Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Two Versions of Occupy

A few weeks ago....I spent a morning downtown in DC....at the Occupy "fest".  At the time, I noted that there were two camp-grounds.  It was a rather odd deal.  Over at the Freedom Plaza (two blocks east of the White House), there's campground number one.  Most of what I noticed were folks over thirty years old and a fairly organized operation.  They had sanitary conditions, and had teams mounted up to accomplish various things....including clean-up duties at various times of the day.  You didn't find any trash on the ground and they seemed to be fairly friendly folks.  I'd almost label them the hippy generation of the 1960s and 1970s....leftover from the good times.

Down the street....to the northeast of the White House....was Occupy number two campground, at McPherson Square.  It was a bit different.  Here were mostly all young folks....all younger than thirty.  I didn't see anyone over age thirty except the homeless folks who hung out around the area.  They weren't quite as organized, and they weren't as sanitary.  I kinda got the impression that they did a fair amount of booze, and drugs (way more than just weed, which the hippy group might have been doing).

This week.....the city sanitation folks and the National Park Service.....are both kinda look at the Occupy folks. I suspect they are looking more at group number two than the hippy folks.  Rats are now being reported daily near McPherson Square.  The sanitary conditions are now questionable.  Various comments are leading one to think that by January....someone in DC is going to order the clearing of one Occupy camp.....perhaps even both.

So the news folks (the Examiner) got around to asking both groups how they relate, and this was a curious thing.  They did try to show some unity, but the McPherson Square crowd are a bit more independent, and just not willing to share in the organizational skills.  You almost get the impression that both have separate agendas and perhaps an end result that does not match up.

I also might offer this one odd observation.  The hippy guys and their camp....was kind of prepared for real camping, bad weather, and snow.  They were seasoned folks.  They had camped out in their life and knew how to do it for weeks at a time.  They've seen bad winters and two feet of snow.

The punk kids a couple of blocks away?  They really weren't adapted to organized camping.  I didn't come away with impression that they knew how to keep someone's backyard sanitary.  They were the type that'd go camping in yard....trash it.....and just walk away smiling.  The rats and the trash?  Well....they'd just pretend it doesn't exist.

Here's the thing though....there are restaurants and coffee houses all around McPherson Square.  They rely on the health department of DC.  The political figures of DC and the city council....might want to give the boys continued reign....but eventually, this health code issue is going to determine the end of the camping experience.  Along the way....a few punks are going to be bit by rats, and some folks are going to suffer some serious health issues.  The hippies are going to mostly smile....because this time....they were right in the way they ran things.

Only in America.

Maybe You Should Ask First

Here in the local area....an interesting development.

Word got out this morning that the District of Columbia city council is reviewing this idea of sports teams being used on car tags.  They have eight professional teams in the region (soccer, football, baseball, football, hockey, etc).  They figure a $25 fee to start with and $20 a year for these special tags.

The curious thing to me....is that typically the logos are precious to every single team.  They just don't normally approve the use of such logos....unless there is money in the pot for them.  Personally, I can't see them approving the logo, unless the DC council paid them money, and that typically isn't something that the council is used to doing.  The DC council probably dreamed this up and got one team to agree to this....and I seriously doubt that the rest are going along with it unless a couple of bucks float their way.

The curious thing here.....how many folks would sign up for Washington Redskins tags?  I'm guessing one out of every three cars.

A Happy Story

Weeks ago....the city of San Francisco decided that Happy Meals from McDonalds, with the toy "gift", were evil.  No matter what toy they offered, it didn't matter....they were all evil.  So they had to be outlawed....wiped off the face of the Earth.

For the next day or two....you still have the "toy" option with the San Francisco McDonalds.  Then, on the first....there will this little change.

When you walk into McDonalds....you will be able to buy the toy "gift" for ten cents, which will only be offered to you as a customer AFTER you buy the Happy Meal.  The ten cents?  Well....McDonalds said that they would merely take that "donation" and send it to the McDonald's support charity operation.  The price of the Happy Meals?  No change.....you basically pay the same price as before.  So you have to toss down ten cents extra....to make that five-year old kid happy.

As you settle back to ponder over this....imagine the scene.  The government of San Fransisco decided to regulate something...invoke more regulations....and dictate how a business would operate.  The business did what they would naturally do....change.  For you the consumer....you pay an extra ten cents that you didn't have to pay before.  The "toy"?  It was made in China for less than a twenty cents (my humble guess).   So what the city did....was force everyone to pay an extra ten cents on every Happy Meal, for the stupid toy.  The evilness of McDonalds?  Put down entirely.....thank God for the wonderful city council.

Only in America.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How a City Sinks Itself into Debt

You tend to know when a town has cash sitting around and desperately wants to throw it away or toss it to some favorite friend of the city council.

Here in Virginia....down in Charlottesville....the city council realized the cash flow was strong enough to reward someone.

The city council passed this fancy deal....to bring more diversity to Chrlottesville.  The deal on the plate is simple.  The city agreed that there will be a Charlottesville Commission on Human Rights, Diversity and Race Relations.  The folks are already planning $300k to start this operation, and expecting the general yearly cost to be a minimum of $200k.  The numbers come from the town newspaper, The Daily Progress.

Now, a smart guy would sit there and ask a few questions.  How exactly does diversity cost $300k for a town of 43k folks?  Well....you start with a commission of folks who appointed (seven is always a nice uneven number, which is what they selected).  We might all admit that five folks would have been enough....or even three.  But seven folks get picked for the deal.  They are unpaid, but I'm guessing that all seven get airline tickets and hotel deals to attend national diversity conferences.....maybe in Orlando, or Hawaii....who knows?

Then you toss in a director who is hired to lead the city toward diversity (he makes $90k).  Then you toss in an investigator who is supposed act like an advocate on occasion....and he would make $60k a year.  Naturally, Wanda and Gus would require a secretary....who would be making $30k a year.  Added to the trio, you can anticipate laptops, paper, and a bucket of cash (my estimate, $8k a year) to help make this trio fit into the situation.

You have to assume that the city likely has around 400 folks who fall into the police, fire and services departments.  A full-time investigator?  What if you go an entire year without any complaints?  You just blew $60k.  What if there's not much for the secretary to do?  You blow another $30k.  I can only assume that the director will find enough meetings to keep himself/herself looking busy.....but frankly....is a full-time guy like this worth $90k?  And the conferences for the seven folks to attend?  You can figure $10k spent on their requirements as they run off to Seattle or New Orleans each year for booze and diversity chat.

This is generally how a town gets itself deeper into financial issues when you gaze ten to twenty years ahead.  They stand there and just want to admit they don't know how to cut city services and serve the fine people of the town.....by cutting manpower.  They are hoping you are naive enough...not to ask stupid questions about what city employees do.

Monday, 28 November 2011

US Government, Incorporated

US Gov, Inc.....is a rather interesting company.

In the beginning, they basically ran the military, the postal system, built some bridges and roads, and had a tax system based on imports and whiskey taxes.  Along the way, US Gov, Inc added up the responsibility of managing open property and adding more property to their inventory.  They also added a federal banking system to help manage the money that they had rolling in.

As more time passed, US Gov, Inc added this concept of having national property because of its scenic values.  Then they tossed in forested areas, which also became part of the job of US Gov, Inc.

At some point, US Gov, Inc added a commerce section....to manage the way that other companies did business.  They later added an education section, a department for agriculture, a national police section, an intelligence section, a housing loan section, national emergency section, an environmental section, etc, etc.  At some point, US Gov, Inc had a division for just about everything.  They had customers that even went beyond the intended borders of US Gov, Inc.

So to make this function work....US Gov, Inc....had to make a profit.  Some sections had the business to show profitability, and some didn't.  Problems began to develop.  US Gov, Inc.....wasn't making the money that it used to make.  Adding to the mess....there were promises made....that went beyond financial planning purposes, and when reality showed up.....things were pretty dismal.

Most companies would stand back at this point, and admit a failure within divisions.....trim down those divisions immediately or curtail some operations.  US Gov, Inc.....could not make such a move.

The CEO was not capable of grasping business operations and simply was the "talking dog" of the board.  The board itself?  It was made up of 535 members.    Each board member had a full staff and personal fund for rewarding themselves or their staff.  Their travel was unregulated, and some board members traveled off to Paris, Rio, or Bangkok....just to say they were conducting business....in the name of US Gov, Inc.

Underneath this layer.....were another layer of a board system with well over 15k junior board members who were dispersed across the nation.  They had gone to great extents to run their own Gov operations, and were in the same position.....spending more money than they had taken in.  In fact, they had pension programs of such size.....that they were unknowingly preparing for bankruptcy.

The answer to the sizable mess for all the board members?  Raise the various fees, and keep the operations level at the same size.  Not a single board member could focus on the concept of US Gov, Inc being too big....and they simply couldn't downsize or cut anything.

The comical side to this story?  If this company had been Starbucks....it wouldn't have taken more than thirty days for the board to make a decision....shut down 100 Starbucks fronts.....and admit they were over-sized and well beyond their profit margin.  Yes, Starbucks is smarter and more capable.....than US Gov, Inc.  And there....lies the problem.  The only way that customers can get the attention of the board....they will have to fire them.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Toilet Paper Scheme

This is what we know.....a couple of folks down in Florida came up with this scheme to use on old folks....which basically involved them visiting the house and announcing that they had septic tank problems.  The only way to fix this....was to use special toilet paper.

So the three guys involved in this scheme sold what amounted to what cops figured.....as a seventy year collection of toilet paper to these old guys.

I sat there for a while....trying to contemplate what a seventy-year stash of toilet paper would add up to.  I'm guessing enough to fit into the back of a pick-up truck, for one guy.  I can imagine this scene....Joe sells Aunt Maude this entire pick-up truck load of toilet paper for thousands of dollars.  The guy shows up....dumps the toilet paper off, and rides off into the sunset.

I have to admit, it is a pretty good scheme, and ten percent of folks would actually buy this story without any problem.  Forty guys from Louisiana will read this....ride to Wal-Mart tonight....and buy some fancy toilet paper and try to repeat the same trick.  By Christmas.....we'll see thousands of guys in jail....over septic tanks and toilet paper.

The Slavery is OK Mentality

It was an odd moment on the Sunday political chat circuit.

Christian Amanpour is talking to former General Powell, and says: "I get your point about heat and light, but what about the fact that, in fact, it is one of the political parties, although -- or rather the big political influence, which is the Tea Party, which quotes left and right the Founding Fathers? They say compromise is a dirty word, and they try to point to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution".

Then General Powell has this odd statement to make about the Tea Party: "They compromised -- the Founding Fathers compromised on slavery. They had to in order to create a country. They compromised on the composition of the Senate, of the House, of the Supreme Court, of a president -- what are the president's powers? Can you imagine more difficult compromises today?  Compromise is how this country was founded, and unless two people in disagreement with each other don't find a way to reach out to one another and make compromises, you don't get a consensus that allows you to move forward.  But the Tea Party point of view of no compromise whatsoever is not a point of view that will eventually produce a presidential candidate who will win".

I sat there for about five minutes in a daze....trying to see some logic here.  The best I can glean from his comments is that slavery was perfectly ok, as long as you were starting out the United States and standing against the King.  The problem with this statement is that most people....when confronted with this logic....would say it's about the most stupid thing that any educated guy could ever say.

Slavery is legit and perfectly good.....to start a country up.   But Tea Party folks are perfectly bad for making a stand, no matter what their logic is.  Pretty stupid....if you ask me.

I usually don't say nothing for the Tea Party folks.  I'm kinda neutral.  I don't see their attitude as being negative, but I don't see them accomplishing much in the end.

Then occasionally, some dimwit stands up in the media....claiming think-tank status....saying something pretty stupid.  You get the impression that they simply don't like Tea Party folks under any circumstances.  Sadly, I get that impression with General Powell.  I'm guessing he really doesn't care much for tax reforms or for cutting any government funding.  He wasn't very clear about these parts of the Tea Party.  I'm guessing he probably doesn't want to comment much because he'd look even more stupid than he does currently.

So a lesson into history.  If you had gone to New York or any of the colonies before the Declaration of Independence....you would have found a vast and strong moral feeling against slavery among the public from the northern colonies.  I would speculate as much as nine-to-one on this issue amongst the voting public (men).  The comical side of this is that the voters didn't really have a say on this issue.  The elected officials sent to represent the state....made the decisions....and simply did what General Powell suggested.  They found various ways to accept slavery....even if their voting public didn't agree with it.

The problem is that years passed, and the voting public reached a point where they simply weren't going to accept this attitude anymore.  Congress and the Senate could have continued to play the current game that we have underway....and it wouldn't have mattered....the public would have sent people to DC to represent their attitude.  1860 elections invoked Tea Party values, and Lincoln came into office with a Tea Party-like order from the public.

Whatever was screwed up in 1776.....got fixed in 1860.  Maybe today's Tea Party merely has to wait eighty years for the right people to be sent to DC, and fix the tax and spend issue we have.  It's a sad suggestion to make.  But if you were General Powell....it makes perfect sense.

How the NBA is in Trouble

There are two ingredients to today's NBA financial mess.  Basketball, for all purposes....is a business at this level....not a sport.

The Chicago Bulls have eleven players on their rooster at present.  At the highest level is this guy....Carlos Boozer....who makes $13.5 million a year.  At the bottom level....is John Lucas, who makes $947k a year.  Half the players on the team are pulling in $4.5 million or less.

So you take this Lucas guy and analyze his situation.  He pays around forty percent of his income to state and federal taxes, plus property taxes and car taxes.  You carve off around $75k for his agent who did the deal.  At this point....he has around $450k in money.  Guys get silly and borrow a bit to buy a house, a boat, a car, etc....that they can't really afford.  By the end....Lucas likely has $250k a year that is really his own money.  But wait, we haven't discussed investments for the future.  Nor have we discussed the potential for an ex-wife or some kid that he while in college.  As the number eleven guy on the team....he's going to be lucky if he lasts around the league for seven years, and then what?

The Boozer dude?  Same story.  Except he's got forty folks coming up with investment schemes that promise twenty-five percent return....which are all bogus in some nature.  Or he buys into a sports bar that continually loses money.  Or he has a wife that plotting the take-over of half his income by age thirty.  Or he buys into a real estate deal which never matures.

In essence, the players are mostly all broke.  Some might find the right investment counselor and actually have a nifty portfolio by age thirty-five, and retire to some ski valley in Colorado to enjoy the rest of their life.  But out of five hundred possible players in the NBA, we are talking about twenty of those guys being that smart.

The second ingredient are the owners.  The big guys are owning teams in Boston, Philly and Atlanta.  Then you've got these teams out in San Diego, New Orleans, and Indiana....which are marginal.  The little guy teams are dependent on amazing deals with the arena, which the city cooks up to help them or hurt them.  Since they never go to the playoffs....there are fewer t-shirts bought and the appeal to the locals are less.  So you have owners who are proud and show up at fancy meetings in New York City, but the truth is that they are probably pocketing only ten million a year for a team that they had to pay $200 million for.

As most would calculate....it would only make sense to dump a number of teams and get back down to twenty teams (instead of the current thirty).  But you'd be dumping a third of all the players and all these built arenas would be worthless in towns like Milwaukee or Minnesota.  So everyone fixes up the mess as best as possible and proceeds on.  It's basically a lose-lose situation, with money showing up in everyone's pocket, but never enough to really survive reality.  

The Newt Statement

I listened to several hours on Wednesday of folks wanting to chat via talk-radio....over Newt and his immigration comment.

If you stand back and look at his comment.....he simply said that he'd find a way to help these Latino folks fit into the work situation but he really didn't say "citizenship" as part of the deal.  I think most folks missed the whole emphasis of what he suggested.  You'd get a work-visa, a Social Security number, and a chance to apply for citizenship like the other 100 million folks who were waiting in Africa, Russia, Thailand, or Canada.

For most Democrats....that's a lousy deal because they'd really like for these folks to have voting rights, which means you have to become a citizen.  But no one got much around to the bottom line to realize what Newt was offering here.  It really wasn't a bold plan or a huge offering.....you get a visa and keep working, with no vote.  My guess is that most Latinos would all be happy with this deal.  Most are smart enough to know they just wouldn't vote for either idiot political party.

I would imagine that forty million Americans are listening intently to talk-radio throughout the normal day and with most of this all geared toward a right-leaning guy.....they are getting this fair dose of enthusiasm to see things in a certain light.  The sad thing is that as you drive around the country....your choice of talk-radio is this, or NPR.  Frankly, after a while....you kinda tire of both.  And music-wise.....you kinda hit your limit after sixty minutes on the road.

My Trip

There are a couple of things I observed from this Thanksgiving trip to Bama.  First, the Crown Victoria is probably the best cross-country vehicle to ride in.  I admit....it does guzzle gas, but for comfort....it's five-star.  I admit that I could buy a car like this, but it carries an image or icon with the car....and that might be a problem.

I probably observed over fifty dead deer by the interstate as I traveled from Virginia to Bama, and back.  I'll admit....it kinda bothers me in a way.  I'm just glad that I didn't hit of them.

My dad ended up with some homemade dressing recipe from the Amish cookbook.  I had doubts over how it'd turn out....but frankly, it wasn't too bad.  Those Amish folks probably can cook a decent meal.

Finally, I sat in a Shoney's Bigboy this morning.  I ended listening in on a conversation of several ladies who were preparing for Christimas shopping later in the morning.  My impression from that talk was that the economy was bad but they were apparently spending the same amount of money....if not more....that they did last year.  And the niece who was unemployed?  She was getting some check from one gal to cover one month's rent.  The other gal had a son who was a month behind on his car payments.....and she was going to pay up that and an extra month's payment.  You can talk up the bad economic times, but folks are somehow finding ways to limp through it and make it to the better times.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Crown Victoria

Years ago, I went on a Air Force trip and arrived late at night at the destination.  The remaining rental car place was still open and the lady had a problem with very few cars left to offer me.  She ended up giving me a Crown Vic for the same price that a mid-sized car would have been.  So for a week, I rented and drove the Crown Vic.  It was, by the standards of the day....one of the best cars I've ever driven.

I've leaving Arlington for Thanksgiving and driving to Bama.  Naturally, owning no car.....I went and rented one yesterday evening.  Again, this agency was pressed to come up with a car....while a dozen folks were attempting a last-minute rental.  I was supposed to get a mid-sized car, and ended up again with a Crown Vic.

So I drove this back to the apartment complex last night.  It's not the same quality as I remember, and frankly.....it feels "cheap".  The 15-minute ride was 5-star, but it's just the interior of the car that just doesn't ring true.  The buttons all felt cheap, and it was the same kind of interior that existed in 1997.  Course, considering the folks who buy the Crown Vic.....they probably don't want improvements.

I'll report back in four days and give my honest impression of 1,500 miles in a Crown Vic.  As for Thanksgiving....I'm wishing everyone a plentiful day, and good shopping on Friday, and a safe weekend.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Super Committee: Scripted?

A day has passed now on the Super Committee experience.  It kinda hit me after watching the President's four-minute speech last night, that this whole thing is likely scripted out.  Two political groups believe the result will destroy the other in 350-odd days with the 2012 election.

The Republicans believe that the 2010 results were enormous and were worth betting that they could only get better if they stuck to a hardline on limited taxes.  If they could swing this vote one more time....there would be at least 55 Republican Senators, and perhaps the Presidency.  Of course, if your choice is Mitt Romney....the thrill for most independent voters will be limited.

The Democrats believe that this serious attack on retirees (the Medicare crowd), and various cuts for the poor of America....will drive voters to the polls (unlike the 2010 results).  A class versus class vote in the American interest.  

I watched a round-table conversation last night where someone came to accurately suggest that a third-party run by some Presidential candidate could knock both Romney and Obama off their pedestal.  Such an individual has several months to think about jumping into such a race, and start the process of getting on state ballots.   I admit, a Ross Perot-candidate would be enticing.....but who would this be?  And no, it can't be Donald Trump, or Sarah Palin.

So we all watched for a number of weeks...this oddball conceived notion of some Super Committee which wasn't exactly a Jefferson concept written into the Constitution.  I suspect that most of the guys from 1776 would have asked over and over....why you'd need twelve guys to discuss the US budget.  If we'd tried to run a Super Committee to get the vote for the Declaration of Independence.....it would have been a total failure, and we'd still be working for the Queen today.

What did we learn?  Mostly that committees don't really offer any solid chances for success.  In fact, I don't see much of a reason for the Senate or House to meet for the rest of this year, and they might as well take all of next year to sit at home.  We actually need the 2012 election right now....to fix things.  That's the sad part about this story.

Monday, 21 November 2011

When You Use Too Many Drugs

This is what we know.  This guy.....Jeffrey Scott, of Occupy Pensacola fame, got arrested for robbing his neighbor's house.  The deal involves Jeff sneaking into the house, and stealing the guy's furniture, which he ended up taking to the Occupy camp site over at Pensacola's city hall area.

The collection of furniture?  According to reports out of Pensacola: a couch, a recliner, four wicker chairs, and four couch cushions (the Escambia County Sheriff’s words).

I read through this whole thing.  It is comical in a way.  Jeff says he would have brought the stuff back.....eventually.  No mentions drugs, but I suspect that Jeff has done wide assortment of drugs, and probably doesn't remember that much about taking the wickers chairs and such.

The curious part of the entire story?  Jeff's occupation is listed as "nutritional aid."  I'm from Bama, and I have attended Louisiana Tech University.  For the life of me.....I really don't know what a nutritional aid does.  Maybe he's the French fry guy at McDonalds.  Maybe he's the guy at the salad bar who keeps loading up the crouton bucket.  Maybe he's the guy who fills the plates over at the old folks home.  I just don't know.

I've noticed over the past thirty years that real job titles have gotten all goofed up.  Agricultural engineers are often farmers.  Military scientists are often Marines with a rifle.  Economic theorists are often idiots who barely graduated from Princeton.

So....the bottom line here....Jeff is sitting in jail and needs bail.  One of his relatives will drive down and probably help Jeff out.  The relative will ask Jeff what he was thinking.  Jeff will just grin, because he probably doesn't remember much.  By Saturday, he'll be back at the Occupy camp....doping up again, and back into trouble within two weeks.  It's a sad life, but it's the only thing he enjoys.    

Not That We Really Needed It

Word comes out of Germany this morning that some musical guys are coming together to create "Rocky", the musical.  Naturally, the Stallone dude is in the midst of this.  It'll be held up in Hamburg and replace one of the current musicals being performed.

I sat and pondered over this.  Two hours of some Rocky character....singing his guts out on the stage.  Some girlfriend, some trainer, some promoter....toss in the opposing boxer, his trainer....a dozen midgets....some Mafia characters....and maybe a ESPN boxing analyst, and you've got yourself an opera of sorts.

Some questions remain.  Would you pay $50 per person to watch this?  Would you be willing to attend this with your wife or girlfriend?  Would you ask the guys in the office to hang out with you while you watch it?  Would you get goosebumps and start weeping when Rocky sings his big tune at the end of the whole show?

I can see the day coming, when we have Rambo the Musical, maybe Santa the Musical....perhaps even Auburn versus Alabama Football the Musical.  Personally, I think there is something wrong here, but I'd best just keep my mouth shut.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

My Neighborhood

A couple of weeks ago....I blogged over the death of a local DC German journalist....Viola Drath.  If you remember....Viola was somewhat of a legend for reporting DC and US news back to Germany.  She was a respected professor at a local college, and had done pretty good for herself at age 91 when she died under "mysterious" ways.  Her husband....Albrecht Gero Muth (age 47) was the chief suspect after the cops did the initial review.  DC cops figured this was a simple case and have lined up their evidence.

This week....the case started for the court.  Albrecht came out swinging....firing his court-appointed legal folks, and announcing that he wanted to carry the case himself (normally a bad choice).

Then Albrecht came out with various issues.  He announced that he is a general in the Iraqi army.  Well....the DC court folks asked the State Department about this....plus the Iraqi government....and no one ever remembered any deal where Albrecht was appointed as a general.  Adding to this mess....is the fact that Albrecht wants to wear his Iraqi army uniform to court as he appears.  Based on news reports....the judge will consider this.  I doubt that it is a big deal.  If a guy wanted to show up in court with a clown suit on.....I think most judges would have issues.....but a military suit might be acceptable.  

Albrecht then came to his big list of complaints.  There are fleas in his cell.....so he wants it cleaned and fumigated.  He discussed the stagnant water in his jailcell.  Then he went into detail about the limited number of chances that he had to take a bath (I'm guessing they probably limit the guy to one opportunity a day).

Then Albrecht announced at the end that he's going on a fast (starting today, Sunday), and if he did happen to die from the fast.....they needed to hand over his body to some US Army guy.  I'm guessing the judge was sitting there and just wondering which Army guy.  I can see this huge moment of confusion if Albrecht did pass away from starvation....where the US Army gets dragged into this.

Most folks have the opinion that Albrecht isn't blasting away on all cylinders.  Perhaps it was too many years of alcohol or some drug binges in his youth.....but this guy is probably a four-star nut.  The curious thing is that if he used the court lawyer help.....he'd likely get the prosecutor into a position where he might accept a plea deal for just fifteen years in the local prison (the max that he could get for the charges....is thirty years).  No one.....especially the DC legal system.....really wants to go into a real court case that lasts two weeks with this nut doing his own legal work.  With the various incompetent jury possibilities....Albrecht might actually confuse enough of them, and trigger a hung jury.   

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Problem with Money

Some smart guys sat down and did a study.....the topic is how much money makes you happy.  One of these smart folks....was a Nobel prize winner....so you have to expect the numbers to crunched a thousand times over.

They went out to 450k individuals, and in the end.....your emotional well-being and satisfaction level....fell to around the $75k per level.

If you make $75k or more a year......you typically are happy.  The guys crunched the numbers in various ways....small towns..... metropolitan areas....big cities....resort towns....etc.  Typically....$75k was always the right number.

I pondered upon this.  It's hard to sit down and say what makes you happy.  I've known folks in Bama who never made more than $25k a year, and were just plain happy all the time.  I've worked with folks who were pulling in $100k a year, and were running between miserable and happy every other week.  I've know people who made $70k a year, and had nothing to show for it (I figured they were either gambling it away or paying some ex-spouse).

For me personally....I probably could be happy living with $20k a year.....if I didn't have a house payment or car interest.  Course, I could bit more happy with $100k a year.....and traveling to exotic places every month.

The value of this study?  Well....that's the problem.  It really doesn't say or mean much of anything.  I doubt that it changes the perception that folks have or the general vision of life much.  It won't make folks toss or turn at night.  It won't force folks to change jobs and move to Miami.  It won't make Ford dream up a new maximum version of the F-150 pick-up.  It won't even do much for political folks because being happy with $75k....also means you need to pay tax revenue to someone for the money.

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Alabama has this ability to shoot itself in the foot, and just stand there grinning....mostly because they've done something stupid but can't really fess up to it.

Yesterday....the cops around Tuscaloosa got impressive, and used the immigration law to arrest this foreign dude driving without ID and American-license.  It happened to be a major German manager associated with Mercedes....who arrived to discuss things with the Mercedes plant in Bama.

Based on the press reports.....the cop stopped the rental car for not having a tag (which is rather odd, I admit).....then asked the guy for a license.  The guy pulls out his German ID card, which just isn't going to be accepted.  So they arrest the guy.  Charge?  Violation of the state immigration law.  The buddy of the German then ran back to the hotel....got his passport and German license....and was then turned loose.

The comical side of this....if an American had shown up in Germany.....in the same situation....the German cops would typically escort him to his hotel and give him one shot of producing the passport and license.  In fact, if a German was driving around Germany and couldn't produce the ID when asked by the cops.....they'd drive him back home and give him the same one-shot deal.

What happens now?  Well....prepare for the headline in the German Sunday paper......"Bama Gestapo at Work".  The Mercedes executive will be pretty embarrassed by this mess.  He'll stick around and complete his project, but when he returns home....he'll cuss up a storm and let just about everyone know how furious he really is.

Expansion on the Bama Mercedes plant?  I wouldn't really count much on that.  In fact....it wouldn't surprise me if some management folks make a decision to downsize a bit and let the state know that they might consider an alternate location to manufacture their vehicles.  They will bring up the word "Gestapo" a couple of times to ensure the Bama political figures are getting the message.  Other countries interested in bringing business to the state?  Forget it.  This incident will drive home the unfriendly nature of the state.

I'd tell the governor to stop making runs to Asia and Europe to recruit more jobs for Bama folks.  There's trouble brewing here.

You may have designed the law for the evil Latinos.....but it seems that you really didn't calculate the real impact of the law in the end.....it goes way beyond Juan and Jose.

Friday, 18 November 2011

A Question, An Answer, and Another Question

Google folks came out last week with this odd picture from China.

For about a week....folks were puzzled by this....and then finally came to agree....it was designed so that Chinese engineers could calibrate their own spy satellites.  It's a logical explanation and fits pretty well.

I sat there for a few minutes reading through the commentary and thought it laid out in a pretty smart fashion.  No issues here.  This ought to close the book on this curious question.

The sad thing here....is that I kept thinking about this.  And there is this other problem.....if this logic works for the China picture, what about the lines down in Peru?

They work in the same fashion.  An odd design.  You wouldn't really notice them unless you were up around twenty thousand feet or higher (or in space).

So the odds that they were built to calibrate ancient Peruvian spy satellites?  It's best not ask, but it leaves another question.  At least in my mind.

The sad thing is that the History Channel will end up with a two-hour special on this possibility and attribute it to some guy from Bama who writes a blog.

Just Observations

An update of sorts....I reported that AK-47 shooting toward the White House a couple of days ago.  Cops finally caught the guy.  From what has been said from the guy....he thinks the President is the anti-Christ, and that he (the shooter) is Jesus.  Almost every single federal attorney will be sitting there and hoping they aren't the one stuck with prosecuting this case.  Some mental exam will be required, and it could be an entire year before this ever comes up in court.  Meanwhile.....the other four-hundred and thirty-six folks who think they are Jesus....will be upset and likely conveying to folks that this guy is the fake one....but they are the real one.

The budget guys for Detroit came out and admitted yesterday that the city will run out of cash in December....just a matter of weeks.  The mayor is kind of stuck.  He could lay off 2k employees, and scratch some services in town, and just try to slide by for twelve months while they reshape their operations.  The problem is that the unions will take this to court.  Judges will be involved.  From the three news sources I read.....the whole town is counting on the state government to save them in some fashion.  Frankly....ninety percent of Michigan would probably prefer that Detroit burn to the ground, and will not offer much assistance other than police and fire department funding.  I would wish the city some luck, but frankly...it'd help if 100k residents just packed up and left.  It's a town that ought to be half the size that it currently is, and ought to have a federal administrator run it for five years.

Finally, the head tax guy for the GE corporation admitted that they finished up the 57k page tax return for the company.  They owe ZERO dollars for taxes.  How?  First, they spent alot on tax credit schemes that Congress arranged.  Second, a good bit of this money was earned overseas, and stayed overseas.  Third, reinvestment into wind energy and solar energy earned a bunch of credits.  Most folks are shocked, and a bit angry over this.  Fourteen billion in earnings, and not a penny in taxes.  Who made this possible?  Your friendly Senator or Congressman.....who has no training in writing tax code, but certainly took what they gave him, and inserted it into some bill.  The Occupy crowd ought to comment on this.....and slam congress for writing all these rules.  But they don't really grasp the situation.  

The Urine Bus Ride

METRO (our subway folks) came up in the local news today.  One of the unions that provide METRO employees has finally got all upset....about the sanitary condition of buses operated over on the east part of town.  What they hint.....is that the bus depot isn't as aggressive as the other depots around the region (Arlington, western DC, Maryland, etc)....on cleaning up the buses.

The media asked a bunch of questions....and the union guys finally came to admit that folks urinate on the METRO buses over on the eastern side of the town all the time.  So the necessity of extra cleaning is required.

Now, I'm one of the very folks in Arlington.....who has riden the METRO system over into Anacostia, DC.  The minute I got on the bus.....you could smell it....4-star urine, and the yellow stains were pretty visible.  I rode for eight minutes, and really wanted to get off pretty bad.  Most buses are cleaned down and hosed every night.....but the folks are back the next day.....urinating as though there's no issue.

It's a behavior issue.  You've got forty-odd guys who like ride the bus daily......who really ought to be put into a quarantined place and never allowed into the public.  Across DC....I would imagine that a thousand folks (sorry, but there are lots of homeless folks who are now problems) need an environment that limits them....like a forty-acre park with a fence around it, and one-hundred square foot cabins where they could live out their lives in peaceful existence without bothering the rest of mankind.  It's a sad way to go.....screwing up things for innocent folks and really having not a care in the world about the mess you create each day.

As for the METRO drivers.....they are right on this issue, and not one single DC politician will stand up to agree with them.  It's kinda like having ten thousand rattle snakes let loose in DC, and no one wants to deal with the problem because they'd look bad for being anti-snake.

Made in The Bottle: Jack Daniels

You can imagine the shock.....you have the only company in town that brings jobs to the area, and tourism.  Some guy goes to the city council, and wants them to add a special fee onto your product.....a tax for all sincere purposes.  Your company?  Jack Daniels, of Lynchburg, Tennessee.  The fee?  Ten dollars a barrel for each barrel of whiskey produced.

The curious thing is that Michigan's state house speaker, Jase Bolger, stood up and basically offered up an invitation for Jack Daniels to move to Michigan.  The chief feature?  Lots of fresh spring water.

So the emphasis of this deal is one guy who put the tax up to the city council and knows that Jack Daniels is the only company in town.....employs well over 250 folks in some fashion.....with lots of locals handling tourism and folks just passing through who want the tour.  There's no other real business in this neck of the woods.

If I were Jack Daniels management.....I stand back and this practical view of the situation.  The original Jack selected the local area because of the springs.  There's nothing else anchoring them down....except an investment of probably three million in real estate and production buildings.  The whiskey could be made just about anywhere.  Lynchburg is on the label.....but you could be tricky about this and pick some location with a practical name......and no one would care about the move.  The cost of the tax?  I'm guessing that the company could pass this bill onto customers and the city might raise a half a million.....maybe more.  Whiskey, for you folks....is not suffering during this depression.....mostly because lots of foreign folks are now buying the stuff.

I pondered over this.....and eventually thought.....why can't Bama offer up a town?  Then it hit me.....there's a town down south in Bama.....called "The Bottle".  This is no joke.  It's a mile or two away from Auburn, and there'd be thousands of dedicated Bama folks prepared to help Jack Daniels out.  The catch phrase?  "Jack Daniels, distilled by The Bottle".

To be kinda honest, it is basically the intersection of U.S. Highway 280 and Alabama Highway 147, and I doubt that there's a mayor or town council to deal with.....which makes for an interesting situation.  Jack Daniels and company could buy all the acreage.....put in three homes, and ask the county council to give them a city certificate.  The CEO could serve as mayor, and they'd have enough real estate to prevent any idiots from ever coming up with a stupid fee/tax on each barrel ever again.

In fact, folks from Bama would be willing to take up their hay and cotton wagons.....to run up to Lynchburg, and help Jack and company move to The Bottle.  It'd be the neighborly thing and we'd likely cross over the border of Bama.....with the cotton wagon loaded down with twenty barrels of whiskey, and start weeping as we drove like a bat out of hell to south Bama.  Never in a thousand years.....would we have guessed that Jack Daniels could be enticed to come to Bama....and the Auburn folks will attest to the fact that there won't be no dry issues like there were in Lynchburg.

Somewhere out there....some Jack employee will eventually read my blog....talk to the boss.....and pull out the map.  Someone will ask questions, and eventually, a miracle might happen (kinda like bringing Cam to Auburn last year).

And for the guy who felt a tax on Jack Daniels was necessary.  You might want to think about the implications of one act of stupidity.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

My Neighborhood

The local news this morning did a 30-second piece......across the river in DC....a barbershop got robbed last week.  The guy walked in....apparently swung a weapon around.....robbed the various barbers in the shop, and then robbed all the customers.  The owner hinted that he now intended to keep the door to the shop locked at all times.....so when you arrive at the front door....you have to knock, to get in.  And if they don't know you or if you act kind of strange....they won't allow you into the shop.

This is how bad the crime situation has become in DC.....robbing barbershops.  If this had some town in Tennessee....almost every barber would have pulled a 45 out from the corner of their stand, or half the customers would have pulled a 38 out from the barber sheet....on the guy.  The robber would have been dead at the doorway.

You have to admit....robbing folks in broad daylight....in a business part of DC....with plenty of witnesses....just doesn't make any sense.  But that's the DC way.

Rustic Camping

After viewing the Occupy camping deal over the past month.....I looked back at my eight-odd camping experiences....four from the Air Force years and four from my youth in Bama.  The highlight was a tent-city experience where our eight-man tent had a carpet floor, AC, couches in the back of the tent, satellite TV, and two refrigerators.  The low point is the first camping experience as a kid, which is the bulk of this blog.

As a kid, I joined up for about eighteen months with a wannabe scout troop in my local area.  We had this camping deal planned out, which naturally was to take place on a Saturday and Sunday.  I needed a tent, which my mom ended up buying via K-Mart.

This 'pup-tent' was this cheapo tent....which remember being made in Honduras.  For me in the 1970s....I thought this was rather odd to start with.  I spent an hour putting it up at the farm.  Once up and inside of it.....it had this funky smell.....like the water-proofing smell.  It was like a mildew smell but ten times worse. I lay there in the tent and wondered how I'd ever sleep for eight hours with this kind of smell.

Then I looked at this net covering on the doorway....which really wasn't made to keep snakes out.....another concern of mine.  Overall, this was minor stuff to worry about.

As the camping expedition started....we ended up meeting at Dale's house, which was pretty far out in the boonies.  We were supposed to hike a mile down the road, turn onto a dirt road for half-a-mile, and then hike another mile over some filed to reach 'ground-zero'.

The topography of the camping location was a lesson in life that has kind of always stuck with me.  I can still remember the layout, the hill, the stream, and slant.

It was a rolling valley, with a stream running through.....probably not more than three foot wide.  It was flat for fifty feet on either side of the stream, and then this gentle sloop of a hill started up and became a 10-degree hill.  At the top of the hill lay some corn field which was on a slight slant down to our hill as well.  All of this slanted nature and hill business should have been indicators of something, but I was young and naive.

Of 365 days in a year....364 probably would have been great camping days....but this wasn't one of them.  By nightfall there in July.....clouds were rolling in across the Bama plain.

We had taken some wood....made up a big fire down near the stream, with our tents a hundred feet up....on the slanted hillside.  Don't ask why.....it's just the way that we did this.  The tents were all pitched with this 10-degree slant.

As darkness came....we all drifted back to the tents.  Somewhere around 11PM.....it started raining.  I came to realize that this Honduran-made tent of mine....wasn't really water-proof....it simply didn't absorb water as much as a regular tent.  The whole tent was dripping.  Adding to the misery.....the field at the top of the hill wasn't absorbing the rain that much....so it was coming down the hill at a fairly good rate.

Then some kid came by the tent and said that folks were meeting down by some tree near the stream.  Flashlights came out.  The rain was coming down pretty good at this point.

Basically, this tornado warning had been issued for the local area.  It was determined that a better and safer location was some barn which lay about half-a-mile in some direction.  We somehow made it to the barn in the darkness, and sat back until the sun rose around 5AM.  The tornado never got closer than twenty miles to us.

It was a miserable experience.  The tent was soaking wet, and smelled worse than when I bought it.  The sleeping bag I left in the tent was soaked completely.  Other than a pack of pop-tarts.....there wasn't much of anything for breakfast.  On camping experiences, I would have given this a negative-ten rating.  The only true lesson I got out of this was to always watch the weather report before going off on a trip like this.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Toby

Toby is this Thai wannabe-ladyboy dude, whose chief passion in life is cracking passwords.  He's young, immature, and a sad example for Thai manhood.

Toby sat around and got smart on computers, and eventually wanted to show the world that he had talent and "power".  So Toby got around to screwing with people....grandmas from London, bartenders from Brisbane, young teenage girls from Winslow, and lumbermen from Oregon.

Toby's chief reason of existence?  Just screwing with folks and utilizing the fundamental weaknesses of Blogger.Com and Yahoo email.  Yahoo....for those who aren't aware, has kinda drifted around for the past five years and done most of nothing in the arena of email security.  They have folks who actually engineer and draft up code, but frankly....they've become the General Motors of Internet productivity.  Toby knows that.

The Blogger folks built various levels of security into their system....but just never advertised what you really needed to set things for.  After running into a Toby....you kind of figure out what levels of security in Blogger ought to be set-up.

Today, Toby is sitting around the hut that he calls a home in Thailand.....kinda peeved because he lost someone to play with.  He'll sit there for a while....and eventually go over to probably bartender at the beach resort where he earns enough to pay for the apartment and his scooter....not much else.  Toby is destined for something....where at age forty, the best that he can admit to...is that he stole 8k passwords over his life.

A mighty accomplishment for a little Thai guy....you have to admit.  He'll stand around at age forty, and talk up his great accomplishments.....which most folks around Thailand won't really care much for or find interesting.  The sad thing is that Thai guys who grew up in the 1970s....actually worked for a living, and have a thousand other things that they can claim proudly.  Toby?  Well....there's not much that he can claim in that level.

So as night falls in Thailand.....you can wonder about Toby and his losses for the day.  He's still saving cash for his fancy operation to become a half-woman, half-man, half-dimwit.....and he's thinking that things will eventually improve, but just doesn't know when.  It's a sad life, but he really can't expect much better.

The Dozen

I sat and watched about an hour of commentary last night over the Super Committee episode.  Various journalists and think-tank dimwits talked over the lack of action.  Most everyone is agreeable that nothing much will occur from the six Republicans and six Democrats.  This has turned more into a show, than anything of value to the nation.

So I have this oddball suggestion.  It came to me after watching the comments by various political folks....that they really don't have any real skills for their job anyway.  A simple bagger kid from Piggly Wiggly could round up the numbers and order the same cuts that a Democrat from Texas could suggest.

My idea is to dump the Super Committee today, and just do a plain lotto type of selection....picking twelve Americans to look at the evidence and make the cuts.  If you got selected, you'd get a guy arriving at your door to escort you to DC.  You get 21 days in a fancy hotel, with all the meals included, and a free bar-tab.

You can imagine this crew.  There's Charley from Wisconsin, whose passion in life is fishing and the Green Bay Packers.....and somehow he lives off $22k a year from his backyard garage.  There would Ms Eugene who teaches fifth graders in Iowa and has never been more than 500 miles from home in her life.  There would Earl who is retired from long-haul trucking, and Buddy who spent five days in a Mexican prison over a serious misunderstanding back in 1988.  Wanda, who hails from Bama, works at Wal-Mart.  And Dale, from Maine, is a highly recognized Bigfoot hunter.

So, we'd bring the dozen Americans together and just tell them to toss in a tax or two, and cut on budgets of the US government.  They wouldn't argue about politics or anything special.  They'd have sad news for thirty countries who suddenly got cut on their US checks.  They'd have bad news for these professors who do butterfly research projects for the government.   They would have some discouraging news for retirees who wouldn't see a nickel added to their social security check for the next two years.

They'd likely wrap up all the important work within five days, and most sit around and eat off the free buffet line for the remaining sixteen days, and sip the free booze.

We might be shocked what real Americans can do....compared to political figures.  For this reason, I doubt that we will ever get this opportunity.  It's kinda like learning that any garage mechanic can work on a Ford pick-up....that you don't have to go off to the dealer and pay $95 an hour for their services.

Only in America.  

A Similar Feeling

About every resident in southeast DC goes to sleep at night....worrying that some stray bullet is going to hit their house or residence.  Grandmas worry about kids.  Kids worry about their parents being accidentally shot by a stray bullet at night.  All it takes is one round to penetrate the house....and anything could happen.

Well....from what I reported a couple a days ago with the White House being fired at by some guy with a AK-47....the Secret Service finally confirmed this morning that one round did hit the White House.  Didn't enter the residence....but it definitely did hit.

So the President will return from his trip....get a ten-minute report on the episode, and start to get a bit irate. The President of the United States ought not to have to worry about some gang violence hitting the White House, or having one of his kids hit.  There's going to be a week or two of consideration, and my guess is that the Mayor of DC is going to be invited over to the White House.

It'll be a short thirty minute meeting.  The President will ask him what he needs to protect the city.  If I were the Mayor.....I'd ask for $2 billion.  Course, it'd be a nice round number and I wouldn't have the slightest idea of how to spend the money.  The Mayor would likely sit and consider how he could milk this for corruption amongst the city council and flip twenty million toward their pockets in some fashion.

A week later, there will be this big announcement of how DC police are going to be reinforced, and lots of technology being added.

And the guy who shot at the White House?  They still haven't found the guy.....they have a great picture of him and know his name.....but he's completely disappeared.  The gun?  Found in the car, on the bridge leading out of the city.  It's almost like a scripted sequence.  That's the sad thing about this whole episode.

Camping

It's been most of a full day in New York City, where they finally decreed that while protesting is a right....camping out as a Occupy guy, is not a right.

For a guy from Bama, it a bit of pondering here.  About ninety-nine percent of the time.....when you camp out....there's usually grass beneath you....a bunch of trees....some ants....a snake or two....and no noise from traffic or such (thunderstorms would be acceptable).  So in this case, it's hard to classify the Occupy camping as real camping.

You can imagine this scene.  A judge says camping is ok on the streets of New York.  So a bunch of guys from Bama show up and start camping.  They start up some sterno fires.  There's hot dogs roasting.  Some guys are discussing their NCAA fantasy bowl games.  One guy brought a satellite radio to listen to Rush Limbaugh at night.  Karl is discussing his septic tank issues.  Sid shows off his $189 sleeping bag that he bought via a Army surplus sale that is supposed to be Arctic-proof.  At the end, the guys break out a case of Pabst Blue-Ribbon, smoke some weed, and fall asleep.

The Occupy guys in New York?  The sterno fire is the only fire that they've ever messed with.  They camped out three times in their backyard as a kid, and that was mostly in the summer.  They brought along their I-Pad but it got broke the first day when their buddy dropped it on the concrete.  No one knows much about NCAA football, but every wants to chat about Marxism and this concept of taking money away from everybody else.  The beer?  Well....they buy mostly cheap Mexican whiskey and mix with Diet Coke.  The weed?  Well....there's weed but some of the new guys have been bringing these fancy drugs that no one has tried before, and some guys have freaked out....thinking they were Republicans or Beverley Hills real estate agents.

Camping and Occupy camping just aren't the same thing.  The mayor is right about this issue.  Either you camp out like a true American, or you don't camp out.  When some idiot camps out on concrete and showers at the YMCA eight blocks away....there's something wrong.  When the topic of discussion is politics....for weeks in a row while camping....there's something wrong.  When the highlight of the day is the fresh coffee from Starbucks....there's something wrong.  When the chief thrill of the day is to screw around with the cops that confront you....there's something wrong.

My fantasy end to Occupy?  Tell the Occupy guys they won an all-camping-expenses paid trip to a Montana National Forest.  Dump them off at the end of some dirt road forty miles from civilization.  No coffee.  Just some freeze-dried snacks.  Toss in a snake-bite kit, because they really might need it, and some pepper-spray for bears.  No weed.....no cheap Mexican booze...and no Starbucks.  After four hours....I'm pretty sure most of the guys would be asking for a chance to leave.  They just aren't real campers.

Only in America.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Occupy Demands

The Occupy Wall Street crowd came out with their "demands" (this came from their web site):

- Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. Unionize ALL workers immediately.

- Raise the minimum wage immediately to $18/hr. Create a maximum wage of $90/hr to eliminate inequality.

- Institute a 6 hour workday, and 6 weeks of paid vacation.

- Institute a moratorium on all foreclosures and layoffs immediately.

- Repeal racist and xenophobic English-only laws.

- Open the borders to all immigrants, legal or illegal. Offer immediate, unconditional amnesty, to all undocumented residents of the US.

- Create a single-payer, universal health care system.

- Pass stricter campaign finance reform laws. Ban all private donations. All campaigns will receive equal funding, provided by the taxpayers.

- Institute a negative income tax, and tax the very rich at rates up to 90%.

- Pass far stricter environmental protection and animal rights laws.

- Allow workers to elect their supervisors.

- Lower the retirement age to 55. Increase Social Security benefits.

- Create a 5% annual wealth tax for the very rich.

- Ban the private ownership of land.

- Make homeschooling illegal.

- Reduce the age of majority to 16.

- Abolish the death penalty and life in prison.

- Immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

- Abolish the debt limit.

- Ban private gun ownership.

- Strengthen the separation of church and state.

- Immediate debt forgiveness for all.

- End the 'War on Drugs'.

I sat and read over these a couple of times.  Basically, it'd bankrupt the nation in a matter of eighteen months or less if you enacted all of these.  I admit there are three or four of these which might interest half the voting public in America....but the vast majority are comical in nature.

No private ownership of land?  So why bother farming when someone might move onto the property and take up acreage because they think they deserve it?

No layoffs?  So if a company is doing badly and needs to trim a quarter of it's workforce.....how would they achieve such an action?

Maximum wage of $90 an hour?  And which magic pocket did you pull this one out from?  Why not stop it at $50 an hour, or $150 an hour?

I get the impression that most of these people never took a single economics class in their life.  Most of them likely don't own property.  And I suspect that most of the Occupy crowd probably will never enjoy a rich fulfilling job....and end up working at some pizza shop for the rest of their life.  It's a sad direction to go.

From the Local News

We had one of those odd local news episodes from yesterday.  From here in Virginia....and it's best to avoid listing the guy's name.....we had this guy who accidentally shot himself and died.

The guy had driven up to a video-rental enterprise, and his wife got out to return a DVD.  In her car seat....lay a Glock pistol, with the barrel pointed toward the guy's butt.  The guy decided that it would have been correct to place the pistol in a different position.  Why it wasn't in a hostler, or under the seat, the safety on, or in a purse...God only knows.  He apparently fiddled with the trigger in this odd position, and bam.  The gun went off.....shooting him in the butt.

The ambulance came, but he'd lost an enormous amount of blood in that time-frame, and died from a shot in the butt (that he triggered himself).

It's a story that you'd rather not tell because it's awful stupid in a way.  People have gotten around to the point of carrying pistols loosely.  They don't use the safety clip.  They don't think about gun safety.  They act like they really need a weapon for protection, but they really don't care for normal gun rules.

So you can imagine this funeral, and the guy's buddies showing up.  It's a pretty sad end and a bad way to go.  You sit there and shake your head.

Simply Observations

The Supreme Court stood up and agreed to take the case of ObamaCare and the states opposing it.  There were various think-tank players talking up the topic yesterday.  One of the comical sides to this episode is Supreme Court Judge Kagan....who sat on the Obama staff and some folks have this suspicion that she was involved in the planning of the law.  Normally, if true, you'd have to sit out.  She hasn't shown that necessity. She may be totally innocent on this topic......but in ten years, if some email or document comes out to show her involvement being more.....it will be an slam against her and the court.  As for the outcome of the court?  Come summer of 2012.....they will state that you can't require citizens to buy health care insurance via a national law (5-4).  The rest of the law, my humble opinion, will stand.  As for how this works without the mandatory angle?  I don't have the slightest idea......but if you asked me....it's a scripted episode and every single player knew the eventual outcome two years ago.   

I've watched this video of CBS's Scott Pelley and Gringrich in a heated discussion over the "rule of law" and how, if ever, the US government can order a US citizen killed, without a court appearance.  Since I'm one of those idiots who got pushed into a German work visa and played the 'legal American in Germany routine'......I have more understanding than most folks.  Once you leave the soil of America.....you aren't as American as you think.  When you enter any other country....you start to come under their rules.  Forget the American Constitution, fairness, or rights.  If you are sitting in Moscow.....Russian rules tend to apply, and along with the Mafia.  So if you were an idiot American from Austin, Texas....who decides to pick up arms and threaten American lives in any fashion, while sitting in Venezuela.....it's your own luck if Venezuela or the US makes an attempt on your life.  My advice.....if you really think your life is valuable.....drop your stupid acts, return to Austin, Texas, and enjoy the freedoms and pleasures of Austin-living.  

Finally, not that I really care, but we are about two weeks away from the NBA season being canceled, if no agreement occurs.  Some folks will suggest that they could play a 56-game season, which would carve off thirty percent of a player's salary.  The bulk of the players simply aren't taking home much of a salary and can't afford a thirty-percent cut.  Toss in the tens of thousands of folks who help run the arenas, the parking lots, the sports bars, and the NBA journalists.....and you've got a bunch of folks who lose out.  Frankly, in this kind of economy.....it doesn't make any sense, unless you are a NBA player.  

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Air Force Story

This is what we know.  The Air Force runs the one and only mortuary that handles the remains of GI's brought back from foreign wars.  The remains come in, and are sent to a lab.  The guys make an attempt to ID the remains.  If they can't reach a decision....they were sent to the burn facility.  For a number of years....up until 2008....the ashes left then after the burn facility....were taken to a local garbage dump.  At some point, someone stood up and spoke out on the garbage disposal method, and then finally....the Navy stepped in and offered a burial at sea for the ashes.

This past week....the garbage episode was figured out and got into the press.  Frankly.....some Congressmen and Senators are a bit upset.  There will be more questions asked and whoever started this disposal method to the local dump.....will be identified.

When you go back to various wars....guys tended to be buried at the war zone (World War I and II).  From Vietnam....whatever remained from the guy was tossed in a body bag and sent back to the coast....and then placed in a coffin.  Things were simple because of the times.  Today?  Folks come up days or weeks after an explosion, and find another piece or two of a body.....and the procedure is to ship them pieces back to the lab.  Science was supposed to be helpful.

The problem is that you end up with some guy who died, ended up in a coffin to be buried somewhere, and two weeks after the funeral....you've got more pieces.  It simply doesn't make any sense to dig the coffin up to bury the rest of the guy.  No one will argue over this part of the problem.  But the idea of treating the pieces as medical waste after a burn?  That was wrong and pretty stupid.

So for the next month or two....some Senators will make this a major discussion item and a few more folks will be fired from the Air Force base.  Other than kicking around a story.....there won't be much more that the Senators can accomplish....other than do interviews on the Today Show or some Sunday talk show.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Just Observations

News reports indicate that the cops up in Portland are at a point where they want to clear various parks being used by the friendly and non-violent Occupy folks.  The same reports indicate that some Occupy folks have started bringing in or manufacturing "weapons".  This vast array of weapons include 2x4 pieces of wood with nails driven into them and shields from garbage can tops (like Captain America's shield, if you've seen the movie).  They haven't mentioned Molotov cocktails...but's that probably another popular weapon of anarchists.  I sat and pondered over this....if some type of battle starts up and policemen are injured....then it'll be a sign for cops across the nation.  You can start counting the days where a second confrontation occurs, then a third.  If I were an Occupy guy at any city.....I'd start to look around at my associates.  There's the protest folks, and then there's the anarchist crowd.  The minute your effort is deemed anarchist by the public....your media gains or words spoken over the past two months become worthless.

It took roughly 35 days, but this baby missing episode from Kansas City has finally come to the point where the mother is a suspect.  The cops even were nice about it and apparently told that fact to the woman.  My suspicion on this episode from almost day one.....one of the parents were involved in some fashion.  But without a body, you will never see a case opened in court.

You won't see it mentioned in national news.....but some nut got out of a car and fired rounds from a AK-47 in Washington DC.  Normally, we have this kind of stuff every week, and it's not worth mentioning.  But in this case.....it was roughly a block away from the White House.  This got the DC cops, the Secret Service, and the Federal Cops all upset.  Based on cameras and comments spoken so far.....they think two cars were involved in the incident, and one was ditched over near a bridge heading south on the Potomac River.  My guess is that one DC gang got upset with another DC gang, and just happened to bump into each other on Pennsylvania Avenue.    The day will come when another gang does another battle up around the White House....and rounds actually hit the building.  Maybe then.....the President will deem Washington a hostile zone and actually fix a forty-year problem.

Some smart guys did a internal review of man-hours for METRO here in DC.  The question was....are folks over-working?  Short answer....yes.  They documented one guy who worked 117 man-hours in one week.  You can imagine this scenario....management not monitoring man-hours....a guy work five days straight of 18 hours a day, and then he screws up and triggers an accident that kills forty people.  METRO management is saying much.  They seem to be waiting for the next accident, and just accepting the fact that they will pay out millions.  And the idiot who is willing to work 117 man-hours in one week?  He might be pulling in $100k a year on a regular $55k bus driver job...but he's a candidate for a heart-attack, if you ask me.

Finally, not that it really matters to most of us...but there's this new disease out there called Zuccotti-lung disease.  Course, the only way you'd catch this....is by playing occupy up in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, New York.  It ends being a cough, which just doesn't go away.  It goes from a mild cough....to the far end of the scale where some suggest that it might be connected to tuberculosis.  It helps to pass around a bottle of water among five folks....and all take a sip from the same bottle.  You can imagine this scene in January.....ten people a day are hauled off to hospitals and forced into quarantine wards for a month because of this disease.  Then folks start to refuse to go over to the doctor.  And there in the middle of this?  Some poor CBS journalist who is ordered to interview these folks daily and wondering about the CBS healthcare plan, and if they will keep him on for a month of quarantine.  

Thursday, 10 November 2011

By Order of the President

It was a tough day.  We were reading through the newest Presidential executive order, and wondering how things would fit or occur.

First, the President says there's to be some kind of review by every government agency over the vehicle fleet they have.  The reality is that we have probably twice as many government vehicles as we did back in 1990.  Just about anyone connected to Homeland Security in DC....who claims they are "essential" and of sufficient grade....ends up with a government vehicle to drive to work each day.  Some are leased....some are bought.  The bulk of the 600k vehicles....probably aren't needed.  Once you get past the US military, the National Park and Forestry Service, and FEMA....you could probably cut fifty percent of what remains.

Second, the President says there's too much SWAG.  I had to look this up.....then immediately knew what the heck it was.  SWAG is the free gifts that you tend to hand out to employees....free coffee cups, cuff-links, label pins, key-chains, pens, etc.  It's stuff that you pull out and hand to folks at conferences.  I never noticed SWAG while in the military....but in DC, it's always brought up.  I'm guessing the government is finally admitting that SWAG is pretty stupid to spend on government employees.

Third, the President kind of hinted that conferences have gotten out of control.  These trips to Orlando, Vegas, Phoenix, and Washington?  He wants these vastly curtailed.  He didn't really say how this would happen, but I'm guessing some bosses are in a state of fear over that March conference scheduled in Vegas or that April conference that folks were planning in Tampa Bay.  My advice to the President on this is pretty simple....if you forced all conferences to be held in downtown Memphis and had to run from 6PM to midnight....most folks would start to rethink the need or safety of making such a conference.  We could do the same thing in Milwaukee or southeast DC.  Conference planning would dry up in one year and folks would go back fixing their issues instead of worrying about conference topics.

Finally, I came to my favorite off the whole list.....printed paper cuts.  Yep, he wanted folks to realize the real arrival of the digital age.  We all kept talking in 1996 on how we'd cut back on printed paper.  Yet for some odd reason, our organizations still order a pallet of paper every five months.  I'm curious how the President will force this paper cut.  Microsoft is probably working on this automatic printing counter that will limit each employee in the company to "x" number of prints per month.  You can imagine your boss grinning at you....when he tells you that you've got fifty pages max for the whole month.  You grin back because you only print five sheets a month and intend to trade your remaining 45 spares over to another guy in the office for three cups of coffee.  Eventually, you notice guys sneaking a ream of paper into the office and having to pay for everything they print.

Maybe these will work....but you have to wonder just how committed folks will be.

Super-Mac

Somewhere between the lines today, Senator John McCain came out and noted that the super-committee, which is supposed to come up with the 'dream-budget-deal'....is now locked into a stalemate.  Senator McCain is now suggesting that the Republicans need to start planning an escape situation...a plan "B".  To say this on the last day of the week in DC.....means that he's going to be invited to various chat shows this Sunday.

In a way, it's a comical conclusion to the super-committee.  No one really expected much out of the group except time to pass, and some miracle would occur.  My recommendation would be to lock the twelve folks into a room with food, water and bunks....and dump a hundred pounds of fresh horse manure into the corner every seven days.  It might take three weeks....but I think the twelve folks would eventually see the light (or smell the manure).  Obviously, that would be rough treatment for these gifted individuals.

This is what you should gaze ahead for....massive across the US over the automatic kick-in, and hyped political battles for January.  But here's the deal....this automatic cut-deal....it only carries you to 30 September of 2012.  So the boys have to meet yet again by August of next year, in the midst of a political election period, and whip up the same type of super-committee game again.  Obviously....if it failed the first time around.....what idiot would agree to this the second time around?

You have to believe that it's all scripted....in some WWE-wrestling-like environment.  Bad guys versus the good guys.  Managers versus retired wrestlers.  I'm even ready to name the 2012 group.....the "super-super-committee".  Maybe we could even make it a reality show and air it nightly on BRAVO.

Just the Obvious

This 'Coach Joe' Paterno thing just doesn't make much sense.  You get info that some guy in your inner circle is messing around with boys in a shower.  The best you can do is alert the college officials...not the cops....and then continue to allow the guy to hang out in your inner circle (for years).  Then 'Coach Joe' figures that after this whole thing comes out....he can coach through the end of the season and this won't have any affect on his team as they face other teams.  This is one of the top ten most stupid sports episodes that I've seen in my life.

From my home state, Jefferson County did finally declare bankruptcy.  Just over four billion dollars involved.  This entire mess, from start to finish, took over twenty years.  Most folks don't even remember that this all started with some lawyer who sued the county over it dumping sludge and waste into the local river.  The EPA got involved, and by the end....the only way to get out of the mess was to agree to this three billion dollar waste plant that was twice the necessary size.  The agreement was all wrapped up and a judge signed as final.  The minute the deal concluded.....the county was screwed.  Where is the EPA today?  Nowhere to be seen.  The judge?  Folks don't even remember the guy's name.

Somewhere in the midst of things over the past week.....Bill Clinton came out and suggested that Presidents should have the ability to run as many times as they desired.  It was a bit comical and almost sounded like something that Jimmy Carter would suggest.  I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't have suggested that if George Bush was in office and had a chance to run for a third term.  Or Eisenhower.  Sometimes you can get retired Presidents to say some pretty amusing things if you ask enough stupid questions.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tree Business

This is what we know.  The federal government has realized that we just aren't buying enough Christomas trees.  Don't ask about statistics or the logic to this.  They've determined that you just aren't buying enough.  So, the only way to fix this....is to promote Christmas trees more.

You'd naturally sit there for a while.....a Pabst Blue-Ribbon in your right hand and thinking about this situation while gazing at the fireplace.  You've bought some Christmas tree from Marvin's Tree Farm down the road for twenty-two years.  Most folks on your street have bought from Marvin.  A couple of folks bought their tree via the cheapo caged area at Piggly Wiggly.  A few folks bought their trees from Hector's Christmas Land....down by the Latino restaurant.  Some might have even gone to Wal-Mart and bought those cheapo trees from Idaho which have a funny smell...like body order.

But then you start thinking about Uncle Karl.....who has a tree but never talks about where he bought it.  Maybe Karl just drove off into the woods and cut it down....because it does look and appear like some plain old pine tree.  He is pretty cheap you know.  Then you start to consider that there are eighty thousand folks in the state who think like Uncle Karl....and might just be cheating on the Christmas tree business....cutting freely and never buying.

Eventually, your pondering will lead to this thought process.  When the government determined that more promotion was necessary and they paid some media production company from Beverly Hills around eight million to make this fine Christmas tree video....they had to come up with cash.

Then you start to dig into this whole promotion thing....it all leads back to a 15-cent Christmas tree "fee".  The Department of Agriculture is very clear about this business....it's not a tax.  It may feel like a tax, but it's not.  Tree sellers will pay 15 cents on every tree they sell.  You, the buyer, will pay the 15 cents.  It leads back to some government program, where the money is used to funnel into a promotion program.

By this point, you've opened the seventh Pabst, and thinking just how will you increase folks buying more Christmas trees.  As the eighth and ninth Pabst go down....you eventually give up and fall asleep.  Frankly, there ought to be a logic here, but it's kinda like believing in Santa Claus.   You just have to accept certain things, and just give up on reality.

So as you march off into the woods this December, and cut down some neighbor's pine tree from his back forty acres.....rest assured, you didn't contribute 15 cents to any stupid promotion program.  And maybe this will all make perfect sense.

UPDATE: Strangely enough....they stopped the fee business.  I guess they found there was enough media coverage of Christmas trees already.

A November Hike

Hiking in November?  Imagine talking up this topic with a dozen buddies, and getting onto this idea of hiking 240 miles over a two-week period.  From the whole state of Alabama?  If this were May....you'd have five hundred volunteers....but in November...in the midst of the start-up of winter, and the NCAA season?  I doubt if you could find eight guys willing to do something like this.

The topic came up with the Occupy New York City crowd.  Their plan?  March from the private park that they've taken over....Zuccotti Park.....to Washington DC.  They intend to leave today (Wednesday) and make this trip in fourteen days.  How many folks?  Well....the media control over this says a "small" group.  My humble guess is twelve folks....maybe up to twenty.

The amusing part to this story is the hint....ever so slightly....that more will join along the way.  Once you hear that comment, you can imagine a hundred buses already rented, and prepared to carry fifty people each from various regions around the east coast.  So around the last twenty-four hours of this march.... suddenly five thousand folks appear out of nowhere, and descend up on Washington in this hiking trip.  You can imagine a bulk-up plan in the works, with another twenty thousand folks from the Washington region (count up your university folks as part of the crowd)...to make this a highly entertaining afternoon watching them gather via news journalists.

The word "scripted" comes into play here.  This is almost like a WWE wrestling event....where the bad guy beats up the good guy, and some old retired wrestler comes out of the darkness to save the good guy.

The trail that the guys have to wander upon?  The Appalachian Trail.  This area between New York City and Washington is routinely safe.  Heading south out of DC, or north out of New York City....I'd have a fairly different opinion.  You never wander this trail alone, and preferably you have a group of four as a minimum.  Folks disappear on this trail.  Folks get murdered on this trail.  So it's not exactly a simple trek.

The dozen making the walk?  I'm taking a pretty good guess that they were recruited and have a reputation of hiking a hundred miles in four days.  You won't find anyone with zero experience on this hiking crew.  Their march?  Likely to be covered by some wannabe journalist who walks along and does interviews.  It'll be like a reality series on BRAVO.  When 'Little Joe' talks anti-capitalism on the trail....you listen.  When 'Marvin from Wisconsin' talks the evil of oil on the trail....you listen.  When 'Wanda from Colorado' talks the evil banks....you listen.

In a way, we've come to a point in American history where naive folks are handcuffed to some topic, and given a five-star wrestling script....where the only guy to emerge eventually from the shadows to save the good wrestler being beat up....is President Obama.  And at that point.....you might just start laughing that reality has become so bogus.

What May Come

It was an odd comment by an odd political figure.  Senator John McCain came out and strongly suggested that a third political party could be on the verge of occurring.  The propulsion for this situation would be the delusions of Washington politics on American society.  As he figured....both angry Republicans and Democrats would just walk away from their parties.  

About every forty years in America, there is this effort which rarely gets beyond a one-time candidate for President.

If some group really wanted to shake up American politics....settle upon four states....preferably from the west (I suggest Arizona, Montana, Colorado, and Idaho).  Pick out forty mayor positions throughout the four states and aim to win at least a dozen.  Do the same for city or county council seats....a ten to twenty- percent win).  Aim for the governor's positions.  Build on the state population and try to get forty percent of the state in a mindset that the third party is the best option.  Then run your own Presidential candidate only in those four states.

Here is the end result.....your third party has four states with their electoral votes.  The Republican and Democratic Presidential candidate have to figure out how to win the Electoral College, with only forty-six of the states in play.  If you can't get to the 270 votes....the Electoral College closes, and you launch into Congress (for President only) and the Senate (for VP only).  Toss in the fact that your third party has at least two Senators in the mix, and perhaps six House members.....and suddenly things are forcing the Democrats and Republicans to think differently.

What's the reality here?  Cain can't win in 2012.  Neither can Rick Perry.  So you get stuck with Mitt Romney....who just can't stir up more than two-thirds of the Republican Party and maybe half the Independent vote.

As you get closer to the election and health-care law start-up....more companies will see the light of dumping their provided health-care package for employees, and just pay the government their simple fee.  Workers who had health-care packages for thirty years suddenly wake up and launch into angry situations.  The President would like for them to blame the Republicans and vote for Democratic House members to "fix" the problem.  Half the public doesn't believe the President's blame game, and interest in 2013 for a third party becomes a major possibility.

I hate admitting John McCain may have a point.....but maybe it's the one time in thirty years that he was actually right.

An Introduction to the One Percent

While various publications and wannabe news media folks walk around and talk up the 99-percent angle to the real people of America.....you might want to know.....who the heck are the one-percent.  The Cato Institute went out and gathered some numbers, which you might be curious about.

The vast number of millionaires in America....near eighty percent.....didn't get their money from dad or the family.  It is shocking because fifty years ago....the numbers wouldn't have likely matched up.  These are people who took risk, worked out an idea or product, and did something fairly unusual.  They weren't idiots or mad men.

The bulk of this one-percent crowd?  Around thirty-odd percent are this group of folks who simply invented something or developed something.  They managed their situation to the top and became a millionaire.  They made specialized stores.  They invented great pizza chains.  They invented computer games.

Somewhere down the line....you've got another group who were doctors.  Roughly fifteen percent fall into this category.  We can talk about the unfairness of medical costs in America, and how it relates to these guys getting filthy rich.  The truth is that some were boob doctors and simply sold bigger boobs to women.  Some were fancy talkers who convinced dopers and drinkers that they needed a fancy recovery center in Arizona where  they could spend $50k over four weeks while in rehab.   Some were smart and figured out how to remove body fat, and wanted $5k for a one-hour episode.  Some guys worked up a fancy cancer clinic in Phoenix where results were great, but you needed $80k to get the fifteen-percent better chance of survival.  Some offered up great weight reduction camps, where you could lose 25 pounds for $5k over one month.

Out there are the lawyers, engineers, scientists, and professionals who account another fifteen percent.  They learn how to sue properly and demand huge payoffs.  Then you had the guy who figured out a way to build a bridge where there shouldn't have been a bridge.  There was the guy who figured out a way to bring on-line speeds up to a point where real lusty video could be delivered to farms in Mississippi finally.  You've got the guy who figured out solar energy.

And finally, there was the two-percent crowd of this massive group of millionaires....who gave you updated versions of cowboy westerns, Lost, daily soap operas, talk radio, talk TV, Brittney Spears, professional wrestling, country music, and dimwitted English actors who pretend to act but they just can't do anything other than one character.  Then there's the basketball wannabe guy who signed a $40 million contract but loses every penny by age thirty when his talent drys up and he's sent away from the team.  Count in the various second-basemen around the major leagues who barely last ten years in the majors and never showed much talent, but actually did have a contract for a three year period for $2.5 million a year.  There's the loser quarterback who a team guessed on, but developed weed issues by season three and just walked away from football with just barely $1 million left to his name.

At some point....you will have to start thinking long and hard about this one-percent crowd.  Some of them lose their momentum and within weeks or months of achieving their status....have lost everything.  The one-percent crowd is anything but stable.  They are full of absolute risk.  Gains are measured on a hour-by-hour basis....as is losses.

When the 99-percent crowd stands there and wants to attach themselves to the wealth of the one-percent....you might to ask some stupid questions.  Do you want sixty-percent of the money that a third-basement from Detroit takes in?  Do you want to take sixty-percent of the money that some software guru takes in....so he doesn't move onto the next project next year....and instead delays technology by two years while he grows capital out of thin air?  Do you want to take sixty-percent of the money that weight-loss doctor takes in....when he might be taken into court at any moment for accidentally killing a patient?

Last year when I moved to Washington....I had to go out and buy three decent pairs of shoes...mostly decent shoes that you could walk in.  The three pair I bought?  They all come from outside of the US.  Kind of amazing?  I had to buy a dozen long-sleeve and short-sleeve white shirts (Wal-Mart, Pennys, Kohl, Landsend, and Target).....which I discovered later that all twelve were made outside of the US.  The eight pairs of pants I bought?  All made outside of the US.

The TV I bought last year?  Manufactured outside of the US.

The ninety-nine percent crowd might want to start viewing this grand view of new America.  Their money is going overseas.  Are they interested in going after non-American millionaires as well?  Natural gas production increasing outside of the US....yes.   Car part production increasing in Mexico....yes.  

The naive nature of the ninety-nine percent crowd makes you wonder if they actually live in the US or grasp how things really work.