Tuesday, 31 July 2012

My Neighborhood

We have an interesting episode brewing in the District of Columbia....just across the river from me.  If you were a high school with dismal grades over the past year....they are offering you summer school with a twist.  The deal is....$5.25 an hour....to attend summer school.  Yep, you'd get paid to attend.

So far, it's around three hundred kids involved in this program.  The DC school mafia explains that this helps to motivate kids.  The money?  Well...it's from the DC pot of money for such episodes.

I sat and pondered over this.  As a kid....if you were forced into summer school....it meant that you were on the verge of failure, and they'd just overlook it if you would show up for four weeks of "fake" school in the summer.  I only knew two or three kids ever stuck in this situation.  To me.....summer school didn't really amount to anything worth bragging about.

This idea of handing out cash to attend school?  It basically means that you have too much cash in your hands, and that the kids now take summer school as a joke (maybe it was always a joke).

So you figure this math out....roughly thirty bucks a day, minus $12 for taxes and such.  So you get $22 a day to attend school.  Figure around $100 a week, and you might clear $500 for the whole summer school period in DC.  Maybe it's worth it.....but I seriously doubt it.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Our NewsWeak Folks

Course, I won't buy it....but this is the cover for this week's NewsWeak production.

Some folks would observe and ask why it is....that NewsWeak is folding up at the end of 2012.  Some folks would ask how they were existing off negative profit (losses for the normal mortal).  Some would ask who even reads NewsWeak except folks at dental or doctor offices.  And some would even ask if there was another issue for next week....entitled "The Dimwit Factor" which involved President Obama.

I hate to suggest this.....but I'd almost put the NewsWeak folks into the National Enquirer category.  It sits on the shelf at the grocery, but hardly anyone is seen picking it up.  The story lines on the front?  It's always something to make you want to read a paragraph, then realize it's mostly a non-story story.  That means that they waste 8k words on some article, which is mostly written by some outside source to make news, but it just isn't real news.

Third-world journalism?  Stuff you'd expect out of Paraguay?  The best that a guy making $100k a year for NewsWeak can do?  Worthy material?

Wimps don't walk into the business sector and make wise decisions....they avoid risks and take marginal profits at best.  Wimps stay out of investment situations and never gamble on anything.  Wimps don't take jobs that require decision-making skills.  Wimps would never take the job of Olympic boss, and deliver.  Wimps wouldn't walk into a debate with Ron Paul, Newt, or Senator Rick.  Wimps would buy into a bankrupt magazine and hustle it through a hefty loss for the year....but we won't suggest what magazine that would be.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A Scalia Moment

What Supreme Court Judge Scalia hinted at on the Sunday talk show episode....if you paid attention to it....was that he (and only he).....could entertain some alternate vision of gun regulation in America.  He didn't want to say what it would be....but he was open to the idea.

What happens?  Well....spring of 2013...there's going to be this fair sized group of Republicans in the house and senate.  They will come around to the idea of automatic rifles of a certain type....AR15 and AK47 types.....being limited in sales to law enforcement only.  Course, that would still leave tens of thousands of these weapons probably floating around America.  For a brief weekend....in front of the public and media folks....they'd look like they were helping to fix a problem.

Then some shooting would occur with a pistol, and life would just go on.  The fact that ninety-nine percent of all shootings/murders....are done by pistol, and not by automatic rifle....really doesn't get fixed by a ban on assault rifles.

Now, if you did start to restart mental hospitals to be run by states, and allow folks to be put away for being dangerous....that might carve out a fair-sized chunk of shootings in America.  But I'm guessing folks wouldn't want 40k people a year.....locked up in some state mental institute.

That Little Drug Issue

Today, after running over most regular news....I caught this glimpse of an odd thing in Colorado....over the shooter kid.  He actually was seeing a mental health doctor on the campus....while doing his student activities.  Well...this doctor....came around about seven years ago and got into a small bit of trouble....prescribing drugs for herself, her husband and a employee under her.  The drugs?  Well....Vicodin, Xanax, Lorazepam and Ambien.

So you look over these four drugs.  All four....if taken past normal accepted levels....create problems.....some to the extreme.

A guy could sit and ponder over this.  A kid comes along with some small mental issues and meet up with the right mental health doctor, who likes the use of drugs in treating people.  The kid already takes some drugs....but the new doctor tosses out a prescription or two, and the kid combines the drugs.  Because this is a university type clinic and it's run on the cheap....at best, I'd guess the kid might visit the doctor for a face-to-face maybe once a month.

You take a kid....pump him up on Vicodin or Ambien....say double or triple the normal daily dose.  Then he watches some Batman movie fifteen times a week.  He goes to class....does minimal work, and retreats to his apartment to refocus on his Batman theme.  It only take six to eight months of this to create a mess out of nothing.

The odds of doctor serving time?  The prescription count will be the magic moment.  I'd doubt that she'd get more than two years in prison if she did prescribe beyond the norm.  The kid?  He might be lucky and just get life in a mental institute....claiming he was insane at the time.

Guns being an issue?  Well....this takes the mess to a new prospective.  How many doped up folks are walking the streets of America....on Ambien or Vicodin or Xanax?  You'd hope they just watch CSP*N, Gomer Pyle, or the Food Network.  But the truth is.....you just don't know.

And the last item to ponder?  Well....free health care is coming for a bunch of folks.  Free drugs will be part of the deal.  If you confessed to some mental health doctor of some issues.....you could drug-up and get some great prescriptions....maybe more than what you'd need.  Your only hope is that a doctor is kinda anti-drug and finds some natural ways to fix your issue.


Could Have Been....Would Have Been

Just a moment of history and how things could have been.

On 29 October 1929....a fair-sized collapse of Wall Street occurred.  It would be a very fair statement to say that the entire stock market for the previous decade had been heated-up and reacting to public belief in absolute gains....when the true business sector was not progressing at that rate.  Rich people were getting rich.  Middle-class people were getting rich.  And the working class all had jobs, and were paying taxes.

Standing in the middle of this surge and soon-to-be-fall....was Herbert Hoover.  The best description of Hoover was given by President Coolidge....."wonder-boy".  Hoover was an engineer by trade, and generally felt that a good plan, with massive enthusiasm....usually fixed things.  To be honest, Hoover had as much understanding of the US economy.....as some shrimp fisherman has knowledge over nuclear technology.  So he invited a number of people who said they knew something....bits and pieces to be more precise, and generally....to build and mount his policy.  Whatever Hoover used over 1930 to the fall of 1932....was never a clear answer, and generally little to do with the failed banks.

Over this three year period, Hoover made various speeches and gave encouragement....but his policies were generally limited in nature.  The public works concept that we always associate with FDR?  Well....it actually started with Hoover.  He did try to kick half-a-million Mexicans out of the US...to bring work back into US hands....but then there weren't that many Americans willing to do work that Mexicans had done before (sound familiar?).  Finally, Hoover jumped onboard with the idea of having the largest income tax increase in American history....in 1932....having top-wage earners now pay 63 percent of their income to the US government.  You can figure the math, but just over sixty cents of any dollar you made as a top-grade earner....was yanked away.  Folks resorted to hiding their income.

So along comes the choice in 1932's election.  There's no doubt that FDR was going to fix whatever "wonder-boy" couldn't fix.  Programs were the key.  The media hyped up all the various programs.  Folks bought into everything suggested.  When FDR came around to outlaw the private ownership of gold in the US....this was to fix a "problem". When poverty was identified as a problem.....social security became the "fix".  When folks thought the military budget was bloated....almost a third of the Pentagon budget was cut over a two year period.

From 1932 election period to the the 1936 election period?  Nothing much really transpired.  The programs were all in effect and folks really couldn't say much of anything except nothing was seeming to work, and the depression was still in effect.

Somewhere out in Louisiana....over this period....Governor and then later Senator....Huey Long was shocking the regular people of Louisiana.  He had this odd vision of "share the wealth".  He'd take wealth from the rich and from companies....and just share it with the public.  In 1935, Huey Long was a household name throughout the south, and via radio.....was becoming a national topic.  For the 1936 election....Huey was likely to be running in the primary season against FDR (as a Democrat).  One of two scenarios would likely have occurred.

Huey would have gained enough wins throughout the south....that he might have been able to edge FDR out and be the national Democratic candidate for President.  If not.....he would have forced enough concessions and likely been the VP for FDR or sitting in the cabinet in some capacity.

So you can imagine 1937 and beyond with possibly President Huey Long in charge....a guy who would have turbo-charged the New Deal period, and gone to extremes on sharing the wealth.

A funny happen in 1935 though....Senator Huey Long was shot.  A simmering dispute over Long's pay-back involving a re-districting plan....had upset a relative of the guy who would be screwed over by a vastly different district plan.

Huey Long never makes it into the 1936 election season....never runs in the primaries....never has a chance to bring up this major share the wealth concept.  History falls into line with FDR, and marches on.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Finding the Right Prospective

This week....up here in this neck of the woods of DC....we had two events where you had to ponder about the right prospective.

First, we had this guy over in Maryland who'd been fired from his job.  The boss had call him and discuss a situation....where fired guy came out and began to make various threats.  Direct threats.

Now, this all occurs on Monday morning.  The boss?  Well....based on every newspaper account....he doesn't get around to calling up the cops until Wednesday...roughly forty-eight hours later. They investigate.  And by Thursday morning....around 3AM....they come over to the house to apprehend the "joker".  The guy sits over at some mental hospital right now while doctors figure out if he's crazy or not.

The thing....there were twenty-odd weapons in the possession of this guy, and several thousand rounds of ammo.  Yeah, there were automatic rifles and such.

So the question is....once this nut made threats over to the phone to the boss on Monday....what happened over the next two days while he waited this out and finally felt the urge to call the cops?  Two days....just thinking about the threat?   Maybe the boss was a guy with patience?  You just don't know.  But he waited.  The nut could have come the first day, or even the second day.

You had to be there....I'm assuming....to have the right prospective.

The second episode was this knife episode over in Maryland at the post office.  Old guy comes up....retired....needs to do some business at the post office.  A person or two in front of him.  There's some guy to the side....filling out a form.

Well....the guy on the side is asked by the postal clerk to step back up.  The old guy sees this, and freaks out.

A confrontation erupts.  The old guy whips out some four-inch blade knife and there's an attempted stabbing underway.  Somewhere in the midst of this....the postal gal pulls out a can of pepper spray and just goes to work on the old guy.  In the chaos....the old guy retreats, makes it to the car, and is later picked up by the cops.

Almost every single person who knows the old retired guy....a government service guy for thirty-odd years....swears up and down that he's a friendly guy and never the type to get hostile or upset.  No one can figure why he reacted the way that he did.   Other than someone jumping in front of him....there's not much else anybody can say.

Maybe the old guy had too much coffee that morning....maybe too much sugar. Maybe the old guy had a bad night of sleep.  You just don't know.  But the end result now is some prosecutor trying to put the old guy in prison for five years, and maybe some kind of federal charge on assault within a post office.  The sad truth is.....he might have just low on blood sugar and just got upset over mostly nothing.  And for that?  Jail time?  Like I said....you need to find the right prospective.

The Bed Show

I'm really not into watching the Olympics anymore.  I can remember watching the 1972 and 1976 Olympics....maybe forty hours of each.  Over the years, I've come to view it as some kind "show"....rather than a sports event.

Last night came the opening night episode in London for the Olympics. I didn't plan on watching much of it....then came up this moment of the "show" where they ran out a bunch of nurse gals, with a hundred roll-around hospital beds.  I sat there and looked at this for about a minute, then turned the TV over to the History Channel.

This nurse and hospital bed thing?  Well....maybe if I were British....it'd make sense.  It seemed to be some bizarre artistic thing....that went beyond what a mortal guy could understand.

I'm guessing in the years to come....folks will refer to this Olympics....as the "bed show", and everyone will have a two-minute comment over what they got out of the bed display.  Personally, you would have been better off washing your dog, or asking your neighbor to repeat his Vietnam war story for the one-hundredth time.

Dreams of a President?

Somewhere around mid-November....there's some election results which will come out.  It's hard to predict things but one of the oddball outcomes is that Romney doesn't screw up the election in the final weeks, and somehow President Romney enters office in January.

This would bring up this event that I can see coming.....where outgoing President Obama goes off into a 100-day exile....kinda upset over how his campaign faltered, and comes back with a book, entitled: Dreams of a President.

The book would be a composite of all the things that he would have done.....between 2013 and 2016.  There would be composite meetings, composite characters, composite friction between the two parties which he would have personally worked out with his charisma and charm, composite worldly events, composite TV interviews, and composite speeches.

There'll be five or six speeches laid out that he would have given....if he had been around.  There might even be a 2013 State of the Union speech laid out in the book.

There will be a composite cabinet listing on how he would have changed or modified the entire cabinet....maybe bringing in some Republicans, retired generals, and even David Hasselhof as a Czar of Electric Cars.

There might be a composite story over how he brought the Jews and Arabs to the table, redone Cuban relations to make Cuba a buddy of America, and a list of fourteen accomplishments which allowed him to win the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize (the only guy to ever win two).

Then you'd notice the Today Show interviewing him over the book....almost acting like that it was all stuff that did happen but didn't.  The ABC folks would put up a full hour one night.....talking up the composite things that would have occurred....almost making you believe that it already did happen.  Some folks would start to show up at mental health facilities....reporting that they've started living in an alternate universe, believing that the composite events are all happening.

You'd be sitting out on the front porch....just shaking your head.  A bunch of fictional writing....taken to the extreme....and people acting like fools.  Don't that beat all.

Friday, 27 July 2012

A Bad Day for CNN

It wasn’t that shocking, but the chief of CNN news….Jim Walton…is quitting. He kinda admits….that things aren’t going well with the network and there’s some need for new leadership and new prospective.

The CNN folks built up this nifty news media in the 1990s and stayed for the most part….fairly neutral. News was news….at least eighty percent of the time. You could accept that. About a decade ago….Fox News came along, with MSNBC, and CNN decided that if they pretended to be neutral….things would be ok. The truth is…they shifted themselves around and they kinda lean more to the left on ten hours a day, and maybe stay neutral for the remaining fourteen hours. Any news that you get off their international team….is mostly slanted against the US in some fashion. You end up laughing if you watch the CNN International News network (if you are overseas).

My advice for CNN? Go raid Fox News and bring over four people. Work up an hour or two around lunch with a right-leaner duo, and go after the lunch-time crowd. Shock your own folks by grining as you pump out various right-wing comments.

Then go and fire that Piers dude who does the evening interview segments….because he’s mostly an idiot, and just not attracting much of anyone. With the two remaining new Fox News guys that you hired….start a 10PM show at night where you go out and find regular people….not these think-tank crowds or stars, but just interview farmers from Iowa, high school basketball coaches, transmission mechanics, real American Indians, and old TV stars from the 1970s. Let the regular folks connect to the heartland, and let the new two former Fox News guys do what they do best….just tell a fair and balanced story with what you got.

The Coming Wave

This sequestion episode discussed on the news finally came around to reality this week as folks kinda admitted that it went past just contractors for the Department of Defense being let go in the thousands…..they’d also have to cut regular civilian employees….maybe as many as ten to fifteen percent of the work force.

The pace of this mess? Well….they admitted to Congress yesterday that they were barely into the planning stage, but that they’d have to start sending out warning notices to folks in early November, and some regular civilian employees would actually be cut in January.

As you can guess, it’s turned into a water-fountain topic. You figure ten percent of the folks gone by late spring of 2013 as you look around the office. There’s no real logic to this. One might assume that they’d try to encourage the older guys up around sixty to sixty-five to just plain retire. There might be a $25k bonus offered up if they’d just accept retirement and walk away.

The problem is….a bunch of guys have kids in college or their 401ks really got screwed two years ago or they still have eight years of mortgage left to go on this overly expensive house.

So I’m kinda expecting some long discussions in August with the bosses and they try to figure out how many to let go. Then you move into September, and October…identifying the folks by name. Folks will discuss the impact…..what work continues on, and what work get terminated. Office space will come up as a topic because there’s going to be empty cubicle space. Even parking permits will come up because now there are fewer folks parking around the building by spring of next year.

I’m guessing a few guys here and there….will suddenly find their safe and comfortable government job to be not so safe. Even for myself….I might have to start thinking about long-haul trucking, or maybe working for the National Park Service.

There’s two things to ponder from this though. First, a bunch of these folks all reside in the Virginia region, and they are likely now to ask a bunch of stupid questions for this fall. If you ask me….it’s going to swing 75k votes very easily now.

The second thing….is a bunch of folks are going to worry about things, and ask daily by mid-November what Congress and the Senate will do. If this is a lousy loss for the Democrats....they might just slide toward the door and let the Republicans work on this in January....but by then, folks are now out-processing and there just won't be any way work a miracle.

If I were a betting person….I’d say that November is going to be this big huge mess for someone to clean up. And it just won’t be pretty.

I Could Write a Chapter or Two

The thing about the Bible....is that it's mostly written by older and fairly serious religious guys....who don't really think much on reality.  So I came to ponder over Genesis, the book.  I might have written it in a different fashion.

In the beginning....after all the dust and stuff settled....God looked down up on his work.

It wasn't enough to just have trees, waterfalls, and hailstorms.  There needed to be action and soap opera-like situations.

So God created up Adam, who was supposed to be mostly a gardener and farmer, but also did odd jobs on the side.  To blend into the action, God created Eve, who was an Amazon-like gal and lacked common sense, but this all played into the "script" that God had written up.

Various other creatures were added....from horses to border collies, onto cows, and finally....God saw reason to add cats.

To be honest, things were just slow and without any real conclusion or excitement....so at some point....God added up a fancy snake-character to the garden and a get-smart apple.  After this...Adam and Eve would get into various adventures and everyday turned into a new adventure.  God was eventually pleased with his creation, and usually felt inclined to just sit back and observe mankind at work and play.  This gave God a chance to think and ponder over "what-if" situations, and occasionally add another character or whisper secret instructions to the border collie to challenge mankind.

(the picture?  The Fall of Man.  One of my favorite fancy portraits.)

The Ten Ways

I've sat and pondered over the ten ways that President Obama could widen the margin and easily take this election against Romney.  These are my own ideas:

1.  Tax the rich at 312-percent a year.  I realize that it'd probably bankrupt the rich within five years....but it'd make the majority of voters happy that they didn't have to pay for taxes for five years.  What happens after that point?  Well....it's best not to discuss that....because it gets into the term of some Republican president probably.

2.  Offer to pay up all health insurance costs for the first two years.  This might get into the trillions, but it'd make the bulk of voters pretty happy for a short period of time.

3.  Offer up free cable TV service....to include HBO and Showtime, for four years.  This would take a load off most younger voters and offer up a chance to watch some weird TV shows that folks haven't regularly reviewed.

4.  Talk Seinfeld into bringing his TV show back on the air.

5.  Fire VP Joe Biden, and hire up either Brittney Spears or Katie Couric as VP.  Folks would spend hours each day waiting for either one to screw up twice as bad as VP Joe did.

6.  Offer up seven-day postal delivery, free coffee coupons while at the polling place, and three hundred pounds of welfare dog chow as part of a government enhancement package.

7.  Offer to allow the History Channel to run a reality TV series from the White House.  The truth would be it'd be a fake set, with twelve fake Hollywood guys who look like the President and VP Joe, with a fairly fake set, and a series of Latin American fake dictators who would shuffle through and get into fights with VP Joe occasionally.

8.  Offer Pete Rose a Presidential pardon, and then deliver a two-hour speech weeper of a speech on why Pete was such a great player, screwed up, and yet deserves a second chance in life.

9.  Offer to open up the secret vaults at Area 51 if he wins the election, and show off the alien guys and their UFOs.

10.  Finally....if enough of you did vote for him.....he'd agree to be a Judge on America's Got Talent, and be a guest on some ballroom dancing show.

Just a Gut Feeling on Guns

Years ago….while living in Arizona….I had in-laws come and stay a couple of weeks. One evening….around midnight….there was a ‘blast’ sound. I kinda woke up and thought it was a back-fire from a car. Twenty minutes pass, and then a knock at the door. This was Tucson and a decent neighborhood, but you generally don’t open doors after midnight. I eventually opened this and here was some cop. There was this 90 second story of sorts….but apparently, the neighbor had been cleaning his gun (go figure a guy doing this at midnight), and it’d gone off….going through his apartment wall, and impacting into the doorway area of my wall (entry-way). The cop wanted to make sure that was all that occurred, and that I hadn’t been shot or such. The in-laws are German…..and I kinda think it freaked them out a bit. I kinda accepted this and said no problem.

About every twelve months or so….I’ll spot a story in the paper over some guy who was cleaning his gun, and it goes off. Sometimes….someone gets hit. Personally, I just can’t think of a single reason why a guy would clean his weapon with bullets still in it. Cops generally always accept this comment and write into the report, but realistically…..the owner of the gun has to be a five-star idiot to make a comment like that.

The sad thing is….one day….I’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time….with a thin wall between me and some gal or guy…..who decide at midnight to clean their gun, and I’ll get hit. I’ll crawl across the wood floor and get fifty splinters across various parts of my body, somehow get the phone, and call 9-11. Maybe I’ll survive long enough for the rescue guys to come over to my apartment and tote me out to the ambulance. Then I have to hope that it’s just a light wound. Then I have to hope this is a clean hospital and I don’t get some infection from the hospital or the splinters, and eventually die from a pain-killer or some one-in-a-million infection deal.

I have this odd feeling that most folks just walk into a gun shop….spot a nice looking pistol….buy a box of ammo, and never handle the gun except for gun-play episodes in their living room. They show it off to the boy-friend or girl-friend….but truthfully, they haven’t fired the gun in their life. And they always have that odd Barney Fife-explanation for the cops…..they were cleaning the gun….when it went off. Like Andy….I’d like to respond to them that they ought to only get one bullet, and it ought to be in their shirt pocket unless there’s real trouble.

The Gun Comment

Somewhere today….in the early morning hours….the President came out and made a four-star talking bullet about AK-47 automatic rifles….."belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

I looked over the comment. Out of the normal 120 deaths in the District of Columbia each year….an area of six by six miles….almost none of the deaths of the past 2.5 years had anything to do with AK-47s or automatic rifles. From most of the last 500 killings in Chicago….I’m taking a pretty guess here….but I’m fairly confident that ninety-nine percent of them had nothing to do with automatic rifles or AK-47s.

You could outlaw AK-47s tomorrow across America, and there would still be 50k of them probably kept in private residences or in the hands of criminals. Folks wouldn’t voluntarily turn them over, and to be honest….it probably wouldn’t be the gun of choice for ninety-eight percent of the public.

So it’s a grand speech and a decent TV comment….but frankly, it’s worthless. Course, in Mexico….it might be worth discussing….especially if you could outlaw the US ATF guys from running Fast and Furious operations across the border and selling automatic weapons to various drug cartels.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Rescue

This is what we know.

Cops got called out in Shandong, China.  9-11 type call.....frantic voice....you gotta come to the river....someone drowning.

So the cops dispatched a team out to the river area.....found a crowd.....then saw the body floating off in the river.  Roughly an hour passes during this rescue episode.....finding the body, trying to find a boat, and finally getting out to where the body was resting.

By this point, there were mostly a thousand local folks along the river to watch what they figured to be a NASCAR-like event.....dead body recovery episode.  This huge crowd translated into a bunch of cars parked along the road....which uninterrupted regular traffic, then hindered emergency vehicles, and just total chaos.

So the cops and rescue guys finally get to the body in the river.  The problem is....as they finally paddle back up to the banks of the river....this was a inflatable sex-doll type "thing".

Now, a guy from Bama would pause along about this point.  There'd be jokes tossed at the fire and rescue guys....if they provided mouth-to-mouth, and they'd just try to explain that they puffed as much as possible, but couldn't revive the doll.

The cops will be asked about the police report.....which have to indicate "damages".  Some guy will draw out the doll and indicate where she was losing air.

Some guy named Yung will come up by next week....admitting it was his doll, and he'd like to have her back.  News folks will show up.  You can imagine the rest.

It's a good thing you don't have events like this in Bama.  It'd just invite too many guys to get distracted from NCAA football, politics, or Baptist revivals, and you just don't need something like that.

The End of Newsweak

It came out yesterday via the owner of NewsWeak....that they will halt the paper production of the weekly news magazine in the next couple of months.  My bet would be the week after the election will be the target point.

What they admit in public....after seventy-nine years of production....is that they are on-track to lose around twenty-two million bucks this year.  They simply can't find any subscription base and enough readers.....to keep the magazine afloat.  On the other side of the coin.....they do state that they will keep it going via a digital means.....which typically means you pay $20 a year, get a password, and download a copy via the internet.

What happened to NewsWeak?  At some point in the 1990s, it became a political tool of sorts.  As they fell more to the liberal side of politics.....they lost subscriptions.  Frankly, they didn't care.  They figured they'd always have enough readers, and life would go on.  Within the last ten years....it was apparent that readers were leaving in droves.....and things were working out.  A normal business would have circled the wagons, hired a new staff, and gone mostly to neutral reporting.  NewsWeak couldn't do that.

Added to this problem is a new society that wants more personalized news.  Via the internet....you can achieve that.  NewsWeak couldn't drift off and talk NCAA football, banking practices in Brazil, or identify the best ribs in Kansas City.  They had a limit.

It'll be a curious end to the magazine.  Could have been.....would have been....but it doesn't matter now.

Just Observations

The Colorado shooter apparently mailed a notebook with the entire plan off to the university doctor who had seen him.  Motive?  You'd almost get the idea that he was conducting a thesis, and this was the paperwork to cover it.  I know it doesn't make much sense.....but you typically don't plan out an event like this and then write everything up in such a fashion.

For the last couple of days....I've been observing this Jackson family episode out in California.  Grandma is the official court-declared guardian over Micheal Jackson's kids.  Almost every single brother and sister of Micheal Jackson is bothered by this arrangement because Grandma isn't carving out more money for each of them.  It would appear that the Micheal Jackson's kids have figured out this entire fight, and how big the stakes are in this case.  The sad thing is that over the past three decades.....there's probably over thirty million bucks given out to the brothers and sisters....which they eagerly spent.  They've all become a comedy act....fighting over money that they probably will never have.  At the very least, someone needs to go and video-tape this whole fight because it's pure entertainment.

We've had this event occur with the local Arlington high school....the "Thomas Jefferson" (often referred to here in the local area as "TJ").  "TJ" is rated as one of the top five high schools in America.  You have to rate pretty high up in science and math classes.....to get the privileged to enter this local public school.  This tends to invite parents to force their kids off to Latin, physics and biology special projects while in the seventh and eighth grades....after school....in hopes of getting the thumbs up later to enter "TJ".    Well....some folks have taken up a complaint and are very unhappy that more black and Latino kids are not in the school.....along with kids with disabilities.  What they'd like....is for "TJ" to dumb down the entry levels.....and just let any kid enter the school system.  Naturally, this has upset parents who have put years into their brilliant Johnny and Wanda.....to get them to the right scores to enter "TJ".  My impression is that the state folks are shaking their head on this and would prefer this go away.  In the end, these Latino and black kids will be forced off to physics, chemistry, and Latin classes....shaking their heads because they really don't see any value to this crap.....which is mostly what the current kids in "TJ" have already said.

There's a fight going on in Pennsylvania over their voter ID law.  Course, it's the Feds fighting the state, to prevent voter from happening.  If I were a state.....I'd make a pretty simple law and list out the forty occasions (to include voting) where you need an ID.  If the Feds force you to toss voter ID.....then the other 39 occasions would be tossed as well....like when you buy booze, register cars, and marry up.  If all these poor folks lack an ID and it makes sense not to require one.....then let's get serious and just dump all ID situations.  I'm pretty sure the Fed guys would stand there a minute and realize what we are hinting.....then quietly just walk away.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Just Observations

It’s more than obvious now….that nothing much political can happen either in the Senate or House, in a political year. So I have a suggestion……we just do business in odd years, when no elections come up. The guys and gals can all stay home for the election year, and chat up things with their district or state. Got a crisis? Well….just let it simmer….like we are going doing with the postal situation, the economic situation, or the military budget situation.

If you are relying on some idiot sitting a thousand miles away in Washington to fix all the issues of your local high school and conduct the standards for your “Johnny Junior”, then you’ve mostly given up managing the local school district, and you really don’t need a board of education at the county level, or at the state level. Fire the guys and just pocket the tax money required. I’m guessing that you might realize that the 1,000 mile solution just isn’t on your top five hundred solutions to a better education system.

After sitting and watching the NCAA step into the Penn State mess, and issue out their fines and punishments….my final conclusion is that they only went half-way. Let’s also step into the arts department, the physics department, and all the other departments…..and cut their scholarships as well. And maybe the actual department heads ought to be penalized with cut funding here and there. It seems like more than the football heads were screwing up and the whole leadership chain of the university was not the kind of people you’d want to have around. And as for the football coach? It’s just another reason why no coach ought to stay around for more than five years.

I sat and watched an hour of Bio-TV last night….covering an actual murder in Florida from the 1990s. Apparently, the killer was a chemist expert who made various drug cocktails from scratch. Somewhere in their investigation, they came to find that he traveled with a friend across the US….picking up hitch-hikers, and handing out free cookies loaded with psychedelic ingredients. The cops didn’t care about that admission, but I sat there in shock. Over four days….they probably picked up a dozen folks, and you just don’t know what developed. Jack Junior might have been dropped off and then jumped off some bridge ten minutes later. Wanda might have been dropped off and then walked into a gas station to bash the owner in the head with a hammer. George might have been dropped off and just wandered off into the woods to die of starvation eventually. Just another reason to never hitch-hike with anyone.

I finally wised up and bought a hearing aid. This morning….my first full day….I came to realize that I’d been missing all these various car noises….the timing being off or the muffler being loose. I also rediscovered escalators having a humming noise as you ride up. These were all precious little noises that I’ve probably been missing for a decade….at least.

Some reports indicate around twenty-one folks with burnt feet….after attending some kinda inspirational “you-have-power” type seminar out in San Jose (“Unleash the Power Within” was the actual event). The guys running the mess had a bunch of regular charcoals set up and apparently still on maximum heat (not the low heat that normal fire-walkers would take). The authorities report a number of second and third degree burns via the local hospital. Frankly, my own observation….if you are that bad off and need some unleashing of inspiration and power….I’d suggest you drive home and just paint the garage on a 98-degree afternoon, or just haul some hay….it’d work just as well. The sad thing here….is some folks paid $350 to walk the charcoals……when you could have done in the backyard for $4 (Wal-Mart number two brand)….just make sure you let them simmer for two hours before walking.

The Truth About Disability

When I was a kid….if some guy from the local area was on disability….then the guy typically was an invalid in a wheelchair or he was missing a leg or something. It was a harsh situation, and disability probably paid for grocery money, gas for the truck, and maybe an extra $200 a month for various expenses. It wasn’t worth bragging about.

Sometime between the early 1970s and now……disability kinda grew. A guy can get $25k easily now off disability, and thus cover most regular expenses that you’d think of. Some guys….who get connected with government jobs….can walk away with $35k to $40k.

I knew a guy who did twenty years in the Air Force and got his pension deal of $1700 a month…..then turned around to claim 100 percent disability, and collect another $1900 a month from that disability stash of money. I know another guy who spoke up after Air Force retirement about a bad shoulder from a sports injury he had from 1982, and he collects around $425 in partial disability a month now from that shoulder that is only seventy-five percent functional (yeah, I know….most of us over fifty have that issue but we don’t brag about it much).

In small towns throughout the south now, with a thousand residents….you can estimate that at least twenty folks are collecting some form of disability. The curious thing in most cases….is that they still mow their grass….put up drywall…..repair car engines in their garage….change out septic tanks….and operate a chainsaw occasionally. Neighbors and relatives are typically amazed that the guy or gal collects disability while looking fairly good in terms of their physical ability.

As the trend grows…..I’m expecting some kids to get smart in the final year of high school….claiming a massive injury on the football field, and ask for social security to grant them a disability deal for the rest of their life. I’m also expecting more folks to have car accidents on a perfectly clear day…..then insist the brakes just gave out, and ask for one hundred percent disability. And I’m expecting some guys working for the government to claim they fell off the toilet and need 100 percent disability for something that was “wonked-up”.

At some point, the idiots in Congress will demand an audit….where every single guy gets called in and forced into another physical. Some guys on full disability…..will suddenly find that things are found to be better, and they only get thirty-percent disability now, which is not enough to live off. Some guys will be reported by their relatives or neighbors for lifting lumber off the truck, and get kicked completely off disability.

There will be this terrible….woeful trend….where guys show up at your house and all upset over their disability drying up. They spent five years…..maybe even eight years…..on some disability status, and just can’t see how they can go back to real work. You will sit and do your best to encourage them to ‘be strong’, and then comment that this might all be in God’s great plan of life…..then pulling out a Bible and wanting to quote scripture. Your associate will likely ease themselves out of your carport or front porch, and move on down the road to the next person to talk up their terrible problem.

The bottom line here….is that disability was supposed to be for guys who were laid up and never able to get around much. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that just about anyone can qualify for disability these days, and the bucket of money for that….just won’t last.

To Put It Into Prospective

It won't be discussed much in the news....mostly because the news guys can't grasp or understand the details....but the Colorado shooter kid had this nifty degree program that he was working with....over the past year.  He was one of the three kids on the PhD program, who was working on a special project.

The US government was given a chance to fund, which they eagerly jumped into, a university project where the effects of PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder) could be taken and possibly modified.  With a significant number of GI's coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan...with PTSD, it's been on the government's plate to find a way to manage disorder.

If you had PTSD....you'd be open to conduct violent actions, harm individuals with little to no logic, and be able to toss human behavior that you'd accepted as normal.

If you look at the Colorado shooter....he displays PTSD.  One might come to a logical conclusion that somewhere in the lab efforts with various drug applications.....he might have dosed himself on an occasion, and gotten some results that you weren't expecting....like getting PTSD when you didn't have it.

I doubt if the university or the lab want any review of what was going on within their spaces.  The prosecutor will just note all the evidence existing and prosecute the case "as is".  Maybe none of this really matters.  But it's just odd that you had a unique lab project over PTSD, and this one kid was a member of the lab team.

Maybe a dose of drug "X", and watching the Batman/Joker movie that same evening....did the job.  You just don't know.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Poverty Under the Microscope

A couple of weeks before the November election....you will be shocked to find one day these statistics from the 2010 Census finally released.  What people are now expecting (with news giving you an indicator this weekend)....is that poverty in America is headed back to the standard that we had in the 1960s.  The catch here...is that everyone will say that the fall of the American people is a terrible thing, and that only the US government can bring people up out of poverty....like they did in the 1960s.

I sat and pondered over these comments.

It's an odd thing....if you admit some vast poverty increase, and then reference it to the 1960s, and indicate government savors coming to the rescue.....then the US economy will come to a complete collapse.  We have one key difference between 2012 and 1966....we are marginally surviving right now, with no real boost on the horizon, unlike 1966 when the US economy was at least in a fairly positive trend.  If you started talking various government programs which cost cash and require more taxes.....then we'd collapse within six months.

I sat back and looked at our condition of poverty today.

First.....a number of guys came up in the decade prior to 2008 and retired with million-dollar IRA accounts.  They were in great shape.  Today....they've probably lost around a third of their account, and cut back drastically on what they are removing each month.  Between their $1,400 social security check and the $800 from the IRA account....they do OK.  Are they borderline poverty?  Well....it's close.  They probably don't take big vacations anymore and they quit the golf membership in 2009.  They probably wish the million-dollar IRA had been bigger or better suited for a bad economy, but at age 69.....you can't wish for unicorns anymore.

Second, if you are living in a house that you paid $300k for, and it’s currently valued at $240k....you are locked into a mess. You probably are paying your entire paycheck for the mortgage, which you cannot refinance or work up a new deal, or sell the house because of being underwater. So you pay your monthly salary toward the house and utility bill. You are existing off your wife’s paycheck, which you use to pay for two cars, insurance, food, and various essentials of life. To be honest, you are pretty much living on the margins of life and have the poster of “poverty” above your head. You aren’t middle-class anymore because one entire paycheck is paying for a stupid mortgage that you really can’t afford but you were stupid enough to convince yourself you could.  Somehow, you fell into poverty and you can't get up.

Third, all those toys you bought a decade ago are coming back to haunt you.  You spent $16k on a fancy Italian-made motorcycle which sits in the garage now.  You made payments on it for five years and never drove it more than twenty times a year.  You can't sell it today for any real money because no one would pay you the former used value which it had in 2008.  The fancy boat sitting in the garage, which had a used value of $22k in 2008....might fetch $7k today.  To be honest, you haven't put the boat in water for at least sixteen months, and the state tag....you let it expire because you just didn't have the money for that.  You toyed yourself up with fancy guns, a $10k ATV, a $9k fancy horse, a $5k pool table which sits in the basement....and you sit there on the borderline of poverty....with lots of fine toys.

Fourth, you gaze around at your neighbors.  The guy across the street is a meth dealer and does everything in cash....from his rent to the used 1995 Toyota that he drives. On paper, the meth guy is poverty class, but you know he's pulling in $8k a month in cash.  The gal two houses down?  She has two fine gentlemen who show up one day a week and spend several hours at her house.  The $300 they leave for her?  Well....it's not going to appear to the IRS or any other idiots.....so she looks marginal and is listed at poverty level, but has $15k a year she makes on the side is never noticed by the government. The kid in the trailer?  He has one official income of $1k a month from the Deli Shop where he works for twenty hours a week, but he does drywall work for cash, drives a tractor trailer rig over weekends, and is pulling in an extra $28k a year which is all cash and never is on the scope of the government.  The guy with the flea market operation?  Well....it's best to never admit his real income each year but he's listed as a poverty guy while he keeps a wad of $70k in his garage safe, and buys just about everything in cash.

So as these numbers come out a couple of weeks prior to the election.....you might stand and ask some stupid questions.  What the Census guys found....isn't really a complete picture.  And if you think that the government solution solves your problem.....you might be wrong in this case.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Local Neighborhood

Everyone in the DC region has a Metro story.  This morning....I got up and read up on this episode that occurred Friday night and a local guy posted his "event".  Luckily, this wasn't me involved....I would have been pretty upset.

What  we have on a continual basis in DC....is a shutdown of the subway around 10PM, and buses start to carry folks around from station X to station Y, while this one-mile section of track is fixed for the whole weekend.

Well....last night....this guy and a number of folks get off at station X.  Here's the bus.  So they climb onboard.  It's about a two-mile drive for a driver to get through traffic.....going from station X to station Y.

Well....twenty minutes into this drive....some folks start to look at landmarks around them in the darkness.  Things don't make much sense because this should have been a five-minute drive at the most. So they pull out their I-Phone and run the GPS option.

They discover that they are about ten miles in the opposite direction of Station X or Y....heading north.....not south.  So this took around five minutes to get turned around, and probably closer to thirty minutes to finally pull up to the original destination of Station Y.  Roughly an hour wasted.

The funny thing here....is that if someone hadn't done the I-Phone GPS thing, and let the guy continue on for another thirty minutes.....they would have been over the river and into Maryland, which would have gotten some folks all upset and disturbed.

That's the interesting thing about living in the DC area....you just don't know what might happen next.

Crazy in America

You can be mentally unstable, extremely crazy and dangerous in America....yet....

- own weapons

- buy weapons

- register to vote

- actually vote

- buy a car

- have a bank account

- buy property

- own a business

- go to college

- be a member of a church

- be a Boy Scout leader, a Governor, or US Senator

- subscribe and have three hundred issues of Time magazine delivered to your house

- burn your house down legally

- marry someone

- attend a college and get a degree, including a PhD

- work on CNN, MSNBC or even Fox News

- ride around with a monkey in the car

- and even be President of the United States or run for the office of President of the United States

Parks and Services

It won't really make it down to you in the news....but out in California this week, there's this small item which ought to make you wonder.  Someone apparently got around to doing an audit of the Califorinia state parks department.  Don't ask why, but they did.

In the end, the audit guys come to realize that the parks department had been sitting on roughly $54 million for at least a decade....maybe even twelve years.

It's an interesting thing.  Back around 2001, the state parks department had 3,247 employees, which you have to admit.....that's a pretty fair number of folks, but California is a big state, and it has around two hundred state parks across the whole state.  The thing is....they grew....to roughly 4,094 employees today (numbers from the Rocklin & Roseville site).  The thing is.....there was 500 empty positions.  Every year, the department went back for full funding and got it....but they just didn't hire folks to fill 500 slots.  Cash in.....no cash out (so to speak).

The comical side of this....because the state of California is in such bad shape.....they hadn't authorized any vacation-time buy-back to any state employees in five years.  Well....that was the state rule.  But the state parks department had this nifty deal....as long as you worked for the headquarters organization, they'd quietly approve your vacation-buy-back deal.  Last year....it's reported that they paid out at least $250k, while it was unauthorized by the state.  There's some talk that the state just might come back around and insist on getting their money back.

So as the Parks department came forward over the past couple of years and continually talked up the terrible closure of various parks throughout the state because of a lack of funds.....there came these private folks up and donations popped up left and right.  What the state could not fund....the private guys would help with.....with the use of their wealth and generosity.  Yet, the department sat there with $54 million in their bank account.

The head of the state parks department has resigned.  I'm guessing that some private foundation in California will find some way of hiring her and keeping her busy for a couple of years.  The $54 million?  It'll be put on public display, and probably spent in less than thirty days.

This all generates some thoughts within the Governor's office....that millions more may be stashed away. So I'm guessing a massive audit will occur now.  They might find millions, or find nothing.

In the end, you end up looking at the state parks department like some mafia operation.  They knew how to get the cash from the state legislature.  They knew how to get cash from wealthy dimwits who were all into the environment, hills, green grass, and saving things.  The mafia leadership took care of the lieutenants and ensured that things kept going.  The $54 million probably could have kept the seventy parks slated for closure up and running.  The empty 500 positions?  I'm guessing that the state has figured out their scheme and cut those billets.

Life goes on.....while the sun sets on the California coast.

Just Observations

After you watch through the Colorado news today and this shooter, you come to several observations.

First, no, he wasn't a Tea Party guy....even though ABC really hoped that he was.

Second, no, he wasn't a disgruntled Vietnam vet.  Nor was he an angry Iraq War vet.  Nor was he a crazed Afghanistan vet.

Third, no, he wasn't an NRA guy or some gun collector nut from Kentucky.  Nor was he some whacked up far left wing or far right wing nut.

Fourth, no, he wasn't rambling on about Rush Limbaugh, the health care stuff, the NCAA, or liberals.

Fifth, yes, he was this extremely bright intelligent kid with a masters degree, and apparently couldn't find work last year with that degree....so he ventured off to work on a PhD....which apparently didn't work very well.

Sixth, no, even if you did outlaw guns.....this kid was smart enough to know how to build explosives.....so he would have killed you by various other means.

Seventh, yeah, he probably was developing into a nut of some type of the past year or two....but what exactly would people do about it?  It's not like 1956 and you went to a judge in your county.....discussed cousin Clyde's medical medication and had him put into a state mental hospital because folks feared for their life.  Folks just won't do that today.  Everyone wants to "med" the guy up and just hope for the best.

Eighth, yeah, packing a gun might be a idea to think about.  But you'd have to be willing to put the guy down with no hesitation when he started his stupid attack.

Ninth, no, we won't be able to avoid all the media hype this weekend, and the long talk about gun control.   You might as well pull out the car wax and buff up the car.  Or you might bring your pistol collection out and just oil all the guns out on the patio.  Or you might wash your dog.  Or you could flip the TV remote over to European soccer and figure out the rules over the first half of a game (45 minutes).

Tenth and final.....no, it's not the last shooting.  I might get into trouble for saying this....but this Zimmerman character in Florida probably would have worked his way up to the punk about sixty seconds into this, and shoot the nut.  There are times.....you just need someone focused on the problem, and let them do what they probably do best.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Random Acts of Stupidity

As most of you know.....I work at the Pentagon.

There was a parking meeting this week.  Massive change coming to Pentagon parking over the next five years. The Pentagon is in a must-do situation where they are "green-qualified", which means you must accomplish a number of green things. One of those...is that X-percentage of your property....must be actually green (without concrete or asphalt). Well....they don't meet that objective and are in a position of losing their green-certification.

Naturally, this means you need to remove asphalt and concrete….which means that parking spots need to disappear. So they've decided....to give up hundreds of their parking spots (around the five corners of the building)....over five years....to continue the green-certification.

The Army loses, the Air Force loses, the Navy loses, and the Marines lose. But, we will proudly be green-certified....and just wondering where to park in five years.

You can imagine the original planners of the Pentagon sitting around. They really didn’t have to do much thinking over parking. You just paved, and paved, and paved….until you had enough parking. Today, you end up telling General Gus, Mr Smith, Captain Joe, Sergeant Snuffy, and Private Jimmy that they need to park somewhere far off, and pay for their parking…then walk half-a-mile or ride the Metro into work because you really can’t have free parking at the Pentagon. 

Somehow, you add up the green stuff, the green certificate, then minus out the parking done somewhere else on someone else's concrete or asphalt, then minus up the $100 a month to pay some joker because you can't park at your office parking anymore, and you end up with a negative....at least with my math.

All of this is done….in the interest of a green-certificate. Maybe this will make sense in the years to come. But on the general scale of common sense….I’m just shaking my head.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Just Pondering

Just two cents of thought on the Boy Scouts vote yesterday for a continued ban on gays within the organization.  It's their organization, and they can run it anyway they want.  If they wanted left-wing dictators from South America to run it....they'd approve the rule change and make it so.

So for the enthusiasts who get all upset and angry over this....just start a brand-new Gay Scouts organization which runs kinda like the Boy Scouts, and be happy with your own product.

If you think about it long enough and ponder upon it....it's like endorsing the idea of atheists being allowed into the Baptist organization, and actually becoming a minister.....maybe even the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  That just won't happen.

So just start the organization and make the best out of the deal.  Maybe in forty years....it'll be a success. Maybe.  It's just not something that I'd be betting a lot of money on.

Could Have Been on Seinfeld

Photo compliments of AP (Mary Altaffer).

The story here is that a SUV was parked up on a higher floor of a New York City building, and had to pull onto an elevator....to get down to the ground.  Well....the elevator wasn't there....so it just went crashing forty feet to the ground.  No one hurt really.  Probably the end of this vehicle.

What would happen on Seinfeld?  Well....Cramer would have said to just keep pulling forward, and Jerry would have done it.  As the crash occurred...Jerry would have called Elaine to come over and see this.  He might have called up George and said he'd be a little late.  Then some flare-up with the insurance lady would have turned Jerry's day upside down....twice over.  The insurance lady would have asked if he was certified to drive into an elevator.

In New York City.....things just happen.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The "Marginal Depression"

Long ago, we had the Great Depression, which is generally talked about in a very long and historic fashion. Historians write books on the period of America. Wannabe historians appear on TV and chat for hours over a topic which they might be mildly knowledgeable in terms of events. If a guy sits down today, and looks over the sum of events of the past decade….there’s more than a recession at work.

So I’d like to invent a new term to be used…..instead of the “Great Depression”, I’d like to refer to the current period of history…..as the “Marginal Depression”.

A “Marginal Depression” is when you do everything possible to paint over economic issues and invent various programs to hide economic uncertainty. You keep banks alive…when they ought to be failing. You keep people in houses, when the mortgages have failed, and you invent various tricks that just keep the original mess just out of sight. You take measures to increase tax revenue….to shift money from public expenditures via people or industry, to government expenditures.

A “Marginal Depression” is easy to explain. It’s not in full view. It’s not a talking point with the breakfast talk shows. It’s can’t be openly discussed because it’s not ‘great’.

The fact that a guy who is 68 years old has to work, and can’t retire….is never openly discussed.

The fact that a kid is told by his parents that it’s community college in the local area or no college at all….is never openly discussed.

The fact that you have to drive a car out to 150k miles or eight years….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you aren’t doing as much preventative maintenance on your car as you used to….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you buy your dress shirts now from Wal-Mart or a discount center on a routine basis, instead of Pennys or Sears….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that Christmas gifts are economically planned out by some people months ahead of time….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you don’t worry about fixing the broke dish washer, and just start washing dishes the plain old fashion way….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you really hate the house you live in, but you can’t refinance it for a better rate, or sell it because of the under-water mortgage situation….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that your usual seven day vacation is now limited to one three-day weekend at some regional hotel with a pool….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you gave up all your subscriptions to magazines and newspapers….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you finally replaced your old broke mower, with a used mower....because you really couldn't afford a new one….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you quit premium TV packages of HBO and Showtime…..isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you discuss a major house renovation with the undocumented Juan, and not Larry the local guy that you usually turn to for major construction on the house…..isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you only buy beer at the store when it’s on sale or near expiration, or discounted….isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you now grill more hot dogs and burgers than steaks like you did five years ago…..isn’t openly discussed.

The fact that you’ve become a choosey shopper and won’t buy anything unless it’s discounted or you buy in bulk….isn’t openly discussed.

So, it’s the “Marginal Depression”. There probably aren’t any great writers writing on the topic, or wannabe experts discussing it on TV….but it’s a depression no matter how you perceive it.

The War Memorial Photo

Over the weekend here in DC....someone was standing at the right point of a DC war memorial, and there was this scene which they could not avoid taking a photo.  In the midst of the memorial....was an Air Force guy (in uniform), kissing a young lady.  The photographer felt that the young lady had been proposed to and this was this "magical moment".

Well....the photo has gripped the entire city and folks want to know the whole story, and the identity of the guy and gal.

I've looked over the photo, and question the proposal idea.  It just might be that the guy did a five-star date sequence and just decided to kiss the gal, in hopes that she responded.  Or it could be the good-bye kiss and he's off to Afghanistan for a year.  The thing is....you just don't know.

So sitting at some desk....probably in the Pentagon....is this Air Force officer who folks are looking at and asking if he might be the guy in the picture.  If it was me.....I might keep my mouth shut and just hope that this all simmers overs by the weekend.

With the way that things go....there will be an entire movie made over this one photo.

Update:  Well....the guy came forward....a Air Force Lt Col, and admitted that he and his lady were the two.  They had already been engaged for two weeks, and were just hunting down a spot for their wedding ceremony.  He didn't want any mention of things....preferring privacy.  So now....life can go on.

The Yellow Jacket

So for $125, you can buy this I-Phone case (a covering) that has these two unique features.

First, it acts as a 650,000-volt taser.  It surrounds your I-Phone, and when you hit the little button....you stun the heck out of the person attacking you.

Second, it has this back-up power deal....roughly twenty hours of power available for the I-Phone user.....if were willing to give up on the power taser capability and just use it as back-up power only.

So a guy looks at a gadget like this.  Handy, very easy to operate, and simple.  You can imagine Doug sitting back in the office.....taking a personal call on his I-Phone, and happens to hit the right button and throws 650k volts of power into himself.....laying him on the floor.  Mary, Joe and Hank walk in....seeing Doug dazed....and remove most of his clothing.  When Doug finally comes around ten minutes later....he's asking himself how he came to be there with just his underwear on.

To be honest, I just see the Yellow Jacket as being an awesome power to have, but highly dangerous and likely to be misused.  An upset wife, an angry secretary, or a revengeful girlfriend could all play into the misuse.  Heck, even your dog might go and pick up your I-Phone while it rings, and hand it to you the wrong way.....zapping you.

Success Isn't a Government Thing

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

-- President Obama at a speech over the weekend

Usually….when some guy starts a statement…”if you were successful...”, I’m tending to stop for a moment and ask what if you weren’t successful? What if you had marginal teachers in high school, of which half should have been dismissed as lousy instructors? What if the bridges and roads built….weren’t in your neck of the woods? What if the government took forty million in tax revenue from a company and gave it to some pitiful solar energy company who bankrupted the money in less than 100 days? What if success wasn’t measureable by some government official?

At the tail end of this discussion, I’d be wondering if there was a division of the government…whose sole function in life….was ensuring your success. Would they meet in Hawaii for conferences? Would they have study groups with business experts from Harvard University? Would they have some former Louisiana Senator in charge of the success department? Would colleges offer up classes in success…..so you’d be able recognize it when it finally hit you? Would some dimwit start to measure success….in some idealistic fashion that qualifies you were marginally successful, somewhat successful, fully successful, or overwhelmingly successful?

 Here are some basic truths in success in life:

 - Your success is utterly dependent on you, yourself. A bunch of folks can give you wisdom and advice….but if you can’t see through that, and make the right decisions….then none of that matters.

- The first idiot to stand and say you’ve been successful enough and you need to stand aside for another guy to have a chance….is the first guy you need to fire or terminate. He’s some loser with an agenda which has nothing to do with success.

- Failures in life can pave the way toward success. A guy with ideas will eventually make it to the top.

- If someone wants to talk about the government being involved in your success as a company…they might want to mention that the government might also be part of your failure as a company. Logic would dictate that.

- Finally, the last people on Earth to tell you something about success in business….is some political player. You might as well as ask a farmer about his vast knowledge in solar flares.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Optimism-Lite

"But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."


- President Obama in response to a question by CBS


It was one of those odd moments where a guy is trying to explain why things haven't gone well during his reign at a company, an office, a newspaper, or as President of the United States.  


There are a dozen Presidents who captivated the public with optimism on a daily basis...from Lincoln to Roosevelt, onto Reagan, and even to some degree...President Clinton.  


To be kinda honest, you can't find a lot of business optimism in America today.  You can't find that much economic optimism in America today.  You can't find optimism that blends itself across various cultures and societies in America today.  You can't find optimism in the housing market, the banking sector, or small-town America today. 


After a bit of pondering....I think I'd be safe in saying that we are traveling down the road in a car that runs on optimism-lite.  Once in a while....we will hit a point where we get a slight surge in optimism but it's nothing really to brag about.  


The President might be right about this optimism-lite situation and maybe he has some fault...but if it's true, then what?  Is there going to be a full month of four-star speeches given now....to bring back to where we should be?  I just don't see that happening.  You can admit anything you want....but we are kinda locked into optimism-lite for the foreseeable future.  And I wouldn't get that pumped over a Romney era changing that.  


You can live a decent life off optimism-lite.  You can grill burgers with that gut feeling.  You can still buy a new car with optimism-lite running your life.  You can marry up with a Lutheran-church gal while living a optimism-lite situation.  I guess you could even haul hay while feeling optimism-lite.  


The thing is....you'd like to have that Reagan feeling in your gut.  You'd like to feel Ike was giving you a speech on the success of D-Day.  You'd like to have someone telling you that we are a great nation.  And right now today....you just won't get that.  

The Pool in New York

There was this urban pool in New York City...McCarren Park Pool....which had stood in decay for roughly three decades.  The city found fifty million, and renovated the pool, and it reopened this year.  The picture from 2006 says alot about the area, and the emphasis that was put on the pool.

Everyone talked about fixing the pool and getting things back on track.  So the political folks stood up and put the cash into the project.

So you gaze at the 2012 picture, and you kinda think that things are turned around and really improving.  But that feeling is bogus.

As summer arrived and the heat came into focus....the public started to prove why investing the pool was worthless.  From the New York Post....at least three folks are tossed out of the complex on a daily basis.  Sometimes....a complete brawl will just start up at a moment's notice.

Cops?  Yeah....they have to have cops continually around the pool because no one will will listen to the lifeguards....which gives you an idea of the customer mentality.  Five or six cops?  Well....no. On the big days....there's around forty cops which maneuver themselves around the entire complex.  You can figure at least $15k in security-related costs.....to keep the complex safe....as a minimum....on a daily basis.

Feces in the pool?  Well....yeah.  They tend to shut the pool down on a regular basis, from fifteen minutes, to an hour.....to clean the mess.

The odds here?  Public health officials will start to show up next summer and I imagine that it gets shut down at least two days a week for a full-up cleaning.  Toss in a couple of potential riots, and some city council people will eventually talk about the operational costs of the place.  My safe bet here is that they shut the complex down by 2017.

Fifty million tossed down a sewer, and no one really cares.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Opposite of Opposite

I sat and watched this analysis from various political dimwits after Romney gave his speech to the NAACP crowd this week.  The only significant thing that folks wanted to chat on....was the various boos that occurred at key points in the speech.  So in the aftermath of the episode....the experts wanted everyone to know that Romney did this all on purpose....to gain the boos intentionally....thus getting more white uneducated people to vote for him.

I paused, ever so briefly.....trying not to laugh.  This was the best that they could generate....from the sixty seconds of analysis that they did over the whole speech.

So, let's come to an agreement....it worked.  The boos convinced fourteen million racist democrats and independents at home.....to lock themselves into place for Romney.  It's done.  In fact, it's more than enough now to win the election.

Since all of this is true.....now it's back onto the focus of the NAACP to realize that they helped President Obama lose the election.  If only they had clapped and applauded.....even mildly.....they would have irked the racist crowds in America, and convinced them to vote for President Obama instead.  They could have saved the election and ensured a second term.

In the spring of 2013, the NAACP will likely meet and discuss how President Obama lost, and how their boos convinced millions to vote for Romney.  Using the logic from the dimwits on various networks to provide political analysis....they will come to decide that the new NAACP policy will be to applaud Republican candidates, and boo Democratic candidates.

Yes, this can only happen in America.

My Neighborhood

It reads like a fancy TV movie script.

There’s a big helath insurance company which provides the District of Columbia’s city employees their health insurance. The city pays the company, and services get provided. At some point around 2008/2009…..the city, under Mayor Fenty, realized there were huge overpayments going on….so they went to court. The company, DC Chartered Health Plan…..was making $350 million off this contract annually.  Once the legal guys had done their song and dance in front of a court….the company owed DC $12 million.

The company, as you can imagine….was unhappy. They paid their fine in 2010, and they remembered what Mayor Fenty had done.

So months passed, and the November election occurred. It was an interesting mayor’s race. Old mayor runs against city councilman Vincent Gray, and there was this unusual character who popped up to slam the old mayor (Fenty) as another candidate in the background. This oddball character stirred up the black neighborhoods in DC, and in the end….probably helped to reshape at least three thousand votes either toward himself or toward Gray, but not toward Fenty. Gray wins, and the oddball character suddenly is on the hiring group….coming into a $100k a year job.

Just one problem….there’s a check of his background, and police record. Issues pop up. The oddball character is let go after a month. You can imagine his anger and hostility….he was supposed to have a nifty $100k job for four years minimum. The oddball character runs off to the TV stations, and all the political folks line up to deny any credibility toward the guy. It was an interesting month that made everyone laugh. Well….the Feds came around to interview the oddball guy, and everything he said….made sense and had facts attached.

So here sits Mayor Gray….two years into this game, and the Feds are now proving various details. The health insurance company? Well….that’s an interesting thing. There was a reimbursement deal made between DC and the company….so DC coughed up $32 million. So even as they paid the fine out to DC for $12 million….they still made it up with $20 million, and the $650k in illegal campaign contributions? Not worth mentioning.

The health insurance guy in this mess? Jeffrey Thompson. He’s kinda disappeared from public life over the past couple of months. At the very least…..I’m thinking he could end up with a fine and twelve months in prison.

Current Mayor Gray, who was all part of the deal? I’m guessing he either resigns his office or gets arrested. The old mayor (Fenty)? He hasn’t said much. I’m guessing he’s figured out the scheme and pretty angry over the whole mess. Made for a TV movie? Yes….without any doubt, but no would dare write the script for this and get a TV network talked into the mess.

The Church Story

Out in Phoenix, there’s this couple who own a house and a fair amount of acreage (my guess is around four to five acres). At some point, the couple and their kids…got into religion, and then got into some Bible-study business, that extended out to friends and associates. Nobody said anything much as long as they were driving up, parking, and Bible-studying in the house.

Well….at some point, the husband decides to build a building out in the backyard….which you’d see and classify as a double-two car garage (big enough for four cars), and mounted some heavy-duty AC unit on top of the structure. If it’d been designed as a garage….it’d probably have gone mostly unnoticed by the neighbors. But it worked like a house to a degree, and this was to become his Bible-study structure.

Neighbors kinda looked at this, asked some stupid questions, and eventually complained. My guess is that the size of this made them start to think in terms of a fair number of folks possible showing up. We are talking more than a dozen….maybe more than thirty….and maybe closer to fifty. The thing is….this was just a regular neighborhood….regular housing….and this Bible-study ‘development’ is whipping itself into being a church, which isn’t part of the local code.

Naturally, the authorities get involved, and the owner is in some serious trouble. He’s all upset because freedom of religion is a proud fact of American life, and a man’s home ought to be open to such events. A bunch of Americans are all peppy over his violated church rights and want to stand up to support the guy.

I sat and pondered over this mess. These days, you can build just about anything onto your backyard, with a city limits. If you want a pool, no issue. If you want a tool shed, no issue. If you want a hobby shop, no issue. A business operation? Well….no, that will be denied. A transmission repair shop? No, that will be denied. A lawnmower repair facility in your regular garage? Probably accepted up to a certain point. In this case…..the guy wants a Bible-study deal but not a real church.

The trouble is….he building up a structure that starts to blend into being a church. Then you invite this issue of parking for folks who want to come by. Toss in fifty folks, their vehicles….and it starts to make it more than a Bible-study building….and into a real church. All across America, including Phoenix….there are churches up for sale. Prices are down, and a guy could pick up a building for a fair sum. It’d seem like he put some effort into this and do things the right way, instead of fighting his neighbors on a constant basis.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Would You Move to a Bankrupt City

If you noticed the news over the past week or two.....another California city is declaring bankruptcy.  We aren't talking about a small town of 4,000 residents.....this is San Bernardino (population of 209k).  The cause?  Well.....they kind of go around in circles and come to admit that they have a problem with the stumbling economy.  Tax revenues are down, which trigger people to talk cuts.  But cuts are fought at every point by people trying to protect their "empire".  Eventually, they come to mention that they kept getting these balanced budget reports, and kept thinking there really wasn't an issue.  The impression is that budget department just didn't know what the heck they were doing.

The emphasize now?  It's bad enough that they'd consider just disbanding most everything run within the city....privatize what they can, and contract out fire and police work to the county.  You'd end up with less cops, less fire protection, and less of everything else.....but generally pay the same sales tax and the same property tax.  This would usually invite a heated discussion if you live in any of the other forty-nine states, but this is California.

So the question comes up to ponder......would you move to a bankrupt city?

A guy would sit and think about this.  Maybe your gal Wanda wants you to settle down, and asks you to move to this town where she grew up, and you find out they are bankrupt.  Maybe your living status in life is screwed up and it's time to move back home....into such a town.  Maybe you find this great business opportunity to own your own Dairy Queen, in a bankrupt city.  Maybe you've found this great real estate deal for retirement purposes, but it's in a bankrupt town.

Can you get past the point of moving to a bankrupt city?

My guess is that most folks would start to ask questions.  What kind of idiots run this city?  What kind of people elect idiots to run this city?  What kind of idiots hand out outrageous pensions?  Can people manage their own personal funds, if they are screwing up public funds?

After a while, the questions start to mount, and you feel like opening up a bottle of Jack Daniels.  That's the only way you can find comfort in accepting a move to such a city.  You'd find immediate fault with every single city employee that you meet up with.  You'd find fault with the city council members.  You'd find fault with the mayor.  It'd start to bother you that folks run a city like some kind of bar where double shots are poured into each drink but charged as one.

My humble guess is that most folks would decline the move, and just stay where they are.  Why add more stress onto your life....complaining about how a city runs itself?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Medal Database

Over the past decade or two....a number of folks noticed guys standing around and talking up their Silver Star that they won in Vietnam, or the Medal of Honor they won in Afghanistan.  A problem developed when folks learned that the guy was a cook in the Army and usually never got past New Jersey for his one and only assignment.

So Congress got called and thought they could make up a law to actually take folks to court, when they falsely claimed medals of valor.  You could still claim various Good Conduct Medals, but that didn't really matter.

The Supreme Court got involved, and decided that Congress had passed an illegal law, and that it was OK for an American to lie about medals of valor.  Call it free speech or whatever, but they had the right to lie.

So this week, the Pentagon finally stepped into the mess and said that they would start a database to make folks happy.  They had been fighting this for a decade....mostly saying that it would have a cost associated with it, pose issues with the Privacy Act, and be fairly inaccurate (the 1973 fire out in St Louis at the National Personnel Records building destroyed the bulk of records collected before 1973).  It's best to say that the Pentagon has decided to bend over backwards, and do something has fairly limited value.

Some military unit will be assigned the task now of writing this online database, with probably forty contractors helping to fill up the data and eventually it'll whittle itself down to five guys (my humble opinion).  The war in Afghanistan is wrapping up and I doubt if we award more than two hundred medals of valor now on average each year.

The problem here....if you think about this long enough....is if you claim various medals from Vietnam....you will likely get away with it because there just isn't alot of info around to populate that database.  The Pentagon is doing this service for a future situation, and eventually all of these liars from the Vietnam War will pass on.  That's the best that they can do.....considering the situation.

As for how you will use this database?  Well...when Randy down at the VFW says he won four Silver Stars....and you don't see his name in the database....you can go and call Randy a jack-ass liar in front of the guys.  You don't need some dimwit Congressman or Senator to help you.....just plain shout them out at the VFW.

The Frank.N.Stein Story

So, to the facts.  Some guys were digging around in Scotland.  They came up on the island of South Uist....way up in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  It's the kind of place that few people go and hang out.  The island lies twenty miles off the coast, and for probably seven months out of the year....isn't a place where you'd want to travel to.

They've found a pair of folks buried.  The aging process indicates they were laid to rest around 3k years ago.  Everything looked normal, and they did a DNA test with various bones.  The thing is....as they came to realize....this dead guy (two folks actually)....had body parts composed of six different folks.

Naturally, this is where the typical Brit would grin, and hint of a Frankenstein situation from 3k years ago.  The British "Frank" was reshaped with this piece from an Italian, this other piece from a Greek, and a piece or two from Germans (we won't guess which pieces).  Then the Brit would make up this fantastic story....turning it into a legend....which would have shadows, the evil doctor, some alcohol consumption, a bit of murder and intrigue, and some British humor.

The truth so far is that the scientists think that pairing up of body parts come from a cultural activity.  They can determine that some pieces came into play around 600 years after the original guy was laid to rest.  A piece here....a piece there.....and it was all neat and tidy in arrangement.

The intent?  I hate to suggest this about the British....but they are legendary at making something into a fake.  So I'm guessing that some guys ran around the island of Britain....talking up this legendary king of Uist, the island.  A bunch of Brits around the island felt like tourists.....so they ride all day, for several days.....and get up to the north coast of Scotland.  They bring up this legend they've heard about and the locals start talking about the legend, and offering plenty of booze.

You can imagine the scene....a drunk Brit with some cash.....so they finally offer up a boat ride out to the island, and this once in a life opportunity to view the King of Uist.  It's an accompanied trip and a picnic is laid out later along the beach.  A brisk wind, some mist in your face, and this million-dollar chance to view the dead king of Uist.  Some local guy recites the legend, which happens to change every six months but no one ever notices this.

Along the years.....a visitor asks to take a bone away from the burial site, for a special price.  Cash is exchanged, and the locals hunt down another dead guy's body to take a bone and replace what was removed.

At some point....a couple of the locals screw up the legend, forget the five-star story, and a couple of tourists fall off the boat going back to the mainland because they were too drunk.  The whole business goes downhill, and the legend just evaporates.

Somewhere out there.....there's some story relating to the King of Uist, and maybe his man-friend....Lawrence.  They fought off invaders.  They fought for the hand of some damsel.  They developed Scottish whiskey together.  And they died together in some great grand sword fight.

For Seven Pounds-Fifty.....you can hear the story and see the dead guys, and for an extra Pound or two....have a nifty British beer. Just make sure you don't fall off the boat, and remember....the last boat leaves Uist by mid-afternoon.  It's how legends are made.