Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Problem with Math

When I was a kid....math questions laid out in stories...were the most terrible things on the face of the Earth.  They tended to run the stages of: John had forty oranges and gave away fifty percent to his friends, and then ate one-half of what was left.  How many oranges does John have remaining.

I would literally freeze and try to think of the mathematical formula that would fit this problem and how it would work.  Time wasted?  At least five minutes.  Eventually, I'd get to a point where I would just envision forty stupid oranges in some cardboard box and twenty were gone.....they weren't part of my problem anymore.  So when the remaining, I'd just envision me eating half of these, and could just see the remaining ten standing in front of me.  Time wasted under the new concept?  Thirty seconds.  True, I didn't have a formula of sorts to show how I had the answer.....I just had this one thing....the answer.

I noticed this week.....this unusual math instructor.  Apparently, he's gotten pretty bored.....so he's started a new trend in America.

The test question (one of twenty): John's father gave him 1359 marbles.  John swallows 585 marbles, and dies.  John's father decides at the funeral to give away the remaining marbles to John's nine friends....in equal amounts.  How many marbles did each friend get?

It was pretty bad in the old days....but this makes things twice as hard for a guy from Bama.  First, I'd be asking myself what kind of idiot swallows 585 marbles?  Do I know anyone who would do anything like this?  Then I'd wonder if these were full-size or three-quarter size marbles.  Did John sip water or Mountain Dew while swallowing the marbles?  Did John call the emergency room at some point?  Was John on meth, or some Vicodin drug?  What did John's dad write on the tombstone?   How was John remembered by his nine friends?  Did they remove the marbles before burying him?

I'd probably consume thirty minutes on this one problem before I came to the real question....how many marbles did the nine friends really get?

It would bother me to have a math instructor like this.  He would be tempting you to think on things beyond the math problem itself.  Maybe it was a good thing that I graduated from high school in 1977.  If I had problems like this as a fifteen year old kid today.....I'd probably give up school by sixteen and just flip burgers at McDonalds for the rest of my life.

The Badboy LIst

As most of you know....I'm a GS employee with the Department of Defense.  This morning....we had a new directive tossed at us.

There is this list of countries where....if we were planning on traveling to.....we have to ask permission before we can be allowed to go.  This is for military folks and civil service folks....who work for the Pentagon folks.  Typically, the country list includes places like Libya, hostile war zone locations (Afghanistan), and today....extended itself out to most of Mexico.

Cruise ship episodes?  Still possible, but they'd prefer that when the boat docks in these forbidden states of Mexico (they didn't put all the Mexican states on the forbidden list).

I sat and pondered over this.  We've come to the point of putting a good bit of Mexico on some forbidden list.  You can actually compare these areas to hostile war zones....which ought to trigger every single American into asking some stupid questions.  Is it really that unsafe?  Is there even a trend to show a reversal possible....or does it get worse in the future?  Is it even unsafe to travel ten miles over the border and go fishing?

I'm guessing a thousand folks associated with the US military are sitting there tonight.....sipping a Mexican beer, and wondering how to handle this trip they had been planning for three months....which involves a nice hotel, in a hostile and forbidden zone.  Do you write up the request and deal with a US military committee who might allow or disallow your trip, or just drop the whole idea?  Then you have to wonder....do they know something that you don't know....and you'd be better off and safer going to Chicago or Memphis....than traveling to Mexico?

I eventually expect this same Pentagon committee to add neighborhoods of DC, Miami, and New Orleans to the same list.....if they were being practical and right about protecting folks.  It might take ten years....maybe twenty....but they would have to add other unsafe places to this bad-boy list.  The sad thing here....is that you'd be safer in some areas of Mexico....than you would in some areas of Memphis....after dark.   A new reality of sorts.  

Friday, 30 March 2012

Today Show versus Good Morning America?

You can imagine Matt Lauer waking up this week....with the April sweeps coming up and lots of fantastic guests fixed up for NBC's Today Show....feeling good.  Then someone sends him a text....there's this story of Katie Couric....coming over for a week or two in Good Morning America (ABC)....during the sweeps.

You can imagine Matt....kicking the door, then throwing a coffee cup against the wall, and finally yelling out the backdoor.

Katie's intention....just plain fill the shoes for a week or two....nothing more.  But it's a desire of ABC....to make the sweeps fall their way.  It means a huge number for commercial advertising.  To be honest, Katie is lined up and fixed for her talk-show.  To also be honest....no one much anticipates the afternoon talk-show to make any big numbers.

The guys who run the cameras for NBC....have to be grinning.  It's a pretty big stumble for the Today Show now.....if they can't beat Katie Couric.  Matt is looking over the visitor list again and gambling on calling in personal favors.  Can he get Madonna, or is it too late because Katie has already called?  Could he get the President?  Or did Katie already call the President?   You just don't know.

So what's left?  Well....Bryant Gumble.  Matt could call up Bryant and just whisper in his ear.....come over for five days....soak up as much rich coffee and free donuts as you want.  Dress up in the $800 suits and make women beg to watch the Today Show.  Maybe it's a weird idea....but if you want to beat Katie Couric....you gotta fight fire with fire.  Bryant could make women weep....just reading some Shakespeare words and asking stupid questions about the NCAA football possibilities in the fall.

Food Stamp Story

This is the deal.  You have Food Stamp card....you drive over to a place called Rose Supper Club....in north Montgomery, Bama....on the 6th of April.  As you come up and enter, the Food Stamp card gets discounted cover charge....which no one is talking much about the discount involved....and you get some free shots of something (no one talks about what beverage this might be or how diluted it might be).

Naturally, this has disturbed a number of folks throughout the civilized world. It's terrible that you entice these folks with Food Stamps.....to come over and drink booze.  Well....not really.

I looked over the offering, and frankly.....I can't say it really amounts to much.  You get a bunch of guys and gals to all show up.....drink cheap booze.....probably not getting drunk because it's all watered-down, and some folks go home with other folks at the end of the evening.  We can go ahead and admit that a fair number of Food Stamp folks.....are single....and probably need a night out as much as the next individual.

The comical side of this....is that this is a fairly decent place for the folks who hang out there.  The county is happy because some business is making money and paying tax revenue.  And as long as no one uses their Food Stamps at the bar.....there's not much wrong with this deal.

My Neighborhood

Today is a big day in DC....across the river from me.  The first medical mary-j-u-wanna shop opens in DC....called WeGrow (kinda like Wal-Mart, but in a different sense).  There's no free samples, and I'm guessing that folks are shocked as they step inside and learn you really need a doctor's prescription....to get your joint.  Naturally, nothing will be sold on the first day.....but folks will rush to the phone and call up the doc to ask for an appointment.

There are several rules to this DC deal.  First, all of the mary-j-u-wanna must be grown in the District....no importation.  Second, you are supposed to actually live in DC.....in order to get your stuff.  Third, you can't just open the packet there on the street and start smoking it.  You are supposed to take the sealed packet, and travel to your house/apartment.....where you can now rip it open and do your thing.  Third, there are only six cultivation centers authorized to grow the stuff....which strangely enough....almost all are on the east side of DC.

I sat and pondered over this episode and will make these predictions.

This rule about having to be a DC resident to buy the stuff?  I suspect that it might be a draw to convince some out-of-District folks to move to DC and set up a residence.  I might also suspect that some folks will claim they live in DC....getting set up with some cousin or old lady....but in reality....still live in Maryland or Virginia.

I suspect that some doctors will set up a simple $25 fee to hand out a prescription for a month's worth of mary-j-u-wanna.  Cash in hand.....the doctor from Cuba or Mexico or Honduras.....will make a ton of money, and quickly leave the US before the Feds discover their game.

Finally, I suspect that drug dealers on the street will begin to realize they can't make any money off mary-j-u-wanna sales in DC.....swapping over to heavier drugs or moving their operation across to Virginia or Maryland instead.  Maybe eighty percent of the users in DC will be clean users within three years.....buying only from the shops.

A Moment on Jury Reality

For folks who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s....if you sit and try to remember your civics teacher explaining case trials, grand juries, and plain-old jury trials....you will come to this realization that none of these topics were ever mentioned.  In fact, if you attended most college government classes, the odds are against you that these topics were ever mentioned.  So allow me a second to sit and pause over the Florida shooting episode, jury cases, and grand juries.

First, if you ever go and get into simple trouble....like tossing a bucket of paint on your neighbor's car, or stealing your ex-wife's car, or assaulting some bus driver....you simply get arrested, and your case is assigned to some prosecutor.  The case goes in front of some judge, who will listen to your defense, and eventually decide on his own if you are guilty or not....then dishes out the jail time or fine.

Second, if you ever go and do some pretty severe stuff....like killing someone, then the prosecutor goes out and has to gather the witnesses, and drag you to a grand jury.  There, the prosecutor has to present his case in a secret group meeting, and the grand jury (made up of regular folks), will agree to the charges.....and it goes to a judge to run a trial and a jury to pronounce innocence or guilt.  Each state has the little rules after the guilt....whether the jury makes the decision or the jury makes the decision.

Now, there's some things that you might want to realize here.  Back in the 1960s....any idiot prosecutor could appear in front of a Grand Jury, with a pretty lame case, and just talk his way through the Grand Jury, and get the charges fixed up.

Grand Juries in the 1960s and 1970s were made up of some interesting folks.  You had a couple of housewives who watched the Today Show and were entertained by afternoon soap operas.  You had a guy or two who worked at the local gas station....pumping gas.  You had a first-grade teacher.  You might have had an Army or Navy vet in the group.  Toss in a old retired guy or two from WWII.  And you had some clerk from the local bank.  This was a simple group to convince of severe charges.

Well....in the last decade.....things have changed a bit.

So now, the prosecutor has an Army vet with at least a two-year degree and fairly curious about things....enough to ask questions.  Two or three business folks will likely be in the group.....who tend to ask questions.  The housewives group?  Well.....they don't watch the Today Show anymore....they watch Fox News, and they ask questions.  Then you've got those pesky engineer guys who show up.....who form process groups at work and can play link-the-dots on a white board.

Suddenly, the prosecutor has people asking pretty demanding questions.  What was simple thirty years ago....is no longer simple.  Cops collected DNA but it doesn't match up?  Circumstantial evidence for everything you've got?  Cops dropped the ball on several bits of evidence?  The Grand Jury can stop you in a heartbeat, and just say "no" to the charges.

Which brings us to the Florida shooting episode between the Latino guy and the black kid.  Normally, a prosecutor would appear in front of Grand Jury within a week or so after the episode.  Cops would have enough evidence to get you fixed up.  Nothing has happened yet.  I'm suspecting that the evidence collected....really isn't that good, and the present Grand Jury probably has stopped some cases from progressing.  Course, Grand Juries only stay around for a certain amount of time, and then a new Grand Jury steps in.  Maybe a second Grand Jury would view the limited evidence better.

The statement involvement?  Well....they still have to entertain the Grand Jury, and I have doubts that they feel great about getting charges approved at the present time.

All in all....things have gotten tougher, not easier....for prosecution teams.

This all is foreign knowledge to the majority of folks upset by the mess in Florida.  None of them were ever told how jury system works and how American history has changed our whole perception of charges.  Getting into a jury trial today....is probably twice as hard as it was thirty years ago.  Toss in the science of jury selection, and you've got a pretty decent chance of beating a case by having a hung jury.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Simple Explanation

I haven't said much over this Army guy who killed a number of folks in Afghanistan.  As usual....I waited for the smoke to settle, so you can come to a fair conclusion.

The cause of the episode?  I'm going to take this as a pretty good guess....but he was on a good pain-killer, compliments of the Army or some associate medical individual back in Washington state.  My guess?  Vicodin.  Between the pain-killer (which he probably was on for more than two years) and a bit of booze (illegal by military folks in a war-zone).....he got into a hallucinogenic-type state of mind.  As far as he was concerned, he was acting out some scene.  In the end, he remembers nothing.

It's a curious thing....in the past month....DOD (the Pentagon folks) have jumped up and tossed a couple of pain-killers now on their forbidden list for drug testing.  They didn't immediately do it.....what they wanted folks to know was that by late summer, you could be potentially tested.  And if you had these pain-killers in your system, without a prescription....you would be kicked out.

The curious thing is that they never explained how they decided that they had a problem and why certain drugs (like Vicodin) got onto this special list.

So as the days and weeks go by....and eventually the Army has to settle on an explanation for this guy.....you will eventually hear this comment about pain-killers.  Remember where you heard it first.

A Legend Passes

A legend of sort.....passed away yesterday.  I doubt that the big name evening news journalists will mention it....but banjo legend Earl Scruggs passed away.  There's this short list of guys who twisted country music into a creative art.  For those who don't really remember much on Earl Scruggs...it was he and Lester Flatt, who made up the tune to the Beverly Hillbillies.

The best prospective to have of Earl Scruggs?  At some point around a decade ago....country music legend Porter Wagoner was asked to describe what Scruggs had done in his life, and said: "I always felt like Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He is the best there ever was, and the best there ever will be."

The sultan of twang....has left this Earth, and we are missing him already.

Our Hoodie Representative

I tried t make sense out of this.  Representative Bobby Rush, Democratic rep from Illinois, was bound and determined to stand for his cause.....so he donned this hoodie outfit and started speaking in front of Congress.

There's this rule that you just can't wear a hat....inside the main "stage" of Congress.  You can wear a hat in your Congressional office, and you can wear a hat....up until you enter the main hall area....but it's been a long and established rule that you just can't wear a hat.  So the head guy in the room at the time....a Republican....orders Representative Bobby Rush to stand down.  Bobby refuses, and eventually....he is escorted out of the room.

What did it accomplish?  I sat and pondered over this a while, and the best I can say is that Bobby Rush will get the hoodie vote out in his district of the south side of Chicago.  Not that hoodies typically vote, but I suspect in the next election....the hoodie crowd will come out and support Bobby Rush.

Beyond the hoodie vote.....Representative Bobby Rush tended to look like some thug or gangster-type character that you run into around midnight in southeast DC.

My advice....for all of the wannabe thug or gangster-wannabes around Congress....take this Friday evening off and don your hoodie, and go hang out around Union Station, and then walk south toward Anacosta.  Don't make any funny moves, and walk as fast as you can.  If you see cop cars off in the distance....try to stay in sight of those cars.  If you see any other hoodie-dressed guys out and within sixty feet of you....you need to say a silent prayer and hope that they will just pass you.  Avoid eye contact with the other hoodie guys.  If they ask what gang you are associated with....make up something quick and just hope that this stupid act of yours will come quickly to an end.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Alternate History

George Zimmerman is edging along his gated community....looking at this kid, who he has never seen before.  The kid is dressed in a hoodie and is acting a bit suspicious.  George eventually gets out.....calls 911....lets them in on this suspicious character.  George is eventually told by 911....to disengage, and go back to his vehicle....the cops will be there shortly.

Well....George eventually does turn to leave....only after asking the kid why he was in the neighborhood.  The kid?  Trayvon Martin, the kid, has decided that someone has threatened his position in life and is going to "mark his territory".  So he moves up...as George is turned, wallops George up side the head, and George starts to go down.

Trayvon starts to pound away on George.....who really isn't in the best of shape.  George has a pistol in his belt, but never gets that chance to pull it out.  Trayvon thumps George's head against the ground and bangs away with his fist. George eventually loses consciousness.  Trayvon gets up....a bit blooded here and there, and now decides to leave quickly.  A witness has seen part of this but it's getting dark and he'll never be able to truly recognize anyone.

The cops arrive to find George laying on the ground, in a unconscious state.  The ambulance comes and takes him off to the hospital.  There's brain swelling and a major threat to his life.  George goes into a coma.

Trayvon walks onto his dad's house, where dad notices the clothing messed up and the blood on the hoodie, but never asks any questions.  The next day....Trayvon's dad is told by a neighbor about the guy beat up down the block.  He kinda knows what happened, but he just isn't about to rat on his own son.  It's hard for a dad to reach any other conclusion.  You simply hope that this will go away and your son realizes just how much trouble he could have gotten himself into.  It's a secret you will take to your grave, in your son's best interest.

George lays in a coma for five days, and then passes away.  The cops quiz everyone in the neighborhood, but there's no possible suspect.  There's DNA collected by the cops, and they have a sample ready to compare, but no suspect.

Over the next month, this entire gated community is visibly shaken.  A local honest guy....beaten to death in their community.  They all start to carry guns in open sight.  They are prepared to shoot anyone who acts suspicious in their neighborhood.  The cops promise action, but basically can't find any suspect.  Trayon's dad?  He just kinda looks the other way, and makes sure the kid doesn't come around the neighborhood anymore.

Three years pass and Trayvon is this wannabe player guy who deals on the side a good bit, and gets into a fight with some customer one night.  There's cops on the scene who arrest and charge Trayvon with a crime.....which requires a DNA sample because of the accusations.  Trayvon realizes the implications and the very next day....has his dad bail him out.  Dad plucks down $4k and does a deal with the bail bondsman.

Within four hours, Trayvon has called an associate who has a cousin in Chicago who will take care of him.  So Trayvon boards a Greyhound bus and leaves town....quietly.  The cops show up on dad's doorstep five days later....with an arrest warrant for George's murder.  Dad knows nothing except that junior is gone.  The bail bondesman takes dad's money, and is now hunting the kid.

The parents both defend the kid and can't understand how their innocent Trayvon could ever be accused of killing some Latino guy.

Eight years pass now, while Trayvon has renamed himself Antonio and gotten himself hooked up with a Chicago hot chic.  Tempers occasionally flare up and Trayvon has admitted to the girlfriend that he got into trouble in Florida for hurting a guy.  One night, the girlfriend is angry about his behavior and calls the cops.

Chicago's finest come and arrest Trayvon.  The DNA is tested, and within twenty-four hours....the Florida cops are interested in him.

There's a problem or two now.....because there's no true witness to this murder.  Trayvon's parents have hired up this fancypants lawyer and they are working this deal.  George's family is furious....because the life sentence is now gone, and the best they can hope for....is fifteen years.  George's family tries to get the local media involved, but it's just another case of some Latino guy killed by some black guy....nothing more.

Trayvon gets a negotiation deal now.....where he might actually walk free in thirteen years.  George's family goes to CNN, ABC, and even Fox News....but no one really will tell this terrible story of how their beloved George was violently assaulted and killed by this kid in a gated community.

Eventually, the Latino channel in America....brings the whole story out.  Trayvon's family explains how he was just a lost kid who got into the wrong neighborhood, and it was totally unfair of George causing the problem in the first place.  They can't really explain the school suspensions, the tattoos, or the drug arrests.

At some point, a professor digs into statistics after George's death.  A trend started up where more people carried weapons and started to shoot more readily.  He could actually show an extra forty to fifty people tended to be shot first, and answers provided later.....after this untimely death of George.

Trayvon eventually released from prison and ends up back living his aged mother....mostly just hanging out and talking about his wasted life.....doing an occasional drug or two.  There's a fight one night in the neighborhood....where one guy thinks that Trayvon ratted on him.  So a shooting eventually occurs, with Trayvon dead.

The local press carries his untimely death....talking about the various threats out there on the street and how Trayvon was trying to rebuild his life.  It's a positive story.....no matter how it's spun.

It's just an alternate history....that's all.  Yes, really.  Sometimes, you just can't change history as much as you'd like.

My Vote

I was sitting there on Sunday morning....reading through the local news, and suddenly came to realize that there was going to be this localized Arlington election for the city council.  One of the members had taken some position and vacated their city council position.  The election was going to be held on Tuesday (yesterday).  To be honest....it's mostly by my habit of reading the Washington Post on occasion, that I came to notice this election....otherwise, I wouldn't even have known about it.

So we had three candidates....a Republican, a Democrat, and a Green Party individual.  The only key factor I could see was that the Green Party individual was standing up against several infrastructure projects which had been rushed up and passed by the council.  So I made this decision to vote for the Green individual.  Yeah, it's a bit odd....but then it's just a city council slot.

So I walked yesterday morning....about a mile over to the recreation center in the neighborhood, and voted.  It was an odd episode because they had three desks set up to handle voters, but as far as I could see....no one was voting.  By last night, the total number of votes cast for Arlington was around 16k votes.....which would have been around 12-percent of the registered voters of the county.  It was for all practical purposes.....one of the lowest turn-outs in the county's history.  The Green individual?  Well....they lost in a big sort of way, but still pulled out a 1k votes.  The Democratic candidate won, with just 900 votes to spare.

I'm guessing that of the 14k voters....probably over ten percent were like me....just accidentally finding out about the election at the last minute....which really says alot about democracy, and the fact that you can flip a coin on candidates and just pick someone without much thought about the situation.

Just Observations

The Supreme Court episode unfolding with Obamacare.  I spent around three hours this weekend....with a bunch of fancy dressed media guys speaking how Justice Kennedy was this wildcard, and could come down on the side of supporting the new law.  After yesterday's commentary by Justice Kennedy....I'd say that his support in favor of the mandatory portion of the law is virtually zero, and that whole bunch of talk this past weekend was mostly all bogus to fill up hour upon hour of news stuff (note, I do mean just plain stuff).  It's a five to four vote in June, and folks need to start thinking how this affects the election.  I just don't think it helps the President at this point, and just adds another layer of issues to deal with in September.

The Fed guys have brought in some voice expert to analyze the last phone call with Trayvon Martin in Florida.  Their hopes are that they can provide how the Latino guy uttered some racial slur, and then run up some case about a hate-crime.  In some states, this strategy might work.....but with the population of Florida and the variable possibilities of a jury.....I'd say it's a waste of time and money.  As each day goes by.....almost every single type of case appears to be more difficult to win.  The issue with the racial slur in Florida.....you've got half the population that utters it on a daily basis in dealing with whites, Latinos, Cubans, and blacks.  With any of them sitting on a jury.....things just don't look that good in making a federal case out of it.

Finally, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan?  I keep trying to imagine this movie being made and how some producer comes to select Jane Fonda.  Maybe twenty-five years ago when Jane could still act....but she hasn't made any kind of decent movie since the early 1990s.  Then her playing Nancy?  This would be like asking Larry the Cable Guy to play Jimmy Carter, or John Travolta to play King Kong Bundy (the wrestler), or getting Charlie Sheen to play Winston Churchill.  For some reason, I just don't think this movie with Jane playing Nancy will amount to much.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

My Neighborhood

For those who aren't aware of it....the DC government is in serious financial trouble.  It's so bad, that they are trying just about every trick in the book to raise more revenue capital.  This week, the Mayor came out with his new idea....to hustle more booze sales and tax revenue from those sales.  This is a three-step approach.

First, the Mayor wants every booze shop in DC....to open at 7AM, rather than 9AM....like they currently do. In my case, I'd be able to cross over the river....walk up to a beverage shop at 7AM.....buy my booze, and start drinking early.  I would have bought it at 9AM.....so it's hard to figure out how this would help to funnel another $5.3 million in additional sales.  Who typically buys booze at 7AM?  Well....that's another issue.  There just aren't that many guys with a priority of buying booze that early from the liquor shops. A guy from Bama would be hard-pressed to explain this to his Baptist associates.

Second, the Mayor wants bar open an extra hour each night.  For Friday and Saturday night....that would mean closing at 4AM.  Course, the trains and buses usually shut down entirely around 2AM, with a couple remaining trains running....until 5AM, when they all start back on schedule.  What's a drunk guy at 4AM to do in DC?  Well....with no transportation around.....you'd naturally drive home.  So more DWIs and more car accidents at 4AM.  You can imagine a higher ratio of cops around now.....to take care of the drunks at 4AM.

Third and final.....the Mayor is asking for extended serving times for the week or two leading up to each Presidential Inauguration.  This means that no big-name bars will be shutting down at normal times with all the folks from various states visiting DC during this hot period up until the Inauguration.  Everyone will sip long and hard.

Will it dump $5 million extra into the DC pot?  It's hard to say.  One has to admit that DC is desperate for cash revenue and they'd do just about anything.....to get more cash in the pot.

The Lose-Lose-Lose Scenario

The more time that evolves with this Florida shooting episode....the less likely you are to believe the kid was totally innocent.

Over the weekend, someone finally figures out that the continual flood of pictures of the kid....reflected a 13-year old kid....which he wasn't (he was 16).  So they dig around and find the newest group of pictures.  One of them featured him in some gang pose with the various finger-signs being shown.

Then someone went and found his chat pages, where associates hinted of mary-j-u-wanna sales.  Course, there's nothing to say he did sales, but this commentary back and forth doesn't help things.  The empty baggy found in his school bag....with the scent of mary-j-u-wanna?  Just an empty bag.....which probably was full once, but you just don't know when.

The suspension from school?  Well....all the school will say for the two-week period of suspension....was that it was centered around being in an unauthorized area.  I tried to visualize where in a school that it would get you banned for two weeks of school.  The school bus parking lot? The teachers lounge?  That would usually only get you a day or two of suspension in most normal cases.  The girls bathroom?  Well....you just don't know where in a school a kid could go and get two weeks of a suspension.  Naturally, the news folks aren't asking questions about this.

There are three or four other bits to the updates as well.....that tend to make you ask stupid questions....with no answers from the news folks.

The state of Florida will likely try to prosecute this guy....my humble bet.  But the problem is that you have to talk a jury into going against the Latino guy.  As a defense attorney brings out these issues with the kid....then goes into the possible scenario of what happened that night.....I doubt that you can get all the members of the jury to go against the Latino guy.  Hung jury, with a second trial.....which results in another hung jury.  The Feds will step in and run up a case of a hate-crime.....which has to occur in Florida, which dissolves in a likely hung jury again.

With the government likely having to pay for the defense of this guy in all of these attempts....I expect at least twenty million dollars likely spent by the end of the mess, with no conviction.  The family will go to civil court, and likely not even get a conclusion out of that attempt.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Flexible President

The President sat there today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev....in reality, the number two guy in Russia, and with a hot mic open.....the President commented: "This is my last election.  After my election, I have more flexibility."  This was all in response to the missile and nuke negotiation business.

Naturally, this upset the Republicans a good bit....with them wondering exactly what kind of extra flexibility would have after November, that you don't have now?

I sat and pondered over this, and eventually came to this conclusion....the President knew about the hot mic and absolutely wanted to make this comment in public.

I suspect that as the President meets every single Prime Minister and head of state....he basically utters the same phrase: "This is my last election.  After my election, I have more flexibility."

As the President meets the head of the Peruvian government.....he utters the phrase: "This is my last election.  After my election, I have more flexibility."

As the President meets the head of the Mexican government....he utters the phrase: "This is my last election.  After my election, I have more flexibility."

As the President meets the head of the Chinese government....he utters the phrase: "This is my last election.  After my election, I have more flexibility."

Even when he meets up with the head of the Tonga Islands government.....he utters the same phrase: "This is my last election.  After my election, I have more flexibility."

My guess is that the Russians momentarily felt really great over the comment, and later when they talked to their spy department....discovered that the President even uttered the phrase to the head of the Icelandic government.....so it really doesn't mean too much.

If the President really thought that he had a great period opening up in November, then he'd anticipate a majority of Democrats winning in the House of Representatives (which won't happen), and that they maintain status quo in the Senate (likely to be closer to a 50-50 split than marginal majority that they currently have).  A true President would be working hard to ensure a bigger win for his party and hope to have better standings over the next two years.  That just isn't going to happen.

So next week....as the President comes up to meet with some head of state from Honduras or Nigeria.....you might ought to expect him to grin just for a second and whisper some little message to the visitor....and the visitor will grin....then you can feel assured that the President will be more flexible to help Honduras....after the November election.  I don't how flexibility will help Honduras and America.....but it sounds good.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Punching Above Our Weight

In the past week....some Danish observer came to discover that President Obama recently had a meeting with the Danish Prime Minister....and the comment made was: "We have no stronger ally than the Denmark. They consistently punch above their weight.”

He thought he'd heard that before, and went looking.  The President had made the same quote for twenty-odd countries that had come to visit the White House.

We have no stronger ally.....than the Netherlands....and they were consistently punching above their weight.

We have no stronger ally....than Ireland....and they were consistently punching above their weight.

We have no stronger ally....than the Philippines....and they were consistently punching above their weight.

We have no stronger ally....than Norway....and they were consistently punching above their weight.

I'm pretty sure that Peru is punching above their weight.....so is Nigeria....and probably even El Salvador.

In fact, there's probably over one hundred nations in this category.

What idiot writes up the script for the President?  Well....it would be interesting to meet the guy.  I'm pretty sure that he comes in around 9AM....sips coffee for four hours....has a light lunch in DC....watches some afternoon game-show.....and somewhere around 3PM.....writes the next day's text for the President.  It's typically eight lines, and six of them are identical to what he wrote yesterday.  My humble guess is that the guy makes $85k a year....just writing garbage.

As for Denmark?  Well....the Danes tend to have a sense of humor and to be honest.....they don't know much about fighting above the belt or below the belt.  Danes don't fight much.  I'd even be honest enough to say that the typical Dane works hard, pays an extraordinary amount of taxes, and probably would like to drink more booze after work but they really can't afford it because of all the alcohol taxes.

I suspect that some Americans are looking at the this commentary and asking themselves....could the United States be punching away....below our weight?  Could we be a washed-up Rocky.....trying to engage on another bout with some heavyweight but we simply don't have the strength to punch away?  Is this the best that we can do?

I'm hoping Tonga is scheduled for meeting the President in the next month or two....and when the President gets around to some kind words.....I would offer these:

"Tonga is one heck of a nation.....slugging away and continually punching above their weight."

At least it'd be slightly different.  The Tonga guys would be happy enough over that.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Hoodie Thing

Over the past week, I've watched the Florida shooting episode unfold.  Some Latino guy felt threatened....justly or unjustly....we still don't see a clear answer on that....and shoot some 17-year old kid.

There are a couple of facts to the case, an inflamed society (because the cops still don't think they have enough evidence to arrest), and a bunch of media folks saying smart and stupid things.

Yesterday morning....Geraldo Riveria of Fox News....came out and noted that the hoodie that the kid wore....while not a big reason to the shooting....was a contributing factor.  He even admitted that he just didn't ever want his son to wear a hoodie in New York City....because the cops, the bad guys, and the public.....all saw it as a magnet for trouble.  Geraldo got into all kinds of trouble, and various news journalists came out to defend the poor hoodie crowd.

Let me offer some observations.

First, if you came into DC around midnight and you had the cops go around picking up every kid eighteen and under wearing hoodies in DC.....the vast majority would be carrying either drugs or weapons.  The DC cops know this....but they can't freak out the public by having a anti-hoodie strategy.

Second, if you went to any urban dweller who'd been robbed over the past year by a kid (under eighteen)....the vast majority of the urban dwellers would say that the kids were dressed in hoodies.  If you asked the same guys if they feel threatened now by kids in hoodies when walking around in malls or parking lots.....they'd all say yes.

Third, innocent hoodie kids think it's pretty cool....but along about late evening hours in DC....if you walk around in a hoodie.....your gang buddies might associate you with the wrong group....and kill you over your hoodie dress situation.

Fourth and final.....cops look at hoodie kids like a magnet.  Maybe nine out of ten kids in a hoodie are clean and innocent.  Cops aren't looking at the innocence business....they look at crime on a daily basis and the statistical average that most criminal kids they come across....wear hoodies.

So in the end....hoodies may be great fashion statements.....but the reality is that they are a magnet.  Maybe you feel lucky tonight.....maybe you don't.....but the odds of wearing a hoodie and getting into some kind of trouble or mess is higher than wearing a plain $14 K-Mart green wind-breaker.  It's kind of sad that you start thinking over your life coming to bad ending....just over a fashion statement at 10PM at night.

Friday, 23 March 2012

My Neighborhood

Sometime last year....our DC local city council guy....Harry Thomas....got caught stealing $300k of city funds.  It was an elaborate act....some fake charity he created...siphoning off funds for vacations, cars, etc.  Most folks were in agreement....he was guilty, and needed a fair amount of time in jail.  And he needed to pay back the $300k.   Harry said sure, but he wanted this in payments.  This was obviously a hint of problems to come.....as he went off to jail.

Today in the DC news.....the city of DC is admitting that Harry is a bit behind in payments.  They've gotten $70k at present.  One news source says that $50k of that....is thought to come from Harry's lawyer, not Harry.

By the end of 2013, it's all supposed to be paid out.  My humble guess is that things won't turn out like folks thought.  Harry will declare some kind of bankruptcy deal by the fall of this year, and the whole mess will go to some judge to sort out.  This judge will try to make sense out of Harry's finances.....which probably lay in a big mess.  Eventually, the remaining $230k pay-back.....will just be dismissed because Harry just ain't got the money.

You'd think that the judge would go after Harry's house and just seize it....but as the news folks over at The Needle (DC's city news blog) points out.....it's in the name of Harry's wife.  Who writes up home ownership papers in their wife's name?  Well....it's hard to find situations like this.

Meanwhile.....the federal investigation guys are looking at several other folks on the city council, their use of cashier's checks for the last election (receiving them), and the mayor is a target too.  My humble guess is that at least one more guy is going off to jail before the next election comes around.  Worst case scenario....half of the city council is gone.

As you can imagine....DC is a pretty odd place.  When I wrote of my personal feelings upon arrival in January of 2010.....that comment of "I'm a stranger in a strange land".....it still stands.

It Would Have Been an Interesting Weekend

Sometimes, you can predict something will occur.

Tomorrow has been set aside, for weeks in fact, for this rally in Washington DC.....at the National Mall, in front of the steps of the capital building.  The rally?  Reason Rally.....an atheist rally concerning political America in 2012.

I looked over the various groups who are sponsoring the deal....American Atheists, American Humanist Association, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, United Coalition of Reason, Center for Inquiry, Stiefel Freethought Foundation, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, and Freedom From Religion Foundation (printed over at Politico).  It's the New York Yankees of atheists in America.

The curious thing?  Well....a whole lot of political talk would have occurred tomorrow over atheist feelings, the Republicans, and President Obama's accomplishments.  It's hard to imagine that atheists are mostly Democrats in nature.  I sat for a while, pondering this....having never thought much about the political persuasion of atheists.

It's hard to put the dynamics of this into prospective.  It's like saying cat owners are mostly Democrat, or dog owners are mostly Republican.  Maybe tent campers are mostly Democrat, and RV campers are mostly Republican.  Maybe Sears shoppers are mostly Democrat, while Wal-Mart shoppers are Republican.  When you get to this point of breaking folks down into a political persuasion.....something is wrong....if you ask me.

But here's the thing.  For five days, the weather folks of Washington DC have been in this announcement stage.  One of the biggest storm fronts of the past ten years is moving slowly across America and will arrive around early Saturday morning.  Rain, thunder, lightning, and hail are predicted.  It isn't a small front.....it'll last for all day Saturday, all day Sunday, and barely leave as the sun rises on Monday.  It will be an absolute miserable weekend for everyone in DC, if they want to hang out.....anywhere in public.

So a guy from Bama would view this slow moving front....the massive size....the potential for lots of lightning....the moment of arrival....this atheist group meeting up at the same time and place.....and say that God only has a few obvious tools to use in delivering a message.  One might come to this conclusion....that God has whipped up as big a message as possible to the atheist groups.  Unless you are really charged up, peppered up, and fully motivated....you won't come to the National Mall, and that kind of says something.  I expect the Mall to be mostly empty by noon on Saturday.

The national news guys will probably carry thirty seconds of mention on the cancellation of the atheist political meeting in DC.  They probably won't mention the size or dynamic nature of this approaching storm.  If they did lay out the entire story....you'd start to wonder if some mysterious hands are at work here.

Update: Well....the weather guys screwed this one up.  Saturday in DC was drizzle mostly, with no thunder or lightning.  Sunday?  Mostly thick clouds....cool....a sprinkle or two.  The fantastic storm front?  It was all gone by the time it arrived in DC.  The God angle on this episode....just didn't come through.  Course, maybe God wanted them to meet....discuss politics and atheistic values.  Maybe a bunch of idiots going back home and trying to engage on their favorite candidates because of their God-less character...would make folks just start laughing, and vote for the other guy.  Hmmmm.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

America's Future Political Analyst

This is what we know.  There's this Virginia eighth-grade teacher....handling this civics honors class....who we shall leave as nameless.....who gave his eight-grade group this project.  The emphasis of the project?  They had to watch one of the recent debates with the four remaining Republican candidates....doing what you'd amount to as research.  You had to list out the positions of your guy, which you were assigned.  I won't use the word "weakness" but I would imagine the teacher tried to make them find this and write it out.

At the end, the teacher wanted the kids to find a point on the internet, where they could email to the candidate or the Democratic party.  But they didn't really have to send it to the Obama team.

I sat and pondered over this.  Naturally, a bunch of parents from this district are upset about what occurred.  But I thought it over and considered several facts.

First, any idiot adult who takes political research from a 14-year old kid.....is an absolute idiot.  If the Democrats are relying on 14-year old kids to deliver the 'bad news'.....it says some pretty comical stuff.

Second, if you asked any eighth-grade kid to explain politics to you.....they'd basically look at you and freeze.  If you asked about the infield-fly rule, out-of-bounds, the chief characters of Gilligan's Island, the words to a recent rap song, or the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.....they'd do a pretty good job.  Beyond that.....you've got mostly a bunch kids with no real knowledge base.

Third, this civics honors stuff?  It's what kids now toss onto their resume to a fancy-pants college.....in hopes of convincing them that they have the right stuff to attend some $30k a year university, and that they've washed old folk's necks, trimmed grass on library lawns, ran a homeless shelter for eight hours, and rebuilt a 1934 Ford sedan.  When I was a kid....we didn't have this honors crap, and you mostly just tried to stay out of trouble, graduate, and get a job with the paper mill.

Fourth, and final....an eighth-grade kid....analyzing Ron Paul?  Can you imagine this poor kid....sitting in the living room after watching the whole episode.....shocked at how different Ron Paul is from the group, and trying to get Grandma to comment.  Grandma say: ".....he's nuts".  The kid turns to Uncle Karl, who flips out from his Vietnam drug episodes one night a week, and he talks for an hour about the brilliant Ron Paul, but he makes just as much nonsense as Ron Paul.

So finally, you turn to your dad....your pillar of inspiration.  Dad is a bit stoic in nature, and has simply a one-liner....."If Ron Paul was selling tractor tires, I'd buy two", and leaves it at that.  You can imagine the kid trying to write this commentary up for a stupid honors class....and the best that he can offer the Obama team on the weakness stuff....is your dad's commentary about buying two tractor tires from Ron Paul.  You can imagine $100k being spent now by the President's team....on some stupid tractor tire video advertisement....how the President is a better salesman of tractor tires, than contender Ron Paul.

Sadly, the nation has slipped and fallen, and just can't get up.

Government Logic

When I came to the Pentagon two years ago....we had this nifty Xerox copier/scanner.  This $15k machine is a beast and proudly works like a champ.  In an average week, I need to PDF around twenty documents, which flow up and down various channels, and it merely takes 90 seconds to put in my email address, hit scan, and it copies it into PDF format....then ships it out to my email box.

In a matter of days....this enormous "power" will go away.  My agency (to remain unnamed) has come to this conclusion....that I cannot be trusted with PDF-power.  So when I scan....it'll go into a magic digital folder, where only appointed and special people....will read the document, and determine if I'm protecting it to the degree required.  Classified information?  No.....in two years, I have not touched a single classified document.  Everything is just plain unclassified.

How much time has been added to a process?  Well....I would be guessing that if I scanned three documents in the morning....provided the one and only person in my group is around.....I might see the documents by 1PM.  If the one and only person is not around......it might be tomorrow....or even next week.

How do you get to be the person with power to release scanned PDF documents?  I'm curious about this....but it's best not to ask.

It's kinda like Superman and his X-Ray vision.....with folks feeling uneasy about what he could see or not see.  So there's a special person who previews what Superman could see....if he had full-power, but he doesn't.

The sad thing here.....I'd be better off taking documents for PDF production home, and doing them on my cheapo Canon printer/scanner, and then emailing them to work.  Or, I could walk over to the Air Force area of the Pentagon and ask someone to scan the document for me, and just email it to me.  The Army guys would do the same....as would the Navy.

Luckily, my organization hasn't analyzed if I flush once, or twice when I do my bathroom business.  If they knew I tended to flush twice....they'd have to remove my flushing powers, and regulate someone to be "the flusher".  Maybe it's true....I just can't be trusted.

Update: one of the smart guys in the unit said yesterday that there is some plan underway to invent a print-server operation....where the old method could just continue on.  The problem is....they haven't been able to make such a thing to work yet.  It's like standing in the midst of WWII, knowing the Nazis are working on a nuke bomb, and you are begging for Einstein to just come through and invent this damn nuke bomb to save America.

The Wrong Priority

You can usually tell when a city council has peaked out and has a full-time job to do a part-time function.  This week....the LA city council moves to a resolution which will condemn (as much as a city council can do) various types of speech that might be uttered over airways within their city.  The goal?  They've decided that radio hosts are using racist and sexist comments during their conversations on the air.

They will cite various examples....the Rush Limbaugh issue.....the comments made about Whitney Houston after her death....etc.

You've got two issues here if you sit long enough to think about it.

First, there's the radio crowd which is desperate enough to say just about anything....to get you peppered up and locked onto listening to their product.  While getting their crowd locked into place....they naturally anchor the anti-crowd into place and they start voicing complaints.

Second, there's the city council crowd.....which are desperate to lock their crowd into place....so they tend to pick the anti-position, and then yank on the political cord for a while.

The sad thing here is that you've got just as many potholes on the streets of LA....as you had last year.  You've got just as much crime, as you had last year.  You've got just as many distressed businesses this year.....as you had last year.  With all the various problems....you'd think that the city council would prioritize things.  But in this whacked up world.....containing "slut" speech is more important than creating 100 new jobs.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

No Downfall, Spiral or Evolution Underway

When I stepped back into the US in 2010.....I came to watch more business news, and read the Wall Street Journal on a regular basis.  There are a number of observations I can make....but this blog concerns what I see as an odd media direction.  There are numerous books out there and being reviewed by folks.....over the downfall of capitalism, the spiral of capitalism, the decline of capitalism, and the evolution of capitalism.  I'd be guessing that over the past three years....at least one hundred books have appeared in some fashion or another.  The theme is typically....capitalism is dead or dying.

I don't profess to being an expert on capitalism, or having studied much of anything beyond basic economics in college.  From high school....I don't remember any teacher ever mentioning the word capitalism more than once or twice a year.  But I've had these fifty odd years of living in the US and around the world.....and have come to have this funny and amusing view of capitalism.  The basic structure of capitalism hasn't changed in two thousand years....which ought to make the negative folks rethink their entire argument.

There are five basic rules to capitalism:

1.  You build and sell only what people want.  If you build or attempt to sell something they don't want.....they won't buy it.  It is that simple.

2.  If someone builds your product at a cheaper price but at an inferior quality, you still 'own' the market.  Once they pass your quality level, you are screwed.  It is that simple.

3.  You have to expect the government (state, federal, or international) to impede, hinder, or tax everything you market, sell, or manufacture.  It is that simple.

4.  High technology developments never occur in 3rd-world countries, but they will adapt to your product and eventually reproduce it for less.  It is that simple.

5.  Risk is the heart and anchor of capitalism.  Failure to understand or grasp risk is the chief problem with anti-capitalists.  No risk?  There would only be Coke and Pepsi existing today, and they'd be $7 a can.  No risk?  No car would be advanced beyond 1960s technology today and max speed would be 45 mph.  No risk?  There would be one brand of dog chow, and it'd be $40 for what you commonly pay $9 for today.  No risk?  Whiskey would be sold at no more than seven percent alcohol and cost $35 a bottle.  It is that simple.

So when some Harvard professor appears on the Today Show and chats over the demise of capitalism.....you might ought to ask yourself some stupid and simple questions.  You need to ask yourself....what exactly is waiting in the wings to replace capitalism?

A Flush A Day

Nassau County, New York, for those who aren't aware of the legendary status of the county.....is one of the biggest tax revenue buckets in the nation.  The cops, the county road guys, the local jailhouse, the prosecution salary structure, the judges, the schools, etc.....demand a huge pot to operate from.  So taxes are a daily topic of discussion.

This week....the county commission came to the schools, and basically said that there would be this fee assigned for each flush of the toilet in the school system.  Basically, you can figure one penny per gallon, being assigned to the nineteen school districts in the county.  The revenue gathered?  One district figures their bill (and they weren't a large district)....would be around $87k for this penny-per-flush deal.

Naturally, this would bring a Bama guy around to a moment of pondering.  I'm kinda surprised that county commissions haven't jumped on this before and done this to everyone.  Schools and church organizations are typically exempt from fees like this.....so this is a fresh new prospective....no one gets a free ticket.

It brings you around to thinking about the quantity of water necessary to flush.  Having lived in Europe....it's a bit different there.  There's no standing water much in a European toilet....when you flush....it literally pumps in the water necessary to wash your "item" away at that point.  If you needed a full gallon....fine, you can press the right button and get the gallon.  But there's the half-gallon button sitting there and usually provides all you need.

This brings you to being a parent in Nassau County.  You can imagine this note coming home from Johnny Junior's school.  It basically says that school figured out that each kid uses the toilet an average of twelve times a week, that a school fee is now figured up, and you owe $12 for Johnny Junior's waste disposal for the entire year.

You pause over this....telling Johnny Junior to just walk outside the school for all his 'liquid' disposal episodes....and tell the school that you think $5 is enough for his more solid disposal.  School officials are disturbed over your advice....in that they really don't want a urine smell around the school bus parking lot.  Some folks might even discuss the idea of teaching every kid to "hold" in his situation as long as possible, in hopes that he might leave the school at 3PM and make it home in time to release.  The medical folks would be fairly upset about a suggestion like that.

Eventually, someone suggests that guys should do their liquid disposal together....two at a time....and save a cent on each flush.  Someone will say that invites some funny feelings, and probably isn't the kind of feeling you want in a high school bathroom.

All of this simply invites 'toilet-talk' around the county commission.  Someone will ask if a fee box ought to be put into each bathroom at the county court house, and make everyone pay a penny as they enter to flush.  A laugh or two will occur, and eventually it's all forgotten.  The sad thing here....is that the schools will simply take this fee and pass it on.  So the county should have just plain taxed everyone and avoided the middle guy, but they weren't smart enough to figure that out.

The Local Guys Know the Score

I read through this Sanford, Florida shooting episode between the Latino guy and the black kid.  It is kinda amazing the amount of press coverage yesterday....from the Today Show....all the way to the local 6PM news.  What you have is some Latino property owner in a gated community....who thinks he is followed by some black kid who is going to rob him.  A discussion or argument occurs at some point, within the gated community, and the black kid (17 years old) is shot by the Latino guy.

George Zimmerman, the Latino guy, claims self-defense.  The parents of the kid, Trayvon Martin, claim he was unjustly shot.  The local cops have gone through the evidence, by local laws.  They haven't charged George with any crime yet.  The parents of the kid are very unhappy with this....demanding charges immediately.  Naturally, the Justice Department is now involved, and working toward a Grand Jury episode, with federal laws applying.

I would make three observations in this case.

First, based on the telephone recording with 9-11 operators....I'd suggest that George (the shooter) might have had legal or illegal drugs in his system.  I doubt if the cops did any blood-test of George, and at this point....it might not matter any more.

Second, in most states.....George would get some type of charge immediately, but in Florida, there is this stand in place law, which allows a guy to confront someone he perceives to be a threat.  The Florida law says you could shoot, if you feel threaten in some manner.  The problem here....the kid didn't have a single weapon on himself.  Not even a 2-inch pocket knife.

Third and final, the cops haven't filed any charges mostly because they know you have to present the case in front of a Florida jury....make up of local folks.  Since most folks in Florida have been robbed or threatened in their life.....they'd identify with George. Out of twelve folks on a jury, you only need one person to identify himself or herself as being just like George.

These fed guys will pat themselves on the back and get some federal Grand Jury to allow serious charges.  But the truth is....once you get into a Florida courtroom.....you have to find twelve jurors, who all will fail to identify themselves like George.  I don't think you can do that....within the state of Florida.  So, George will win in the end.  It might be a mistrial and be done over a second, third and fourth time.....but it won't matter....you just need one juror to screw up the fed case.  

The local cops and prosecutor know the score....they don't intend to waste their money or time on a dead-end case.  The feds?  Well....they've got millions to waste on this.  I expect this to take five years for the Feds to admit it the win potential in this case is pretty low.

Note: Added observation.  Eight out of ten news sources I went to....say that George is "white"....but George is absolutely Latino.  They even featured pictures of George, which made their commentary that of a 5th-grade school newspaper.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Simply Observations

First, up in Iowa, cops got called out to a house, in the early AM hours.....to meet up with 41-year old William Todd Bliss.  Bill was a bit intoxicated, pretty pumped up, talked mostly in slurred speech, and was naked.  Bill insisted, that some guys (four) had been to his place, while they were there....they had asked him to hold a nuclear bomb for them.  Based on news reports....the cops did search around the house, but couldn't find the four guys, or the nuke.  I sat and pondered over the story.....and would to admit that the truth is that the Air Force had lost another nuke somewhere in Iowa, and a special team had stopped by Bill's house because the nuke had fallen in the backyard.  With Bill's help, which required nerves of steel....supplemented by a fair amount of alcohol.....and not clothing to interrupt Bill's dramatic actions....the nuke was recovered and quickly brought back to base.  Well....it could have happened like that.

Second, some folks in DC are coming to this realization....that sequestration process will likely occur as 2013 starts out....unless Congress, the Senate, and the President come to an agreement.  What does this mean?  Well....if the idiots on both sides fail to get their budget mess cleaned up by the end of December....all government agencies will start a furlough schedule of sorts.  The best that the experts will admit....is that they think most folks will be forced to take four weeks of unpaid leave.  I sat and pondered over this story....being a government employee....it kinda means that I would have this vast time free and could run off to Brazil or Tonga.....and do some crazy stuff.  I could go and get a part-time job for four weeks....for Piggly Wiggly or Radio Shack.  I could drive back to Bama and talk my dad into letting me paint his barn red (it won't happen, trust me).  The odds of this happening?  I'm thinking it's better than fifty percent that folks will be sent home for a month.

Third, there's this odd technology story out there about a company which is researching the idea of implanting a tattoo-like device under your skin, so when your cellphone silently rings....it'd make the skin device vibrate.  You'd naturally feel this vibration, jump up, and answer the phone.  I sat and pondered over this idea.  It's to think of what idiot would want a vibration device on their arm, neck, shoulder, or possibly butt....to ensure they pick up the phone and answer it. Why even develop this?  Well....I suspect that the guys have come to the end of the line....they'v developed 88k different ring tongs, and various vibration options with a cellphone, and this is the only thing they've got left to work on.  If you ask me....it's time to let some of the research guys go.

Fourth, some Canadian train folks have come up to admit that they will be transporting all this Keystone XL oil, from Canada to the intended locations in the US.  They've lined up the oil cars and will simply cross the plains to deliver the oil at a greater cost ($10 more per barrel).....and the White House folks are likely sitting there in disbelief.  The jobs?  Well....nothing to worry about....the folks who run the Canadian train system will have lots of work, and they will buy Canada-only manufactured  oil cars (my bet)....so there's tons of work for Canadians.  My humble bet?  It's a dismal story for the administration at this point....it would make sense by June to back-track and approve everything, in hopes of making some payback on this mess.  If not....you ought to buy as much stock in Canadian railway systems and grin at the profits over the next twenty years.

Fifth, and final....there's a number of memorials around DC, for various Presidents (certainly not all of them).  The one that you simply don't find in DC....is for Eisenhower.  This has been noted for over two decades.  There was this contest of sorts, where some fancy-suited guys working for the government did finally agree to front around $200 million to build up a fancy Eisenhower Memorial.....down near the national capital building, just a couple hundred feet from the Air and Space Museum.  The fancy elite guys came to pick a winner for the design and this was mostly moving forward until someone understood the statue business.  The design guy figured that he wanted a barefoot kid statue, to represent Ike.  It would represent this odd presentation of a kid from Kansas, making it to be President of the United States.  Beyond that....there just wasn't any sense to the kid statue.  Adding to the mess?  Well...there's park benches arranged in a fashion that says "IXXI".  For number conscious folks.....IXXI also says 911 in Roman numbers.  The odds of this being an accident?  Well....you just don't know.  How many folks remember Roman numbers from high school?  Probably less than one percent of the US population.  So, it's a pretty sure bet....the project is delayed for two more years while they argue over this, and eventually....some statue of Ike in a plain 1950's style suit will be put up.....and we will all feel pretty positive over the guy finally making it as memorial.  Now, if that President Taylor guy from the 1800s could just get remembered with a memorial.

Carrying the Watermelon Industry on His Back

Based on news reports....the comedian Gallagher is out of his coma and talking to family members.  No one saying alot but there is speculation of a stroke or some heart attack.

In the early 1990s....I got around to attending a Gallagher comedy show in Tucson.  You'd have to refer to his act as Jerry Lewis on steroids.....because there's a bit of wit to each show....but a fair amount of physical comedy as well....around watermelons which are destroyed throughout the show.

As we are all thankful over his recovery process....there is an entire industry in America which is probably praying for his swift recovery....the watermelon industry.  Over the past three decades, I'd make a guess that Gallagher has destroyed over 500k watermelons.  If you figure fifty a show, that's around $150 spent on each show for watermelons.  Figure four shows a week, or twelve a month....and it all starts to add up.

I'd guessing there a tractor trailer rig leaving Florida or Mississippi on a weekly basis.....bringing fresh watermelons to some town about to receive Gallagher comedy act.  He's carrying an entire industry on his back, and America has to appreciate this.  We need more comics like him.

My Neighborhood

When I came back to America about twenty-six months ago....there were dozens of odd things that I came to realize.  One of those....was the act of suicide by METRO subway.  I was reminded of that again yesterday......when we had another guy jump in front of a subway train.

This one was on the red line....around White Flint yesterday morning.  Some of those who jump....survive, with some pretty severe injuries, but this guy died at the scene.

What the METRO folks noted....because you have to put out a public notice and do a small bit of PR on it.....he was the fifth death by METRO suicide this year (we aren't even at 100 days so far).  Then METRO wanted everyone to know that they are busy training all their employees to recognize and suicidal candidates on the platform.

I sat and pondered over this.  At each individual METRO station....there's basically one manager on duty....typically who sits for the entire shift in his stall at the entrance area of the station.  There might be on occasion.....maybe one or two security guys who come through that station for an hour or two....then ride the subway to the next station.  In an average week.....there might be an hour or two where some METRO employee is down on the platform areas just checking lights or answering a question for riders complaining about trains running behind schedule.  Even if you trained every single employee....the odds of one of them stopping a single suicide in five years?  Maybe ten percent.....my humble guess.  It's a waste of money, but you can't just stand there and do nothing.

The problem with METRO stations, as compared to a number of European subways that I've seen.....is that they have these high roofs and provide this strange odd acoustic chamber for people.  I'd almost make the comparison to being in a cathedral.  With this odd cathedral-like feeling.....there is no music played in the background....ever.  Maybe once every six minutes or so....there's a public service message from a tape system....but otherwise, no noise to interfere with your thinking....ever how creative or personally destructive it might be.

So one might come to a logical conclusion....if they played energized music, up-lifting music or just bagpipes....you would likely interfere with one's thought process.  You'd make them have to keep rebooting their mind to get around positive or happy music.  Most people would eventually walk out of the METRO station....unable to complete their act.

I doubt that they'd ever come to think about the magnetic draw to the METRO subway tunnels....but the acoustic chamber likely plays into this whole thing.

At the current rate of things....there's at least fifteen more folks destined to die by METRO this year....sadly.  The fifteen presently....may or may not realize what will transpire this year.  A thousand other folks....sadly....will end up being personal witnesses to these fifteen episodes to come, and will be forever affected by this.

As I said after a month of living in the Arlington area.....I am a stranger in a strange land.    

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The 51st State Thing

This November, the biggest thing about the national election....might not be the Presidential race.  It might end up being the Puerto Rican vote on becoming the 51st state.  The current odds?  It won't go past the 49 percent point.  Course, stranger things have happened, and we might come to be shocked with a sixty-percent slam-dunk.

The flag with 51 stars has already been designed, and folks are sitting there and contemplating the end-result of this.  Two more senators....which would likely be a Republican and a Democrat.  With a population of almost four million, they'd likely get four representatives.  They'd have to be carved off some other states, and you can imagine New York state losing one, and maybe California. Course, that's all in the event that it passes.

The effect of this Latino population?  This would end up being a fairly interesting shift for the nation.  There would be two new Latino Senators suddenly appearing in the Senate.  I'm guessing that some Latino channels would be interviewing them nightly, and what they said....wasn't just important for Puerto Rican Latinos.....but important for Texan Latinos, Louisiana Latinos, and even Michigan Latinos.  Within ten years, there would be a Latino President, and it might be a Republican.  Stranger things have happened.

The Non-History Channel

This week....Senator Chuck Grassley stated an opinion...publicly of course, that the History Channel was lacking....history.  I rarely agree with things that Senator Grassley says....in fact, I'd consider most of his opinions to be worthless.  In this....he might be right.

For just over two years...I've been watching the History Channel on a regular basis.  I probably catch twelve hours a week.  Sadly, almost all of what they cover...is non-history.  If you did want actual history, you'd have to turn over to History II Channel, which still is a fifty-fifty blend of Bigfoot and the War of 1812.

So on a typical weekend, you get a history dose via the History Channel of bigfoot hunting, alien visitation, UFOs in Kansas, Ax-Men, Goldrush (the reality show, not the history episode), and two guys hunting for old bicycles in Kentucky.

I wish I could spend ten minutes with the guys who run the History Channel, and just suggest they develop some historical themes for the channel, and dump the alien shows.  There's the Discovery Channel, and other options for all this fake stuff.

Some suggestions:

- Take four families and challenge them to a full-year of 1898 living.  Demonstrate the houses of the era, the medicine of the era, types of entertainment they might have, etc.  It'd be a chance to tell some great history, and do a reality show at the same time.

- Pick up six folks and give them Lewis and Clark's map, and challenge them to walk the route out to Washington state, and back.

- Start up a 9-part show entitled "Traveling Carny Life".  Pick out forty folks who did the traveling circus and fair life over the 1950s, 1960s and up to today.

- Start a series to talk about French life in Louisiana and what still survives today.

Frankly, there's alot of history, which would interest people.  We don't need to continue discussing alien visits to Alabama, or watching fake guys dig up fake gold in Alaska.

My Neighborhood

There's a bill going through the Maryland Senate....which basically puts a $50 fine onto you...if you are driving a car with young kids in it (under eight), and you are smoking.  In fact, if you are the driver, and your passenger is the smoker....you could end up with the fine as well.  Most Maryland folks expect the bill to make it to the Governor's desk and be signed.

You can imagine cops out there....looking for bad guys, but getting yet again a funny bill which simply irritates people over being stopped and the cop asks the kids in the back how old they are, after he notices a lit cigarette in your hands.  You quickly turn and tell Frankie Junior and Wanda May to shut up and not answer the cop.  The cop gets upset about your orders to the kids, and demands to see your drivers license, and orders the kids to tell their age.  Frankie and Wanda say nothing.  The cop eventually says he 'thinks' the kids are under eight, so you get a $50 fine.

So you go over to the court house and challenge the judge.  The judge asks the kids how old they are, and they both respond nine.  The judge wants proof.  Dad then tells the judge that he doesn't have the right to know the ages of the kids.

Eventually, this $50 fine case goes to the Supreme Court.  Dad says that you can't ask kids how old they are, and he's probably right.

The failed fine goes back to Maryland, and you can imagine this effort around 2020....where every kid in the state is required to get a kid's ID and carry it with themselves, when in Dad's car.

This is the nation, that we've evolved into.

Fantasy Talk

It was a simple political statement....the President says Congress ought to terminate tax breaks for the oil and gas companies.....then lots of natural things would occur and help encourage them to find discover new alternative sources of energy.

At this point, you sit down to ponder this.

If your local Piggly Wiggly had this federal tax credit for $20k a year on their income, and you took away that credit, then your Piggly Wiggly manager would grin a bit, and he'd up your prices.  Del Monte chunky mixed fruit cans would go up eight cents.  Your forty pound bag of dog chow?  It'd go up by a quarter.  The pickle jars, no matter what brand.....would go up by 10 cents each.  Nickle by nickle, dime by dime, dollar by dollar, your Piggly Wiggly would make up the $20k tax credit loss.  You would personally help them to accomplish that.

Would some lousy Louisiana oil company....making $1.5 billion a year in profits....just accept a lousy decision by Congress and give up more of their profits?  No.

Then you have to ponder, how does this cut relate to discovering more oil or natural gas?  It doesn't.

In the fantasy world of political figures, there's not a lot of straight talk.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The NBC News Folks

Watching the news is often frustrating to me.  You have some joker in New York City, who has spent an entire day building a 60-second segment for some dimwit to mouth the obvious words to an audience sitting in lawn chairs down in Florida, sofas in Richmond, over-sized chairs in Shreveport, and rockers out in Branson.

You can imagine this segment piece....three in ten young people have returned home.....after high school and an attempted job.....after college and an attempted job....after a failing economy has destroyed their launch into life....etc.  So here is Brian Williams of NBC.  He wants you to listen to his words.  He wants you to feel good....kids returning home because of the free food, the free shelter, and the clothing being washed by mom.  It's all a pretty great thing.

I kept waiting for this little ending piece.  If only the economy was working, then Wanda wouldn't be living at home.  If the tire plant just had another shift, then Randy could pack up and leave home.  If Clark could just find a dependable job.  This ending piece never occurred. You just needed to feel good that the kids had a roof over their heads.  It might have been nice to note how long this visit would last, but the guy who wrote the segment would prefer not to connect the dots on this one to a lingering problem with the economy.

I guess the guy writing the segment piece got his vision of the story across.....kids living with parents in an acceptable setting, and none of this much relates to the current economy.  My once a month viewing of NBC news came and went.....nothing much special to note.  I'll just keep waiting for real analysis to eventually occur.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Our Joe

This is what we know....months before Osama bin Laden met his death.....he had this plan which he detailed out to his faithful followers.....to attack the aircraft that carried President Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus. From the media comments on this.....bin Laden felt that Joe Biden was totally unprepared for this job and with him.....the US would go into a deep crisis mood.

I sat and pondered over this, and can make these four observations.

First, I would imagine the President is sitting there in shock...having never really considered the scenario of VP Joe taking over.  VP Joe was supposed to be the guy who got up early and talked on Sunday political shows, did funerals in foreign countries, and showed up at VFW conventions.  That was it.  So the President has to be a bit worried now.

Second, the media likely sits in shock tonight.  VP Joe could have been placed in charge of America?  That wasn't the scripted deal that they all understood back in 2009.

Third, Democratic voters are kinda wondering....does this mean that VP Joe is gone in the summer at the convention.....that some new VP emerges?

Fourth, after a long while of pondering....I came to view President Joe, as a likely healing source for the nation.  He's like your Uncle Louie who invites you over to the garage and shares a case of beer with you....to talk over the chances of the Cubs winning the World Series.  President Joe would likely wrap up each work day by 3PM, sneak out to a local golf course or bar by 5PM, and keep a forty case supply of beer somewhere in the White House.

I have to be honest....if I had a choice of any Republican candidate running, or President Joe.....I might just vote for President Joe.  Joe wouldn't make frustrating speeches which anger half of the nation.  Joe wouldn't be in campaign mode 365 days a year.  Joe would show up at NASCAR races, hockey games, wrestling events.  We might actually come to appreciate a couple of years where the media is stuck with a pretty boring Joe as President.  

Bin Laden probably guessed wrong on his analysis here.  Joe is the kind of guy who'd just look at the guy breaking into his house.....pull out a 45 and blast the guy right there in the hallway.  So you have to wonder where bin Laden got his analysis and beliefs from?  Fox News?  Or Karl Rove?

All the Things in Life That You Need a Picture ID For

1.  Buying booze.
2.  Buying smokes.
3.  Getting through a TSA line at the airport with a airline ticket.
4.  Getting anything accomplished at the Social Security Administration office.
5.  Cashing a check.
6.  Opening an account with a bank or credit union.
7.  Joining the US military.
8.  Getting narcotic drugs at the pharmacy.
9.  Getting a business license.
10.  Buying over-the-counter medications with various items noted by the state as dangerous.
11.  Registering your car.
12.  Buying a property, a house, a trailer, or modular home in any of the fifty states.
13.  Getting a building permit to build a house, or structure on your private property.
14.  Registering at any city hall for a rally, protest or parade.
15.  Jury duty.
16.  Getting stopped by a cop for any offense, to include jay-walking, mooning people, or disturbing the peace.
17.  Buying a pistol or rifle in any of the fifty states.
18.  Transferring a pistol or rifle to anyone else in any of the fifty states.
19.  Being accepted for a US government job and in-processing on day one.
20.  Buying a cellphone with any plan.
21.  Getting a marriage license.
22.  Getting a divorce.
23.  Getting an annulment.
24.  Registering at college.
25.  Renting a car at any airport.
26.  Crossing the border to enter Mexico or Canada.
27.  Applying for welfare or food stamps.
28.  Bringing items back to a store for a refund.
29.  Getting a post office box.
30.  Accepting registered mail.
31.  Getting a hunting license.

31 other things that you'd associate with life in a democracy, not requiring a photo ID:

1.  Getting some Chinese lady to hem up the special pants you bought on sale.
2.  Buying peanuts or pop-tarts.
3.  Buying fireworks (even at age 5)
4.  Hiring a trampy New Orleans hooker for six minutes.
5.  Walking into a NCAA football game between Texas Tech and Alabama.
6.  Buying itch ointment.
7.  Buying flea powder for your dog.
8.  Entering the Grand Canyon Park.
9.  Buying imitation leather boots at Joe-Paul's boot shop.
10. Buying a Heart musical CD at Wal-Mart.
11.  Hiring a Latino guy to rebuild your roof, paint your fence, or dig up your septic tank.
12.  Riding a Greyhound bus from Memphis to Kansas City.
13.  Buying moon-pies and Dr Pepper at the corner gas station.
14.  Attending church.
15.  Get a tattoo.
16.  Bowl.
17.  Get your muffler replaced.
18.  Get a $12 haircut.
19.  Buy a WW II Japanese sword at the flea market.
20.  Get your shoes shined.
21.  Buy a cow from your neighbor.
22.  Buy Vicks Formula 44 in XXL packages.
23.  Have your dog neutered.
24.  Buy illegal drugs on any street corner in America.
25.  Watch a G-rated movie.
26.  Buy condoms.
27.  Entering the county fair.
28.  Voting in a city, county, state or federal election.
29.  Taking a lusty gal to a drive-in movie featuring a Burt Reynolds movie.
30.  Burning leaves in your backyard.
31.  Going to the monkey house at the zoo.

After you start associating the act of voting with getting your shoes shined, taking your dog to be fixed, or watching a G-rated movie.....it all starts to feel good.  Just take your ID over to corner market....buy some booze, and remind yourself.....if Thomas Jefferson felt you needed an ID rule....he would have written it into the Constitution.  Don't worry, just be happy, and don't lose your ID....otherwise, you can't buy no more booze.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Disarmed Doesn't Mean What You Think It Does

They sent Leon Panetta off to Afghanistan, for a 5-star public relations tour.  For an old guy like Leon, this is likely wearing him out....making like a sixteen hour flight....talking to a bunch of folks to settle down problems....look happy when he's probably not....and then travel sixteen hours back in a matter of hours.  For a guy like Leon, it's asking a good bit.  But he's a good sport about this and dreams of the day when he can retire to Louisiana, hunt gators and water-moccasins with just a stick and Swiss Army knife, and chase trampy women around the French Quarter.

As Leon landed, they had some radical Islam guy who drove a vehicle out near the runway and blew it up....which kind of excited everyone.  This Islam guy went on to meet 64-odd virgin gals in Islam heaven....or least he thinks they will be around at the gate as he arrives.

Then came the big meeting with local Afghan officials and US Marines in attendance.  Someone looked at the arrangements....got to the new US general....and laid out a issue.  The Afghan folks were supposed to be unarmed for this meeting, so they felt the US Marines attending....had to appear unarmed as well.  So they ushered the Marines out and directed them to disarm....leaving their weapons with some guy to protect until everything was wrapped up.

This got a number of Americans upset and disturbed.  Some folks kindly pointed out that Marines never disarm themselves in a combat zone, which wasn't totally correct....because various occasions in Vietnam caused Marines to be disarmed.

I sat and pondered over this....and what they pointed out was that pistols and rifles were removed from the Marines.  They apparently all still had their knives, and since every Marine is trained to kill with his bare hands....the Afghans in the audience really weren't that safe anyway.  The US general who gave the order to disarm....really didn't issue any order that made the crowd any safer, if you ask me.

It's kind of like putting an unarmed Chuck Norris in the middle of twenty drug-lords, and saying it ought to be a fair fight.  It just ain't going to be a fair fight with US Marines, bare hands, and knives.

Trenton Update

I commented a day ago about Trenton, New Jersey and their problems with having adequate toilet paper.  An update or two has occurred.

First, the city council did finally find $16k to spend on fresh new toilet paper.  I don't know how much this adds up to, but they probably got a six-month supply out of that.

Second, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made a donation of six months of toilet paper....which have a message on the paper about terrible slaughterhouses and crap found in meat sold to you at the local grocery stores.

You can imagine the folks visiting city hall and the police department....using the toilet and sitting there for five minutes....just reading up on slaughterhouses, while doing their business.  Maybe both the Democratic and Republican parties ought to put their candidate's slogans and pictures on toilet paper....and just hand it out as donations as well.

Only in America.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

My Magic Unicorn Story

This is a sad story of sort....about the US government.

We have a property game.  Whenever you buy equipment of a certain value.....someone has to sign for it and assume responsibility.  If you lose the equipment.....then it turns into a mess.  So, let me tell you this story.

Last summer, I had a person in my organization who came to admit that she'd lost a Dell switch.  The original value when purchased in 2005?  $1000.  We have to fill out a fair amount of information on this and then it gets sent up....where someone will make a decision to do a Report of Survey.  This is something that bothers folks because they could say that you screwed up and have to pay some or all of the cost involved.

Eight months later (it's supposed to be shorter, but this just didn't work that way).....the investigation guy calls this week and wants to come by to ask questions and see where the item was previously located.

I sat down and decided to help this gal a little on this....getting the story in my mind.  There are some open spots on info....so I dig into the episode a little.  My database says it was bought in 2003, but I don't trust it.  So I check and find that we only have two of these Dell switches....same model.....both bought at the same time.  So the one that is ok and existing?  I pull up the serial and check the Dell warranty site.  It'll tell you some things.

Dell's site says.....it was summer of 2005 when bought, and the warranty ran out by 2008.  The lost serial number?

Well....it's a curious thing.  I put this number into the Dell system.....and it doesn't exist.  That means....IT NEVER WAS MANUFACTURED OR SOLD OR DELIVERED.

I sat there for a while....pondering.

Some idiot property dimwit in 2005....added this to their property account in the organization.  They made some dimwit sign the paperwork for two of these, but in reality, there was ONLY ONE bought.  They made up a totally bogus serial number for the second one, and the dimwit signed for two.

A year likely passed, and the inventory was re-done....with the dimwit freaking out because they couldn't find the second one.  They didn't want to admit this, or be required to pay for it.  So they simply said that it was there.

Another year passed, and they somehow talked a new guy into signing for the account....and he accidentally signed for the non-existent $1000 item.  A year later, he likely freaked out....thinking he'd lost the item.

So 2011 came, and this gal freaked out....doing the right thing.....reporting a lost item.

The truth is....there is nothing lost.  The item was never manufactured or delivered or sold.  So the government is spending twenty man-hours looking over this whole episode.  I can't really tell the guy the complete story, because it makes the gal look pretty bad....she signed for the item two or three years ago but never grasped what it was or that it didn't exist.  So I simply laid out a perception.....maybe they bought two but I can't understand how you'd use the second item.  I'm kinda hoping he will ask this over and over, and eventually realize that there just ain't such an item in existence.

This kind of bothers me.....because now I'm wondering.....how many other fake items exist on my organization's account?  How many other fake items exist throughout the US inventory of equipment?  We might actually have a billion dollars worth equipment, that simply was erroneously put into a database, but it just doesn't really exist.

The bottom line.....there's a non-existent piece of equipment missing, and someone might have to pay for it.  It's like owning a digital sword, a magic unicorn, or an imaginary pony.  You can sense my frustration with this.