Friday, 30 November 2012

My Neighborhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Neighborhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 29 November 2012

When I was a Kid (1975)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Gitmo Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Neighborhood

Across the river, into DC....there's this University of the District of Columbia (UDC for short).

The UDC folks run an establishment that draws mostly just local kids from the lower side of DC, in literal terms.  To be honest, UDC has been drifting around for the last couple of years and has some long-term issues of surviving financially.

UDC has now reached a point where they actually need to lay off twenty-five folks (administrative, and instructors).  Normally, they'd just terminate them....but in this modern age, you need to offer up a severance package.

So UDC needs $4 million......to help those twenty-five folks walk out the door....feeling whole.  Unfortunately, they don't have the money.

Naturally, this means that they need to visit the city council of DC and beg four million dollars from them.   Why the city council?  UDC is a public system, that survives mostly because of help from the DC city council.  In lean times....the city ordered UDC to downsize....in order to survive.

UDC is an odd educational establishment.  It started out in the 1860's as a small-town type local college mostly to develop teachers, and eventually....in the 1970s....ended up being merged with two other local but small colleges.  UDC is the result.  Today, they operate with around 5k students.  In a bit of a twist, it is the only public university left in DC....everything else is private.

The money issue?  They've budgeted themselves into a corner.  As the years went by, they extended out various pay increases and generous benefit plans.  The DC city council is the source of any extra funding they require.  The odds of getting the $4 million?  Someone in the DC council will eventually figure out some scheme to put at least half that on the table.  I'm guessing that was the magic number that they were hoping for anyway.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Simply Observations

First, the BBC folks are in trouble....for putting clothing on primitive folks.  BBC put up a series about the history of mankind....which naturally had to involve a bunch of primitive folks who walked out of Africa, and into Europe.  These tribes were shown in the show with various clothing bits.....to hide body parts (which we will not go into detail about).  The nature folks think this is terrible because mankind was naked for the most part as they walked around 100k years ago, or at least they think that.  I sat and pondered over this.  Most guys would have gotten to wearing some kind of clothing the minute things got cool or cold.  Even in Africa....they tend to have cool days on occasion.  So I'm thinking the nature guys might be wrong on this idea.

Second, in the game of taxes, we have a new twist.  In the UK, there is a suggestion presently that foreign companies operating in the UK....ought to pay more taxes, than regular companies based out of the UK.  In other words....always try to find one more player with a bigger stink than yours....to dump on.  The player that they are attempting to drag into higher taxes?  Google.  If only they were a UK company....they could be taxed at a hefty sum, but being Google, they need to be taxed at a XXL-hefty sum.  It's only logical, you know.

Third, and final....this new GM Spark, the complete battery car with no alternate means of running....is about to be produced for around $25k per car.  It's hard to say if this will sell or not.  It would be strictly suburban folks to buy it, and no one has been clear on how far it'd go with one charge.  Personally, you'd have to be a fair-risk taker.....to buy strictly a battery car.  Seems like the tow truck drivers will be getting a bonus out of this production line.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Vegas Train

It won't make the national news....but an odd service will start up in late 2013 out in California.  It's a 'party-train' that will run from LA to Las Vegas.

It's a train dedicated to getting you from one city to another....no stops apparently along the way.  I sat and pondered over the time involved.  The news sources say the train trip will take approximately five hours.  If you took the bus run?  Well....it's just over five hours.  There's not a lot of difference.  So why would a guy pick this over the bus?

The price?  Currently....they think the trip will run around $99.  I have some doubts that this would be the bus pricing scheme.

The selling point is that the train is bulky and you can actually get up and walk around.  The cars will all be set up in some fashion for folks to mingle, which you really can't do on a bus.

It's hard to say if this will be a success or not.  If they just offered free parking out at the train station in LA.....they might attract a fair number of folks.

Monday, 26 November 2012

A Dog Story

There's a lesson in life within this story.

Over the weekend, near Eureka, California.....a family went out on the beach.  Father, mother, son, and daughter, along with a dog.

The son started with a stick and wanted the dog to play fetch.

At some point, the son threw the stick so far out, that a ten-foot swell of water came up and took ahold of the dog while in his mission to recover the stick.

The son.....feeling that the dog was being sucked out to sea....ran into the water to save the dog.

The waters began to carry the son out to sea, so the father and mother ran into the water and tried to save both the son and the dog.

Eventually, the son, father and mother were all swept away....drowning.

The witness to this?  The daughter.  She never entered the water.

The dog?  Well....he eventually returned to shore.....alive.

The authorities eventually did find the bodies of the father and mother, but so far....the son hasn't been found.

Somewhere in the great wisdom of life....you have to believe in your gut....that no matter how bad a situation may look....you have to trust in your dog.  He or she will eventually recover and find themselves within the graces of God Almighty.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Black Friday Topic

For the last couple of days, I've been watching and reading over the "Black-Friday" feelings.  A number of folks are upset about this deal of pushing "Black-Friday" over into Thanksgiving day....thinking it's a terrible thing.  Some unions are upset that you've started to demand employees show up in the middle of Thanksgiving evening or at 3AM on Friday morning.  Then you have the traditional folks who talk up the terrible misuse of this wonderful American holiday.

You have to have some grasp of American history to understand where this leads to.  Thanksgiving really wasn't much of an American thing until 1863....in the midst of the Civil War....that the President simply used executive power and did a proclamation.  You have to wonder if this was a easily accepted by the public or just some free deal that the President was passing down.

For the next seventy-odd years, it stood as a proclamation, and nothing more.  Somewhere at the end of the FDR-era....in 1941, the House and the Senate got into this and made it a national holiday.  For most of the next forty years....Friday was a regular work-day and no one ever said much about it.

To be honest, it's not a long and honored American tradition.  And "Black-Friday" isn't exactly a long developed trend.

I'm guessing that some city councils will eventually get involved and force all stores to stay closed until early on Friday morning.  The funny thing is that stores are now basing their success for the entire year....on this one twenty-four to thirty-six hour period.  If Lincoln or FDR had understood this game....they might have done it totally different.

The Gun Bill in Bama

Being from Bama, you have to appreciate odd things.

This past week, a state senator came up and submitted a bill.....that would require business operations to allow employees to bring guns into work.  This was to allow employees to fight back, if some nutcase went wild and started to shoot up the place.

Course, immediately ...business owners stood up and said they just would NOT agree with this at all.  They probably know the truth....that two percent of their employees are crazy to start with, and this would just cause trouble in the end.

The definitive language of the bill would require you as the gun owner....to lock up the weapon either in your car or your locker.  You couldn't walk around, with the gun on your person.  And added to the wording....no guns around schools or universities.

I sat and pondered over this bill.  The truth is....there's maybe two incidents a year in Bama where some nutcase has to be stopped or he will kill a couple of folks at work.  Even if you kept your gun in the gun out in the parking lot....he'd have killed three people before you could retrieve your weapon.

But I see one other issue here.  Eventually....around lunch....guys would start to hang out in the parking lot and show off their weapons.  Joe would ask to see your French-made pistol.  Karl would ask if he could hold your Chinese-made assault rifle.  Mark would ask if you'd trade two Colt pistols for one Baretta.  The boss would be kinda upset about this gun swap and shop going on in his parking lot.  Then one day....Karl would accidentally shoot Ludlow....mostly because Karl has never handled a gun in his life.  The boss would be all upset about this shooting business, and naive handling of weapons.

So I'm mostly against the gun bill.  But, on the other hand....I do feel that every employee in Bama should be armed with a Bowie knife (the 13.5 inch type).....even women ought to be carrying them.  A knife can be a lot quicker to pull out and establish some accountability.  And the best part is that you wouldn't have to have some hidden pistol paperwork with the local authorities.

Yeah, I might be mixing fire and fuel on this topic.

The Hamas Story

Over the past week....even while on the road to Bama....I kinda noted a vast telling of the Israel and Hamas story.  Last night, I'd swear that CNN must have wasted an entire two hours....still trying to make it a Nobel Prize story.

So a brief two minute explanation as to why the mess ended so easily.

First, this Iron Dome defensive device?  It basically took on and hit roughly 85 percent of the rockets that the Hamas guys launched.  That's pretty amazing statistics.  But here's the other side of this story....it kind figures where all the rockets come from....you fly a drone over....figure the right spot, and you blast the area.  So any depot or hidden reserves that you had of rockets.....is pretty much wiped out.  The Hamas leadership might not want to admit it but it's hard to carry on a fancy war, if your number one weapon is cut out of the mess.

Second, the Israel guys decided to target the number one guys of various groups.  So the number two and three guys moved up.  That's not a reassuring deal for new leadership.  You may only have hours left to live.

Third, I'm guessing that the bankers and finance experts of Egypt stepped up pretty quick and noted how bad business has been over the past year in Egypt.  You don't want a bunch of unhappy and unemployed Egyptians running around the streets.  So you need this stability thing fixed up real quick.

Fourth and final....if you noticed today....the Egyptian President announced that he'd gained vast new powers.  Course, the court system and Parliament were kinda surprised over this, and I'm guessing he was on a schedule and this little war was not to the advantage of his power business.

As much as CNN might want to waste forty-five minutes telling this story....there just isn't that much to tell.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Library Story

Occasionally, I will notice a story, which simply will not make national press, under any reason.  Today is one of those days....the public library in Detroit, Michigan.....got raided today by the FBI.

Now, you'd sit there and say why?  Well....the FBI is always quiet about things like this.  But the news folks say that the library's financial records are key to this investigation, and they are seriously looking at the chief administrative officer, Tim Cromer.

The speculation is....that Tim was handling millions of dollars in contracts, and issued these contracts without any real bid process (or it's suggested that no bidding was the norm).  Frankly, if the FBI finds that is the case.....it'll be a quick search warrant deal for all of the people that got the contracts and their financial records will be dragged out.

The curious thing here...it's probably the first time in American history, that the FBI did a raid on a public library.  The ten FBI folks probably got all the way to the front desk....where some gal stopped them and asked if they had a library card.  They probably flashed a badge or two....and got past that gal.

What you typically look for here?  Well....you look at Tim's salary, and then Tim's lifestyle.  If Tim makes $90k a year, and has two or three new vehicles....vacations in the Bahamas twice a year....and drinks expensive wines, then Tim might have additional income that he doesn't report to the IRS.  I'm guessing the FBI will go over Tim's life and ask some blunt questions.

The comical side to this story?  Well....the library had this great $3.5 million contract with Cubemation.  The Cubemation folks are this fancy IT company, which advertises itself as "thinking outside of the box".   The $3.5 million contract?  Based on most comments....it was never open-bidded.  It was awarded without much discussion.

What did Cubemation deliver?  No one much can define that part.  I spent about an hour looking at this contract vehicle. What the library did do.....was go and buy a number of $1k fancy stainless steel garbage cans for the main library.  While the library budget was being pressed to cut....they spent thousands on $1k chairs for one wing of the main library.  On the looks category....it's a five-star library, I will admit that part.  Was this the advice given by Cubemation?  You don't know....and no one in the city government can attest to much of anything over the contract.

My Black Friday Strategy

Basically, I don't shop on black Friday, period.  I think the last time that I actually went out and shopped was around 2002 at the Ramstein BX.  I've attempted it at various US locations prior to that, but frankly, my patience with the mobs you encounter is zero.

I don't see how people endear the mess.  By 9AM, the parking lots are virtually full.  You'd have to battle two thousand people to get into a JC Pennys, or Sears.  For the electronics shops....it's the same way.

So I just don't do any black Friday shopping.

My suspicion is that as you grow older, the less happy you are with the crowds and how you'd prefer to just sit and watch clouds float around the sky.

The funny thing about this business is that I can remember when Friday didn't amount to anything.  I can go back to Thanksgiving of 1976....my last Thanksgiving at home as a kid.  You got Friday off, but there weren't any big sales for the day.  I suspect somewhere between 1976 and the mid-90's this just started to occur and no one questioned the wisdom of this.  For most big stores, this is the single most important day of the year.  The funny thing....in 1976, it just wasn't that important.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Your Twinkie Update

A federal judge jumped in the middle of the Twinkle spiral and ordered both the owners and the union to come back to the table.  The deal from the owners from last week was simple.....take a eight-percent pay-cut off your salary, and the union ends up with twenty-five percent ownership of the company.  On top of this....the employees would have to start paying seventeen percent of healthcare costs....which they currently pay zero.

My guess is that a huge number of union guys woke up this weekend and realized that a lower wage was better than termination.

The problem with this deal?  The union now becomes full-up owners, and might be shocked at the profit-line of the company.  The union management would easily have to start taking realistic stands on future benefits and actually firing folks who are hurting the company.

The federal judge may be thinking that he's helping the employees....but in the end....they only buy themselves another year or two before things really fall apart.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Just an Economic Parable

This is a parable of sorts.  For those who don't remember the full meaning of a parable....it's a story or verse, about something, which is mostly false or made-up....but it leads you to grasp lessons in life.

Karl was a millionaire of such, and well-to-do.  Every year, his company could deliver ten million dollars to Karl, as the income from his investment and risk-taking.  To be honest, Karl is a pretty hefty risk-taker.

Karl pays a fancy-pants tax accountant to ensure that he pays the least amount of taxes possible.  At the end of his tabulations, Karl typically pays $1.6 million.  That's roughly sixteen percent of what he made.  Now, you'd be upset that a wealthy guy got away with such a deal....but there's some things you should know.

Karl has a charity foundation, and he donates around $700k a year to this foundation.  That counts off money from his taxes.  Karl also has this great deal with the university down the road....where he donates $175k a year between the baseball department and the library fund.  Three times a year, Karl attends a local charity event and donates a $25k check to each charity or foundation.  Almost ten percent of Karl's income goes to charity events.

Well....one day....because of financial incompetence  recession or whatever....the government comes to say that Karl isn't giving his fair share.  No matter how the accountant does the math....Karl has to give twenty-five percent of his income, period.  No matter what the credits are, or the donations that Karl gives.  It makes things fair....as the government guy explains it.

So Karl evaluates his new twist of life.

If it doesn't matter what he does....they have to take that $2.5 million of his....then he really doesn't need to think or worry much about the charity business.

A year or two into this new tax scheme....the charities and educational funds of America (including those stupid university folks) are now talking about this massive loss in income.  Libraries are short on funds....pet shelters are short....little league organizations are low on cash....and various environmental causes are now worried that they can't sustain their magnificent organizations.

Wonder why?  Maybe we need a government committee to meet and discuss why the economic state of charities are suffering as such?

No Debt Limit?

I sat there this weekend and watched this piece of an interview with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner  on Bloomberg TV (the other business channel).

At some point....the idea of raising the debt ceiling comes up.....which is a fairly fast approaching mess that will have to also be handled by Congress.  If they don't approve it....the President is screwed, and the whole economic system of America is going to come to a halt.

So Geithner says at some point....the US “absolutely should get rid of the debt ceiling as soon as possible. It would have been time a long time ago to eliminate it. The sooner the better.”

I sat there for a minute.....thinking what if he was right.  The same should be true for your neighbor.  He ought to have an unlimited Master Card and charge $40k a year off that card.  Your buddy at work?  He ought to be able to buy a $750k house, when he only makes $58k a year.  Your Uncle going on a $9k two-week trip to Vegas when he barely makes $32k a year as a mall-guard?

After a while, you come to realize there's limits for a reason.  Sadly, our government has lost its judgement on what it's limits ought to be.

What kind of financial adviser is Timothy Geithner?  Well....not the kind that you ought to allow near your real money.....just your fake federal money.


That Flood Insurance Stuff

Somewhere, hidden in all the Hurricane Sandy updates....you will find this interesting note.  The kindly folks at FEMA who run this flood insurance deal....are deeply in debt.  Course, this is the US federal government, and it shouldn't really matter to you....the common citizen.

After Hurricane Katrina....the FEMA guys were so deep into debt, that they borrowed around $18 billion (BILLON) from the US Treasury, because their fund was so weak.

Naturally, if you were a real insurance company, you'd have some meetings and discuss this.  Well....there's a problem in the way that we manage the insurance fund, from a federal prospective.

You see....we felt so sorry for people who lived by rivers, lakes and coastal areas....that we actually gave out this under-priced policy.  We arranged a subsidy program where you could demonstrate your business or your lifestyle was such....that you only had to pay half of what the flood insurance ought to be.

Nice people that we are....we aren't really the type that ought to run an insurance program.  We are the types that would bankrupt a fund....if we were pretending to be real insurance folks.

So the fund is still in trouble left over from Hurricane Katrina, and will be more deeply in debt after Sandy's cost is figured up.

Not that this is the worst of the news....if you read the Wall Street Journal....you'd find out that the most that a general homeowner can claim under such federal insurance.....is $250k for the house and $100 for the contents.  If you did have a house worth over $380k....well....there's a problem here in that you need to find another $130k for the construction costs.  And you have to figure....folks never did accurately figure out what it'd cost to replace the old house if it did get knocked down.

So by January....when the smoke and surf has cleared....a guy will be standing there on Staten Island with his $500k house being knocked down by the city government because it's not safe to live in.  The FEMA check will arrive for $250k, and if you can document your contents (maybe you were smart enough to keep pictures and receipts....but they are long gone because of the storm)....you might get the other $100k for contents.  Then what?

The rest of us...in two to four years will eventually figure out that the flood insurance fund is mostly bankrupt and we are holding the 'promise' here.  And we aren't going to be happy over that subsidy deal for the 'poor' folks.

Yeah, we've got a bit of sand and grit in our teeth, and we aren't exactly happy.

I'm guessing some Staten Island folks won't be returning....ever.  It was the end of an era.

That 1970s Era

This week, I happened to be flipping channels and had a chance to watch Three's Company (from the 1977 to 1984).  I watched two episodes.  I will admit....it's a catchy comedy....even today.  It still works. Once they brought Don Knotts onto the show....it only got better.

Some shows....like One Day at a Time and the White Shadow....were lousy shows, and you never see them around today.  Hart to Hart?  I probably watched one episode in my entire life.  Knot's Landing was some hour-long soap opera that didn't really say much or do much.

The Daniel Boone Show?  I've probably watch forty episodes of it in my life....there's a total of 165 of them.  The thing that generally amazed me....everything was shot on a stage or lot....nothing in the real woods.  You got to notice things like that.

To this day, I've never watched as single episode of the Mod Squad, or Marcus Welby.

CHIPS?  I've probably seen every single one of the 139 episodes.  To be honest....it was badly scripted and there's a good reason why it never appears on TV today for you to watch.

One of the worst shows from the 1970s....was The Man From Atlantis....which survived for 13 episodes.  It started Patrick Duffy, who went onto Dallas later....luckily for him.  It was trying to fit into the Six-Million-Dollar Man stuff, but you just couldn't fill the 44 minutes of the show with anything worth watching except Patrick Duffy without his shirt on.  I got the impression that was the whole purpose of the show.

It's interesting to go back and realize just how bad TV was during the 1970s....and how we just accepted it.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

How the Twinkie Episode Works

This is the simplistic explanation of how to save a profit margin.

Somewhere around five to eight years ago...some budget guy at Hostess likely crunches the numbers for a final time, and there's a meeting with the top twelve guys who run the company.  They can't sustain the profit that they had enjoyed over the past couple of decades.  Between machinery replacement costs, increasing transportation costs, and worker costs (union rates)....there's a problem.

Adding to this....the budget guy knows there's a ceiling to the max that people will pay for Twinkies.  It's like asking a guy what's the max he'd pay for a regular can of Pepsi, and he says $1.50 max.  You can repackage the soda into larger cans and bluff the guy into paying $2 for a bigger can or bottle.

So the Hostess boards sits there and knows that significant change has to occur.  You can pace this out, or hasten it.  But in the end....you need a court action to play your cards on this matter.

You walk over to the bank and start borrowing money.  Doesn't matter what you use it on....just borrow and get into heavy debt.  Send the CEO to China twelve times a year. Pay bonuses to the top guys.  Just waste the money as much as possible.

At some point in 2011, you wake up and have the bank guys get all nervous and upset.  They want massive budget cuts.  You go and do the dance with the union, and draw this out to the end of 2012.  The union does a favor for you....thinking they need to be tough on this for a sweeter deal.  In truth....the company absolutely does not want a deal.

The end result is that the company will bankrupt and sell off its possessions to the highest bidder.  Various non-union companies in southern states will walk in and buy up the words "Twinkie", "Ding Dongs", etc.

Southern truckers will then move the items to the fifty states and the profit margin will move back to a point where everyone is making great profits.

The 18k union guys who lost their jobs?  They will sit there for hours and hours this weekend.....trying to understand where their leadership screwed up, and how they can recover.  What bakeries will start up in union states?  Answer: none.  You may actually have to pack up and move to a non-union state....just to stay a baker.

The top level of the union leadership?  They probably will be scratching their heads over where they go now.  The fancy leased car, the big trips to Reno, and the $100k a year to be a fancy union rep?  Well....it's gone in a matter of weeks.

Call it Twinkie-economics or whatever, but the simple truth is that you can produce an item as long as there is a sizable profit margin.  After that.....you don't produce something that won't sell.

Someone will sit and write a book on this in a year or two....defining Twinkie-economics and the logic of bankrupting a company....to survive.  In the end, it makes sense (cents works too).

Friday, 16 November 2012

Simply Observations

First, it came out today that this Petraus hottie gal....Ms Broadwell....had a couple of folks who approached her in the summertime about this idea of running for the Senate seat in North Carolina.  At the time, she got all peppy about this idea.  So she went and told her boyfriend....the general....of this idea.  He kinda sat and asked a fair number of questions....abortion, budget control, oil, natural gas, gun control, tax reform, etc.  Eventually, the general said that he didn't think that she'd fit into either the Republican or Democratic parties.  That probably a fair let-down to the gal.....you couldn't be a Republican or Democrat.  I imagine the general just sat there and thought....what kind of dimwit is this?

Second, let me explain the whole deal with the Twinkie company collapse (Hostess).  The Hostess folks figured out their business model was screwed probably like five to seven years ago.  You had union rates, union agreements, and the current market wasn't going to allow for any real profit like they used to have.  So you jack the company up into overdrive, and go for full-up bankruptcy....borrowing a massive amount of money in the end.  The banks say you need to cut costs.....you turn to the unions who absolutely refuse a massive salary/benefit cut.  You declare full up bankruptcy, and sell the assets....mostly the names (Twinkie, Hostess Cupcakes, etc).  You have little companies out in Mississippi and Tennessee who buy up the names, and suddenly start a massive business operation by the summer of 2013, in a non-union environment.  The 18k unemployed folks?  Screwed.  Tough luck.  You should have figured out what Hostess was doing back in 2010.

Third, some idiot reviewer woke up in the midst of this Liz Taylor movie with Lindsay Lohan, and realized....she can't act, period.  And?  Now, you realize this?

Fourth and final....some police chief out in Nevada City, California decided to fix his local homeless problem.  He's handed out permits.....allowing them to sleep in public.  As long as you have a permit....it's ok.  It's also to pee and urinate in public too....I'm guessing.  For cities to visit....I'm thinking that Nevada City isn't a place you want to stop or slow down for.

The Card of Punishment

Out of science and onto your local newspaper....feeling sad makes you do stupid economic stuff.  No kidding.

Some smart guys went out and did the research.  It's kinda simple here.  When you feel down and out, you tend to start focusing on making yourself happy, and you do that by spending in a unnecessary fashion.  Course, this comes from a number of Harvard scientists.  They tested folks and found that you tend to use your credit card or credit line.....to make yourself happy.

Their belief?  Credit cards are your life-line to surviving....mentally.  When you hit some pit and need to get out.....just flash the card, marvel at what you bought, and life feels like living again.  Course, there's a debt there which will come up eventually to make you feel more negative.

I looked at the article and I eventually came to this conclusion.  What we all need....is a fake credit card, with fake money....to use on a fake shopping page.

You buy some fake item with the fake card....you get an email from some company with a picture of the fake stuff you bought.

You get pictures from the company of yourself on some fake beach in the Bahamas where you spent your fake vacation.  The hotel room picture look great, especially with a giant fatty food buffet line and free fake beer that you would have consumed.

You show your new fake car, with all the spec's.

You start to feel good.  You sit and compare this to the last fake vacation.  You talk about this fake car purchase versus the last fake car purchase.

Maybe I'm onto something.  Course, we'd have to charge you for having a fake credit card, and there'd be some charge for all the fake pictures that we'd send you.  But that's a heck of a lot better than spending $16k this year on stuff you never needed but you felt pretty happy about.




My Neighborhood

About a week ago...we had this odd episode....up across the river (to always mean DC).  A local DC high school had a homecoming football game episode.  At some point during the game, there was this tussle that brewed up.  Some gal (a mature adult) got jumped up and beat a bit....nothing big but she's got some bruises.

The culprits?  Well....the school principal (a lady), and two of her staff members.

As of yesterday....the principal had given herself up to the police and was arrested.

Cops are still trying to sort this out, and no one is explaining much of a reason why the school principal got all up into a kick-ass situation with this one gal.

Course, you'd think that principals would be older folks....fairly mature.  In the old days.....growing up in Bama....it was all old men that ran the schools....mostly in their late fifties and on up into their late sixties. The worst you could get out of them was some joke left over from WW II.

My humble guess is that the principal will admit she'd been on some pain medication and just cut loose to beat up on this gal.

Taking Classified Home

Years ago....I went through the Air Force intelligence school.  During the first week, we had this security business laid out in simple detail.  Anything that is classified....stays in the school vault.  There were harsh consequences laid out, if you were stupid enough to violate this understanding.

So three months go by, and we have this little episode to develop in the class behind me.  The librarians come to the end of the evening and are conducting the 100 percent inventory.  If you had classified for a project....then you could sign it out and store it in your class locker (within the vault).  It was a simple deal....holding classified in the locker.  The librarians came to check each locker and mark the signed items off.

Well....there's a twenty-page document missing from this inventory.  They know the kid who signed it out.  It's not in the locker.  So they pull out the checklist and call the Colonel who manages school, and he calls the cops to go and visit the kid at his dorm room on base.

The cops arrive....knock...and walk right in.  You have no rights when you live in a dorm room.  Here's the classified document on the kid's desk.  He was working on a project and needed extra time to develop his project.  They confiscate the document and direct him to report to the school in the morning.

They had to conduct an entire investigation into this....which likely consumed forty hours of interviews, thinking and writing.  You'd feel sorry for the person picked to do this.....they have better things to waste time on.

The kid was suspended for a couple of days while they sorted this out.  Basically, he got a reprimand at the end, and pushed back a class in the deal.  It was mostly done to make sure everyone understood that it was stupid to remove classified from the class or the vault.

Somewhere in the middle of my career....we had the story briefed to us about the junior NCO trying to outprocess from his UK base, and the shipping folks come upon an entire box of classified material that the guy was keeping in his barracks room for a personal research project.  He had accumulated all this stuff....taking a page here and there....out of his vault....and saved two thousand-odd messages.  The shipping folks called the SPs and they arrested the NCO.  Again, hundreds of hours were wasted on an investigation and developing a final report.  We never knew the final outcome, but I'm guessing they revoked his clearance, did bad-conduct paperwork on him and kicked him out of the Air Force.  Being in the intelligence field your entire life and having no further security clearance....kinda kills your career in the civilian world, unless you wanted to work at Jiffy Lube.

All of these people know better....but they all find some stupid reason to condone their stupidity.

Just Humble Observations

First, the Senate came up today with a new chairman for the Senate Budget Committee.....Senator Patty Murray from Washington state.  Right off the bat, she wanted everyone to know....that she just didn't have it as a top priority to work up a budget package, which had been the top job of the Committee for two hundred years, and then suddenly three years ago was regulated to being unimportant.  Here's a fact which may shock you.  The democrats actually have sufficient vote today in the Senate to pass any single budget (you merely need a simple majority of 51 to carry the Senate....not sixty as you would for regular laws).  They could pass a budget today easily, with all their members.  The problem is....a fair number of Democrats are in fragile voting situations and just don't want the pressure of voting on a budget.  It's a sad way to run things.

Second, hidden between stories...there's a directive by Pentagon chief Leon Panetta....to all generals....to cover some type of ethics training.  There's roughly a thousand generals and admirals in today's military. So you can imagine these guys sitting there and realizing they don't really have a ethics program.  So they will run off and hire some company to teach them ethics.  It'll be some weekend session in San Diego probably....the thousand generals check into some hotel....sit through eight hours of fancy ethics talk, then run off to the bar and all get drunk and do stupid things that evening to get into further trouble.  When they do finally return to their regular job....they will be all pumped up on ethics and think that all of their people need ethics training too....thus creating this giant wave of ethics training across the US military.  Everyone will be shaking their head because ninety percent of folks do the right thing as part of their general character   If you ask me....this whole thing has turned into a comedy.

Third....it's come out in public now that there was substantial classified info on the Petraeus mistress's home computer.  Now, she is a reserve Army officer and has a security clearance....but you just can't have classified data on your home computer.  I'm guessing they will go line by line, and eventually come to this point of saying that charges have to be developed.  At the very least....she will go through a court martial in the summer of 2013.  My humble guess is that she will be dishonorably discharged, and could face some time in a military jail for this....depending on the type and variety of classified info.  How stupid do you have to be?  This is what I don't get....she knows better.

Fourth and final....there's a hint of the new chief of CNN.  It could be the Dick Clark Productions guy.....Mark Shapiro.  The thing is....he has no background in the news business.  He's an entertainment production guy.  A signal?  Well....if you can't sell your product anymore in the market place because most folks prefer either MSNBC or Fox News, then you have to re-market your product.  I'm guessing you will start to notice CNN carrying a lot of entertainment news.  You might get a full hour of Hollywood news at 7PM, maybe a full hour of celebrity rehab at 8PM, and toss in a full hour of celebrity camping and fishing at 9PM.   I know that Wolfe would go nuts over this type of operation, but frankly....who is watching CNN now?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Men Who Built America

Over the past year, I've made a couple of discouraging comments over the History Channel (the place where you get the latest UFO news, or watch reality TV over lumberjacks).  Well....over the past month, the History Channel aired The Men Who Built America.  It's a seven-hour series.

If you can get access to the History Channel or get the DVD set, this is probably worth watching.  It centers on a dozen-odd characters who made America into an industrial giant.

The individuals are linked by a simple idea of making money.  The reason you have a car today, or a reliable banking system, or electrical lighting....came from what these gentlemen developed.

So if you have a couple of hours and want some juicy American history....this is the best you will see this year.

The Tax Trick

Normally, a city has elections, and eventually has elected officers who act on the behalf of the residents of the city.  It's a simple process.  It's worked for well over two hundred years in America.

Out in California.....the Vallejo city council got around to avoiding their elected duty.  They figured out the perfect deal.  They put a taxation measure up for the city residents....if you passed it....you as a city resident got the chance to spend thirty percent of the "take" (loot would work here too).

The amount?  It's around $3.2 million that the residents can put their hands onto.

How this would work?  Well....you'd have these budget assemblies that would put themselves together, which anyone over the age of fourteen could participate in.  Naturally, you ask why anyone under eighteen is allowed into this, but there is no real answer to this.

Everyone tends to think they are part of the process.

So they eventually whittle this down to thirty projects by May of 2013.  These get put onto a city ballot and put into a special city election.  At best, you can figure around five projects will get funded.  So you split this up and kinda figure that it amounts to roughly $600k per project.

What can you get for $600k?  Nothing much.  You might be able to replace one sidewalk around a city block.  You might be able to paint the interior and exterior of the city library.  You might be able to replace the playground at the city park.  $600k doesn't really pay for very much....when you sit down and do the real math.

Everyone runs around and pats themselves on the back....for participating.  Here's the thing.  If this is such a keen idea....why bother with a city council and just run everything with mayor and this possible monthly voting process?  The city council is avoiding any real duty....if you ask me.  Everyone starts to feel good....even if you are a bankrupt city.

The odds of passing more of these tax revenue increases?  That's the interesting thing.  Once folks get it in their head that you have this great power....there's bound to be discussions over adding more taxes from the wealthy.  Push the property tax up five percent more.  Go ask the high-end car dealers to add a $750 fee onto the purchase of any car over $50k.

This tactic has the tendency to make everyone to start thinking of a mass movement (go read Eric Hoffer's True Believer book).  You could pass tax after tax, and not feel bad about it.  Eventually, you'd all be unemployed, but full empowered.  Life could be wonderful and miserable....at the same time.

The Hotel Story

It kinda came out today....as Hurricane Sandy wrapped up it's mess on New York and New Jersey....it was time for the Red Cross to deploy and help the poor folks along the shoreline.

Well....the Red Cross deployed, and found some fine hotels in New York City to stay at.  The end cost? $181k.  At a rate of roughly $310 a night....the Red Cross signed up forty rooms at the SoHo Grand Hotel.

Naturally, you'd be asking....what kind of hotel is this?  Well....it's one that advertises itself as a fine establishment which offers up fine dining situations cooked up by a French chef.  They also offer all the various guest services that real hotels generally provide.

After a rough day out in the field with the Red Cross operation....you'd come back to the fancy hotel....order crab or the oyster plate.  You might have discussed world economics with some fancy-clothed British guy down at the bar.  Later on...you might have had a fancy wine with some Hollywood gal or some Oman Sultan.

The way I see it....the Red Cross ate up $181k of their budget on something that was unnecessary.  They didn't care.  This is one of the big reasons why I never donate money to their cause anymore.

Another $1.6 Trillion in Taxes?

It was a shocker today when the President came out and hinted that he basically wanted $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue....to run the country.  I'm guessing....because Senate Democrats were so peppy and positive over last weekend's political talk shows that they were sure a compromise could be worked out....that they were fairly shocked today when the President made the odd comment over the massive new tax deal.

I have to be honest here....even when Representative Boehner talks about this tax credit deletions....he never mentions numbers.  He's been careful to avoid this topic.  My humble guess is that the tax credits that would be tossed out and affect mostly wealthy Americans (note, I didn't say rich because lots of people use these various 'loopholes' or tax credits)....it probably adds up to $400 billion.  I suspect that Boehner doesn't want to admit the massive size of this loophole deal and get Tea Party folks upset.

The odds of $1.6 trillion in new taxes being generated?  Zero.

My humble guess is that Congress will laugh over the talk for this weekend, and dump the trillion topic by Monday.  If the Senate (mostly Harry Reid) wants to go in the President's direction....then the House will craft up some mini-bridge bill to get the government up to June of 2013, and let this whole sequestration topic brew back up again.

The President will be forced back into the corner of some massive government cut.  It may happen in the spring of 2013, or the end of 2013....but there's no real solutions on the table at all.

And if you did take another extra trillion out of the US economy to run the government?  That's a trillion less than what would be in company investments or stock ownership.  You can imagine how the business community would react, and how job creation would be mostly a joke in twelve months.  

My Day

This is a true story.

I had to attend the Pentagon building meeting today. The manager announced that they finally dumped the two trash contracts (one for regular garbage, and one for recycling). So they had hired one company to come in....and pick everything up from one dumpster.

So from around the room, without any pause....the question was...what about the recycling containers around the building...you can't walk more than fifty foot without bumping into a tri-bin (paper, plastic, glass, etc).

The building guy continues all with his topic.  The janitors will just run the buggys around the building and dump them at the back of the Pentagon into one huge dumpster, which goes to some fancy plant in to get sorted. The emphasis here by the guy....don't get worried when you see the janitor dumping all trash into one buggy or dumpster.

Naturally, you'd start to think about this....why bother having recycling bins?  Well...he paused to say....it's there to make you feel better about such stuff. Then some guy asked why this came to be. The manager said that they had a goal to have X amount of trash and X amount of recycling. So far, their numbers for recycling were not that great.  This company was going to ensure that they met their numbers.  I just sat there laughing....it's like some guy from New Jersey who is signing some fancy papers to swear you recycled 800 tons a year of chewing gum wrappers....whatever you want....we will give you.

I did a slow walk back to the shop later....thinking over this.  We have this individual who has a honorary title of recycling monitor. I don't have the heart to mention this story around the office. I'll just let the guy keep feeling good, and dumping all my trash and recycling into the same container....like I've been doing for three years.

In a way, it's all good....one contract...one garbage can....one dumpster....no worries.  I'm sure someone will have issues with it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Just a Little Doctor Problem

Some smart folks over at the Robert Graham Center, which researches trends in health care....came up and wanted folks to know something pretty serious.

According to their numbers....America needs around 52k MORE doctors by 2025....to keep up with the growing population in the US.

I sat and read over the little article.  It presents this case that only the US government can fix this....by making sure more doctors exist.  I sat and wondered....how would the US government accomplish this?

Well....they could pay for the education with federal funds.  That might entice a couple thousand kids to be doctors.  Course, we'd pay more on taxes....already on top of more for health care that we got ourselves into.

They could recruit a bunch of nurses to go the next step up....just by doing a recruitment campaign.

They could go and hire up a couple thousand foreign doctors.  Folks might be a bit upset over some French-speaking female nurse with fancy five-inch heels, or having some Russian doctor with a Colt-45 on his hip as he checks you out.

They could even entice a number of doctors to stand around after retirement plans....by offering up tax credits (the evil Republicans would think in that fashion).

Bottom line?  If you are still living around 2025....you probably are lucky if you have a decent nurse who checks on your health occasionally, and if you get in real serious condition....maybe you get an appointment with a doctor.  You'd best not have big expectations about medical care by that point.

The Terrible Coulter Threat

At some point...a few weeks ago...the Republican Club up at Fordham University (a noted Jesuit university)....got this funny idea of inviting conservative talk-show journalist Ann Coulter to come and speak at their club....on campus.

For folks who aren't in the know of Fordham, it's a private university, up in New York state.  You pay a hefty bit of money to attend.  Tuition runs $41k a year.  On top of that....for room and board, you can figure around $15k.  So you need close to $56k before you even discuss various other fees, pizza, beer, and clothing.  Figure you need $65k a year to make it at Fordham.

It's been around since 1841.  Average number of students?  Near 15k students, and around 1k full-time and part-time academic folks.  It's not the kind of place that most kids aspire to go to.  In effect....you need real money to attend this college, or just be one of the few lucky ones that get a scholarship 

For those who kinda wondered about the thought-process with the Jesuits....they were the one typically challenging religion, leadership, and worldly direction for several hundred years.  They could be regarded as the 'enlightened' ones.  They had a strong desire for knowledge to be part of the thinking process.  If you had knowledge....you could make wise decisions.

Well...as days passed after the invitation to Ms Coulter went out....the Chancellor of Fordham got fairly disturbed about allowing Ms Coulter to come and speak. He finally got around to commenting and spoke her words in this fashion: "Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative, more heat than light, and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature."

There's only a small group of Republicans around Fordham.  I don't know the real numbers but I'd make a guess that only one student out of eighty might be classified as such.

So the Republican Club kindly asked Ms Coulter not to come.  They felt the pressure on them.

I sat and pondered over this.  Ann Coulter, feared by hundreds of thousands....just for what she might utter in a random moment of observations? I think Ben Franklin would be rolling around on the ground laughing so much that he might even wet his pants.

A mere blonde lass...threatening an entire university with her simple words....drawn only from the English language (not even to utter a word or two of French)?

The Fordham folks have much to fear, if they react in this manner...weak with conviction and courage...they lack what it takes to function in the real world. I would question what a degree means at Fordham or if it’s worth the paper it’s printed on.

My humble feeling is that upon graduation....they try hard to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.  They lack serious convictions, and they certainly would not listen to anyone of a different thought process.

What happened to the Jesuit religion and the will to acquire knowledge or understand the rest of the world?  Somewhere in the past hundred years....it disappeared.  This isn't the Jesuit religion anymore.  It's something that counters a great history.  For the Chancellor, I'd say you are already venturing into the dark side....with no light, and you have no desire to throw light onto anything.

A Humble Opinion

Some products are often introduced in certain countries that have lax rules over their consumption.  The deal is that once you get it intrduced in one country....authorities in other countries start to feel some pressure.

Well....Pepsi went to Japan and introduced fat-blocking Pepsi.  The deal is this.....you pile up some food on your plate with lots of fat.  You drink fat-blocker Pepsi with the fatty foods.  Somehow, by the grace of God and science....the fat doesn't stay in your system.  It gets mixed Pepsi fat-blocker, and moves out.

Dextrin is the key element in this soda.  It basically causes the body to refuse accepting fat during this period of consumption.  That fat has to move on out.

So I sat and pondered over this.  You go out to some fast-food restaurant and consume a bit of food.....most of it....fatty.  You drink up two of these Pepsi fat-blocker sodas.  It would seem like the fat....since you consumed the sodas....has to move on out.  To me, that means you will be needing the bathroom sometime in the next eight hours, and there's a fair amount of fat that will get squeezed out of your liver area...quickly.

The liver is a device of fantastic nature.  It takes those terrible toxins in your body, and expels them.  The liver takes those great nutrients and pumps them out into the bloodstream.  The liver even takes on proteins and cholesterol (there's good and bad cholesterol).  Heck, the liver even converts glucose into glycogen.

For some reason, I'm looking at the liver and how it's going to react to Pepsi fat-blocker and a massive amount of Dextrin.  Maybe for a year or two.....things might work ok.  But I suspect the liver of some folks is going to eventually react in a negative way.  It's getting used to pumping that fat out quickly.  The liver is supposed to react to things in a sequence.  Pepsi fat-blocker could end up training the liver to react differently.  And that might not be a very good thing.  If you end up with a bad liver, you have a bad problem.

My humble guess is that Pepsi fat-blocker will be on the US market within three years.  Mothers will be giving their teens a six-pack of the soda each week with no issues.  Schools might even sell the stuff.  But I suspect a year or two after that....some folks are going to report liver issues.  If things sound too good to be true....they probably aren't true.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Smarter Generation?

Some smart guys have published up this article over at Trends in Genetics.  The theme?  Man was at some intelligence peak....back 150k years ago, and from that point on....we've been losing a micro-point or two of brain capability in every generation.

This comes from a Doctor Gerald Crabtree of Stanford University.  His thoughts are that our prehistoric cousins had to whittle up and sharpen every ounce of intelligence and emotional capability possible.  You needed it.....for survival.

His thoughts are that once we crossed that line where survival wasn't a hour-by-hour priority....we started to slack off.  We got into lesser activities: agriculture, urbanization, etc.  We started to discard thought processes that were fairly important in our lives.

The suggestion here....is that we are simply getting dumber by each generation now.  And there's not much of a way to regain this vast amount of optimal thought processes.

I sat and pondered over this.  Back around 100k years ago, you woke up as the sun rose....quickly prioritizing your day.  You had to go out and kill something pretty quick and get it over the fire.  You probably had sixty-four possible animals to kill, with the threat level going from zero (bunnies) to ten (tigers, mammoths) .  Your cave-gal Wanda might have had a preference for Turkey and that would have been an easy catch.  But your buddy Larry....might have preferred trout, which you had to catch with your sticks and this would occupy six hours of your day to get enough for everyone.

After everyone had eaten....what now?  Mostly just sit around....draw funny pictures on the cave-wall.  You might have had lusty feelings for short cave-gal Lindsey, and tried to state your feelings in a non-verbal way.

Frankly, I don't believe that the guys sitting around 150k years ago were doing much thinking.  Go and ask some guy today to explain the forty-seven aps on his I-Phone.  Ask the guy to explain all the features of his new car.  Ask the guy to program his satellite-TV taping device.  Ask the guy to detail his investment strategy for his 401k account.  The truth is.....we are putting massive demands upon our intelligence ...way more than what a guy in the 1930s had to assemble and think about.  And a thousand times more thought processes than Caveman Joe.

So, I will give some credit to the science guys for looking into this situation.  But I'm just buying into it.

Weird to Weirder

Weird?

The second gal in the Petraeus episode?  The one who called up for help because she got threatening emails?  It's the number two gal from the right (Jill Kelly).

The gal on the far right?  Her sister....twin sister.

Course, you recognize the general and his wife.

Guy in the middle?  Husband to Jill Kelly.

Gals Lebanese?   Well, yeah, now that you mention it....they came out of Lebanon years ago.  They kinda look like the Kardashians?  Well....yeah....they do look like those hot California sisters.

The odd thing is that the sisters were on the Food Network Channel....doing a taping for the show called "Food Fight".

So you sit....far away from Washington and the real world.  You ponder upon this.  It's rare you ever meet any hot lusty chics.....especially from Lebanon.  Then you kinda think over this journalist/tramp/ slut/Army Lt Col Gal who considered the General to be her property, and you'd see a picture like this and get all upset.

In Bama.....you'd drive over to the gal's trailer and throw rocks at her window.  You let the gal know that she can't haul off and steal your secret lover guy.  You might slash a tire or two.  You might spread gossip that the other gal has mental issues.  You wouldn't wimp out by doing some wussy email or Facebook stuff.

Man, this is way better TV gossip than that stupid election business.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Simply Observations

It's not spoken much on CNN or the big-name networks, but the guy who did Elmo (the puppet) for Sesame Street....apparently did some lusty stuff to a younger guy who was sixteen about seven years ago.  There's some court action going on, but I'm guessing some folks are going to start asking if Elmo is clean or a problem for Christmas gift this year.  Sadly, we probably will start to get into sex puppets who do things that's best left for cable TV after 10PM.

Some jihad guy stood up and says there needs to be some massive destruction around Egypt....to include destroying the Sphinx  and the Pyramids.  When you consider that all of the tourism bucks that flow into Egypt is because of the various things that were built three thousand years ago....and you'd destroy every single avenue of cash flow into the country....it just doesn't make sense.  This is why....most folks start to ask stupid questions of these Mullahs.

In business news....Wal-Mart came out with a shocker for its employees.  Depending on what health insurance policy you have for 2012....for 2013, it's going up.  Some of the policy's will be running around eight percent more, but some will go up by thirty-six percent.  This shocker got folks around to discussing how they'd survive with the increases, and some hinted that they will be dropping their health insurance.  It'd be deserving of discussing at length how health insurance got cheaper in America after Obama Care was implemented, but it's a dead topic as far as I see it.

Finally, it's a radical fall.  Over the past year, most of the TV networks are all reporting a decrease in viewers....near ten percent.  Course, you have to explain this over to the guys who buy ads and it's not an easy thing.  There's roughly seventy dollars that normally runs via the networks for their nightly TV operations.  What are people doing?  Downloading shows at other times of the day.  Naturally, it's a bit difficult to explain this to the guys with money and how they ought to still be paid at the same rate.

Statistics Are Odd Things

How hard would it be....to take a voting precinct ....and have a 99 percent vote go to one single candidate (out of two possible candidates)?  It's possible to imagine one precint having a vote of 499 for one guy, and one vote for another.  Statistically, it'd be one in a billion.

In Ohio, there are sixteen precincts which had every single vote cast.....going to President Obama.

0154 CLEVELAND -02-Q: 542 - 0
0192 CLEVELAND -04-L: 388 - 0
0204 CLEVELAND -05-E: 597 - 0
0205 CLEVELAND -05-F: 483 - 0
0206 CLEVELAND -05-G: 257 - 0
0219 CLEVELAND -05-T: 386 - 0
0228 CLEVELAND -06-H: 405 - 0
0232 CLEVELAND -06-L: 70 - 0
0233 CLEVELAND -06-M: 419 - 0
0241 CLEVELAND -06-U: 118 - 0
0248 CLEVELAND -07-F: 361 - 0 
0273 CLEVELAND -08-J: 472 - 0
0280 CLEVELAND -08-Q: 49 - 0
0285 CLEVELAND -09-B: 414 - 0
0288 CLEVELAND -09-E: 478 - 0
0523 EAST CLEVELAND -04-C: 486 - 0

The odds?  It can't happen.  But then, it gets better. This is a list of Ohio precincts which cast one and only one vote for Romney:

0118 CLEVELAND -01-A: 438 - 1
0144 CLEVELAND -02-G: 532 - 1
0183 CLEVELAND -04-C: 548 - 1
0185 CLEVELAND -04-E: 522 - 1
0190 CLEVELAND -04-J: 434 - 1
0200 CLEVELAND -05-A: 364 - 1
0217 CLEVELAND -05-R: 357 - 1
0240 CLEVELAND -06-T: 148 - 1
0272 CLEVELAND -08-I: 473 - 1
0274 CLEVELAND -08-K: 382 - 1
0276 CLEVELAND -08-M: 492 - 1
0279 CLEVELAND -08-P: 378 - 1
0284 CLEVELAND -09-A: 320 - 1
0287 CLEVELAND -09-D: 394 - 1
0289 CLEVELAND -09-F: 468 - 1
0290 CLEVELAND -09-G: 400 - 1
0303 CLEVELAND -10-C: 471 - 1
0312 CLEVELAND -10-L: 363 - 1
0314 CLEVELAND -10-N: 340 - 1
0315 CLEVELAND -10-O: 473 - 1
0512 EAST CLEVELAND -02-D: 437 - 1
0513 EAST CLEVELAND -02-E: 359 - 1
1040 WARRENSVILLE HTS -02-A: 523 - 1
1041 WARRENSVILLE HTS -02-B: 514 - 1

In a suburb area of 493 folks voting....you'd suggest that it'd be 492 vote for Obama and only one vote for Romney?

No one is going to buy this.  As the news media in Ohio publishes this....it's going to ruffle up some folks in these voting precincts who voted.  Twenty-five folks will meet at some pub and compare their notes....they all know that they voted for Romney at the local precinct but there's only one vote showing. Anger and hostility is going to brew locally about this.  Their vote didn't get counted.

Some Studies Don't Mean Much

Some folks went and did a big study of drinking out in Finland.  Around 55k folks were surveyed for a fair amount of time, and the study came to this conclusion for Finnish drinkers....if you lived within walking distance of a pub or drinking establishment....you tended to drink excessively.

Some folks in the US took this study and hinted very strongly that the same could be said of American drinkers....if you lived near a pub, bar or establishment....you probably were capable of excessive drinking.

I paused and pondered over this.  Finland is an odd area to conduct a drinking survey.  Most Europeans would suggest that Finns tend to drink whether the bar is half a mile away or six miles away.  Finns drink daily.  Finns tend to drink when they are happy, or sad.  In general....Finns just drink.

Here's the deal about drinking in a pub around the corner from your house or apartment.  If you want to drink and avoid a DWI....the best deal is to drink near your home and then just walk home.  It doesn't matter if you live in Miami, London, or Rome....it makes sense to have your drinks nearby and then walk home.

My guess is that the survey folks wanted to demonstrate something or make a commentary.  But the truth is.....you picked an odd topic that has other factors tied to it.  They just couldn't tie those factors into their statistics though.  So you end up with a long report....with limited end-results.

My Neighborhood

For most folks, there's a big bold world in DC that you don't normally hear about.  In recent months, there's a topic which has become discussed widely....the height of buildings.  You see...back in the 1910 period, the political folks of DC sat around and got the idea that there ought to be a limit to the height of buildings in DC.  So it came down to ten stories or 130 feet.  That was the magic number.

For one hundred years, this law sat there.  Over the last decade....DC politicians have gotten to the point of thinking about real estate and where they could be....if the 130-ft rule didn't exist.  So they'd like to change it.  But because this is a district administrated by Congress....DC local politicians can't do much of anything except ask for a change.

The reason for the limit?  Most folks in 1910 felt that the Capital building and the Washington Monument....were the outstanding "markers" of DC (at least of that time).  They didn't want a thirty-story building out in the background.  So before this got to be an issue....they established the DC height rules.

You can this little issue brewing.  There are probably forty properties around the city of DC today....that would like to expand and put up fairly tall buildings.  Some might be office buildings....some might be apartment buildings.  There's dozens of folks out there with options on property who could clear millions, if the height rule would just shift....even if it went to 260 ft or twenty stories, they'd be happy.

With all the weird stuff, shootings, corruption, murders, and robberies going on....this is probably the only positive episode that you can find on the DC priority list.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sequestration Dancing?

This week, the President starts dancing with the House of Representatives.  He'd like for those poor Republicans to realize how they just need to cooperate, hug their Democratic buddies a bit, and be willing to agree with folks.

So the deal on the table will be this.  The Republicans will be meeting at the White House this week and listen to the President.  The deal will be that a "bridge" will be built.

As part of the bridge, the Republicans will remove various tax credits in place that rich and moderate folks enjoy.  You can call them loopholes, but the real term is tax credits.

With that....the Republicans will ask the President to put some budget cuts on the table....only a modest sum of sorts.  Maybe a cut of 3k government employees for 2013.  Maybe some defense cuts.  Probably some various modest cuts that won't hurt any agency to a significant degree.

Then they sign up to a deal that basically lasts to around October of 2013 at the earliest, maybe the end of December of 2013 at the latest.  At that point, they want the real budget cuts to occur.

What they will ask for....which the media won't really talk much about....is simply a bridge to the President out into the middle of 2013, and then he has to go right back to talking about the budget once again.  The odds of the House or Senate engaging into anything fruitful in 2013?  Zero.  By June, they have to return to this next round of budget cuts, which will be fairly dramatic.

What this involves?  If the arguing continues on through the end of 2013 with no resolve....you enter another election cycle in January of 2014.  Twenty Democratic Senators end up in a public forum at the wrong time and wrong place.

Yeah, the bridge deal is a pretty flawed deal.  You simply buy time and avoid sequestration going into 2013.  For the President, it simply means your entire agenda is tied around a constant discussion over the economy, tax reform, budget cuts, and small-sizing your government.  Four years more....of talk that doesn't get to any of your real goals in life.  A lose-lose-lose situation in the end for the White House.

The sad guy in this whole mess is Harry Reid.  He has to get up each day and get his focus back into prospective....the budget is generally the only topic of the day, and you keep wondering when this mess will ever clear up.  He probably remembers the old days...when he'd have a steak at lunch with some Republican old-timer, and discuss lusty affairs and the best way to get more campaign funds.    

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Political Observations

I sat and watched a bunch of dimwits appear on various news shows this week....speaking out about how the Republicans must change....to win in elections.  Naturally, only by changing....can they win.  It was a comical theater show for the most part.

So, what dramatic Democratic character does the Democratic party have to replace President Obama in 2016?  Answer?  Well....they could try and bring Hillary back again.  She'll be 69 years old and it might be questionable if she has any real energy to go through this again.

This Maryland governor....Martin O'Malley?  He has favored Latinos and gays in the state, but he's also worked hard to chase millionaires out of Maryland.  Tax revenue by 2016 will be a serious topic in Maryland and no one will be able to entice the rich folks to come back.

New York governor Cuomo?  The Sandy hurricane business will be dumped on him as a failure within New York circles.

For the Republicans?  There's a fairly short list.  You can bet on only three candidates in the end: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush. Rubio is going to go out and be the number one choice of Latinos throughout America over the next four years.  It's hard to see him not being the winner in that election.

Key Money

There's an odd term that I came across this week, and I had to actually do some reading to grasp the meaning.  The term?  Key money.

Basically, if you live in a pretty high-scale area that has done rent-control....meaning that the landlord cannot raise the rent to any level he chooses....then there is an established control.  Everyone grins as they pay less than what the rent should be.  For the public, this works out great.

As time goes by though....you eventually discover a great place over in another part of your city or town....that is superior, and you'd like to rent this open apartment.  The landlord smiles and says that he's got lots of people who want the apartment.  The signal is given, and this bidding process is conducted....under the table.

You offer key money.  A bribe of sorts.

This is money that isn't written down and if you ever get upset about the deal....there's no proof that you ever paid the key money.  Naturally, key money is never taxed because it doesn't exist.

How much dos a key money situation cost?  Well....some folks hint at two months of rent.  Some suggest privately that it might go up to three or four months rent if you find a unique property.

The odd thing I find about this concept...is that a number of countries simply see this as a 'gift' to the landlord.  Nothing illegal....just a gift.

So this brings me back to rent-control.  Basically....you've created this great trick where things can't operate on the free market system and everyone is all very happy about that.  But as years pass....to get head....you start to venture back into the free market system to get the things you want.  And you pay for these things....as the free market would require you.  As much as everyone is anti-free market....they've all latched onto it in the end.

The Trace

There is this 444-mile parkway that exists from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi.....the Natchez Trace.  Few Americans will ever travel this route.  It's not a four-lane.  It's not built for speed.  No food shops along the way.  It's not even much of a shortcut, unless you had some plan to go from New Orleans back to the east coast.

If you lived back in the 1800 period....this was the common route that a guy would go if you had to travel from New Orleans to America.  The Trace was mostly a cleared way through the woods, and had an occasional roadhouse where you could have some stew and brew.
The Trace is an odd piece of American history, which serves today as a fairly relaxing drive.  You don't need to max out at 65....this is probably a drive that you'd prefer to stay closer to 45 and just enjoy the scenery.

About every twenty miles, you've got a picnic area set up and can sit for an hour or two....almost thinking you are back in the 1800s.

What you won't find on the Trace?  There's no commercial operations.  No gas stations.  No stores.  No restaurants   Nothing.  If you need food or gas, you have to exit the Trace and go local.

There's only three routes in America that I strongly encourage people to go and take.  The Natchez Trace is one of the three.  A guy could wrap up the Trace in one day, but I'd strongly encourage you to stop and enjoy the scenery ....breaking this up into a two day trip.  Your blood pressure will drop by ten percent and pause to ponder over how things worked two hundred years ago.


Just Observations

CIA Director David Patreaus ended up resigning today...over an affair.

There are several odd things to ponder.

First, this gal is Paul Broadwell, who is some bigger than life research writer.  She's a West Point graduate who went onto various education experiences and you might consider as a intellectual of sorts....molded around the Army world.  She grew up in Bismark, North Dakota....ranch territory for the most part.  Married, with kids.  The folks who generally paid her bills over the last decade?  The New York Times and Boston Globe....two newspapers that wouldn't usually care for 2nd-rate journalism but they don't want glossy military heroes either.

Second, it's hard for a general or the head of the CIA to go out and conduct a secret affair.  You have to consider the atmosphere and people around you.  At the very least....ten people had to know that Patreaus was having an affair.

Third, timing is mostly everything.  Patreaus was supposed to be called up next week to explain Benghazi, and I'd suspect that he has some thoughts that might counter what the White House would like to say.

Fourth, at the heart of this episode.....the FBI is checking out Ms Broadwell because they think she had access to classified information.  It could be that some FBI agent simply put one and one together....realizing that the General had some relationship of a deeper nature.

Fifth, the reason for the FBI checking her out?  There is some speculation that she had a password to the Director's private email account.  Days spent gaining his trust...he slips one day checking his email in front of her, and she gets the email password.  She probably spent weeks and months cruising through his email....looking at various juicy pieces of gossip.  She probably wrote an article for the New York Times and drew the attention of the FBI, who sat and traced the whole scope of the article back to her and the nifty password that she had.  All compliments of the director.

Sixth and final....all of this comes days after the election?

Something smells funny about this deal.  The sad thing is that the media gets all peppy over this story, but hasn't uttered Benghazi at all.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Dead Vote

I will admit it....I'm partially against dead voters still retaining voter rights.

From a economic standpoint, they aren't contributing into the revenue bucket anymore or paying more on social security.

Dead folks don't use toll lanes, buy 60-inch TVs, or buy Volvo station wagons.

Dead folks aren't helping with property taxes, income taxes, car taxes, boat registration fees, cigarette taxes, or booze taxes.

Dead folks don't attend Democratic or Republican conventions.

Dead folks don't get interviewed or polled for national trends.

Dead folks don't have much of a vested interest in Obama-Care.

Dead folks don't care for global warming, global cooling, or climate change.

Dead folks don't watch any of the positive or negative political TV ads.

Dead folks don't care about gay marriage, casino building, or school bond issues.

Dead folks don't care if the minimum wage is $8 an hour or $10 an hour.

Dead folks aren't part of the unemployment rate (at least for right now).

Dead folks don't care if the forty ambassadors from the US are shot by jihad guys.

Dead folks don't care if the NCAA bowl selection committee is run by Chinese Communists, and they arrange for a LSU versus Oregon championship game....tossing Bama out of the picture.

Dead folks just don't amount to much in the big picture of life....except they vote.  There's something wrong here, but it's best not to get your Senator Snuffy all wound up over dead voters. And the sad truth is...there might be just as many dead Republican voters, as dead Democratic voters.

Just Observations

As elections go....one of the more interesting episodes ever came from the fall 2002 election in Germany. Gerhard Schroder (SPD) came to the end of four years as Chancellor with absolutely miserable numbers for the entire past year. Over sixty percent of the public readily agreed that he needed to be replaced.  But this was the period when the war into Iraq was about to occur.  Schroder made the terrible US invasion the only significant topic that he'd talk on. Nothing on the economy or why his numbers were lousy.  So election night...he somehow gets just a percentage or two higher than necessary....works up a partnership with the Greens, and returns in October 2002 for a second term.  It took less than thirty days for the sixty percent negativity feeling to return.  The media continued for three years with a negative view of the second term.  So they run a third election, and he almost wins it.  As negative as the public was about his operation....he'd always find enough folks to vote him back.

Ryan Air....the little discount airline in Europe....got around to talking about a stand-up only situation.  European regulations say you have to offer a seat in the act of getting a ticket, but the CEO or Ryan Air is challenging that.  He thinks it doesn't matter if you crash in a seat or standing up....the statistical demise is basically the same.  So like a herd of cattle....he'd like to let you on the plane, stand, and sell that standing ticket for less than $25.  You can imagine flying from London to Paris....around an hour....just standing up.  It's hard to say if folks would jump onto this idea.

After a day or two of sequestration talks....the Republicans laid out one single theme....there won't be any real taxes added.  They will discuss cutting loopholes, and their big emphasis is that you need to actually do budget cuts across the board.  Expectations?  Talks will continue up until the first week of December and I'd expect an extension to be discussed for an entire week, and accepted to the end of April of 2013.  Result?  Nothing.  You extend out this mess for a hundred days more or less.  The gamble by both parties is that this election would shift things around.  Basically, nothing changed.

I sat in the McDonalds area yesterday....watching fifteen minutes of some dimwit on CNN explain how the terrible Tea Party has destroyed the Republicans entirely.  The Republicans have lost the ability to compromise and hug their Democratic counterpart.  If only the Republicans could end the Tea Party....then compromise could occur.  So I sat and pondered.  I just don't remember Republicans and Democrats running around....ever....and hugging each other.  To be honest, the Tea Party guys don't have much of anything to threaten politics.  They don't throw cash at PACs.  The Tea Party doesn't have lawyers on their payroll to sue and stop lumber operations like some groups.  The Tea Party doesn't women around to sex-up the old political guys.  The fact is.....the only thing that each Tea Party guy or gal has....is one single vote.  So when these dimwits appear on 60 Minutes, or NBC news, or CNN.....talking trash over the Tea Party.....it's mostly because of the fear of a frustrated guy whose only political weapon in life....is one single vote.

It is comical and only a guy from New Jersey or New York would laugh about this....but when that minor snowstorm came up on Wednesday....the FEMA office in Staten Island....shut down.

After Los Angles county in California passed it's new law in this week's election....requiring all lusty movie actors to wear condoms ...the lusty movie industry is now discussing the idea of leaving LA county.     They've done the research and found that they are fairly limited. They can work anywhere in California or New Hampshire....those are the only two states which allow lusty film production.

Finally, after Jesse Jackson Junior won his Representative race....the news media have discovered that he's in some kind of talks with the Feds....over some accusations.  His team won't talk over the topic, but it would appear that he's trying to work out a deal where he resigns from office.....has probation, and ends up walking away.  The Governor would then pick a new guy to handle the position.  It would probably make a great script for a movie, but no one would ever produce it.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Late Flights

Yahoo put up a story over the worst airports in America for flight delays.

At the top were Newark, San Francisco  and Chicago.  In most cases if you check the numbers....they all tend to get problems after 3PM.

This is a favorite topic of mine.  I've spent hundreds of hours in airports over the years.  I'd say the vast number of flights...seventy percent....ran on schedule and things worked out well.  There's probably a dozen flights where I either got totally cancelled, or my flight was three hours late in taking off.

I've learned three valuable lessons when dealing with the delayed situations.  First, you need to go and immediately find a pub or bar...to sip slowly down some brew.  Sadly, you will be spending somewhere around $8 for that single drink.  The truth is....you are trying to avoid aggravation in your gut.  Just standing there and fuming....will just make you angry and hostile.

Second....you need to get a newspaper and occupy your time instead of concentrating on the lousy service or the 1-star airline that you booked the trip with.  It's best to fume over Senator Bob and his lousy comments....than the airline or the trip.

Third....just something to remember....but the vast number of airlines and airports tend to run correctly from 6AM to noon.  You might want to start your trip early and take advantage of statistics.  I once showed up at a airport at 4AM, boarding at 5:15AM and got to my destination three hours later.  The neat thing about flights taking off before 6AM.....they rarely have more than half the seats full.