Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Fear of the General

It was an odd day today at work.

Our headquarters (remember I work for a unit within the Pentagon)....came out recently with some awful tough language on attending conferences.  All that GSA business in Vegas come to haunt a bunch of government organizations.  We got this presentation today, with all the new rules.

You have to ask special permission now to attend any conference.  For the most part, you generally get accepted for these.  But there's this little hook....there's a database tracking everything now.

So you enter the data....you and six folks are to go to some conference in St Louis, Missouri.  So you enter around twenty fields of data, and even estimate the cost to the conference.  Figure it's going to run around $1,700 for travel, room and registration fees.  Don't even bring up a rental car.

Then there's this tab on the input area for comments after you come back.  They want you to list your contacts and people you interfaced with during the conference.  They also want your feeling if the conference was worth the time and money invested.  What did you get out of the trip.  In the old days....you would have one-lined this and never worried about anything coming out of this mess.

Well....here's the funny thing.  Our three-star general is pretty pumped up on this conference business and expenditures   Once a week.....he logs onto the database and looks at those who wrapped up a conference and what their comments are.  Then, as it was laid out to us.....he might actually pick someone out and call them up.

You can imagine this call.  Captain Joe sitting at his desk and General Hawk calls in.  Captain Joe is sitting there for about ten seconds in silence.....in disbelief.  Then he says it has to be a practical joke, and asks who the heck this is.  Course, General Hawk gets a bit peppy at this point.  Captain Joe now realizes that this is the REAL General Hawk.  So he's a bit sorry.

Now General Hawk jumps into the list of people that Captain Joe met up with: Ms Jones, Ms Culpepper, Ms Witty, Ms Duncan, and Ms Hinds.  The General has a perception that Captain Joe might have made up these names and really didn't meet much of anyone.

Now the General moves onto lessons from the conference, and Captain Joe is sweating a good bit.  He somehow rattles off some vague things that he remembers, and General Hawk is satisfied.  Captain Joe?  Well....he's got the fear of God in him now.  He won't ever attend another conference unless the General orders him to go.

One by one....the General might actually accomplish what his master goal is....cutting the travel budget.  Course, that Wednesday call is going to worry a bunch of folks now.  And most of them just won't believe it's the real General at the other end of the line.

Yeah, it was an interesting day.  Me?  I haven't been to a conference of any type in seven or eight years.  My general impression is that half of them are worthless and you'd be better off to just hear some guy talk via a VTC-set-up for half-an-hour, than waste two hours in fancy hotel operation with a lot of bogus info.

Just my two cents.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Reflection of the Old Days

When I was a kid (1972 for example)....if you had come around and gotten everyone hyper over security in the school, we would have been in a daze for about an hour or two.

Protocol's?  Some guy from the county board would likely have to come out and explain the word to both the teachers and students.

We had two vets on the teaching staff.  One guy was a WWII vet, who claimed to have taken down a bunch of Japanese guys in the war.  He was a bit of a nut, but I imagine that he could handle a .45 if necessary.  The other guy was a Nam vet and I'm pretty confident in saying that he'd handle a .45-caliber.

The bus drivers?  I'd take a humble guess and say they'd all have double-barreled twelve-gauge shotguns by their left side....ready to swing them around at any character acting crazy.

Every single boy in the school likely had a three-inch knife in their pocket and could have come out with a blade in less than eight seconds.  

From the community?  There would have been forty folks at the front door of the school within five minutes....who had various weapons in their cars or homes.  They would have even beat the cops to the front door.

Simpler times.....perhaps.

A Moment of History

I love history....mostly because so much of it has been forgotten, and you're shocked when you start to stumble across unusual stories.

On a fairly cold day in February of 1780....some Revolutionary War 'vet' (with PTSD obviously), got into a fit and broke into the bedroom of his new boss.  He whacked the boss and his wife with a club until they were dead.  After that, he burned down the house....with the bosses three grand-kids inside the house.  The guy hid out for almost a week before the 'cops' found him.  The best that the authorities could dish out was forty lashes, and a hanging.  For all practical purposes, this was the first reported mass murder in US history.

In the mid-1930s.....there was this Filipino guy living up in Seattle.  He went into a fit over money that was stolen (or he thought it was stolen).  Julian Marcelino ended up killing six folks that evening....most of which were just folks on the street that he bumped into.  Another fifteen folks were knifed and luckily survived.  The cops easily caught him....but then the Seattle crowd went through various phases of declaring Julian insane.  Roughly three years later, they ended up putting him up for parole, with the condition that he leave the US.  Julian left, and ended up quickly in the Philippines.  Curiously, he ended up with the Philippine militia, survived the Bataan Death March, and history indicates that he killed an awful lot of Japanese characters who invaded his island country.

Around 1915, there was this guy from Georgia who got into real estate deals, and found himself screwed at some point.  In a fit of rage down in Brunswick  Georgia.....he ended up shooting seven guys dead with a newer version automatic shotgun, and wounding 32 other folks.  He was shot dead by one of the bystanders who was simply carrying a gun....course, without the concealed permit of today.

The truth is that you can dig around and find hundreds of examples where a guy killed three to a dozen folks in this land between the two coasts.  We may have ventured out in the past two decades to some higher numbers.....but we've had people on the rampage for two hundred years.  We've found lots of ways to let crazy folks slide by because they were insane.  In some cases, we've found ways to lynch guy with barely any evidence because the locals demanded it.

Schools, malls, bars, churches and public places have been popular places for the past two hundred years to murder folks.  Nothing new here.....unless you watch the news media and believe everything they say.

Monday, 17 December 2012

This Is How It All Works

You will complain that there's too much pollution coming out of your tailpipe, so some Congressman will get hyper and invent legislation to fix the issue.....but the truth is that the major auto-makers know there's a limit to what can be done.....so they write what they can, say the magic words, and you feel safe about the exhaust coming out of the tailpipe.

You will complain about the amount of sodium in your food from McDonalds, so some Congressman will get hyper and invent legislation to fix the issue....but the truth is that you can't have the Big Mac or fries taste as good as they do....without all that sodium.  So they write what they can, say the magic words, and you feel safe about the sodium on your fast food.

You will complain about the textbooks for your kids in the school.  So some Congressman will get hyper and invent legislation to fix the issue.....but the truth is that you can't have make forty million parents happy....with various text comments.  So they write what they can, say the magic words, and you feel safe about the school books that are issued to your kid.

You will complain about ID theft.  So some Congressman will get hyper and invent legislation to fix the issue....but the truth is that credit card companies, the banks, and sales organizations really don't want a 100-percent effective way of fixing the problem.  So they write what they can, say the magic words, and you feel safe about your ID situation.

You will complain about voter fraud in elections.  So some Congressman will get hyper and invent some legislation to fix the issue....but the truth is that you just can't deny folks the right to vote or stop dual-voting.  So they write what they can, say the magic words, and you feel safe about the legislation passed having fixed voter fraud.

You will complain about school buses being prone to massive causalities.  So some Congressman will get hyper and invent some legislation to fix the buses....but the truth is that you just can't make them absolutely safe without spending $100k per bus, which no one will ever agree with.  So they write what they can, say the magic words, and you feel safe about the legislation passed having fixed voter fraud. 

We come now to gun violence, and we will complain about assault weapons.  So some Congressman will get hyper and invent some legislation to ban the assault weapons.....but the truth is that there will still a hundred ways to kill off a dozen school kids in two minutes.  So they write what they can, say the magic words, and for a day....a week...or a month.....you feel safe about the wondrous thing that legislation can do.  Yes, for a fleeting period.....it all felt good.  Then, you came back to the way it works, or how it simply doesn't work.

That's how it all works.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

License Paradise

I sat and watched a piece on CNN yesterday....which weighed heavily upon the idea of fixing America so no more mass shootings would occur.  So the license issue came up.  They actually found one gun-shop owner who agreed....if you own a car, you have to have a license...in order to operate it.  For about two minutes, they ran through this process.  You'd go and get training to be certified to handle a weapon.  You'd register at the county office.  You'd present this license when buying or trading weapons.  America would finally be safe, and the evil people would not be able to do anything evil.

I paused and pondered.

The real way that this would work in such a paradise then....is simple.

A license requirement is established by the federal government.  Naturally, you need a bureau in DC of seven hundred federal employees to run this.  Across the US?  Around 12k employees are hired and sworn in....to occupy every single county office in America (3,033 total counties).  Because of the huge amount of cost involved....there has to be a significant fee paid by the gun owners....to make this all work.

It's decided early on.....that you have to do an initial registration and entry, then two years later....visit to do an updated license.  The original registration?  It's $125.  The updates?  $24.  These are my humble guesses on the fee business, not that of the government.  To be honest....the fees will never be able to pay for all twelve thousand employees.  In the end, almost $300 million a year is thrown at the new agency, and this comes out of the nation's tax revenue bucket.

You visit the county office to find out the requirements.  Basically, you start with a $70 fee to open an license and have your background check run (figure a seven to fourteen day period).  After you pass that, then you go and attend a gun-training class which meets "national standards".  Strangely enough....it all fits into an eight-hour class.  Amazingly enough....almost every single gun shop in America now offers such a training class for $199.  After the class, you then get a note from your doctor to say you are in good health and sane, which costs another $75.

The training class?  You and Gus drive over at eight on a Saturday morning, and an instructor spends the first hour mostly telling stories about guys who accidentally shot a cousin, or shot their foot, or got shot by their wife (accidentally of course).

By the second hour.....you are into gun cleaning 101.  Somehow, the instructor is able to spend an entire hour covering the art of gun cleaning, but it should have taken eight minutes max.

In the third and fourth hour.....you get into gun safety.  You are shocked that ten simple rules take two hours.

You all break for lunch, and gulp down a beer at the sports bar across the street while eating up on chicken wings.  In fact....you have a second beer....while the instructor gulps down three beers.

You meet back at 1PM, and then comes the hands-on session where everyone fires six rounds from a rifle, a pistol and a shotgun.   The instructor signs your receipt around 3:30, and you drive home.  The passage rate for the class?  100 percent.  In fact, across the nation.....only twelve people are disqualified during the course during the first initial year.

Then comes this doctor business.  Well....some doctors start to admit that they feel uneasy because you take pain killers.  You have to shop around and eventually find some Doctor Hugo-character who signs anything....for a $100 fee.

Finally, you return to the county office and hand over the paperwork.  It takes the kind ladies there ten minutes to put all this info into the system....which triggers the final fee of $45.  Altogether?  You paid almost $425.  You feel a bit hostile about this.

A Congressman feels that it's not fair for such a burden, so he creates the tax credit for the whole mess.  You can deduct the $425 off your taxes.  Naturally....all the poor people in America aren't paying taxes, so they aren't getting this free.  It's the rich (evil rich) and the middle class that benefit from such a fee.  A Senator starts a hand-out fee of $425 for every poor person in America.  This adds up to $935 million in the first year.  By the time you figure the poor-guy deal, the tax credit, and the cost of starting this massive operation....there's almost $3 billion that has to be covered by loans from China.

Things seem great for about eight weeks into this program, but then a shooting occurs at a grocery in Tampa.  The President talks how the program will save America, when everyone is finally forced to be licensed.  Another shooting occurs nine weeks later.....same words.

As the first year passes and the registrations are counted....it's an odd thing.  There's only around sixty million Americans who registered.  They expected around one-hundred-fifty million.  Undercover operations reveal most gun-shops still sell ammo to folks without a license.  Gun-shop owners are arrested and some shops are shut down.

Eventually, around one-fifty-million Americans are now registered.  It's an odd thing though with the law.  Every single law enforcement officer is exempt from this, and every Senator and Congress is exempted.

Around eighteen months into the program....a mass shooting occurs in Del Rio, Texas.  The shooter?  He's a licensed gun owner.  A week later.....another licensed gun owner in Nashville shoots down five people at a Wendys.  By the end of the second full year.....the President admits that the license hasn't really done much....as most mass shootings are now done by licensed shooters.

So, now Congress comes around to a new angle to the license....there has to be a mental exam attached to the deal (Congress and the Senate are exempt from the mental exam....if you were wondering, as are all law enforcement folks).  The mental exam?  It has to be done by a licensed mental health guy and generally costs $288 for a two-hour exam.  Strangely enough.....99.9-percent of all applicants pass the mental exam.

Yes, you can license everyone....like you license them for a car, and how 15k people a year die from car accidents.  The license deal means little, in the real world.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Your Life in a Hundred Words

As you got up this morning and walked out to your truck to drive to work.....you looked over at your neighbor standing in his driveway.  He's an odd guy who moved in six months ago....is obsessive about doing everything on a schedule, and doesn't ever say much.  You do a faint wave, but he just glares in your direction.

You drive off to Karl's Esso station and fill up.  You kind of notice an odd car at the end of the station with out-of-state tags and two guys in it.  They're just sitting there.  No action, but they are observing you and the side-door to Karl's station.  You pay and quickly leave.

As you drive forty miles to work....you have some gal who almost swipes your car as she moves from lane to lane.  Another guy is on some speed episode and seems to be out of it mentally.

As you pull into the parking lot of the company....there's Joe who got fired yesterday....just sitting in his car and looking pretty hard at the building.  He's frustrated and holds anger from yesterday.

Inside the building....there's Martin who is in a big argument with his division chief, and there's a security guy behind the boss....ready to move at a moment's order.

By late afternoon, you leave and drive back home.....stopping at Duffy's Bar-B-Q Shack.  Wanda is talking in a hostile fashion on a cellphone....likely to her ex-husband, and she's threatening him with legal action and hinting she might have some guy watching him.

You stop by the Dollar General store to pick up dogfood, and find that your old buddy from high school is hanging around the store....the guy who does meth regularly these days.  You quietly slip in, and quietly slip out.

You drive home, and push the door slowly open....looking for evidence of someone having broke in.  Nothing moved.....things appear OK.

Somehow, you survived the day.  You put down your leather shoulder bag on the table.  From the side pocket, you pull out your Walther PPK 9mm and put it by your bed.  The truth is....there were sixteen people today that you were prepared to kill, if necessary.

Somehow, you avoided all that messy stuff.  Call it luck.  Call it a blessing.  Call it karma.

Tomorrow will be a fresh new day, and potentially another sixteen guys that you may have to take down.

It's life in 2012, and you were probably better off thirty years ago when you just worried about trashy women, food poisoning, and transmission failure.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Problem With Society

In the past week....we've had two mass shooting episodes....so there's going to be massive chatter for the next week....over guns, homicide, mass shootings, Constitutional rights, and society.  Just some observations.

First, historically, in the 1960s....you can find one incident with a mass shooting....it just wasn't something that occurred on a yearly or monthly basis.  Somewhere in the seventies....we bumped up to a dozen incidents per year.  Over the past decade....there's at least a hundred episodes per year where some guy goes off the handle and shoots relatives, co-workers, friends, church-members, or just folks in a crowd.  If you notice....it's rare to never....where a woman does a mass shooting.  A gal might shoot a husband or boyfriend...but other than that, it never happens.

So you come to review testosterone.  If women don't do mass shootings....then a bodily function falls into play.  Some scientist guys will laugh over this, but you ask them to find the female mass shooters, and the numbers simply don't exist.

Second, rage and frustration are at the heart of each matter.  Some guy has lost the ability to control his emotions, and gone to the extent of bringing harm to others as his method of fixing the "problem".

Third, on any given day....we probably have 250k people in America....in some type of threat mode.  Simply by luck....you made it to McDonalds, the gas station, work, and got home....because none of those 250k folks launched into one of their tirades.

Fourth, a bunch of folks will run up and say automatic weapons are the culprit of the issues.  The truth is that shootings occur with small caliber guns and pistols just as much.  You could remove all heavy-grade automatic weapons tomorrow....and we'd still have mass homicides.

Fifth, we have a number of methods existing to deny you the opportunity to vote.  It's not written into the Constitution  but we invented various methods to take your vote away.  So, it would not be impossible to take away your right to a weapon.  Personally, the minute you've threaten someone and there's witnesses to the threat.....you probably ought to have your right to a weapon revoked for two years.  The threat of losing your right to a weapon....might make you think twice over making silly threats to the neighbors.

Sixth, some folks will argue that if everyone carried a weapon, then it's more likely we'd take down these guys quickly.  You could make another simple suggestion that every teacher ought to be armed.  Maybe every bus driver.  Eventually, you'd have two hundred million Americans walking around armed.  I'm not sure if this is a smart idea.

Seventh and final.....the original idea of a right to have a weapon came from the British concept of taking and storing weapons from a community, if they felt the owners could not be trusted.  Taking weapons away today.....invites people to ask who can they trust and who protects who.  Whatever fears existed in the 1770s....likely exists today.

Simple Observations

First, Greece has settled up it's own fiscal cliff business with a new tax rate for folks who make more than $55k a year....a 42-percent tax rate.  The curious side of this is that unemployment is rampant throughout Greece, with a roughly twenty-five percent rate.  Those guys don't have to worry about this change.  In fact....if you are holding a job and are lucky to just be making $20k a year.....you might be happy and overjoyed.  The guys making over $55k?  I'm guessing they are a bit angry and hostile, and working on another way to hide their income (like most Greeks).  We might want to stand back and watch this Greek thing more.

Second, the odds of Hillary running in 2016?  With a sixteen trillion dollar debt, which can only increase over the next four years.....I'm guessing that she won't see any real positives in making the run.  She'll make some speeches and prep for the event....but what is gained in running your own administration with a  probable twenty trillion dollar debt?  Unless she could whip up a magical formula for making massive cuts....the odds are against her.

Finally, according to the Mayan calendar....the world ends in roughly eight days.  There's been talk about this brewing for two years.  My best guess is that twenty million Americans actually think about this and worry to some extent.  Some young guys have convinced their girlfriends that it's best to hook up with them or marry.....because of the approaching end.  Some folks have bought thousands of dollars of canned food and expect a pretty radical period to start up.  The truth?  Some Mayan guys made a calendar that went on, and on, and on.....until it ended on 22 December 2012.  Well....to be truthful, thousands of calendar makers today make a traditional calendar that runs thirteen months and ends on 31 January of the next year.  Does anyone worry about the lack of another month or year on that regular calendar?  No.  So life just goes on.  And these Mayan guys are probably sitting back and having a good laugh.....if you ask me.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Ten Simple Observations

First, from all these various 'shooter' guys we've seen in the past three years.....almost all had some type of medication that they were on.  Just makes a guy wonder.

Second, with a bunch of union guys upset about the governor and state legislature in Michigan passing right-to-work....what is the big deal?  Well....the unions take that little bit you give them....and pass it to various Democratic candidates down the line.  So if "Little Joe" can only provide sixty percent of the normal loot to Senator Snuffy's campaign.....where does Senator Snuffy turn to get better support?  Just something to wonder about.

Third, not that it really matters....but out of nineteen million Florida residents....almost one million have registered for a concealed weapons permit.  That means....in one hour at the mall you visit in Florida....at least sixty people that you bump into or pass....are toting a pistol.  Strangely enough.....it's not bothering anyone much or causing death and mayheim.  Just something to ponder.

Fourth, after you watch an hour of MSNBC and get to the emphasis of what news they televise....over ninety percent relates to Republicans or Fox News.  If it wasn't for Libya, North Korea, and Syria....MSNBC could spend almost the entire hour talking up evil Republicans.  Just something to ponder.

Fifth, does anyone really care if only seven percent of the eight graders in Detroit can read at their level?  Let's face it....they graduate in roughly four years (if lucky), and you can figure that most all of the graduates (90 percent) will be lucky if they read at the seventh-grade level at age eighteen.  The state and county pays out hundreds of millions in salary for the teachers, and this is the best they can do.  Don't worry about it.....we need folks who can do clean-up work, drive forklifts, and do asbestos clean-up work....might as well be these punks.  Just something to ponder.

Sixth, the state of California is paying this guy.....a psychiatrist who works for the state prison system.....$822k a year.  He makes four times the amount of the California state governor.  No one seems to care about this financial relationship between the governor and a state employee.  No one seems to know where the money comes from.....to pay the psychiatrist who works for a state prison.  The odds are....if this doc just stays on for another four years.....will be clearing $1 million a year....as a state employee.  Imagine the pension deal for this guy.  Just something to ponder.

Seventh.....some dimwit was standing there in Gaza.....the land of the PLO, and had this scented perfume barrel on their hands.  They needed some nifty name and figured they'd just use "M-75"....the name for the rockets that the Gaza guys had been firing into Israel.  Well....M-75 is selling like hotcakes on the streets of Gaza.  Everyone is buying the stuff.  It's thirteen bucks a bottle, for both men and women.  Folks are buying for their wives, their sons, their kids, their dog, even Grandma.  It's the most brilliant move in PLO economical history.  And a cut to the makers of the M-75 missile?  No.  Just something to ponder.

Eighth.....'Dave' from Storage Wars (one of the reality shows for the History Channel and Discovery)....came out this week and basically said the show was fake.  Goodness.  And the Gold Rush show?  Well.....yeah, it's fake too.  The lumberjack show?  Well....it's fake too.  The Bamazon show?  Yeah, fake.  The pawn shop show?  Fake.  The problem is that we've used up every formula....single guy living with two lusty ladies, the southern Marine goofball with Sarge, the hillbillies who move to Beverly Hills, the three guys who are friends with three ladies, the football coach at some small university, the West Virginia kid who lives with a dozen relatives in the boonies, the four old Florida ladies, the lusty witch gal married to a PR guy, and the old ranch dude with three sons always getting into trouble.  Yeah, we've used just about every trick in the book, and now....we have to use fake reality shows.  Just something to ponder.

Ninth, if you sit and watch enough hours of the Today Show.....you come to this conclusion that it's formatted for a sixteen year old girl, a 30-year old soccer mom, or a 65-year old retired woman.  They are all happy with the format, and don't want anything changed.  Keep that Matt-dude on the air.....for their sake.  Just something to ponder.

Tenth and final.....some judge has to reopen the probation paperwork with Lindsay Lohan and declare that the state of California has to house her for 245 days in some type of low-action prison.  Only a suggestion here, but if they'd just arrange forty cameras around some minimum-guard facilities and allow a reality TV show to operate....the state could charge folks $4 a day to watch every move she makes or her buddies in prison.  Some guard gossip, some lesbian attention, some comments over the mashed potatoes, and you've got yourself a four-star Discovery fake-reality series.  I'd call it "Lohan on Ice".  State could use the loot for the TV pay-per-view deal and make a profit.  Just something to ponder.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

My Neighborhood

This week....folks got a bit hyper down in ward eight of DC.  DC, for those of you who aren't into the divisions of the district....is the lower point on the district (in purple), and considered the 'poor area' of DC.  In this area of two by four miles....the last grocery gave notice that they intend to shut down.

Folks in ward eight are a bit angry over this....you now have to leave the neighborhood....maybe by car or bus or subway....to find a grocery.

Chief reason?  The political folks won't say much about it and the folks who live in the ward won't talk about it....but if you opened up a grocery....you tend to have problems with shoplifting and local crime.  You could post two or three guys in security-type uniforms in the parking lot and around the building....and it really wouldn't matter.

With 70k people living in ward eight....you'd think that some guy would see a huge opportunity and open up a Piggly Wiggly-type operation, and clean up in five years to retire.  So far, no one really cares to take that kind of risk.

The funny thing about this last grocery?  Well....they opened in 2010....with DC grant money (free money).....in the range of $900k.  Yep, almost a million in grant money to just open a simple grocery in a simple neighborhood.  Yet, it could not sustain itself.  Where did most of the grant money go?  Some folks think it went into the location....with a fancy parking lot that was difficult to get into....that was not really friendly for folks.

It's amazing to me....my old home area in Bama....less than 5k in the local region, and there's this Piggly Wiggly operation that makes a pretty fair income....nothing fancy, no cops, and no shoplifting.  And yeah, they take food stamps.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Simply Observations

First, there's this court episode unfolding at Lackland Air Force Base....with a former NCO instructor.  He's got various charges, but there's little story that popped up yesterday....when a witness came up to discuss a matter.  While in a excited state....as most trainee kids are at Air Force basic training....Sarge apparently yelled at them to fill up their canteens....in a hurry.  And he even suggested that they were supposed to use all possible avenues, including the toilet (not the sink or shower, but the actual toilet).....which is what one young trainee did because of his interpretation of the event.  I sat there....pondering this.  As a young punk in August of 1977....I went through basic.  If some idiot instructor had ordered us to fill canteens with toilet water.....we would have all stood there....grinned, and just said we'd wait for the sink-water.  We weren't stupid or naive.  It kinda worries me that we have such naive folks...who would actually fill a canteen up with toilet water, if told to do so.

The Discovery Channel came out today to admit they are finally doing a scripted show.  I know....we all think that every single reality show is fake and scripted, but this will be a real show with a real script.  The theme.....Alaska...1890s....gold-period.  The show....to be called "Klondike", ought to be fairly interesting, with lusty women, manly men, and dogs named "Buck".  I hate to suggest this to the big three networks....but Discovery might actually find a huge fascination with history mixed into a scripted show. Toss in a wagon-train show making its way across Colorado, a tobacco farm in 1820s North Carolina, and a depression-era themed show in southern California....Discovery might get more interest than the big-three combined on one single night.

Finally, statistics are building up....showing a end-of-year low homicide rate for DC.  It's the lowest in forty-odd years....almost under 100 homicides for 2012.  The real reason for the decline?  Cops will say various things, but I've started to notice over the last year or two....massive use of video images from bus cameras, building cam's, and stores.  They catch one good picture....put it out on local networks, and within a couple of days....have a lead.  Someone calls in and ID's the dimwit in the picture.  Over and over....this is occurring.  It's almost a weekly event where the cops announce they caught some thug or murderer now.  And they are putting the guys into prison.  Finally, something good to say out of DC.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Simply Observations

In the last month, there was an assassination attempt in Afghanistan.  The story?  Some Muhammad-Joe character attached some TNT to his groin area....using the Shia law "no search of private areas" and literally brew himself up in an attempt to kill a upper-level Afghan guy.  No....he apparently wasn't close enough to kill the guy....so other than dismembering himself.....that was the extent of the attack.  Naturally, intelligence folks investigated the whole thing to prepare and prevent such an attack in the future.  Sadly, there is this Islamic law about checking out groin areas....which you just can't do.  I sat and pondered over this....some nitwit was talking into attaching some TNT to his groin, and hooking up a detonation device.  You have to have a pretty lousy view of life to get yourself talked into something like this.

Our Senate guys have been busy on a budget bill for the military.  So they've prepared this 'hook' to the bill....the military has to cut five percent of their civilian and contractor force per year....for five years.  So you sit and ponder over this.  Commander Joe gets this order....700 civilian workers on his base....so 35 have to go.  Naturally, you don't dismiss the IT guys, the upper level management guys, or your fancy-pants mechanics who repair aircraft, tanks or helicopters.  So you finally decide that of the sixteen folks who handle dish-washing over at the chow-hall for the twenty-one meals a week....you dismiss six of them, and then order your military guys to start pulling Saturday KP (something they done in twenty-five years).  Then you turn and let three guys go from grounds shop, and order three military guys to pull grass-cutting duty each week to make up for the loss of the civilians.  Then you order let two librarians go and shut down at 6PM the post library each night of the week.  Eventually, the military guys start to whine about this extra duty that halted back in the 1980s....and some Senator feels sorry for them and gives them sixteen new positions a year later.  So for every billet they delete....they merely wait a year and recreate it....out of thin air.  Pretty simple.

There's been this overhaul committee of security going on for the intelligence world.  For fifty odd years, we've existed with Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential.  The committee somehow woke up and realized that Confidential is more or less of zero value.  So they've suggested....just two levels of classification: Top Secret and "lower level" (probably a new fancy term).  The odds of this being accepted?  In my entire life and writing material for the intelligence world....I have to admit I've never used the classification confidential in my life.  I doubt if anyone has.  So it probably could go, and none of us would ever miss it.

Finally, at my old base....Ramstein...the wing-commander woke up this past week and issued a directive....no selling of booze after 1AM (until 6AM).  Neither of the clubs can sell booze....nor can the twenty-four BX shoppette operation.  The Stars and Stripes folks went back over and asked for the logic in this, and haven't really been given any clear answer.  So here's the deal....you drink, and drink, and drink....up until 1245, and then go and buy a six-pack or a bottle of Jacky D's....and go drink more (just do it prior to 1AM).  I sat and pondered over this....there just aren't that many folks I ever hung out with....who bought beer or booze at 6AM.  Typically, you'd walk over to the Chow-Hall at 6AM on a Sunday and have breakfast....not sit and drink another beer.  I'm guessing someone ran a party one night and ran out of beer at 3AM....drove over to the Shoppette, and bought another case or two of beer....before the cops grabbed them.  It probably bothered the wing-commander to have folks sitting around at 3AM....buying beer, so he just issued the order.  How long does it last?  Figure three or four months, and it'll just disappear one Friday afternoon as someone issues the quiet change.  The funny part to the story?  There's really no place off-base at Ramstein to buy booze at 1AM....even the Germans don't operate anything but five or six bars or clubs at that time of night.

That Brew Problem

Some smart finance folks went out and analyzed the beer market....discovering that there are roughly nine brands of beer in serious trouble from declining sales.

At the very bottom?  Michelob.  Even Old Milwaukee fell into the bottom five (in serious trouble).

The issue is that folks got around in the last decade...to drinking small brewery products, and finding a better taste.  They lost interest in lousy beer.

What's Michelob to do?  It's hard to say.  You can't just hustle up and change your product overnight.  And if you did change it....who is to say that you might upset the several hundred thousand folks who still consume it on occasion?  You might lose more than gain on the deal.

The other curious thing that could be affecting sales is that import beers are catching on.  A guy will sit at some pub, and accidentally try some Dutch beer, and suddenly find himself enjoying a better taste.  Course, he's paying fifty percent more for the beer than he'd usually spend.

If I were going to take an educated guess on business operations here...I'd say that Michelob is likely to be bought out by someone in the next three years....at a low-end price.  They will shut down operations for a month, and do up a new formula for the brew, and try to stage a come-back.  A Chinese company?  Yeah, I'd start betting on someone with cash and taking a risk like that.

Simply Observations

We had an unusual event in DC last night....lady shot and killed on a Metro bus....around 6PM.  All the cops say of the episode....it was in the southeast (the part of DC you don't travel to), and the lady had her 3-year old daughter with her, wounded in the attack.  Based on one single comment....you get the impression that the lady was targeted (for whatever reason).  It's just another reason why people ought to pack up and leave the east-side of DC.

There's a good article over at Insider Education...over student debt.  Statistically, college debt has soared 500 percent since 1999.  What IE eventually gets around to suggesting in this article...is that generally....bankruptcy doesn't allow you off the hook for student debt (by law).  They think the time has come to simply group it up and allow bankruptcy.  So you'd just quit paying on your loan....admit a bankruptcy and watch the $50k you owe just slide off the plate...say five years after you complete school and you finally feel overwhelmed.  The odds of student loan program surviving a massive bankruptcy situation?  Well....the kind folks at IE didn't really put that into the article.   They do suggest that lenders would be very hesitant to allow loans to occur anymore, but they don't mention that the federal government has assumed much of the new growth of student loans....and the government doesn't shy away from giving away such a loan at all.

Venezuela's Chavez has gone back to cancer treatment, and it doesn't look good.  So he appointed the next in line for his job (a bold indicator).  The curious thing?  This guy started out as a bass player for a rock band.  Then he found that he didn't really make serious money at rock music in Venezuela, and got himself a bus driver's job.  Eventually, he moved up the chain and became a union leader of sorts.  So you have to admire the guy to some extent....from bass player to small country dictator.  If there ever were a great story for a movie, this would be it.

Finally, it won't make the national news coverage....but during the first week of weed sales (open marijuana sales) in Washington-state....they had this unusual home invasion episode.  Two punks decided to invade some pot-grower's house....to steal both weed and cash.  Both were shot dead by the owner.  Cops kind of lay out the fact that the homeowner had a substantial operation and was growing at a fairly hefty rate.  Yeah, he probably was making a fair amount of cash off his operation....which he said was built for the medical marijuana business.   My guess is that the cops will swarm all over the episode but agree that home invasion is a situation where you can shoot on the intruders.  Other than handing the bodies over to relatives....there's not much else to say or do.

The Question

At some point today...between the various political talk-shows....there was this moment where a Republican strategist (Mary Matalin).....asked the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman an odd question.

Paul Krugman is this unusual character that ABC drags out to comment on economics.  He won a Nobel Prize for Economics a couple of years ago (2008), and ever since then....he's considered an absolute expert on economics.

The general problem that I have with him....is that his advice isn't exactly that type that you'd hear from anyone on the Wall Street Journal staff.  Generally....whatever the Journal folks advise....Krugman takes an exact opposite view.  His logic....usually defies real world situations, and it's the stuff you'd talk about in a classroom.

So Mary finally tossed this question at Paul...."Are you an economist or a polemicist? Just make up your mind".

I had to go and look up polemicist....it was an odd term that you just don't hear usually.

If you are in the middle of a debate....a polemicist is a guy isn't there to debate his position....he's there to  make absolute proof of what he says, and absolutely deny what the other guy is saying.  In the case here, Mary is cornering him to represent his profession of economics....not some political stand by the White House or some party.  Krugman couldn't maneuver around that comment by Mary Matalin.

The problem with the Sunday political chat shows....is that half the folks that appear....are mostly comedians who pretend to be experts on something.  I'm guessing they make a fair amount of salary doing this kind of work, but frankly...I've gotten to the point where I mostly laugh at responses that they make.

It might be time to switch back over to Japanese monster movies on Sunday morning.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Just Questions to Contemplate

How many Americans know someone who makes more than $250k a year?  And I'm talking about watching Huckabee on Fox, some Mets baseball player on TV, or going down to New Orleans to watch a live WWE wrestling match.  How many Americans actually know some guy who makes over $250k a year?

So in the midst of the biggest event since 9-11, with the country on the fiscal cliff....why does the President go to Hawaii for a vacation?  This would be like a couple about to engage in a bankruptcy proceeding but going off the week prior to gamble in Las Vegas.

If you had a hurricane coming down the way toward your home....are you actually counting on FEMA to come and help you?  Really....just raise your hand if you think that FEMA is going to save you in some fashion.

With all the talk on Syria....can you even identify the country on a map?

If you work around heavy machinery in Colorado....with the new marijuana laws going into effect....are you just a bit worried about your co-workers coming into work doped up?

If you had a kid in the Washington state school system, and the new open sales of marijuana going into effect....would you be kinda worried about teachers coming into school stoned?

In twenty years....will Fox's GLEE be remembered by anyone?

Why would twenty-odd CIA guys all be sitting in a compound in Benghazi....on 9-11?

Do you really care what a bunch of West Virginia teenagers do on camera....for a new MTV series?  Would it be any different than a bunch of punk kids from Texas?

When was the last time that you actually bought a music CD?

If the airport TSA dimwits that you all upset as you enter the airport.....were all women....would it change your perception of TSA?

If this teen singer....the Justine Bieber kid....actually sat down next to you at Dairy Queen....would you even recognize him?

Could you actually tell the difference between the $1 a cup of coffee at McDonalds and the $3.25 cup of coffee at Starbucks?

If you had the choice of being dropped off in a rattlesnake infested canyon in Arizona or the middle of Detroit....which would you pick?

If you ran a college and figured out that twenty-five percent of all kids who enter as freshmen will never get beyond the first year.....why wouldn't you try harder to stop them at the front door?  If you knew that forty percent of the freshmen will never graduate from your college or any college....would it start to bother you about accepting them?

To be honest, when in the last five years have you had a Twinkie?  Or a Ho-Ho?

If your state police announced that they'd just spent $2.5 million on a overhead drone....would you question the wisdom of such a purchase, and would you ask about the maintenance contract attached to this (likely $1.5 a year)?

Would it bother you if you learned that twenty percent of all Republicans....were really Democrats, and that the same number of Democrats....were really Republicans?

Have you kinda noticed your neighbors buying in bulk and putting two or three extra refrigerators or freezers into their garage?  Have you ever asked them about the continual review of expiration dates?  Yeah, they probably do throw at least a quarter of the bulk purchase food away eventually.

How many folks could actually sit through an entire opera....without falling asleep?

If your new car had an engine seizure, and the Ford mechanic eventually came to you and said it was the 15-percent ethanol mix you used....thus invalidating the warranty action....who would you be most upset with?

When auto blackboxes get finally implemented and mandated in the fall of 2014....how many people will quickly ask how to disconnect it?  Thirty percent?  Fifty percent?  How many computer geeks will be hired to reprogram or disconnect these?  Fifty thousand?

If there is no real difference between Microsoft Office 1997 and Office 2010....why would you buy the 2010 version?

If you could buy a $49 round-trip ticket from Nashville to Chicago....for standing only during the flight and leaning against some fixture for sixty minutes....would you buy the ticket?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Just Tired of Fairness

I sat and watch some political dimwits chat for ten minutes this morning....and the term "fairness" got thrown around six to eight times.  So I finally got tired of hearing it.

“Fairness” doesn’t get a guy to pull a 10PM to 7AM shift at a local factory for $12 an hour.

“Fairness” doesn’t ensure a decent meal at the Catfish Cabin for $9.99.

“Fairness” doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed Ford-certified transmission mechanic when you demand an overnight repair.

“Fairness” doesn’t drive a truckload of tomatoes from Texas to Michigan in the middle of a December snowstorm.

“Fairness” doesn’t clean the restaurant kitchen enough to pass the city health inspector inspection. 

“Fairness” doesn’t get you a $20k loan from the local bank when your business heating system failed in the midst of February.

“Fairness” doesn’t guarantee your kid is getting a top-notch math teacher in the sixth grade.

“Fairness” isn’t going to help you when the city has determined a year-long construction project will go by the front of your store and halt half of the profits you enjoyed for a decade.

“Fairness” isn’t helping when a city council member won’t approve your booze license unless there’s some donation to their campaign fund.

“Fairness” doesn’t help when the cops won’t come out to your area of town after dark because there’s too much crime there.

“Fairness” doesn’t sweep up a mess made by a bunch of drunks around the back of your building the night before.

I would even add this....”Fairness” didn’t exist on the 6th of June 1944 on the beaches of Normandy. For anyone who is really obsessed with “Fairness”, maybe it’s time you asked what exactly is meant by the term.

Stuff You Don't Calculate On

California, for those who aren't watching business news...is in trouble.  The budget for the state folks is bad off and there just isn't alot of money in the tax revenue bucket.

Months ago, it was decided that it'd be best to tax the wealthiest in the state and help make up for tax revenue that the state needed.

This week....the state controller....got around to announcing the total for the month of November.  There's a problem here though.....the state is $806.8 million short from the anticipated point they should be.  That's almost one billion less on tax revenue.....by their numbers....roughly ten percent below the budget.

Some analysts have quietly hinted now that various business operations and rich folks....have decided that increased taxes just weren't going to be part of their business model.  So they moved.

A new financial crisis?  Right now....no.  It'll take six months of bad numbers for the state controller to stand up and admit taxing the wealthy folks didn't help much.  Sometime around May of 2013, I would expect a public statement via the governor's office and the state controller.  They missed their budget target and doing awful on tax revenue collection.  They actually had to borrow more money to survive each month's expenditures....so by summer of 2013....they are deeper into debt than they were in the summer of 2012.

The rich folks?  I would imagine that they got creative.  They might still own property in the state but there's likely a for-sale sign on it, and the folks have taken up residence in Arizona or Nevada.  The business operations that could pack up and move?  They probably spent some time thinking about the future and likely moved two or three states over.  So the lesson learned out of this mess?  You can tax the wealthy as much as you want.....but they can always think of a better way to handle their tax situation.

At this point, it might be a wise idea to start identifying state services that you just can't afford anymore, and just shut down.  Of course, this is all stuff that you don't normally calculate on, and can't do it because folks get angry about less services.  In the end....you chased your business folks out of town, and kept thinking the town can sustain itself.  You guessed wrong.

Just Observations

The Senate floor got all active this week as they needed internal passage of a rule that would allow popcorn and drinks on the floor during a display of "Lincoln" (the movie) on the Senate floor.  As important that the sequestration might be.....it ranked second for a couple of hours while this rule was roughed out and agreed upon by a majority of senators.  Why couldn't they go to a private theater and lounge in easy chairs to watch it?

Some Homeland Security folks were told to arrange a week of various exercises that security folks from across America would pay to view and participate in....in San Diego....at a private resort island of sorts there.  For one day of the exercise, they included this piece where zombies got loose in America, and Homeland Security forces had to quickly act....to protect the public.  No joke.  So far, no one in Homeland Security will comment much on the chances of a zombie attack.  At the end of this story....you have to wonder about who they hired and put into place for exercise development for Homeland Security.

A bunch of folks are getting all upset about a new MTV series called "Buckwild" (the adventures of young West Virginia kids at age eighteen).  Basically, they run around doing crazy stuff on weekends....like crazy kids do in Bama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and South Carolina.  The only difference?  These kids are getting paid some cash for doing the normal crazy stuff that they always do.  The folks complaining?  They don't do much to get excited, and I think this wild stuff really bothers them.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Pentagon is all upset about recent events and generals doing naughty things.  So he thinks they need more ethics training.  You can imagine the deal....all the big generals meet at some Saturday function, get a four-hour presentation on ethics, and then do a group hug as they all admit they are cured of bad judgement on ethics.  A week later, they are swapping emails with some gal in Kentucky and have a relapse of bad judgement.  They call their ethics coach, and soon, there is intervention with General Joe or Admiral Barney.  Sitting off in France, some French four-star general is just sitting there with a beautiful blonde French gal on his lap, and just giggling uncontrollably over American judgement in such things.....sipping wine and eating some pretty decent caviar.  

Finally, an interesting move by the Supreme Court occurred this week....where they said they'd like to review two cases over gay marriage.  One involves an appeals court overturning the ban of gay marriage in California (after the population voted to say no for gay marriage).  The second case is whether Congress could enact a law that says that gay couples can't have federal benefits like a straight couple....which came out of 1996 legislation (the DOMA act).  I would suspect the Supremes will come to two different decisions....that a state can regulate itself by its own Constitution.....so California ends up with no gay marriage unless another vote occurs.  The second part to this will be asking the question of how you can invent a very limited and defined way of handling federal benefits....from the Constitution.  If this had to do with commerce....the Congress might have a better foot to stand on, but it doesn't.  So prepare for a fairly wide array of shots by the Supreme Court....making most everyone unhappy.

Suffering

At some point this week.....at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.....pop singer James Taylor got around to a political speech.  He wanted folks in the audience to know that he had suffered greatly during the Bush/Cheney years.  His quote: "Those were—it was a tough time for me.  I really suffered.”

I sat and paused over his comments.  He wanted everyone now to know that he felt better....more positive, and life was better.

So I pondered.  During the Bush/Cheney years, what did he do?

James Taylor still bought his coffee at Starbucks during the Bush/Cheney period.

James Taylor still drove his SUV around the countryside during the Bush/Cheney period.

James Taylor still sold albums and did concerts during the Bush/Cheney period.

James Taylor likely still bought his clothing at L L Bean during the Bush/Cheney period.

James Taylor likely stayed at coastal hotels along the Outer Banks during the Bush/Cheney period.

James Taylor probably lounged around swanky hotels in California during the Bush/Cheney period.

During that eight-year period....he suffered better than suffered badly. If that is truly suffering....there’s about 900 million guys around the globe who’d be happy to suffer like that...in America.

My Neighborhood

The FBI, for those who didn't know, have this old obsolete headquarters facility in DC....the J Edgar Hoover building....which started construction in 1965 and was completed around 1970.  Rather than put a massive amount of money into a building with various limitations, in the center of DC....the FBI would like to actually leave and move out....preferably over into Virginia.

The talk over the last month is that they have a couple of places in mind, near Fairfax.  The plus-side is that most of what they want is already sitting there and little would have to be done to change things.  Additionally, it's near the interstate and Metro.

Things looked pretty good on the FBI getting what they want....up until the end of this week.  Then, talk started up with DC city council folks and Prince George's county folks (Maryland).  They want a "deal", with the US federal government.

Years ago, the Washington Redskins played at RFK stadium in DC.  It was a decent stadium, able to hold around 56k folks (absolute maximum).  For years and years, the Redskins played there, until it was deemed too obsolete for the team, but not for the local government   The Redskins moved out into Prince George's county to FEDEX Field, where they play roughly eight home games a year.  RFK stadium?   It still stands there on the east-side of DC....in fairly obsolete shape, used for soccer and public events only, and ought to be torn down.

What happen over the past decade is that Prince George's county in Maryland has come to realize that for everything they did to acquire the Redskins into their county...it's simply not returning the value hoped for, in tax revenue and fees.

The Redskins will tell you that Fedex Field is a decent stadium with a number of negative factors.  Their owner would desperately like to have a new stadium built....in DC....then just pack up and go (not paying a fee to Prince George's county for violating the contract deal).

So there's the FBI building.  What Prince George's county wants....is a swap deal with the federal government where the FBI is forced into relocating deep into Prince George's county and they would allow the Redskins to leave without any legal action or extra fees.

Yeah, it all sounds pretty hokey.....the FBI building tied to the Washington Redskins.

What's brewing behind the mess?  There's some property down in southeast DC (the bad part of town) that the city is holding for long-term development.  One area is the old mental health facility where a massive stadium and parking could be built.  It's near the interstate and would crowd out the poor section of town within a decade, if something that massive was built there.

The FBI guys have to be laughing over this suggestion.  What Prince George's county wants....is for the FBI building to be located there and over the next decade....hundreds of the agents would eventually relocate up into the area....to pay hefty Maryland taxes (income, sales tax, and property taxes).  It'd all add up to a better deal than this lousy eight games a year played currently in Prince George's county.  You can also figure that the hotel use around Maryland for the eight games....isn't that great, and maybe half the incoming fans lounge over in Virginia rather than Maryland.

The DC city council knows that they have a trusted source or two within the White House team who could get the President to push the FBI over to a Prince George's county solution....so this all makes good sense to them in the end.

A comedy of sorts?  Yes.  The curious thing is that no one has spoken of the J Edgar Hoover property in the middle of DC and what might end up there.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Tax Cuts

Back around 2001, there was this White House agenda to get a tax cut on the books....to stimulate the US economy.  Eventually, Congress passed it, and it was referred to as the "Bush Tax Cuts".  For those who remember watching CNN and the various news media reports....it was a terrible thing.  Various experts appeared on CNN and told everyone of how this tax cut would help only the rich....the millionaires of America.  As the implementation was started....the media pumped out one final push of the terrible Bush Tax Cuts.

So what happened over a decade?  Well.....a number of middle-class folks took advantage of it, and bought cars, boats, and renovated their houses.

So now as the Bush Tax Cuts are coming to an end on 1 January 2013, the media has shifted around to the defense of the terrible Bush Tax Cuts.  Hour after hour of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and business news networks are chatting about saving the tax cuts.

To some, it's confusing because they remember what was said a decade ago.  Strangely enough.....all the experts the networks used ten years ago....have disappeared.  So we have new experts to proclaim the greatness of the tax cuts and why they must remain.

Yes, it is confusing.  Yes, it'd be nice if they had 'real' experts.  And yes, they are probably wrong on fifty percent of the positions they take.

The New Problem

Starting in January....two states will offer up the option of legal smoking of marijuana.  Over the last month since the vote.....the cops in both states (Washington and Colorado) have started thinking about how exactly you will stop a car, and determine if folks are too high to operate the vehicle.  For booze, it was all pretty simple and you had those preliminary tests before the blood-alcohol tests.

For booze consumption, it was all pretty simple.  You added up your weight, figured the alcohol content of the item (beer, wine or Jacky D's), and came to a hourly consumption rate.  You could generally drink one glass of wine for each sixty to seventy minutes....unless you were 120 pounds, and then you could figure ninety minutes.

I thought there might be a simple rate of marijuana consumption but I was wrong after reading into this mess.  You see....as the cops point out.....first, there's the amount you smoked.....then there's the location where it was grown, and then there's the method that it was grown under.

So Joe could smoke half a joint of brand X, and be very doped-up for forty-five minutes.  Joe could smoke an entire joint of brand Y and only be doped-up for twenty minutes.  Then Joe could smoke brand Z and be doped-up for two hours.

You can imagine the cop stopping you and coming to some conclusion over your state of doped-up, and arresting you.  He'll have to have a gadget of some type to be sure of your precise situation.

The door is about to open for some smart guys to develop various testing devices and sell them for $15k each to the cops.  Every cop in Washington and Colorado will end up with some gadget within two years that measures your doped-up state of mind.  All of this will lead folks to try to grasp and understand consumption, growth, and method of growth.

Folks will sit around and say brand X is the best to smoke if you were going to drive, or brand Y is ok to use if you drive sixty minutes after consumption.  Folks will appear on CNN as "experts" and advise folks, and then we will start to see entire institutions appear to act as the absolute experts on the field of marijuana.  Most of us will simply shake our heads and remember when this wasn't an issue.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Subway Episode

A couple of days ago in New York City....down on a subway platform....some guy got into a moment of discussion with some homeless guy.  It's safe to say that the homeless guy went into some tirade, and then pushed the other guy onto the tracks....where a subway car approaching....killed him.

The incident was filmed by the dead man's girlfriend.

When I arrived in DC in 2010 and went walking through the various areas of the District....I came to realize there were a lot of homeless folks.  There were also a high number of nuts.  You could pass by a character who'd suddenly make eye contact and then start to yell at you.  After you'd seen two or three of these episodes.....you start to avoid any eye contact with any of the homeless people.

Dangerous?  On any given day in DC.....you could have an episode where a homeless guy just goes off and starts fighting another homeless guy or attacking someone on the street.

There ought to be ways to put these folks into a mental institute, but no one wants to responsibility over an issue like that.

The family of the dead guy in New York City?  Well....they say they wish that people around the platform would have come to the aid of their relative before he got killed.  No one much mentions the nutcase.  A judge-ordered mental exam will take a couple of months and I expect the guy to be declared unfit to stand trail and then placed into a life-long situation within a mental institute.  It's not the best deal for anyone, but this is all you get.   

Just the News

The Cape Cod Times is a localized paper there along the coast of Massachusetts which goes out to roughly 43k people.  Yesterday, the paper came out and kinda admitted that they had discovered a long-time reporter for the paper.....had been making up fictional characters as part of stories.  The name of the reporter doesn't matter, but it's interesting to note that she'd been around since 1981.  So there's a number of a lot of fictional characters sprinkled throughout various stories.  And to be truthful, she's done a lot of stories with real people.

You can guess and figure out the whole scheme here.  A hundred years ago....your regional paper had four pages of material max.  When we got to a fairly automated period in the 1920s....the newspapers began to shift around.

So you needed to fill space at that point.  Your boss would step up and tell you the story on the robbery had to expand from six lines, to forty lines.  The truth?  There just wasn't forty lines of information to tell about some robbery at the bank.  After you and think over it a while...you need quotes as filler for the article.  So you hopefully find some bank employee, bank executive, or policeman who will give you two or three quotes.....to fill up the forty lines.

Folks got used to the habit.  Filler was a good thing.

Eventually, you even got around to believing that if you couldn't find enough good filler, then you used bad filler.....imaginary comments or such.

The Cape Cod Times may think it's all a great thing that they did, and truth is refreshing.....but eventually, they will find a second reporter, a third reporter, and this will all reach a point where folks admit that everyone has done some fake stuff in their reporting.

The sad thing here....is that there's really not more than four pages of real news to tell each day in most areas of America.  The other twenty-six pages?  Filler.  And that's the way it is.

Just Some Thoughts

Occasionally, I have these ideas.

I have this one idea....if we could government subsidize a massive amount of weed-growth in America, and just hand out marijuana to everyone, on a massive scale....then we’d smoke enough not to notice how bad our health was, and die earlier from ailments that were never noticed...then we’d save a ton of money on unnecessary medical treatment. I admit, it’s an idea under development, but I think it has bold opportunity.  And yeah, some folks might not be happy about missing out on longer lives.

I have this one idea....running a network called "1960s", and just feature TV shows and movies from the 1960s.  I'm pretty sure I could cram twenty-four hours of 1960s TV into each day and surprise people at the various shows that just never got shown again (like Combat, Cheyenne, and Burke's Law).

I have this one idea....letting some kid on his sixteenth birthday not only test for his license....but test to graduate right out of high school....into the local community college, and even pay for the first two years with money that would have been spent on high school.

I have this one idea....of putting a 50-percent tax on booze and smokes....to finance healthcare.  Course, I know some folks won't be happy about that.

I have this one idea....running actual delivery of the US mail to strictly Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.  If you wanted to drive over and pick up your package on Monday or Thursday.....you could stop in to find a minimum staff at the post office.....just enough to keep the doors open.

I even have this one idea of running a hotel-like complex with WW II-type tents and give you the rustic lifestyle image that you remember your uncle talking about over his memories of the big war, and how things were fairly simple.

Where Socialism Works

After a number of years traveling around....when the question comes up....can socialism work?  The general answer is that you can run a 50-50 mix with capitalism and socialism....in a small tight society.  The thing is....you have to have some general rules at the beginning of this....to glue the mess together.

First, you need to have a limited number of special interest groups: the arts society, the educational elite, the library folks, the school teacher squads, the bicycle trails mafia, etc.  You simply put a bucket of money on the table and tell everyone that this is it....split it twelve ways or sixteen ways or forty-four ways....but that's all you get for this year.  Once you establish this rule....the special interest groups are careful about not getting creative and adding more folks at the table.

Second, the tax rules are set down into stone and you don't go back and change rules every two or three years.  There might be a bump-up here, or a bump-down there....but the taxation rate is pretty much set so that everyone plays on the same field together.

Third, the evils of society.....smokes, booze, and entertainment....is going to be fairly taxed and you just aren't going to be happy if you are a chain-smoker or a heavy boozer.

Fourth, the TV crowd and newspaper folks.....are all pretty good friends of each other, and the political establishment.  So, there's rarely any corruption that gets reported.  You could breeze through national nightly news in sixteen minutes, or read all of the national newspaper in thirty minutes.  Things typically don't get exciting...mostly because it damages the trend of a society if you start in this direction.

Fifth, you get used to the idea of not inventing anything new or radical.  Remember....it's a blend of socialism and capitalism.  Taking risks usually isn't a great feature in a society like this.

Sixth, folks get used to the idea of a fairly limited house, a limited tool shed, a limited barn, a limited garage, and a limited car.  If you have to pay nineteen percent sales tax on everything....then you limit your tool-chest to just six good screwdrivers....which might be around for twenty years.  In your closet?  There might be six pairs of shoes for the four seasons.  When one pair of shoes wears out...you go and price up the most economical deal for a replacement pair....which you hope they last seven years.

Seventh, looking and acting rich in a 50-50 society....means you have to spend money to gain that status-look.  Wannabe rich guys eventually figure that this is a waste of time, money and effort....so they don't pretend to be rich anymore in such a society.  The rest of these folks?  They generally hate the idea of looking rich because it always means more taxes are taken in some fashion.  So it's best to look remarkably limited in your 'richness'.

Eighth, and final....at the heart of the matter, you never allow any capitalistic trends to start up where credit cards are handed out like candy, and folks start to get $100k in plain simple debt by age forty.  You also ensure that government worker salaries stay at a low level for the first ten years, and only start to perk up by age forty.  The truth is....you already know that a 50-50 mix doesn't produce much wealth that you can tax and hand out to folks, so you don't get stupid and start spending money you don't have.

Yeah, it does sound like Denmark....doesn't it?

The Count

Amongst all the new regulations coming into effect in the spring of 2013....is a rule that says every single item on a restaurant menu....must have a calories count listed next to it.  For McDonalds or Wendys....it's a simple task.  They pay some smart science guys who huddle around a burger....and come to some conclusion of calories.  End of discussion.

Well.....you come over to Dominos Pizza, and there's a bit of a problem.  Today, the CEO came out to admit that Dominos has a huge issue.  There are 33 million varieties of pizza that they can serve.  The idea of them having a huge wall of calorie counts for 33 million variations of pizza....is just about impossible to imagine.

There's some meetings that Dominos will hold with the US government....trying to determine how they can meet their regulation deal.  The number of Dominos customers who might care about this?  Out of sixteen million folks who might buy a pizza regularly from them....I'm guessing 66 folks might actually care or be shocked over the calorie count.  The rest?  Frankly, they don't give a damn.

So this brings me to the small restaurants throughout America....especially in Bama.  Down at the Hank's Grill, the four-page menu is a problem.  Hank will stand there and admit that he doesn't a purely scientific method of calculating the calorie count.  His grilled ham and cheese sandwich is difficult to figure out.  That bit of Tabasco Sauce....then the pickle in the middle....and a bit of relish on the plate?  It might be 288 calories....maybe as few as 235 calories.  So he will estimate on this, and wait for some idiot to challenge him in court.

Does it make any difference on calorie count?  Well....some folks have taken up a lifestyle of counting every calorie and enthusiastically write this down each day.  They aim to stay under 1500 calories for 365 days out of the year.  To do that....they need people to cooperate with their system.  The rest of us?  Frankly, we don't give a damn.

Eventually, the regulation business will touch county fairs and even community bar-b-q's.  You will stand there at the fair and discover that corn-dog that you've been eating every year for forty-four years.....is almost 295 calories (without the mustard).  Or that roll of honey on a stick is almost 600 calories.  Or that can of beef stew you bought at the community picnic grounds is loaded with 750 calories in one XXL bowl.

Maybe it's best that we just don't know.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Simply Observations

Somewhere off in France, there's this village of Yvrac.  They had this fairly old property....with a 18th century chateau.  Recently, the property was bought by a Russian millionaire   It's safe to say....he knew what he was doing, or he thought he did.  There were a couple of buildings on the estate, and he wanted one of them torn down (bulldozed would be the right term to use).  The big fancy building....with a weeping stone staircase?  Oh no....that was supposed to be safe and just renovated.  Well....days passed and the bulldozer crew arrived, and then went by the instructions that they understood....tearing down a big fancy chateau.  Naturally, the mayor, and the folks in town are fairly upset by this.  The Russian guy? Well....he's upset, but not like these guys.  In fact, he said that he'd rebuild the chateau.  My impression is that it was lousy instructions, done on purpose, and he kinda wanted the old building gutted completely.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it just sounds like a scripted event.  

Folks got around to watching the new Lincoln movie, and were fairly shocked that Lincoln cussed so much.  A fair bit of profanity rolled right off his lips.  Well....days have passed and some historians now point out....Lincoln never cussed like that, and some folks were fairly loose with interpretation of jokes he told or were written later as quotes.  Again, you can never really trust a movie to tell the complete story.

Finally, I sat and watched a video-clip of a city council gal from Detroit talking about the necessity of getting Obama onboard to give funding to save Detroit.  In her words....they voted him in....so they he owes them something.  After you watch this clip twice....you get to the point of wondering how the nation survives.  Everyone wants to be saved.....they spent all their "loot" and they've got to rock-bottom.  Where else can you find more "loot"?  The federal government?  This is pretty screwed-up.  

The Law

It won't make the national news....but folks up in Huron, South Dakota got around to making a new law, which dictates that you can't eat.....while driving a car.  The fine....if caught.....$15 (called distracted driving).

I sat there for a while and pondering this new law.  Forty years ago, you generally stopped what you were doing and actually walked into a McDonalds and ate your burger right there.  Same way for Wendys....Burger King.....Pizza Hut.

I've come to realize that things have changed.  We now see nothing wrong in stopping and grabbing a couple of burgers and eating along the way to home.  Same way in the morning....stopping and picking up a coffee and a couple of donuts to eat while cruising into work.

Are we distracted?  Well....if all of a sudden you had a jelly donut to leak while in your hand.....you might miss that red light or fail to see that idiot turning out into the street.  It's true.

In a town of 12k residents, this might not matter too much.  I'm guessing that the donut shops are a bit worried over folks changing their habits.  McDonalds might be upset and have to entice you just little extra to get you to stop once or twice a week.  But I suspect for the most part.....folks will just sneak a bit here and there, and just keep going.  You figure even if the cops are out....it's just $15.  Maybe you get caught once a year, and it doesn't matter.

The sad part about this?  It's just another law on top of 50k other laws that you try to obey.  In the vastness of laws.....you know that they can only increase....never decrease.  Luckily, there's no law against applying lipstick, brushing your teeth, or scratching....while driving.  At least, not yet.

My Neighborhood

We had a murder here in DC just over a year ago.  Normally, it wouldn't have caught much attention.  Cops were lucky....an obvious killer, the husband of woman murdered.  But since this woman was a 92-year old noted German gal, and the husband was this suspected nutcase of a husband (and German as well), then this got tunred into a fairly interesting episode.

The judge decided that the guy.....Albrecht Muth....was a fairly big nutcase, and needed an evaluation.  He was fearful of the case in court.

So after months of examination....the mental health guy came back yesterday to report to the judge.

"Al".....by the opinion of the mental health guy.....is narcissistic.

"Al"....by the opinion of the mental health guy....is antisocial.

"Al"....by the opinion of the mental health guy.....is schizotypal.

But by his opinion, Albrecht Muth is perfectly ok to be in court and sane.

The judge is stuck with a case where there's going to be a circus almost daily.  There's not much of a way that he can convene a court, and hope that a jury can come to a clear decision on the nutcase.

By DC standards, this is a pretty simple case, and the prosecutor would normally beg for cases like this.....course, you never have a nutcase as the killer.

My humble bet is that two weeks into the court case, the judge stops everything and has a second judge render the guy insane and put away.  I just don't see the case coming to a simple conclusion.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Football Discussion

A couple of days ago....some football player from the Kansas City Chiefs ended up in an argument with his girlfriend.....then shot her.  He went to the stadium....where he had a brief talk with the management, and then killed himself in front of them.  Hours later....sports announcer Bob Costas got into a discussion on the air....then proclaimed if this guy had not had a gun, then he would not not have shot the girlfriend....thus life would be better than what happened.

I paused and pondered over the commentary.

By Sunday, there were some comments over the mental health of the football player.  Over the few years of football that he'd played (he was twenty-five this year).....he had various issues from concussions.  He was mixing pain-killers and booze.  He wasn't exactly able to grasp his direction in life or feel any emotions.

Rather than go in the direction as Bob Costas....I'd go the other direction....that football probably is heading toward a discussion over impacts and concussions.  I'm of the mind that between 2025 and 2030....we will eventually agree that football impacts are dangerous and harming people.  Yes, we just might outlaw high school football, and then onto college football.  All you need is three or four states to implement some tough rules, and football would start to dissolve.

Will Costas be upset by this?  Yes, because football paid for his salary and his profession.  The gun discussion?  It doesn't work well when you star to talk about impact and brain damage.

My Suggestion

After watching about ninety minutes of fiscal pit discussions and tax talk yesterday....I have this idea.

We create a 99-percent tax bracket which three-quarters of the country fits into.  I know....that gets you a bit excited.  It generally means....out of every one hundred dollars you make....you pay $99 on it for taxes.

But here's the thing, we invent 4,555 new tax credits.  You get a credit for owing a lawn mower.  You get a credit for buying a Lazy-boy recliner.  You get a credit for owning a hunting dog.  You get a credit for buying beer.

At the end of this mess you end up paying sixteen percent of your income to the federal tax folks.

This 99-percent rate makes the media happy, the Democrats happy, the drunks happy, the poor happy, the anti-capitalists happy, and the Mexican government happy (they are happy most of the time anyway).

Course, after six months, they all kinda wake up and realize that tax credits really screw up their happiness, but for a fleeting period, they were awful happy.  And.....they probably spent $66 trillion on butterfly studies, paving the Senate parking lot, free butter for the welfare recipients of America, and new sprinkler heads for the White House lawn during that six month period.

So lets get with the program....99-percent tax brackets for everyone.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Prospecting Shows

Between the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.....there are four shows on gold prospecting going on.  I have to admit....at least at present....I'm kinda addicted to them.  I admit....the shows all seem and feel 'fake' to some degree.  But it's entertaining.

There are always elements to each show.   Various dramas are unfolding.  Danger lurks around the corner.  Machines break.  Tempers flare.  Partners lose patience.  Gold is found.  Disaster seems to be a moment away.

The amazing thing is that they can build an entire hour over one week of effort....stretching out roughly forty-two minutes of video with eighteen minutes of commercials.

My guess is that they probably are nearing the maximum number of gold interest in the public, and there might be one more season left in this gold business before they have to go and find some other fake show to pump people up.

I noticed last week that there's a Amish Mafia show about to start up.  That ought to be fairly fake.    

Friday, 30 November 2012

My Neighborhood

The DC city council has been blasted over the last couple of months because of these increasing number of traffic tickets via speed cameras.  Since 2008 when they installed their cameras....the city of DC....has made roughly $194 million in fines.  You can figure forty million a year is rolling in....easy money as we'd say in Bama.

The hostility of the fines (roughly $120 a ticket) finally got to the city council.  So they made a decision this week....to lessen the fee to roughly $75.

Naturally, you'd start to feel better about this.  But they turned around and agreed to add twenty-seven more cameras.  So, things would spread out, and the amount of money coming in would be roughly the same.

The cost of running the camera system?  It's a floating deal...roughly twenty percent of ticket income is operational cost (going to the company that manages the cameras).  So in a good year (like 2011), the city made $55 million on gross revenue, and the operating cost was near $21 million).

There's roughly 400k tickets that were issued in 2012 for speeding in the district....a six by six mile area.  You can figure the numbers here, but it's safe to say that a ticket is issued every few seconds in DC on average.

It's safe to say that if the public ever figures out this whole game and just starts to drive 3 mph under the speed limit....it'd only take a month or two for the operators of the cameras to get nervous.  Just a twenty percent cut in tickets would be serious....but if you had a eighty percent cut in tickets....it'd destroy the whole business model, and the profit mechanism of the city.

Course, this is DC, and no one ever gets smart about things like this.  They just whine, and life goes on....speeding away.

My Neighborhood

Across the river, into DC....folks woke up yesterday with new statistical news.  DC has the lowest high school graduation rate of any state/district...in America.  They stand at 59 percent of the kids graduating.

The defense of this?  Well....we had a city council guy who stood up and spoke on this fact that DC is a very unique urban school district....as compared against rural school districts across America.  I stood there for a minute....trying to figure out the meaning of that.  He can only mean that you'd be better off in some poor county district in Alabama....than in DC, because of the rural situation.  That logic only holds water, if you've smoked a bit of weed or had a couple of double-shots of Jacky D's.

After living around the region for three years, I can offer two observations on this topic.

First, DC spends a ton of money on teachers within the school district.  But if you look at past reports....probably a quarter of teachers are either unqualified for their jobs or poor leaders in the classroom.  It's like paying a bunch of folks to produce light-bulbs but customers complain that forty percent of the bulbs never work after buying them.  Usually, you'd fire your folks at the light-bulb factory, but in DC's case...you just give your folks pay-raises 

Second, to be kind of honest....if you have any significant means of capital and live in DC.....then your kid doesn't attend a public school there.  They go to a private school.  If you did move into the region and want your kid to attend public school....then you tend to move into Virginia....not DC.  So to be truthful....the DC crowd is stuck with lower-income kids only in their school system.  If you suddenly put 4k upper-class kids into the DC system....the statistics would ramp up within one year.  But that's never going to happen.

So when your discover your local school has a graduation rate of 92-percent....you ought to be patting those guys on the back and being glad you don't live in DC.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

When I was a Kid (1975)

When I was a kid, the average home ran for around $42k, and you could buy a house-trailer for $4k (a single-wide).

When I was a kid, stamps ran around ten-cents.

When I was a kid, your average upscale car ran around $5k.

When I was a kid, you had four channels (the fourth was PBS, which you never watched, unless Monty Python was on).

When I was a kid, people were actually thrilled to go the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, and it was a big deal.  If you couldn't make it to the Opry, then you watched Hee Haw.

When I was a kid, "damn" was still a four-letter word.

When I was a kid, in 1975, Mannix, Gunsmoke and Adam-12 were coming to an end on TV.  The highlight of the week was Rockford Files, Happy Days and Welcome Back Kotter.

When I was a kid, in 1975, the only fast food within forty miles was Burger King, McDonalds, and Crystal Burgers (we didn't even have a Pizza Hut).

When I was a kid, your choice of sodas was Mountain Dew, Sundrop, Pepsi, Coke, Tab, and Doctor Pepper.  There wasn't much of a diet drink unless you had a glass of tap water.

You could still get a big glass of ice water (with crushed ice) when you sat down at a real restaurant 

When I was a kid, there was this thing starting up called Saturday Night Live.  The problem was....it only came on after 1030 on Saturday night....when most folks were already asleep (in Bama).

When I was a kid, if you called more than forty miles away....it was out-of-state or hefty charges.

When I was a kid....if you got suspended from the school....you were in real trouble and it was questionable if they'd ever let you come back.

When I was a kid.....most cops that you ran into....were someone's cousin and just got the job because they wanted to wear a uniform and tote a pistol (yeah, that hasn't changed in forty years).

When I was a kid....the highlight of sports on Saturday was local wrestling with Tojo Yomamoto and Tommy "Wildfire" Rich, on TV.  It was announced by some local hoot (Grady Reeves) and you felt like you were actually at the studio when things would go out of control.

When I was a kid.....eight bucks and a afternoon at the county fair was worth a million bucks.

When I was a kid..... ninety-eight percent of the folks in the county had never flown on a passenger jet.  Seventy percent of the folks in the county had ridden Trailways or Greyhound.

When I was a kid.... Penicillin was about the only thing that would help you when you got real bad off.

When I was a kid....Aqua Velva was probably the most used aftershave by most guys.

When I was a kid....you thought that anyone making $25k a year were absolutely rich.

When I was a kid....TVs were still manufactured in America.

When I was a kid....the most sugar you could put into your system was a moonpie.

When I was a kid....Paul Harvey could squeeze all the news of the day into ten minutes and you really didn't need much more.  And if you felt like you needed a pick-me-up on Saturday....you'd listen as Paul Harvey gave you one of his fifty-two sermons a year which recharged your focus on life and made you appreciate living.

That Gitmo Story

The news folks kinda figured out that Senator Feinstein asked for a report on the idea of bringing the Gitmo prisoners up into a US prison.  So they went and asked about the reasoning of this.  All she would say was that she thinks the President has a viable option, end of comment.

In 2008, the President laid out this grand plan to end Gitmo's use as a prison, and bring the 'boys' into the US.  There were probably forty campaign speeches made that year on the comment, and this was probably ten percent of the reason he won the Nobel Peace Prize.  Well...other than getting an Illinois privately built prison in line for a contract....nothing else has occurred.

The emphasis?  If you bring the Muslim radicals into the US, then the odds start heating up on allowing a regular US court to handle actions rather than a military tribunal operation.  Then you could introduce various elements of torture which means that you can't really prosecute.  And when you can't prosecute, then you have to find some dopey country who will take the guys that you suddenly want to release.

My humble guess is that a country or two has already signed up to take the 'boys'.  There's probably a federal judge or two already selected as the guy to handle this business.  And there's probably some campaign fund contributions sitting there from someone....to help make this possible.

What happens?  Congress (run by the Republicans) won't budget or consider such a move.  So the President would have to use executive powers to make this happen.  Any private citizen of Illinois could easily launch a case against this and get a federal judge to halt the move until some kind of review is made (there's probably a dozen reviews already accomplished but it never hurts to have one more).

There is one other odd element to this.  The prison atmosphere needs to be clean and limited to strictly the Islamic guys.  If you ever mix any of these characters with regular American prisoners....none of the Islamic guys would survive more than twelve months in a mixed prison.

Of course, all of this is done in the interest of American justice.  Who's version of justice.....is your own best guess.