Saturday, 5 November 2011

Insulting a Greek

It's not a story that will appear in the US news or much in the business news column....but it's a curious little amusing story, which naturally involves Germans and Greeks.

For those unfamiliar with Germany.....Germans like to go on vacations...a lot.  Half the German population is day-dreaming on a weekly basis of their next vacation.  Some will dream of fantastic safaris, cruises down the Nile, walking on the Great Wall of China, or drinking excessively on Ibiza (an island off the coast of Spain).  

So there are various tour agencies in Germany which take up the planning and execution of German travel.  It's like a US military operation.  They put out 150-page books on trips to Asia, or 80-page books on trips to Egypt.  The hotels are described in detail, with the all-you-eat deals, or the all-you-can-guzzle details, or the scuba classes available at the resorts advertised.  The tour agencies then run this massive airline operation where you get from some city in Germany to your point of destination.  Then they run this great bus network at the country to get you from the airport to the hotel.  Got a complain.....they have people in the local area of the hotel....to take the complaint.  Think you deserve some of your money back?  They will honor complaints and even refund money, when it makes sense.

The biggest of these German tour agencies?  TUI.  It's a legendary company.  I've been on a trip or two that they run.  To be honest, when they say a resort is four-star.....it's absolute.

TUI came up this past week and got into the Greek mess.  Up until this mess came along.....TUI and the hotels of Greece were in a great relationship, which helped tens of thousands of Germans make trips in a simplistic fashion.  There just weren't complaints over TUI and it's Greek deals.

Well.....the German agency TUI wrote up the contract for the 2012 season.  The Greek hotel folks are supposed to fill in their prices, and by January....the catalog would be complete.  Planning would then start for each German.  TUI thinks ahead.  So TUI decided to insert this little extra sentence or two into the new contract....that the Greek hotels would accept Greek Drachma, if the Greeks fall out of the Euro.  Naturally, that upset just about every single Greek hotel owner.

You can imagine the next morning in Germany....Greek lawyers calling TUI management for their bosses.  Insult after insult.  The poor TUI folks standing there and listening to some fairly creative comments about Nazis.

Here's the thing.  There's fairly good odds that Greece will fail and just be escorted out of the Euro.  They fall back to the old Drachma.  The exchange rate from the Euro back to the Drachma.....really good on day one but a week later....things really start to slide downhill.  That plate of Greek food for $5?  Two months into the Drachma....it could be around $8.  Suddenly, the exchange rate starts to flip every ten days, and inflation becomes a daily topic.

So TUI isn't stupid about this business, and neither are the Greek hotels.  The hotels want to continue to receive Euro....no matter what happens.  They figure that they will be stable and they will just operate within their own country with two major currencies.  You can imagine this scene working out in Nashville, where both Canadian money and US dollars are both accepted.  No matter how bad the US economy might be.....you just keep using Canadian currency to pay for things because it's all stable.  Course, we'd never be that stupid to allow something like that.

My guess is that TUI will eventually accept a deal where they can pay in either Drachma or Euro, and the hotel guys will be happy to accept some kind of deal like that.

The sad truth here....is that some folks are already planning on the Drachma.  And that just isn't a good sign.

The Evil Side of Honey

This is what we know.  This guy, Benjamin Gilmore, comes up in mid-October, at Fort Collins, Colorado.  He's come to join the Occupy Fort Collins episode.  Sometime on last Thursday evening, the police came round looking for Benjamin.  They found him, and they've arrested him.  He's been charged with arson.  This is the curious part of the situation....he set fire to a $10 million condo/business complex going up in Fort Collins.  Adding to the mystic of Benjamin and his short stay with the Occupy Fort Collins bunch.....he ran a honey farm.

Cops aren't saying much.  The court episode was short. The news folks say that when Benjamin came into court....he was weeping and all pitiful.  He said he was married and he just wanted to go home.  The wife wasn't at the court proceedings, and I have my doubts if she knew he'd been arrested at that point on Friday morning.

So the reporters walked off to the Occupy Fort Collins crowd to ask some stupid questions.  Things appear to have gotten a little bit defensive.  They think the cops picked out the wrong guy....just grabbing Benjamin because he was around the building.  Then they point out that he's a soft-spoken, kind-hearted dude, and always friendly to folks.  In their mind, he just wouldn't do such a bad thing.

I paused here, pondering over events.  Like in most things of life, there is likely an evil side to honey.  You mess with bees constantly.....get stunk once in a while....natural anti-toxins killing bad-toxins left and right....probably sipping tea and milk all the time....avoiding Pabst and whiskey....and you start to do crazy things.  It would be easy to believe such a naive story like that.

Here's the likely problem with Benjamin and his arson act.  The Occupy actors, no matter where the location.....are behaving like they were at a Brittney Spears concert....doping up on whatever someone has in excess for the evening.  My guess is that Benjamin did a bit of something that he didn't normally use.  He freaked out.....set something on fire....and just stood in a doped up fashion across the street watching this building burn.

The cops didn't dope-test the dimwit.  They don't care about your drug situation.  I'm guessing that his wife is asking what the hell he was thinking.....but he can't remember a damn thing from that evening.

The sad thing is that it's a pretty simple case in court and he will have to serve a minimum of five years in a Colorado state prison.  His wife will have to figure out how to run the honey business by herself.  Maybe she'll wait for him, or she might take up with another honey operation dude.  You just can't tell.  The sad thing here is that you could have stayed at the house....tended to the honey operation.....enjoyed a leisure life, but you decided occupying was a great fun-filled activity.  You will remember this for the rest of your life....sadly.

The Original Occupy "Whatever" Scheme

Once upon a time....some men went off to war.  Up until the day they arrived....there had been this strategy of a neat tidy campaign plan where the commander stood miles back from the mess.  These men weren't of the neat and tidy type.  They took entire fronts.  They moved front-lines by miles, not yards.  When they were done....the war was done, and they returned home.  So it was in 1918 with WW I.

Somewhere in the midst of political games of America....some House and Senate folks decided (both Democrats and Republicans) that they needed to give this great stimulus gift to the GI's involved in WW I.  So in 1924, this law was passed.  It was a bonus.  It's a curious bonus.  Every GI would be paid $1 per day that he served while in the US during the war.  If you were overseas....you'd get paid $1.25 per day.  WW I wasn't exactly a long affair.  For the US....less than two years.

So you sit and toss the numbers around.  Most GI's would have ended up with around $300.  Some would have gotten $700 (especially the first crew to arrive in France and stay the whole war).  It's not alot.  But for a guy who typically took home $100 a month in 1924, this really looked like a five-star deal.

There's just one hook to this deal.....like in all House and Senate measures....you could not collect until 1945.  You can imagine these guys sitting there in 1924....barely thirty years old....and having think about this great cash bonus that would come in twenty-odd years.  For the House and Senate guys....you didn't even have to worry about how you'd pay this.....you'd be long gone and some idiots in high school in 1924 would be stuck in 1941....thinking of some crazy way to pay off this huge bill that they passed years ago.  To even bring up this comical episode today.....makes most folks laugh.

So days passed.  Weeks passed.  Months passed.  Years passed.  And 1932 comes around.  You are roughly four years into the Great Depression.  Banks have failed.  Businesses have gone under.  Unemployment is in huge numbers.  President Hoover, the wonder-boy as Coolidge sarcastically called him.....wasn't exactly moving mountains.

At some point in the 1931-period....some folks started to talk up paying the 1945 bonus to the GI's of WW I.  It's hard to say which political party or media group started this episode....it's never laid out in any detail.  Most history books barely cover the "Bonus-Army" or the 1932 episode.

So it came to pass in the year of 1932....that all of these unemployed GI's came to DC to be part of this effort to force Congress and the Senate to give them their bonus in 1932, instead of 1942.  They came to occupy DC.  For all practical purposes, they were the original occupy players.

For some odd reason, this guy....a former Army guy from WW I, Walter W Waters....ends up as the leader of this Occupy Washington crowd.  The numbers?  Well....numbers tend to be thrown around.  Historians like the 37k number.  Some locals in DC like the 20k number.  Some folks think that for a couple of weeks in the early summer....maybe with some guys who came down by train on weekends from New York....it might have peaked at 37k, but it generally stayed at the 20k level for most of the time.

It's a curious thing, the Occupy crowd set up camp down in the Anacosta Flats....what today would be this area that no one ever ventures into because of crime and murders.

Our leader in this effort....Mr Waters....conveys this aggressive effort and talks how they will "force" Congress into giving them the money.

President Hoover and the political factions are looking at this mess in a very different light than most of the country.  Nobody in DC ever had to mess with protesters before.  So when the day finally came for a vote in the Senate....held by mostly Republicans....it was a no vote.  In some amusing and comical way....Mr Waters....the leader of this months-long effort....comes back to camp and just says "it's over".  It's almost like he was told by some invisible boss to just disappear.

The Occupy Washington effort doesn't really take this no-vote too well.  So the President takes the next step.  While there is a law that prevents the US national military from taking any actions against a private citizen....it only applies in states....not districts.  The city of Washington has no real protection except a small police force, and the US Army.  So General MacArthur gets this phonecall.  Yes, our WW II guy.  He's basically called and told to clean up the mess in Washington.

No one has ever written a clear book on the events of that day.  The best we can say is that General MacArthur rounds up a Army force....two Army regiments, with approximately six tanks....and took to the streets on 28 July in the late afternoon (near 5PM).  Strangely enough....tens of thousands of government workers in DC....left their office and simply walked out into the streets of DC to view what was to occur.  I kind of doubt that they properly charged their hours for the day, but it doesn't matter.

There were around 130-odd Vets arrested that afternoon, with at least fifty folks injured.  Several women were involved, and one who was pregnant at the time....ended up miscarrying. Later at some local hospital reported some kid who was between one and two months old died from some ailment, which was mostly triggered via the teargas. The official comment of the hospital....which is comical today in a sad way.....spoke of the tear gas "didn't do it any good."

The day ended with Occupy Washington just evaporating into thin air. The vets all left.  The newspapers played out this whole "war" for days there in July and August.  Naturally, President Hoover was extremely upset with the methods that General MacArthur used that afternoon, and tried to stop him.....but the general apparently never got these messages.

When elections came in November....barely four months later, it was a dismal situation for President Hoover.  Roosevelt won by enormous numbers.  The Occupy Washington impact on this election?  My humble guess is that one out of four voters in the country were deeply moved by the mess and were going to solidly vote against Hoover, no matter what party they were affiliated with.  Count in the regular Democrats and the unemployed folks....it was a guaranteed win for Roosevelt.  If you had measured things in 1931....Roosevelt really didn't have that big of an opportunity....and might have been a 50-50 shot at best of winning.

It's an odd thing because MacArthur was looked down upon after this event and retired in 1935.  Most historians have a positive image of President Roosevelt and the General during their brief period between 1933 and 1935.  It's curious that when President got serious in 1941 on US forces in the Pacific....here was retired General MacArthur, and he was quickly brought out of retirement to run the US military operations in the Pacific.

So as you stand back to view Occupy Washington in 1932.....there are some comical questions to ask.  Why talked up this advanced pay-off-the-WW I-vets?  Who helped to provide food for the Occupy Washington crowd in the spring and summer of 1932?  The bold boot-kicking of the US military on the Occupy Washington crowd....planned weeks in advance?

In the end.....these naive GI's from WW I ended up being used by someone.  These Occupy folks from 2011?  They might also be part of someone's scheme.  Just part of American history.

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney has passed.

I have this short list of journalists and news people that I have respected over the past fifty-odd years.

There's Paul Harvey, who knew how to explain a pretty difficult story in 90 seconds or less.  He preached to you on Saturdays and gave a dose of Americanism that you needed.

There was Harry Reasoner who gave out straight facts and real news.  He wouldn't have touched Brittney Spears with a ten-foot pole or ever even mentioned Bigfoot.

There was Frank Reynolds from ABC, who could sum up a big mess in forty words, and leave you relaxed because it really wasn't as big a mess as the other dimwits were portraying a story.

And then came Andy Rooney.  He didn't really cover news....he just picked out topics and gave you the 1948 view of reality over a modern-day topic.  For some reason....his 1948-view was precisely what we needed.

To be honest, we are coming to an end-point where there just aren't any more journalists.....just wannabe folks who pretend to be journalists.

The Missing "Juans"

The Feds came to Bama this week....and said they had a legal interest in knowing possible civil rights violations.  The curious thing....this new investigation involves Bama schools.  They want to know just about everything you can imagine in statistics....with every single school in Bama.  All of this has to deal with the anti-illegal law that Bama put into play earlier this year.

The Bama legal folks stood up and said they would be ok with providing this info....once the federal government lawsuit is finished (one way or another).  The Feds, for all general purposes, have said that the state lacks the authority to have a anti-immigration law.

I'm guessing this week....there will be a court-ordered deal where some federal judge says the legal request by the Attorney General is legit, and Bama should comply.  Bama will quickly walk up to another Federal judge and likely get a stay on this deal.....until a third federal judge can determine if the request is really valid or not.  You would get the impression that federal judges are kept busy these days having read, re-read, and then lay out various interpretations of the law.  No more goofing off or playing golf on Thursday afternoon.

I sat down and looked at what data the Attorney General was requesting.  It's a pretty big request.  They want every single public school in Bama to report with a list of alll enrolled students as of the last week of September.  Then they want another list of all kids who left from the school since the school year started.  Then they want the reason why the kids quit or left since school started.  Then they want a list of all kids who have at least one unexplained absence since the end of September.  Then they want the school to list the race of each kid in school  Then they want the original country of origin of each kid in school.  And then they want the English language ability of each kid on a list (the most difficult one, because some kids don't speak true English).

Having grown up in the Bama school system....allow me to offer some insightful analysis.  There were three folks in the head office of my school.  There was Mr "Joe" (the principal), Mr "Little Joe" (the vice-principal), and Wanda (the secretary).

Seventy-five percent of Mr "Little Joe's" job was discipline.  I think he literally walked from 0730 in the morning from one mess to another.  Any kid with a infraction....ended up in his office....and he dealt with them in a pretty precise fashion.  If you had to have an investigation....he was the guy running it.

"Mr Joe"?  He was generally there to handle teacher complaints or parent complaints.  I think he could pretty well fill in half the hours of the day in private meetings and sorting various problems out.

"Wanda"?  She was there to sign every note that a kid brought in from the parents to explain why they were out for five days.  Her signature was vital....otherwise, it wasn't legit.  Wanda just signed them.....she never kept a single copy or reported to anyone.  The kid would take that note around to his teachers throughout the day to explain things.  Odds were....he only gave the home-room teacher a look, and maybe one teacher throughout the rest of the day.

So I looked back at this list of data.  Personally, it'll shock me if most schools maintain some kind of data listing like this.  Frankly, they might have to go back to the kids and ask some stupid questions.  I can imagine this scene of "Mr Little Joe" confronting me and asking me my country of origin, and I respond England.  I'd likely stand there and grin.....and he'd likely be at a point of weakness....and just accept that.  My other associates?  Some might have been more creative and said they were originally from Russia, Mongolia, or maybe even Iceland.  By the end of the day...."Mr Little Joe" would have returned and spent four hours putting this all into some spreadsheet, or he might have found some 10th grader that he'd just give them a school project and hope they did it right.

The unexplained absences?  Hopefully, the 2011 "Wanda" keeps a copy of these notes.  If not, then you have to visit every single teacher.  So, you can imagine this listing.  Donny stayed out two days.....hauling soybeans to Lawrenceberg for his dad, the farmer.  Karl stayed home one day helping his dad dig up the septic tank.  Lynn spent half a day out....getting a tattoo removed that Mom never blessed in the first place.  Bobby was out for a full week....attending a alcohol rehab session in Montana.

So you can imagine 1526 schools (I checked) across Alabama.  You can imagine 1526 spreadsheets being sent to the Attorney General's office.  From this list....over 730,000 kids are listed.  You can imagine ten lawyers trying to analyze this massive amount of data.  They start asking stupid questions....why are so many guys out hauling soybeans?  Why are 122 students in some kind of alcohol rehab episode?  Why are 16 kids missing and having their tattoos removed?   Why are forty-four kids from Mongolia?  Where did these 1,226 Icelandic kids come from?

I can imagine these ten idiot lawyers sitting in a DC office for an entire week....and then coming to this conclusion....none of this data makes any sense.  So they try to associate every single Latino out of this list.  Somewhere down the line....they end up with this list of 2,323 Latinos who fell off the Bama listing.  So they search now for the 2,323 Latino kids.

You can imagine these fancy lawyers showing up in some Bama community and asking stupid questions about what happened to Juan.  No one trusts the guy.  So there's no information flowing.  The DC lawyers spend three weeks in Bama trying to track down the 2,323 missing "Juans".  By the end of this episode....there's not much to reveal.  However, the lawyers will all note that they gained eight pounds during this period.....eating mostly high-on-the-hog.  They also met some fine Bama gals, who gave them their phone numbers.  They got invited to a Auburn football game.  They also ate some fine catfish over at the Catfish Cabin.  They were entertained by various guitar pickers and banjo players.  They got religion via some revival that they attended.  They sipped some great spring water in "dry counties" where alcohol is forbidden.  And they were stopped at least twice each and asked by Bama law enforcement what country of origin they are.....and if they could produce an ID.

For some reason, I don't see much coming out of this episode.

Only in Bama.

Politico or Cainico

The Washington Examiner guys always note the obvious.  This week....with the Herman Cain accusations going on....they sat down and looked back at the news group that started this whole story.  You would expect five or six stories over a five day period.

By last night.....the Politico folks, who started the Herman Cain stories.....has published 90 stories over the past week.

I sat there pondering over this.  It'd be hard to find any news group focused that much on one guy....one story, but here's the group.  So I'd like to make a suggestion.  Instead of Politico.....they ought to be named Cainico, and just spend all of the next twelve months reporting strictly on Herman Cain, and nothing else.

When Herman shows up at 7AM at a waffle house.....there ought to be a update from Cainico over his choice of waffles.  At 9AM, when he meets up with a dozen mayors from Texas.....there ought to be a Cainico report over who the dozen mayors are.  By noon, Cainico ought to report over the grilled cheese sandwich that he ordered.  Maybe another report by 1PM over the Pepsi that the Herman ordered from a deli chop vender.  Later that evening.....they could report Herman's choice of pajamas.

For you guys from Politico that might stumble across this blog.....just ask yourself....what other news organization does ninety stories over one candidate over a very short period of time?  Something here has a funny smell.