Sunday, 29 April 2012

Flaming Eternal

A number of years ago....out in Arizona (I believe) a bunch of military vets got this big urge to create a fancy war memorial in their local town.  So they spent a year collecting money and eventually got this fancy deal arranged.  There was to be this 'eternal flame'....hooked up to city natural gas, and a flag pole standing nearby....and this little sign to signify the efforts of various folks to bring this war memorial about.

About twelve to eighteen months go by and suddenly the budget chief of the small town gets the yearly natural gas bill, and it's fairly huge.  Folks get all upset and asking the city for an explanation.  So someone goes line by line, and eventually finds this war memorial which is an 'eternal flame', and it's costing the city a huge amount of money each year on natural gas.  They go through a huge mess and the eventual talk was that it'd have to be turned off....unless they had special occasions. That upset folks greatly.  I never knew the complete end to the mess.

Well....it's happened again.

Out in Kyrgystan....the local power and gas company had this unpaid bill....for the former Soviet nation's "Eternal Flame."   Close to $9,400 owed.  It'd been going on for three years as being unpaid.

So the company turned the gas off.  Interestingly enough....someone noticed this over the first hour or two, and by hour five....someone had ordered the gas turned back on.

No one is speaking much (at least in the two articles I found on the topic).....but you get the impression that the local political folks are likely hunting down some cold cash to pay for this and ensure nothing like this happens again.

The problem with this eternal flame business....is that it all cost money.  Just in the US....I'd bet on two hundred of these eternal flames running on various memorials.  Once you sign up for twenty-four hours a day....seven days a week....it gets to be fairly expensive.  You never think about this.....in the planning phase.

The Lessening Value

In 1978, the chief guy of a car rental shop at the Nashville airport....was a guy who had a high school degree, had run a gas station for five years, was assistant manager at a car parts shop for four years, and spent three years at a used car sales lot.  He had no college education.

In 1983, the chief guy of a regional drink distributorship.....was a guy who had a high school degree, had started out at the drink distributorship warehouse, six years later moved to assistant had of the warehouse, five years later was appointed as the number three guy of the drink franchise at the location.  He moved from the number three position to the number two position in less than eighteen months, and made chief after five years as the number two.  He had no college education.

In 1985, the head of university housing (the dorm chief), was a 55-year old woman who had started out at age 18 working at the college as a secretary.  By her mid-twenties, she'd moved over to the budgetary office of the campus for five years.  At age thirty....she became the chief of administration within the university housing office.  At age forty-two, she was nominated as the number two boss in the housing office.  At age fifty, she became the chief of university housing.  She had no college education or degree.

Note, all of these positions by 2012.....are run and managed by people with college degrees.  The pay scale?  Well....folks have had to wrap themselves into a mess....trying put a decent salary for the present day guy or gal, with the degree.....as compared to what they paid the same folks back thirty years ago.

Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that each now requires a college education and degree.  You've now got folks sitting in classes....covering zoology, African tribal relations of the 1800s, French economics, Portuguese pottery, the evils of Columbus, famous women from Luxembourg, gifted art from 1800's Peru, and Russian propaganda.  With these vast degrees under them....the crowd has left the university, and now run a Hertz car rental shop in Birmingham, Bama.  They also do statistics at some health insurance company.

In essence, we've made a degree worthless....from the bottom going up.  We even convinced ourselves that the director or boss of a 500-man division has to have a PhD....which he will get by hook or crook.  The value?  Somehow, the same boss that they had back in 1982....probably did ok without any degree.

Eventually, if we sustain this trend....the cashier at Wal-Mart....will have an associate's degree.  The brake guy at Marvin's Garage....he'll have some type of associates's degree.  The manager of the pizza shop?  He'll have a bachelor's degree.  The guy running the donut shop?  He'll have some type of management degree from Georgia Tech.  The pace might even force us to dream up a new degree....beyond the PhD or Doctorate degree.  Some kind of ten-year degree....costing $100k to attain....with some Latin phrase contained in it.....which you'd have to have.....to run America, IBM, Texaco, or the Dallas Cowboys.

In a humble sense.....I think we've screwed up.  But I sure don't know how the heck we can correct this mess without making a bunch of folks unhappy.

President Romney?

In October of 2011, I would have given President Obama a eighty percent of winning.  Today?  I'm figuring it's fifty-five percent at best.  The real question here....if things tend to fall toward Mitt Romney in November....where did the Obama team screw up?  So here are my ten things.

First, the top priority after the stimulus emergency (the first big project of the administration)....should have been tax reform and job creation.  It wasn't.  We ended up with around an entire year of strictly the health care reform episode.  The Republicans would have been hard-pressed to oppose tax reform and job creation....although maybe the Democrats would have been just as hard-pressed to accept tax reform and certain types of job creation.

Second, maybe it wasn't intentionally planned....but some folks got the impression that the President was in campaign mode from day one of the Presidency....until today.  The rhetoric, the topics, the continual dumping on the Republicans, etc.

Third, over the first year of the Presidency....you'd turn around about every couple of weeks, and some new Czar position had been created.  The explanation simply was that they were to be "experts" on something.  At one point....I think there were at least twenty Czars.  Each Czar ended up with a small staff and a travel budget.  They didn't really report to anyone....except the President.  My humble opinion was that most of the Czars were around to give speeches in favor of White House positions....and little else.

Fourth, the "I'm sorry" routine.  Somewhere over 2009....the President finally had maxed out, and I think over the past twelve months....he's been very careful about uttering any regrets to anyone.  The thing is....as President....you ought to limit yourself to two or three a year max.  After that....you look a bit silly.

Fifth, from October of 2008 through the election and maybe the first three months of the Presidency.....it was largely touted about his abilities to get various groups to the table and work consolidated agendas.  He was....the community organizer (as we were told).  To be honest and humble.....you just don't find any attempt in the first ninety days of the Presidency to work a joint plan.  There's not a single effort that comes out as focused on both political groups.  Over the past year?  You start to wonder if the President, even as a community organizer.....ever took widely focused groups and combined their agendas.

Sixth, every problem in the US economy.....always got dumped back on Wall Street and the evil companies.  The only good companies in America?  Bankrupt or marginal Green-environmental companies....or solar companies.  After you've heard this speech about a dozen times.....you start laughing.  Surely his staff should have figured this out in 2010 after the November election.....but they act like it was a fluke.

Seventh, the TV show routine?  Well....it's not world-class material.  You can't think of any President who ran off and performed Oprah-like interviews on a continual basis.  The jokes.....the flashy style....the pep talks....it's just not what most folks think of an executive leader.    Someone on the White House staff should have said that early on.  Two or three appearances a year....on strictly interview situations....would have been right.  Otherwise, we are stuck with this image of having the Fonzy-President in the White House.

Eighth, Erik Holder as Attorney General.  There's not a lot that you can really say.  The Fast and Furious investigation will eventually flip over to the Mexican government, and they will prosecute a number of Americans who work for the Obama White House.  You get the impression that either Holder knew about the mess and did nothing....or he knew absolutely nothing when he should have known something.  Either way.....the White House ends up with a bad image over the mess.

Ninth, the Gitmo fake.  Well....the President won world approval and got fantastic applause over his announcement of the closure of Gitmo.  Four years later?  It still runs, and they've actually added onto the place (a soccer field).   On the fake promise scale....this was a ten.  In some ways, he has to worry constantly about some reporter breaching his circle and asking a stupid question over Gitmo.

Tenth, the teleprompter actually made him a four-star president....at least in the eyes of some folks.  If you took away the teleprompter.....I suspect that he'd be mostly in the style of Jimmy Carter or George W Bush.....an average speaker at best.  You could always tell when he had the teleprompter in place and giving one of his magnificent speeches.  The public also got used to noticing that.  And they came to realize that he wasn't quiet as good as they originally thought.

Another Dimwit

From about 1995, until around 2008....Baseball had a problem.  Home runs on the average spiked.  There were guys who you'd typically would suggest that they shouldn't be hitting more than twenty home runs a year....suddenly were hitting close to forty.  Barry Bonds came up one season and hit 73 home runs.  Ryan Howard came up one year and hit 58 home runs.

Eventually, folks started to talk steroids.  It reached a point where finally the management of baseball sat down and made some rules, and established some tests.  Since 2008....our home run situation has drifted back down to normal levels.  There are various new methods of enhancing a physical situation....which continually are used and baseball will forever be in a catch-up phase (if you ask me).

This week.....Tim McCarver, the former big-league catcher for the Cardinals and sports journalist....came out and wanted everyone to know that it wasn't steroids that caused the home run period......but global warming.

I sat and pondered over this.  It would be simple to believe that over a thirteen year period.....we had global warming, and now it's ended.....going instead to global cooling, which means lesser home runs.  Scientifically speaking.....this would be the local assumption.

This would all invite scientists to converge on baseball.  Every team would have at least one global warming expert, who would project out the good years and bad years.  Then you could go to the home run hitters, and announce that pay-wise.....since we were entering the global cooling period.....they needed to take a pay-cut.  And in the global warming years....you'd get a pay-raise.

Eventually, some idiot would determine that maybe pitching is affected with global warming and cooling.  Stealing bases is affected by global warming.  Playing first base could be affected by global warming.  We could go ahead and forecast an entire season as being potentially lousy.....because of global cooling. Well....if this was all true.

My advice for Tim....maybe steroids really did play a part in the thirteen-year period.  If we are testing folks and making them honest now.....that might be enough proof.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

New Rules

The Secret Service came out yesterday with some new rules.....because of the episode down in Columbia.

Basically, you as agent Ernie.....once you arrive in a foreign country....are prohibited from drinking excessively.  You have to finish up your booze ten hours before your shift starts.  Figure, if you start at 8AM, then you need to wrap up the last beer around 10PM the night before.

Also, you just can't bring any foreigners into your hotel room, period.  The hotel management are about the only folks who can step foot in your room....without you getting in trouble.

Then, there's this other rule.....you can visit any place in the foreign land that is considered in the category of disreputable.  It really was that clear and they hinted that they'd actually have a full list of all the places you can't go....address by address...compliments of the local state department folks.

Then, there's this final rule.....in some cases, which they again would not define, there would be chaperons to accompany agents on trips and check things out in the hotel.  Currently, it's mostly the team chiefs who are GS14s.  So I'm guessing they mean that the old guy in charge of each division....a GS15....would have to make the trip and be there strictly to monitor the drinking and excessive behavior of his team.  He'd naturally take the fall if something happens.

It's an interesting change.  I looked over these rules and kept wondering.....why couldn't Congress and the Senate run the same rules when they run off overseas for "fact-finding" episodes?

You'd round up the four Congressmen doing a fact-finding trip to Thailand.  You'd let them know right away that they couldn't bring any foreigners back to their hotel room.  Then, you'd tell them that their meetings started at 9AM the next morning....so the booze stops at 11PM.  Then, you'd lay out the places they couldn't visit....from certain bars and strip-clubs, to houses of ill-repute.  Finally, because it was Thailand.....you'd go to the senior ranking leader of the party in the House, and make that guy or gal go with the four-man group.  If the four screw up.....you bring in the senior party guy in charge, and fire him.  It'd be kind of simple.

My guess is that this wouldn't go too far.  As for the Secret Service guys?  The glory days have come to an end.  Your best bet is to stay local and party it up in Baltimore.

The Farm Kid

After the drama this week of the Labor Department discussing stringent safety rules over the farming business, and potentially barring all farm kids from ever working on the farm itself (it's way too dangerous for kids but not apparently for adults).....I started to ponder.  Having spent eighteen years on the farm.....I came to some conclusions about farm kids.

Farm kids come to realize that you can make one simple mistake and get killed by it.

Farm kids end up having an appreciation of living and what it takes to survive.

A farm kid can analyze and give you the odds of doing something stupid and the odds of getting injured or hurt.

A farm kid knows the expression....“acceptable risks”.

A farm kid is willing by age fifteen to go out and do some fairly dangerous things, and knows he’ll survive.

A farm kid knows the value of duct tape, baling string, a two by four, axle grease, a rag, a forty-foot piece of rope, logging chains, a roll of plastic, and a pair of leather gloves.

A farm kid knows the character and suffering of a hurt animal.

A farm kid seeks shelter in a lightning storm because it’s the right thing to do.

A farm kid knows to continually scan across high grass for snakes.

A farm kid has the decision-making ability of a 40-year old junior CEO.....by age seventeen.

A farm kid will sing a ton of praise over four lousy biscuits with honey poured over the top.

A farm kid worries about maintenance for dad’s tractor because if it fails...the family farm is in jeopardy.

A farm kid can smell rain coming in from ten miles away.

A farm kid appreciates the end of harvest season, the smell of fresh hay, the authority of a border collie, and the taste of real cold lemonade on a hot July day.

A farm kid attaches some kind of mythical view to a county fair....beyond mortal expectations.

A farm kid can honesty recite the forty reasons why you ought to buy a Ford F-150 over any competition.

A farm kid would move just about heaven and Earth to help an injured animal.

A farm kid thinks of rain upon a tin roof as being like some Italian opera, and softy sleeps upon hearing its distinctive sound.

A farm kid continually measures the distance between himself and a 1,200 pound calf.....to ensure nothing of a tragic nature occurs to either.

A farm kid experiments with fire, diesel, bug spray, axle grease, trucks without brakes, and paint.

A farm kid eventually learns the value of a shade tree.

A farm kid doesn't really care much about the nutritional value of XXL-breakfast of beacon, eggs, hash browns, biscuits and sugar cane syrup.  The same kid doesn't care about the nutritional value of catfish, hush puppies, or coleslaw.

A farm kid values the warmth of the interior of a pick-up in the midst of a January snowstorm.

Finally.....a farm kid doesn't really ask for an awful lot in life.

Magical Buckets of Money

Somewhere, out of thin air.....a smart bunch of folks create a magic bucket of education money.  You can go to various schools (thousands of schools)....taking money out of this magic bucket of education money.  You agree to pay the money back....at roughly 3.5 percent interest.  You don't like the interest rate, but with other magical buckets of education money....it'd be around six percent interest.  So you like your magical bucket of education money.

Now, you never ask many questions over where this magical bucket of money came from....that's obvious. To be honest, the bucket is backed up by millions of Americans.....but that's really not important.  The nifty 3.5 percent interest?  Well....you only get this rate....because Americans are willing to accept a lousy pay-back on their contribution to this magical bucket of money.

Somewhere along the way, someone starts to note that the magical bucket of money has grown in size in terms of what's NOT there.  All total.....shortly, folks will owe $1 trillion dollars.  Course, as a user of the magical bucket of money.....you don't really care.  It could be a trillion billion million dollars, and you don't care.  Note, you aren't taking economy classes in college to grasp basic economic principals anyway.

The bucket does have a limit, so folks at the top of the management of the bucket.....start to get worried, and want the magical bucket made bigger.

Somewhere along 2010....as other folks wanted a magical bucket of health care money.  For some odd reason, instead of just grabbing money out of thin air.....they decide to take money from the magical bucket of education money instead.  No one in the media or the kids using the magical bucket of education money said anything.  The amount taken?  Roughly eight billion dollars.

Somewhere in the strategy of magic buckets of money.....you should have sat there in 2010....asking when this problem would arise over the size of the magic education bucket.  Days, weeks or months?  It was guaranteed to come back up.  Naturally, no one cared at that moment.

So now, to pump up the magical bucket of education money....some Republican Congressmen have gone back to the magical bucket of health care money....reliving it of roughly six billion dollars.  The guys write up a bill and just agree to move money from one magical bucket of money to another.  You can only do this....as a properly elected magician.  The interesting thing is that this was originally education money anyway....but magically re-vamped into being health care money.

Minutes pass after this suggestion of passing magical money from one bucket to another.  The President gets all hyper.  The head of the health care empire for the government gets upset.  Various media folks and wannabe journalists jumped up to say something.  None of these folks said anything back in 2010, when one bucket of magical money was opened and had cash moved to another magical bucket of money.  It's comical in a way....that was acceptable in 2010, but it's not today.

A guy stands there now and ponders over this magical bucket deal.

To be honest, this magical bucket deal for both education and health care....is kinda like Grandma's cookie jar.....not a magical bucket.  It'd be nice to have some bits and pieces of odd-ball health "cookies" but you had to pay for those cookies to start with....out of Grandma's pocket.  It's nice to have cheap loan money for kids and college.....but again, it all started with money out of Grandma's pocket.

I'm guessing on down the road....some other group in 2013 will arrive and try to take money from the magical education money bucket and the magical health care bucket, and try to help some other group, creating another magical bucket out of thin air.  Eventually, people will confess that they didn't realize that forty or fifty different magical buckets of money exist....confusing the heck out of them.  Folks will ask for magical septic tank replacement buckets of money, or magical flood/hurricane buckets of money, or magical heating oil buckets of money.

The curious thing about this entire mess....at the other end of the spectrum....is this enormous magical bucket of money....which you have to fill....out of your own pocket.  There's no real rhyme or reason to the size of that bucket, and the same magicians dictate how big that magical bucket of money ought to be.  The truth is.....you've started to question the value of the magical buckets of money.  Maybe everyone ought to have a fancy magical bucket of money....just for ice cream.  That would make all this chit-chat go away....at least for a brief moment.

Friday, 27 April 2012

This Odd Management Style

Here's the deal.  Some EPA guru....high up on the chain....came out two years ago and made this comment about his agency's enforcement of rules on oil and natural gas companies.  Basically, he compared it to the way that the Romans would come up on a village and establish supremacy.  They'd walk in....pick out the first five guys in the village they met, and crucify them.  From that point on.....the whole town would be easy to manage for the next few years.  So the EPA philosphy was.....pick on a couple of companies....establish a crucify episode, take a few folks down a step or two, and then cruise on.  This all came out yesterday, and the White House had to kinda grin....then say it wasn't meant that way, and were sorry for the most part that folks had taken this the wrong way.

I sat there pondering over this.  This guy was the head EPA guy of a region, and obviously knew what he was supposed to be doing.  This idea of comparing his management style to the Romans and crucifixion? Well....I'm guessing he only went to few history classes and really didn't grasp the full history lesson.

Here's the deal.  The Romans did do this little crucifixion episode across various lands.  They wandered around France, Germany, the Yugoslavia region, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Libya and such.  They became one of the most hated and disliked "regimes" in all of history.  Yeah, there's all these great positive technical marvels that they did....but the Romans were terrible at public relations.  No one outside of Rome had any great appreciation of the Roman brand of leadership.

At some point, the Romans decided to take on Christianity.  They ended up finding this guy in Israel and ran up a trial of sorts, and later crucified the guy.  The charge?  More or less....sedition against the Romans of the region.  This crucifixion is discussed yearly, and the Romans always earn this massive black spot on their record.

So you have a guy who goes off to some university and gets into environmentalism, and the management practices he picks up along this route?  Roman-style crucifixion?  That's the best that the college professors can offer some kid in a business class?  And you use this tactic on American businesses?  Then you expect people to respect you?

I suspect the $80k that this guy spent on student loans for his college years.....might have been wasted.  Just a humble impression here.

What Next?

For Thursday.....as Delta flight 3163 landed in Chicago....we had this unique event occur.

The authorities ended up concerned over the flight, and one of the passengers on board....who was African, and felt to be infected with a virus or disease.   At the end of the mess....they released the plane and all its passengers.  The treat?  Someone felt a rash seen on the African gal might have been monkeypox.  It wasn't.  Life went on.

Monkeypox?  It's one of those things that cause you to have fever, chills, the sweats, and acts like a regular pox of sorts. In Africa....it kills around one to ten percent of the folks who get it....mostly because folks don't have the health care system to fight it off.  How do you get it?  Well.....you end up messing around with animal urine, animal fluids, etc.  It's not a pleasant disease but you can beat it.

So here's the thing.

You worry about the number of bags you can tote with you on the plane.

You worry the TSA folks touching your "junk".

You worry about the airline screwing up and missing your connection in New York City, where you get stuck in a $240 a night hotel because there's no more flights to Huntsville.

You worry about a Jihad dimwit from a third-world country on the flight who would like to kill you, your grandma, your minister, your neighbor, your wife, your kids, your husband, your boss, or your Uncle Karl who took out forty Germans in World War II to save his entire platoon.

You worry about your bags getting lost, or possibly never returned.

You worry about some cheap labor contract with the maintenance guy who was supposed to fix the plane but just wrote off the problem as "acceptable".

You worry about a cheap pilot hired to fly the plane and work seventy-five hours a week.

You worry about the pilot on board who happens to be mentally unstable without his meds.

You worry about the toilet on board and the sixty-four possible diseases you could pick up from the sink.

You worry about some idiot at the airport scouting you out as a potential robbery victim.

You worry about the lousy food on board and if you might get food poisoning from it.

You worry about the cooling temperature or cramped seats on board the plane.

Now?  You have to worry about sitting next to some African gal who just returned from some foreign land....where she messed around with some monkey who had sores over his body and gave her monkeypox?  And she might give you monkeypox?

We might be all better off just staying home and not traveling anywhere....if you ask me.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

If You Wanted America to Fail........

I grew up on a farm.  To be kinda honest, it's a privileged lifestyle.  You don't come to realize that until ten years after you leave the atmosphere.

Generally, every single day....there's excitement and drama on a farm.  Things break.  Animals get sick or figure out a brilliant way of escaping from your field.  The $70k tractor you bought last spring might spring a strange leak which the manufacturer says isn't covered by the warranty.  Some county agricultural agent might stop by and spend two hours talking about some Chinese bacteria that is infesting cotton (although you don't have any cotton....you still sit and are entertained by his explanation of science stuff).  A one-day sale on barb-wire occurs at the Co-Op and you have to put down everything and race over to buy twenty rolls at half-price....which you might not use up for another twelve years.

A kid learns alot on a farm.  One of the big things is the fact that on any given day....you could do one stupid thing and get killed.  All it takes is a cow episode where you are pushing up a cow through a funnel operation to a chute where it's going to get a shot for something.  One brave moment by the cow....to turn around and run you over....is all it takes to bury you six-feet under.  You have to learn to read a situation....moments before something happens.  A sound, a vibration, a twisted neck, an odd thump noise.....something that you can read and stop something in a moment's notice.

There's no certified training program for a kid....it's mostly learn-as-you-go.  My dad felt secure in giving me the keys to the soy bean truck....loaded down with tons of soy beans....and tasking me to drive thirty miles to the delivery point and dump the load.  I didn't think much of the task, but later got out on the big highway and could actually get that truck up to sixty-five miles per hour.    It was at this point where I had some old gal pull out in front of me and I lightly tapped on the brakes....to find that tapping didn't do much of nothing.  Stomping....became step number two.  And then full stomping (like you were throwing that right leg down on that brake pedal with all 190 pounds of your body on that leg).  You kinda figure out after that....moving along at 65 miles per hour with tons of soy beans in the back....just won't work.  You have to think a thousand feet ahead of you and concentrate on idiots bringing harm to you.  You don't get this type of mentality growing up in the inner city.

This week....reality came to farms across America.  The US Department of Labor is now pushing out this seventy-odd page safety regulation.....which will ultimately call and forbid anyone under the age of eighteen....from handling raw materials on a farm.  I had to read through a fair amount of news pieces....to realize what raw materials meant.  This includes cattle, pigs, horses, chickens, wheat, pumpkins, corn, cucumbers, etc.

Added to the text of the seventy-odd pages....if you were under the age of sixteen....you just couldn't ever operate a vehicle that had a motor and was more than six feet tall (oddly, they just couldn't say the world tractor, they had to say vehicle above six feet tall).

Now, I read around and grasp the fact that the Department of Labor hasn't really updated a single regulation on their books since 1970.....so you might expect them to retire a couple of guys and bring in some young punks.....and decided they had to invent something new.

Naturally, this upset a bunch of folks in Congress, the Senate, and around the farming belt.  If you take away this manpower....then most family farms would shut down within ten years.  Folks would just give up and admit that you can't get ahead.  Your only way of avoiding this mess....would be to convince 14-year old Karl to do the work and just NOT report you to the Labor Department.

Somewhere in the midst of eighth-grade civics....the teacher learns that some kid named Karl is doing such work and wants him to report to the Labor Department.  Karl does this....and Dad goes off for eight months of prison.  Karl asks the civic instructor what lesson in life was gained, and the instructor just goes blank.

The sad thing here is that there is a potential threat to kids.  You can't get away from that.  But there are fifty year old guys in their garages....who accidentally kill themselves by not double-chaining a vehicle when it's hoisted up.  Are you going to outlaw home-garage repair work too?

Or how about sixty-year old women who buy some type of poison for their garden but mixes it up with some other stuff and uses it for indoor plants....which ends up killing her accidentally.  Would you outlaw home gardening by old women?

Or how about fishing a hundred feet off the outlet area of a dam by Gus and Henry?  They both know this is where fish meet up with this big water-flow deal but it's a very unsafe place to be positioned.  Neither thinks much about this until they capsize and Henry drowns.  Would you outlaw fishing on lakes?

Or how about Ronny who is a lousy golfer, and slugs balls way off the course.... accidentally hitting some old guy in the head getting out of his SUV at the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Would outlaw lousy golfers?

I'm sorry....but America just isn't this bastion of safety.  It never has been.  Guys in the 1820s would ride a horse off in the morning....get totally drenched and wet by a thunderstorm in November....and die ten days later from pneumonia.  A horse team would get riled up by a snake on the road....run off the road and kill the two old guys on board the wagon.  A guy running a bush-hog over his field might run over a stomp and toss back a chunk of wood toward the driver....killing him instantly.  We aren't a safe society.....we never were.

So I don't have this positive feeling over the seventy-odd pages of text to save America's youth.  Maybe the Department of Labor ought to write up a rule or two over forbidding kids from using drugs.  They might save thousands of lives a year....if they were so bold or naive enough to believe words would make much difference.

My humble guess is that we will end up with some kind of training and certification class for twelve-year old kids to attend.  Karl Junior shows up and spends an entire Saturday learning how to properly string barb-wire by a government instructor....then gets certified by this guy.  Next Saturday, they have another class where Karl Junior learns the proper way to run a mad cow up a chute.....getting certified for that.  Eventually, Karl Junior is angry and hostile over the number of Saturdays that he has to waste over this and why some idiot from a urban college in California is teaching him the wrong way in doing things.

What's left?  So far, no idiot in the Labor Department has written up any regulations over border collies not managing cattle or forbidding them from hustling up cows in a chute.  Maybe that's a good thing.

If You Buy It, They Will Come

It was one of those odd moments in US postal history on Wednesday.  Tom Carper, Senator from Delaware (no, he's not a Republican)....concludes a thought-provoking moment in the Senate by suggesting that the US postal system ought take electrical power from windmill farms (friendly green energy of course), to run a mighty and great fleet of postal jeeps....all battery-power....like those Volts....to replace the 25-to-30 year old delivery jeeps that they currently have.

Senator Tom wrapped up by saying that this idea might have been on the edge of reality.....but "we need to be thinking boldly, and the postal service needs to do that."

I sat pondering over this moment.  Basically, the Volt guys at GM have to be in this process of rethinking the whole business strategy with the Volt.  It's not selling like hotcakes.  So maybe you tear apart the current look of the Volt and make it into a delivery vehicle instead.....then force-sell them down the mouths of the postal system.

You can imagine Karl and Marty at your local post office....being told that the new seven postal jeeps will arrive today.  They go out....and find them in the parking lot.  Then a moment of shock come to Karl and Marty.....seeing some type of electrical charge-up meter on the dash.  A week later....some electrician arrives to attach seven charge-up devices to the side of the building.  He warns both Karl and Marty that these are very powerful devices and not to be played with.  Karl immediately puts his finger up into the electrical discharge valve and hits the green button....falling over dead.  Marty is briefed later not to put any bodily part up the discharge valve and push the green button.

Weeks pass, and Marty is on his route.  He stops by Miss Deena's house.  She invites him to the front porch to sip some ice tea and taste some fresh muffins.  About two minutes into this visit while watching his battery-powered jeep on the post box.....he notes there's a funny electrical smell in the air, and then notices flames shooting out of the jeep.  Some kind of electrical discharge episode has occurred, and the mail is on fire.

Marty's jeep burns up completely, and the postal investigators focus more on the stop to have tea....than why the battery set the jeep on fire.  Eventually, some dimwit Congressman from Louisiana eventually asks about the incident, and folks admit....that there is a one-percent chance of a bad battery situation on the new battery-powered postal jeeps.  A month later...things happen.  Congress ends up directing all six thousand newly purchased battery-powered "Volt-delivery vehicles" to be dumped.

Months pass, and Marty is at a government property sale.....and buys six of these jeeps for several thousand dollars.  For the rest of Marty's life....the only vehicle Marty drives around his small town....is this battery-powered car.  He naturally swears by them.  What Marty doesn't want to admit....is that he might have dropped a can of beer over the stupid battery storage box under the driver's seat of the vehicle.....and accidentally set the jeep on fire in the first place.

Sadly, stranger things have happened in US history.  So the Senator from Delaware might eventually get his wish.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Wal-Mart and the Bribe Episode

The Wal-Mart bribe episode continues onto a second day.  One of the big guys of ethics in Mexico came out and made a good comment over the mess.  From a Mexican prospective....he felt that Mexican authorities (from the head government on down) tend to look for reasons NOT to investigate something.  I was kinda amazed....we need that reaction by American political figures, who tend to investigate just about everything...from the beef content in burgers to the unfairness of the NCAA bowl selection.

So the amount of money involved in this bribe mess?  They think it's around $8.5 million that went to various local political figures in Mexico....to allow Wal-Mart to open up.  There's also a suggestion that another sixteen million.....was paid directly (in plain view) to local governments.  This was probably fees, upon fees, upon fees, upon fees.  Fees, no matter what country you mess with....even though they look like bribes...they are just fees, and legal.

The funny thing here is that Congress will investigate the bribes....toss this toward some federal prosecutor, and expect Wal-Mart to be charged with something....then pay a "fine" (actually a lawful US bribe), and everyone will pat themselves on the back for doing such a great job.  Then next week, some Super-PAC will bribe some Senator running in November, for helping them in some fashion.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

My Neighborhood

There's two interesting stories for DC today.  First, cops in the local area (DC only, not Virginia) now admit that they can give out a $35 fine for having  a air freshener hanging device on your rear-view mirror.

The deal?  Well...they say it obstructs your view.  So once they pull you over for issue number one, and note your stupid air freshener....it's another second ticket that comes into play.

It's kind of comical but it's a nifty way that you can probably pull in another million dollars a year for the city government.

The second item of interest?  Marion Barry (our city councilman) did another speech to get himself into trouble.  At some hearing yesterday....the city councilman told the head folks for the University of the District of Columbia that they really needed to recruit hard from the local area and get the right folks into the right positions.

Barry then said: "In fact, it's so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines. And no offense, but let's grow our own teachers, let's grow our own nurses, and so that we don't have to be scrounging around in our community clinics and other kinds of places, having to hire people from somewhere else." (quotes from the Examiner)

It's the second time in a month that he's hit on the Asian community.

As for the comment over the Philippine nurses?  Well....you have to realize this....Marion goes over to the local hospital on a fairly regular basis.  He's not in great health, and the nurses at the local hospital....including the Philippine nurses....are doing their best to keep the old guy ticking and alive.

The Terrible Art of Bribes

The business world took a tumble yesterday....as it came out that Wal-Mart's Mexico division....probably paid some bribes.  Yes....it is unbelievable....bribes paid in Mexico.  Who would have thought that bribes would ever be paid in Mexico?

The trigger for the bribes?  Well....if you want to build stores of any type....you need to apply to the local and regional government.  Forms and stamps on the forms must be accomplished.  A form can linger in a box for days, weeks, or months.  There's no way of forecasting how fast twelve forms can be reviewed and stamped in a office of four city government employees.

Wal-Mart figured out the mess in Mexico and said "fine".....we will pay some bribes....to build our stores.

House Demoracrats are furious about hint of bribes.  So they want a House investigation of Wal-Mart.  Facts must be gained from this terrible business.

Years ago....I was sent off to Panama for three years.  During the first month there....I had a guy explain the bribery game and how I needed to play it.  Cops were typically $10 a situation bribes.  The electrical guy who would fix up my power for the apartment?  Twenty bucks.  Anything to do with the city government? Ten bucks was typically enough.  The vehicle inspector?  Ten bucks.  There's really not a single function of the Panamanian government that doesn't function without a bribe.  Most folks I knew....always had a ten in their shirt pocket or in the car....to cover a situation that had developed.

The plain truth is that once you cross the border heading south....almost every single government requires a bribe.  But once you start thinking about what Wal-Mart had to do.....to get four Wal-Marts approved within the city limits of Washington DC....it was a bribe of sorts.  There were various community packages done up as agreements before Wal-Mart would be allowed to build.  Various community organizers and special interest groups got promises of special hiring procedures and some cash donations to the right community projects.  Only then....would Wal-Mart be 'blessed' to build in DC.

The difference between the DC and Mexico bribes?  There isn't much difference.  You don't build....unless you cooperate.

So, I'm inviting the Senate House members to go full-force ahead.  And by the way....let's toss in the procedures for opening a Wal-Mart in DC....as something to investigate as well.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Would Have Been Better Than Glee

Not that it really matters.....but North Korea came out today and put out this nifty message that it's military had now made a new vow.....ever determined to destroy South Korea "to ashes" in about four minutes.  This was done on national TV in North Korea....with a special report.

Naturally, South Korea was watching this and got kinda peppy.

So let's put this into the right context.  It was the 400th time or more.....that North Korea over the past twenty years had made a threat like this.  The only thing different this time....was this four minutes or less deal.

You can imagine some North Korean guy on the top staff....looking for new and different material to impress the new boss....so he injected the four minute destruction comment.  In five or six years.....some new idiot will arrive on the staff, and likely go to the three minutes before destruction effort.  Eventually we will get down to ten seconds.

The other part to this magnificent story.....is the fact that probably less than one million North Koreans....out of the twenty-four million....actually watched the show.  There's this other set of problems for North Korean folks.  First, most families are lucky to have a radio...let alone a TV.  You've got to be a big-wig to have a TV, and remember that there's only one channel that you can watch.....so most folks kinda reserve themselves for an episode "Songs to March To" or "Corrupt South Korean People".

There's also this other problem.....the electrical grid is mostly questionable, and if you can get four hours a day of electricity....you can count yourself as lucky.  The folks who have the TV?  They are likely the managers and big-wigs....who live in the right neighborhood to have power at 7PM when this might show up on TV.  The rest of the folks?  Well....they were kinda sitting there in the dark....and would have missed the glorious moment when the four-minute threat was made.

I'm pretty sure everyone the next day....around the water bucket (not the water cooler), were chatting about the glorious moment and hinting that they did have electricity and a TV.....when actually....they didn't.

The sad thing?  That four-minute thrust of North Korean pride....was probably ten times better than some episode of Glee, or a one-hour update on the John Edwards Trial on MSNBC.

Got 4:39 Minutes?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Vanderbilt Coliseum and the Lions

About two to three months ago....I started following this Tennessee story....the Vanderbilt University and the new policy on Christian groups at the University.  It's a curious story.

Vanderbilt, for those who aren't aware of it....is a private university, run by the Methodist.  For most folks, it's kinda like the Harvard of the South.  They produce "winners".  When a kid signs up for Vandy.....it's a pretty good chance that in four years....he'll still be there and will graduate.  That's something that you can't say for the University of Alabama.

The new rule change is fairly simple.  If you run a Christian club on the campus (private property), then you can't require any member of the leadership of that club to be a Christian.  That kind of boggled the mind of most Christians on campus.  They can't imagine any University putting this kind of rule out there....especially one run by a Methodist group.

I've watched the video clip of the three guys sitting there and trying to explain and lay out the policy....for everyone to just accept.  My apologies to the gentlemen.....but you were pretty lousy actors, and your explanation left a lot out for details on how you came to this decision.  So I sat and pondered over this....and came to realize what the gentlemen could not explain or talk about.

A college relies upon donations to survive....especially a private college.  Usually, the alumni are a major part of this and donate millions to ensure construction, renovation and special projects.

My belief is that around twelve to eighteen months ago....an alumni arrived with a third-party.  The alumni wanted to introduce the third-party to the leadership of Vandy.  The third-party wants to make a donation of a fair sum.  It should be suggested at this point that the third-party is not American, and not a Christian.  I'll let your mind wander at this point.

Talk between the third-party, the alumni in the meeting, and the Vandy leadership goes from point to point.  The third-party eventually suggests that he could bring more people into the donation idea from his "group".....if they weren't "SO" Christian.  You can imagine the Vandy leadership guys sitting....looking at the potential pot of money that this third-party is talking about.  They think.....that they aren't stupid (this will be proven otherwise).

So the Vandy leadership goes back to the drawing board.  If they just change a couple of rules, then they can show they aren't "SO" religious.

Days, weeks, and months pass.  The mess is now in turbo mode.  My humble guess is that out of 12k students....at least four thousand are fairly hostile over what has occurred.  Another four thousand are leaning toward the idea of this being unfair, at the very least.  You might find 500 students who strongly think it was a wise idea of the Campus.

What happens as the leadership stands its ground?  Well....the alumni of the college start to get focused and start to dictate that their funding is now halted.  A $50k check here.....a $300k check there....a $1 million check there....gone.

Strangely enough, the third-party folks show up, and offer to help make up the loss.  The Vandy leadership feel better.  They made a good decision and can make up for their losses.

A year or two passes, and the number of students applying for Vandy decreases by thirty percent.  The third-party steps in and offers to help bring in foreign students....Muslim of course....to the University.  The Vandy leadership is still positive about this.

Somewhere around a decade from now....the third-party now wants their folks on the leadership team of Vandy.  No one has mentioned the fair sum of international money flowing into Vandy or the number of increasing Islamic students.  So it's kind of a shock, and folks are asking for an explanation.

The Vandy leadership now realizes.....a decade after their Christian rule change....they've screwed up big-time.  Vandy isn't Vandy anymore.  They've allowed some outside interest to gain control.  Over a very short period of time.....students start to leave the university, and no alumni members will dare connect themselves to the college.

Maybe I'm wrong on my scenario.....but the lack of a explanation how you make a decision....typically means you really did something stupid and don't want to admit in public.  For those in the Vanderbilt Coliseum.....if you are Christians.....you've been thrown to the lions.


Saturday, 21 April 2012

An Alcohol Story or Two

A guy from Bama....if you grill them over the topic....will admit that we do have a problem with alcohol in the state.  To be honest.....we have a number of dry counties, and there is a huge influence over the whole state with this dry-attitude of ours.

This week, we had an unusual episode occur with the state board that allows booze into the state to be sold.  You have to present your product, and it's given the stamp of approval to be sold.  Well....this company from Michigan showed up with their ale....named....Dirty Bastard Beer.  The state board looked at the title....felt horrified, and declined to allow it to be sold in Alabama.

If you wanted a bottle or six-pack, or case of Dirty Bastard....you'd have to cross the state line into Tennessee or Georgia or Florida or Mississippi.

You see, we have a strong ethical position in Bama.  You just can't be sure that some young child would be in the beer department of the Rinky-Dinky Suds Shop and see the label of "Dirty Bastard" and get the idea to run up with a six-pack and hope to confuse the 19-year old dimwit gal at the cash register....buy the Dirty Bastard beer, and then guzzle it down in the parking lot.  This is the kind of thing that Satan would do....tempt the young innocent....over Dirty Bastard Beer.

So this brings us to story number two.  There's this Olive Garden resturant up in Indianapolis.  A family walks in and there's some confusion in the back when the gal starts to bring out the drinks.  The ten-year old kid wanted a non-alcoholic wild-berry frullato daiquiri.  What the waitress ends up giving the kid.....is a real daiquiri.

Now, most of us would just sip the daiquiri....with one lousy shot of rum in it, and it'd barely give us any kind of loose feeling.  The kid could have sat there....sipped it....likely been a bit more chatty and maybe grinning alot, but nothing much else would have happened.

This waitress begins to realize her mistake....runs back....and the kid has consumed half the daiquiri by this point.  I can only guess that he was feeling pretty good....without much of a reaction.  To be honest....the Olvie Garden folks probably water-down their drinks anyway.  But the parents ended up getting concerned about Junior.  So they ran off to an emergency room to have him checked out.  Ten-year old Junior by this point.....is a bit shaken up (by press accounts) but I'm thinking it's more over having to go to an emergency room.

You can imagine this kid in the back of the SUV.....Mom is all worried and likely on the cellphone.  Dad is racing the vehicle as fast as possible.  Meanwhile....sitting in the backseat....you start to feel you might die from half a daiquiri.  Your head is spinning now.....death might be coming.....your minutes are numbered.  You will never get a chance to gaze intently at Wanda....that other ten-year old gal across from you in school.  You feel ill now.....likely dying.  Minute by minute....your life is ticking away.

You get to the emergency room and the parents are yanking you around.  The lady at the reception is just looking toward your parents....then you.  She wished that she had three or four daiquiris....preferably something in the Strawberry taste.  She asks about your gut feeling.  You just feel that nausea feeling and not much else.

Some doctor comes out....shines a light in Junior's eyes.....pokes a stick down his mouth, and eventually proclaims Junior 'safe'.  Naturally, there's a $90 charge somewhere in this mess for the hospital visit, which dad's health insurance will cover.

Junior goes back home, and the next day....openly discusses his event at the Olive Garden.  By that evening thirty kids from the school are begging their parents to take them over to Olive Garden....in hopes that they might get a real daiquiri.

This is why folks in Bama act the way they do.  If you can prevent booze in every county....there's no chance of Junior ever being introduced to the evils of alcohol.

As for the daiquiri business?  If you had to pick a real wussy drink to consume....that's a five-star drink.  Unless you could liven it up with double-shots....I just don't think it's much to worry about....even with a ten-year old kid.

Years from now, Junior will remember this day.  And every time he goes to Olive Garden....even fifty years from now....he'll order a daiquiri.

The Silver Spoon Moment

This week, the President came up in a political moment....and said in a very simple statement.....he "wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth."

The reference?  Well....most folks think he referred to Mitt Romney's millionaire status.   To the small-town guy who isn't leaning any direction....it's a pretty good statement.  It's good up until the point where you realize that Mitt's dad was born into the bottom of the working class, and worked himself to a successful point in life.  Mitt may have had a few advantages along the way, but no more than most average folks.

But there is another side to this story.  What do you pay for two years of tuition at Occidental College in California (a private college no less)?  Roughly $72k just for tuition, and figure around a total of $100k for the tuition, room, and board.  All in 2010-dollars, of course.

What do you pay for two years of tuition at Columbia University in New York (another private college)?  Well....it's in the $72k region, for two years.  Toss in another $50k for living expenses, books, and food.  So the kid spends $122k for that period.

The kid finishes and gets a regular job, but then a couple of years go by and he ends up going to Harvard Law School for two years.  Figure around $75k for tuition for the period, and for living expenses....maybe $50k.  Total for that period.....$125k.

All total?  $360k as a minimum.  What kid in Boaz, Bama could afford that?  What kid in Ripley, Mississippi could afford that?  What kid in Waco, Texas could afford that?  But the President himself....could apparently afford that.

There's some silver spooning here, but you need to pay attention to which guy has which silver spoon in his mouth.  Course, maybe he might admit that he didn't have to pay for tuition for some odd reason.  The truth is.....there just aren't that many kids who could whip up $360k for tuition and expenses to go off to college.  Unless you had a mighty fine silver spoon.  And if you want to use 1988-dollars....we can do that....but at the end of the 1988-period.....compared to other kids living in 1988.....you'd still have some kind of nifty silver spoon.

My Neighborhood

There's a fifty-one year old guy, from this week in DC....traveling on the Metro train.  He's left DC and proceeding toward the Pentagon Station.  I'm guessing he's sweating a little.  His blood pressure is up.  And in this short 90-second ride....he has a heart attack.  The train pulls into Pentagon Station and there's a few folks trying to revive the guy.

The Metro folks have defibrillators in a number of stations (no, not all), but there's one in the Pentagon Station.  The folks grab this and prepare it for use on the guy.  The truth about the defibrillator game.....you could run ten folks through it and all would live, and then run the next ten folks through it.....and all would die.  It's a statistical game which you can't be sure about.  The emphasis though.....it's better than nothing.

So they start to prepare to use the defibrillator on the guy, and then discover there's no battery power left in it.

Yep.....no juice.  It's a dead defibrillator.

The ambulance crew arrives within a few minutes and start to revive him....using their own equipment.  The guy is declared dead at the hospital.  They made every single effort to save the guy.  It just wasn't enough.  The lack of a defibrillator?  You just don't know.  It may not have helped at all.

The Metro reaction?  They announced that they were going to ensure a defibrillator in every single station, and that they would be checked at least once a day or more.

The dead guy's reaction?  He can't say much.  He probably would have preferred that some idiot working for Metro would have walked around their own station once a week and just look at the green light on the defibrillator to ensure it works.....but it's a bit too late for him to complain.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

My Neighborhood

Up in the center of Silver Springs, Maryland (just stone's throw up the road from me).....there's this great effort underway in the downtown area.  The town decided to build up this fantastic Metro mass transit center....down by the Metro station.  The subway area is already there....what they want is this area where buses could pull up.....dump folks off and pick folks up.....and make it easy to walk over to the Metro subway tunnel.

For Silver Springs....this is a huge project....around $100 million going into the property and construction.  Most folks consider this to be a magnet.  It'll bring more apartments down to the center of town and increase property values.

Metro brought in the architects and drew up the envisioned center.  The contract was won, and construction was started.

Well....the construction guys are somewhere around seventy percent done and Metro brought in this audit guy to make sure the drawings are being used and the construction is within the terms of what they specified.  The audit came out this week.  There's this big problem.

The concrete for this three-story center?  Parts of it is way too thick, and parts are way too thin.....by the terms of what was originally listed.  So you have three scenarios running.  Too thick?  It might collapse because of too much weight on the columns.  Too thin?  Might crack at the wrong time when too much weight was on it.  Just right?  Thank God.

Metro is hinting now that they won't sign off.  That means no money.  The construction company found some guy who says that he's concrete certified, and this is not a big deal.

It looks like this will end up in court and some independent guy will have a say in this matter.  The bad thing here....is if the judge agrees with the construction company, and ten years from now....the over-weight sections collapse....you (as the judge in this case)....might have to leave the country and find safe shelter in Honduras for a while.

The comical side of this.....you would think for $100 million....that a company would hire some smart guys to ensure everything is built right.  You just don't get the impression that this was done, and somebody's cousin Orson was guessed on the thickness of the concrete.

Paradise: Lost and Found

There’s a former associate of mine who has this thing about finding paradise. The logic is….you can only have paradise if you’ve got the money. Otherwise, you are accepting something less than paradise, and it’s a lesser life without paradise (pain, woes, sorrows, tragedy, etc).

Some British guy with a fair amount of time to ponder…sat around and thought about Paradise. In the end, he wrote up a fair amount of words on the topic of paradise in the lost sense and paradise in the found sense. In a cryptic way, it was tied up to some Bible scripture and that probably didn’t solve anyone’s dilemma about finding it.

A couple of years ago, some screenplay writers wrote up another paradise piece, which centered around paradise lost, found, lost, and then accepted. They took in the British guy’s vision, tossed in some science fiction, some Greek mythology, a crashed plane on a beach, some black fog, and a time-warp deal….which all led to some confused paradise situation.

After a long life of wandering around, I’ve come to realize some facts about paradise.

A guy from Bama can find paradise simply in a place that has flushing toilets, fresh water, and tin roofs.

Some folks could find paradise in some Irish countryside, where it rains every other day and some guy at the pub who talks woes and sorrows on a daily basis to anyone willing to buy his brew.

Some folks could find paradise in a place where you can buy French glacier water, Italian tomato paste, and fresh Greek garlic.

Some folks can find paradise in a double-wide trailer, just overlooking a creek that never floods.

Some folks can find paradise in a scorching 120-degree Arizona desert.

Some folks can find paradise in Alice Springs, Australia after a 44-hour drive from Brisbane.

Some folks can believe they’ve got paradise when they can order the $6.99 all-you-can-eat-waffle-menu at Karl’s Diner in Ripley.

Some folks could find paradise in New Orleans where forty-year old women in a tube-top runs around half-drunk and yelling 'go Saints'.

I'm kinda of the belief that money just doesn't have much to do with paradise.  I don't really want to share this idea too much.....because so many folks are working hard to save enough money to get them to paradise.  Without that 'work hard' urge.....these folks might be lost (so to speak).  So those of you in for the long haul and worried about paradise.....you might ought to just around you right now.  You might already be there.

The Difference Between Two Words

As the smoke has kinda settled on this Secret Service episode still left from the President's Columbia trip....you can kinda see the trigger to this whole thing.

Early in the evening with Secret Service "Snuffy".....the crew got to some club.  "Snuffy" met up with some of the local women.

Now, just like it is in Washington, Paris, Frankfurt, London, Tokyo, and Seattle....there are two classes of women you can meet in some nightclub who have expectations of money at the end of the evening.  One is the plain hooker class, which in Cartagena.....it's roughly $50 for the night.  The hooker-class dresses up in Sears-like clothing, looks fairly sharp, and typically fills all of the imagination of a guy.

The second type of gal would be the escort-type.  This is someone who is in a $300 outfit and wearing $100 shoes.  This is someone who is probably a bit more educated and more intelligent.  This is someone that you'd typically take out on a full dinner and see a show with.  In Cartagena, a escort runs $800....more or less.

Somewhere in the midst of this initial talking and discussion...."Snuffy" missed the understanding of the term escort.  So "Snuffy" enjoyed the whole evening and got up the next day.....to discover that his gal (from the 21-odd women hired the previous evening) was expecting $800.  "Snuffy", the Secret Service dude, didn't have $800 and probably wouldn't pay a substantial amount like that.  So the argument takes off, and it appears that his buddies helped in some way for cash flow but he never paid this gal the $800....it was something less than that.

"Snuffy" is now sitting back in DC, and kicking himself left and right.  He should have been like the other guys and just found himself a regular hooker, but he must have been thinking that this finely-dressed gal was in the same category was what the other Secret Service guys had.

So in the end, there is this little difference between escort and hooker.  I'm pretty sure that the news media will talk about this for days.  Some expert will appear on CNN and talk for twelve minutes on recognition factors for an escort.  MSNBC will bring out both a hooker and a escort....just to demonstrate the difference.  Fox News?  Well.....they will drag out some retired Secret Service guy from the 1950s who will tell you how they never used hookers or escorts, and stayed pure off Dr Pepper and Honey Buns.

Its a comical end to the story.  I'm guessing some Hollywood screenplay writer is weeping over this right now.....it's the perfect script for a movie.  Beautiful educated Latino gal, a naive Secret Service agent who probably grew up in Kansas, a night out on the town in Cartagena, some misunderstanding, and a fall from grace.  Toss in some KGB agents, a couple of British James Bond-like characters, a rookie NBC reporter on his first trip, some midget Columbian wrestlers, a United airlines pilot at the hotel bar, a wannabe Jewish mobster, and some drug cartel guys......and you've got a four-star movie.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Secret Service and the Hookers

There are around a dozen variations of the Secret Service in Cartagena episode.  I've come to realize that today.  Some folks say that the Secret Service guys all gathered at some local bar and seem to thought it was just a upscale bar when it was a major brothel in Cartagena.  The number of hookers?  Well....it goes up and down, from 21 to a dozen.  The disagreement over the money for the one hooker that erupted the whole thing?  Well....there's an indicator that whoever this was....may simply have not had anymore cash on him and he needed to get some kind of cash from the hotel guys.....maybe true, maybe false.

I'm thinking there could be more twists to the whole story by next weekend.  How many state department folks were involved in this?  How about the three hundred US news media personalities that were in Cartagena......were any of them involved with the ladies?  Were any of the ladies involved.....possibly men in drag?  You just don't know.

My suggestion....to help out the President, the Secret Service, and all the guys supporting the mission.....start having these events in some dry county in Bama.  Once the Secret Service gets unpacked....they can sip a Doctor Pepper at the hotel bar and have some corn curls.  Around 10PM, we'd shut down the non-alcohol bar and encourage everyone to check for snakes under their bed before sleeping that night.  Everyone would be  woke up in the morning with free pancakes and freshly squeezed orange juice trucked up from Orlando.

Maybe that's the only way to keep the Secret Service pure and innocent.....like everyone envisions.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

When You Run With the Dogs

We have an expression in the South....you either run with the dogs or stay up on the porch.  This week....Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki apparently came to violent end, because he just couldn't run with the dogs.

This is a simple story of sorts.  Abu Mansoor Al-Mriki was in reality.....a kid from Alabama.  He grew up down in the Mobile region....from a Baptist mother and a Syrian Muslim father.  Some folks from Bama would say that this was situation bound to go bad.

All throughout high school in the Mobile area....Abu really wanted to identify himself as the outsider.  He readily identified himself as a Mulsim in a southern environment.  You can imagine a character like this.....never really identifying with the local guys....always having to be different.

Days passed, and Abu eventually finished up high school and ended up at the University of South Alabama.  He did two years and then left.  No one ever talks much over that two-year period.  My humble guess is that he continued the "outsider" routine.  He probably wanted to always be different.  The problem though....this was after 9-11, and in Bama.....a staunch Muslim outsider idiot wasn't going to be respected in any fashion.

Abu left and went off to Canada.....when he met some Somali gal and married her.  They could have quietly sat in Canada and he probably could have lived a pretty good life.  But he just couldn't be regular or normal.  So he eventually took his Somali wife and went to Egypt.  I'm guessing at this point, he was still acting as the outsider....an American Muslim guy....but this time around, he just wasn't getting much respect from the Muslims.....mostly because he was young, immature, and had some outsider attitude.

Abu left Egypt and finally settled in Somalia.  The we can say....by 2007....he was an American Muslim sitting in Somalia....conducting jihad activities....and talking up his war on non-Muslims.  At this point, the intelligence guys finally put Abu's name up on the wall and considered him a threat.  The great fear was that he would represent this young punk attitude in the Muslim world, and potentially recruit other Americans eventually.  He was a threat.

For the past five years....Abu made videos.....Abu made threats....Abu got attention.  Along the way, some older Muslim guys in Somalia determined that Abu was disrespecting them and their authority.  You can't have some punk Muslim kid from Mobile, Bama move into your neighborhood and suddenly get status.  It takes years and years in Somalia.....to be someone in the Muslim terrorist world.  Abu had violated several unwritten rules.

So this past week....based on reports.....our Mobile native terrorist, Abu.....met with foul play.  In fact, as the story goes....he was beheaded.  I'm guessing here, mostly because they haven't found a body yet....that the American Muslim kid was dumped in some ditch in Somalia.  A sad end to the outsider, who was always the outsider, and died the outsider.

A chapter in Bama history now closes.  We had contributed some punk kid into the Muslim world.....who made it onto the top ten bad boy Muslim list.....and the only thing that really remains of him now, is a Wikipedia mention.  Nothing else.  And that's a sad end to kid who could have gone in a different direction, or just sat on the "porch".

A Woeful Tale

In the old days.....if you were a NCAA football championship winner.....you ended up with a real trophy.....like the one you see here on the right.  It was always big and gaudy.  It had character.  And it was fairly tough. You could bang it around a little, and it'd be ok at the end of the day.  Guys admired trophies like this.

So the NCAA came along and decided that the old fashioned trophy was not acceptable.  They had a long chat about this.  Some research was done, and they selected a fancy crystal football trophy as the national hand-me-out.  It couldn't be cheap.....so the NCAA was willing to spend over $30k for this crystal trophy.  

The thing about crystal trophies.....they tend to break.

This past weekend....the folks down in Bama came to discover this.  They had a function, and some guy tripped over on a rug (you can imagine the scene)....fell against the case where the 2011 NCAA football crystal trophy was held, and it fell.

Steinbeck would have written this up: "A quietness filled the room.  Utter horror fell upon every breathing soul.  Terror filled every single mind".

Some Auburn guys would have just winked around the room....not wanting to claim they had scrunched up their carpet or such.....but they might hint this later.

The university folks are quickly moving to fill the void.  My humble guess is that they will hustle up another crystal football from some guy named Arnie, who secretly buys them from a Bombay company that found a hidden cave in the Himalayas where crystal football trophies sit in the thousands.  This time around....they will attach the trophy with carpenters glue to some fancy oak board on the wall, which will have forty screws holding it tightly there.

At the end of the day.....the worst you can say.....is that some guy is fairly embarrassed over tossing the 2011 NCAA football crystal trophy, and will be bothered over this for the rest of his life.  My advice?  Don't worry about it.  Bama intends to win a dozen such trophies over the next decade, and the only thing hindering them from accomplishing that....is that agricultural school to the south of University of Alabama....that occasionally recruits 5-star players.....that shall remain nameless.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Screwed-Up Prospective

The court case in Norway is starting up....over Anders Behring Breivik.  Last summer, Breivik came out and killed 77 people (the vast majority under the age of 21) in a very dramatic bombing-and-shooting episode.  Norway has never had anything like this in its entire history.  It was for all purposes....an all-out massacre.

The intention?  Well....over the past decades (probably since WW II).....this small country of 4.9 million people have had a simple political trail.  You were a big-name political figure in Norwegian politics....you had a son or daughter which you ensured went to the right schools, then to the right clubs and summer camps, and got the right jobs after university.  A decade later....they were into local politics, and then moved on up to national politics.

I'm pretty sure that you could have asked any Norwegian journalist about this singular trail that had been devised and they probably would agree it was fact, but that it was the only way to determine the best political figures later in life.  They might have even argued that this had been the Norwegian model for over two hundred years.

Over the past two decades, there has been this perception that multiculturalism is creeping into Norwegian life.  Political figures tended to suggest to the public that it was acceptable and part of the Norwegian future.

Breivik, over the past couple of years....came to believe the impact of these potential future political figures and the negative nature of multiculturalism.  Norway was heading in the wrong direction....but the potential to step in and bring in a modern political party and counter this.....was practically impossible.

So, Breivik devised this attack on the island of Utoya....killing approximately 69 teenagers.  It would be appropriate to say that this camp where the kids were staying on Utoya had one singular focus.  It was supported by a major political party, and it was an opportunity to mingle and socialize in a summer setting. It would provide this point where you'd know all the political faces in fifteen years when your generation became the new political figures of Norway.   Breivik had the belief that he could wipe out one entire generation of political figures and trigger a new direction for the nation.

This week....while starting up the court case against Breivik, I'm left with three observations.  First, as guilty as you proclaim him......the only thing you can judge against him is time in jail.  Even with various witnesses, he can't be sentenced to death.  He knows this.....and will likely turn the entire case into a show.

Second, I doubt that the nation has found any method to getting over this massacre.  You don't have events like this in Norway.  It will rest on the souls of the population for decades, in my humble opinion.

Third and final.  Breivik may end up being correct.  Twenty years down the road....you may start to see some unusual characters appear for political positions.  Maybe a car mechanic could rise up in his town, and his region to be a major political figure.  The problem with the Breivik theory is that you have to wait approximately two decades to see how this plays out.  And on the list of 500 ways to alter a country's political focus......this isn't exactly fitting into the norm.  To kill 69 kids.....doesn't make a lot of sense....even in the political sense.
 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

What Happens in Cartagena, Ought to Stay in Cartagena

I've tried to read over and grasp this mess with the Secret Service guys on their special detail in Cartagena, Columbia.....and how they all got ordered back to DC over hookers.

So this is what you come to realize.  All eleven of these guys apparently picked up on the Colombian ladies (ladies of the evening).  Ten of them had the financial details worked out.  There's this one guy who apparently didn't get the jest of the 83k Colombian Pesos ($47) that he owed.  He argued....the hotel staff got into the mess....the hooker refused to leave the room the next morning unless she got paid....and this got out into the Colombian press, then spilling over into the US press.

The US military guys that they keep talking about?  Well.....they didn't have hookers (at least we are led to believe that)....but they were out drinking way past curfew.  So their mess is slightly different.

There are two things that you might ought to know.  First, If all eleven of the Secret Service guys had the hookers.....then their clearances are suspended immediately.  There's this investigation that occurs and will take roughly two months for some guy to determine that it's all pretty much true or perhaps just partly true. If you had the hooker or you knew that the guy had a hooker and didn't report it......you lose your clearance, thus losing your job.  By June, you end up applying for some state trooper job in Mississippi or Arkansas.  Kind of a sad end to a promising federal position where you could have collected $30k a year in retirement.

The second thing?  Well.....Cartagena is like the Atlantic City of Columbia.  I don't know whose idea it was to pick this city as the big-wig meeting point....but it was bound to turn into trouble.  All you have to do is walk into the hotel bar, and there's probably a dozen gals sitting there in five-star outfits and waiting for some wink to have a liaison.  You would think that the head of the Secret Service would have talked to everyone going down to Cartagena....warning them of the possible mess they would walk into.

I'm guessing that the President is standing and asking questions over the whole mess.....maybe wondering why no one told him of the legends of Cartagena lusty babes.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

My Ten Rules of Pondering

1. Think between fact, opinion, and best guess when sorting through a situation. You have to be curious.....willing to accept some things initially. Sometimes a best guess has to be accepted as fact until proven wrong.

2. Facts matter. Data matters. Statistics matter.

3. Nothing can be absolute. Facts can change....mathematical theories can shift....planets can be dissolved by black holes....and sometimes people fudge data collected (just to make you happy).

4. Act like Socrates.....ask questions. Even if you aren't a genius.....you might accidentally discover something that someone had never conceived.

5. Nothing is perfect....even conclusions to situations or problems. Maybe the only solution....is a half-ass answer....because the second choice would be a total-ass answer.

6. Failure in thinking...is a work in progress....so you learn from miscalculations and misinterpretations.

7. History has the potential of repeating itself....over and over and over. Don't discount history.

8. Wisdom is gained by observation....not by a college education. Your use of wisdom in thinking...means you sit and listen to folks....and observe....before you come to a conclusion.

9. If one and one equal nine by the time you come to your conclusion...it must be right...or least until you find a better solution.

10. A broad prospective....requires that you broaden your horizons, your readings, your view of the world, and your perceptions. When looking for solutions....sometimes...your imagination will create the final thought....when all else fails.

Dear General James Amos

I don't typically write letters.....so this is a letter blog instead.

I came across this episode brewing out at Camp Pendleton, California this week.  It's an odd situation.  There on top of a peak...within the boundary of the Marine post....is Mount San Onofre.  I've read through the story.

About a decade ago....some Marines had returned from combat duty and were in a fairly emotional state of mind.  They had lost friends, comrades, and associates.  There recovering from the war and it's drama....they found some relief with the mountaintop.....by erecting some crosses.  They made it into a sort of pilgrimage.....where they could march and hike to the top, and think about an emotional release.  For a number of years....it was just a quiet secret that Marines shared.  Around a year ago.....some local newspaper got onto the story and thought it was a great story to tell.  Sadly....here came along this group..... the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation....who feel that you have allowed this government owned property to become some religious supported affair.  They want the crosses removed.

I've read the various news pieces and how you are now faced with the decision to be made....as the Commandant of the Marine Corps.  I can guess.....it's not a simple thing.  So I'd like offer an observation or two.

I realize....I'm not a Marine.  The closest that I can come is some uncle who spent time in the Marines in WW II....out in the Pacific....getting Malaria and a number of dysentery diseases....got shot on an occasion or two.....and somehow survived to come back home to Bama.

When a Marine is landing on a beach with a vastly stronger force opposing it and prepared to wipe the Marines out....the Marine on the vessel has to be putting his trust and faith at that moment into something.  He has to believe something will protect him in this darkest hour.  Frankly, it isn't the Constitution that he's got in his mind at this point.  It's a religious belief carrying him in this potential last hour of his life.  It doesn't matter if he's a Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Mormon or Hindu....this Marine is meditating over his fate and wants some little ounce of extra belief carrying him into battle.

Deep in a foxhole....with a ton of mortars coming down upon a Marine.....he doesn't think about the various amendments of the Constitution or the lingering effect of eighteenth amendment (outlawing the sale of booze).  He's sitting and thinking over his odds of surviving and using every ounce of his belief in his religion....from the Jewish persuasion to the Baptist.  He needs some miracle....which the Constitution just isn't going to provide at that unique moment.  

There on the backstreets of some wild Middle Eastern town....there's kids running in one direction and Jihadist killers running in the other.   A Marine is sitting there and praying that someone or something is watching over him....and will ensure he doesn't shoot an innocent human being.  He needs an extra ounce of faith in something.....which just isn't going to come from the Constitution.

General....you are taking youth from America's heartland for a period of time and hoping....believing....and putting faith in the idea that you can return them safely to civilian life one day.  This faith that you use in this daily mission of planning and executing a Marine mission....does not come from the Constitution.  You are counting on something beyond that.  Like the Marines in the foxhole.....you need an extra ounce of belief in something.

So here is this mountain top in California.....on Marine property....that some Marines have chosen as this refuge of sorts.  They have suffered a great pain.  They have seen great Marines taken down.  They have lost something more than they can describe in words.  This emotional release on the mountaintop....gives them a momentary release of that pain.  The Marines owe them something more....than the Constitution will ever provide.  That is the sad truth.  The Constitution cannot heal a wound, make a man feel relief, or take burden off a damaged soul.

For the folks at the front door....demanding the crosses be removed?  They have to be incredibly strong human beings...without an emotion.  It is certainly great to see such individuals who can survive intact.....through various tragic events in life and never have scars over their soul or lost their will to live.  I salute them....and their enormous belief in the Constitution.  Maybe the Constitution really does protect them in their greatest hour of need.

For the rest?  The Marines have knocked at your door and asked you to come and serve.  You swear an oath and you will march into the valley of death....counting on something beyond the Constitution to bring you safely home.....and hopefully, you will survive.  The Marines and the nation owe these men something beyond the Constitution.  We owe them an emotional refuge...without restriction to any religion.  If a Buddhist Marine needs a quiet hilltop.....he can come.  If a Jewish Marine needs an hour to reflect upon his lost friend....he can come.  If the Baptist wife of a dead Marine needs an emotional uplifting experience....she can come to the mountaintop.  If they want to come and leave a bottle of Jack Daniels to their lost friend....they can do so.  If they have a empty shell from the battle to remind them of the great cost put upon their life....they can do so.

In the end.....the Marines owe their own....more than what the Constitution can ever provide.  It is a sad fact of life.....good young men, who dreamed the American dream, swore an allegiance and oath to their country and their fellow Marines....carrying it through to the end.  Those who survive, have still an oath to carry out, but are emotionally distraught and need more than simple words in the Constitution to survive.

Let the mountaintop stand....as is.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Bold New Church World

This is what we know.  Out in Grapevine, Texas....there's this church.  The minister had this grand idea for Easter services.....bring in a lion.  So he found this guy who had a lion, and he set up two cages up on the stage....for "Clarence" (the lion), and one for "Larry" (the lamb)...note: these are my names for the critters involved.  Pastor Ed Young then tended to three sermons that day....at the Fellowship Church.

Naturally.....some humane folks got upset once they heard about this.  They felt that Clarence was being upset by this theater-like experience.  I'm guessing that Larry also felt intimidated.  They ran up to the local city government to complain about this episode and how a permit was allowed for this to occur.  In most cities.....there would be a permit issued.

Well.....the city guys kinda stood there and eventually admitted that they didn't have a real permit situation for this type of mess.  For a town of 43k residents....I'm guessing that over the past one hundred years....they hadn't had to face an event like this.  Most folks don't typically drag lions out to a church.....preach some Bible verses over the lion.....and get parishioners all peppered up over the church service.

I sat and pondered over this.  I spent a number of years under the Southern Baptist umbrella.  We had a fairly big stage and it might have been big enough for a lion cage.  I would imagine if I were a kid in such a church today.....walking in and noticed a lion cage up front with the minister....I'd probably move up to the front row to be entertained.  Typically.....no one ever sat in the first three rows....don't ask me why.

I would have likely sat there for an entire service and been fairly entertained by the lion.  To be frank....I doubt that I would have even remembered any of the Bible verses that the minister uttered.

The problem I see now.....is that fifty ministers across America are going to get this funny idea....of bringing in lions and tigers to a service.  There will be these professionally built cages designed for church stages and folks will come out in the thousands to see the service.

Later on, some ministers will bring out alligators and fancy peacocks....to entertain the folks.  Someday, some idiot will even set up a snake cage of sorts, with a boa on display as he does the sermon.

Eventually, some idiot will put an entire cage across the whole front....enter the cage....and try to do the sermon with the lion standing next to him.  Four thousand folks will cram the church to watch this event.  It'll end quietly and quickly.....as the lion gets upset by the failed AC unit and jumps on Reverend Clyde and rips him up in front of a pretty upset crowd.

Later, a congressional committee will meet and issue some law to forbid lions in churches.

Later, the Supreme Court will strike down the "no lion in churches" law because you can't forbid church folks from doing anything stupid or crazy.....by the Constitution.

Only in America.

A Few Words on Mike Wallace

Usually with most folks.....you can use the term "when he hit his peak", but with Mike Wallace....I'm not sure if he ever hit his peak.  I believe that says alot about the 60 Minutes journalist.

During the first fifteen years of 60 Minutes....I rarely missed an episode and considered the news show to be fairly accurate and honest over its reporting.   Mike Wallace helped to make it that way.  To be honest....over the past decade.....I probably wouldn't make that same judgement.

It took a long while for a guy to figure out that Mike was a liberal of sorts, but he had this unique ability to tell a real news story, without slanting it left or right.  As you look back over the 1960s, 1970s and to some degree...the 1980s....you still had these journalists around who could just report the news or facts.  It was something that you came to appreciate.  When that era ended.....you really missed professional journalism.  It had become like a high-school class of wannabe pretender journalists.  Your mute button is actually wearing out because of so much frequent use when the pretenders come on the air.

So a great reporter has passed on, and we will miss the guy.

The Zimmerman End

I've sat and watched the smoke clear and I'll make these five observations.

First, having watched enough Law & Order episodes.....I know the difference between murder in the second degree, and manslaughter.  A guy typically gets 25 years to life with murder in the second degree, and maybe ten to fifteen years (depending on the state) with manslaughter.  The degree of effort required?  The amount of evidence for a manslaughter conviction is not that difficult and you are simply saying the guy screwed up and did something stupid....so he has to pay some time.  You can figure twice as much effort for the murder charges, and the degree to convince the jury?  Maybe twice as much as well.  For this case?   I seriously doubt that enough evidence exists for the murder charges.....but then the parents probably demanded the superior charges.  The prosecutor warned of a loss or a hung-jury.....and they didn't care.

Second, the whole case is dependent on a Florida jury situation.  If any idiots remembered the Casey Anthony case.....convincing a jury really isn't that simple.

Third, the possibility of getting some idiot juror on the team.....who says he isn't sure about the guilt or innocence....but then two days into the case says he's entirely convinced and was lying when he told the judge of his initial feeling?  Better than fifty percent chance.

Fourth, if the prosecutor turns up with complex evidence with several jury members over 65 years old, and they just can't grasp what he means.....kills the case entirely, and help Zimmerman win.

Fifth and final.....there just isn't a huge amount of evidence existing here.  This case ought to end somewhere in the midst of the third week....and the jury spends maybe one day discussing it.  If the prosecutor wastes more than eight work-days on this presentation.....I think it's mostly hurting his case and causing the jury to question the value of whatever is put in front of them.

My humble guess?  Zimmerman either wins or there's a hung-jury.  The sad thing is that he could have been convicted in a manslaughter case (I do believe this would have been a simple case).  No one wants him to do just eight years with good-behavior for the situation.

As for the federal guys standing around and grinning over hate-crime charges after the win?  If Zimmerman wins this state case.....I'd double-down and bet the Feds can't win a case in a Florida courtroom.....with Florida folks as jury members.

There was a potential case here.....but it just doesn't look like one now.