Monday, 30 June 2014

The Supreme Court Thing

Today's Hobby Lobby episode with the Supreme Court.....kinda reset the stage a bit.  Basically, the court said that you can't make a one-owner type company buy "X" type of healthcare that some guys in DC felt everyone needed.  In this case.....the company didn't mind the healthcare situation, but wasn't going to be forced into covering birth-control (a $22 a situation if you use Walgreens).

If the government wanted to get clearly into the mess....they should just hand out condoms.....by bulk distribution to every single American.  You show up at the Post Office.....say you got a need.....and the Post-Master would just issue out twenty-five condoms to you.  Go down to some county office and state a need.....and have that guy disperse out forty condoms to you.....all free of course.

In this case, I think the government got to some point where they felt they'd set the stage for just about anything to be part of the healthcare package, and just never thought the court would challenge them on this.

The hostility on this?  Kinda surprising.  I sat and watched five minutes of CNN trying to explain how was terribly unfair if you were working for Hobby Lobby and they won't pay for such-and-such coverage.  But then.....$22 a month at Walgreens for what a woman needs?  From what I saw in DC while living there.....folks spend $100 a month just on Starbucks coffee, so I don't see anything frustrating about $22 out of a person's pocket for birth control.

These employees who are angry?  Well....go find another job....like some bar where they cover this, but they force you to hang around drunks for six hours every evening.  Or go work for McDonalds and flip burgers for a eight-hour shift.  Or go work for some truck-stop where guys come in and cuss non-stop for sixteen minutes while they stand there.  Everyone has something to whine about these days.....and this is just number 4,539,083 on the list of things to whine about.  Get a life.

The Nazi Comparison Again

I don't have access to HBO (living in Germany kinda prevents that)....but occasionally, there will be a clip put up from a HBO show and I'll sit and review the clip.  On Friday night of last week....there was the 'Real Time with Bill Maher Show'.  Bill's guests included Max Brooks.....who has written a book or two.  Bill got around to asking Max about the Tea Party.

Max responded that the Tea Party has numerous characteristics similar to the Nationalists Socialists of Germany (1930-era), and kind of behave like Nazis.  I sat there for about two minutes watching it.....then kinda laughed.

The Nazis had a platform to greatly increase old-age pensions....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The Nazis had a platform to nationalize all business operations, and have the government be the manager.....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The Nazis wanted profit-sharing built into all major business operations.....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The Nazis wanted community-run department stores....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The Nazis wanted all physical and mental labor to be conducted for the betterment of society or the community....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The Nazis wanted to absolutely eliminate all rent and land speculation objectives, allowing on the government to decide on rent costs or land prices.....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The Nazis wanted compulsory fitness programs in all schools....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The Nazis wanted a legal means to counter anyone that they perceived as deceiving the public within the political world.  If the authority deemed a reporter wasn't reporting the government-sanctioned 'truth', then the reporter could be jailed.....something that you'd never hear a Tea Party guy suggest.

The list goes on and on.

Yeah, there's some nut-jobs out there who get chances to talk to the news media or entertainment media, and you get episodes like this.  You'd best sit down if you are going to use Nazis in your conversation, and really do your school-work.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Canal Story

There's a big moment coming up in about two years.....as the newly enhanced Panama Canal (bigger locks) becomes a reality.  You see....for decades...the older locks set into motion a particular limit to the size of vessels going from the Atlantic to the Pacific (or vice-versa).

In the business world, this meant that as much as China could sell into the US....they had to ship it, and that meant stopping at one of a half-dozen major ports on the west coast of the US.  Naturally, the bigger vessels meant lesser cost on shipping, but then the cost of unloading at the Pacific ports came into play, and then you had to figure the costs of trucking your product from that port to a warehouse....typically in the mid-section of the US.

Well....at some point in 2016, the new larger locks open.....and the bigger vessels can slip by the west coast, and the significant trucking/rail costs involved in getting their items to a central warehouse depot around Texas or near the Mississippi River.

Naturally, this 2016 date worries some west coast port guys....on a hefty salary.....and sets into motion some dramatic change in prices.

But.....there's one other little thing in this mix coming.  No one yet from Panama has said what the cost of the new transit fee will be.  Larger locks....more business....higher fees?  No one knows.  It's highly speculative to sit and guess.

And if that wasn't enough for the west coast folks to worry about.....there's still talk of another canal being built in Nicaragua.  This possible canal....still in planning stages.....would be a joint venture between Nicaragua and a Hong Kong-based company.  Naturally....if the Hong Kong company owned ships, and they mandated a very low passing fee....then Chinese vessels would quickly transit and unload in Texas....at a lower rate of cost.

You can sense that a number of players are in the pool for this change of logistical effort.  Imagine a major port activity in Seattle suddenly going into a spiral and only unloading thirty-percent of the normal yearly requirements.  Imagine the port in Portland doing the same thing.  And imagine the various California ports suddenly laying off half their union guys.....making $30-an-hour.

By the end of 2016.....you might want to sit back and watch some sudden changes, and note the changes on American society.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Story "Planting"

I've come to the point when I recognize "planting" of stories on the news.  "Planting" generally means....something isn't really news but it's been dragged out for public relations and suppose to smear someone or some organization.

This morning was an interesting piece.  I read the German "FOCUS".....a weekly national news item, which is updated every twenty-four hours online, and for anyone to read.  If you want the absolute full story.....you have to go out and buy the magazine itself.

So I'm in the middle of the top twenty stories of the day related to German society, and suddenly, here's this Hillary Clinton story.  I figure ok.....has to be over the book or some piece of the book she's recently published.  No.....it's over the fact that Chelsea Clinton, and the suggested fact that she's not Bill Clinton's daughter.....which then goes into a short suggestive story of Hillary and Web Hubbell being a package deal at some point years ago.  And Chelsea came from that relationship....so the story suggests.

Well....it's all fine and dandy, until you start thinking and realize that this story has been out in the American public view since the early 1990s.....over twenty years ago.  As far as I know.....Germans were never told this nifty story (either in the 1990s or the last decade).  Some Germans are waking up this morning....picking up on FOCUS, and gasping a bit.  My goodness......probably is the first thing they state and they wonder if Americans will be told the truth on this.

Yeah.....an introduction of a smear story, which goes back twenty years, which might be true.....but it's the first time ever that most Germans have heard this.  Unless the national press of Germany prints something.....it's simply not regarded as true.  That's the blunt truth about German society and culture.

A planted story?  By who?  I'm guessing some comments by Hillary in the last week finally peeved some folks, and they decided to lay out a good smear story to some German reporters, and they simply worked up a simple twenty-line story and put it out there.  By this weekend.....probably five million Germans will have read it and now start to gossip over the story and the lurid details of Hillary's past life.  The fact that it's been around for twenty years in the US.....really doesn't dawn on these folks, and how it got dragged back up for a major telling once again.

Planting is an interesting episode.  You need a cooperative press, a friendly reporter who is a bit naive and desperate for a four-star story.....and a willing society who will not read through the story and ask stupid questions.

This all goes back to one of my ten big negatives about news today....sometimes....news really isn't news, and we seem to overlook that.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Lucky Society

Once upon a time, in a faraway land.....there was no war or political intrigue....for roughly two thousand years.  Yeah, it sounds like a good fictional piece for a science fiction show or some less violent Game of Thrones.  But it's true.

I often read far and wide from the regular news crowd and came upon this piece written over the Harappan people.  The article?  By Annalee Newitz....."How Did This Ancient Civilization Avoid War for 2,000 Years"....over at Io9.

As you head south out of the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal.....there's this big grand valley where the water flows into.  To the west are mountains (Pakistan), and the east is India's flat desert region.  The river heads on off to the gulf.  You can kinda imagine it as the Tennessee Valley area resting south of the Rocky Mountains, with a gentle breeze and mild temperatures, and a rich fertile soil that grows just about anything you desire.

What Ms Newitz points out.....is that life just kept going on and on there.....with no noted military campaign, war, or battles.  Nor is there any evidence of big-name political figures, kings, emperors, or conquering generals.  Normally, it's hard to find a society that exists more than a hundred years without some town burned down, or some mass grave area.  The Harappans?  Well....there just isn't any plain evidence of trouble or chaos.

What the smart guys will say is that Harappans developed themselves into a culture or society around 6,000 years ago.  They went through all the standard developments....weights, measurements, language, written word, agriculture, etc.  They had plumbing, flowing water, organized villages, and streets.

The story from Ms Newitz points out the eventual decline of the valley....mostly through over-farming, TB, disease, and folks just packing up to leave.  The society declined enough....that it could not survive.

But this all brings me back to the original topic.....a place where no political turmoil or intrigue existed, and wars simply didn't occur with neighbors or from within.  There's not a society in existence today that can match up with this record of 2,000 years.  The source of avoidance?  Until the day that we decipher the language and take apart what little written words exist.....we are stuck with no idea over the way they made it that far with no problems.

A happy place?  Probably.  A society just content on farming and local gossip?  Maybe.  Course, they didn't have the 24-hour news cycle, the New York Times, Karl Rove, or the Democratic National Committee to deal with.  Nor did they have some Hitler character from the next valley over, or some nutcase always talking up his connection as a prophet to God.  Maybe it was just plain dumb stupid luck.....which would be sad to admit.

Anyway....it's a four-star reading piece.....worth a fifteen-minute pause, and might make you reflect upon our society today and it's woes.

When a Play isn't a Play

Being from Bama.....plays (of the theater type) are a curious thing for me.  For some ninth grade project, the teacher engaged the class into a rough fifteen minute play....which I felt like a 500-pound gorilla at a disco.  In the tenth grade, another English teacher introduced the class to Shakespeare....strictly for inside the classroom, and I came to question this 1600's English usage (it just didn't make any sense for southern kids to recite like this).  Finally, around the twelfth grade, Our Town was introduced as a in-class project, which got me a bit more interested.  It was boring, but it had something worth watching.

Throughout the years, I've kinda avoided going to a theater to watch a play.  It's different when you can watch a play on TV.....able to get up and stretch at different times.  Plays aren't like movies with intense interest built into scenes....plays are subtle in terms of words and actions taken....at the right moment.  You can see the shifty eyes.....the twist and turn of secondary characters.....and note a plot change that you didn't expect.

This week, I noted that well known play-writer David Mamet got all hyped up over one of his plays which had been designed by some group in a very different manner.  He'd written a nifty play that takes a college professor through a major stumble in life....as he's accused of sexual harassment by some student gal.  It's a false accusation, but Oleanna (the play) takes you through the woes and sorrows of this professor.

In this case, the play company (a minor group) had decided to twist this around, and use a male student accusing the professor of sexual harassment.  Yeah, a gay twist of sort.

The play showed for one evening and Mamet sent a message of "halt and stop".....citing the change of genders was unacceptable and changed the whole meaning of the play that he wrote.

Redefining a play has been a big deal over the past few decades.  Folks from the 1940s didn't ever change a play much....it was....what it was.  Today, you could take Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and turn into a play about two transexual folks, or two lesbians....just to do something different.  No bad feelings or such.....just to be different.

Course, if I stepped in to do the Romeo and Juliet script with southern accents, Pabst-Blue-Ribbon beer, and a trailer park setting.....the play-crowd would get all disturbed and say it just wasn't right.

I suspect if I took "Our Town" and rebuilt it to be inner-city Chicago....that would disturb the play-crowd just as well.

So, I'm back to the 500-pound guerrilla feeling.  This is stuff that I ought not care much about, but being a 500-pound gorilla.....I'd just like to stand there and observe.  Sometimes, a play isn't so much about a literally moment, as it is about what's going to be seen and perceived.  Good versus evil.  Idiots versus brilliance.  Same-old-same-old versus being different.  It's all in the story.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

That Economic Stumble Today

It is a shocker....the US economy as of today's report....slipped by 2.9 percent.  The quote attached to it?  The largest slip in the economy outside of a recession (Fox New's quote, not mine). For folks with short memory episodes....it was the last two quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.....when all the bad news came and folks felt pretty negative about the economy.  Course, the Bush team fixed up some minor deal and the new Obama administration carried the rest of the "fix" down the line.

What should we take from this episode today?  Well....the recession or depression (as the President often talks of).....probably never came to an end.  When you look at employment numbers and how they've changed the entire game of counting who is employed and who isn't......it's more than a mere six or seven percent.  Forbes magazine in 2013 gave the real rate in the US at around 14.3 percent.  The CNBC business news folks put the rate back in December at around 13 percent.

Toss in bank failures (they still occur).....major US companies keeping their profits overseas....small business stagnation across the US.....and the CD rate still stuck at barely one percent, and you've got a depression on your hands.

Why did the President authorize the sales of US-produced oil to business operations outside of the US today?  It's been forty years since we halted US-produced oil being sold to other countries.  I'm guessing for the past month they knew the economic news was going to be bad, and this was the only positive thing they had left in their bag of tricks.

What's left?  Repeat cash-for-clunkers?  Toss out seven-hundred-and-eighty billion in stimulus money to build bridges and schools?    Slash taxes on the working class?  Pump up taxes on the wealthy?

A short history lesson.  When Wall Street fell in 1929, and the FED refused to step in to help the banks in their moment of crisis.....Hoover ended up with twenty-odd solutions which simply delayed spiral until the election, and then FDR stepped in with his hundred-odd solutions which kept the depression underway until 7 Dec 1941 (Pearl Harbor Day).  As the next month went by and various members of the FDR White House team admitted that it'd take a year or so to gear up industry and even start to marginally get us into the war.....private industry walked in and simply said to put them into the control seats and suspend all of the FDR practices of the past decade.

Roughly a hundred days after 7 December 1941.....the nation was in a building frenzy....violating every past FDR rule set into place.  When the war came to an end....the economic experts of the FDR era felt that the government would have to step in and manage the economy once again....otherwise, we would collapse back into a depression again.   Well.....that didn't happen.  Overmanagement of the economy wasn't allowed.  As Eisenhower came in around 1953...the economic management crew were still left sitting and out of the picture.

Since the Nixon era.....there's been various efforts to bring the economic back under a government-managed system.  Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed to the measures.  We sit here today.....with massive regulation, rules which stagnant growth, and lack of clear future goals because folks think the government will step in to tax them more or set up marginal stumbling blocks.

Stock prices drops?  I'd prepare myself for a correction or two in the next week.  More speeches by the President?  Maybe....but what else can he say?  Admit we never emerged from the 2008 depression?  It's best to just smile and hope for better days ahead.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

My Stuck Story

This is a true story.

Over the last weekend....some American kid (exchange student, I presume) in Germany....got engaged in a conversation with some German associates near a statue in the local village.

It's best to describe the statue as a resemblance to a woman's certain private area....with an opening.  You can sit and imagine at your leisure.

Why a statue of such significance?  Well....no one has really said much over that.  I'd assume the city council thought they had money to blow on something....some artist suggested this....and a year later, he/she delivers this stone statue depicting....well....a woman's private area.  It's a fairly big monument.....maybe six to eight feet tall....and the opening is just big enough for a slim kid to push himself through....well...maybe.

In this episode....the kid took a dare that he could pass from the inside out....got halfway....fell....and got stuck.

His associates tried to yank him.....pull him.....and lift him....but the American kid was stuck completely in the stone cavity.....so to speak.

So, the fire department got called.  Normally, to rescue cats out of trees and such....it'd be one truck and four firemen.  In this case?  Four trucks and around twenty German firemen.  They took a while to size up the situation.  You see....in Germany....you just don't wander up to a town statue and accidentally destroy it.  So they figured out the best method to remove the kid, and the job was done.

I sat and previewed the whole thing.  If this was in the US....they'd have to put a fence around the statue because folks would claim it's dangerous for the public to be around it after one person got stuck.  Germans don't think that way.....they assume fifty years might pass before another idiot gets stuck.

The kid?  Well....he's gotten a nickname from the episode....maybe even five or six nicknames.  Later in life....he'll be interviewed for a job with the State Department and bring up the "stuck-in-a-woman's-privates" story.  He'll get the job because of the story.  In a bar in Guntersville or Aruba.....it's good enough for folks to buy you a drink or two.

As for the town council?  They might put up a warning sign, but I kinda doubt it.  It'd just draw attention.  As for future statues?  I'm guessing questions will be raised over the safe factor and how it might be abused.

Yeah, just an odd-ball story from Germany. True though.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Whole ISIS Strategy

Someone put up a graphic this morning of the five-year plan of ISIS (this Iraq-Syrian based terror army).
Their intention is....forget about this demonstration game of the Taliban or bin Laden's bad-boys....march on, kill, and install absolute fear in the locals.

You start to look at the map....ALL of north Africa....Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Burma, and onto Indonesia.

The general tactic?  Instead of one-time 9-11 events....these guys think big.  You get a large enough group.....you front them with weapons....and you don't collect prisoners (you execute everyone you come across who surrenders).  At the end of the day....you conquer a 100 by 100 mile area with the help of five-hundred extremists.  Everyone still living....is in absolute fear, and you just nod your head that they can live as long as they play your game.

How you effect a change in a place like Turkey?  You start out in some small community at the police station and shoot all the cops inside, then take the top twenty-five political figures of the region and execute them in some town square.  Any judges, professors or business men?  Execute them as you come across them in their home or on the street.

Egypt?  Pick small towns and find the one-hundred men of authority....execute them in the street and let folks know who did it.

Basically, you could take all of the Middle East and North Africa in two years with this method.  As long as you had fuel.....lack of aggression on the other side (utter shock)....and a view of no turning back, I don't see any halt to this.

So, I'll put up my best guess on Iraq.  The entire state collapses within seventy-five days....with maybe a quarter of the nation in existence still (the Kurds).  Kuwait?  Just a twenty-day fight, and they will be knocked out.  Iran will at this point call up every reserve they've got and opt to ask for help from Russia.

The US?  I think the oil price shock (coming likely in mid-July).....will likely blow the administration back several steps.  This small contingent idea....250 special operations people into Iraq.....too little, too late.  By September, a much bigger force will be called into Kuwait....to hold back the invasion there.  The ISIS folks might swing back around and go for Jordan (less than twenty days of killing to take full control there).

Maybe I'm wrong, but these guys figured out the best strategy......absolutely throwing everything into a fight and refusing to collect prisoners.  It'll be hard to counter them.

McCain's Buddies

Last year....Senator John McCain (Rep, AZ), ended up going on a junket tour of sites in the Middle East to get the "inside knowledge" he required.

Lots of photos taken....this is one of them.

It's an odd photo....because what happened roughly fifteen months ago....is that Senator McCain met with ISIS terror leadership.  He probably didn't realize it.  He probably didn't ask any questions.  He probably just smiled and just waved at locals who thought he was some American Hollywood movie star from the 1960s.

How did he get talked into meeting with ISIS folks?  It's hard to say.  They were Jihadists and maybe McCain's handlers thought they were "good Jihadists" (an Administration slogan at times).

Most people who have insight into ISIS....readily agree that they have a significant amount of influence and capital coming from Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis....if you remember....got all upset when the Administration's two-star Syria-war concept fell apart and the Russians just trumped up the White House in a major way.  After that episode, it's likely that the Saudis drew up their own agenda and figured that their contract team in Syria (ISIS)....could easily turn and move into Iraq territory.

Over the weekend, if you read through British press coverage.....it's apparent that Iranian leadership is a bit disturbed over this whole mess.  They really don't need Sunni-influence within an hour's drive of the Iranian border.  If Iraq falls apart....into three states....they will be extremely weak and prone to more violence.  All of this is negative for Iran's future goals, but it makes the Saudis happy that Iran is disgruntled.

As for McCain?  I'm guessing he's asking stupid questions right now and wondering how his Chief of Staff convinced him to make this trip and who else he might be pictured with (maybe out of Mexico) that would be trouble in the future.  It's just another reason why no US Senators and Representatives ought to be traveling beyond the US border.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Pope's Lack of Understanding

This past week, the Pope stood up and made a big speech over ethical judgements, investing, and poor judgement in agricultural commodities.  Basically, food prices have gone up a notch or two over the past six months, and someone finally noted this to the Pope.  He figured that a speech on the topic and Pope-like advice would get to the folks who run the agricultural markets and halt such unethical pricing.

Generally, you go to a priest, bishop or Pope for one general purpose.....a reading on the Bible.  Beyond that, there's not much else in terms of advice that you want from them.

They generally don't tune cars, lay bricks, herd cattle, mix drinks, dig septic tanks, paint barns, split posts, feed the hungry, drive eighteen-wheelers, shovel snow, run a pub, mix concrete, plant tomatoes, operate a Dollar General Store, mow grass, weld metal gates, run a patrol through dangerous neighborhoods, rescue cats out of trees, rescue drunks at wild parties, replace windows, or plan a forty-person family reunion.

When the Pope suggests it's intolerable for folks to flex the market and it's by God's wishes to be ethical in handling agricultural pricing.....he might want to stand back and observe that there are at least forty variations on pricing which real life has to contend with.  He didn't mention various inspectors that are required by law now.  Nor did he mention the effect of weather.  Nor did he mention that drought comes and goes in various regions of the world.  The oil used for gas and diesel to move products?  Well, yeah....that's part of the mess as well.  The fact that folks want year-round products now....mean that we import grapes from India (yeah, shocking, isn't it) tomatoes from Egypt, and apples from New Zealand on occasion.  That didn't happen fifty years ago, but we started to insist that we had to have watermelons all year round, and that meant ships got involved, along with refrigeration.

Speculation?  It's all built into the system because we don't eat local fruits and vegetables anymore.  Nor will we eat local pork, chicken, turkey, fish or beef anymore.

I'm not dumping on the Pope.....but to suggest that God's will fits into agriculture, speculation or the pricing of cucumbers....well....it just ain't so.  Course, if you got a question on Moses, or why some reason why Luke was a better disciple than the rest of the dozen.....well....it might be worth asking about that.

Wi-Fi School Agenda

There's a new agenda item for the FCC, which is a bit odd, and it translates to more tax revenue required to accomplish it.  The deal?  Put Wi-Fi into every school in America.  Yeah, it's a pretty wild idea and it drags along a bunch of questions.  High speed Wi-Fi?  No.....if your school is in Podunk, Bama.....you will get the regular local speed.

The tab for this?  The FCC says they want one billion dollars for this.  But I'm of the mind that they simply mean phrase one, and that it'll come with more cost later.

What's the typical cost per school?  You can figure Barney the Geek will put down a charge of $150 for the installation team and the hour required.  The router? It'll run from $90 to $150, depending on the model and degree of "thrills" you want associated with it.  Administrative time?  Well, yeah, you'd have to find someone to continually monitor and ensure kids and teachers weren't viewing hot lusty video movies while sitting in class.  PCI-adapters for CPUs in the classrooms.....figure around $30 each.  The laptops will all have Wi-Fi ability built into them.  Extending the range from the head office to the farthest point of the school?  You will require a 'bridge'.....figure around $80 for each one.

All of this would probably add up to $2,000 for each single school (minimal PCI-adapter strategy).  Figure 98,817 schools (the government's number, not mine).

A full-time IT guy for each school?  Well....if there's a thousand students there....you'd have to have one full-time guy at that school alone.  A county with eight rural schools?  Maybe one IT for the whole county and he's remoting into each site to control the mess.  I doubt if any county would be willing to pay more than $35,000 a year to such a guy and he'll flip out of the year every year or two, with a new guy and a big mess to clean up.

Is it worth the time and trouble?  I personally get see a single reason to integrate a class or lesson with computers below the seventh grade.  I might offer up typing in the eighth grade, and get into spreadsheet situations and writing code by the ninth grade.  Beyond that.....it's just NOT worth the effort.  Kids end up abusing the hardware and software....posting constantly to Facebook while in class, and getting nuts over using video capture within the classroom.

But all of this leads back to the FCC, and it's dynamic agenda.....a billion dollars.  Putting a school nurse in every school and paying for them via federal money?  It ought to be a higher requirement.  Putting all text books on e-readers.....ought to be on federal money.  Handing out one-hundred great classic of literature via e-readers.....ought to be on federal money.

There's something wrong here, but I doubt if we can stop Congress or the Administration from spending a billion on this stuff.

Six-Californias Effort

This weekend, there's a petition drive in California....to get enough names up.....to make it a ballot-measure for November of breaking up California into six states.

Shocking?  Well....if you know California history....there's been an effort to do this since the mid-1800s.  It's always been a topic of discussion, but when it came down to Republicans and Democrats supporting it....NEITHER ever felt compelled and were always against it.

The measure now?  There's some hostility and frustration by the public over the state budget, and it's continuing battle to approve a budget.  Taxation?  About half the folks in California will list their top three complaints, and local taxes will usually make into the top three issues.

How the states (six) would rank on liberals versus conservatives?  Jefferson (in the far north) would wind up with two major political groups (environmentalists and conservatives).  West California would end up being eighty percent Democrat.  The other four states would be mostly divided, with South California having a heavy Latino turnout and likely to be the more interesting of the states to watch.

The division of the six would challenge one or two of the states with heavy resident-mandated agendas and revenue requirements beyond their abilities.  My humble guess is that at least one of the states would be bankrupt within four years.  The Silicon Valley state would be some dynamic state run by IT professionals and rich billionaires, and might draw a lot of interest from international companies if they ran their own government structure.

The odds of this passing?  I'd give it less than a twenty-five percent chance.  However, if they could find one dynamic person (say a Clint Eastwood)....who could do a sixty-second commercial and ask some in depth questions of how California survives the next fifty years with the current stagnation and lack of cooperation on political agendas....some folks might stand up and fifty-percent of the voters might be possible.

All of this leads me to this thought.....one single state that assesses this and gets it passed....merely opens the door for more states to separate (like Texas, or Florida), and suddenly in ten years we might have seventy-one states.  Well....it's worth dreaming about anyway.

This Little SEC Battle To Go Epic

Once upon a time.....the House sat down and got into the Affordable Healthcare Act.  The House, the Senate, and the White House....all were sitting and discussing the apparatus, and weaving this 2,300-page document into reality.  Somewhere along the way.....some people knew various pieces that would benefit from the law, and pieces that would be hurt by the law.  What that did with this knowledge....is now in a public fight with the Security Exchange Commision (SEC).

Well....the SEC stumbled into apparently....was some individuals working on the Wall Street side of the house....who knew what was going to happen when the act became law.  Someone profited to the extreme.....maybe a bunch of people had a profit.

So, the SEC wants to engage the House and get documents to identify who knew what, and then act on search warrants.  The House?  They have more or less laid down some markers and said that they will not cooperate with the SEC....mostly because what the House does....is their own business.

Yeah, you can smell a bunch of issues here.

The House is correct....no agency under the White House....can dig into the House's business.  If they attempt this....the court system will likely side with the House.

On the other hand.....for decades.....members of the House and Senate have actively used insider information to help their friends, associates, and themselves in the stock market.

Where does this lead onto?  We might find two or three staff members of the Democratically-run House of 2009/2010, who knew lots of stuff about companies that would come out ahead, and they briefed their House and Senate bosses.....who went onto help their special friends.  To be honest, it'd take a special prosecutor and at least two years to gather enough evidence....then another two years of court battles to maybe drag one House member and maybe a couple of staff members off to jail for a year.  The rest would just be slipping through the cracks and avoid jail by cooperating.

Does any of this matter?  It's hard to stop House or Senate insider dealing.  In this case....I'd make a bet that if the leak exists.....it probably was worth $500 million in gains for some folks.  You'd need a full-time staff to continually investigate various members of the House and where exactly would this go onto?  So, it's an epic development and worth watching.....just to see some political players squarm a bit over who knew what and what they did with the money.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Those Emails from IRS

If you follow the news....the last couple of days, there's been various comments made about the IRS and these missing emails.  We've now learned that Lois Learner's hard drive crashed and the IT department have no back-up copy beyond the last year or two of work.  Then yesterday, we learned that several other IRS folks had the same accident.

Having worked around IT folks, you don't have an incident like this to occur, and when it does happen....the director or commander would usually bring in the chief IT guy and fire him on the spot.  In this case?  Nothing.

The odds of six different people all have crashes and no surviving email trail?  It's practically impossible to rig up and occur by accident.  It's like lightning strike both goal posts in a NCAA football game, or your wife, girlfriend, mistress, and mistress #2 all happen to accidentally meet up at the local Piggy Wiggy on the same day---same time.  Statistically, it's just not possible.

So, this brings me around to the necessity of a independent investigator.  In a normal administration....like President Carters, President Reagan, President Clinton or President Bush II.....you'd to the right thing and appoint someone because it really starts to smell bad.  In this case?  Zero.  I doubt if there will be a guy appointed, and for the remaining 2.5 years....it's mostly a comical show of people just walking away.

All this does in 2016....is open up the door for retribution, with no public prosecutor to be called in to fix wrongs.  How might this be corrected?  If fifty-one Republicans sit in the Senate in January.....I can see some light coming on and finally someone asking stupid questions to stupid idiots.  Either you run an ethical administration, or you run a comedy show.  For the IT crowd in the IRS....I suspect a number of them ought to be let go and new folks brought in.  Some folks might need to visit a federal prison for six months and get a new view of ethics.

Sadly, this is the state of affairs today....pretty screwed up and just begging for some naive people to exist.  Heck, if you get called into the IRS for an audit....what prevents you from using the same scheme.....I lost all my emails and digital proof.....you just need to trust me.  How far will that go?

The Lack of Hillary Show?

Some people are natural-born campaign figures. George Wallace of Alabama fame in the 1960s....could have stopped his car in some town-seat....got out and delivered a twenty-minute speech (unrehearsed and unwritten)....shook hands with three-hundred folks and gone onto another town within an hour's drive to deliver another totally different speech.  Bill Clinton had that capability and knew how to say all the pleasant things required to make folks happy.  There used to be fifty-odd Senators who could deliver an act like that with no problems.

Today?  Well....it's crap.

I can't think of a single Senator who could stand up and give a unrehearsed and unwritten speech.  Most require a operations chief to handle all of their office affairs, and a campaign chief to handle all of the politics involved.....with a speech-writer and a scheduler on the staff to handle major events.

All of this brings me around to Hillary Clinton.  In terms of campaign ability....she's a marginal 2-star player.  Her efforts in 2008 for the primary in Iowa.....which meant a lot.....were seriously lacking.  Her "squad" was there in Iowa at least six months prior to the primary and burned through a ton of cash.  There's no evidence that they really made any difference.  A bad political player can make up for their lousy campaign ability....with top-notch campaign staff personnel.  In her case?  She picked a group who just weren't up to the job.

This past month with various appearances and interviews....I've sat here from the distance in Germany and watched a couple of these unfold.  Either Hillary doesn't really care much for the whole act, or she's just doing it to pretend she's a contender when she isn't.  For the Democratic faithful....it's a big question mark.  If she's not the big-time player.....then who is?  By January of 2015.....folks who are getting into the Iowa campaign swing theme....need to declare themselves and get folks up to talk up their objectives.  Right now.....there's just no one else talking about doing this.

In some ways....I imagine the 2008 run in the primary was the one and only chance in Hillary Clinton's life.  The stars were aligned.....the moon was rising....the waves were going the right way, and all she had to do was pull some minor victory out in Iowa's primary.  And she couldn't do it.

A real political figure would have looked at a loss in the Iowa primary....fired a couple of people....reorganized and really come back for a tough forty-five day "fight".  She wasn't that type of political player and just lounged through the rest of the primary episodes.  So I'm guessing this effort now.....is mostly for show and she has no intentions of running.  And without Hillary?  It's a big question mark for any Democrat for 2016.

This Iraqi ISIS Thing

If you sit around and watch CNN, and a host of other network news episodes....this Iraq ISIS "war" is a fairly big deal.  The President has been thrust back into international affairs....which he hates.  The Pentagon crowd are a bit peeved because they really don't care to walk back into a hornet's nest.  The news media is sitting there and thought that Iraq was all done and finished.

So you come to ask one key question over their news reporting....which comes up to why ISIS is different than your regular ragtag operation....why they are getting traction and taking territory so easily.
The ISIS crowd are Sunni-Muslims....which are different than the Shiite-Muslims that make up most of southern Iraq and most of Iran.  This whole western sector of Iraq....is mostly "Sunni-land".  If you lived in the area....there's pretty good odds that you were a Sunni and attracted to the Sunni philosphy.  And you held a grudge against most of the government folks (the ones in charge by order of the central government in Baghdad)....because they were continually putting Shiite-Muslims in charge of government operations.  After a while, it doesn't take much for an entire neighborhood to be anti-Shiite.  So the ISIS crowd took advantage of that.  The folks slaughtered so far?  Mostly all Shiite-Muslims.

So, you'd take a pause and what the heck difference does it make?  A Sunni-Muslim and a Shiite-Muslim.

Well, this goes back around twelve-hundred years to the point of the original prophet of Islam....Muhammad, and his passing.  You see....as many things as he decreed and wrote as rules of Islam....he just didn't think much over who would preside over things after he passed on.  Course, maybe he was busy.....philosophers are that way, you know.

After the passing, the head Islam guys sat down and did some talking, and there's two groups of thinking that occur.

Group one was mostly all buddies and friends of Muhammad.  They were of the mind that the exalted leader ought to be elected from the inner circle.  Kinda like the method that the Catholic Church used to promote folks up to Pope.  The best of the best.....electing the better choice.

Group two was mostly all relatives of Muhammad.  You can guess this outcome.....leadership can only come from family kin.  Their end result was to select leaders who were within the family or had been Imams who God had indicated they should be promoted.  Yeah, it's a fair stretch on the Imam deal, and how God communicated his desires on this.  You can imagine the meetings where promotion was discussed and someone kinda mentioned that God told him he was clear to be head guy number one.

The Shiite guys believe in the family rule of leadership.  The Sunni guys believe in a guy being elected by his peers.

The curious thing....if you count up all the Muslims in the world.....most come from the Sunni group (the peer leadership).  Some folks claim up to eighty-five percent of the Muslims in the world.....are Sunni-Muslims.

Where do you find most of the Shiite Muslims?  Well....in Iraq and Iran, with a fair number in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen.  The Saudi crowd and most of the 9-11 players?  All Sunnis.

Are all Muslims in Iraq just Sunni-Muslims and Shiite-Muslims?  No.  You also have the Kurdish guys, and a small number of Christians in the country.

Where does this all lead?  If this morphed creature of protection (the US and Iran buddied up to protect poor Iraq).....doesn't get a handle on this.....then Iraq is broken up into three territories (figure the kurds will ask for the norther quarter of Iraq and get it).  For Iran, it really invites a bigger mess to develop if ISIS is a long-term player in the region.  And Saudi Arabia?  Strangely enough, you might note how quiet they've been over the past week.  Maybe they aren't unhappy with this episode?

All of this fighting and killing....mostly over how Muhammad never envisioned leadership after he passed on?  Yeah.....that's the strange history lesson in this episode.  Being a prophet and head guy of your religion is fine....up until you are six feet under, and then?  What happens?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Happy-Happy-Happy

WalletHub (a society web site) went out and did a survey on "best cities" in America.  I sat and read through the whole thing.

Basically, you have to start a study with some requirements in mind....measurements.....so to speak.

What they used in this?  Affordability, Socio-Economic-Environmental, Education and child-care, health and safety, and fun activities.

Yeah, it's an interesting list of things to measure towns against.

At the top of the list?  Plano, Texas made it to number one, with Sioux Falls, SD as number two.  I've passed through Plano once in my life.  Maybe it deserves the status of number....maybe not.

The bottom three?  Miami (surprise), Detroit, and Birmingham.  I won't argue over Detroit or Birmingham.  It'd be hard for me to convince anyone to move into Birmingham....set up a house.....and feel safe around the city (day or night).

At number fifty-two was Huntsville, Alabama.  Personally, I would have rated it closer to the top ten and think something got missed in the analysis for best cities.

One key factor in this whole thing.....smaller towns of 50,000 to 100,000.....generally had a better grade than towns of 500,000 or more. Being small....helps.

Somewhere in their analysis....they even got around to measuring divorces, and both Detroit and Birmingham really got down into the weeds with pretty high rates of divorce.  Fremont, California for some odd reason....didn't have many divorce cases, which they equate to some form of happiness.  Fremont is on the San Francisco Bay area, and I'm wondering how you avoid stress and chaos in these relationships.

Statistics always tell a story.  Sometimes, it's absolutely factual.  Sometimes....it's slanted.  It's hard to tell in this case.  The truth is that you could take a very unhappy group of people....say a thousand....and move them all to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  A year later....you could measure the thousand, and find that five-hundred of them are now exceedingly happy and would never want to move again.  The other five-hundred?  Still miserable.

There is no mathematical formula to find the perfect place or best city to live in.  You could take a very unhappy guy and move him into the middle of Birmingham or Detroit....and maybe there's one or two little factors that suddenly shift this guy's mental attitude around and he think's it's paradise in Birmingham.  Yeah, I'd say he was a nutcase.....but it's entirely possible that Birmingham does have some mythical magic left to sprinkle on some folks.

We could go the other direction and find really happy family residing in some rural area of Idaho, and move them into another rural area of Alaska....only to find that rural qualities were just the one single factor to make them happy, and they feel really negative living in Alaska.

An update to the survey by next year?  Yeah....some town will slip, and some town will gain.  Birmingham?  Well....it could slip past Detroit and go to worst city in America.....maybe.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

This Little Soap Opera

Over the past couple of days, I've been observing this Iraq "disintegration", with the ISIS folks who suddenly came out of nowhere and took over almost forty percent of the landmass of Iraq.  There are some interesting observations.

First, the ISIS folks are really a band of ragtag Muslim enthusiasts who have some control of Syrian land space and had accumulated a fair amount of ammo, weapons and hardware for a decent sized army.  If they weren't moving against Assad's regime in Syria.....one cannot imagine them just sitting there and calmly sipping tea and discussing World Cup soccer scores in Syria.  They've done something with their time and weapons.....building up momentum, and taking out all authority in northern Iraq.

Second, when Iraq called the US for quick help....none came.  So they turned around to Iran and they reacted almost overnight, and will likely shift 10,000 seasoned military guys to this fight.  Crazy?  Well....here's the thing....Iran has a certain version of Islam and traditions that everyone can live with.  Yeah, there's Mullahs and some strict laws....but most Iranians will tell you that it's Islam-lite and the vast number of folks in society have trust in this.  What they really don't want is the hardcore stuff, where every single factor of life is Islam-connected.....which is what the ISIS folks dictate.  If fifty percent of Iraq becomes a real ISIS nation....where's the next step?  Western Iran?  So they have a reason on why this has to be "nipped in the bud" (as Barney would say).

Third, the US 'pause'?  Basically, the US has stood there for several days....thinking over the potential mess now, and the potential mess a year from now.  No one in the White House wants to send troops back in.  Some question sending bombers (what Iraq asked for).....to bomb the heck out of ISIS strongholds.  Today (Sunday).....the newspapers say that a carrier group is heading toward the region.  What they do.....is likely project power, but it'll give the administration five days to think about the next step.

Fourth, what all this says is that when the US packed up and left.....the Iraq government was immature and not capable of mending its own fences.  We can talk over this topic for hours.....but it doesn't matter.  It's done.

Fifth, the five guys who got released in the Bergdahl deal?  They fit rather comfortably into the ISIS mentality.  If you don't take ISIS down now....or you allow them to grow over the next twelve months.....I suspect that the five big-time terrorists will show up in this area of Iraq and be part of a bigger plan for 2015.  What people felt about Afghanistan back in the 1990s before 9-11.....could come around and be part of our future within just a year or two.

Six, and final.   There should have been signals.....the NSA should have caught phone chats and emails.  Someone in the intelligence community should have noted this was going to happen at least two weeks ago.  Are they so stuck on Snowden episodes or monitoring the French and Germans.....that they just plain let this slip by?  It's hard to say.  One might sit there and get the idea that they not only saw it coming but they might have wanted it to happen....but that would be a conspiracy theorist.....which I tried hard not to be.

So, for the next three weeks....a bold new era of Islam extremism, mixed with Iraqi third-world politics (without Saddam to butcher them off quickly in his typical method).....a dash of Iranian 'friends'.....some US world political thinking.....and a bunch of question marks over what happens next.  Kinda like an episode of Dallas, with J.R. getting shot nightly by multiple folks, and you keep wondering what happens next.  

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Pandora's Box

In Greek mythology, there's this nifty story over the Pandora's Box.  Once you open it up.....you got a bigger mess than you ever imagined.  So the story would leave you to the logic that if you know you got a Pandora's Box.....it'd be best to avoid opening it...just let it sit there and avoid noticing it.

This past week, the NBA came around to realize that this Sterling character from San Diego....that got into all this racism stuff and was told he can't be an NBA owner.....decided he'd had enough of the NBA and the owner's association.  He's hired up a minimum of four different private detective organizations, and told them simple orders.  Go forth and find dirt on every NBA owner and all management folks within the NBA (the commissioner, etc).

Where this leads onto is a curious thing.  There are twenty-nine other owners, with twenty-nine other general managers who run the various other clubs.  Toss in the current NBA commissioner, and his staff of a dozen-oddball characters, and the previous commissioner.....and you've got roughly seventy-five people who will be pursued.

The odds here?  Ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, and journalists are likely holding on hundreds of tidbits on these seventy-five individuals.  I would imagine that at least twenty will have very serious allegations put out into public view and be forced to admit to stuff that wasn't supposed to go public.  Tax fraud allegations?  That will fall into the view as well.

I'm not sure if the NBA ever realized the Pandora's Box that it had, or considered the problems of dumping Sterling in the method that they did.  This might turn into a long hot summer for the NBA....a period where they usually talked trades or worked on contracts with the big names of the NBA.

The problem here....is that you don't become a millionaire by being a saint.  You don't go around in life and nurture your self-respect or advise clean-living.....and become an NBA team  owner.  You don't get a new arena built in your town for your NBA team without threatening some city council member, or bribing some county commissioner.  You don't get certain players to sign with your club.....without the services of some special high-access hooker.  Go down the list.....it's a pretty detailed list of how the NBA functions in this world of capitalism and politics.

Yeah, the Pandora's Box is going to open up and we probably much will agree that Sterling was just one bad apple amongst twenty.  And then what?  

Friday, 13 June 2014

Simply Observations

A couple of notes I've come to realize over the past day or two.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has taken this comment "Gay lifestyles can be from your DNA" and thrown it back into pot....saying alcoholism can come from your DNA and you can deny it....starve it off....and avoid it.  Journalists are a bit peeved and want to say something harsh about this, but Rick's comment goes hand-in-hand with use of the DNA stance.  Opening up the DNA can of worms.....probably didn't help anyone's case in the long run.  Stupidity also comes from DNA.....and we don't necessarily brag about that.

High protein diets loaded with meat....good to avoid strokes?  Yeah.  That's what the smart guys have discovered.  Course, they'd rather not rejoice on this.  Another group of smart guys says meat can increase the chances of breast cancer.

In Bama.....some young gal (19) had ended up with an aunt.  Bad family situation or whatever.  But the young gal wasn't having much luck either with the aunt.  The aunt ended up going onto Facebook with a fake account as a guy to befriend her niece.  What ended up having in a rather odd and quick way....was that the young gal quickly buddied up with the new fake guy, and said she wanted her entire family killed.  The aunt then realized she had a nut-job in the house.....called the local Sheriff and the niece is sitting in a local jail.  Charges are going to be interesting, and I doubt if the gal spends more than six months in jail.

Finally, this Bergdahl guy.  The newest fact on him is that he went to the Coast Guard boot camp originally....spent roughly four weeks there before they kicked him out.  They won't give a reason, but it would appear that he had real issues in accepting authority.  More and more.....Bergdahl looks like a nut-case who never should have spent a day in uniform, but the Army relaxed its standards enough to let the guy in.  Promoting a nut-job to Sergeant?  Well....the Army has kinda gone back on that promotion.  It might still happen, but it'd likely embarrass the leadership a good bit to admit they promoted some nut.  And the $360,000 in back-pay? It'll still happen, I think.  If you had to pick some guy who needed to go and spend the rest of his life in a mental institute.....this is the one guy that I'd definitely send.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Cantor

By now, you've had a coffee, watched the news, ate a donut, and suddenly come to realize that Eric Cantor lost his primary race in Virginia yesterday.  Shocking....indeed.  Rather than waste an hour watching various news segments to figure out the whole logic to this loss....let me briefly give you the four points of significance.

First, federal elections in November typically draw the BIGGEST crowd of voters.  The state elections every two years?  A step or two down, and at least ten to twenty percent less of a vote unless big issues are apparent.  Then you come to primary elections....where in most states...you might be lucky to draw fifty percent of the registered voter count.  Split between Republicans and Democrats.....primary elections just don't generate interest.

If you come to realize this minimum impact, and want to take on the big guys of the establishment.....you carry one simple message, and hope to get fifty-one percent of the vote.  In this case, Dave Brat got fifty-four percent and really clobbered Eric Cantor (one of the top ten Republican faces in the nation).

Second, Dave Brat won this primary, with a twenty-three year old campaign advisor.  Cantor had access to various seasoned advisors....and it didn't really matter.

Third, the immigration issue?  Well....it's poison there in Virginia.  A high number of Republican voters simply don't agree with the national issue and the trend.  They sent their message as best as they can.  The worry now for establishment Republicans?  It's best to just skip around immigration for 2014 and not attempt any solution, period.

Fourth, Tea Party spiral?  Sure, go ahead and keep saying it.  Events like this keep putting the growing trend back into focus.  For both parties....it's a problem.  For Democrats....it'd be a simple game of taking twenty-percent of their normal vote and forcing some Democrats to take a different view on taxes and federal spending.  For Republicans?  It's a scary thought that establishment guys can have plenty of funding but not be able to carry an election.

I noted the term "conservative" being thrown around in campaign ads in Alabama two weeks ago.  It wasn't for governor or state attorney general.....it was for county commission and public utilities commission positions.  People pay attention to little slogans like this now.

More changes for the Republicans in 2014?  We might have peaked for this year....maybe.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Meaning of Dead-Broke

Hillary Clinton is about to come out with a new book, and there's some excerpts that have come out in the last week....to garner attention to the book, and draw folks to it.  The book company advance on this one?  Around fourteen million....so the news media says.  The year 2000 advance for the other book?  Around eight million.

So, we come to this interesting comment that she makes over the weekend....that when she and Bill left the White House....they were "dead-broke".

In the south, dead-broke has several different versions.  Typically, it means you have nothing but enough to cover your basic food expenses.

Some folks would interpret dead-broke to mean that you got money for gas expenses....but not rent.  Or vice-versa....enough for rent but not gas.

Some guys would argue that dead-broke means you can only buy Pabst-Blue-Ribbon beer on sale....or if you eat out....it's strictly at the local deli shop for a $3 cheap-meats sandwich.

Some women would tell you that you can still go out on a fancy date while dead-broke....it just means you go bowling or you lounge at some local city park with a bag of popcorn.

In the Air Force....while living in the barracks....dead-broke usually meant that you went to the base theater for the one-dollar show at 10PM....you watched TV in the dorm TV room and drunk other folk's beer.....and you enjoyed the fine vittles of the chow hall for free.  We usually fell into this category during the final two days prior to each payday.

I worked with a contractor once, who was dead-broke....enjoying the dependability of a $1,200 car for an entire year.  She spent an average of $300 a month on maintenance, and usually called one of us to pick her up somewhere because the car had stopped once again.

In Panama, I knew a second lieutenant who had major financial issues before becoming an officer, and he forced the wife and kids to go car-less and limit food expenses to $400 a month for two years....to clear up massive debt that he owed.  He took the whole meaning of dead-broke to another level.

I kinda look over at Hillary in the year 2000.....with Bill pulling in a retirement pension from the White House of $200,000 a year and wonder what dead-broke really means to her.  Health insurance?  President Bill was all covered via the government's own system.  I imagine that President Bill was on various boards and advisory organizations....probably pulling in another $200,000 easily.  So this dead-broke comment?  It's hard to say what she really meant.

This brings me around to the final topic.  If Hillary examined the economic books of the US....with the current unemployment rate....the negative numbers on college graduate hiring....and companies sitting on top of billions (refusing to grow or do anything)....would she say that America is dead-broke?  That's the statement I'd be curious to hear about.  Would she have the guts to admit that?  And if we were dead-broke?  Well....it might unsettle some folks, and finally get some attention on things that we deserve.

Maybe it's what we need....we all admit we are dead-broke as a nation.....enjoy some baloney sandwiches....cheap movie tickets....drive twenty-year old cars....sip cheap ice tea....and just act dead-broke like we should.

Simply Observations

It's one of those Presidential executive orders that will have pay-back....probably in five to eight years.  Yesterday, the President signed the order that students loans....which you can only get via a government source now....will be capped on pay-back to ten-percent of your pay.  That's all you HAVE to pay (you could pay more but you don't have to).  The general gut feeling of most business analysts is that people will drag this out and at age fifty when they ought to have a eighty thousand dollar student loan paid....they will instead owe at least ten more years.  You can even write up a scenario where you borrowed ninety-thousand....took a low-paying job because that's all that was available for your profession....and find yourself at sixty-five years old....still owing money.  The eventual fate?  It'll cause the US government to progress into another recession somewhere down the line (fifteen to twenty-five years).  Pretty stupid, but then....you can't stop people from borrowing massive amounts of money.

A study came up with this statistical piece....one in three adults are on the borderline of diabetes.  Between physical lifestyle, diet, and habits.....an entire segment of society is heading toward a pretty dangerous trend.

Some smart guys went out and discovered that if you had an active lifestyle.....did some minor work-outs....had some exercise each week....that you'd develop a more aggressive bacteria which reside in your stomach.  And those bacteria?  Well....they'd like to consume more.  So as you work out and run, swim or hike.....you are building up an army of calorie consumers.

Finally, some smart guys have surveyed the public and found that people with a higher level of depression later in life.....are more prone to have Alzheimers.  There's not a lot in the report to say precisely why, and if there is a trigger here.  But it makes you wonder about things.  

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Two Unusual Aspects of the Bergdahl Episode

Over the last couple of days, I've come to note two unusual aspects....which really tell a different story over the Bergdahl episode (our returned GI for the five Islamic terrorists).

First, this group who held Berdahl for all this time (roughly five years).....they aren't really Taliban.  They are more of a Afghan black-market mafia type group.  They might worship Islam to some degree....but typically....what they are all about....is cash.

So how do the five returned terrorists fit into this group's agenda?  They DON'T.  That's the curious part of the story.

You end up sitting there and realizing that this group held something of value.  They really didn't want the five terrorists.....they wanted cash.  Some middleman in this deal goes over and talks to the Taliban leadership, and probably some Saudi backers (my hunch), and rigs up this deal.  We give the five guys to Qatar, who says they got the guys, then someone pays up some cash to the group holding Bergdahl, and we get Bergdahl back.

The amount of cash?  That would be a interesting question.  I doubt if we are talking one or two million.  I'd go more for twenty or forty million dollars.

Does it really matter?  No.  But for the sense of news.....everyone is pretending the group holding Bergdahl for five years....are Taliban, when they aren't Taliban.  That's the comical side of the story.

Item number two?  These non-disclosure agreements (NDA's).

When you join the military.....there's always the possibility that some officer will pull out a NDA and say that you saw something or heard something that you shouldn't have.  So they put this on paper, and insist you sign the document....never to talk about this event.  I'd say that half the people in the Air Force, over a twenty-year career.....will sign at least one NDA.

In the Bergdahl episode......we find that most of the guys in his unit....upon his disappearance....were directed to sign NDAs by their commanding officers.  This would generally cause you to ask stupid questions.  Usually, a NDA is for seeing classified stuff....Bergdahl?  It's not classified.  It's embarrassing, but certainly not SECRET stuff that you'd encounter.

The value of a NDA?  Well....they can prosecute you for violating the agreement.  This past week....members of the unit...who signed the NDA....came on Fox News and told the whole story.  Violation?  Yep.  Trouble?  No.....if the Army says they want prosecution on these guys.....it's trigger a massive enlisted payback and big questions over Army leadership.

What triggered the necessity of the NDA?  That would be a curious question.  Course, it's five years later, and some officers likely have a memory issue.  I'm guessing it really aggravated a general or two, and they wanted the whole story killed off....never to be discussed.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Newest Coke

Coke finally went national with it's newest size can.....simply called the 'mini'.  It's ninety calories, which they declare you can burn the calories in 23 minutes of significant exercise (something more than bowling or throwing lawn darts).

To be honest, I've seen the can around....it was available up in Arlington, and it's been around in Germany for at least a year.

The selling point?  More and more people are getting into nutritional stances.  So, they look at a lunch menu situation, and would like to limit lunch to five-hundred calories....total (to include the drink).  For them, every single ounce counts.

For the Coke business operations?  Well.....it's a questionable thing.  What if forty percent of the Coke-drinkers adapt to this and less Coke is consumed each year?  A guy settling back to two mini's a day.....instead of two or three regular sized cans?  Yeah, it might just happen.

Course, this might get some idiots to thinking....a mini-mini....roughly five ounces of Coke....in a super-sized shot can.

And the big-gulp freak....doing a forty-four ounce cup of Coke?  He might go into a convulsive type attitude when he sees someone drinking from a mini.  The next trend?  Maybe toilet paper, in a mini-type roll?  Persuade folks to use less toilet paper, with smaller sheets?  Maybe.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Bergdahl, the Deserter

Years ago, I worked in an Air Force office where we coined the phrase...."the dumbass syndrome".

This usually was applied to a situation where leadership made a decision without any input from the people with knowledge....had no idea of the true cost or man-hours involved in the decision.....and could not possibly claim any idea of success or failure unless someone told them the result later on.

I look over at this swap made with the Taliban....for this Army NCO....Bergdahl.

While the White House won't chat on the topic much.....I will give you some insight.  There are two likely idiots in the White House....which each had some end of the whole swap deal.  One guy has connections apparently to the Taliban guys, and regularly meets with some go-between.  This individual knew that the Taliban could make a deal and hoped that at least five of the Gitmo guys would be part of the deal.

There's likely a second guy in the White House who claims insight to the CIA and the Pentagon, and knows the Bergdahl parents.  The truth is.....this guy likely has no insight to the CIA or Pentagon....but just pretends he does.

So the two guys met, worked up this fantastic moment to make the President look great right after the VA episode, and it's become one of the top ten worst mistakes of the eight-year period. I was shocked yesterday to watch CNN coverage at the airports, and they spent twenty minutes of every hour....talking Bergdahl.  That's not good.

Bergdahl will face charges (don't let chatter from the media confuse you)....the Army will be forced by the enlisted to start an investigation, and conclude he deserted his post.  Figure three years of prison, and no.....the time in Taliban hands.....won't count.

The odds of some Army vet going after Berdahl?  I'd take a guess that Bergdahl doesn't make it long, and if he does survive prison......he'll likely leave the US and return to Afghanistan.

The President has a staff problem.....people who claim some status in conversations with intelligence and military folks.....and it's simply a bogus claim.  The law that requires the President to talk to Congress if a deal is being worked up?  A gross violation.

So, again.....a bunch of amateurs.....pretending to have insight and ability....when they don't.