Monday, 10 December 2012

Simply Observations

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

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

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

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

That Brew Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply Observations

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

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

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

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

The Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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