Monday, 31 March 2014

Just Something I Noted Today

 Today, I had to travel by bus from my village into Wiesbaden, and later in the day....return.

Oddly enough, I stood there on the return....behind some German (maybe 30-ish in age), with a oversized purse.

At some point.....she pulls out a Blackberry and starts to dictate a text message.

About a minute into this.....she reacts to something, and then pulls out this old style Nokia cellphone (yeah, something from seven to ten years ago).....answering a call.

With one hand handling the Nokia cellphone....she kept right on texting with the Blackberry.

When she finished the phone call.....she then pulls out a regular new fashion smartphone, and checks something on it.

Three phones?

Yeah.

I tried to imagine the scenario to which you would tote three such phones.

The old Nokia for regular calls?  Maybe the Blackberry for emails only.  And maybe the smartphone for the browsing.

The issue would be.....monthly charges.  To carry all three, I'd take a guess of roughly 30 Euro each (90 Euro equals $110).

Just a oddball gal?  Well.....yeah, I considered that idea too.  Germans can be fairly odd....you know.

How many folks tote three such phones?  That would be a curious question to ask.

 Then you have to charge them on a continual basis....which means you sit and monitor each one and how each runs out on a different schedule.

And the odds that some new trend will start in a year, and a fourth will be added?  Well....yeah, it could happen.

Redistrict Talk

Once every ten years, there's a Census....and the eventual result is this big listing of who lives where.  Some places are stagnant.  Some grow.  Some shrink.

What typically arises about three years after the wrap-up of the Census....is the redrawing of lines in the state for district purposes.  Most folks don't realize it....but the state election prior to the Census year....is awful important because it lays out the bosses of the redistrict map effort.  More Democrats on the win?  They lead the drawing effort.  More Republicans....well....you know the story.

Typically, newspapers suddenly rise up in this third and fourth year.....and absolutely shocked that the map has been redrawn....especially if it's the Republicans doing the drawing.  Course, they rarely ever go back and tell the story of 1980, 1990, or 2000.

In recent years, in major urban areas....there's been this fear of urban flight.  This kinda means that folks used to live in some region, and because of infrastructure, job relocation, or crime....they've moved.  The big-plus that some analyst wrote up ten years ago....that helped one party solidify a district for their vote?

Well....ten years later, it could be a dismal story as an entire new neighborhood of two hundred houses were to be built at the end of some district....all wealthy white high-pay folks.....who typically are Republicans.  Then you discover that the whole upscale building agenda for nine different developments got it all wrong, and half the houses are empty.  Suddenly, the Republican plus-up that folks had expected.....just isn't there.

Some guys wake up and are kinda shocked.....their neighborhood of one hundred houses got pushed over to district seven (from district six), and they have a new place to vote from, and an entirely new representative who cover their area.

Democracy is a silly game.  Some folks win.  Some lose.  Some get pushed around.  Some sit and ask stupid questions.  Some folks are shocked that the Census counted sixty people in their apartment building but they've never known more than forty actually residing there.  Stuff happens.

Will the evil Democrats retaliate by 2023?  Yes. Or the evil Republicans.  Does the voter ID thing figure into this?  Yes.  If you needed a bunch of folks to show up in 2018.....it doesn't matter if they are real Americans or fake Americans....they just need to register and vote.  Or you need to use the voter ID thing to limit this fake stuff.  Kinda sad in a way....this much in terms of tricks....to make democracy work or fail.

The Topic of Pestilence

I noted this weekend....that the word PESTILENCE got thrown around a good bit.  It was a UN report of sorts....supposed to be coming out over global warming and climate change, and noting how the terrible pestilence along with drought, terrible weather and starvation were coming.

I sat there for a minute....pestilence.  It's an odd word that I can remember as a kid....usually associated with the Baptists and revivals.  It got brought up with Moses and some folks who ran into bad times, and pestilence was something you needed to pray for extra help to get through (so I was told).

If you walked up to a thousand folks and asked them what pestilence meant....I doubt if you found more than seven of the thousand who would give a fairly accurate answer.  It generally means....a contagious disease of an extreme variety (you usually die from it).  Yeah, the plague would be a good example.

Some folks would sit there and say that pestilence was a Dutch heavy-metal group (they'd be right too).  Some would say it was a Marvel Comics bad guy....they'd be right too.  Some might say it was a Mexican food dish that has a number of hot peppers in it....they'd be wrong. In World of Warcraft, it's a maneuver to disable numerous attackers and get yourself out of a bad mess....they are sorta right about it.

Pestilence got thrown around a good bit in the period between 1300 and 1700.  After London burned down in 1666, and folks learned some sanitary habits throughout Europe....pestilence kinda went into a lesser mode and folks don't bring it up much.  Other than the Baptists mentioning it, and a couple of times with Louisiana Tech history professors.....I haven't heard it thrown around much in the news media or public forums.

So, why use it now for climate change?  Basically, you hint that the plague will come back and millions will die via the plague.....and your abuse of the climate situation.

Some truths about the plague?  Well....the last big occasion that it came around London (1665-1666).....folks began to realize that the various toxic medicines, balms, elixirs,  salves and tonics....were part of what killed folks (instead of the plague itself).

Some other curious things?  Well....folks have also figured out that if you are malnourished and heavily underweight.....you will likely not survive the plague either.  Lack of water during this period of extreme fever?  Well....that will kill you too.  Lack of food after you get it?  Well....that will eventually kill you too.

So, let's say for statistical thinking....you got one hundred guys laying in gym area with the plague.  You offer up general nurse efforts (say five or six per shift), you offer water and liquid replenishment, and you offer some food along the way.   Let's say for the sake of argument that all one hundred were in fair health....no cancer episode, no HIV, and no gunshot wounds or animal bites to contend with.  Well...the odds are pretty much in favor of the vast majority surviving the plague (maybe even eighty to ninety percent).  Scientist and doctors will debate this....but you can find various cases of people surviving in 1665, and you eventually have to study more of history to grasp other factors in the mess.

I look back over to the climate guys.  How much history did they take in college?  One class?  Maybe two.  Any real knowledge of the plague in London?

Should we worry about pestilence?  Well....on the list of 1,000 things that you tend to worry about daily (losing your hair, your dog running away, your wife screwing up the dinner, your husband running off with the FEDEX lady, and your neighbor taking up nude sunbathing (she's sixty-eight)....this pestilence thing might rate near problem number 887.  Note, I put meteors hitting the Earth at 886, tidal waves hitting San Francisco at 885, and Dunkin Donuts shifting to diet-low-cal items at 884.

I know.  Pestilence sounds pretty harsh and drastic.  It has Biblical notations tied to it.  Luke tied to get folks all peppy with threats of the Earth shaking and pestilence arriving.  It should be noted....that the nineteen times that pestilence gets brought up....eighteen of those times, it's in the old testament, which tended to be the more threatening text of the Bible.  Luke just said....some bad things will come....all signs from heaven.  If I were a true believer....I'd tend to think the climate guys are noting God's hands are at work, and the end of times are part of climate change.  Course, the climate guys would shake their heads and say that was pretty foolish, and they just meant for you to worry about pestilence in general.

Well....I think you've had enough talk over pestilence.

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Pelletier Episode in Boston

For around a month, I've been following this Boston episode with Justina Pelletier....the fifteen year old gal with some disease (or maybe not), who the court judge has grabbed and assumed control over....saying the parents are the issue.  Course, the fact that the parents are from Connecticut have screwed up the simple understanding of this.

So I'll offer a couple of observations.

It's a royal mess.  At some point, the Boston child service division apparently figured out that they really did this wrong, and tired to invite Connecticut child services to simply accept the mess and the kid, and get the thing out of their city.  Connecticut spent around a week looking at the family, and then said....there's no issue....why don't you just hand the kid back over to the parents?  Boston's folks then realized the mess had gone onto another entirely different level.

The state status?  I don't see how a Boston court can hold a Connecticut kid.  It defies logic and I'm guessing those kind folks in Connecticut must allow this kind of thing all the time.

So, there's this odd thing.  This kid will turn eighteen eventually and be let go.  She will SUE the heck out of the hospital and the doctor involved.  Typically....hospitals have a major insurance policy to cover stuff like this.  Well....year to year....it's adjusted and the rate goes up....depending on how much liability insurance they had to use.

I'm guessing that this summer....this hospital will get a visit by the current insurance company and talk about their current policy.  The insurance company knows the lawsuit is going to happen within four years.....I'm guessing they will ask for double the normal rates from this point on....maybe even triple the rates.

The hospital?  Well....how would you recover that cost?  You'd have to inflate your regular costs by fifty percent.  I'm guessing this single lawsuit against the hospital and doctor will go to $200 million.....maybe even $300 million.  The willingness of the insurance company to play this?  That's suspect too.  I'm guessing they'd like to just walk away as of the end of 2014 and forget about this one single hospital.

The judge, child services and city?  Well....same deal.  They have a liability policy and their insurance company will be visiting them.  Triple the rate?  Maybe walk away?

Some lawyers are going to start to lay this out for the city.  It's not a simple one or two million dollar lawsuit that this kid will throw at them.  It's way up into the hundreds of millions.  Someone has to pay this....and to sit and think that the judge will just walk away and grin while he has no responsibility?  I doubt that.

So, my predictions.  The hospital in question is sold by the end of this year for fifty percent of its current value, and will be renamed as soon as the lawsuit occurs.  The judge?  He's finished in court action and will be invited by summer of 2015 to discuss his ethics at the state level.  The doctor who gave his opinion?  He'll likely be losing his license to practice medicine by the end of the court episode.  This kid?  For being a prisoner of the city of Boston....figure the hospital, court, and city will cough up around $500 million.

Finally, the Bama in me says this.  If this had happened in Alabama.....some rough characters would have come out and made life miserable for the child services folks, the hospital management, and the judge.  Maybe folks in Boston are fairly civilized....but in Bama....this kind of thing wouldn't be tolerated for a long period.

Old Huntsville versus New Huntsville

For about a hundred days, I've been watching a unique event in my home region of Bama unfold....with the Huntsville school system.  It's a story which has a number of twists and turns.

Roughly four years ago....folks kinda woke up and realized that the Huntsville city school system had massive issues.  They had debt of roughly twenty million.....several schools on the 'failure' list...the new outstanding and dynamic director that they'd brought in was going nowhere in anticipated changes.  So a decision was made....cut the dynamic director and bring in someone of a totally different mentality.  The result?  Casey Wardynski.....a retired Army officer.

Wardynski would admit to anyone who asked....he's not a PTA-type of guy, nor a real education PhD type, nor affiliated with any of a dozen educational organizations in the US.  He's a guy that you'd turn to for a vision, and then take that vision to reality.  Huntsville schools.....were in a desperate situation and needed some blunt military-style leadership.

What Wardynski found were a couple of schools in bad repair.....good teachers that were rotating into the bad schools and leaving within a year or two.....and bad attitudes across the spectrum with students from failing schools.

Wardynski worked through the county commission and the city....getting funding, and is building new schools.  Wardynski worked up a new pattern for hiring teachers.....he intends to only hire competent people, and will let incompetent teachers leave as soon as possible.  Then he got around to the issue which got people upset.....with new schools....the redistricting of the education districts came up.

In Huntsville, since the mid-1960s....desegregation has been a big topic.  The lines of the city have been drawn around that era, with politics and education going hand in hand.  Advancement over forty years?  Some will say absolutely nothing has changed, but they can't rightly put their finger on the culprit or logic of that talk.  Some will say the city is totally different than in 1965....but then admit there are issues a historical nature on the table.

So the facts on the table.

There is a north Huntsville and a south Huntsville.....just like in 1965.  North Huntsville is mostly black in nature and the neighborhoods are in decline.  South Huntsville is mostly white in nature and there's a fair argument that some areas are in marginal decline and some surging ahead.  The population of the city?  In 1965, it was approximately 80,000....today, it's close 185,000 (within the city limits).  Approximately thirty percent of the city is black....two percent Asian....two percent Latino....and the rest white.

When the federal government stepped in and drove home the desegregation plan.....they had a fairly good idea of demographics, the layout, and big picture.  No one argues about the 1965 situation or the layout.

An interesting thing started to occur in Huntsville by the late 60's....the city had some master plan and had started to put pieces of it into place.

An international airport appeared in late 1967....to be the third largest in the state.  With ample room around the intended area....six thousand acres....it grew.  There's two runways today....one is twelve thousand feet long, and the other ten thousand feet long.  They can handle any aircraft on the face of the Earth.

The city and county went through various planning stages to get I-565 built....the connection to I-65 which takes a vast amount of daily traffic around the southern side of Huntsville....to various industrial parks....where tens of thousands of high tech workers operate.  Started in 1987....it would wrap up in 1991.  It is the life-line of Huntsville and what drives the urban growth of the city.

In the mid-1960s.....the only two things bringing in jobs to the city....was the space center and the Arsenal.  High tech development was the angle of the city planners, and a guy would be shocked at the number of companies, the scale of pay, and the amount of tax revenue brought into the state, the region, and the city.  Dozens of companies reside in the city today....because of the cost of living, ample qualified technicians living there, and a infrastructure that works in a fantastic way.  The guys from World of Warcraft?  In the last year or two....they even made the decision to move into Huntsville.

All of this added up to a change....which some residents of Huntsville today....have not recognized.

The high tech guys?   The first and second generation guys might have moved into south Huntsville, but as I-565 finished....the whole game changed.  Suddenly, a guy with a fair paycheck could live beyond Huntsville, or it's nearby region.

So grew Madison, at 4,000 residents in 1980....it now bumps against 42,000 and will likely hit 55,000 by 2020.

So grew Decatur,  at 28,000 residents in 1960....it now has around 55,000.

So grew Athens, at 9,000 residents in 1960....it now has around 22,000.

Scottsboro?  Around 5,200 of it's residents commute and most drive daily to Huntsville.  The new school?  A magnet of sorts for real estate development.

Guys branched out and bought small farm properties across the Tennessee Valley, and make the one-long drive each day.  You can drive all the way into Rogersville now....an hour-long commute, where the new residents helped turn the dry-status of the city to 'wet'.  An engineer can now drive home from Huntsville....to his farm....put on a pair of coveralls....get down into some field and take his border collie to hustle up twenty head of cattle....while acting as a high-tech guy, an technology engineer, and an expert on twenty-two versions of cattle ailments.

Across the border?  With the I-565 situation....you could live in Tennessee and commute each day.
A couple of things naturally happened.  Folks tend to work in Huntsville, but they don't necessarily live in the city limits.  It's good for the valley, but this really changes the dynamics of the population.  North and South Huntsville still exist....in some racial divide....but the south part of town is turn older and grayer.  The malls, hospitals and urban attractions may be within the city limits....but jobs tend to belong to folks who drive into the city.  Growth of malls and hospitals way beyond the city limits?  Absolutely.

The job status of north Huntsville?  If you didn't get into an educational mentality and do something....you graduated and ended up as clerks at Wal-Mart, restaurant help, or got into service-sector situations.  The great boost up by the desegregation episode?  Well....in effect....some will say that they are waiting.  The boost is in some long tunnel and folks are still waiting for the effect.

Chaos while waiting?  In 2009, when the school business came up and schools were identified as failing.....a shocking number came out.  The city school system was spending $2 on each failing school....while they spent $1 on each successful school.  You can game the system a dozen different ways, but to say throwing money into a big pit and expecting a successful 'flip' makes sense?  No....the Huntsville crowd figured that game out finally.

Adding to the mess was the continued growth of private schools, and home schooling.  If you couldn't agree to the city school system method of operation.....you had options.

So, here's the tirade going on.  The city education crowd says that the lines of school districts need to change because Huntsville isn't what it was in 1965.  The events have changed, and there's this potential....if they don't start to fix issues....that in fifty years...most of the higher-tax paying residents may have packed up and vacated the city.  Then what?

If you drive around the surrounding areas of Huntsville....going ten, twenty and forty miles away....there's new school infrastructures being built.  New and nicer schools attract people.  Successful school programs attract people.  The folks in Athens, Madison, and such....they got smart.  Real estate values are creeping up, and successful school districts matter.

Over the past month, there's been disagreements from the city council members of Huntsville over the whole matter.  Some want funding withheld from the school system....to force them into cooperating and going along the old school district lines.  I'd used an old Air Force term....keep things COPASETIC...meaning that you just don't change nothing, and keep smiling along the same old story.

The general problem with the copasetic mentality....you are making yourself believe that successful people still live in Huntsville....while the population continues a trend beyond the city limits.  You deceive yourself into thinking that a certain political affiliation still resides in the city and controls it's destiny by casting imaginary votes every four years.  You have a fantasy of a town where people still believe some mythical change will come one day....if you wait long enough and just keep praying.  You fabricate a city plan that revolves around false numbers, false reality, and false outcomes.

Some people want to slant the story and say it's north Huntsville versus south Huntsville.  That story worked forty years ago.  Now?  It's about an attitude problem.  Reality has finally come, and it's old Huntsville versus new Huntsville.  If the federal government and court system step into this....we move onto what I'd call desegregation version 2.0 and will simply watch an acceleration of non-Huntsville folks working in the city.....but living way beyond the city limits.

The failure of Birmingham?  It runs along the same path.....the vast number of people who work in Birmingham today....don't live in the city OR the county.  Yanking tax revenue from these people to pay for Birmingham infrastructure.....has yet to happen (state law strangely prevents out-of-city or out-of-county taxation on folks who folks who drive into your area to work, and leave at the end of the day).  Birmingham, for all practical matters....is a dead zone.  No one wants to live there.  They just drive in....work....and leave.  You don't even pull off to fill up with gas, unless it's an emergency.

In fifty to seventy years.....Huntsville could be another Birmingham.  I doubt if anyone really desires that.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Bankrupt Educational Strategic Thinking

Some smart guys sat down and did something amazing with data collection.  They basically added up what it costs to get a degree via some university systems, and how this relates over a twenty year period to an average.

There are eleven university systems in America....where after four years...you've got a degree.  And after twenty years.....your net situation is actually greater than $30,000 on the loss column, compared to the efforts of other folks, with other colleges.

An example? If you attend Fayetteville State of NC....after twenty years, you would lost $95,700 compared to some of your buddies who attended other colleges.

The general scenario?  Gus talks Dad into paying for the first year at Fayetteville State, and borrows the rest necessary....getting himself a degree of some type.  For whatever reason....Gus does OK, and gets himself a job in the region.  Gus works hard to pay back what he borrowed.  His friend Jimmy?  Jimmy went onto a different college in the state....borrowed some money....paid it back....and Jimmy after twenty years.....is in the plus column, owns a house, drives a Buick, goes to Aruba every other year, and his wife wears $2,000 earrings as she shops at Piggly Wiggly.

The University of Montevallo of Alabama (Bama's only liberal arts college....meaning nothing related to engineer or science or such)....sits down in central Bama, in Shelby County.  Being a liberal arts college means that you really have a limited future once you graduate.  For 2,000 students in the system.....it's a tough future.  This college also made it on the loser list.

After twenty years, compared to folks who attend other colleges....you basically have lost $60,200.  That's enough to buy a house in the local area, two new F-150 pick-ups fully loaded, or take the whole family off to Hawaii for a month-long vacation at a five-star resort, doing first-class travel.

What's this mean?  You took four years....a fair amount of money....and bought yourself a 2nd-rate degree, and will not measure up at the same level to some other folks.  When I suggest a fair amount of money....I'm not talking $15,000 or even $40,000.  In this case.....you were stupid enough to take Dad's $80,000 and twenty years later.....you are in a marginal situation with a limited future.  No capital gain in life....so to speak.

But wait....this only gets better.  The statistical guys did one more survey.....about the degrees involved.  If you went to Murray State and got an arts degree.....you are in the hole to about minus $197,000 compared to other folks with art degrees from other colleges.

An educational degree from Bowling Green State State University?  After twenty years.....you got on the loser situation with a minus of $152,000.  Your associates that went to better or finer schools in Georgia?  Way better off than you.

So, for a brief moment....consider this.  Karl decides to skip college....does two years with some community college program learning air conditioning repair and installation.  Today, Karl, by avoiding attending Bowling Green State and avoiding a degree in education.....Karl is already $152,000 ahead of his dimwit cousin who went to State for four years.

Some of the better colleges with a twenty-year return?  Harvard made the list.....with a $821,000 positive gained back (NO LOSS).

When you come to the end of this discussion....the weight of the degree mattered.  If you got into business, computer science, engineering, medical or anything related to science itself.....you got something worth a good bit in life.  Arts degrees and educational degrees?  Well....it's best not to bring up the topic.

It Was a Cold Morning, on a Thin Pine Branch

Well, this is what we know.  Down in Bama....in Arab (in the northern part of the state), there was this guy....Micheal Howard Long.

Micheal is a nibble guy of sorts, and I'm guessing that he's kept himself in pretty good physical condition, and he's probably taken some medications and drugs.  Illegal stuff?  Well, that has yet to be determined. (note: photo by Arab Police Dept)

Cops got a call over the weekend....early morning....someone reporting a guy up in a tree in their yard.  Cops come, and note this naked guy....up on a limb.  They "encourage" him to come down.  He won't come down.  They ask nicely, to please come down.  Nope....just can't do that.

Bama folks are usually patient.  A guy like this?  You'd just pull up a folding chair, open up a beer or just start munching on some saltine crackers, or chow down on a burger.  It might take an hour or so, but usually....guys have an urge to come down.  That was the old fashioned way (1970s) of handling a situation like this.

In this episode?  Cops of the modern era don't have patience.  The cops called up the fire department and asked them to come out.  The guys inspected the situation....making a determination to just start cutting branches below him, until they came to this remaining branch.

There's a bit of talk then between Micheal and the cop at this point.  Micheal came to some senses, and agreed to dismount the tree.  Cops hauled him away, after covering his nudity with a blanket.

Charges?  Initially, two charges.  Public Lewdness and disorderly conduct.  The disorderly conduct got tossed out....I'm guessing because they never did a blood test on him and no way to make such an option stick.  The public lewdness?  Staying there.  What it might get you in Bama?  Well....a good lawyer would just say you had a drug problem....he signs you up for treatment, and the judge cuts the jail time down to seven days or less.  If you didn't play along.....you'd likely get a month in county jail.

Naturally, you'd think about this.  Bama in the evening hours of March.....gets down into the high-30's usually.  So it's pretty chilly at night.  This guy hanging out in some tree at 5AM?  For maybe three or four hours?  Nude?  Yeah, he had to be on some awful strong drugs.

The thing about Bama, which my brother would tend to say....is that each and every morning....brings some new and interesting episode.  Chicken houses catch on fire....bulls take to chasing you in your own field.....the dog bumps the pick-up gearshift lever and takes off without you....neighbors call you up at 8PM to talk two hours over septic tank replacement ideas.....the neighbor's wife runs off while dumping her husband to New York City after watching a Seinfeld episode....or your local minister shoots his wife with the intention of marrying his male lover in Russia.  Stuff happens.

In this case, someone hears someone up in his pine tree, looks up, and there's some sickly thin guy all naked and squatting on some limb.  You call up the cops and they suggest that you must be all doped up.  Finally, they come out, and readily agree....you got a naked guy in your tree.

In Bama, you just can't make this stuff up.  Sadly.

College Union Status

It was probably the biggest news of the day, and maybe of the year.....a lawsuit brought on by a college football player was decided....and yes, members of his team can organize and unionize.  This was brought up in Illinois.

The Big Ten came immediately out....as did the NCAA....expressing some disappointment and bitter feelings.  It opens the door to a number of potential changes.  A team that is unionized....will be able to stand and make certain demands.

I'd expect the medical package during a player's four-year period to be strongly discussed, and some package to exist after the player leaves the school.  Cost?  Over a ten-year period.....they might add up to another twenty million dollars for eighty-five average players on a yearly team.  Who will pay for this?  Well.....you could increase ticket prices or deduct it from the TV rights package....but for some schools....that was the only way that they could pay for nifty stadiums or high-priced coaches.

Strikes?  Well....yeah.  You might be standing there and suddenly in late summer...as the season was to start....suddenly four teams from one league would launch a strike.  Games would be cancelled and TV networks miffed over the opening suddenly appearing on the schedule.  NCAA fans would angry over arranged air tickets and hotel reservations.

My humble guess is that over the next five years.....a dozen schools across the nation will make the decision to dump football from their agenda.  It's too expensive and takes up too much time to deal with union complaints.  By 2024, I'm betting on twenty university teams being gone.

It's a big business now with some NCAA teams.  Count up the travel costs, the support staff, the uniforms, the fitness center at each university, the trainers, and the scholarships.....it's an enormous package.  Now?  You'd best add a full-time lawyer and union negotiation specialist to the team, and figure your budget requirements just went up ten-percent overnight.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Book Review: The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple

Written by Charles G Addison (1852)

It's an odd book of sorts, where a amateur historian has accumulated a great bit of knowledge, and puts it together.  Grammar-wise, it's three-star.  It's not written in a way that helps the reader.  It is a tough read, and I admit that.  The thing is....it tells a rich story over the Knights Templar that few ever engage in and lay out the entire period of roughly 130 years that they were 'king of the hill'.

Muhammad will die in 632.  Over the next four hundred years....his religion will spread across the Middle East (the Holy Land), and stir up a lot of aggravated individuals.   They will take the religion across the religion and eventually arrive to bring violence to Christian areas.  This more or less....creates the reasoning for the crusades and various armies that arrive to fight the great war against the Muslims.  And amongst these groups....the most famous....the Knights Templar.

You can imagine this group of men.....heavily dosed on the Christian religion, and very enthusiastic over their faith and what's necessary to win a battle.  They are the special forces of their day.  When they engage in battle....they don't tend to retreat.

One of the problems here as their reputation builds up....they need more recruitment to fill in the ranks of lost men.  This means a continual line of ships, supplies, horses, and food.  All of this....equates to sponsorship and money.  So the Knights Templar organize.  They have a leadership chain there in the Holy Land, and back in their home areas of France, England, Spain, Portugal, etc.

Over the first generation or two of Knights Templar....it's easy to get sponsorship and money.  The Pope is enthusiastic of their mission...so are the various Kings.  The problem is....there's never an end-all battle or war.  The crusades simply lead onto more crusades...more battles....more lost men....more support....and more cash required.

The Knights Templar along the way....earn this odd reputation.  When you are a man of riches in France and seeking someone to hold your money or wealth....you go to a Knights Templar castle or fortress.  They take your money, and hold it.  Their reputation is honorable.  They never cheat anyone in transactions.

If you needed someone honest to negotiate over a situation....you called up a Knights Templar guy and got him involved.  The honorable deals got worked out, and everyone was satisfied.  Never....can you find anyone who says they got cheated or attacked by the Knights Templar in Europe.

Well....all of this goes on for roughly 120 years....and then.....the French King at the time realizes the amount of capital that they hold, and openly declares war on the Knights Templar organization.  He spreads the stories, and hopes to attack them in other countries.  He arranges false arrests, tortures the Knights Templar members, and in a number of cases.....causes their deaths.  England will eventually do the same thing.

The odd piece of this story is that the Knights Templar members never stand there and grasp that their new enemy....is in their own homeland.  They won't identify or take on these elite in France.

This destructive period will end around 1313, and the Knights Templar organization will go through an evolution of sorts.  Hiding yourself is a wiser thing.  The crusades?  They basically end.  Without an enemy to fight....the Islamic groups in the Middle East start to fight amongst themselves.  It generally stayed that way until the 1990s....when Iraq stirred up a hornet's nest by invading Kuwait.

It's a decent read....approximately 300 pages.  Yes....it does need a bit of rewriting but it's a decent book over the era.  Worth reading.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Ten Lessons in Theory

I've come to this listing of ten lessons....over theory.  This means....without any proof, substance, evidence or reality....we tend to accept these things and just move on.  The problem is....they just lack a heck of a lot in truth or actuality.

1.  If you take four hundred data sets of evidence that fit your projected outcome....for some reason, your model will come to agree amazingly with your theory or projection.  Yeah, I know....it's amazing.  If you tossed in six conflicting statistical listings....it'd be like a ninety-eight percent agreement, which still looks pretty good.  Obviously, cherry-picking data.....is a good talent to develop in college or university.

2.  The more conflicting evidence tossed onto a theory....usually results in a theory that doesn't hold much water, and is usually marginally accepted.  Hence, we try to avoid conflicting data whenever possible.  Not that it's important or anything....after all....you wouldn't publish a theory that wasn't able to stand (at least marginally).  That'd be a waste of time....obviously.

3.  For some reason, it's helpful if you avoid history, when talking science.  For example, you don't want tree-rings in a study where it says terrible things happen 1,800 years ago....much worse than today.  So if you need correct tree-rings.....you shop around.  I'm not saying E-Bay or such.....but you need to find data that avoids historical data comparisons.

4.  If you build a study that a certain average of one percent of society is crazy and capable of killing you with only a marginal amount of meth in their system....what are the odds that you might have twenty of these guys in your study audience on the night that you hand out surveys?  Statistically, things like this could occur, but there's the element of luck that you simply picked one hundred Catholic bishops instead to collect against.

5.  You find a hundred planets with anticipated human beings on them.  So you tend to automatically use some theory that says they are all like you and would be real friendly when your George Clooney-character astronaut lands on one of them.  Six hours upon landing on one, you learn that this theory was kinda wrong, and your one friendly astronaut insulted the queen gal.  He was killed six seconds after the insult.

6.  Data sets are collected by guys with agendas.  So you go out and collect seventy data collections, assuming that these seventy groups were all kinda honest.  Four years later, you learn that eighteen of the groups provided fairly false data, and twelve other groups had some pieces that were marginally inaccurate.  You've wasted a fair amount of time and research money, and wonder if you ought to just pursue the original goal, stick with bad data, and publish on time with a fraud of a study.

7.  Data is sometimes collected via a measurement system or device.  You assume from day one....that your $75,000 device is fairly accurate.  Somewhere around day 128, you suddenly find that your device isn't as accurate as assumed, and your entire study is questionable in terms of a conclusion and factual data.  Rather than beg for more research money and admit failure.....you tend to view the chaos involved and the money already spent, and you determine to produce something....whether factual or not.

8. If the foundation or university has kinda instructed you to forgo the line of typical Socratic questioning....you might want to pause and wonder why.  Typically, Socrates asked two logical questions when noting a theory.

The questions are simple.  First, what is it that you know, and what is it that you don't know?  Maybe there is something that you know, but can't logically explain why or the precise reason for what you know.  The unknown is usually what you desire to develop a concrete theory on.

Second, as the lead on the study....what are the in-depth questions revolving around, and how can you improve your questions?  If your foundation says that everything on the table is enough, and there's no further need of questions or peer review....then you are committed to a fake theory or a empty theory.  Neither one is worth much in reality.

9.  Theories revolve around questions.  If you start with an illogical question....there is only one usual outcome.

10.  Finally, sadly....theories come and go.  Einstein has been proven wrong on some things, and there are probably over a hundred million theories which have gone onto theory trash heap.  Don't anticipate you have a remarkable theory which will outlive eternity.

Mountebanks

Montebanks?

Yeah, an odd word.  It used to along in descriptions of wizards, quacks and phonies.

If you lived 1660s England, you faced a barrage of these characters on a daily basis.  Because of the plague....folks got real hyper about preventing or curing the disease....so you could step up on the street with some type of lucky charm, special amulet, toxic potion, or pilter (magic liquid which usually had mercury, cow urine, or swamp water in it), and deceive people left and right.

You have to remember the crowd.  They are generally uneducated.  Their weekly dose of Sunday sermon via some minister or priest or bishop....is the general only way of knowing anything.

A pretender could easily stand up in the crowd of fifty people....announcing himself as doctor so-and-so, with a small bottle of tonic which would prevent you from getting the plague.  Naturally, whatever it costs.....you'd pay.  The smaller the bottle....the longer you survived....the more you bought off onto the story and continued to look up your savior each week that you had any extra money left.

Bleeding the community dry?  Probably so.

What historians will generally admit to....is that around 100,000 residents of London and it's community died between 1665 and 1666.  The plague will only end....when London burns to the ground (strangely enough).

What historians generally miss out on.....is that the original plague (the Black Death) started up around 1348, and made a resurfacing routine about every twenty-to-thirty years.  Massive death count in 1348 and 1666?  Yes.  But if you read down into yearly accounts and look at what minimum statistics exist....there was a "fever" of sorts to make the rounds on a routine basis.  What the locals eventually got around to saying about the more modern (1660-era) disease....was that the distemper situation was the final stage of death.

You can imagine pets with distemper today and note the loss of reality and such with the "fever".

There is one other odd feature of the plague and the mountebanks....from this list of deaths....one cannot be sure of those who died from the plague or from some toxic formula sold to them with high concentrations of mercury.  Also, based on the massive rules that came out for the 1666 plague....once your house got closed off and you were quarantined.....your food and water supply was questionable.  Of the hundred thousand in London who died....how many simply starved to death or died from a lack of water?  It's hard to say.

Without the Great Fire of London?  Well....one might envision a continual trend of plagues and fevers for another century.

For me?  All of this matters in some way....because some ancestor of mine made a move from a small rural town on the east coast of England....to London.  In some period later (months or years or decades)....in 1666....with disease sweeping the region....he made some fateful decision to pack up and leave England forever.

So, it's interesting for me.....to pick up the topic of the plague, the word mountebanks, and look through a very tough period for any person trying to survive.  You had to have enough common sense to avoid the quacks....enough intelligence to walk around the infected folks....enough wit to avoid toxic drinks with mercury.....and enough courage to board some vessel to some bold new land with Indians lurking around every tree to kill you.  Yet, things kinda worked out.  Yeah, we had to be a bit optimistic....more than the regular guy.

Common Whatever

I sat and spent an hour or two this weekend....looking at Common Core....this new educational method sweeping across America.  Personally, I would agree.....the teaching system is screwed up and I would be in favor of some changes.  Common Core?  Well....it's like some change-the-change-to-the-change-of-the-change manager working in some government agency.  Here is an actual note sent by a teacher to parents, to help them understand this change and what it all means.

What you notice here....is that there is a "new" language and a "old" language.  Basically, it means the same thing.  Then you look at the subtract/add problem given as an example.  If you've sat in a class where the Chinese abacus was demonstrated...you'd note the same method here.

Along about my fourth grade of school....the teacher dragged out an abacus and spent about an hour demonstrating how you'd use it.  At the time, I just sat there and felt like it was a waste, but it was something from China....so it must be significant if a bunch of Chinese guys use it.  For the remaining eight years?  It was never brought back up, and the two classes I had in college.....never mentioned the abacus or it's methods.

Add and subtract gone?  Increase and decrease now the standard words?  Oh my.

For some reason, knowing how American kids think....I suspect that three or four kids in every class are uttering "add" and "subtract" on a hourly basis, and kinda refuse to play the game.  Same for the loss of the word 'more-than' or 'less-than'.  Common Core is simply change.  Doing something different, for the sake of change.

Somewhere in this mix....if you think about it.....there are certification specialists, special classes, and foundations which are charging school districts and university programs money.....to get them lined up with the new 'change-agenda'.

Improving things?  If this math problem was an example....I'd say nothing really has changed....except changing terms and making things look different.  In the end.....whatever expectations of improvement you had....probably by 2018....will show that nothing on scores really moved up or down more than a point or two.  All of this argument?  Mostly wasted chatter.

Over the last five years I served in the Air Force (retiring in 1999)....we had these change-players arrive.  In the beginning, it was all pretty acceptable, and we had hopes of some final dramatic positive change (we actually needed something to happen).  After a while, we came to realize that the changes had little value, no improvement to the system, no morale boost except for a momentary thing, and within months.....another change-philosophy would arrive....dictating more change.

My guess is that the change-philosophy is simply a gimmick....geared to get a mass movement going.  If you can turn a herd of cattle to the west....they generally will all walk the same direction....and when you turn the head cow east.....they will all turn generally east.  Course, after a while, you will stand in the field and note that you are pretty much where you started, with nothing to show.

Maybe Common Core will come to politics one day.  Just to make things a little bit interesting and give people the thrill of change, without anything really changing.  Well....you can dream that little dream.

My Malaysia Flight 370 Scenario

On most big event situations.....I always tend to wait a few days to a week....before I began to see the "real" story.  It's been a while for Malaysian flight 370 being lost, and two events occurred over the weekend....which get me to my scenario.

First, they kinda admitted that one phone call to the pilot (55-year old guy) a couple of hours prior to take-off.  They had gone through his calls and apparently.....this one brief two-minute call lingered.

Strange episode.  They know the phone chip for this cellphone was sold recently.  But the lady listed down on the number doesn't answer.  The address?  Bogus.

So they visit the phone sales point.  The guy has the paperwork, but it was all given with a bogus ID.  After 9-11...it was generally policy in the world.....no more sales of cellphones without a valid ID.  Well....this gal presented one....but it was bogus.

The authorities don't say anything, but I get the impression that the chip was bought....never put into the phone....then suddenly gets put in....one call made to the pilot for two minutes....and then the phone is dead.  Bought for roughly $30....used one time only and tossed? They will search the records and figure the nearest tower from where this call came from.....my guess is a hotel or public area.

What this says....is a conspiracy.  More than one person.  It's not a suicide.  But it is a plan to hijack and take the plane.

The second thing of the weekend?  There's some debris and imagery indicating it ditched way southwest of Australia....in the middle of nowhere.  For a search plane to even get there.....it's a three hour flight.  No ship has arrived yet, and I suspect that more will be found this week.

So, my scenario.

The pilot was recruited over the past year or two.  The original plan was to take the plane...pretend to have the passengers as hostages perhaps (even if they are dead)....and refix the plane as a weapon.  It has big positives because of cargo size and the flight capability.  The deal was simple.....move to the plane to some airport in Pakistan or the "Stan" republics, wait a few weeks to months, and then launch the weapon against some massive target.

The pilot got the go-ahead via the cellphone call.  Somewhere in the first twenty minutes of the flight.....he's starting his game.  He will turn off the CAIRs reporting device.  Now he confronts the co-pilot.  He is holding a weapon against the guy, and ordering him to type in some coordinates for the auto-pilot system (the way-points).

I'm guessing that he's grinning and really peppy about this whole thing....not paying attention.  The co-pilot?  Young and cocky.....maybe smart.  He's typing in the way-points and direction.....but on the last one....he types south, instead of north.  The idiot pilot doesn't catch that.

At some point, the control system in Malaysia is handing the plane off.  There's been chatter back and forth.  The expected chat is "Tower, flight such-and-such, what is your altitude?"  Then the plane should respond: "Flight such-and-such, we are at 30,000 feet".

One notes themselves and asks a question....the other notes themselves and answers the question.  That is pilot rules 101.  Throughout the world....it's the way that pilots communicate and chat.

For some reason, on this last chat between the two.....the co-pilot is the one answering, and he simply says: "All right, good night".  No note of who he is or the comeback to the control statement.  It means.....he had problems going on.

Shortly after this chat.....I think the pilot and co-pilot got into a fight....a knife or gun was used.  The co-pilot is likely dead or dying.  The pilot is laying there....in bad shape....and probably can't stand or get into his seat.

The plane?  On auto-pilot.  It will turn....climb to 45,000 feet....and everyone will die....including the pilot.  The plane will make its turn and twists.....based on the route by the co-pilot.

The jihad team waiting at the runway for the plane to land a couple hours later?  Once the plane is an hour late....they are worried.  By the second hour of waiting....they are asking themselves what could have gone wrong.  By the end of three hours....they pile into their cars and leave.....mostly out of fear that the pilot was caught alive and will give away the plan.

The plane heads south instead of north.  If you find the plane and figure the exact point where it landed/crashed....you can plot the route north instead and likely come within ten miles of the intended airport.

Why no one says anything or brags?  I think the jihad guys have a four-star plan and will attempt it again.  Since no one has found out the whole game.....wait a year or two and recruit again.  This whole 'take-a-plane' gimmick will occur again.

Defeating this?  Well....a secret transponder on each plane might be an answer.....until the pilots figure this out.  Arming some guy to sit on the plane?  Well....by the time he figures out what happened...it's likely too late.  So, there is no solution to this type of plan.  Sadly.

Note: I should add....the target of the aircraft after they pulled out the bodies and loaded it with their 'weapon'?  Strangely enough, this week....the President goes to Europe and Russia.  He has to stay at hotels....and radar might...or might not pick up this aircraft at 5,000 feet....until it's within ten minutes of the target.  I'm only taking a guess....but by landing in the 'Stan' republics....it would have the range and ability to reach all of Russia, and into Europe.  Just my humble guess.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Foe Guy

Sometimes, I'll tie up a blog story from five or six different episodes....which makes a guy sit and pause over things.....so it is today.

Around 1450....Guttenberg came up with this nifty idea of the printing press.  To be honest....he wasn't that big of an inventor....his profession was a goldsmith....but I would imagine he sat there and pressed gold into some design and then imagined pressing ink against paper....and developed the printing press.  For the locals (few could read, so it didn't make much sense), there was no real purpose behind the idea but if you build it....they will come.

What he was determined to produce out of this gimmick....was the Bible.  Up until this point....the Catholic Church maintained the copies and produced the Bible....at their leisure and at their price.  A regular merchant would have balked at paying a fantastic amount for such a valued item.  A rich guy?  Different story.

It's a curious thing....for twenty-five years.....nothing in English was produced via the printing press idea.  Then around 1475....the first document comes out.  By 1500....roughly fifty years after the idea became reality....historians figure that there were twenty million productions of written material in Europe.  You can imagine this atmosphere existing like today....everyone had to have an I-Pad or Smart-Phone....so books became a sought-after item....no matter what the cost.  Naturally, this demanded that people had to be able to write, and thus education became a vehicle of the masses....not the elite.

For about a hundred years....things simply progress along.  Then, this guy Foe comes along.  Foe is a creative guy of sorts.  He's born in a neighborhood of London in 1659.  His father is a candle-maker and a member of the local 'union' of sorts....the Butcher's Company.  He grows up in an era where monumental events are going to occur at a youthful age.  He will see the plague arrive in London and kill roughly 100,000 of the local residents (1664-65)  He will see London burn to the ground (1666).  And he will see London invaded by Dutch mercenaries in 1667.

As years pass, Foe gains the skill of writing.  He needs a gimmick though....to make his publications more attractive to the public.....just being English is not enough.  So he will flip his name around and add "de" before Foe.  And he will become Daniel DeFoe.  Yeah, the guy who will write Robinson Crusoe, make it one of the top fifty classics of all time.

Most literally guys of today will stand and note that after Robinson Crusoe.....DeFoe drops a big step or two, and nothing else he writes comes to measure that one classic.

Well....this is hard to agree with.  You see....before DeFoe came along....no one really knew the concept of novels.  So he paved the way with various fictional novels....written under at least one-hundred-and-fifty pen names.  The historians today say that he wrote over 500 different publications over his life.  These included full-blown novels, pamphlets, and journals.  The topics?  Journalism pieces, history, economics, current events, marriage, religious practices, politics, crime, mental issues, and the "weird" (the skillful examination of ghosts....similar to the X-Files of the 1700s).

To be honest....DeFoe was originally heading toward a safer career....a merchant.  His trading?  He bargained and resold wool items, socks of the era, and wine.  You'd likely consider him a mini-Donald Trump.....making risky deals....and most of the time coming out on the losing side.  Somewhere in his mid-twenties....he got tied up into some guys who were revolutionary in character and working to take down the king.  Through some stupid mistakes....he was brought in and more or less....offered a great opportunity to serve the King's service as a spy.  This all led to a successful conclusion.....a pardon of sorts....and by his mid-thirties....he was a tax collector.

Yeah, you'd think this would be enough to make a guy happy....collecting taxes off glass bottles produced and just accepting things as they are....with enough money and a bit of status. Instead, he'd end up as the owner of a brick factory.

Somewhere around this point of his forties.....he got into pamphlet production.  Call him a blogger of his era....but DeFoe wrote up a number of pieces which supported the kingdom, but kinda advocated significant changes.  Naturally, a change in government occurred, and the new folks stepped in to be hostile toward DeFoe.  Yeah....back into prison.

So, around 1703....around forty-four years old.....in the heat of the summer and passions....the local court sentences DeFoe to an undetermined amount of time.  It could be a day, a week, a month, a year, or a decade.  It was the kind of sentence that you'd hand out....when you needed a remarkable bribe to come forward....to pay off the crown and ensure the members of the government survived.  So the First Earl of Oxford (Robert Harley) will come forward....bailing DeFoe out of prison.

After this prison deal is worked out and DeFoe is released.....one of the biggest storms ever to hit England occurs (November 1703), and roughly eight thousand people will die in some fashion.  DeFoe will be a witness to the event, and later use the storm as a backdrop to his novel The Storm (1704).

The interesting thing about The Storm....is that it's the first time in human history....that an event has been taken and described in great detail....and though it's not recognized at that point as such....it's the birth of the modern era of journalism....writing the facts of occurred in great detail.

DeFoe lights up and more or less goes on fire after The Storm.  Whatever he writes....gets published.  As we think of prolific writers today....like Stephen King.....DeFoe is going to become the same....going after events that are occurring and writing them to the status that the reader thinks he's right in the middle of the mess.

At age sixty....DeFoe will wrap up Robinson Crusoe and publish it.  The proceeding year....he publishes a sarcastic and cynical piece called A Continuation of the Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy....which is a comical review of European religion and state politics....seen by a Muslim guy sitting in Paris (yeah, for some reason, this actually sold and was read by the public.

Over the last couple years of his life....DeFoe will come to write one decent final novel.....Moll Flanders.  Course, with all the other oddball character story tellings....this one had to be over the top.  You end up with DeFoe telling the story first-hand....as some woman in the seventeenth century of rural England, who is a loose lady of sorts....married to various characters at the same time....crafty and deceitful.....a robber and thief....and always into various lusty affairs.  What literary players will say (from today's viewpoint).....DeFoe somehow....by a miracle of sorts.....got the reader to feel kinda sympathetic to some degree....with a loose morals lady who robs folks left and right, and never cleans herself up.

DeFoe will pass from this earth in 1732....at the age of eighty-three.  Various arguments will go forth on the number of actual publications he was involved in.  Some will quote 500.  Some will quote less than two hundred.  A handful of folks think it's possible he may have been the writer of over a thousand different pamphlets or publications.

The creator of journalism and novels?  Well....yeah.  He's the guy that made reading such a thrill, and turned everyone toward the idea of being able to read.  Up until he arrived....most of what was printed was either the Bible or some some politically charged up critical piece.  After DeFoe....there's lust, sex, desire, politics, history, corruption, turmoil, disaster, death, misery, and excitement.  Why wouldn't a guy want to read with this kind of material being produced on a monthly basis?

The son of a candle-maker.....crafty enough to dream up a French edge to his name like "de"....with ambitions beyond one's imagination....and turns the necessity of reading on....like a blinding light.  Who would imagine it?  

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Bama Patience and Understanding

Generally, things in Bama are simple.  You have a problem....it's a two-or-three step solution, or some cousin comes over to do it for you.  You get into a mess....you hire up some Republican lawyer....pay some guy under the table, and things get resolved.  Your house burns down?  The community comes up to support you and you feel somewhat whole again.

In the last week or two....there's this problem which came up...which cannot be solved, or simplified, or fixed by your cousin or some Republican lawyer.

You see....there's two gals....lesbians....who got all pumped up in the era of door suddenly opening and gay marriage was a magnet for a couple of months.  They were up in Iowa and got the license....got married....and felt like they were living on top of the world.  Things couldn't be better.

Then, for some odd reason which has not been detailed out.....the two ladies made a decision related to some job offers and moved to Bama.

Now, it's safe to say in Bama right now....things are kinda looking good if you live in and around Huntsville or Madison county.  You got some degree....technology background.....science expertise?  Well....there's a pretty good chance that you can get employed.  The downside?  You won't make what you'd make in Dallas, Silicon Valley, or Atlanta.  You still do fairly well with the cheaper lifestyle and house prices....but it's a step down from places like Nashville, Philly or Saint Louis.

So the couple settled down in Bama....found their jobs....found happiness....and came to discover that they conflict.  They just don't match up and like some marriages done in a hurry....they just guessed wrong.  Neither will say in public what is the issue.

One might be messy and one might be tidy.  One might be a Republican and one might be a Democrat.  One might be an environmentalist and the other might be anti-green.  One might be a hunter enthusiast and the other might be pool-hall player.  This part of the story is unknown.

So, after this issue of dissolving the marriage came up.....the ladies visited a lawyer.  Bama has a simplified version of divorce.  You go and input the data into a computer data file, and at the end....you indicate who is the male and who is the female.  Well.....the lawyer indicated both are female and the program came right back and said.....you can't have a divorce in Bama....under a female-female situation.

Legal folks got involved, and Bama law is kinda plain on this.  You need to live in the state for six months....to have residency for the divorce requirement.  The ladies had that part easily.  But there is no exemption to clear the men-and-women requirement.

Naturally, this has frustrated both gals.  Going back to Iowa to clean up this mess?  Well....they mandate that you need twelve months of residency.  Plus you'd have to give up whatever jobs that you've gotten and move to Iowa....strictly for a divorce.  This is something that no one ever does.

I sat and pondered over this.  It's clearly a mess.  When this gay marriage business opened up and a couple of states jumped into it....I had this feeling that folks didn't see the entire path ahead.  Americans have one odd characteristic when compared to other nationalities....they move.  So a year....five years.....ten years down the line.....you end up in some state like Bama, and suddenly your spouse just isn't all that thrilling or nice.  Divorce?  Well....no.

In this case?  I'd likely take both ladies and sit down at a coffee shop, and suggest a radical approach to this.  Since you can't easily divorce....step back....what is the irritating factor in this mess?  Could you learn to live some idiot in the house?  Could you develop some skills to politely tell someone they are wrong, but say in a humble nice way?  Could you change three or four habits.....like cleaning the house regularly, drinking less, sharing responsibility, cuss a bit less, stay a bit calm during arguments, and say charming things when you mean otherwise?

I know....it's not the intention.  Folks marry, and folks divorce.  In this case.....if you are a lesbian married couple....you kinda need to draw up a list of states where you can divorce....and only settle in those states.  This might make you hostile and demanding that everyone respect you.....but then....they thought you'd respect their states ethics and general expectations.

I'm not sure where this will go.  My humble guess is that both will sit around for six months....grumbling about this backward state, and one will eventually haul up and run off to Iowa or California.....just to be a state resident there and start the dang divorce twelve months after arriving.

All of this brings me to the reality of Bama.  Folks move to Bama for odd reasons.  Maybe it's the calm nature, the slow pace of life, the low crime rate, low taxes, or the cost of living. With all the positives.....you kinda have to accept the fifty-odd negatives.

There will be neighbors who get all fussy about grass-cutting procedures.  A neighbor three miles down the road makes meth.  Some neighbor has two dogs that crap on your yard daily. An associate wants to spend forty minutes explaining the Mazda Wankel engine to you.  The local fourth-grade teacher has a prayer each morning for the class, and generally prays for President....Democrat or Republican.  The local volunteer fire department has yearly fallings-out over wife-swapping within the group.  The local mayor has been arrested fourteen times in Memphis for hooker solicitation.  The past two town clerks have been hauled in for an audit and always found to have lost $50,000 over each of their periods of employment....yet never go to jail.  Most of the local folks watch O'Reilly from Fox News and recite his talking points like it was the gospel from the Old Testament.  And it's a well known fact that at least two thousand dead folks vote every four years in Bama.

If you were accepting of these oddball things....why wouldn't a gal just go ahead and accept someone you married in a hurry and now discover that they just aren't that charming, pleasant, or intelligent?  If you got patience to stand Bama's extremes....you ought to be able to handle some marriage associate....no matter what sex they are.

And if all else fails?  Well....if you wait a hundred years....Bama might change and rewrite the divorce rule.  Maybe.

Anyway....my humble two cents of thought.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Noble Goals or Agendas

Imagine a nation that mandates the following:

- Undertaking a government requirement to establish all citizens the right to adequate employment opportunities and an adequate living standard.

- The needs of the overall community should outweigh the needs of the individual.

- The commercial runnings of the nation should be regulated in such a way, that profits of the rich or corporate nature.....should be shared and distributed to the citizens.

- The welfare of the senior citizens should be attended to by the government, who will ensure a provision exists for their "protection".

- The nation will ensure regulations exist to control state and federal property to the degree required, which will be determined by the highest authority of the government.  If necessary, confiscation of property will be exercised, for the greater good of the community.

-  Interest rates and mortgage situations will be regulated by the government to ensure the lowest possible financial requirement upon the citizens.

- A national farming bill/law will be pushed to help improve and comfort the rural farming environment and ensure national food requirements are met.

- Rent control and regulation will be exercised as necessary, to prevent profits.

- Regulation will be created to prevent speculation of land and property.

- The federal government will work to ensure the culture of society is respected and honored.

- The science of citizenship will be developed and exercised as appropriately viewed by the community, state and federal government.  This science will be developed into common teaching requirements and utilized for lesson plans as necessary.

- Children with skill and capability, no matter what class of their parents, shall be educated at the cost of the government, no matter where they live or what the eventual higher education will cost.

- It will be the absolute priority of the nation to help raise the standards of national health by providing adequate hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses, and care.

- It will be the national cause to help stop and hinder unnecessary juvenile labor.

- It will be a national priority to help increase physical fitness and dietary requirements of the public, to help make society at large better and healthier.  Regulation will be utilized as much as necessary.

- The overall goal of the nation.....will be the common good....before the individual good.  The nation will stand against materialistic spirits which create unfair wealth and class divisions.

Sounds familiar?  Well....maybe you should sit for a minute and ponder this.

Lofty vision and  goals.....for the Nationalist Socialists (NAZI) Party of Germany....in 1920.  Written by a young Adolph Hitler as part of the platform and plank for the party.

Yeah, I may have word-smithed a portion here and there to fit modern 2014 society....but it's the basic theme of the bold new German government envisioned twenty years before World War II would occur.

Shocked?  Well....asking stupid questions or reading over history isn't such a bad thing....if you think about it. Having a noble goal or agenda....might not be as noble as you think it is.

The Problem with Scandals

At some point, the list become bigger than reality:

The ATF gunwalking scandal.  AG Holder held in Contempt of Congress.  Appointee Terence Flynn accused of serious ethical violations by leaking information. Martha Johnson, chief of the GSA who ended up firing two top GSA officials and then resigned when word got out about $822k spent in Vegas on a training conference.  IRS and its comical investigation of Tea Party conservative political groups.  Lois Lerner and her management of the IRS Office of Exempt Organizations.  Congressman Ricky Renzi (Rep-AZ) with wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion, racketeering, money laundering and making false statements to insurance regulators. Senator Mike Crapo (Rep-Id) with a DWI but never spends a day in jail.  Congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (Dem-IL) pleads guilty to a felony of fraud for taking a quarter of a million for campaign funds and bought personal items like fur capes, elk heads, and then blames the whole thing on his mental issues which the public is shocked to learn that he just isn't that stable to even be a Representative. Congressman Laura Richardson (Dem-CA) is shockingly found to be guilty on seven violations of House rules by improperly assigning her staff to run elements of her campaign.  The domestic surveillance program PRISM.  NSA's running game of abuse.  'Scooter' Libby, VP Cheney's Chief of Staff, found in violation of perjury and obstruction, and spends over two years in prison. Cronyism and favoritism labeled upon Karl Rove who served the President.  The Plame affair. Blackwater.  Jack Abramoff.

The list goes on and on.

After a while, reviewing dozens of inept investigations over the past decade, revolving around both parties...I’d say this is just opera acts, committed to some political theme music, and mostly result in confused products with no justice and no end. A drama of sorts, with audience expecting a conclusion, but there just isn't ever such device.

No one really fears Congress. No one fears the court system.  No one fears the law.  No one really fears a special prosecutor. No one fears the Presidents that come and go. No one fears public humiliation. No one fears journalists digging into a mess. And no one fears tarnished reputations. 

Sadly, we are at the same point that Rome reached...when the empire simply could not shed enough light over the darkness, and shadows simply consumed reality.

Book Review: Income Inequality Revolution: The History, Mystery, and Truth about the American Middle Class!

By Frank Anderson (2013)

It's an essay of sorts, available off Amazon.  Roughly fifty-odd pages and discusses the topic of unfairness and inequality of our capitalist system.  You can probably finish it in two hours.

The overall result of reading the book?  It has weaknesses. For example, it lays out the always expected argument of unequal incomes...yet it never looks at regions and how some regions aren't that unequal. The same can be said with certain career paths....where a guy attains a profession that will pay more income and another guy will select a profession that simply will never pay anywhere near the same equality. Both had opportunities....both pursued their paths on their own terms....and both are unequal in the end.

Another weakness is this continued game of using statistics to prove your case. This essay does it a good bit. After a while, you realize that the statistics always slant and stick to the story. Could other statistics exist and tell an opposite story? Well...yes. Cherry-picking data to make the essay work?  Well, yeah....he had do that.

Then, there's this odd problem with the 'middle-guy'. When anti-capitalistic folks tell their story....they tell it up to the point where their professor dropped them off or their mentor just said that was enough. So you find ten thousand millionaires and take their money via redistribution. This always has to be done via IRS and taxes....for some odd reason. So now, a government guy appears and has various programs that this money will funnel into. Do these various programs cover all poor and unequal people completely and fairly? No.

Yeah, the professor failed to mention that while his students are pumped up on the redistribution route.....there's some other guy who will fail to redistribute the money FAIRLY.

Certain poor and unequal get a portion, and others get nothing. Various programs and middle-men will act in defense of some agenda or priority. Fair? No.

In a comical way....we'd basically need to have a "re-redistribution" of the money taken.....to fix the wrongs of the anti-capitalists.

A gimmick solution for redistribution? Yeah, except guys like Mr Anderson never sat down and asked a bunch of extra questions. You see....the simplified method to this whole redistribution game....would be just write out a check for $7,000 (a mythical number) to the poor and unequal folks, thus avoiding the middle-guys, the arranged agenda program, and the thousands of government workers required to make it work. Cost of such a check? Just to write it, and that's it. Figure five bucks.  Not the three thousand dollars for every two thousand distributed via the nifty government program.

It's kinda like those fake charity foundations that exist....taking money in....spending seventy percent on the operation, and barely sending thirty percent out to the people who need it.

I hate suggesting the anti-capitalists are like the fake charity foundations....but they tend to act like it, and they never want to explain the whole plan of redistribution or inequality checks and balances. In some ways....I'd like to see the mentors and professors of these people stand up in public and explain the last thirty percent of the story.  These players go out and preach to the public, but never seem to grasp that they are only telling seventy percent of the saga.  The last part of details is that redistribution will never be fair, or reach all of the intended "poor" people.

I will admit....I'm more of a capitalist than a revolutionary in favor of wealth redistribution.  If there are some unfair tax credits that allow some billion-dollar industry to pay no taxes....fine, its a problem with the tax credits that the idiot congressmen or senators allowed into the system.  Fire them, make a standard tax payment requirement of fifteen percent to all individuals or organizations that pull in a million or more (to include churches).....and then let's start talking about real "fairness".

This inequality discussion?  A gimmick.  Only to get people stirred up, then they jump to false conclusions.  Ask stupid questions, and then start to ponder over why the government always has to be in the middle of a redistribution gimmick.  Why can't the poor guy be allowed to just have the cash and make his own wise or unwise decisions?

My final word....the essay is worth reading...just to have a grasp of the argument.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The 500,000 Bama Voters Without A License

One of the odd things that came out while I was in Bama.....was this comparison some folks did....looking at the state voting list and the license list of Bama.  There are 500,000 folks in the state of Bama....who are registered voters.....but don't have a license.

So, you sit there and ponder upon this.  There are 4.82 million people in Bama (2012 numbers).  You can figure that roughly 700,000 of these are seventeen or less.  Back in 2008....some folks noticed that Bama finally hit the three million mark for registered voters.

After you run over these numbers.....you start asking stupid questions.

How can 500,000 of the three million....not have a license?

Ok, maybe there are fifty thousand Bama registered voters who might be blind.  I can agree on a statistical guess like that, and it'd make sense.

Ok, maybe there are thirty thousand Bama folks who are homeless and living under bridges....yet actively into politics and registered to vote.

Ok, maybe there are twenty thousand Bama folks who are too old and have given up their license.

This only gets me up to a hundred thousand sadly.

So, I'd like to offer some analysis and obvious questions.

How many of the remaining four hundred thousand....are folks who do have licenses for other states, and are actively pretending to be in one state, but owning an RV and spending four months of the year in Bama.....pretending to be registered in two states?

How many of the remaining four hundred thousand....are kids in a Bama college....with a state license for Louisiana and still a resident of Louisiana......yet registered to vote in Bama?

How many of the remaining four hundred thousand.....are military guys who left twenty years ago, pay Bama taxes, but have a license for Arizona because that's where they've been stationed for the past six years?

The problem with this current registration system.....is that we aren't very smart about who should vote and under what circumstances.  A resident is a resident.....unless they are in transitory status.  I'm of the mind that when someone comes up to register to vote.....he ought to produce three documents (birth certificate, license of this state, and a rental agreement or mortgage document to prove where you live).  If you can't provide the three....you get shown the door.

How many of the three million registered Bama voters are "fakes"?  Statistically, there's no way to tell.  It might be 1,000.  It might be 10,000.  It might be 100,000.

So, I'm going to make this radical suggestion.....a bond related to voter registration.  When you walk into the county office......there ought to be a line on the voter registration form which says.....you will forfeit $500 if found to be registered in another state or not acting as a Bama resident.  Turn the voter listing loose over the internet and lets just let anyone....challenge folks.  Got a Saturday free?  You might spend eight hours and find forty people who are illegally registered in Bama and another state.  That's $20,000 in a payoff.....if the authorities confirm you are right.  It'd settle up this fake voter issue fast.

Somewhere out there....there are 500,000 voters in Bama....without a license, and frankly....it doesn't make much sense.

Fitness Revolution: Bama Style

I spent a couple of days back in Bama, and came to discover an odd change to the landscape.....a fitness center in the local area.  It's not the kind of thing that a Bama guy would expect to be a success.  I drove by one afternoon around 5PM, and saw at least sixty vehicles in the parking lot.

Bama guys and gals aren't legendary at physical fitness....at least for the past couple of decades.  There are three versions of Bama fitness.

Prior to the 1950s.....most everyone worked hard physically....without the aid of automation.  They mowed the grass by pushing a mower.  They dug up septic tanks....by hand.  They herded up cows....without a scooter or all-terrain vehicle.  In simple terms, Bama fitness version 1.0 was a pretty rugged guy and easily burned between 3,000 and 4,000 calories a day.

This version one guy walked from his property to the local town four miles away.  This guy ate mostly what he grew.  This guy was fairly exhausted at the end of a day, and easily accepted sleep as the sun went down.

From the 1960s to 2000.....you have Bama fitness version 2.0.  This is the guy or gal who didn't do that much.  Guys stopped hunting.  Gals stopped gardening.  Washing the car?  Go to the auto-mat.  Bought a new washer....you bargained for the dealer to deliver it and even remove the old washer.

This version two gal didn't worry about burning four thousand calories on wash-day like the old wives.....she had a fancy washer and dryer, and bought mostly non-iron type clothing.  This version two guy got a riding lawnmower and covered three acres of yard easily....sipping beer as he mowed.

Various attachments were developed for farmers.  Round bales came along where a guy could do an entire hay field by himself, and load the hay with his tractor into the barn.  He might burn 2,500 calories on an average day like this....instead of the five thousand calories that he burned back with those square small bales.

So, we have now advanced onto version 3.0 of fitness for Bama folks.  These are the ones who pay $50 to $100 a month....to utilize a local gym.  They get advice from Karl the fitness guru on how to put muscles on, or take off fat.  They pull into a parking lot.....spend forty-five minutes burning 1,000 calories, and sip some fruity drink to replenish themselves as they drive off later.

Is there a version 4.0 out there?  I don't know.  I'd like to think that we are under constant evolution, and things continually change.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

When You Need A Study

NASA has a fair amount of money that they don't know how to waste....so they paid up some guys to think about the collapse of western civilization.  Yeah, I know....you'd think they'd waste it on meteor research, the chances of aliens arriving in Montgomery, or how to sustain life on Mars.

What they got was a decent report concluding that we need regulation in some form....to reduce economic inequality (wealth redistribution) and rules to preserve natural resources (mostly because of climate change).  Yeah, this doesn't really fit for NASA but I'm guessing some idiot wanted to help hire up some PhD guys with time on their hands and no pontoon boat on the lake.

They concluded in this study that two important features came up every time that a society came near to non-existence (Romans for example).  First, they always tended to waste resources.  Second, they tended to have some split in society where some folks had much and some folks had much less.  The elite crowd grew, and the others got hostile.

Generally, when societies came to a conclusion.....they tended to have idiots who finally got to the top and really screwed up priorities.  Taxation, expenditures, and continued war efforts....usually drain empires enough.....that they collapse when the first minor issue occurs.  You can talk about wealth redistribution all you want.....but when guys sit around with idle hands and hungry stomachs.....they tend to argue, get into single dimensional issues, and always want someone to fix their problem.  Fixing usually means twice as much is wasted in the end.....and everyone whines about the solution....more than the problem.

The sad thing here is that NASA paid a couple of PhD guys to conclude this.  I would have done it for them....for a bucket of fried chicken, some Pabst Blue Ribbon, and ten bucks.  I'm guessing that NASA wasted a good bit more than that.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Ukraine Story

One of those short history lessons....about stuff we just plain forgot.

Around 1910.....the Ukraine (at least part of it)....was part of the Hapsburg Empire (Austria-Hungary).  Roughly five million folks were residents of the "Western Ukraine".

As World War I developed....this little country ended up dissolving away, and independence was declared.  It became the Western Ukrainian People's Republic.  Yeah.....sort of Communist Party-driven.

This brief episode lasted roughly two years.....then the region dissolved away to becoming the Galician Soviet Socialist Republic (GSSR).

The GSSR lasted about 75 days.....more or less.....before it turned into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The GSSR effectively ran itself via a central committee operation, which was headed up by this character....Vladimir Zatonsky.  The best that we can say....is that Vladimir was a revolutionary type guy....highly educated....and was active in anything that said socialist.  After the GSSR period....Vladimir got appointed to head up the head guy of the Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia.  Yeah, it was probably a dead-end job but he was the head guy, and that's what counts.

I should note here....Vladimir went through a eighteen-year period of success as an encyclopedia editor, and somewhere in the late 1930s....he's dragged off from a theater movie.....accused of being a spy for Poland.  No one says if this was true or not.....but a court case ensued seven months later.  The case opened and closed in twenty minutes...verdict?  Ten years in prison.  A couple hours later....he was dragged out of jail and executed (there's a question over this and whether the judge was involved or if this was decreed out of Moscow).

So, here's the thing.  If you had some map that existed in 1800 of Ukraine.....it just wouldn't look like today's Ukraine.  And this is mostly because of the business of country transformation that went on and on in the 1800s, and the Soviet rebirthing process of the past hundred years.

What is Ukraine?  Well....that's debatable.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

If You Were a Environmentalist Graduate

Every year....thousands of teenagers arrive at US universities.....then enroll in an environmental studies program.  Four years later....they will graduate.  You can figure a minimum of ten thousand was borrowed for their educational costs.  Then, reality sets in.

You have to find a job.  In the big world of environmentalism.....there's just not a huge market.  If you grew up in central Alabama and got a degree in environmental studies.....there's pretty good odds that you can admit there's never going to be any future for you if you wanted to stay around that part of the state.

You start to look at foundation jobs, research positions, governmental studies, university situations, and journalism jobs.

Reality will likely set in for a fair number of these young graduates after a year or two.  Maybe enthusiasm carried them for four years.....but enthusiasm doesn't pay for a college loan, take care of apartment costs, or show prospects for the decades ahead.

So, eventually, you will get around to alternate jobs.  I noted today....over at Worldwatch....some guy had sat down and analyzed the possible alternate jobs that a guy or gal with environmental studies could get into.  Ten of them:  taxi driver, teacher, mid-wife, farmer, artist, trash miner (yeah, someone has to do this kind of work), death-mid-wife (the person who would be taking care of you until the final day), urban forager (yeah, there's some money in collecting nuts, herbs, etc.....from the woods....you won't get rich....but it's enough to pay for a tank of gas), environmental preacher (I've seen these guys pretend to 'preach' but they do a lousy job usually), and political revolutionary (it's odd that they pushed this job into the field but someone has to do it).

I looked over the list of ten jobs.  Frankly, nothing much from the college degree earned....would qualify you and you'd probably be very limited in skill-groups.

For example....just stepping out of the house and pretending to be a small scale farmer.....would take five years to really pick up knowledge and avoid big screw-ups.  Anyone pretending that they can start out a bio-farm today and make some small income off it.....probably needs a mentor standing over them the first year, and expect eighteen hour days to be the norm for the first year or two.

Artist?  Well....if you had that talent to start with....fine.  I'm guessing that most folks aren't taking environmental studies as a major and art as a minor.  Maybe I'm wrong about this....but this doesn't seem to be a great career path.

The midwife thing?  Well.....you need some medical knowledge....and I doubt that you have that on day one.  Maybe a extra year or two of more college?  Well....yeah.

Political revolutionary?  Where exactly is your paycheck going to come from?  Some foundation paying you under the table?  Your resume during these years of revolutionary work?  Is this something that you can admit to or brag about?  Don't revolutionary folks tend to get into trouble.....get arrested....and spend hours and hours talking to other revolutionary folks?

This is the problem with educational expansion and growth.  Anybody can run off to college today....get a degree in just about anything (even sports journalism instead of plain old journalism, or specialized turf management for those who want a golf course career).  A hundred years ago.....most colleges offered five or six degrees, and that was it.

I hate to suggest a naive notion among these young folks and their great enthusiasm.  Maybe two or three hundred will discover by the end of the four year period.....their only way of productivity.....is to get a few more classes....get a teaching certificate....and haul out toward Idaho or Montana to be some fourth-grade teacher.  All that vast knowledge and prospective?  Wasted and flushed down the toilet.  But at least some twelve-year old kid will learn the capital of Florida, figure the best way to divide a truckload of oranges, and understand the complex history of France with your help.

Are we allowing too many of these folks to think there's some career ahead?  Well....yeah.  It's kinda like French literature studies, or ethnic studies, or sports journalism.....there's just not an abundant open field of jobs coming up each year.

So, as you are sitting there at the Wal-Mart pharmacy waiting on your prescription to be called out, and there's some young gal sitting there and concentrated on thinking...sitting beside you.  You might happen to engage in conversation and discover that she's an out-of-work environmentalist......with a degree....bills mounting....and a hopeless future.  Offer up some cheer, hope, and suggest there's always a taxi driver requirement in the local town.  It's the least that you can suggest and maybe it'll cheer up their day.