Sunday, 31 July 2011

You Know There's Something Wrong....

You know there's something wrong when you can name more senators and congressmen, than quarterbacks in the NFL.

You know there's something wrong when you are fully prepared to borrow $20k to buy a speedboat, yet you owe over $350k already for your house, the two cars, the $15k kitchen you bought last year, the college education for your daughter who got a liberal arts degree, and the trip to Vegas where you lost $10k at slots back in April.

You know there's something wrong when a 28-year old reporter from the New York Times is writing high impact articles on the economy....but never took a single course in economics while in college.

You know there's something wrong when your senator stands up to speak, and spends ninety-five percent of his twenty minutes....blaming folks.

You know there's something wrong when you bring a broke item back to the store and insist on the warranty falling into place....then being told that there's a time schedule in place....so the most you can get back for the broke item is half what you paid.

You know there's something wrong when an investor's service....like Moodys....is actually holding the "balls" of the nation in their hand and could flip the bond ratings down a notch from AAA.

You know there's something wrong when someone mentions settling the NFL strike is more important than settling the debt ceiling situation.

You know there's something wrong when your wife is starting to quote Matt Lauer of the Today Show like he was JFK.

You know there's something wrong when you start to realize that Canada might be in better financial shape, than the United States of America.

You know there's something wrong when you realize that you could actually live off fairly well off eighty percent of the money that you are currently spending, and you try to imagine the same "fit" for Congress and the Senate.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Just a Parody of Real Life

It is an interesting parody from the UK. Basically, the American empire is on it's last legs and our British friends wanted us to feel ok about this.  We of the US would simply fail our budget crisis, get second-rate bonds, and be a secondary nation from that point on.

I think the letter might actually be more true than parody.  I could see a fairly negative August going through....bond ratings dropped....budgets failing to fall into place....and more political chatter until Novembers election of next year.  The President would win his campaign, and we'd continue on down this trail for an additional four years.  The "empire" that we've known?  Well....the parody might be correct in that we just aren't much of a big-boy nation to talk or brag or lead much of anything.  Wendy's Burgers or Trailways Buses might be in better financial condition than the mighty United States of America.

It's sad in a way that things have come to this point.  But we all had our say in the matter, and allowed things to fall like this.

Meanwhile....being number two, or number five, or number eight in the world....might not be such a bad thing. Maybe CSP*N would start sharing out its operation with Honduras and we could get some dual time with Honduran political folks at our level (or their level....if you think about it).

Friday, 29 July 2011

Simply Observations

After watching bits and pieces of the debt ceiling episode this week....I've come to the conclusion that the senate will not act in any positive manner to meet the deadline.  They want the Republicans to simmer in some kind of mess for a while.  Meanwhile.....you can tell that a number of folks are calling up their Democratic senators and harping on the fact that they represent some state and not some party....and this invitation to a bond rating decrease isn't exactly a positive thing for the state or its residents.  In my humble mind, I see the government shutting down next week and a good long three week period where the mess gets worse each day. The bond rating decrease is virtually guaranteed in my mind.

The British national health care system came up and admitted they are now rationing operations.  You won't be getting knee or hip operations unless you meet their idea of the best weight for your height (meaning you might have fifty pounds to lose with serious knee or hip pain as part of your issues to start with).  There's an entire list of these limited operations up on The Independent.  At some point, the reporter hints that doctors are wondering how their patients will take this news....which kinda makes you laugh that they'd even care.  The British system is broke and won't be fixed except by cutting services.  The positive side?  Within ten years....half of all Brits will be mostly doped up on pain-killers and smiling all day long with various ailments or pain....thus saving the nation billions in operations cost.  I'm actually thinking this might be the best way for America to proceed forward with it's health care woes.

Finally from my home state of Bama....Birmingham is almost up for bankruptcy.  With $3.2 billion owed....the odds of them ever paying this off....is zero.  The root cause is the famous sewage system that was built for a town around three times the size of Birmingham, and a bunch of dimwit political folks who really didn't grasp nothing much about taxes, or building sewage plants.  They trimmed up services by a significant amount....to the point that if you did sell a car and wanted to transfer title....you'd have to waste a minimum of four hours at the local government office in doing so.  Will bankruptcy do much of anything?  I have doubts.  It'll take a decade for locals to get over this.  Meanwhile, most all of the political folks who really screwed up....have just continued on or retired.  No punishment worth mentioning.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Fickleness of a Uniform

Rumor has it now....that this Oslo shooter guy....Anders Breivik, has the intention of appearing at his court case in his Knights of the Templar uniform (seen to the right).

My guess is that he's made this hint to his lawyer....preparing the court folks for this request.  Legally, it may be hard to deny the guy this opportunity (being Norway and such).  If I were the judge...I would seek various ways to forbid this and force the guy to show up in a plain old suit.

The intention here?  He wants to show that he's some military authority (with medals) and working on a mission that will benefit his nation.  The medals?  All fake or given to him by his drinking buddies at the local Knights of the Templar meeting.  In essence, the uniform is fake, the medals are fake, and the guy is fake.

I could say a lot of negative things about some stunt like this.  He's already violated a number of rules that a military guy would swear an oath to.  Somehow, he's worn this enough times....that he starts to believe in some radical political ideology....some mission to save the country.....and that killing a significant number of teenagers will  help accomplish everything.  Allowing him to appear in court with this fickle uniform....is about the last thing on Earth that I'd allow, if I were judge.  It's a pleasure, that I just can't agree to.

The Millionaire Tax Scenario

One has to lay out a model of a millionaire tax increase....to understand the White House beliefs and what will happen next.....so here is a simplified scenario.

Karl was a lucky kid whose dad talked him into doing state college and not running off to the University of California like he dreamed.  His dad paid for everything....making him live out of the dorm for three years....kept his allowance within reason.  When Karl graduated....he didn't owe anyone any money.  At that point, he was twenty steps ahead of his buddies.

Karl had made a friendship or two in college and had this idea of buying houses....fixing them....and then flipping them.  He made up a partnership.....borrowed enough from his dad and the bank....and started this business in the local town where he grew up.  Within four years....he'd paid back his dad and the bank all the money.  He cut corners and lived cheaply as part of his efforts.

By age thirty.....he was pulling in $150k a year.  Karl owned a small gas station as part of his diversification, and had a quarter ownership in a building with sixty apartments.

By age forty....he was pulling in $4 million a year.  Karl was part of a real estate "syndicate" which bought up property, influenced politicians from the region, and sold it at disgustingly great profits.  Karl had bought his first McDonalds franchise, and bought up forty properties in real estate speculation effort.

By age fifty....he was pulling in almost $20 million a year.  Karl had to pay around $4 million in taxes.  It would have been more but all these various tax credits existed which were crafted by several congressmen that his syndicate had donated millions to their re-election campaign.  The same thing was done at the state level....so he had saved millions through the use of his profits.

As these extra millions lay in Karls hands....he simply kept building onto his empire.  He owned four McDonalds franchises, had several hotel properties, and had various business enterprises in his vision.  He and his partner even owned a private jet....which they used typically five times a month, and the rest of the time....they rented it out to various local rich guys to travel to meetings in style.

When the day came that the administration finally finally decided to dump new taxes on Karl....to meet this debt obligation...to make things FAIR (as mentioned so many times in speeches).  Karl's $4 million in taxes suddenly went to $5.5 million.  It was $1.5 million less that he had out of the original $16 million that he could continually play with.

The fifth McDonalds that Karl dreamed of?  Gone.  It would be two years before he'd sit down and get serious about adding more to his account.  That equaled nine full-time jobs and forty part-time jobs in some rural area of Kentucky.    The government would use the $1.5 to sponsor a study in Peru on why cocaine is such a big deal there and needed the University of Texas to tell them the reason.

The remodeling that he would have done to one hotel in Tulsa?  That job would have employed twelve guys for six months, but that's now delayed for one year.

The upgraded jet that he and his partner were looking at....hoping to trade their current jet up a notch?  That's now pushed back for two years....so that $4 million for a California company, which would have meant cash flow and jobs for their organization....gone.

The fancy new Cadillac that Karl was going to buy for his wife?  That has been pushed back six months.  It's delayed, and harms Cadillac a small amount because it won't happen this month.

You have to remember....this increase on Karl's taxes isn't for one year.  You can figure it's a minimum of four years....so Karl is giving up $6 million that won't flow into some business enterprise or sponsor jobs via his business connections.  In fact, it's pretty good odds that the $1.5 million a year going into the government's hands....never helped to create a single job.

The neat thing?  While the President smiles and talks about taking on this rich fat-cat jet owners?  Karl and his buddies ran down to Senator Snuffy....and had him quietly toss in some more fancy tax credits.  It took a year to make these take effect.....but he actually got back to "norm"....keeping his $1.5 million that they took for one year.....and in fact, he now now retains $2 million instead.  So they came out better in the end....thanks to Senator Snuffy's amazing tax credit writing abilities.

Course, we'd all thank the President for screwing over their rich fat-cat jet owners, and never realize how the system really works.

Meanwhile, Karl has these dreams of making $40 million a year by age sixty.  The curious thing....America is the only place in the world where a guy might be able do something like this and not have inherited a single penny of the empire from any relative.  Thanks to the American system, and Senator Snuffy....oh, and the President.

Using the Bad Word

At some point on Friday....as the Oslo business started to unfold....I took my office browser over to the BBC and got a live feed from London.  Naturally, they were trying to tell you just about everything that got dumped out of Norway.

Eventually, the topic of the camp on the island came up and the possible shootings there.  So about thirty minutes into this....they kinda lay out the who sponsored the camp for these 16-year old to 20-year old kids.....the national labor party.

I sat there and had this brief and fleeting image in my mind but I felt it was best not to imagine that because it's not part of the story.  When you have a political party sponsoring a bunch of teenagers....giving them pep talks and speeches....it tends to remind historians of Nazi Germany.  I felt it would have been better if the BBC folks avoided any description of who ran this camp deal and just seize on the facts evolving.

Well....today....Glenn Beck finally got around to analyzing the whole picture here.  He discussed the shooter, the Muslims there in Norway, and finally got to this camp for kids....run by the liberal left party of the country.  He could not avoid noting some minor comparison to the way that Germans ran their youth camps of the 1930s.

Naturally, this raised a huge fuss by the mid-afternoon.  Folks got terribly upset about these seventy-odd kids who were killed by this nut in Norway....and the camp being referred to in a Nazi fashion.  Beck probably has gotten a tremendous amount of negativity over his comments, and a bunch of Norwegians will really get hyper over such a claim.

So, here are the facts.  Norway is this country about the size of Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri.  They've got the population of five million....which is just about the same population as South Carolina.  Nobody leaves the country much.  As for folks moving to the country....it's just not on the top fifty countries that folks want to move to....with the exception of Muslims.  The climate in the winter can be nasty, and mosquitoes are a huge issue in the summer.

Up until the 1950s.....Norway was this poor country that didn't have any real economy.  Then, they found oil and natural gas.  By the 1980s....money poured into the infrastructure, and they've built up the whole country with schools, roads, bridges, and fixed just about everything that you could imagine.  It's not a bad place, and certainly isn't like some poor region of Mississippi anymore.

The thing about Norway....is that with barely five million folks....you tend to know most everyone in your local area and region.  TV stars are actually folks that you might bump into on a monthly basis.  You likely know the chief banker of your local town by his first name, and you probably can name all of the doctors in town with ease.

So when you talk politics....everyone knows each other's politics and ideology.  In families, it's the likely event that the parents kind expect junior to follow in their footsteps to being a liberal or conservative or radical.  So the parties tend to expand out, and support these camp-like functions as a training atmosphere and a chance to meet up with like-minded kids.

Now, we can talk about the negative of ROTC in American schools doing the same thing.  We can talk about religious schools operating and trying to keep their kids in a straight line.  Here, you simply have folks in Norway who doing basically the same business.

I'd hate to use the term Nazi, like Beck used.  But the simple words used by various European reporters opened this bucket of worms.  When you toss around terms like this and don't explain the nation's structure and why things run like this.....you simply aren't doing justice to the situation.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Speech

I sat and watched the President's speech last night over the debt.  There are three observations I can make.

First, he should not have mentioned that Reagan went through this eighteen times and Bush did it seven times.  Any idiot would hear that and ask why we don't meet every eight months and vote on this again.....which is something he really doesn't want to happen.  Politically, there's trouble ahead for his re-election if he has to face this in the spring or summer again.

Second, blaming Bush works for maybe eighteen months.....but after 30 months....it just isn't worth mentioning.  Will he still blame Bush six years from now when he's wrapping up his final year?  Will the next Democrat to occupy the office of the Presidency blame Bush?  Will they blame Bush in 2025?

Finally, this speech (at the halfway point) started to sound more like a re-election speech than a speech to get people onboard with his plan (well, yeah....there is no plan....so let's move on).  I've listened to about eighteen speeches now since he took office.  The last couple of speeches have lost some of the enthusiasm that you kinda expected there in the beginning.

What occurs over the next ten days?  I suspect that Harry Reid would really like to wrap up this mess because he knows it's draining support for the re-election campaign for a couple of Democratic senators....and frankly, he's got better things to do than hang around the White House on Saturdays.  There will be this massive compromise effort....where most of the Republican plan is kept and the next debt ceiling emergency is neatly arranged for January 2013.  For the President, this doesn't help much because it'll turn the entire election into debt discussion and how he can't spend money on much of anything.  And for Moodys?  They may still downgrade the US bonds.  And that will turn the four-star mess into a five-star mess.

Simply Observations

For most of you who've never been to DC....we have rules on METRO (our subway & bus system).  One of those rules is....no beverages (no water, no ice, no soda, etc).  It's been that way a number of years.  Well....there's issues since this heat episode started.  The buses and trains can't chill to any appropriate temperature.  You could walk onboard a subway car, and it'd be 105 degrees.  So, they announced a lessening of the rules.....to allow you to drink water (from a bottle).  That lasted about one day.  Today, the bosses of METRO came right back...no beverages.  They don't want folks getting worried about wet floors or potential urine (you can't tell in DC, trust me).  Meanwhile, no one can understand how a guy can survive for fifteen minutes onboard a train where the car is 100 degrees.

"Just remember, this is the United States of America. We write 80 million checks a month."  Words by Timmy Geithner.  I sat there for five minutes looking at that.  Around eighty years ago....I doubt if we wrote more than 2k checks a month.  So what we are saying here....out of 300 million Americans.....that one out of four Americans is getting a check via this great system.  The odds of us doubling this in thirty years?  Better than 50-50 chance.  

How the Norway killer thinks: Imagine you having a long-awaited family reunion....you and your seven brothers & sisters.  So everyone shows up and you discover that Karl (your brother) married this gal who is extremely religious and has no tolerance to anyone who is of a different belief.  Karl's three kids?  They have no behavior control and mostly try to tell other kids what they ought to be doing.  You like Karl but the rest of his family are a pain in the butt.  Most of your brothers and sisters all agree that it was a great event but they really don't like Karl's wife continually telling them of the terrible things they are doing and how her life is so wonderful.  You try to continue the meetings once or twice a year, but find a sister here or a brother there.....won't attend.  After three years....only one other sibling will come to your party when Karl and his wife attends.  The others?  They won't say nothing to Karl and avoid negative comments whenever possible.  You accept all of this and keep running this invitation business....just gazing the other way at Karl's idiot wife...pretending she's not there.  So in Norway, England, Germany, Denmark, France, etc......there's all these irritated people who've quietly sat on their hands and just plain agreed to avoid talking badly about Muslims.   Like the older brother in my analogy.....it's best to just keep going forward.  The problem is....there's a growing number of people who are openly angry and hostile over events.  So there are these people who starting to blame everyone except the Muslims.  You can call it stupid and foolish, but they've rationalized this to the point that they think they are doing the right thing.  The sad thing?  Innocent people end up having to die because one group of people started the problem of being a pain-in-the-butt, and the blame gets shifted to the innocent people who just accepted the pain-in-the-butt folks.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Simply Observations

Amy Winehouse.  There's not much to say.  If I had been a betting person....I would have put down $10k three years ago and felt sure she was going to die of a drug overdose in the near-future.  The sad thing is that she had a voice at the beginning....a potentially great career.....and just screwed everything up.  End of the story.

The Norway shooter?  You can now put him in the same category as Timothy McVeigh, Charley Manson, and the Unabomber.  They all had agendas and a manifesto.  Each one had to kill innocent people....to make their point.  The Norway guy sat down and wrote 1,500 pages worth of reasons why the world is screwed up, and why he ought to fix things via a violent means.  The strange thing?  The Norway shooter, McVeigh, Manson, and the Unabomber were all captured alive.  McVeigh is dead....but only because it's Oklahoma justice handling the business.  How to counter these nuts?  There is virtually no way that you can predict or select those who fit the profile.  There could be a hundred Unabomber idiots sitting in New Jersey alone.

Finally, what happens to this week with the debt deal?  Rumor has it that the Democrats are working their own plan to fix things.  Frankly, the clock is ticking on a number of fronts.  The Moody folks are studying the moment to downgrade the US bonds.....and this is actually a bigger deal than anything else.  The odds that Moody might trigger their downgrade by Friday?  I'd put pretty good odds unless something major happens by Tuesday night.  How big a deal will this be?   We've come to face a debt ceiling episode a number of times over two hundred years.....but having our bond downgraded is going to be a new experience and you probably won't like the outcome of that.  The curious thing is the new Republican plan will be a time-limited effort....where we face the same issue by spring of 2012, in the midst of the election.  This means that we barely get out of this mess....take a deep breath....and then go into an election period with the debt as the number one issue.  That's the last thing on earth that the President and his election team would like to see.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Painted Mules

Several years ago, I vacationed up in Denmark and noticed those life-sized cow statues.....painted in odd colors.  It was an art project that people picked up on and kids were fascinated by it.  So you had painted cows everywhere.

Then about five years ago....I noticed in Kaiserslatuern....they did the same thing with fish.  You had a three foot by five foot fiberglass fish that folks painted.  At one point, there must have been forty of these around the town.

So it's come to pass in Jasper, Alabama....they've come up with fiberglass mules....which folks paint.  Each mule has a name, and there's usually a couple of artists involved in each one.

The thing about folks from Bama....is that they notice something like this....a painted mule by some someone else.....then they get the itch to buy an unpainted mule.....toss on their own artwork....and put it up in their own yard.  I'm just taking a guess here, but I would imagine over a thousand mules around the state by spring of next year, and maybe five thousand by the end of 2012.

Not that Bama folks are tied up to artwork.....but they tend to get stuck on statues, if the price is right.  So I will predict some guys are sitting in a garage right now....forming up a dozen statues each night in some mold, and selling them at flea markets for $200 ($100 profit) very shortly.  We will all have a laugh, then notice our neighbor has one.....and get the itch.  Painted mules, who would have thought of such an idea?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

This Oslo Shooter Dude

I'm kinda shocked over events yesterday in Oslo.  Between the bombing and the killing of seventy-plus kids on this island nearby.....there's a lot of thing disturbing.

So what is this shooter (who is wounded but lives) all about?

A younger guy....from Norway....in his 30's.  He's a business man of sorts.  From one picture, I can gain that he's a Knights of the Templar member.  He is a conservative Christian guy (or so he claimed).  He had a Facebook page but nothing of any value on it.  The guy obviously owned weapons.  He walked in and was able to buy around six tons of fertilizer.

Gun ownership in Norway?  It's a curious thing.  Automatic weapons have been basically forbidden.  Most cops don't carry weapons....they are simply maintained down at the local cop station and handed out only when necessary (one step than the Barney-one-bullet-act).

If you are a collector of guns....you can apply for a automatic gun waiver, and then you'd likely be able to acquire a gun for your collection (which typically is locked up in a safe or a basement vault).

To own a regular gun....you go down to the local cop station and fill out a paper to explain why you need one (typically hunting or target shooting).  The cops evaluate the form.  If you have a history of trouble.....you don't normally get a gun.  If you have mental notes made in the police database.....you likely own't get the gun permit.

The cops will actually come to your house and examine this safe or vault room.  There's one key for that safe or vault room.....which only you, not your wife or kids....have access to.

How did this guy get his weapons?  I'm guessing he claimed collector status or simply imported them in from another country quietly.  We will know this part in a day or two as the cops assemble the information.

Why the bomb?  Why kill the kids on the island?  My only guess here is that he felt in his twisted sense of affairs that Norway was slipping toward some far-left society.  The current political party leading things?  Likely at the center of his attention and the reason why the vehicle bomb was at the heart of the government.  The same is true for the bomb left in the basement of one building....to ensure it collapsed.  All of these efforts led strictly to a target of the current government.

The attack on the Utoya Island?  This kid's camp is an odd deal.  It's run by the liberal party in charge of the government.  It's hard to imagine a political party running kid's camps but this is Norway and maybe it's an acceptable thing there.  The Prime Minister was supposed to be out there to make a speech....so I think he was the original target.  He wasn't there....so the gunman simply went to central point of the island at the proper time and started shooting anyway.   Maybe in some odd way, he saw all these kids being a future left-winger issue for Norway and making thing worse (in his mind) than what they are already.  You just don't know about his state of mind and how conclusions are assembled.

The punishment for this guy?  Sadly, he will simply get life in prison and likely be identified as simply "crazy".  He might even be sent to a mental hospital....to be guarded by a dozen guys on a daily basis because he will be a permanent and everlasting threat as long as he lives.

Life in Norway after this?  Kid's camps will be seen as a unsafe place.  There'll be a huge drop-off in attendance over the next year or two.  Folks will insist on massive control of fertilizer now....to the extent that you might only be able to buy a limit of one ton a week (farmers will be infuriated).  Weapon control?  It's hard to say how much more you can tighten this.  You might see all private gun storage tossed, and your weapon kept down at the local police station (like you have on most Army and Air Force Installations today in America).

At the end of the day.....it was a nutcase that did all the damage here.  No normal human being runs off to do mass killings or shoots kids at some camp.  

Uncle Sam's House Rental?

It was a short story yesterday....not a lot of traction...and no coming from the White House or anyone connected to it.  There is this idea being floated around.....with all these empty houses in Florida, Vegas, Arizona and California, and maybe just renting them.

The issue is this....the banks hold these properties and are desperate to unload.  Everyday that a house sits there...without a buyer.....it means a cost to the bank in some fashion.  So it makes some sense.....at least put a guy or gal or family into the house.  Make some kind of rental income.

But if you stand back and think on this.....we would move to the US government not only being the mortgage giant (Fannie Mae), but also the rental giant (likely some new government agency who runs around talking up empty properties and writing up contracts).

Would people even rent these?  It's a virtual unknown.

I'm guessing there would be three simple features.  One, you would move in, with the option of possibly buying it eventually (maybe even ten years in the future).  Two, a price on the house would be established at that point and known by both parties (likely today's price and not the 2008 price).   Three, you'd get to move in with almost nothing except a credit check.

The problems?  Karl and Wanda could finally get into a real house....instead of that apartment.  The problem is that neither really work long-term and one is generally always out of a job.  Payments might be sporadic and the government would have to invent some rule that allowed folks to miss rental payments (as stupidly as it sounds).

Then, there's the issue of fixing the property when something breaks (a roof leak or an electrical issue).  As much money that flowed in.....at least a quarter of it would have to be held in reserve for repairs.

When would the rental program end?  Likely never.....meaning we'd have hundreds of thousands of homes in government rental status for decades.  You can smile trouble with that part.

You come to this funny smell about this whole idea.  Basically....the banks all screwed up and allowed millions to buy over-priced homes in certain areas of the United States.  Folks walked in and put almost no down-payment down to buy their over-priced house.  So now....Uncle Sam takes up the whole mess, and will just rent them out (safely and securely).  For some odd reason, I'm having trouble with this part.

Finally, you kinda wonder if this great deed would drag down home prices where folks are still living and paying off their homes.  You might have a neighborhood where twelve homes out of fifty are empty.  The normal rental price is $1,200 a month....and Uncle Sam's homes in the neighborhood are going for $999.  Our buddy, Uncle Sam, would screw up the real folks who kept trying to play by the rules and never dropped the house.

So, welcome to Uncle Sam's Rental Properties.

Friday, 22 July 2011

How Much Money Was Really Spent?

So this is how government budgets work, and how money is spent or NOT spent.

Example one:  a government group requires landscaping services for a massive property in DC.  It's $44k per month and it's done by a contract.  There's a bid by folks, and the winner gets the contract for a year....$44k per month.  So they show up, landscape for four weeks, and the monthly book is closed.  Three weeks later, a bill is submitted.  About three weeks later....it shows up at the budget office of this government agency, who has forecasted the $44k a month and gotten it from congress already.

So for eight months....things run fine, and then the landscaping company fires Wanda who does bookkeeping. Her replacement (Hilda) walks in and it takes three months to figure out the bills.  She eventually submits the July bill for $41k (not $44k).  No one in the office notices.  The government group gets this bill two months later in their system.....and pays $41k.  After the new financial year starts up....the government budget lady figures out that they should owe $3k more to the landscaping company.  She sends them an email.

Eight months go by, and Hilda has been fired because of stupidity.  The replacement doesn't understand any of the things that Wanda and Hilda did.....so she starts fresh.  A year goes by and the boss doesn't even notice the $3k not there.  Two years go by.  The government lady, by law, has to maintain the $3k sitting there in obligated funds.....for five years.  At the conclusion of five years.....the money is non-existent.

Does the money go back to the government?  No.  It simply doesn't exist.  $3k disappears.

Example two.  A company is hired to provide nine employees to run a network at $1 million a month for the government.  Each month....the lady at the company submits a bill about four weeks after they close the monthly book.  There is a clause of two in this deal that if someone leaves from the nine employees....as long as they hire someone new within six weeks....they still get the $1 million a month.  If they miss that first threshold and it goes to seven weeks?  There's a $50k loss for that month.  If they go ten weeks?  Maybe a $150k loss.

So the company gal comes up to admit they were late hiring someone and $50k is deducted.  The government folks don't grasp all of this, and at the end of the year....$50k is sitting there.  Five years go by, and while they continually try to force the company to accept the $50k....the company never does this.

Screwed up?  Yes.  How many billions fall into this pit each year?  No one knows.  It might be $100 million.  It might be $1 billion.

Should they fix this?  Oh, the budget folks would love to fix this but the law is the law.  Congress would have to mandate this is fixed.  No one really wants to do this.

So when your government says they need $800 million to run the Agriculture Department.  The truth is....there might be $4 million at the end of the year in this twilight zone.....that simply disappears into budget heaven....never to be spent, but the government thinks they spent it.

A Little Battle

This week....one hundred and fifty years ago....a significant battle occurred locally here in Virigina....over at Manassas, Virginia....about twenty-five miles to the southwest of Arlington.  On the scale of things for American battles....it probably doesn't rate in the top ten....and it might even be pushed to between number fifteen and number twenty-five for battle importance.

The simple truth about the battle at Bull Run?  It was the first battle of the Civil War and ended in a shocker as the Confederacy kinda won the battle and set into motion a long period where no Union military leadership stood out.  If the Confederacy had come back quickly with two or three other battles like this in the weeks after Bull Run....the war might have ended very differently.

The other odd thing about this battle?  It was the first real "tourist-battle" where the rich, the elite, and political figures of Washington knew of the scheduled battle and all rode out in buggys or wagons, or on horseback to watch the battle.  They brought food, beverages and booze with them....as part of this "picnic".  In a comic sense....they then found that there were no safe areas and that troops from both sides questioned them to their purpose at the battle site.  One representative ended up being taken prisoner by the Confederacy and held for a number of months....simply for being at the battle site.

Finally, this week is a strange week for the Virginia area....as the temperatures rise up to around 100 degrees with humidity around fifty percent.  Frankly, it's hard for the million or so visitors expected all week in the Manassas area to take this heat and not suffer.  This brings things to an interesting discussion....what if the battle scene one hundred and fifty years ago had been in the same temperature range?  A guy can walk around all day with a rifle on his arm and likely engage the enemy with temperatures around 90 degrees....but at one hundred....he'd start to suffer.  I'm guessing if the battle had been at this rate.....another thousand men from both sides would have died from heat exhaustion.   Sadly, I'm guessing at least forty folks this week had to have medical attention as the temperatures climbed up toward one hundred.

The Curse of Being Jack

At some point around twenty years ago, my dad got this interest in Border Collies and Australian Shepard dogs.  The positive is that they turn out to be awful smart dogs and perfect for a farm atmosphere.  The negative is that they tended to get into a situation where their lifespan wasn't like a typical dog (too close to vehicles, messing around with the wrong critters, etc).  My dad typically named each one Jack.....they lasted around two to three years, and passed on.

Up until the last day or two.....the longest lasting Jack had gotten up around five years old and didn't have any bad habits.  You would have bet money on the dog lasting ten years.  Well....somewhere along the highway in the morning hours....this dog got hit.  So another Jack has come to an end.

This was the dog that preferred everything to stay the same.  You weren't supposed to move things around or change much of anything.  Squirrels weren't stationary and that bothered the dog.  If you walked off the footpath to the barn, then Jack would do figure-8's to bump your leg and try to get you back into the right position.  This dog adored cats, but the cats hated the herding obsession that the dog tried to force on them.  If twelve cows had to be moved from one field to another....then Jack reacted to the move like a chessboard and made each step a strategic maneuver....cows stayed within the game-plan or were given "notice".  This dog "owned" the passenger seat of the farm truck....literally, and sharing the seat just wasn't agreeable.  Everywhere you walked....this dog wanted to be within ten feet.

As much as it might grieve my dad.....I suspect that by the middle of August....he will  express an interest in getting another of the breed.  Jack number six (it might seven or eight, and I just lost count) will arrive and begin this new era.  If you ask me....there might be a curse on this name of "Jack" and maybe that spells doom from day one....as the adventurous Jack.  I'm not saying Karl or Rufus would be any better....but you can never tell about a curse.  The thing is that this dog will have mighty big paws to fill.

A Reintroduction?

A long time ago...between 1953 and 1957....Porsche decided to make this oddball character of a car called the 550.  It was a two-seater and built originally with a 110 horse-power engine (you would think Porsche would have put a bigger engine on it but this delivered 7800 rpm).  It was an awful small car by the 1950s standards.  Today, it'd just be a pumped-up MX-5 Mazda on steroids 

Today....without alot of talking....Porsche admits in public that they are discussing the reintroduction of the car.  They won't say much else.

The curious thing is the style and price.  Currently...the cheapest car that Porsche produces is the $71k Boxster.  They aren't exactly bringing in tons of cash like they were in the 1970s or 1980s.  They are owned by Volkswagen now and have been looking for a chance to pull themselves out of the pit.

My guess is that the 550 will be this "lesser" vehicle that we are currently used to with the name.....and revert back to the smaller 110 Hp engine.  If they were smart enough to build this in the Alabama plant and limit it to just five options....and settle the price around $25k, they just might get a huge boost on sales.

For those wondering why the 550 came to an abrupt end....it was the car that James Dean died in.  It was used for one thing in the late 1950s....racing.  You spent a ton of money in that time period for a small car that barely had 110 horsepower, but had the rpm to back up every ounce of power in the car.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Age Deal

I rarely watch entertainment interviews.  But this one caught my eye.  Here is one of my favorite character actors....Doug Hutchinson, who played in Lost, and played the hopeless deputy in The Green Mile (Percy Whetmore).

Doug, who is 51 years old....got married recently....to some sixteen year old gal (Courtney Stodden).  Courtney is some aspiring country and western singer.

Doug came up and says that he really didn't know she was that young and he tries hard to say that he thought she was eighteen.  Courtney apparently convinced her parents that this marriage to Doug was ok, and they signed off on her marrying up with him.  All things considered.....it'd be better to have a son-in-law like Doug than some dimwit loser kid who just talked about going to Hollywood (Doug has been there).

I'm sitting there and watching this interview.  First, even I would have felt that she was under 18.  But the curious thing.....I just kinda focused on this gal Courtney the whole time while Doug talked.  She was on meds or some drug the whole time.  She was acting like some doped-up person.

A long lasting marriage?  No.....I would speculate that Courtney will hang around Doug for at least three years.  Doug will introduce her to a couple of Hollywood friends and she'll get this one-time boost on her country-and-western singing talent.  My guess is that she will mostly fail, but become very popular with a number of guys.  Doug will figure this out by 2015, and they will be divorced.  I think Courtney will burn out by age 25 and be in some drug rehab unit at least five times by that point.

This all brings me around to the normal standard of marrying age.  In Bama, you can still get married at sixteen, if the parents consent.  In Mississippi, with consent....at age 15.  Georgia (the country, not the state) allows marriage down to fourteen.

American history started in the late 1700s with the standard of around eighteen....then for a long period in the 1800s....went to twenty as the norm.  At some point around the early 1900s....in the south....the standard age started to slip back down to 16 and in Mississippi for a while....it was around 13 years old (with parental consent).

In my first assignment in the Air Force....we had this guy in the barracks who went back home for two weeks and ended up marrying his high school girl friend.  He comes back and it's quickly assessed that his gal was barely sixteen years old.  She actually was barely five foot tall and I doubted that she weighed more than a hundred pounds.  She looked to me like she was thirteen years old.  It may have have lasted as a marriage, but it just invites stares.

In this case?  A fifty-one year old guy?  It might be the best year or two of his life....before she wises up and dumps you.  She'll realize that cleaning the house is an issue.  She'll realize that her cooking skills are zero and has to rely on you (the guy) to cook supper.  She'll realize that adult life has expectations.  And she'll realize that when you say "lights out" at 9:30PM....it's because you are really tired from work and don't want to party all night.  The funny thing....it's always the 50-year old guy marrying the young gal.  You hardly ever have the 50-year old gal marrying the young guy.

Simply Observations

While most of the media is dumping five-star crap upon Rupert Murdock.....there are some odd stories out there now, which lead you to question the bigger picture.  These detectives that various news groups were using to get their info on stories?  These guys were regularly used by crime figures in London just as much...mostly to spy on the cops and give them an inside advantage.  Strangely enough....around a decade ago, it was mostly known (widely known in fact)....that various cops and various members of the media were cocaine addicts.  They each preyed off each other.  One of the closer guys to the Murdock chain?  He actually was suspected of killing his partner (that crime apparently has yet to be solved and the cops show little interest in digging into this guy).  My guess is that if media guys keep digging....they might find dozens of cops were on the take.....dumping info to various newspapers.  And this murder of the girl which triggered this whole anti-Murdock episode?  I'm starting to get this funny smell of corrupt cops on cocaine having little interest in solving the murder....because one of their guys was the culprit.

There was talk from unknown sources today that the President is ready to stand up against the Defense of Marriage Act....to allow gays to marry across the nation.  It's kind of a comical way for the hint....because he's ordered the attorney general to fight against the DADT stance by a west coast federal appeals court.  The court said that Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell is to be dumped by the government now.....and the President wants this stopped.  Seems odd that this one rumor would make him look great while the actual action he took....made him look weak and anti-gay.  Which is it?

We had a transgender killing here in DC overnight.  Naturally....some political folks jumped up and said for sure this would be labeled a hate-crime....if they caught the guy or gal.  You'd think that plain old murder charges would be sufficient....but we seem to have anchored our moral compass to some sinking boat and just want to say stupid things to the media.   The real story?  Another murder in DC....not much else.  Didn't matter if he was a he, or she, or "other".

Somebody actually came out and admitted that California State University has 12,019 instructors attached to the school.  Then they admitted in public that they have 12,183 administrators.  Yep, they have just as many administrators.....as instructors   In simple terms.....this would be like a McDonald enterprise admitting they have twelve managers on duty, with twelve burger flippers, or like having twelve topless dancers while having twelve night-club managers on duty.  But here's the thing that you ought to really think about.....only five out of ten instructors are actually teaching two to three classes a week. The other half might have one class....or have no classes at all because they are writing a book on why bears like honey.  So then you realize that you are paying $80k for Johnny Junior's education while three-quarters of the university's payroll is for folks with no importance.  Johnny Junior would figure this out in two weeks.....even if he was guzzling on a case of beer a day.

Finally, federal cops in DC came around to arrest this Pakistani guy here for a funny violation.  He was living in the US for years and years.  He was hired up by the Pakistani government....to secretly lobby for them....paying US congressmen and senators various election campaign funding and never announced himself as an official lobbyist.  Course, if he had....they still would have taken the money.....and it would have been all legal.  The thing is.....he's mostly there to convince your dimwit congressman to give millions to Pakistan.  So, your guy.....ole Uncle Tubby.....writes up a farm bill....that notes a million here and a million there to help with Pakistani farms.  Not that you'd ever notice.....because your guy knows how to hide the money.  Why'd the cops arrest the guy?  I'm thinking that some congressman finally began to realize who the guy really was and just got worried that Fox News would figure the entire story.  Luckily.....no one will dig into this and figure out the whole thing now.  Don't you think?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Tax Upon Bullets?

There's an election race for mayor up in Maryland....which typically doesn't amount to much and wouldn't normally get national coverage.  Today....one of the candidates....Otis Rolley....stood up and said that he'd bring killing and control control into a fixed situation. He wants to toss up a $1 per bullet tax.

Naturally, this makes the local community leaders and pro-Democrat folks all happy.  They know there are a ton of bullets sold in Maryland, and they'd make some mighty fine tax revenue from this $1 a bullet.  And it ought to stop those evil folks from killing left and right.

I sat and pondered over this for five minutes....then kinda realized that if this were to happen....most Maryland folks would just ride over the state line and buy ammo from the good buddies in Virginia or Delaware.  So ammo by the ton....would just be bought out-of-state.  Course, Mayor Otis would brag about how his taxes brought ammo sales in the local town a screeching halt and made everyone feel briefly good.  Then a killing or two would occur.  Cops would catch the killers....ask them where they got their ammo....and then mention this in the press.

Mayor Otis, if he does get elected....is bound to serve a fairly short period....maybe four years by my estimate.  He might want to discuss another career opportunity.

Quote of the Day

“Yes ma’am, I do. Highest honors."

-- Mo Brooks (Rep of Bama, Republican)

Mo got invited for an interview with the Contessa gal from MSNBC.  She'd done a five-star dump yesterday on Rupert Murdoch and felt fairly frisky today....figuring she was fairly smart and dump on this dumbass Bama representative....was a bit of a Tea Party guy.

So she got him into an intense discussion for a couple of minutes about the debt ceiling and how not raising the debt ceiling....would lead or "revert" into a depression.  She figured Mo wasn't that bright to understand the significance of such matters of economics.....so after Mo said he disagreed with the kind lady.....she asked if he actually had a degree in economics.

Now....in the state of Bama.....to be honest....there are days and even weeks that you might walk around and never meet a guy with a degree in economics.  I'd even make an educated guess that my dad would say he has yet to meet such a guy within the borders of Bama.

But on this day with the MSNBC Contessa gal.....she figured wrong.

Mo actually did various years of study....graduating from Duke University in three years....with a double major in political science and economics....and he can proudly admit to anyone in MSNBC....he done fine with economics.....finishing with highest honors.  On top of that....he actually graduated in 1978 from the University of Alabama Law School.

Now, I'm not a bragging guy when it comes to smart folks from Bama.....but I would imagine that we've got about three hundred of these guys walking around the state with degrees in economics.  Some of them work in banks.  Some sell life insurance.  Some dabble in real estate.  Some raise cattle and haul hay.  My advice for any MSNBC dimwit who thinks they might pull a fast one on a Bama gal or guy.....you might want to ask a few questions before you start to dump the dumbass title on them.  Otherwise....you are the dumbass in the end.

Oh, and to be honest.....I'd imagine most Bama economic experts all agree.....the government has screwed up big-time.  But if I were you MSNBC folks.....I wouldn't engage on that question.

The Other Cat

During my trip to Germany....I got introduced to housecat number two....Athena.  There are three unique features about this cat.

First, claws are extended on just about every single occasion.

Second, you know the term "lap-hugger"?  Well....this cat is a shoulder-hugger.  She wants to balance herself on your shoulder and just hang there looking at everything.

Third, you can pretty much set your watch to 4PM each day and this cat knows precisely when you ought to be feeding her.  She will lead you to the tray and let you know that deadlines are approaching.

Oh, and she also has this habit of getting up at 5AM and sitting on your chest or side....to see if you are awake like she is.

What Gets Lawyers Riled Up?

What gets lawyers really hyper?  People who lawyer in public but they aren't real lawyers.

Today, out in the midwest....the story came out about Tahir Malik who hails out of Stokie, Ill.  Basically, he got various charges put up against him for forgery and impersonation of a lawyer.  It is a curious episode.

For a number of months around the Stokie area....Tahir showed up at court proceedings and offered his expertise (at least 60 cases they think).  Tahir tended to make anywhere between $500 and $4500 for lawyer actions.  No one ever saw anything to suggest he wasn't a lawyer.....he knew precisely what papers to file and what to say to make judges happy.  In essence....he'd watched Perry Mason, Judge Judy, and real lawyers enough.....and read enough "how-to" books.....that he could pretend to be a lawyer.

The problem here is Tahir didn't ever get a lawyer's degree or pass the bar exam.  So they are likely to toss the book at him.

The curious thing is that a guy could break down most legal actions into a simple forty-page "how-to" book and accomplish things that you'd pay $80k for a bachelor's degree at some swanky university.  The bar exam?  There are idiots who attend six to eight years of university.....and never pass it.  There are likely idiots who can study forty pages of material and pass it without much effort.  Probably some smart kid with a week or two of studying....could pass most bar exams (I know lawyers will say otherwise....but it just isn't rocket science).

So they will stick Tahir off into some jail for at least a year.  If you asked me....he ought to take some classes and get a degree....and pass some bar exam.  Then he could actually be a lawyer.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Simply Business

There are two interesting business episodes unfolding, which I kinda have an interest in.

First, Borders Books are bankrupt, period.  They thought someone would come out of the shadows and buy them....but the amount of debt and unsustainable profit is an issue.  To be honest, between Amazon and these digital books available....it's hard to be a local neighborhood book store (even in a massive mall).   It is a sign of the times.

A trend here?  Digital books are growing and I would suspect by 2020 that seventy-five percent of all books will be digital, as sales go.  I won't say it's a positive trend, but at least people are still reading.

Borders was this place you go and hang out....picking up an odd book for five minutes and sitting at some easy chair.  If you felt right with the book, you bought it.  Coffee?  Yes.  It was a good atmosphere, I will admit.

The other big story?  Readers Digest wants to sell itself.  Amusingly enough....they want a billion dollars.  Last year, they had around 1.4 billion in revenue, but that equaled around thirty million dollars in losses.  To me.....that's a huge signal that you've got big problems.....over a billion in sales, and you still can't show revenue.

Who buys Readers Digest?  Mostly older folks and medical establishments.  If you go to a routine dentist or doctor's appointment....you typically find it still laid out and offered as reading material while you wait.

As a kid, I remember reading it.  The last time I picked up and read one?  About six years ago.  I actually bought one.  What I found laid out in the one I bought.....one extremely political story in favor of John Kerry, and two stories over the environment and global warming, which tried to sound factual but were loaded with unproven points.  I sat there shaking my head because it'd turned into the National Geographic....just another trend magazine run mostly by a bunch of agenda writers and editors.

Will anyone come up to pay a billion for Readers Digest?  I suspect few if any takers.  They might eventually unload for around $750 million and end up in the hands of some Brazilian or Saudi billionaire.  They would likely hire out a number of cheap writers to contribute and try to remake the magazine into something totally different.  Eventually, it'll fail completely and disappear from the shelves.

So in the end....two more dinosaurs dying out.  

Monday, 18 July 2011

Simply Observations

This hacking in the UK episode?  What's the whole jest of this...in case the media really didn't make this plain?  A newspaper chain hired up folks who were simply more talented as detectives, than journalists.  When the boss said there might be more to a story....unlike their competition....they went out and dug into a story (what people used to do in the 1960s in America...especially the NY Times).  So they had folks on the payroll...who went and hacked into cellphone accounts (forbidden by the law, naturally).  Along with the other 2,000 British kids who hack on a daily basis into various cellphone and email accounts....these journalists of News of the World....did in-depth investigations.  Some folks might say they did more than the cops might have....but we don't want to insult the British cops (like they need it).  So today, the guy who was at the heart of this mess and the original guy to admit they were hacking....killed himself.  The next step of the authorities?  Without this guy around (he was a heavy drinker and drug user, if you were curious).....they will have a tough time convicting any of the management now.  All in all....that's the jest of the story.

Oh, and if you were wondering why the US media news folks weren't covering the gun sales episodes into Mexico to the drug cartels?  Well....the News of the World is owned by Rupert Murdock....the guy who owns Fox News.  The fact that we have federal law enforcement folks arranging automatic weapons sales to Mexican drug thugs.....just isn't as juicy as some hacker in the UK....even if the automatic weapons have killed hundreds of Mexicans.  Go figure that.

Finally....at some point, you knew it would happen. This South Carolina couple came back from Wal-Mart after buying some pictures and dropped the receipt on the floor.  Days passed, and now....an image of Jesus has shown up on the Wal-Mart receipt.  Now, I'm not going to go for or against this story....but if you dug into the story a bit....you'd find out that the couple aren't married and the first thing any good Baptist would say....is that Jesus would never appear on some receipt of some couple living in sin (not married).  As for the meaning of this picture of Jesus?  It can only mean that Wal-Mart is the only placed blessed for good people to buy what they need....even golf clubs, beer, and weed-whackers (on sale in aisle four).

Book Review: Reshaping of Everyday LIfe

Once in a while, I will toss out a book review.  Today?  Reshaping of Everyday Life (1790-1840).

It's an odd book, which has been out for over a decade.  To be honest, I doubt if it ever sold any good numbers at all.  You can still find it on Amazon.

It's a book you can read over in a week, and covers everyday American life for a fifty year period in the colonial years.  I would actually like to make it a mandatory reading for every fifteen year old kid in America because it really paints a harsh environment where people were lucky to live to be forty years old.

The book covers love, romance, marriage, houses, food, coffee, entertainment, booze, and just about every situation you can imagine for that period.

In the end....you came away impressed on how people survived and enjoyed what little they did have.  Just having one pair of shoes....would have been a great achievement for most folks.  So if you needed some reading material over American history that would entertain you....order the book and settle back for good reading.

The "Other" Debt

You would think there would be alot more turmoil and protests over the debt games being played out in Washington.  There ought to be protesters....angry mobs hating Republicans....upset Tea Party folks....etc, etc.  But there aren't.  So why?

Well....because Joe, your neighbor, owes $80k in college loans and he admits he won't be finished paying this off for another fifteen years.

Aunt Maude, your beloved aunt, owes near $60k on four VISA cards that she uses regularly to shop QVC....and will likely never pay off the cards before she passes on.

Charley, your favorite barber, owes $44k on a brand-new car that he bought.  He admits that he has never cleared more than $32k a year on salary but he's willing to take out a eight-year loan to get this sports car of his dreams.

Claude, your cousin?  He bought the $350k house back in 2007, with only $35k in the down-payment.  The house has gone down in value to $200k now and Claude is contemplating just handing the keys to the house over to the bank and declaring bankruptcy.

Karl, who lives down the street....wrapping up divorce number three?  He works sixty hours a week and barely takes home $1400 after paying alimony and child-support to the three ex-wives.  He's 42 and says he might find the right woman next time....if not....he'll be bankrupt by that point.

Sid, who bought property in Vegas as an investment in 2004?  The value just dumped by fifty percent and he's still paying $450 a month for this "investment opportunity".  It may take twenty years for the property to get back up to its original value....and maybe sell.

Tim, your buddy from high school?  He finally found a job after three years of unemployment....but had to move to Fargo, North Dakota to achieve this honor.  He lives out of a RV because his wife won't move to Fargo....and most all his check goes to the wife and kids at the old house.  

Frankly, we have become a huge debt crowd....in a debt nation, with no real grasp of what it was like in the 1970s.  Before the credit cards, QVC, massive college costs, alimony-on-top-of-alimony, and stupid property prices.....we were living a simple life, without much debt.  The same could be said for the nation itself.  We didn't build museum after museum.  We didn't build bridges on a whim.  We didn't hand out cash to research teams to figure out why bears like honey.

So, as you sit back tonight.....counting the few dollars left in your billfold....and watching a bunch of news folks get excited about the evil Republicans, the dimwitted Democrats, or the President's five-star speeches....you kinda wonder why anyone should get excited.  Until you've charged $80k on a couple of VISA cards....you really don't grasp debt or the depth of problems.  Course, the reverse is true too....if you as a nation owed a trillion dollars.....you really don't know debt.

Only in America.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Way It Is

If you took the TV shows of Dallas, America's Most Wanted, Hill Street Blues, Simon and Simon, and Airwolf.....shake them up....you'd end up with what have today on any average morning with CSP*N....with Congress, the Senate, and the President in plain view.  It has become a daily soap opera.

Joe Biden, Senator Reid, and Nancy Pelosi will all stand around and make these one-liner insult comments which used to work in the 1980s but it's mostly comical when they say them now.

The President wants to be executive and regal in his commentary, but comes off looking like a guy in permanent campaign mode.

The older Republican guys (McConnell, Hatch, and Boehner) keep trying to think of various ways to do things differently, but at the same time to achieve some partnerships with Democrats....which will never occur.

The younger Republicans are mostly all fired up from Tea Party enthusiasts and last year's election....but they haven't really made any steps.

The NPR crowd needs someone to blame....so it's got to the young Republicans.

The MSNBC crowd drags up tapes of Reagan and wants to compare the President to Reagan....which doesn't make much sense....except it reminds everyone of the Reagan era which was a fairly good period for most folks.

The Fox News crowd brings on think-tank folks and experts....and you keep wondering if things are this bad.

Then by mid-evening....America's Got Talent or wrestling comes on TV....and you've forgotten the entire mess that you watched for the previous twelve hours.  By 10PM, you discover some guy robbed a liquor store in your neighborhood and Marvin's Furniture is having a sale on easy-chairs.

And as the sun rises around 5:30 the next morning.....the whole cycle starts over again.  You'd just wish that Dukes of Hazard would come back and have some serious bad guys and lusty hot gals.....so you could just quit watching these dimwits from Washington for entertainment.

My Walk

Yesterday, I walked seven miles.  I started out at the Arlington Cemetery.....crossed the bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, and walked all the way to the Capital building, before turning north toward Union Station, and finally ending up almost at the end of H Street in DC.  Naturally, by the end, I was fairly dehydrated and just about on my last cylinder.  Then, the German Biergarden came into focus....I stopped in there....and the kid gave me a cup of ice water and a German beer.  Within fifteen minutes, I felt re-hydrated.

The highlight of this walk?  At the end, I had this chance to watch a DC funeral.  The cops had come and blocked off an intersection to allow the possession to proceed.  There in the front....was a horse-drawn carriage with the coffin.  It was an odd deal....the horse had gold glitter over his hooves.  He was a big fellow and had no problems in pulling this short carriage.

Behind the carriage?  Well....here were two forty-foot long limos.  I'm guessing "special" family members rode in these.  And then came the thirty-eight other vehicles.

At that point, along H Street....I stopped to assess the local environment.  Twenty years ago....I might have been the only white guy on the entire street.  To be honest, H Street is fairly run down and in some kind of private recovery phase.  The city is talking up a trolley car deal, and put the track on the street....although it could be five years before this electrical issue is fixed up (they have a law dating back to around 1910 which says no electrical lines can be laid out to support a trolley car operation).

If you go a street back of H Street....what you find is that the young yuppies of DC have started buying up the rowhouses....tossing in $200k of repairs, and suddenly have a half-million dollar house (least by DC standards).  In effect, they are buying the older black generation out and changing the entire landscape of H Street neighborhoods.

My guess is that half the buildings along H Street will be bought out and torn down within the next two decades....and this new urban mecca will come about.  The comical thing?  The yuppies likely vote Republican and the voting results in ten years might change in a dramatic fashion.

So right now.....you've got the urban yuppies and the remaining hardcore blacks in the same atmosphere.  It wouldn't make any sense, except in DC.      

Friday, 15 July 2011

Three Obvious Things

First, Beck is gone from Fox News.  They've replaced the show with "The Five".  I've sat and watched a minimum of thirty minutes of this each day for the entire week.  I have to admit....it's ten times better than Beck, but for the wrong reasons.  Basically....they are taking serious topics and spending five minutes talking crazy from the left and right sides of the situation....and you are mostly laughing as they come to the end of each debate.

How long will the "Five" last?  I doubt it makes it through December.  It's not for older folks and it certainly takes some fairly serious topics and transforms them into comical affairs.  Serious-minded Beck viewers will dump the show in a matter of minutes.  These 18-year old kids?  They might spend an entire hour watching this.

Second....some aircraft cleaning folks discovered this taser sitting the pocket of a aircraft seat in Boston.  The cops came around and figured out the gal who was in the seat (likely by herself with no one in the adjoining seat).  She totally denies it's her taser....and says that she ended up moving to a different seat because the video TV device didn't work.

I read this commentary, and then noted that when reporters wanted to ask more questions....she just cut off the conversation entirely.  Too blunt?  Yeah.  It's her taser....with no doubt.  The cops don't care much....but they'd likely like to know how she got it by the idiot TSA guys.  It might be nice to know, but I'm guessing the TSA guys all thought it was a radio with a battery in it.  Remember, these are all wannabe cops....nothing more.

Third....the comment today from the President....that eighty percent of Americans don't have a problem with more taxes?  It's a firm belief of his.  If I were the Republicans....let him have the stick to the plane and allow him to fly the plane on his own.  Once the companies and rich guys hoard their money or hand that portion over to the government.....Wall Street stumbles and then you start to sniff recession version 2.0.

Once the President stood up and made this comment....you could see that none of the inside players of the White House administration ever took an economics class or ran a company.  The eighty percent number? I could ask how many people believe in Bigfoot or Nessie....and likely get a similar number.  I could ask how many folks think Marilyn Monroe was poisoned by the mafia, and get the same number.  Same deal for those doubting that Oswald was totally alone when he killed Kennedy.

Just Observations

So Congress got up a couple of months ago and said the "don't ask & don't tell" thing was now obsolete.  They gave the Pentagon a number of months to prepare.  The Pentagon has set up classes to instruct folks on how to avoid observing or getting bothered by gays.  Everything is set.  Then this troublesome thing occurred a couple of weeks ago with some California federal court tossing out "don't ask & don't tell" entirely, ordering the US government to comply completely.  You'd think that it was wasted effort, but hey, those judges have to do something to earn their paycheck.  You'd sit there now and think the government would just comply....but NO.  Yesterday, the Obama administration said they'd fight this tooth & nail....and it'll go all the way to the Supreme Court (unless they decline).  My suspicion here is that forcing the Supreme Court to make a statement is the reason for the Obama administration getting into this.  In a way, it's comical....you get everything going a certain direction, and then you jump up to attempt stopping what you started.  Oh, and if you were wondering how long it'd take for the Supreme Court to issue a comment?  Well....they'd have to accept it and that won't be known until August or September....and it might be May of 2012 before they issue some comment (they don't even have to accept the case).

It turns out that California is paying $777-odd thousand a year (highest salary in the state), to some doctor that they said was totally unqualified to be a doctor.  The 65-year old guy is so incompetent by their standards.....that they won't allow him to actually be a doctor.  So he just reviews prisoner's medical records.  As for firing him?  Oh, they tried that and the state courts ordered him reinstated.  This guy could work another ten years....collect probably over a million a year in pension by that point.....and be totally incompetent by normal doctor standards.  And folks stand around wondering why California is so bankrupt.

I blogged yesterday about Minnesota's budget crisis and how the whole state was shut-down, with a potential beer crisis brewing.  Well....by late last night....the beer crisis is ended.  The political dimwits of the state (both parties) finally agreed on something.  It is a curious thing though.....it's just a temporary fix to get by for a while (maybe a year).  In the end....all of the taxes that the governor wanted to start....got mostly dumped.  The money that the school systems wanted?  Dumped as well.  The future tobacco settlement money?  Oh, it got converted straight into cash and tossed in the general funding bucket (all those smoke dollars were the dream of the state to spend on special projects....tossed to the wind now).  The curious thing....it'll take at least a month for the booze and beer distribution/sales licenses to be fixed up and running in full order.  With the normal incompetent clerks that you run into at state and county level.....you folks still run short on beer.  But don't worry.....Iowa is standing ready to provide as much as you need.

There are rumors now that Tiger Woods might have gotten steroids or enhancement drugs.  It's kind of comical that it'd be suggested but most folks likely believe the suggestion entirely.  We are at a point where you need to drug-test even bowlers.

A bunch of smart guys from Miami University and St. Louis University got together and found this amazing discover....there are differences between folks who have pets and those who don't.  Apparently....pet owners end up better off in life....less lonely....higher self-esteem....more exercise....more extroverted....less fearful about other people.  Yep, it took some smart guys to tell us that.  But then you have to wonder about how that dog or cat does all that magic.

Finally, some sheriff from Florida had to face budget issues...then determined he didn't have to issue out free underwear.  So basically....whatever you show up in his jail....the underwear you have, will be for your duration unless Grandma or your sister brings you extra underwear.  Ifing none of your family is too friendly toward your situation....you might be sitting there for a fair length of time with just one pair of underwear, or getting use to the idea of wearing no underwear.  It's just another problem in life that some folks need to worry about.

When The Beer Flowed No More

While you may not have paid much attention to this in the past ten days....Minnesota has basically shutdown their government because of money issues.  No one is getting paid except essential workers (cops and political folks mostly).

What no one realized when this mess started....was that liquor licenses for distributors or sales organizations (like your local Jimmy Joe's beverages)....can't distribute or sell anything without a current license.  Folks have begun to realize how their licenses are running out and they are buying as much as they can....and selling as much as they can.

Basically, if you were living there.....you'd be unable to buy booze or beer, unless you went out of state.  You can imagine all these poor folks.....who've had a six-pack of beer nightly for forty years....suddenly come to a empty counter at Jimmy Joe's beverages, and wondering how this mess all occurred.

As you can imagine....Miller and all the other beer organizations are studying how they can make this work, but there are just not any creative ways to fix this other than getting the political folks to agree to fix their own mess and bring the government back into operation.

Course, alot of folks in Bama....in dry counties....would say this is God's work....to cease beer and booze sales....via the right hand of the Republican Party.  I would not give them that much credit, or think that God wanted beer sales just plain halted.

How does things look for folks driving into the Dakotas, Iowa, Canada, or Wisconsin....to buy their booze?  I'm thinking that various beverage shops along the border are now stocking up and preparing for this massive rush....thousands of folks buying tons of beer per day, and paying their taxes into the states along the border.  It wouldn't even surprise if some folks from Iowa are trying to encourage this mess to last all the way through football season.

Churched-Up?

There is a great article by Gregory Kane today.  I admire his writings.  He's a DC-Baltimore guy and knows the street action fairly well.

Here in DC....we've got huge problems with punk kids....fourteen to nineteen years old....who can assault you in a train station or on the street.  They have no problem in bringing harm to folks.

What Kane writes in such great persuasive detail....is for the punks to get "churched-up".  As he points out in his youth....somewhere around 13 or 14....he got pointed off every summer for a couple of weeks of vacation Bible school.  You got this vast lesson in civil behavior and human understanding.  You may have hated everyday....but thirty years later......it still means something.

Churched-up?

Yep, dump the punks into a required and mandatory situation.  Make them sit there for six hours a day, five days a week and throughout the summer.  Put up a curfew and make them all return home by 10PM at night.

Debt Poker

With all the discussion over the US debt situation....this odd suggestion came up from Senator Mitch McConnell this week (a Republican)....that the Republicans were ready for a possible "plan B".  This idea was that they'd just give the President the power to fix up the debt problem himself, and if they didn't like it....they'd have to muster around sixty percent of the House to fix the problem.  A lot of Republicans came back and really hated this plan.  Some Democrats came on TV and said it was a possible surrender by the Republicans and they could work with this.

I sat for a good long day thinking about the offer, and have now came to realize that this is plain and simple "debt poker".  Basically, if you hold only a pair of aces and really wanted to bluff your way into a poker win....then you'd double up or even triple up the bet....to make everyone quit the game.  Obviously, there are huge risks in doing this.

Here's the outcome of McConnell's offer.  The President would accept and then smile to the public as he now had this power to fix the debt.  The curious thing is that you'd need to show some cuts in order to get things moving in a positive direction.  The President's team would obviously work hard to avoid the cuts and double up on taxes.  You can kinda see where this is going.

So by November....a fair amount of taxes are now being shipped around to companies and rich folks.  They start to pull their money and sit tight.  Without thinking much about the consequences.....you create wave number two of the recession by March of 2012.  Everyone from the banks to Moodys....would now admit that we are in more trouble than we were in July of 2011.  Naturally, we are embarking in the Presidential election period.

So the President walks forward with a fresh new recession....that only he could create, and the only way to fix this is a massive cut in government funding....which he just can't do in the midst of an election year.  Bluntly.....it's a lose-lose situation from that point on.

So what should the President do?

One, accept any deal that the Republicans have on the table today, and offer up fair-sized cuts.

Two, hire some retired Democratic Senator to be your chief negotiation Czar from this point on because you....the commander-in-chief....are lousy at this mess.

Three....haul out to Montana and just camp out for three weeks.  Disappear from public sight.  Rest.  Drink some beer.  Don't show your face around.

Four.....hire up some economic guy and start tossing out a $500 million cut every day on the US government's requirements.  Close up our bases in South Korea, Japan and Europe. Close down the wars. Find money and just cut.

Five....order any government department that is given money by senators or congressmen....and they didn't ask for it.....to just NOT SPEND it.  Yes, forbid them from taking money unless they really asked for it in the first place.

Six.....if you don't want any advice and you want the absolute power to play debt-king....start asking yourself what you'd like to do in January 2013 when you are out of the President's office.  Return to Chicago?  Run some national charity?  Return to the senate?  Guest-host Saturday Night Live as a ex-President?  Sit around a Presidential library in South Chicago?  Run off to Norway and be a Nobel Committee member to pick future winners?  What if it's that Sarah Palin gal....could you sit there and accept that on election night, being beaten by six percent by the grizzly lady from Alaska?

I kinda think McConnell has played a few games of poker in his life....and knows how to double-up on a bad hand.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Just Observations

There's apparently a new ad out there....from the US Postal Union....which says in basic words that it's the only government department that runs itself without the ad of funding from the US government.  They run off stamps (at least the union says that). This got some congressman all upset and he's demanding they remove the TV ad.  Rep Issa says that the US post office system gets various deals (no taxes, no vehicle registration, and low-rate borrowing rates)....so they can't claim that they are that special.  I'm kinda wondering why the union even spent money on an ad like this....it's just tossing cash to the wind.

News folks say that all these congressmen and senators may be forced to huddle up at Camp David this weekend with the President....to sort out this debt issue.  This is really not a big huge compound area and once you get past twenty-five people.....you've kinda maxed out.  So you can imagine every single senator bringing along his executive helper....the President bringing five or six economic experts along, and there might be fifty or sixty folks sitting in folding chairs....drinking lots of booze, and eating government-funded Pastrami sandwiches.

It won't make the national press....but our local VIP.....Marion Barry....has a son, and the 31-year old son apparently got arrested for some heavy-duty drug dealing.  Some big fight occurred in his DC apartment....cops get called....and there's lots of mary-j-u-wanna and PCP (Angel Dust).  Cops say it's now a felony deal....and it kinda looks like the guy better negotiate with the prosecutor and hope for deal of a year in prison (if so lucky).  The curious thing is that he's got the name recognition....to be a major player in DC politics.  My guess is that he'll get jailtime....exit to be clean and pure (maybe with religion), and finally enter DC politics.  By 2020....he'll be mayor of DC.  That's how sad a mess we have it in DC.....you'd have to murder someone to get cross off the political kingpin list.

Some congressmen are calling for a big Rupert Murdoch investigation in the US for getting into folk's own personal cellphone accounts (the UK affair).  The curious thing? They only mention Rupert and his guys.....they don't mention the twenty thousand average hacks a week going on currently by various characters from Florida to California.  It's kinda like standing in the midst of a flock of ducks flying over with an automatic rifle....and the only duck you want to shoot is the one on the ground that is tired, old and just sitting there.

Finally, to jump back into all this debt talk by the President and the "boys"....here is the curious end.  No matter what happens....taxes are going up.  You can figure that you personally will pay at least $200 more a year....maybe more.  You can figure that all government agencies will be told to haul back their costs....including the Pentagon (figure in 2012 the announcement of some bases in Europe shutting down). Figure that a pretty big dump will occur today on Wall Street (I'm betting 200 points down) before this repair is announced next week and some recovery.  But here's the thing....even if you get a deal on the debt....it just means that the government agreed that they could borrow more....to put themselves deeper into a pit.  If you came to your wife and asked her to bust open the cookie jar for $500 in cash and there was $8 there in reality....if you were the President and company....you'd fake yourself out to believe the $8 is really $500.  The Chinese, who own a vast part of the debt....have to be sitting there and just weeping over how big a mistake it was to buy these stupid bonds, and to listen daily to a bunch of Washington dimwits talk about fixing their economy but they won't do it.
 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Just Observations

The word got out in Pakistan...the US may halt it's $800 million a year.  So now, the Pakistanis are talking about quitting the fight against the Islamic folks.  I'm pretty sure the upper layers of the US government will more or less nothing....but some folks might come out and ask if they ever had any fight going underway in the first place.  My guess is that half of this money ended up going to a officer's fund somewhere where everybody of a general rank got $50k or some fancy Mercedes as their pay-off for the "fight".

The President admits that that social security payments are now "unsecure" when it comes to the debt ceiling.  It kinda surprised folks today when he commented upon that.  So, if your sole money bag in life is tied to the debt ceiling....then you kinda care a great deal now about fixing this mess.  However, some folks might actually ask how social security got out of the 'locked-box' and in the hands of politicians.  We all had this belief that it was not a toy that any political party could play with.  Obviously, we were wrong.

Money dried up quickly on 1 July in San Jose, California.  The cops cut the hooker-squad as part of their down-sizing.  Well....some folks have now commented that the hookers have come back in vast numbers (I'm puzzled by this report anyway, it's probably the cops trying to generate interest again)...so San Jose is under siege by hookers.  I'm trying to imagine this scene....hookers everywhere....and no cops around.  You would think the politicians would think of some method of taxing the hookers but they just aren't that smart yet.

Meanwhile, in San Diego....they did figure out how to tax cats.  The idea is hint that cats cause rabies, need to have a vaccination, and while they do all of that....the city wants $25 per kitty.  It has apparently upset a number of folks and probably will never pass (if the kittys have anything to say about this).  It would just be another reason to vacate the state.

Finally, the Tucson shooting suspect...Jared Lee Loughner....has been given the full authority to refuse anti-psychotic medication until his appeal of the treatment prescribed.  Basically, he can stay fresh and unencumbered by mind-altering drugs.  My guess is that the guard staff will ensure at least two guys are always within five feet of his cell now.  I doubt seriously that the guy will ever be convicted.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Just Observations

The headline makes you kinda curious.....Indianapolis Police Department Email Reveals Bra Sizes of Female Officers.  Then you kinda read into it.  The police department bought customized bullet-proof vests, which required the bra size to make this feel right.  Some piece of email started this as each gal had to state her size. Then when they finally came....the response came from "Larry" (the dude in the receiving department) that these were in and had some number by each of their names (38d for example), and guys put the puzzle together in a minute or two.  Punishment here?  It's public knowledge once it became an email and probably half the department knew the sizes before this got into email format by merely guessing.  What's the big deal?

Everyone in the UK is a big upset deal over the News of the World newspaper and their efforts to hack into various cellphone accounts.  The News of the World published its final edition on Sunday, and now we are left for legal situations to come about.  Here's the thing....which ought to bother folks even more.  It didn't take a genius to break into any of these cellphone accounts.  Some 12-year old kid could have done. There's probably 2,000 folks a day in the UK....who are breaking into your cellphone accounts.  So this bad feeling over the News of the World?  It just ain't that bad when you stand back and look at the vast amount of hacking going on in the world today.

Finally....in political circles....the comment is out that the President is trying to position himself as a centralist....for the political run in 2012.  The problem is that there's over 500 hours of video tape from 2008, 2009 and 2010....showing him otherwise.  Frankly, whoever is advising him to take this position.....might ought to think about all the things already said and documented.  He just isn't centralist.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sign of Our Times

My associate at work told me this story.  His daughter got into some legal trouble and ended up with a court-appointed lawyer.  "Dad" met the lawyer somewhere in the process and her business card led back to a Facebook page.

I questioned this....a Facebook page?

Yep, she was newly graduated and working for the county office to defend folks.  So my associate went to the Facebook page, where there were all these personal things, and pictures of this gal (in short shorts).

You would think (for $10 these days), that a newly graduated dimwit with a law degree....would have their own web page and act professional.  That wasn't the case.

I asked my associate how the legal episode turned out....probation for the daughter and some mandated anger-management class.  So he considered it a "win" in some fashion.  I asked if the anger-management business work, and he just grinned.  As in most cases that I've seen....you just can't teach anger-management.

So it's just another sign of our times....a kid messes around for five or six years, and gets their law degree....and they really don't know that much about their "business".

Across the River

With all the difficulty that Bama folks face in bringing bingo to the state....I wanted to share a local Washington episode involving gambling and the efforts to push the situation even further.  As most of you know, we do allow lottery sales in the region with no issue at all within the DC/Virginia/Maryland.  You tend to have two types of lotto choices.....the lucky draws via two lotto systems, or the scratch-type (usually maxing out at $100k).

Some local folks....smart on this business of getting to the customer have finally figured out that a mobile service might even pick up more cash for the lottery system.  So they are introducing the "Lucky Lottery Mobile" over across the river near Farragut Square in DC (near the White House, in fact).  I'm guessing they are aiming a bit at tourists who get dehydrated and weak over near that point....and to a lesser the degree, the locals.

So you can imagine this "book-mobile" type operation.  You walk up to Joe in the truck and tell you want three of "number seven" and one of "number four".  You scratch your sheets and suddenly you've got $50, or maybe nothing.

A true Bama guy would go into a fit and declare it sinful, but would then feel better because most of the profits were going to state colleges or such.

Me?  I just laugh over the extent that folks take this commercial effort to the public.  It's already in almost every grocery store in Maryland and Virginia.  We have at least three locations within the Pentagon where you can play the lottery.  We've almost developed an attitude that while we buy a Coke.....we spend $5 on some scratch card.  Now?  We are going after tourists.  We might even see this mobile station over near the Washington Monument or the capital building....so maybe senators could rush out at lunchtime and buy a scratch card.