy to do his version of reality.

Fourth, water in Tokyo is reportedly showing traces of radiation.  Not that I'd be terribly worried....but folks might be required to drink bottled water for months and years.  Naturally, it'd have to be imported and some water companies in South Korea and China might be making tons of money off this.

Fifth, someone finally woke up this week and realized that Libya actually maintains a stockpile of mustard gas.  Reportedly, it's around ten tons....and certainly not anything significant.  But you can imagine the media folks going off on a tizzy if this was suddenly used.  "War Crimes" would be uttered ten thousand times in a week and we'd start to see these think-tank old experts appear on MSNBC and Fox.....explaining the terrible reactions to mustard gas.

Sixth, this week....congress woke up and started finally discussing the idea of giving $200 million to a newly constructed military complex in the Arlington area (my local area)....for road renovation.  Normally, it'd take a year or two....to make this pass through, with lots of research.  The problem here is that it concerns the Mark Center, which is this DOD complex to be finished and operational by mid-September.  Over the past six to seven years as the Mark Center progressed....folks kept asking how traffic would flow into this site by the interstate....and nothing was done.  The question now is....can some idiot take the $200 million and somehow provide this work of wonder to bring folks to the parking lot of this building (to house 6,500 government workers) by mid-September?  The answer?  Not likely.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Diversity in True Form

Congress will soon be given a 162-page document....on the advice given by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. If you were wondering....the commission is suggesting that the US military should try hard to appear like the ethnic makeup of America. They are suggesting....more diversity.

Naturally, this would mean a number of things would have to change on the way that the military views educational background, your test scores, criminal records and yes....even your minor or major use of drugs. This list of problems mentioned here....typically limits blacks and Hispanics from entering the service.

Along side these comments....the commission also discussed the problem (a 1994 law) that prevents women from male-only combat units. They cited a number of cases and believe its finally time to include women as direct combat participants.

I sat there a while and pondered over these comments. Curiously, diversity has never won a war.

Diversity never filled a sandbag.

Diversity never charged up a hill with overwhelming odds against you.

Diversity never landed on Normandy Beach, Iowa Jima, or marched via the jungles of Nam, or walked softly on the sands of Iraq.

Diversity never pulled a 24-hour shift in a foxhole waiting for death.

Diversity never jumped out of a C-130 in darkness at 10,000 feet and hoping the right diverse guy packed his chute.

Diversity never engaged Communists, Fascists, or Nazis.

Diversity was never the one called when some country was invaded.

Diversity never grappled with a lack of bullets in a hostile zone.

Diversity never braved 115 degree heat with a 75-pound backpack on, or minus-25 degree cold with a 100-pound backpack on.

Diversity never lived in a sub for 100 days.

Diversity never met up with a POW camp situation.

Diversity never even met an enemy who was diversified.

Diversity never ate MREs for thirty days straight.

Diversity never agreed to die for a country or cause.

In short, diversity is something you chat about in a classroom with a professor who offers opinions on things but never spent a evening in a foxhole. And the sad thing? After you finish up basic and infantry school...then spend a year in Afghanistan...you would grin and tell the professor that you’ve become awful diverse since joining up as a Marine or Army, and can say “yes, sir” or “no, maam” without any problems.

I can see this moment where you offer up a physical test for a female to accomplish her anticipated tasks in a combat zone (whether a pilot or tank member or whatever)....and if you had the phsyical being to accomplish the task...you get a pass. If you were a 5-foot tall gal with a 100-pound frame....you might as well forget about your odds here.

Beyond those points...the diverse guys should concentrate on making all college tenured professor positions, nuclear lab situations, political parties, and police forces as diverse as possible. If you used the same measuring stick with those folks....everyone would be grinning and mostly laughing after sixty seconds.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Evac

Today, the Air Force came out and started up evacuation orders or offers for dependents in Japan.  They didn't say you had to leave....but they had planes coming into the country and you could raise your hand to leave (at least at this point).

Now, if you were curious....there are 20,000 dependents.  You can do the math with a 250-passenger plane and figure how many flights it'd take (a bunch).

How many dependents will do it?  I'm betting 10,000 attempt to leave over the next two weeks.  At some point, if upper hand is gained over the mess....it might convince folks to stay on.

The problem is that Japanese are watching this....and desperately wondering if they should stay in their own country.  I'm guessing every Japanese citizen with relatives in the US....are calling and arranging for a four-month visit.  There's probably 20k Japanese hardware engineers advertising themselves to companies in the US and hoping they get picked up for a one-year contract.

Should they be worried?  If you live within twelve miles...you might have cause to worry.  But after fifty miles....I don't think I'd worry that much.  Face it....we dropped nukes over two cities in Japan and nobody packed up then to leave.

The National License Bureau?

There was a Representative today...who stood up and said there ought to be national standards for driving age.

It's a curious thing.....with all the various problems in America....to include health care, social security's impending failure, and troops in Iraq.....we need to fix teen drivers.

So the deal is this....if passed....government standards for licensing teen drivers......with 16 being the earliest a kid could get a learner's permit, and no unrestricted license until age 18.

Why 16 and why 18?

This bill came from a guy from Maryland, and he felt that these ages marked a certain maturity.  Amusingly enough....kids in South and North Dakota are considered mature enough by fourteen to get a permit.  Six months of learning is enough....wrap up the test....and you get  a full license in those two states.

Is the Congressman getting any interest?  No.  A number of western states have a fair amount of experience with teens and found that most of their kids were mature by sixteen and didn't need some dude from Washington telling them something bogus.

Adding to this....the statistics are a bit confusing.  When gas went up....teen driver accidents suddenly decreased....so folks know that if you take more teens off the road, then there are fewer accidents.  But these are statistics that revolve around gas prices, and not some dude from the East Coast.

Adding even more to this mess....not a peep by the Congressman over older drivers....who ought to be taken in for a test with their doctor and their local county folks after age 65.  Every three years after that....they ought to be tested again.  Most folks in Bama would readily admit that five thousand Bama drivers ought to be taken off the road completely or forced to drive only in daylight hours.

Having grown up in the rural aspects of America....I can attest to the fact that most kids on a farm are driving a vehicle by age twelve.  By age fourteen....they can back up a wagon or clear two posts with two inches to spare on each side.  If you consider the stress of driving in most rural areas....a kid could easily drive in daylight hours by age 15 and I wouldn't have a problem giving him a license.  A kid living in Orlando or Nashville?  No....he ought to be sixteen as a minimum and limited to mostly daylight hours.

My belief is that it's a state issue....and lets just leave it that way.

A Picture Behind the Picture

It is comical in a way.  The Air Force went into a modern revitalization program around a decade ago to create this fantastic new intelligence program....the unmanned imagery platform.  It's kinda like Chevy creating a entire new model series and giving tons of fancy words and pumping money into a new model....but it's basically creating imagery, which has been around since World War II.

So this week....the ISR community (the catch-all phrase that gets people pumped up in the Air Force) got this call to help in analyzing Japan and its nuke plants.  The mission here....is to fly over and take pictures, and then everyone will see the pictures....while you think of twenty lines of commentary to get out of these images.

You can imagine Airman Snuffy sitting there, along with Captain Joe, and Lt Col Karl....looking down at these images of a nuke plant.  Basically, a whole bunch of steam and damaged buildings from things that have blown up, and nothing much else.  You might be able to say this area looks like heavier damage that than area.  You might be able to say that there's more smoke here than there.  You might be able to say a red glow from this building which you don't see anywhere else.  Frankly, it's just a bunch of pictures with limited potential.

But, you have to put a good spin on this.  It is imagery from a fancy Air Force system and the latest that might exist.  Airman Snuffy, Captain Joe, and Lt Col Karl will give you the twenty lines of text that you desperately need to feel fulfilled, and maybe they might see one odd thing that stands out and makes you curious about something else in the plant.  Thats about the only hope that you can have.

So, you might just get a nifty picture or two from twenty thousand feet in the next day to view from your CNN correspondent, and you can thank those kindly Air Force guys for taking their pictures.

Oh, and if you were wondering....Major Steve is already busy writing Airman Snuffy, Captain Joe and Lt Col Karl's award package for helping to produce this overhead imagery of the nuke plant.  The sad thing?  He has to invent twenty lines of text too....mostly out of thin air....without the aid of overhead imagery.  And that will take a good bit of creative effort.

The Cost of Living

Hidden in your daily affairs....as you shop and buy around the US.....utilizing your ATM and credit card....are these transaction fees.  We don't typically think about them.  Businesses do think about them.  It's typically somewhere between one to two percent of each transaction.  Course, that would make you perk up if you realized that all these extra costs are figured into the coffee you buy at McDonalds and use your credit card to for the hot java.  Or how about the $9 you spent for pizza at lunch with your ATM card?  Or how about the $22 you spent on gas this morning as you drove to work?

Some business folks have approached the Federal Reserve and suggested up a radical idea....set a level fee, and since December....the Fed has been surveying this idea.

The deal?  No matter what you do or buy....a fee of roughly 12 cents would be the final cost of using the ATM or credit card.

Naturally, there would be this sudden boost of profits for companies.....if this did occur.....because companies wouldn't have to rebate the money hidden into costs back to you.  Oh, McDonalds might make the breakfast meal 20 cents cheaper.   Maybe the donut shop would give you a 50-cent discount on six donuts for a couple of weeks.  But overall.....it's geared to help businesses more than the consumer.

It's a strange thing....Visa and MasterCard aren't really happy about this level fee.  It's a seventy-percent cut on their $20 billion dollar game.  So you'd expect them to bring out Senator Snuffy and Representative Clyde to argue against this terrible Fed change.  You certainly wouldn't want Visa to suffer, you know.

For years....businesses have been enticing you to pull out the credit card to charge....just to get you to buy more.  They had hopes that you'd use a plastic card to buy $4 of donuts and coffee.  They have hopes of you buying a whopper menu at lunch with the plastic card.  They have hopes that you will stop off on the way home tonight to observe two ladies dancing while you sip a cheap beer and charging all of this with a plastic card.

Hidden in all of these charges....are the one to two percent add-ons.  It's like a tax in a way....if you think about it long enough.  The sad thing here?  They've added the costs already into business....so even if you wanted to just use cash....it wouldn't matter.....you still contribute to the one to two percent hidden fees.  So you might as well give up....and use the plastic card. It's either a win-win or a lose-lose....depending on your view of life.

Just a Short Bit of History

Lot of common chit-chat on Chernobyl and the nuke mess there.

Ever wondered what triggered it?  Ever seen any commentator take up the topic and explain what the Russians did?  Ever noticed that the process of starting the Russian meltdown isn't typically explained?

A short history.  Some engineer....not nuclear engineer....more of a mechanical engineering guy....knew that maintenance was a big deal for Russian nuke plants.  To bring a plant down for its highly frequent maintenance cycles (much more than US plants).....you needed to use a custom-built diesel run power plant.  Yeah.....those cost a ton of money, if you were curious.

The mechanical engineer had this fancy idea....to use the internal power of the plant as its shutting down....to run the shutdown process.  In theory, it really intrigues a bunch of folks who sit around and discuss fantastic ideas which usually don't go nowhere.

He wanted to test this.  He designed the entire process.  If proven....he could save the Soviet government hundreds of millions and avoid building these wasteful diesel generators.

He needed permission to experiment with a real plant.  Naturally, he went to Moscow.  He talked a bunch and convinced the committee who control nuke plants that this was practical.  They gave him a chance...once chance....to prove this was workable.  They pick Chernobyl.

He shows up and presents the papers.  No one can argue with leadership in Moscow.

He prepares everything and gets ready to take down the plant for maintenance....avoiding the diesel generator.  Somewhere in the middle....the back-up systems kick on and foil his entire experiment.

He goes back to Moscow and begs for one more chance.  Sure....one last chance.  He goes back and takes offline these various back-up systems.

Funny thing....this guys background was mechanical engineering and not nuclear engineering.  Things go wrong.  No back-up system to kick in because this dimwit had them removed from operation.

He disappears.  The guys from Moscow mostly all stand around and watch the mess unfold.  The curious thing is that this experiment.....had nothing to do with nuclear power or nuclear engineers....just diesel generators and how the nuke plant ought to go from full power to non-power.

So when some fool is standing from a think-tank and talking about the terrible mess that Chernobyl ended up being.....you might want to ask them what kind of experiment they were running....just to see if he grins.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Japan: Worst Case Scenario

There are various scenarios that news reporters are generally talking about now.  I think in the last five days....I've heard twelve different scenarios.  Each one had some truth to it, but some fiction as well.  This episode in Japan has potential to go in various directions.

So allow me to present the absolute worst scenario.  All four plants end up in a huge atomic mess.    Every farm within one hundred miles is declared a non-production site....potentially for five years.  Cattle?  Pigs?  Chickens?  You can't sell any of them for anything.

An emergency system to provide back-up power that was lost from the four sites?  No.  The best that they can suggest is that rolling blackouts will be the norm for two to four years.  No one is sure about the idea of building more nuclear power so it's got to be something else.....and coal becomes the only reasonable option but you'd have to buy off the open market (You folks in West Virginia might want to listen carefully now).  The coal plant could be put up in two years and fully operational.....with lots of built-in cost to transporting coal and buying it.

Foreigners living in Japan?  My guess is that they will find ample reasons to leave....and only ten percent remain.  Families of GI's living there?  Half will leave by April, and a fair portion will leave by summertime. If you talk health risks and lack of electrical power...it's a big deal.

Food for the population?  To be in short supply for the next twelve months.  You took out a fair amount of farm land.

So here's the deal.....Japan will start to discuss where to long-term put 500,000 Japanese folks displaced by the entire situation.  Tent cities?  For two years or more?  Rebuilding the country's infrastructure?

Somewhere by July...there will be talk of this deal to allow some of the 500k Japanese a one-time deal to come to the US.  No one will grasp the enormous planning required or the hand out that we'd have to accept.  We are talking about potentially 50k folks....maybe 100k.....maybe even half-a-million....packing and coming to the US.

Somehow, we will do the right thing and take them in.  And this legacy of the episode will start to be some story that America never truly thought much about....when folks were in trouble.....we did what needed to be done.

Maybe my scenario is a bit drastic.....but I'm thinking things are not concluding like folks would hope.  The positive side of this?  If there ever were this chance to get some folks into the US who would work and give 200 percent of their effort each day....making sure things worked right....and that these folks demanded honor in society, then this would be the one time you grab the bull by the horns.

You'd want fifty of these guys for your company and you'd find houses for them....cover start-up expenses....give them use of a car....and extend out the biggest hand possible.  Imagine 500k Japanese folks....jump-starting America....just when we needed it the most.

The Difference

Had the big mess in Japan occurred in the US instead....it'd be a mighty big difference.

In the US, we would have started up a congressional lobby for an investigation while the mess was underway and utilized the nuclear plant episode to blame the company, the CEO, the profits given to investors, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Tea Party, and Sarah Palin.

In the US, we would have discussed moving everyone within fifty miles (not twelve miles), and then gone to congress the next day to authorize FEMA payments of $5k to each family per month as part of the compensation.

In the US, FEMA would have been expected to fail miserably as they forced evacuation of folks within the hazardous zone.

In the US, ten percent of the forced evacuation folks would have refused to leave because of looting potential.  Roving cops would have arrested hundreds of people who came from as far away as four states away....just to loot folks.

In the US, fake iodine pills would have been on the market by the second day.  For $9.99, you could have bought ten pills...straight from Mexico.

In the US, Anderson Cooper from CNN would have been seen weeping and asking when the President would be touring the danger zone.

In the US, three hundred media guys would be actively traveling through the forbidden zone on a daily basis and grinning as they did their nightly broadcast.

In the US, everyone would have demanded all nuke plants shut down within a year....then discovered that they were then on a 12-hour pattern of electricity per day, and wondering how that was possible.

In the US, the entire three-hour Today Show would have done been dedicated to the mess for two weeks, then suddenly....everyone would reappear in New York City and act like the mess was finished.

In the US, WalMart would have offered up a Nuke-Emergency kit, which would have cost around $120 (freeze-dried food, two cases of water, some candles, and a fancy radio).

In the US, lawyers would have arrived into the affected area and searched out everyone who had any issues that could be taken into court.

In the US, some rock stars would have put on a charity event via MTV already.

In the US, VP Joe Biden would have continued his trip to Russia and his first comments upon landing back in DC would have been: "What the hell happened?"

In the US, there would have already been talk of permanently relocating folks from the affected area on a permanent basis.  The minute that Bama and Mississippi were mentioned....people would go into fits and claim that it was unfair to force them to such states.  Most folks would have demanded Florida, Arizona, or New York City.

In the US, the CEO of the nuke plant, the FEMA chief, the head scientist of the nuke plant, the chief of county emergency services.....they would have all been fired by the tenth day of the episode.

Finally, in the US....some folks would already be talking about making a movie over the crisis....with Pauly Shore mentioned as the nutty nuclear professor.

Only in America.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Just a Comment on NPR

When and if the budget cut does come to NPR....which might happen (it's more likely than less likely)....the NPR folks will come out and tell you that they can get the money and advertisers to continue on.

I sat and pondered over this today.  There are 1341 transmitters around America.  If congress worded their document in a certain way....and forbid any government agency from donating toward the NPR vehicle....to include the transmitter towers, then it'd be up to the states to fund these and carry them on.

It kinda hit me at that point....some states are simply not going to be able to keep full power and keep operating 1341 towers around America.  Donations?  You might be able to keep operating cost continuing but these towers require replacement situations and equipment.

Within two years....I'd predict that 100 of the transmitters would be off-line (if congress cut their funding as part of the scheme).

Within five years?  I'd bet on 500 of the transmitters off-line.

You'd still have streaming audio, and maybe someone like Bill Gates would fund an entire satellite channel. Maybe.  Maybe not.

But if not.....then you'd have these big shadow areas across the US where you wouldn't have NPR reaching people.  It might still be strong in urban areas....but in the rural areas of Alabama or Kansas?  No. In some ways....they'd repeat the problems of Air America....being unable to reach a full audience across the US.

So is NPR in trouble?  Yeah....they might just lose thirty percent of their audience eventually....because of some stupid comments on the air and some stupid comments in getting donations.

The Woes of Rory

It's a difficult mess to explain....so I will have to use Bama-speak to get points across.

There is this young gentleman who happens to be the son of Senator Harry Reid....named Rory Reid.  This young fella was all primed and pumped up last summer to run for governor of Nevada.  Naturally, it takes money to run.  So he had some friends and they organized themselves as a political action committee.  These political action committees are always referred to as PAC's....for you folks from Bama.

Congress got all upset about the way that PACs run...so naturally, they invented some rules about them and how transparent they run.  That's mostly hidden chat-chat commentary meaning that you really need to hide the good so that newspapers and regular folks can't figure out your schemes.  But it has to look open and transparent.  Confusing?  Yes.....but that's the best way to do things like this.

Rory's two friends started up this PAC called the "Economic Leadership PAC"...which is pretty for a title. They registered it just like congress mandated.  They even filled in the address.  Somehow....they got some money dumped into the EL-PAC....although it's not clear who or what gave them the money.

Along the next step here....the EL-PAC wanted to help Rory (like you would imagine)....except there is this funny rule that a PAC is limited to a $10k donation.  It's a fine rule for most folks but it didn't help Rory much.

So the boys got this idea of creating sub-PACs....so they registered them....into dozens, and dozens and dozens.  And they donated $750k to Rory....at $10k a whack.

Naturally, this would have all been ok except some idiot asked for a listing for all the PAC donations and then did the homework to figure what street address each of them used in their paperwork.  Eventually, some idiot spent a heck of alot of time doing this.

Strange thing....all of these 90-odd PACs....came out of the same address as the EL-PAC.  Yep, it's kinda like you had 90 relatives listed at your house and pretending that they all live there with you.  You know it's highly impossible.

Rory is kinda standing there and hinting now that things are clear, transparent, and "fully disclosed".  I'm guessing the state folks will ask for more details and he's got some explaining to do.  At the very least....he will have to pay a fine.  These folks might be nice enough to let Rory just pay $20k and walk away.  They might make it $100k just to make an impression on him.

The real crime here?  Rory should have had 90-odd addresses lined up in some trailer parks around the state, and just had 90-odd fellas donating each from a different trailer park.  This would have made this all perfectly legit, or appear that way.  So it's more of a crime of stupidity.

So don't worry.  Rory is still in the clear and won't do any jail-time....and most of this will be forgotten in two years anyway.  As for the EL-PAC?  Well....it'll dissolve and folks will create a totally new fancy named PAC in two years for Rory.  And this time....they will be smart enough to create 90-odd sub-PACs around the entire state of Nevada....probably from barbershop PACs, coffee-shop PACs, bordello PACs and even dairy farm PACs.  Course, congress will eventually question how a barbershop PAC can come up with $10k and we might have to out-law barbershop PACs from existence.

Just another day in America.

Quote of the Day

“We’ve gone from a 24/7 news cycle to 24/7 elections."

- A quote by State Senator Tim Cullen (D) of Janeseville, Wisconsin.


It's a short and blunt quote that most folks would really prefer not to hear.  Folks have to attend family reunions where they will be asked their standing on this party or this problem....and it's best not to answer.  The same will be true of a guy who has traveled six hundred miles for a high school reunion....only to face a couple of guys who are now absolute union enthusiasts.  The same will be true of folks who married someone and suddenly discover that they are sympathetic toward the Tea Party folks and you just can't stand them.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

A Short Commentary Over the NFL Strike

Up until the 2010 season....I really wasn't much of a NFL viewer.  For some odd reason....being back in the US....I suddenly caught onto both the NFL and NCAA games.  I probably watched thirty NFL games over this past season.

I have watched with interest this discussion with the NFL strike and it appears now that we will proceed into this....with curious consequences for a bunch of folks.

NFL players are famous for getting a pretty hefty salary but then spending about half of what they make each year on things with no return (lifestyle, attorney fees to fix your legal problems, court costs because you beat up some guy at a bar, and ex-wives).

You could be some guy who has played for the Chargers for six consecutive years and you've got maybe $300k in the bank to show for it.  The problem is that you bought a $3 million-dollar house and owe $12k a month on bank payments.  Toss in the five cars that you own and the $6k a a month that you make on payments for these, and the houseboat that you bought last year that you owe $3k a month until you pay this thing off in two years.

The owners aren't much better because some went out and built fancy stadiums and owe $8 million a month to the bank.

The agents are the only ones in the great position because they were smart enough to hire accountants and buy rental properties which pay them $1 million a month with payments coming in.

If the strike lasts through the whole year?  I'd imagine that a bunch of guys will be bankrupt and facing huge recovery problems.  The big millionaire players?  They have issues because they started charity foundations to hide some of their income and they can't slack off on these.

The bottom line is that around one hundred NFL players are wannabe stars that will never deliver, but some idiot agent and idiot owner cooked up some four-year deal for $20 or $30 million.  They have screwed up basic principals of management and cost the team a real opportunity to get ahead.  In short, just like Joe who only makes $60k a year and bought that $400k house with a $40k down payment.....the owners, the players, and the agents have all acted just as stupidly as the homeowners who are losing their homes currently.

The Perfect Place?

There are some folks today talking about the luck of living away from a coastline....away from hurricane areas....and even away from flood areas.  I found this one commentary from an online site (Ianlou is the online name), and it's highly appropriate for folks thinking about the perfect place to live.

I Love Michigan,
We Don't Have:
Earth Quakes
Tidal Waves
Forest Fires
Floods
Mud Slides
Hurricanes
Droughts
Volcanoes
100 Degree Heat
Many Tornadoes
Alligators or Crocodiles
Sharks
Jellyfish
Poisonous Snakes
Poisonous Lizards
Scorpions
Giant Cockroaches
Our most dangerous critter is the Mosquito

The Dividing of a Nation

Up in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin this week....folks had been busy working on the Saint Patrick's parade, but things start unraveling by the end of the week.  The current projection is that the original group of fifty entries in the parade....are down to two.

The Fond du Lac cops now say that the tension brewed up in Madison....are turning the locals into threats and counter-threats.

Things have gotten bad enough that the cops stood up and told the State Senator from the district not to come to the parade....that he might be the target of some action.  So State Senator Randy Hopper and State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt won't be marching in the parade.....and I doubt if even half of the folks who had it on their schedule will show up.

State Senator Hopper then commented: "I, in no way, want to put the citizens of Fond du Lac in harms way."

Needless to say....another part of this story is that a recall effort against Hopper is underway.  They need twenty-five percent of the folks who voted in the last election (who are registered voters, from that district.....and you ought to be a US citizen in case some guy comes up to check on you).

You can imagine yourself sitting in a church and knowing twenty people from the church are union enthusiasts and dedicated Democrats.  A simple coffee and cake moment after church becomes this awkward meeting where you have to avoid twenty discussion topics.

You can imagine yourself at the barbershop, and suddenly finding out that the one and only barber in the shop is a Republican....and you are a union activist.  You've been using this barber for thirty years....and suddenly....you get up and say "Damn you" and walk out to never return again (getting only the hairs on the left side cut evenly and being a person of curiosity for the next couple of days).  

You can imagine yourself at a Parent-Teachers meeting and finding that thirty-six of the forty-two teachers in your local school are hardcore union activists.....so you finally stand up and remove both your kids from the school and put them into local Catholic private school....at a cost of $6k a year for each.  The teachers stand there and can't understand why they had 24 students in their room one month....and the next, they only have 16.  Course, the county board is counting numbers and starting to think about teacher cuts....which scares the crap out of the union activist teachers.  The union hustles up a bunch of illegal alien kids and get the numbers back to the right position, but everyone is curious why the school is so screwed up the next school year.

You can imagine yourself as a clerk of the local Piggly Wiggly and standing there....listening to two union enthusiasts who are openly making a threat about some local guy.  They are discussing cutting his tires.....setting fire to his garbage can.....or calling his wife and telling her that he drove off into a river.  You'd like to call the cops and report them....but you know that the cops are all union enthusiasts as well.  No one is seriously depending on the police....like you would think.

So in essence.....we have divided one state....ever so carefully.  There are forty-nine to go.  If you ever wondered how a bunch of idiots got all peppy in 1860 and talked themselves into fighting one another, you might want to stand back and think about our current situation.