Monday, 28 April 2014

Immigration

To put all this immigration talk into some simplified perspective....you need to stand back and view the obvious.

 We've had immigration laws in effect since 1790 (the Naturalization Act of 1790).  Over the decades, we've tweaked the various laws left and right.  Generally, we never go more than ten to twenty years....without admitting in some public forum that something isn't right about immigration.  Too many, too few, too complex, too simple, too wordy, too much....these are always the phrases used and it generally works.

In this case.....we visited immigration in the 1980s and announced in a public viewing that we'd finally fixed immigration, and while fixing it.....we needed to bless around ten to fifteen million illegals in the US.  Only by doing this blessing....did we restart everything in a positive way.

Well....here we are....thirty-odd years later, and roughly fifteen million illegals in the US, and we need to refix the solution again.  In 2030?  We will admit another fifteen million illegals in the US and ask to fix it again.  In 2045?  We will admit fifteen to twenty million illegals and ask to fix it again.

It's a pretty sure bet......we have something that is unfixable.

But it's an election year, and Republicans need to remove the one gimmick that the Democrats have to blast them with in November.  So, it will be done.  Everyone will pat themselves on the back....announcing it's permanently fix (yeah, bogus statement), and just act like it's springtime in Miami.

The truth is....until we remove Congress from this mess, and just tell them they have no authority to change the rules anymore.....will this go away.  If you come here under some pretense of faking yourself as an American...making less than minimum wage.....and are greatly unhappy as being a non-American, tough luck.  There were millions overseas who wanted this US citizenship deal, and you kinda screwed them over in getting first in line.  So, we kinda need a Constitutional law which says no more changes....you are stuck with the mess 'as-is'.  Live with it or go back home to fix your own stupid and corrupt country.  

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Simply Observations

I noted today in some health news, that some smart guys sat down and analyzed some homeless folks....coming to a strange conclusion that a good portion of them....had some head injury at some point and suffered from a concussion.  They won't say the percentage.....but you get the impression that it might be half of these guys.  One of the odd things I came to grasp while in DC....a fair number of homeless folks are former military folks.  If you put their military time, possible concussion, and homelessness together....it might explain a lot of things.

The DC city council came to toss out this idea of theirs.....requiring tattoo parlors to have a 24-hour period in effect before a guy could get a tattoo.  Under the suggestion....you'd enter, select a tattoo or piercing, then note the time, and have to wait twenty-four hours before you could have it done.  For some reason, the political folks and some agenda folks were convinced that if you just had this time buffer.....you wouldn't get the tattoo.  Statistics wise.......I doubt if they had any real proof of this, and it was simply more regulation tossed onto the enormous pile of regulation already in existence.  Now, if they could only tax tattoos.....it might get interesting.

Rumor has it....from Northwestern University football vote on unionization from Friday....that it was a overwhelming vote to "NO".  From the eighty-odd votes....journalists will hint that it was likely more than sixty voted against the union idea.  Kind of a shocker I think.  All that legal gaming, and massive push....then reality set in.  One of the odd things in the potential trouble area if they did support it....was that they'd all have to start paying taxes.....on the pay they got from the university, and probably from the free tuition deal they got.  I think that scared the crap out of them.  Over now?  Maybe at Northwestern, but I imagine within three years....there will be some university on the east coast that will vote "YES" and go union.  It's only a matter of time.

This past week.....Senator Warren (D-Mass) appeared on the Daily Show, Comedy Channel's answer to CNN.  In a serious tone, she said that America was "rigged" for the rich to get rich and the poor to get poor.  Then she responded that the only way to defeat the rigged game.....was to get into politics.  I guess at that point, you'd rig the game a different way.....that the poor get a fake feeling of empowerment, the rich get a fake feeling of less money, and political figures become permanent "riggers".

CNN has invented some gimmick show called Chicago-Land.  Basically, a reality show, demonstrating the various success and failures of big-city Chicago.  Some news journalists have said it's basically a pumping station show to put Mayor Emanuel as a fantastic manager and Presidential-pretender (or perhaps VP material).  The only issue I see....is who the heck would watch some reality news puff piece on CNN.....covering Chicago?  I can think of various places that I wouldn't mind going for a weekend, but off my list of three hundred cities.....Chicago isn't one of them.  Between the shootings, the crime business, and lack of any real background.....it's just a deadzone.  And now?  A landscape for some reality show?  Doesn't make any sense.

Finally, I came to read this morning that Fox Entertainment (for the FX channel)....is working on this idea of a special or limited series over a youthful Jesus.  Yeah, I kinda felt amazed that they felt they had not only enough material for such a project, but enough courage to put it into a prime-time viewing spot.  How much is known on the youthful Jesus?  Probably enough to fill two pages.....maybe a hundred lines.  Building a three-hour special (three one-hour segments) out of this?  Then putting some entertaining value into this?  Then you have to ask yourself.....if this is a success....why not a youthful Moses segment?  Or a youthful David?  Or a youthful Adam with youthful Eve?  I just don't see the Bible as TV character or show potential.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Ladies Home Journal Ended

After 131 years of print....the Ladies Home Journal is no more.  This week, they noted that circulation is not enough to carry the cost of print.  Ended.

It's an odd way to go.  At the peak in the mid-1960s....they had roughly six and a half million in subscriptions.  It was the general magazine that most women in their thirties and forties read.  Women came to church and quoted articles.  Neighbors met over coffee and chatted over the latest issue.  Some women would cut out various pieces and tape them to the refrigerator as reminders of life or health issues.

What happened here?  They shrink in subscriptions.....to roughly three million a month.  Naturally, you'd look at this and think.....that's still a fair amount of readers and ought to be enough to run most magazines.

I'm guessing along the way.....they had various people brought into the magazine operation over the past two decades, and their salary with compensation factors (401k, health costs, and vacation time)....to being a major factor.   No one talks over salary structure, but I'll bet that most of the writers and editors were pulling in more than $85,000 a year, and with benefit packages figured up....it probably averaged $130,000 easily.

I sat and looked up the editor/journalist base for the Journal....it's New York.  You can figure at least forty percent of their overhead....related to New York City costs....which is sad in some ways.  Had they been in Dayton, Ohio, or Prescott, AZ.....you could have cut salary by a drastic level.  But four-star editors and journalists just don't desire to leave the big city life of New York.

What happens to the staff?  I'm guessing they will float resumes out and hit on every single friend they have....hoping to find the same pay scale.....same work.....same location.  Maybe a couple will luck out.  But I'm going to take a guess on this....half will be forced to accept a twenty percent pay-cut or be forced into leaving New York.

So, for a bunch of women....kind of a sad day.  But economically.....the magazine could not survive under the current operation.

That American Nutcase

Back about two weeks ago....at the North Korea/South Korea border, there is a tourist control entry point.  Yeah, I know....it's odd that tourists actually want to come and enter North Korea, but it does happen.  There's only a couple of standard tours and you need to get things worked out weeks ahead of time with visa paperwork and hotel reservations.

Well....at the checkpoint, there's this American guy.....Miller Matthew Todd.  Little is known about Mister Todd, his hometown, his occupation, or his medications.  He's apparently around twenty-five years old and decided that North Korea would be a fine place to vacation.

For some reason, just as he was entering North Korea (across that red line stuff).....he tore up his tourist visa and announced he was there seeking asylum.  Generally, there just aren't many folks who seek to live in North Korea so they assumed some worst case scenario.  The cops seized Mister Todd, tossing him into some criminal facility and charging him with 'gross violation of North Korea order' (a pretty good generic phase for doing stupid crap).

Little is said over his condition or his state of mind.  The US doesn't have any ambassador office in North Korea.....so they tend to use the Swedish ambassador who is there, and he's not having much luck in seeing Mister Todd.

My general guess here is that Mister Todd is a guy on various medications....not exactly stable.....and had a fair amount of money to make this type of reserved vacation.  I doubt if anyone could go to South Korea (flight included), and do this North Korea hotel tour deal....for less than $5,000.  His relatives are probably a bit upset and wondering what the heck he was thinking.  And I'm guessing that after two weeks in a North Korean jail.....maybe he's come to some new mental situation.....realizing that this was all a big screw-up.

What will happen?  I'd generally bet on some authority in North Korea coming out by late June and suggest that Mister Todd is in a healthy state of mind now, and generally cooperating.  It'll take two months for North Korea to feel sure that he's just a nut and they really don't have much to fear.  Then the problem is....who will give permission for him to return to South Korea?  Only the head guy.....I fear.  This will mean a bunch of folks talking about the problem, and finally one guy asking if it's ok to let the American nut go home.

The future problem I see....is that North Korea will probably want to have some doctor's note attached to each tourist visa.....saying the guy or gal isn't on medication.  Just another painful thorn in simplified travel plans.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

What's Something Worth?

Ever since I was a kid....I've had this fascination with people who climb Mount Everest.  I think around age 12....I watched some National Geographic piece that outlined the general expedition, and how rough it was.  In my mind...in the early 1970s....it really said something of a guy's character.  Me doing it?  Hell no.  You could offer a million bucks, I'd just laugh over the offer.  But I would sit for an hour and watch video of the guys making the effort.

In the past week or two....there was an avalanche at Mount Everest, and sixteen of the Sherpas died somewhere on the mountain.  Not western climbers or western journalists or western photographers.....plain local Sherpas from the area.  They grew up under the shadow of the mountain, came to realize a potential job of just walking around and toting stuff for wussy western folks from France, the US, and America.

Over the past two decades.....climbing Everest has become some status symbol.  There's been rich affluent teenagers who climbed it.....bankers....IT professionals....millionaires....etc.  A barebones trip, with limited Sherpa help, and nothing much extra....runs around $30,000.  Wanna go with a real Sherpa team and experts?  Figure around $65,000.  Want a professional cook, with internet capability in the camp, and the fancy stuff?  Figure around $90,000.

Wanna fly into the region and just sit around at the bottom?  Figure the tourist deals, hotel taxes, visa fees and such....to cost in the $7,000 for ten days.

All of this rate business is kinda stabilized....meaning that it has gone up much in a decade.    Today, the BBC came out with an update over the accident and hostile feelings over what the dead Sherpa families were offered as compensation.  $400 was the government package offered....for each dead Sherpa....just to pay for the funerals.  The families are openly hostile and think as a minimum....the rate ought to be $10,000 for each family.

What is being suggested is a general strike.  No lifting....no walking....nothing, until compensation is granted.

Generally, all of this is being viewed by western guys who do this as a profession.....as the floodgate about to lift.  They've all felt for at least a decade.....there had to be some massive cost increase coming, and it'll probably shock folks.

Double?  Would a guy pay $120,000 to get himself up to the top?  I'm guessing the majority are stupid enough to find various funds or go ask Grandma for capital for this deal.....and do this once-in-a-lifetime climb.  The thing is.....how do you really find a way of evaluating all of this, and saying $120,000 is really worth saying you climbed Everest.  What if it was $150,000?

It's kinda like getting into legal trouble and having some Republican Judge tell your lawyer that $150,000 would get him to ensure you a real "fair" deal.  Or having some county approval authority fix up your issues with the city council on getting something built for a $60,000 bribe.  Or getting your soon-to-be-ex-wife's lawyer to go easy on you for $150,000 as a bribe for his special attention.

What's it worth?

When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed up Everest in 1953....I doubt if the entire expedition cost more than $4,000.  Course, they didn't have $2k special tents, or $900 sleeping bags, or fancy cellphones for talking to Grandma from the base camp.

I suspect the fancy label that I attached years ago to the climbing Everest has disappeared.  It's not really a status anymore of value.  It's just a rich guy's club.....a claim to fame that was worth something five decades ago, and today is worthless.  

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Election Talk

In the late 1990s....some folks got together and discussed this joint topic of priority amongst themselves....government regulation growth on a massive scale....limits on free trade....and media attempts to slam capitalism.  They ended up forming a 'club' of sorts....Club for Growth is the actual title of the group.  They found financial support, and then went to the 501c paperwork....getting everything approved and avoiding taxation.

I won't say that the club is successful or a failure in the making.....but they tend to draw political folks to their meetings and attempt to get support.

None of this really matters, but we are in the midst of a campaign season, and Club for Growth got dragged into an Arkansas campaign episode revolving around prime-time Democrat already in the Senate seat....and a young Republican Representative from the state.....challenging the incumbent on a hefty scale.  Adding to the spice of the mess....is that the Republican is a former military member, a Harvard graduate, and be capable of thinking and talking at the same time (a talent that most from Arkansas would agree is hard to find in a political figure).

The Republican?  Tom Cotton.  The Democrat?  Mark Pryor.

Pryor decided to pull out the disclosure agreement that Cotton had to do....when he went off to a weekend meeting at a Palm Beach resort hotel.  You see....Club for Growth asked Cotton to come (obviously, they didn't see much need to invite Pryor).  As a guest....they paid around $1,200 for Cotton to be there.  Pryor wanted you to know the cost of episode: (1) food - $82 for what likely amounts to a breakfast these days at a swanky hotel ($20 minimum), and a evening dinner ($50 minimum).  (2) the hotel costs....amounting to $499.  Resorts will never charge less than $300 an evening....simply for the fact that they offer up fancy pools, cocktail bars, and free parking. (3) Travel costs got rounded off at $680.  I'm guessing that Cotton got a decent deal....flying out of Reagan International on a Friday afternoon.

What's all this add up to?  The democrat in this case (Pryor) wants to identify Cotton with swank, upscale resorts, reckless spending, and living a lifestyle way beyond the typical guy in Arkansas.  It would be a decent argument if Pryor would put up a year's worth of his unofficial travels and tell everyone about his conferences, his swanky hotels, and his t-bone steak dinners.  Presently, no one knows much about his travels or his receipts.  So it becomes a comical affair.

Senator Pryor is even being pushed to get into various debates with Representative Cotton.  Cotton is asking for five public debates.  I'm guessing Pryor at best.....will accept ONE single debate, and allow it only two weeks prior to the election.  Cotton might say fine....then launch four other debates with himself standing against an empty chair, and making Pryor look foolish.

All of this leads to a hectic and frustrating November election for a number of Democratic contenders. Presently....folks are pretty peppy that six Democratic Senate seats will be lost as a minimum. There's one Republican seat which looks like a genuine loss and going to the Democrats.....with four other seats tossed in the air entirely.

As the smoke clears after election day?  Cotton beats Pryor by nine percent (my humble guess).  The Republicans clear 51 total seats, with two independents, and 47 Democrats.  McConnell taking Harry Reid's leadership position?  No.....McConnell will lose to the Tea Party candidate in the primary, and will be oddly out of the game come January.  McCain as lead?  No....at least half of the Republicans will go against him for the job.  I suspect that Deb Fischer (rancher-Republican from Nebraska)....might get the nod and bring a new perspective into the Senate and public forum.

As for the President?  He had six years to accomplish a big list of things, and probably got twenty percent of the list accomplished.  His negotiation skills to deal with both a Republican House and Republican Senate?  Zero.  I see 2015 and 2016 as a pretty dismal period for the President and his staff.

And Senator-to-be Cotton?  Well....Arkansas might find themselves a fairly smart guy.....possibly presidential material in twelve years.  Just my humble opinion.

Monday, 21 April 2014

A Product of A Questionable Nature

So, you walk into a Piggly Wiggly or gas station...after work, and note that they've got a new product up in the alcohol or booze area.  Powdered alcohol.  Yep, a small package.....kinda like kool-aide packets.

There's a vodka version....a cosmopolitan version....a rum version and a kamikaze version.  There's talk of dozens more coming in the future.  All approved by the US government to sell.

So you buy two or three....walk into the parking lot, and rip open package one.  Toss the contents back....sip some water.  Wait a minute, then open package two, and toss back a second one.  The effect will hit in four minutes.  Maybe a third?  Yeah.

High school kids will find some janitor who will buy these in bulk and sell to them for buck over what he bought them for.  The anticipated cost?  Unknown....they simply have permission to market them and sell them.  Most folks are thinking it'll be October....football season....before you see this actively sold.

It creates a problem for bars which used to sell diluted drinks.  Now?  You just walk in and ask for a bottle of water.  The fact that you paid $6 for a three-quarter's booze drink in the old days....will drive lots of folks to get into this deal.

What happens down the road?  I'm guessing some smart engineers will down in the basement.....figure the method, and then start to do their version of the packages.  Within five years....folks will market their stuff locally, and beat the prices by this company by fifty percent.

A bad thing for society?  Well....yeah.  It simplifies the delivery vehicle for booze.  A packet alcoholic?  I could see some gal standing there with twelve in her purse, and doing one of these every thirty minutes.  You could stay loose and drunk for most of the day.


Friday, 18 April 2014

Sir Algernon Percy, the London Connection, and Family History

I have this one interesting character who my family is dependent upon....in getting to London, and later onto Virginia.  Without this guy....there is no family tree.

In the early 1600s....Algernon Percy is born into a well-to-do family and ends up becoming the 10th Earl of Northumberland.

In his youth "Al" was sent off to Saint John's College in Cambridge to study.  Big things were planned for this kid. Two years later, he had his master's degree done.  Yeah, it was a slacker degree in Arts, but still.....bought and paid for by the family.  It's hard to say what you learn in a two-year period.....over arts.....that amounts to a degree.  Shortly after graduation....he was made a Knight of Bath.....meaning that the family contributed something to the local Knights Templar organization, and the title of "Sir" was noted when you address Al.

Al began a six year tour of Europe with a mentor/tutor.  It's not exactly written much into his history.....but he toured France, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.  The family paid for the tour, and you have to imagine that he rode through the countryside....sipped fine wines and beers.....talked politics and gossip.....and generally got some kind of view of the big world.

Al returns in 1624 to the family....just about the same time that his dad is released from the London High Tower.....for being a pain in the King's side.  Maybe the six years were meant more to simply hide Al from public view or to keep him out of trouble.

Two years go by.  Al gets called now up to London.....to the House of Lords....to assume the Lordship title that his dad had.  Before age thirty.....Al had gone from university guy, to knight, to Lord.  Fairly impressive.

Al enters 1629 and casts a long shadow on family relations.  He ends up marrying some aristocratic gal from the region, whose family name was Cecil, and the old chap in the family Cecil was Lord Salisbury.  Apparently....Al's dad was put into the High Tower imprisonment deal....compliments of complaints laid down by Lord Salisbury.  So, there's a big of hostility and frustration over Al's desires for Miss Anne Cecil.  Miss Anne...was a thinly gal who strolled around with a pretty open blouse (at least the paintings describe her in such ways).

Al goes through a number of influence buying episodes, and in short time....ends up as an admiral in his majesty's navy.  To say that Al had any background or shipping experience....well....it'd likely all fit on a 3x5 index card.  But Al was a good talker, and assumed every position would lead onto a better deal.  In this case?  Al was pretty disenchanted with the shipping operations, conditions of ships, and morale.  That probably led into his convictions going against the king and his staff.

Around the 1638/1639 period.....things are getting rough for the King, and there's civil war brewing.  Al gets himself drawn against the King.  The war that is coming....has nothing to do with outside threats....it's the Tea Party version of today, cast against the 1600s, against the King and his royal court.

So, here at the junction of life, civil war, and chaos.....my ancient relative....Francis Hammond from the eastern side of the country....near Norfolk.....will join and end up as an officer within the service of Al's military campaign which counter's the king.  Al probably had a good association with Franci, and helped his associate.

Francis will be around forty-nine years old and a well-to-do guy, without a title.

Over a ten-year period, there are military strikes, various peace talks, skirmishes.....and threats made.  Beyond Al's control.....the end result was Charles I being executed to make everyone happy (1649).

Generally, one's impression is that Al didn't really see the execution as fixing anything, and preferred the King remain with some controls in place.  Al really didn't participate in anything after the execution.

My relative?  Francis Hammond will stay in the middle of this civil war period.....around London the whole time....and pass away on 20 May 1652.  Nothing much is written over his residence or position in life.  He more or less ended up as a mercenary officer for Al and the anti-King crowd.

Francis's son?  John.  He will make a decision in 1666 to leave England with his son (Ambrose, age 20) and settle in the Cumberland area of Virginia.

Our chief character?  Al?  Well....it's an interesting turn of history that occurs.  For eleven years....things in England kinda just wander along and most folks agree that they kinda screwed up.  So the son of Charles I.....Charles II in this case....makes an arrival in England in 1660.  Al does a number of things to show the better side of his character, and ends up with being appointed by Charles II as the Lord High Constable of England....chief law enforcement authority for London.  Al also had a strong hand in monitor society and the public over the Clarendon Code.

The Clarendon code?  Well....it was a set of rules that limited religious meetings of any group of five or more.  Religious fever....if you didn't grasp the 1600s period of England.....was causing a fair amount of instability.

Al will pass from this Earth on 13 October, 1668.  There are no statues of Al....just paintings of him.  No one remember much of Al today, except as the tenth Earl of Northumberland.  For me.....without the Earl, my family never gets to London....never launches in 1666....never reaches Virginia. So the Earl is a pretty key character in my family's history.

Observations Over the Bundy Ranch Episode

Over the entire week, I've sat and watched the Nevada episode unfold, with the Bundy ranch.  My observations?

By Senator Harry Reid using the word 'terrorist' to describe the rancher's actions.....he's provoked a bunch of negative actions to come in the future.  Whoever is advising Harry....really screwed up.  Folks get fired up when you make public comments like that.

The idiots hired to round up the cattle?  I don't think they had any experience at cattle herding at all.  When you walk up and decide that the two bulls were too violent to be herded, and just make the decision to shoot them on the spot, and bury them with a backhoe on government lands.....you aren't a cowboy or a herder, or even an animal enthusiast.  These are simply gas station pump-guys or wannabe-a-cop pretenders.

The warrant that was used for this whole thing?  It says only to remove cattle.  Nothing about damaging property or killing animals.  Legally, BLM screwed up and their lawyers are sitting now with frustrated feelings over the idiots who ran this whole episode.  Other than paying out money for damages.....they can only stall the episode for two or three years.  If this is done in county or state court....the stall likely is six months at best.

The BLM guys with attack dogs.....shown in the video?  Wannabe-cops.

It's an election year.....I'd take a guess that this pretty much dissolved democratic chances in several western states for various democratic candidates running for Representative or state offices.  There's probably fifty guys in Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, and Colorado who benefited from this BLM comedy.

Finally, all of this has gotten people to thinking over federally owned property west of the Mississippi River.  On average....most states east of the river have between three and four percent of their state which is federally owned.  West?  It's closer to fifty to sixty percent on average....Nevada is likely eighty-five percent.  Why?  It's a historical game that was put on the board around Theodore Roosevelt's era, and continued on through the last hundred years.  We don't need the federal property deal, and folks are now asking stupid questions over it.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Simply Observations

Some statistics guys sat down and reviewed the data.....concluding that there are twelve million visits to American doctors or emergency rooms....where the wrong diagnosis is given, the wrong treatment applied, and the wrong drugs prescribed.  Yeah, it's a pretty harsh statistic.   In some cases, you can figure it made yo worse than the way you were originally.  Now with the new healthcare act?  More folks going to the doctor and emergency room.....so the twelve million number will likely climb another million or so.  It's probably not what you figure from all these fancy-pants doctors appearing on the Today Show or Fox News.  Sadly, we simply have to live with it.....or die from it.

The former prime minister of Italy was finally given his sentence this past week.  The court was kinda creative.....he has to go for at least four hours.....four days a week....to a local old folks home and do community work at the old folks home.  Failure to do so?  He gets a real sentence.  Length?  A full year.
WWU, Western Washington University.....got charged up and peppy about the fact that there just aren't any blacks on campus.  They think things should change, and there ought to be some way of drawing more racial equality to their program.  Course, then you ask about how many minority folks live in western Washington, and you kinda grasp that it's not that many.  They'd have to go and recruit these kids.....talk them into coming out to Washington, and convince them that the university had something they desired.  Big NCAA football program?  No.  Significant minority population in the local community?  No.  So it's more or less a lot of talking and nothing behind it.

Finally, down at Auburn University....some idiot posted a comment on a bathroom wall at the campus of a "rampage of a Biblical proportion".  The chancellor shut down the whole university for Wednesday, while the security guys checked out possible threats.  Nothing.  Some nutcase?  Maybe.  But these days....you can't take chances.  The odds of couple hundred students now packing weapons into classrooms?  Well....folks in Bama don't take threats as a game.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Pay Difference Issue

After a couple of years in the Air Force.....I came to note one simple psychological conclusion.....guys are more prone to risk-taking than women.  You take three guys out into a dense housing area and yank on them to cut down trees within fifty foot of a house.....they will do with barely any thinking or calculation over the tree falling the other way.  You take three women out to the same housing area....same trees near the houses....and they start to talk about impact, calculations, and really don't feel thrilled over the work required.

Over the years, I've noted various professions that have high-risks involved....which tend to be dominated by guys.  Coal-mining, prison guards, fire-fighting, policemen, oilmen, farmers......all dominated by men, and a few women.  Low-risk jobs?  Opposite numbers.

I occasionally read over at AEI Ideas on economic issues, and they brought up an interesting point....in 2012, around 4,045 men died in work-place jobs.  Women for 2012?  338 women died in such jobs over the year.  A nine-to-one statistic?  Yeah.

Course, you get around to my Air Force experience.....women tend to sit there and think about safety issues, the potential for a screw-up, and don't take actions unless it's safe enough to survive.

If the oilfield industry was dominated by women....there would likely be less oil pumped because of schedules slipping....due to safety planning.

If the farming industry was dominated by women....tractors would be sold only with 100-percent of the safety gear available.  The same industry would breed out hostile angry bulls, to get more docile bulls into the mix.

If the mining industry was dominated by women.....there'd likely be a longer process to open new mines, more safety reviews, and fewer accidents....but also more man-hours built into the product and less profit.

If the prison guard industry was dominated by women....they'd be armed and hostile prison members would be kept in isolation or limited in freedoms.

So you come around to the pay difference question.  Guys make more than women....no one argues about that point.  Guys taking more risks than women?  Well.....we might want to admit that too.  Women out-surviving men?  Well, yeah....due to planning and safety concerns.....they live longer.  Maybe the question is.....if equal pay is such a big deal.....should we force women into marginal safety jobs, or force more guys into maximum safety jobs that pay less?

The Forgetful Man Story

It's a real-life story that you'd beg to make into a movie.

Last winter...in a pretty nasty and cold period in Norway....someone drives up on a rural road and finds this guy tied up and laying on the side of the road.  Cops get called.  Authorities take him to the hospital....he survives.

The thing is....he has no memory.  Yeah.....nothing.  Language skills?  He did speak some English, with a Slavic accent.  He spoke Czech clearly, and that made folks think he was from there originally.

So last week, they did some DNA testing, and then put the photo out in Czech.  He got identified rather quickly.  He's a computer-IT expert......used by the government a good bit in court cases.  So, Norway wanted to just put him on a plane and get him back to Czech.

Well....this guy did some thinking and says "no".  He's worried.  He was tied up, left in the nowhere, and remembers nothing.....but thinks someone wants to do him harm.

His dad is flying up to Norway in the next day or two.....with a doctor to examine him and probably talk some sense into him.

Amnesia?  Well.....he had a job where he made natural enemies.....testifying in Czech court episodes, and I suspect someone said there was a need for pay-back.  There are drugs that you can procure, that will trigger amnesia.  So they used them.

The father of the guy says that junior said around four months ago....he was going off to New Zealand for a while.  No open travel plans or such.  He just left.  I'm guessing that he was in fear of something, and when he finally decided to leave.....the pay-back plan went into effect.  Why not kill the guy?  I'm guessing this is a person that figured amnesia was enough to do the job.

It's hard to say if the guy ever leaves Norway.  I'm of the mind that he's permanently going to stay.  Maybe he ends up as an IT guy there.  Maybe he ends up as a bartender or farmer.  Movie potential?  I'm of the mind that it's a five-star story waiting to be written into a script.

Friday, 11 April 2014

This Replacement to Letterman Thing

I've sat for a day and reviewed this new hire to replace the retiring David Letterman of CBS.  The new guy?  Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

It would appear that negotiations had been going on weeks....maybe months.  CBS won't say much.  Some folks figured there were several folks discussed, but I have my doubts about that.

What CBS does say....is that this pretend-to-be-a-Republican-character....which is the entire show for Stephen Colbert, and his success formula.....IS FINISHED.  He won't play the pretender Republican as he takes over the show.

It's hard to see how this whole gimmick works and keeps the numbers at CBS where they are presently.

From my fifty-odd viewings of Stephen Colbert's show, I'd generally say that he has a limited interview capability.  If he's not pretending to be a Republican....he has zero credibility to interview the Hollywood elite.  This makes me wonder if the CBS executives even watched his show or grasped the limitations.

The typical humor of Colbert?  Well....it sets well for college kids, the urban crowd, and maybe liberals.  Beyond that....in Iowa or Tennessee?  Maybe ten of those folks might watch the Colbert show on occasion.  How this works when he arrives at CBS?  I have serious doubts.

It's a five-year contract.  I'm guessing that Colbert's agent demanded that, and CBS had to agree to it.  My general prediction is that Colbert arrives.....has a surge for three weeks, and then really starts to lose steam by week ten.  I'm guessing he loses ten to twenty percent of Letterman's present average by the six-month point.  CBS?  They are stuck with him.  He might try to sneak back into his alternate bad-Republican-character and hope for some hype?  But I doubt if it works. NBC really benefits from this.

I would also offer this.  If Fox News ever had some moment of brilliance....they'd plan right around this time to bring Jay Leno onto their network for a one-hour show during the same time-slot.

A Keychain Discussion

This past month, GM got into the news....over a defective key device that would slip from on to off (turning the engine off).....if a bulky amount of keys jingled enough.

This brought to mind this strange shift in society that we've become over the last two decades.

I can remember in 1984....having one car key, a building key for work, and one key for the dorm room.  That was it.

In 2009, I stood there with at least ten different keys, a knife, and a utility tool on my keychain.

Back about a decade ago....I worked with a Air Force NCO who had three car 'fobs' (his BMW, his wife's Mercedes, and his spare VW), around a dozen home-related keys, at least five office-related keys, and a utility tool of a fair size.

Working around the Pentagon, I came across folks who had two or three dozen keys on themselves....from the car to the RV trailer, to the vacation condo and the spare key to the kid's car at some university.

Most guys now tote at least two pounds of metal in their pocket.  They literally "jingle" as they walk.

The GM guys probably never tested their car with regular folks.....just engineers from the shop.  If they'd seen the type of key chains that folks tote around....they would have made this a heavier gauge or done something very unique.

You have to ask yourself this stupid question....do we really need the key deal on the steering column?  Why is a key even necessary today?  A guy ought to be able walk up to the door.....simply press some sensor on the door to detect something that he carries, then enter the vehicle.  He ought to be able to wave his cellphone around another sensor, which activates the starter button, and off he goes.  It ought to be this simple.

What happens to GM now?  Massive court action.  By the time, the various courts get done....GM will be bankrupt.  It might take five years....maybe ten.  But you can anticipate that GM has no ability to survive this mess. And will the President and Congress attempt to save GM again?  Yeah, they are that stupid, and will attempt one more time to save them.  Your money....flushed down the toilet.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The End of Archie?

When I was a kid.....I was a collector of comic books.  By attending "Mondays" at Scottsboro's big flea market operation in the 1960s/1970s.....I came to acquire comics.  At some point, I think I had well over a thousand.

To be honest, eighty percent of what I collected was DC-related (Superman, Batman, Teen Titans, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, etc).  Around ten percent of the collection was Marvel (Fantastic Four, Avengers, Spiderman, etc).  From the remaining ten percent?  Well.....it fell into odd groups.

There were the Classic series, which were the comics that gently laid out Tom Sawyer or Ivanhoe, and made complete sense of a very complicated story.

There were the Richie Rich series, which was a lousy comic, but often were in the package of ten comics for sale and I got stuck with them.

Then, there was the Archie Series.  I probably got stuck with twenty copies of Archie.  To be honest....it was a lousy series, marginal story, and humor stuck from the 1950s.  There in the early 70's, it just didn't work.  I doubt if the Archie company made any big money except for the cartoon series that was popular for a couple of years.  Even when the movie era came around in the 1990s....no one talked much of making Archie movies.

This week, the Archie publishers announced that very shortly....Archie is coming to an unfortunate ending.  He will get killed by a gunshot situation.  Jughead will grieve for his friend. Veronica will talk of what might have happened between them if things had progressed.  Some teacher will likely say that if only guns had been outlawed....Archie would be alive today.

For some reason, this all got picked up in the news media and hyped.  How many copies get sold?  Well, it's not discussed too widely and I suspect there's rarely more than 50,000 copies sold per month.

News articles indicate that the drawing and creativity staff....aren't happy with the current owner of the comic series.  Maybe by killing off Archie....they are doing something that should have been done in the 1970s....just end Archie completely.  Maybe, it's an angle by the owner to get some attention to the comic.  To this end, you just don't know.

Can Archie come back?  No....it's not Superman who gets remade or cloned.  It's not like some new guy in an Ironman's suit, or some kid who gets bit by a spider and gets superpowers.  Archie is Archie.  Maybe a new kid moves into Riverdale, and his name is Arnie.....and we just rename the whole series after this marvelous nice kid, who is polite and cheerful all the time.  The end?  I seem to doubt some fat lady will be singing in this case.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Six-Hour Work Day?

This week....it's been noted by the Swedes that the time has come to test the six-hour work-day.  Yeah, it's a pretty wild idea....thirty hours per week.  What they say....this is only a test of one city government....an experiment of sorts.  It may fail....at least in the current design.

The acceptance to this idea circles around the idea that people have X-amount of energy and positive work-flow.....so by the sixth hour of the day....you've maxed out.  Everything else is just marginal delivery, limited accomplishment, or minimal attitude.

The test will be held in Gothenburg (second biggest city of the nation)....strictly the city government division.  They don't give numbers....but I'd be guessing it's around a hundred to two-hundred employees.

A year from now....they will review the results.

What they don't say....is the open hours....or if managers are on this thirty hour deal as well.  If they ran this from 07:30 to 1:30.....just skipping lunch, and allowing one ten-minute break for smokers....maybe there's a chance it'd work.

Personally, I have my doubts.

Say you get off work at 1:30....then what?  Most guys would sit there and worry about the rest of the day.  Mow grass?  Trim bushes?  Rotate tires?  After a while, you've accomplished the 460-odd items on your to-do list, and you got tons of free time on your mind.

This is usually where you start drinking....gazing over at the local neighbor gal who trims her shrubs in a one-piece swim suit....or you getting into dangerous hobbies (knife-throwing, repelling down rocks, or building homemade explosives).

If I were the mayor....I'd ask this stupid question.....could I set up a computer station as you enter town hall, and make everything automated.....with just seven people in the building rather than two-hundred.  I could let these people go, in the real sense.....so they wouldn't even have to work at the building.

From my Air Force years, I kinda learned after a while....if you work a twelve-hour shift....your good stuff got done in the first four hours.  Around the ninth and tenth hour.....you mostly looked at the clock, drunk Mountain Dew (two cans), and discussed Braves baseball with someone who knew the team.  By the last of the twelve hours.....I'd lost my interest and my best desires.  I do agree.....somewhere around eight hours....you remain productive.  The idea of six being the magic number....may be questionable.

An entire society drifting toward a six-hour day?  It'd be a remarkable thing, if it is proven successful.  Course, some folks might sit there and admit that nothing much got done, and after twelve months of testing....they are six months behind on real work accomplishment.  The real gimmick to this whole thing?  They'd pay you the same pay....no cuts.  Pretty remarkable, if you think about it.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A Beginning and Ending

A new century is about dawn in Bama.....something that one could never imagine....is about to be forced to occur.

Roughly eighty to a hundred years ago....some kind folks came through Bama communities and tossing poles into the ground....running cables across the landscape.  The rough-looking characters running the operation....put in a simple way....phone service was coming.  You could sit in your kitchen there in some rural paradise....surrounded by pines and corn....and chat with some guy in California.

You naturally asked why you'd need to talk to a guy in California, and the conversation kinda stopped right there.

Weeks, months and years went by.  After a while, you found a reason to call the clerk down at the county seat to ask stupid questions about some registration issue.  You called your son who was in the Army and stationed in Texas.  You called up some fancy-pants farm implement guy in Wisconsin who had a special hale-bailer part that no one else had and would FEDEX to you overnight for $144.

That pole and cable assembly kinda made sense.

Later you hooked up to the internet....chatting with some Thai lady over poetic phases, honky tonk experiences, and possible marriage.  You got into debates with Scottish gentlemen in Barrhead over the Old Testament, Moses and lack of clarity in Revelations.  Then you found EBAY and bought up forty thousand dollars worth of Amish-made wood-working tools from a guy living in Charleston, South Carolina.

This past month....AT&T arrived in Carbon Hill, Alabama....with a wicked grin.  They want to cut the cable.  They have put money, resources, and sweat into this big idea.....wireless connectivity being the only possible source of your connections.  No land-line.  No posts marking the landscape.  No alternate possibilities.

Yeah, it was a shocker.  And the locals didn't like it one bit.

They were kinda testy back eighty years ago when the posts got driven into the ground to deliver this mess.....then they got used to it.  Now taking it away?  No, that ain't right.

If I'd been AT&T.....I would have come into each house and business and installed the wireless unit.....just saying it was an enhancement.  Months would pass, and when everyone was not looking....I would hauled in forty guys with trucks....and removed every cable and post around the area.  A week or so would have passed, and some guy would have noted that those forty posts along highway sixty-two were gone.  Folks would have talked for months over this, and finally, I'd admit that we cleaned up the landscape a good bit, and left it like God intended.  Yeah, that would have drawn a conversation or two....but got accepted.

Over the next hundred years.....poles and cables will be removed.  Somewhere between 2100 and 2150....I doubt if a single pole operation with cable exists in America.  Quietly, they came in the beginning.....and quietly they came in the end.  Remarkably, it happens in Bama....of all places.  

Monday, 7 April 2014

Simply Observations

I kinda noticed over the weekend....that Sixty Minutes had to say "sorry" again.  It used to never happen, and over the past decade....the show has slipped a fair degree.  This time?  With the car maker Tesla.  Their segment last weekend....featured the Tesla car....with auto noise coming from it....something that is non-existent with the actual Tesla car (no noise comes out of this engine).  Sixty Minutes came to admit....they staged that part of the show.  In the late 70's?  None of the guys on the show or their producers would have done something that stupid.

This NSA investigation being led by Germany?  Well....the team is out and conducting their research.  Over the weekend....various German media items came to chat about Edward Snowden and how this might work in bringing him into Germany.  The odds of Ed flying into Germany?  ZERO percent.  It simply won't happen.  It'll be a Skyp interview or a taped deal....but the German authorities are not that stupid in allowing Ed to fly in and think that he will just fly out at the right time.  Will Ed cooperate with such an interview?  I have my doubts.

The talk of letting Army guys carry their guns while on a post, after last week's shooting at Fort Hood?  ZERO chance.  Army commanders are not about to let 14,000 guys on some post.....all bring their sidearms in from home or walk around at the BX or Commissary with guns.  The issue will boil down to everyone else on post....the GS guys, the MWR guys, the wives, the grass-cutting crews, etc.  Once you bless one group....they all have the right.  And you just don't want that much firepower waiting for some frustration or hostility to brew up.

Rumor has it that the President will direct some executive order which forbids a HR guy or company boss from firing a guy who discusses his pay, with another employee.  It's an interesting topic with me....because I worked with a company that had such a policy, and terminated people who violated it.  You basically drag up a mess, when you admit you make $6,000 more than Joe, who came in six months before you.....and does more or less the same work....but Joe is lesser qualified in terms of educational certifications (he's got an associate's degree to your bachelor degree).   This order will be challenged in court, and in three years (when the President walks out the door)....the court will come to state that it wasn't within his authority to issue such an order.  Why such an action?  It's a puzzling deal, and unless you can find the guy pushing this on the White House staff.....we will never know the trigger to this.

Goonies sequel?  Well....yeah, that's what they say.  My perception of the original Goonies?  It was one of the best told stories that kept its value from start to finish.  How to twist it into a sequel?  Man, that would be a challenge.

Finally, some episode out of central California.  Punk high school kid with a bag of weed....in some act of selling or advertising he's got weed to sell....in the midst of class.  Science teacher is a wrestling coach.  Teacher tells the dimwit to drop the bag.....punk kid won't do it.  Coach takes the kid down to the ground (no punches)...just a wrestling trick of throwing a two-hundred-pounds of weight onto an idiot....waiting for them to fall to the ground.  Kid says it wasn't right.  School suspended the coach until an investigation occurs.  Whole school, parents, and kids in the school....support the coach.  Dimwit kid?  No one.  My belief.....if you were stupid enough to show up and openly advertise you got weed to sell in a school class....you are stupid enough to be whooped by someone (maybe not the coach), and deserve to be let go from public education.  If I were the district....I'd just suspend the kid for remainder of school year and let him repeat the year again.  If he doesn't like it....fine, let him go find a place that allows the chance to sell weed in class.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Why $10.10 Just Creates Another Problem

Some smart guy for Forbes Magazine (Jeffrey Dorman)....sat down and analyzed the minimum wage hike discussion over $10.10 being the new magical number.

What this amounts to....is a $2.85 wage increase.  What isn't told by the really smart guys in Congress or in the media world....is that this crowd of people when given the raise....will go beyond some government safety catches, and lose some of their hard-earned benefits.

Higher payroll taxes?  Yes.  From the $2.85....there's a 22-cent loss on taxes.

EITC loss?  That's the earned income tax credit.  Figure around 24-cents loss here.

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program loss?  That's SNAP, and the loss is 91-cents.

Yeah, roughly half of the $2.85 would be lost because of the way that we've gimmicked society, those on welfare, and the poor in America.

Naturally, it'd beg for us to modify the tax program, EITC, and the SNAP deal.  In discussion?  No. It'll be one of those last-minute "I-woke-up" episodes where some Senators says it's a dire emergency....because we fixed one problem and screwed up another.

The amazing thing about all of this?  We could have moved the minimum wage to $15 an hour, then told Congress that they were forbidden from altering the tax system, EITC or SNAP, period.  Rather than force tax-payers to feed the "herd"....let the system work like it should and let a Burger King menu deal run for $12.

Yeah, I realize that some people would be extremely frustrated that their various programs no longer work.  But the truth is.....we've screwed up the system so much, that nothing works like it was designed to work anyway.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

PTSD

I follow bits and pieces of the Fort Hood shooting from recent days.  There term PTSD?  It gets brought up in every single article.  The curious thing?  There are close to forty symptoms of PTSD, with some relating to war, and some relating to just regular life.

Symptoms?

Getting easily frustrated.  Quick tendency for anger or hostility.  Always acting in some self-blame mental state.  Abusing drugs to avoid the feelings.  Having general distrust of everyone (including relatives or friends).  Feeling betrayed by just about everyone.  General depression.  Feeling like life is hopeless.  General suicide feelings.  Feeling alone.  General pains which relate to nothing of an injury. Going through experience of a traumatic nature.....over and over...in your mind.  Avoiding anything that related to the traumatic experience.  Flashbacks.  Nightmares.  Continued feeling of distress....twenty-four hours a day.  Feeling nausea.  Sweating with no physical action.  Rapid heart rate with no physical action.  Numbed emotional feelings.  High anxiety.  Outburst of a quick nature.  Lack of sleep is normal.  Being irritable around the clock.  Always startled....even when a dog barks or a phone rings.

The odds of having PTSD without combat?  Yeah.....they've already proven that.

The odds of a football player having PTSD?  Well....it's been discussed.

The odds of a kid having PTSD?  Yeah.....they've already proven that too.

Using drugs for treatment?  Ambien is the drug of choice by doctors for this stuff.  Sadly, if you read the company's text....it's supposed to be a short-term drug and not a permanent use item.  My guess is that the vast majority of Ambien users have been on it for longer than sixty days.

At some point down the line....the Army will come to admit that well over half it's force are in some stage of PTSD, and they will never be able to get a handle on the issue.  It might take five years....maybe even fifteen....but you can sense that this bold statement will be eventually made.

A Little Double Voting Story

Some folks in North Carolina did some research on the voting lists of the state, and arrived at the conclusion that at least thirty-five-thousand folks (minimum).....likely double-voted in 2012.

There are various ways that you can read the articles.  The state wasn't able to get a listing of the other forty-nine states....but it sounds like that they have a minimum of thirty states to compare against.  While some states would provide a listing with social security numbers, which makes it an absolute fact....most states DID NOT provide such a listing....so what you get is a large number of folks with the same name and the same birthdate (so it's not concrete).

What happens now?  Well.....there's the hint that each of those folks will have a letter sent by a county clerk, and ask a couple of questions.  The questions aren't listed but I'd take a guess that it'll ask if they voted in 2012, and where?  Then it'll ask if they are listed anywhere else.

My guess is that the thirty-five thousand-plus folks will each call up a local lawyer and get nervous now.  Most won't answer the document (my humble guess).  Then each unanswered episode will get turned over to the country prosecutor and then you wait.  It might be a month or a year....before they get you and demand that you present yourself in front of a grand jury.  Some county prosecutors will do nothing (perhaps not to waste their time.....or expect you to donate some money to their next election committee as a bribe).

At best, if five hundred folks get dragged into court.....I'd be shocked.  The bulk will walk away.  But they might be a bit intimidated now....they weren't expecting some idiot to compare state lists.

What is the stumbling block here....is that when you go and register....you have to fill out a document which they keep.  If you read into the form.....there's BOLD statements written into it.  I know because I had to register myself in Bama last July, and the form was simple enough that a 8th-grade dropout could fill it in.

You admit you are eighteen years old.  You admit that you reside at a certain address.  You admit you are a citizen of the US.  You admit that you are not incompetent by some court, thus negating the right to vote.  You admit to a no-felony status (at least in most states).  Then you sign the document and hand it to the clerk....who happens to be a notary.  He stamps it.  At that point, if you've lied.....there's a paragraph near the bottom of the form which notes the state's punishment deal.

States differ on voter fraud.  It's interesting but you could go from state to state....finding each do it different.

Most all will tell you that it's a minimum of five years in prison....but then they admit that you tend to get probation and nobody can remember anyone getting sent off to state prison.  Then there's the fine episode.  This usually is a minimum of five thousand dollars.....on up to ten thousand dollars.  Here, most folks will note that fines are typically used frequently in voter fraud.

Then there is the possibility of denying you a right to vote in this state....for X number of months or years.  States differ on this punishment.

I'm guessing that a year from now....of the thirty-five-thousand folks in North Carolina.....barely five hundred responded to questions.....the rest got skipped entirely or drawn in front of the county grand jury.  At best....maybe a thousand folks end up with a two or three thousand-dollar fine.  Between legal costs and the fine....they likely had to spend five-thousand.

Then the final part of this story will kick in.  Your name....in any case....will get published somewhere in the state.  Maybe the local newspaper.....the local TV station.....or some guy in your county who will get the county listing and make sure your name gets out there.

This is likely the point where you get angry and frustrated as one of these folks publicized.  You get a call around 8PM one night.....a neighbor calling you and noting they saw your name in today's paper.  You kinda chat around the topic but feel a bit disturbed about the mention and the illegal nature of the act.  Then maybe at Sunday School.....your buddies bring up your mention in the paper....and you ask for forgiveness (quoting some Old Testament scripture).

Over the course of a month....forty folks will note your dilemma.  By this point, your lawyer has gotten a good angle on this.....gotten your bribe check to the local prosecutor's re-election campaign, and fixed this all up.  You'd think then.....the mess is over.  Well....but the next election arrives, and friends and neighbors ask if you voted twice again....dragging up this topic....time and time again.  You stick to a scripted answer that the lawyer gave you....some misunderstanding by the local folks.....no problem.....it's all "cool".

Course, what you didn't anticipate....was that the state guy who did this homework episode.....sent the discrepancy onto another state, and you actually have another prosecutor wanting to chat with you there.  Then your lawyer notes that he only handles things in this state....so you got to call another lawyer in another state, and pay another two or three thousand to him.....and hope that the prosecutor there will handle bribes....otherwise, you have another fine to deal with or actual jail-time.

By the end.....you might have used over fifteen thousand to clear up this mess in both states.  All of this....because you felt all doped up on voting twice and getting a good patriotic thrill?  Silly....in a way....that we do stupid things and pay a big price, and have nothing much to say at the end.  That fifteen thousand?  Well....would have paid half the price for a new Ford F-150 truck, or sent you and the wife on a once-in-a-life cruise to Alaska.

The last detail of this story?  It's gotten forty-nine other states curious.....on how to approach reviewing the voting rolls.....and making some great income money for the state by fines.  It might catch on....sadly.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Smoking

In August of 1977....I "shipped" off to Air Force basic training.  It was about five weeks into this six-week period....that we came to do a all-day hike or march.....to another part of the installation, and I was introduced to the C-rations package.

It was a cardboard box....similar in size to a cigar box, and had several food items to provide nourishment.  To be fair about it....it's wasn't bad....but it wasn't going to be something that I could eat daily for weeks (like they did in Vietnam).  I should note here....it was the first and last time I ever ate C-Rations.  Within two years....they'd gone to some modern new technology, and six years later....MREs finally arrived.

Amongst the items of the box....was a small cardboard container with two cigarettes.  As part of your nourishment.....you were given some matches and these two cigarettes.  Brand?  I don't remember that part.  No.....I didn't even smoke them.  One of the heavier smokers in the flight picked up everyone's unused smokes for use later.

Over the twenty-two years in the Air Force.....I came to note fifty odd experiences around cigarettes, smokers, and smoke-breaks.  I worked early on with one Vietnam vet NCO who sat in the office for eight hours and chain-smoked.....his ash tray by 4PM was completely full and overflowing.

While stationed at Barksdale....the barracks had an unknown natural gas leak....which got noted in a substantial way after a guy had showered and come back to the room to chill....while lighting a cigarette (some pretty nasty burns over his face).

Three years ago while working at the Pentagon, I watched a fairly hostile discussion erupt over the planned idea of banning all smoking from the center courtyard of the building.  Smokers versus non-smokers.....all enthusiastic about their way of life and the need to fix a problem.

This past week....the Secretary of Defense got peppy on the idea of banning cigarette sales at the BX and commissary system.  In his eyes....the sales are unhealthy and the discounted sales are a bad thing.  It's not just about throwing a fake variant of cost onto the sales.....the idea is to plain ban all sales.

Smokers have put up a strong argument about this....why not ban beer and booze sales on all posts and bases as well?  The club management guys and golf course managers are a disturbed over that suggestion.....at least a quarter of their profits come from beer and booze.

What happens if the ban takes effect?  I'm guessing some folks will want soda sales banned as part of the blame process.....as well as high-sugar candy items.  Toss in Pop-tarts, and a dozen other 'bad' items that the BX regularly sells.

Some guys will start to appear around base....with cigarettes to sell....privately.  If you deploy somewhere....a guy will be standing there with a full bag of cigarettes....selling for two-hundred percent of the normal cost.  Sarge will get all angry about the cost factor, and the Colonel will yack for hours over this terrible climate of capitalism.

Some folks will start to devise smoking areas that are five-hundred to a thousand feet from the office building....just make life more miserable for the smokers.

It's an odd feeling to view my introduction to military smoking on that hot August day in 1977....sitting under some shaded area.....enjoying the basic grub of a C-Rations package.....and noting those two free cigarettes at the bottom of the cardboard box.  They were literally giving them away to me.  Now?  Banning possible?

Political Intrigue at the County Level

One of the little corruption gimmicks I learned while in Arlington and observing DC.....was the "hidden-gift" trick.

The DC city council had a number of departments, and various financial accounts in each.  Each year, revenue would be collected and disbursed out to the departments.  Over in the recreation department, there was this account to 'gift' funding out to foundations and charity operations which helped various cultures and groups in DC....related to physical activities.

So one of the city council guys had been smart....created his own charitable foundation to bring softball to the kids of DC.  Over a year or two....the foundation sought $300,000.....and the foundation got it.

The money?  Well....it got routed around, and eventually gets moved from one account to another, and eventually....the city council guy buys a motorcycle and SUV for himself.....then goes on a number of golf trips.  My belief is that he would have continued this trend for twenty or thirty years.....but someone in the financial audit area of the city council went back to look at results.  The episode got noted, and turned over to the feds.  Eventually, they came with a search warrant....proved the case....and offered the guy a deal.  He would do time but it's not that much.  Sadly, he had to resign his position and return the $300,000.  As of two years after the fact....he'd only returned $50,000 and it was generally believed that he'd declare some version of bankruptcy and slide out of the whole deal at the end.

This week.....in Huntsville, Ala (my home region).....this little episode popped up.

There's been heat going on between the new city board of education chief and the city council.  The new guy (former Army Colonel).....is changing a lot of things.  He's even gotten down to redrawing the school districts.  One of the county commissioners is hot on these changes and wanting to slow the whole thing down, and possibly undo some of the changes.

As you might expect....there's some comments being slung by a number of folks in Huntsville over both parties.

Well....the education chief came out with an odd observation.....there's two checks written out from an education account from three or four years ago.....blessed by this county commissioner....going to an entity that is not blessed by law to receive the funding.  They want an audit.....independent audit of course.

My guess is that there's not just two of these checks.....that they will start to find a few more....begging more questions....all leading back to this one county commissioner.  It'll take at least six months to complete the audit, and it'll come out probably a few weeks prior to the November elections (my hunch).

This county commissioner under suspicion?  I'm guessing that he's a bit worried over potential affects from this audit.  Maybe the two checks can be explained in some way that makes some ethical sense.  Maybe, it's legit but simply misunderstood.  Or maybe.....it's corruption to the second-degree and this guy's November chances are now cut in half.

Some guys will likely meet for the Democratic Party over the next month, and look at potential damage there in Madison County from this audit.  My guess is that they will suggest to this guy affected....if any of this is proven true....your odds of winning are lost.  Why not just announce you won't run, and the Party will find a new guy to stand to your position?  Anger and frustration will erupt......this wasn't supposed to end like this for a long political career at the county level.

The money from these checks?  $20,000 total.

About every week now.....I notice Republicans and Democrats....under some investigation or plea deal being worked.  The corruption angles are more developed than they were twenty years ago.  You'd think that folks would worry about prison time or losing their self-respect.....but that doesn't seem to worry these folks.  It's a sad state of affairs.....and doesn't appear to be getting better.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Simply Observations

First, last week was the adios from Piers Morgan of CNN.  Replacing Larry King was supposed to be hard because Larry was so good at interviews.  Well....Piers was never really an interviewer....he was more of an agenda guy.  I probably watched six pieces of his shows over the time he was there....and came away just shaking my head.  His interview skills were marginal at best, and I sometimes wondered if CNN realized who they signed or his actual talents.  You came to feel he was selling you something....which is not the deal that you got from Larry King (strictly an interview and nothing else).

Second, some anti-gun agenda guy came up on a Sirius radio interview Saturday night....advocating that if threatened...the first thing you do is call 9-11.  This got folks hyped up because they don't have twenty to forty minutes to wait out for some cop to arrive.  They might have thirty seconds of life left in them when they make this call.  The folks who generally talk anti-gun.....don't live in neighborhoods where cop reaction times are a joke.  Nor do these people grasp the number of nutcases walking around with no respect for life.

Third, I sat yesterday watching some global warming individual doing a big interview, and the last question posed.....what one thing should be done right now....as soon as possible.  The off-the-cuff answer?  Decrease any possible thing creating our emissions or carbon footprint.  Naturally, a rational guy....like myself...would say fine....let's go nuclear energy and really take our emissions situation down by massive amounts.  Well....sadly, amongst the sad crowd of worriers over global warming and climate control.....are worriers over nuclear energy.  I'm guessing that if we were agreeable to this energy shift.....they would go bonkers and get all upset about the nuke energy situation.

Fourth, yesterday....I had some German stranger at the bus stop in the village strike up a conversation.  Normally, it's odd that such an event would occur.  Germans aren't conversationalists with strangers.  This guy chatted up a storm.....switching from German to English....and within three minutes....let me know that he's got an estranged wife, commonly meaning that she doesn't want to see him.  And there's a eight month old kid involved (the guy only gets to see the kid once a week apparently, court order limits).  By the fifth minute, I was really hoping for that damn bus to pull up....this guy desperately needed a bartender to tell his woeful story.   The term "unfair" got mentioned at least four times.  By the ninth minute....the bus finally arrived, and I quietly found a seat at the back of the bus....hoping I was finished.  Germans don't usually tell life stories to strangers on the street....which kinda freaked me out (yeah, I'll admit that).  But I'm used to that after three years in Arlington (if you go to the cemetery.....you tend to get an epic life story told by someone chatting over a son or relative from ten years ago....they don't know you but they'd like to tell the story one more time).

Fifth, yesterday....after the stranger episode....I found myself in front of the Wiesbaden train station....waiting on a light to cross the street.  Some young German gal (maybe 17).....had a baby buggy and a really young kid.  Suddenly this guy comes up....maybe 25 years old....starts chatting, and I can sense her aggravation and frustration with this guy.  She won't talk to him.  Seconds pass, and she whips around me and moves eight feet over....trying to get out of range of this guy.  He moves over....continually trying to chat.  My opinion was that she hadn't been around for a while.....he might be the father....and she really didn't want to deal with him.  She moves again....he moves too.  Finally the light turns green, and we thirty patient folks are crossing the street.  This young gal is pumped up and racing across....trying to avoid this guy.  My sense is....these German guys are pretty stupid about the situations they got themselves into, and pretty stupid on dealing with non-existent relationships.  My sense is that I really don't want to get involved in these episodes and would prefer a quiet tranquil afternoon with teenies racing scooters down the street.....old guys sipping beer and talking weather.....and watching buildings being torn down.

Book Review: The Bully Pulpit

By Doris Kearns Goodwin

It is three books in one, which is the only negative I can say for the book.  It ties both Roosevelt and Taft into the big picture, it tells the story of McClure's Magazine (worth understanding), and lays out the 1912 election which is a disaster for the Republicans.  Long?  Oh my, YES.  It's a book that will consume at least two months.

There are five basic things I take away from the book.

First, McClure's Magazine is rarely if ever mentioned in modern history.  For roughly six years....they transformed America and ensured the 1904 election for Theodore Roosevelt (his re-election).  McClures was investigative journalism....coming into your house on a monthly basis, and really pushed middle-class America over to the Republicans for the next ten years.  Their owner was absolutely a nutcase and helped to cause the eventual failure of the magazine.....but he's the one to assemble the five-star team to make it what it was.

Second, William Taft was probably the most able-bodied legal scholar of the past two hundred years.  Sadly, when this guy was on track and would have been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in his early 40's.....he gets side-tracked and moves onto politics.  He would become of the ten closest friends of Theodore Roosevelt, and later one of his biggest enemies.  It's hard to find anyone who would say anything negative about Taft, or suggest corruption tied to his trail in life.  You come away liking Taft a great deal by the end.

Third, there are four versions of Theodore Roosevelt.....sadly.  There is the young dynamic guy, who is probably the most educated and competent political figure in his late 20s.  There is version two who is progressing as a great speaker....who runs off to Cuba for the war....returns to become New York's governor....and is picked to be the VP but greatly disliked by the Republican establishment (he's too progressive in their mind).  There is version three, the VP who becomes President after the death of the President.....and rallies the nation for roughly seven years.  Finally, there is version four, the guy who returns a year after leaving the office, sitting at a young age, and has nothing much to do.....which leads to this stupid act of running against Taft (his friend), and breaking the Republican Party into two....leading to Wilson winning the election.

Four, one single executive order concerning national lands and their ownership....given by Roosevelt at the conclusion of his seven years.....is what drives a wedge between Taft and him, and is more or less undone in the first couple of months of Taft's presidency.  It'd take forty pages to tell the whole story....but Roosevelt really screwed up when he issued this executive order, and I doubt if he ever understood that little problem.  I should note....the law was never agreeable to the executive order made....yet no one took it to the Supreme Court.

Five, you come away from the book with a fairly negative view of the Roosevelt who returned in 1909 from the African safari, and put himself back into Presidential politics.  For years, I had an extremely positive view of the Roosevelt years....and I've come to view the Taft-Roosevelt split....as a masterpiece of a story, but really negative.  During the lead-up to the 1912 election....there is a single speech that Roosevelt delivers....which basically says he's pushing for a new social environment in America.....which looks an awful lot like socialism.  Even some progressive thinkers were shocked at the suggestions made and you have to wonder if he'd won.....if things today would be radically different.

It is a great book....but it'll take you weeks to read, and I'd suggest putting it down occasionally to ask yourself what is developing and how it occurred.  Strongly recommended.