Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Fear of the General

It was an odd day today at work.

Our headquarters (remember I work for a unit within the Pentagon)....came out recently with some awful tough language on attending conferences.  All that GSA business in Vegas come to haunt a bunch of government organizations.  We got this presentation today, with all the new rules.

You have to ask special permission now to attend any conference.  For the most part, you generally get accepted for these.  But there's this little hook....there's a database tracking everything now.

So you enter the data....you and six folks are to go to some conference in St Louis, Missouri.  So you enter around twenty fields of data, and even estimate the cost to the conference.  Figure it's going to run around $1,700 for travel, room and registration fees.  Don't even bring up a rental car.

Then there's this tab on the input area for comments after you come back.  They want you to list your contacts and people you interfaced with during the conference.  They also want your feeling if the conference was worth the time and money invested.  What did you get out of the trip.  In the old days....you would have one-lined this and never worried about anything coming out of this mess.

Well....here's the funny thing.  Our three-star general is pretty pumped up on this conference business and expenditures   Once a week.....he logs onto the database and looks at those who wrapped up a conference and what their comments are.  Then, as it was laid out to us.....he might actually pick someone out and call them up.

You can imagine this call.  Captain Joe sitting at his desk and General Hawk calls in.  Captain Joe is sitting there for about ten seconds in silence.....in disbelief.  Then he says it has to be a practical joke, and asks who the heck this is.  Course, General Hawk gets a bit peppy at this point.  Captain Joe now realizes that this is the REAL General Hawk.  So he's a bit sorry.

Now General Hawk jumps into the list of people that Captain Joe met up with: Ms Jones, Ms Culpepper, Ms Witty, Ms Duncan, and Ms Hinds.  The General has a perception that Captain Joe might have made up these names and really didn't meet much of anyone.

Now the General moves onto lessons from the conference, and Captain Joe is sweating a good bit.  He somehow rattles off some vague things that he remembers, and General Hawk is satisfied.  Captain Joe?  Well....he's got the fear of God in him now.  He won't ever attend another conference unless the General orders him to go.

One by one....the General might actually accomplish what his master goal is....cutting the travel budget.  Course, that Wednesday call is going to worry a bunch of folks now.  And most of them just won't believe it's the real General at the other end of the line.

Yeah, it was an interesting day.  Me?  I haven't been to a conference of any type in seven or eight years.  My general impression is that half of them are worthless and you'd be better off to just hear some guy talk via a VTC-set-up for half-an-hour, than waste two hours in fancy hotel operation with a lot of bogus info.

Just my two cents.

The Real America

Just some broad prospective.

There were around 400 deaths reported in 2007 with bus-related accidents in the United States.

In 2009, we had 736 deaths reported…..as boating accidents across America.

On average, we have around 1,000 Americans who die yearly in our nation from Salmonella.

Within a twenty-five mile circle of the White House, there are generally a minimum of two hundred people shot dead by a gun on a yearly average. Most are single victim situations…..on a rare occasion, it’ll be a double or triple homicide. Almost all revolve around drugs or crime.

Tennessee reported 138 people dead from motorcycle accidents in 2010.

The FBI reports sixteen incidents of mass shooting for 2012, with a total of eighty-eight people dead. Nobody in Congress or the media is doing much over motorcycle deaths, Salmonella, boating safety, or bus accidents. No one in the media spends an entire week talking about some motorcyclist from Knoxville who ran through a curve, or talks about twelve folks from Arkansas who died from Salmonella this past week. Nor will the media spend three days talking about some bus driver who was driving for sixteen hours straight when he ran off into a ditch in Dallas and caused fourteen passengers an early demise.

The FBI has a definition for mass shooters….you need to have four victims in the attack. If you have three attacked….it doesn’t count for a mass shooter. Some other agencies have a different definition….requiring five folks (not to include the shooter) as part of the attack.

Statistically? There’s no real trend. Other than the media reporting mass shooting more than they did thirty years ago. Today, you can expect seven full-days of continuous reporting before they finally tire out and move onto some other news.

Around two years ago….there’s an incident which I generally go back and review. There was this woman that I went to school with in Bama (Karen) as a kid….a neighbor from down the road. She’d moved on in life, done the Air Force routine like me…..married….and had a son. She also had a younger brother (Kevin), who was around five years younger, and always a bit hyper.

Kevin went onto some university and did ok in life…..marrying, and having a daughter. Most of Kevin’s marriage would be classified as an abusing situation.

Somewhere around seventeen to eighteen years….Kevin’s wife finally called it quits. Her best friend toward the end of the marriage? Her sister-in-law…..Karin.

As 2010 rolled around, and court proceedings got into the final big meeting….the wife asked Karin to drive down from Illinois and stay with her. Karin brought her son down with her on this trip…..the kid was around twelve years old.

On a Saturday evening there in Bama….Kevin came to the house and entered. Kevin killed the wife, his sister, his daughter, and Karin’s son. Then Kevin went out to the garden and killed himself.

Kevin didn’t use an assault rifle….he used a pistol. By what the news folks hinted….he had a concealed gun permit, and hadn’t ever been arrested for anything. Mental issues? No, there just weren’t anything that you could label onto him….except being an abuser. Drugs? Well….if there was a toxicology report…..no one said much. In my humble sense….I’m guessing Kevin was doing pain-killers and probably was a bit whacked when he shot all four.

Gun ban legislation? There’s absolutely nothing that you could whip up in some Congressional setting….that would have fixed this. If either Karen or her sister-in-law had been armed…something else might have happened that day…..but it’d be pure speculation on how Kevin would have reacted if some pistol was suddenly drawn back on him by Karin, and she put a round put into his shoulder.

How many incidents per year occur like this? Probably four hundred as a minimum….my humble guess….across the US.

Whatever is passed by Congress will have no effect on these numbers. Guys like Kevin can’t be legislated out of existence. That’s the sad truth to this whole mess. Other than packing a weapon and waiting for a clear moment to draw on some idiot…..that’s about all you can prepare for.

Hoping for better motorcycle safety? Maybe more emphasis on Salmonella? Waiting on some miracle to improve boat safety in America? You’d best prepare for a long wait.