Thursday, 31 July 2014

This Ebola Thing

There are basically four things that you might want to really know about Ebola and where this current event in Africa might go onto.

First, Ebola has no drug or treatment to stop it.  Since discovered in a outbreak in the mid-70's.....what the medical folks have found is that it runs through a community....you quarantine those affected....they die at a ninety-percent rate....and no one has put much time or resources into finding the cause or drug to fight it.  The chief organ affected?  The liver.  But you start bleeding out of various orifices once you get to the final stage, and there's nothing left at that point.  Incubation period?  Somewhere up to three weeks....that you could walk around with it and show only minimum affects.

Second, it comes up every year or two....some medical folks arrive in some community and they quarantine the affected.  You can draw a square of roughly four-hundred by four-hundred miles, and it's typically staying in that square.

Third, the medical guys think it's all related to some disease from monkeys....but beyond that....it's not settled science.  Yeah, unlike global warming.....no one really cares much to research this.

Fourth.....everyone felt safe until the disease this month kinda stepped out of the square and got into Nigeria, and some Americans tending the sick were identified having the disease.

The scenarios that worry folks?  Let's say that Johan of Germany.....business guy....gets sent down to Nigeria and entertains various companies for three weeks, and on the last couple of days....meets up with some guy at a fancy bar.  The lady next to business coughs a bit and Johan notices that she sweats a bit.  Six days later....Johan boards the plane with joint pain starting up.  Fourteen hour flight back to Germany, and he feels a mild fever by the landing point.

Johan crosses through customs in Frankfurt....takes a train home....calls his boss and just says he's tired and needs a week off.

Johan buys up some groceries....stops at the drug store for flu medication.....and has come into contract with 352 people since the night at the bar.....to include another 198 on the plane home.

Johan has serious fever issues by the fourth day at home....thinking he might go to the doctor the next day.  By the fifth day....he's not able to rise out of bed and no one knows his crisis situation.  Two days later, he passes away in bed.

The boss gets the cops to come out two days later because Johan won't answer the phone.  Dead Johan.....cops puzzled by the mess....lots of flu medicine out.....blood coming out of various parts of Johan's body.

Med staff arrives....isolates the place....refusing to touch him.  The Hamburg clinic that handles stuff like this is called and takes four hours to get there.  By the seventh day since coming back into country....they've discovered the Ebola connection.

Now?  There's at least twelve people who came into contact with Johan....getting flu-like symptoms.....who the authorities are racing to figure out who the 500-odd people are that might have issues.  It'll take a full day to figure out the 500 and then shock everyone that a dozen people are now quarantined, and likely to die within five days.  The folks they came into contact with?  Numbering up into the six-hundred range.  Forty of them will be determined to have Ebola by the next day.

At this point, the German government can't keep it quiet, and are privately worried about how to force people into quarantine.....even if they aren't showing symptoms.

By day thirty-six upon Johan's return to Germany.....around 39 people are now dead, and at least five-hundred are in quarantine, with another 2,000 people on the soon-to-be-quarantined list.

By day sixty-five upon Johan's return to Germany.....around 320 people are now dead, and at least six thousand are in some form of quarantine.  Mothers refuse to send kids to school.  Teachers refuse to come to school.  Bus drivers are questioning the right to refuse to work.  Bundeswehr troops are now introduced to quarantine camps and actively controlling people with authority of law that no one ever believed to exist.

By day one hundred.....one thousand people have died and forty thousand people are now in some form of quarantine.  Grocery operations have slowed to only five days a week.  Gas only gets delivered once a week to stations.  Airports now have authority to halt any and all travelers to the US or any country for that matter.

By day three hundred.....two million Germans dead, and around three million in some form of quarantine.

The whole scenario thing revolves around one thing.....it stays in that square area of Africa, period.  If it leaves that area and branches out into other countries with major airline traffic....we are screwed.

Those surviving the Ebola?  I suspect because of the liver being the focus of the disease....it'll really hit the liver hard.  You might survive....but I'll bet your liver is screwed up for the rest of your life.  So avoiding it.....is priority number one.

And if we miss on this time around?  Great.  But there's always next year or some day five years down the line....when it'll leave that square area, and get to civilization.  And then.....we are screwed.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The $84,000 Treatment Plan

The Wall Street Journal ran a fine and interesting article yesterday in the opinion area (28 Jul 2014) on "Beggar-Thy-Neighbor Medicine".

Basically, it's the story of a liver disease (Hepatitis C), and the apparent cure that science has run across and is prepared to hand out the 3.2 million American infected with it.

If you didn't know....it's almost a hundred-percent chance of you dying from Hep-C.  Well....actually around 80,000 people a year will die from this....percent by their numbers.  If you got Hep-C.....all you can do is draw out the time and wait for what will eventually occur.

So this new drug is Sovaldi....and it pretty much cures Hep-C (better than 95-percent but not quite 100-percent).  Folks are real happy about Sovaldi.

But, it has a price-tag.  You need to take it for three months....a pill per day.  The pill therapy?  $84,000 for the whole treatment.

You can do the math.

The company who developed the drug kinda admits that the six months of sales so far, since it went on the market, are up around $5.8 billion....at least thats what the Wall Street Journal says.

Will the pricing go down?  I'd take a guess that they need to reach a point where research costs are covered, and then they start some effort to cut by ten-percent every quarter.  The day when it reaches $100 a day?  It might be four years away.

How will the Affordable Healthcare Act handle this?  That's a debatable question.  Hep-C is covered by the standard policy and this treatment is likely in the mix of cost estimates.  Course, if you suddenly had a million Americans showing up and asking for the three-month treatment....expecting some mythical money pit to open up and cover the $84,000.....well....that might start to worry some folks.  I doubt if the system could really handle more than a hundred thousand people a year.

Forcing the company to get real on costs?  Legislate this into regulation?  Where is the limit?  Why not force gas down to $1 a gallon?  Why not force Pepsi in a 10-ounce can down to 50-cents?  Why not make a McDonalds menu-dinner at $2?  Once you open a can of worms.....it gets to the point of flipping people into the next mood of thinking.  There is no limit to this.

Dying for the Sake of Taxes

Around ten days ago in New York City.....some cops came upon this one guy....Eric Garner....and made him aware of an impending arrest.  Eric declined the arrest, made the episode difficult.....causing the cops to use a headlock.  The physical actions involved was sufficient to cause Eric to hyperventilate. Being an asthmatic.....things didn't go well.  Eric passed away that day.

Naturally, being black plays into this story.  Unnecessary force was immediately part of the story from that point on.

I've noticed now that this story has become page one news in New York City.....staying on page one since day one.  Everyone is involved in the chatter....from the mayor on down to Eric's widow.

Daily updates come and go.....with few news organizations going back to the original event and asking questions.

To put it in the right perspective....Eric had dealings with cheap cigarette sales (No New York City taxation). Eric was part of an effort to sell cheap smokes on the street.  His associates brought in smokes from Indian reservation sales or cheap cigarette taxation states (West Virginia at 55 cents a pack and North Carolina at 45 cents a pack)...it’s a simple act to take $10,000...cross the border...buy bulk...drive back and sell smokes on the streets of New York City at $1 to $2 off the normal street cost (note, for this argument, NYC smokes tax is $4.35).

While arrested before...Eric has yet to ever be convicted. You can figure various reasons....lack of prosecution capability....weak judge...limited evidence...etc. No one from the various news departments from NY City has discussed this part of the story.  It would be curious why justice didn't ever work as conceived.

So, the cops came around Eric on this occasion....wanted him to cooperate for another arrest, and Eric declined. He just wasn't going to cooperate with the cops. No one wanted to use the Taser on the guy...so they went to the old method of the chock-hold....note: illegal by city standards via cops since 1993.

Eric was a 350-lb guy....an asthmatic....probably not in good shape....and died because of events that he triggered and the cops simply wandered into. The city will fire the cop involved....pay off the wife with something like $1 million, and some city hall guy will gift Eric Garner with a statue in the middle of town....probably with a pack of smokes in his pocket as a symbol of nature and it’s unpleasant epic endings.

 Yeah....a guy just surviving off the street....selling cheapo smokes and cheating the city out of taxes.  Dying. Then getting to be noticed as a "hero" of sorts.

The news media?  Stalled and in a way operating like a third-world operation existing out of Bolivia.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The "Gift" of Government

The President did his weekly speech this weekend, and covered what he considers a very unpatriotic act....companies that pack up and move their headquarters out of the US....to somewhere in the world with a lesser taxation mentality.

The President would like this "loophole" to be closed off and denied to US companies.  If you are US....you should base your headquarters in the US....by the logic of the White House.

How did companies come to this new strategy of basing the headquarters beyond the US border?  Because the House, Senate, and previous Administrations wrote all of the rules in such a way....allowing the companies to do so.

Besides taxation....are there other benefits?  Well....yeah.  If your IRS or Attorney General gimmicks are told to turn up the heat on a US corporation based out of Ireland or Switzerland.....you can't just walk in with some stupid judge's order and seize all kinds of paperwork.  This makes any type of corruption or illegal activity difficult to prove.

This makes a person sit and ponder.  Aren't we building other various gimmicks that allow a company in California to pack up and leave the state.....because of state taxation and property taxes there?  Don't we make various gun laws in Connecticut.....which encourage companies to escape their borders?  Haven't we screwed up on regulation enough in Ohio and Michigan....to such a degree....that companies look for better places in Alabama or Mississippi to place their plants?

Companies....no matter what size.....from one employee to fifty thousand employees.....hate regulation, and hate having some government audit guy stick his nose into their business.  It doesn't matter if it's a Slushy-drink-type company, or some cattle operation.

The President's intention is that Congress ought to fix this.....in order to make everyone pay their "fair-share" of taxation into the pot.  Who comes to decide what's fair? This question is never answered in a rational way.  Fair-share gets thrown around, and you come to realize that it's almost non-existent on a true definition.

Once your pot of money gets regulated and half of it is going into some government pot of money.....there's dozens of people trying to manage the function of that pot of money.  None of them want to talk about distribution or how they arrived at the fairest way of gifting the money to society.

All of this....leads onto companies artificially increasing their product cost, and pretending to be a capitalist company....but the truth is simply this....because of taxation gimmicks....they all work as some "gift-organization".....helping some gift-giver from the government....gift a hundred people here and gift a thousand people there.....with a gift that you tend to feel appreciation on the gift mechanism.

Fixing this mess?  No.....no one has any interest.....and with the current agenda of the White House....they've basically got no time left for working out deals for 2015 or 2016.  It's that simple.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Lost in Ethics

Somewhere around 1.5 million American teenagers run away each year.  The majority return in some fashion....either hours later....days later....and sometimes they never return home.

So you ask yourself.....100,000 foreign teenagers....non-Americans....lost in essence in America right now....maybe another 200,000 by spring of 2015.  If we aren't mounting some national campaign for our own teenagers or taking care of them.....why would we waste time or resources for these other "punks"?

Not that I'm heartless.....but after you sit there and ponder over the current mess....where exactly is this fine line where one group is really important and the other group isn't?

If we discovered 400 "lost" teenagers sitting in Portland....would we put them on buses and send them to Chicago or some Air Force base in Mississippi?  Would we hire folks for Homeland Security to manage these American lost teenagers?  What would we give them for pocket money?  How about their education?  If half of the 400 American "lost" teens from Portland admitted they were from Nevada....and you forced them to move to Georgia....are you doing something unethical?

Some rumors abound this weekend from the White House that the President will just 'executive-order' something.  If it involves money....he's screwed without Congress agreeing.  If he gives away free residency....he'll be taken into court within seven days and probably be told to find some legal standing for his order or cease it.  If he fights it....then this impeachment talk just gets louder....which makes a guy question just how bad we'd really want VP Joe Biden to be President (our worst fantasy possible).

The solution?  There isn't any.

You might want to take notes here.  If this initial group gets through.....there's another 200,000 likely to come by spring of 2015.  Somewhere in Africa....there's various groups studying the mess and planning the acquisition of old freighters and just make a one-way trip over with 5,000 people sitting on a rusted boat for two weeks....to beach it in Florida and get that "free-deal".  If they make it.....another two or three million in Africa will study the same idea.

It's a can of worms, and we basically have no method of controlling this, or inventing a solution that leads to a permanent deal.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Graduate Senator

It is one of those odd stories.

Someone kinda suggested to the Army War College to go back and look at X-research paper from a Army officer that attended the university about a decade ago.  No one from the university crew will say who suggested this...but the results are this....this simple fourteen page report has around 98 citations attached to it (all done correctly apparently)....but basically copied word-for-word....from an existing paper of the period.

The guy involved?  Well....he's the stand-in guy for North Dakota's senate seat....a Democrat.  Yeah.....he's running in the fall.  Yeah....it really shook up things a bit.

The Army War College?  They simply asked him to present himself and answer a few questions.  The worst of scenarios?  They revoke his master's degree.  For a Army officer....it's pretty much kick-in-the-butt.  You can't really fix this, and if all is proven true.....it's a done deal....just a couple of weeks of chat, and they make their decision.

What Senator Walsh says?  Well....he kinda admits he may have just lifted an entire paper to fill this void, but it's OK because he was having PTSD episodes at the time.  The Army?  Normally, the Army guys would all fall over each other and say "sure"....but this is the Army Staff College, and these geeky Army folks are a bit different.

My observation?  Well....if you say you had PTSD back in 2007....who is to say that right now....you don't have PTSD?  Can we allow some Senator to remedy himself and just he's pure and clean now.....no issues?  I just don't see how.

I can see future military leaders always caught in a lie....just say you got PTSD, and you get off the hook.

My belief?  By late August....the Army War College will have met and discussed the fourteen-page paper and it's affect.  PTSD won't be discussed.  They will simply say a sixty-day review will take place within the university....and shortly after election day in November....they revoke the degree.  Maybe it has no effect on the election.....maybe it does.  But it's not a player until after the election.

As for purity in master degree programs?  It's best to say that if you really went into every report and thesis written over the past twenty years....at least twenty percent would fail the purity test.  Incompetent individuals?  No....just people under stress....and the program is more than they expected.  So they cut corners.....fill in the voids, and pay the idiots their $40,000 for a certificate that you can hang on the wall, and gets you a $30,000 pay-raise.  That's life.

Russia and Capital Flight

There's a phrase that got tossed around a good bit in the last week....."capital flight".  It's used on rare occasions.....and some reporters have used it recently to talk up Russia and it's long list of issues that worry the billionaire guys who hang out and run the business side of Russia.

To put capital flight into a localized perspective.....imagine this guy in Bama....who has done well financially.  Small community, you made $250,000 this year off your franchise operation down on highway 4.

Normally, after you pay your taxes....you'd turn around and invest the remainder into real estate, or expand your business.  You might fix up your house.  You might buy a new big-screen TV from the local guy selling them.  You might buy a new Chevy from the dealer twenty miles away.  You might buy a pontoon-boat for your weekend pleasure from the local dealer.  You might do a number of things, but you are mostly parking that money left into localized things and spending it on the local level.

Other locals are in some way....sharing in your success.

In capital flight.....you take the funds left after taxes, and quietly shift it completely out of the state.  Other than house renovations or airline tickets for you to continually enjoy luxury in distant regions.....you don't spend a dime on local items.  No real estate investments.....no car from a local dealer.....no pontoon-boat from a local guy.

No one in the local region.....shares in your success.  What you are admitting....is that you are fearful of someone screwing you over, tricking you out of your capital, and don't want the risks associated with any local banking, investing, or purchases.

What Russian oligarchs kinda figured out since 1990 when the Soviet Union fell...is that there is no safe place in Russia to park billions.  Every time some idiot gets forced or pushed into banking with Russian banks or investing into Russian real estate or industry.....it goes into a black hole, and the success rate is marginal.

So, the money moves out of Russia.  The most popular places to park the money?  You can go into Paris, London, or Rome.....to find various upscale homes and condos which have been bought and are currently empty....just sitting there with cash holding it's value.  Go into New York City and you will find the same business going on, with the Russian billionaire folks parking money.

About a decade ago....the Russian billionaire found ways to get residency into Cyprus.  They brought bundles of cash.  The Cypriot banks were falling all over themselves in the beginning. They had people wanting to build new resorts and hotels on the island, and this new fresh money helped to start a trend.  But the billionaires kept coming up with more bundles, expecting the same generous rate to continue.

At some point, the Cypriot banks got to a point of saturation.....too much cash....no lucrative way to get a fair return. But they couldn't decline this great funnel of money.

 So, the bankers started to take in risky loans....hoping they'd pay off and making their new Russians friends happy.  Well....perhaps in the first year of this strategy....it worked to some minor degree, and then risk lead onto more risk, and eventually....the Cypriot banking system fell into a mighty big pit.  They had massive debt owed to regular Cypriot people.....small-business Cypriots....rich Cypriot business people....and to their rich Russian friends.  That was the issue of 2013 that had to be dealt with.

The Russian billionaires?  Well....they've had a bit of a fallout with Cyprus, but frankly where else are they accepted so easily....with a reasonable amount of transparency?

All of this leads back to capital flight....Russian profits which aren't staying in Russia.  You'd sit there and think about this, and start to ask....well....aren't the locals peeved and kinda upset?  Yeah.

In 1990....Russia hit the top of the population chart.....150-odd million in residents.  Even with the birth-rate drifting downward along general terms....Russia sits at around 143-million residents today.  Based on varying numbers....what the economic experts say is that three million Russians have packed up and left over the last decade.

Who made up the three million that left?  The National Post article cited engineers, scientists, doctors, and entrepreneurs.  The best and brightest....packed and left.  Whatever money that Russian is making off oil and natural gas....these people aren't saying too much in terms of results.  They were disenchanted, and felt betrayed in some ways by capital flight.  If the system of banking and investing in Russia is that screwed up for the billionaires....what does it say for the regular smart guy in the middle of the mess?


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Meet the Press?

For a brief period over five years....I got attracted to "Meet the Press"....the Sunday morning political chat show.  That came to an end in 2008....as Tim Russert passed on.  I can basically say....that Russert's version of political chat kinda carved up on both Republicans and Democrats.  It was one of the few shows that put both groups into a serious discussion of topics.

After Russert came Tom Brokaw.....and it only took one episode to get me disconnected from the series.  I didn't see Tom as some real journalist.....he was more of a pretender, whose job was to make Democrats look better than Republicans.

Tom's period lasted only as long as the battle took place and a real replacement came  on the air.....David Gregory.  I've watched bits and pieces of Gregory's version of the show.  Once in a while, he stages a fine piece of political commentary....then you run into one entire show that is developed as a one-sided argument on a topic.

The numbers of Meet the Press over the past five years?  Dismal.  The network isn't making any real revenue off the show.  The bosses have decided to let David Gregory go.

The replacement battle?  Chuck Todd (the NBC White House guy) and CNBC's dynamic duo of Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough (Morning Joe Show).

It's more of a race of who brings the show further down.....rather than revives the show.

I can't say much for Chuck Todd.....except I think you'd just get David Gregory version 2.0.   Whatever weaknesses were developed into the show.....Chuck would simply carry them on, and ensure nothing much changes (my humble opinion).

Brzezinksi and Scarborough?  If they used their normal morning format....it'd be more of a news of the morning and rapid laying of facts on the table....then move on.  Intense political discussion?  No.  That's not their standard.

Brzezinksi leans more to the left, but is active on discussions and asks some tough questions at times.  Joe Scarborough?  He's a pretend-to-be-Republican, who runs through news at a rapid pace.
I'm not sure the show would improve much with either choice here.  To be honest....over the past decade....folks have become inundated with political chat.....and tiring of it.  It's like NFL football chatter.....we've all gotten tired of five guys sitting there and talking over the Giant's quarterback situation, the rebuilding of the Dolphins for the sixth time in ten years, and the what-if scenario of Green Bay versus so-and-so on a minus-4 temperature day, and snow falling in the Green Bay stadium.

Personally, I'd like to see NBC hire up three unknown barbers from Iowa.....just let them chat for thirty minutes on national topics, and let the show develop from that point on.  Maybe bring on a guest barber from Alabama occasionally to shake things up......perhaps even hire up some Mexican barber to show up and talk over economics.

On the positive side.....at least there's plenty of stuff on the Cartoon Network to watch....if Meet the Press really screws up.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A New Immigration Idea?

This 'flood'  of illegal immigrants continues, as I watch the episode continue on various news fronts.

I sat down last night and added up the population of El Salvador (7.9 million) , Guatemala (15 million), and Honduras (6.3 million).  It comes out to roughly 29 million residents.  They add up size-wise....to Alabama and Mississippi combined.

Maybe the real answer here is to simply enquire if the three countries want to just join up with the US, and become one or two new states.  We might as well admit of the twenty-odd million illegals in the US.....probably around fifty percent of them come from these three countries.

Yeah, there would be a fuss from various political groups (both Republican and Democrat).....but let's face it.  The border is unsecure, and will never be really fenced up to clear out the issue.  Toss in immigration reform which pops up every ten years as a major player in US politics.  We could simply end immigration from ever coming up ever again.

The transparency angle?  Well.....a bunch of corrupt thugs in all three countries would start to get noticed and arrested more often.  Probably in a decade....we'd start to clear out the bad guys in their politics.....open up some industry operations....throw in some US banks....spend a bunch of money roads and bridges....and bring in a major league baseball team or two to the region.

Reactions by the Canadians?  Yeah, they might want to get in on the deal, and we'd have to just all Canada later to be five or six states.  Mexico?  Yeah, they'd eventually want in on the action.  Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, and Panama?  Yeah.....we could probably combine them into one single state.

If you don't really have a border that is secure....then why bother pretending otherwise?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Bama: Happy versus Unhappy

There's this financial analysis organization....Advisor Perspectives....that did up this fancy piece of work on how much money....in a relative state.....makes you happy.

For Bama....the magic number that they came to....was $69,300 (for the entire household).  For some oddball reason.....folks considered this number to be the point where you emerged from being unhappy, and went to being happy.  In Tennessee, it was $67,265 (roughly $2k less).  In Mississippi, it was $65,850.  (roughly $4k less).

Naturally a Bama guy would look at this and start to ask stupid questions.

Where does happiness and unhappiness merge up and become this dollar amount?  Could you be unhappy in Bama making $100,000?  Could you be happy in Bama making $21,000 while working at Piggly Wiggly?  Could you have two brand new Fords in your carport....completely paid-off, with a pontoon boat on the lake, and be unhappy?  Could you go from from one stage of happiness with $75,000 one day, to a big stage of unhappiness the next day....if the hay barn burnt down or your $4,000 spring lawn job just dried up and died off?

Most folks from Bama just don't see happiness in the same fashion as Advisor Perspectives.  You could have some gal who got repented at the Baptist Revival last week....sweating up a storm with the AC off in the church....newly divorced and almost bankrupt....working for minimum wage at Burger King, and just feeling like a million bucks in terms of happiness.

You could have some guy....graduate of Auburn and a 1988-89 member of the Auburn NCAA football team (reserve team)....in perfect health....pulling in $65,000 a year selling bogus upscale lawn furniture imported in from China....and just totally unhappy because his wife ran off with the county clerk's wife (lesbian thing), his dog got run over by the county garbage truck the same day, and his barber of twenty years is retiring.

It's odd things that makes a Bama resident happy or unhappy.

There's the problem of a dry-county versus a wet-county.

There's the issue of the maintenance status of your daily vehicle, and just how often it's going into the garage.

There's the content of the minister's Sunday sermon, whether it's awful harsh on some associates of yours.

There's the NCAA football issue....if Bama can actually go undefeated for the whole season or really screw up things by losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

There's the summer heat issue....if the temperature average could just stay around 88-degrees for the bulk of the summer, and just go over 95-degrees for five days in August.

There's the issue of your five brief days of summer vacation....and if you will spend it in Aruba just drinking hard whiskey and rum for hours on end, or spend it on the streets of New Orleans mostly drunk on mystery beverages (remembering little of the trip), or spend it at Branson, Missouri just in quiet luxury and buffet breakfast/lunch/dinner spots.

There's the issue of your mower, and if it'll last one more season.

There's the issue of relatives coming to visit....not for hours, but days or maybe even three weeks.

There's the issue of some meth-head having moved into the abandoned property across from your woods....and you keep hoping the cops find out about this without you having to identify yourself and get your name into some report on your neighbor.

There's the issue of some neighbor coming over daily to chat over 500-odd topics to waste forty-five minutes of your afternoon....that you don't have time to waste.

There's the issue of your leaking basement wall after a storm.

There's the issue of five tornado 'warnings' over the past month in your area of the county, and you think about the thirty seconds of time you've got to get into the basement.

There's the issue of your husband buying imaginary weapons for some game at $50 a whack, and you can't convince him that there's no true value for the $50 pretend-sword.

To say $69,000 is enough.....well.....it might as well be $690,000....or $6,900.  Things just aren't that simple in life to say a magic number is happy.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Ultimate Pizza Delivery Job

A couple of miles south of White Lake, along highway 2 in North Dakota.....is Stanley.  It's not much of a town....maybe 1,700 folks living there.  Being around forty miles south of Canada...it's a place where you wouldn't really think much about business operations....salary.....or capitalism.

This past week....off the Carpe Diem site....someone put up an ad related to Jimmy's Pizza (local franchise).  They needed a driver to deliver pizzas.  Typically, you don't make much.  But this is the era of oil rigs, fracking, and guys making $100,000 a year easily.

Jimmy's needs a delivery guy bad....noting they will pay $36,000 a year ($3k a month) on base salary.  Jimmy's is willing to put up to $100 a month into a retirement account for you (matching of course).  Jimmy's is offering one week of vacation for every six months of employment, along with $1,000 as part of the vacation deal.

The hinge to the deal?  Well....there are several....positive and negative.

First, they want you to work six days a week....for roughly 49 hours.  Most guys get negative about anything beyond forty hours.  So this might be difficult to accept.

Second?  There's tips, and Jimmy is hinting that you might be able to pull in $20,000 a year on delivering pizza.  You sit there and kinda work on the math....figuring forty-nine hours a week, and probably 200 deliveries possible, with a tip of $3 per episode....equaling $600 a week....times fifty-two.  In actuality.....you might be able to even take more than $30,000 if you figure the math right.

Third?  Stanley is about far north as you can get and winter starts early around late September with a stiff breeze and cold temperatures.  You might have to use snow-chains a couple of times during the winter, and your delivery vehicle might ought to be a four-wheel-drive jeep.

Fourth?  The sun goes down early in this region during the winter months, and the sun stays up fairly long in the summer months.

The odds here is that they will find a person to quickly sign up.....then deep into December's brisk weather....find that this guy just doesn't have what it takes and is quickly leaving for some warmer region.

Delivering pizzas?  For probably $3,000 a month (taxable) and another $2,000 a month (tips on the impossible to tax game)?  A guy could live out of a RV trailer.....do this for fifteen years, and retire by age forty as a pizza guy.  If only things were that simple.  

Book Review: The English Tradesman (1726)

By Daniel DeFoe

Well....it's a curious book.  DeFoe is supposed to have only written one great book in his life....the rest are just pushed aside.  I've been picking up several of the other books and now come to disagree....most all of them...are good reads.

I should note....this book (published in 1726) was updated a hundred years later (1839) with some better footnotes and fresher material (long after DeFoe died).

The English Tradesman is a book which DeFoe goes to educate the English on craftsman skills.  Yes, it's the first book written over business and how to be a complete tradesman or businessman in the world.

Chapter by chapter....he lays out the various skills that you require.  From writing in a concise way....to being pleasant but firm in your attitude.  Stories of a personal nature are thrown into the mix, and make for better reading material.

If you were taking a college business section.....needing to write a report on skills of the tradesman in the 1700s...compared to today, this would make an excellent platform to base the paper upon.  In essence....nothing much has changed in 300 years.  Craftsman today....need basically the same skills as they needed in the old days.

Simplified book....easily read over a weekend.  Not complex.....and certainly written in a easy format.  I'd recommend it for the 16-to-20 year old crowd....in the midst of a high school project or college course on business.

Simply Observations

Yesterday, about an hour after the Malaysian flight was shot down over the Ukraine....I flipped my TV over to RT (Russia Today).....Russian news....minute-by-minute....in English.  They had their two guys covering this and giving a pretty accurate picture of what is seen at the site.....lots of images sent from Russians down in the region.  So there's folks calling in and giving eye-witness commentary.  In fact....these two guys in a row.  So these two Russian bystanders.....eyewitnesses....giving a vivid image of what's going on and the wreckage.....all being translated from Russian into English.  Strangely enough....both get to some point about a minute into their commentary.....that the local Russian militia (the freedom fighters going against Ukraine)....don't have the missiles to reach this height.  It was rather odd.....two bystanders....saying virtually the same thing....almost word for word as the translator did the comments.  Yes, rather odd.  In fact, to the point that I'd think this was all thrown into the media mix to convince people of something.....when it's possibly not true.  RT might be an innocent bystander in reporting what comes in.....but you get this odd feeling that some folks in Russian-Ukraine did something rather stupid and need to cover it up.  As for Putin's reaction?  I'm guessing that his chief down in Ukraine is visiting these idiots who fired the missile today, and suggesting they need to clear out and get as far from the civilized world as possible.

From over in Israel, if you really dig deep into the news (not the standard ABC, CBS, NBC stuff).....you will note that the Israeli military asked the UN to allow them to inspect a UN school site in Gaze (controlled by the Palestinians).  It's written into the rules that the UN must allow inspections.  Oddly enough.....there in a storage room....missiles.  Now, in the real world.....there's just not much of a reason for a school to house missiles.  So the UN is terribly dismayed by this episode, and promising to explain this later.  As for ethical consequences here?  Why would you not target schools and hospitals....if you kinda figure out they've got missiles hidden there?  What idiot would put missiles into schools and hospitals?  Just makes you wonder.

Some statistical guys came out and basically said there are approximately 1.6 percent of American society which is gay.....with another .6 percent saying they were bi-sexual, and one percent just saying they weren't gay, bi-sexual or straight.....leaving you to wonder what the heck they were (my suggestion is bondage, or an alien species).  The study....from the government naturally....says very strongly that there is no health difference between the groups, but then oddly enough admits that a fairly high number of gays are binge drinkers, and suffer from various psychological ailments.  Oddly enough....straight women were more likely to say they were really healthy....when compared to lesbians who noted various ailments.   What's the bottom line to the survey?  Well....out of 300-million Americans, there are probably 4.2 million gays.  The survey didn't know the state-status or urban versus rural part  of the story....maybe for a good reason.  If you knew more straights lived in Arkansas than any other state....it might disturb you, or if you knew that twenty-percent of California is gay, with the rest of the nation near .02 percent....it might disturb you.  As for the "other-minded" folks (neither straight, gay, or bi)?  Well....three million stretched across America....doing something, but we aren't sure of what.

Finally, Edward Snowden (our NSA guy) gave a brief interview of sorts....commenting on a number of things.  One of them.....that he's firmly convinced that IF he'd just be allowed a jury-trial rather than a judge-trial.....he'd get an innocent type situation, and his "peers" would see the truth.  Maybe if this was Hawaii or California.....in an OJ-like setting, he might be right.  In the other forty-eight states?  I'm fairly convinced that the charges laid out....would be noted on a guilty situation for Snowden.  He kinda noted at the end.....negotiations with the State Department are kinda stalled on this idea of him returning to conditions that he prefers.  My humble guess is that he'll live out his life in Russia, unless the Germans rig up some bogus deal to bring him into Germany.  Otherwise, he'll never touch US soil ever again.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Tranquility in the Real World

"We live in a complex world, and at a challenging time."
  -- President Obama, 17 Jul 2014

After eight years of the Bush administration.....most folks (to include a fair number of independents and Republicans) would readily admit in 2008....they were hoping for some kind of change.  US relations around the globe were stalled.  Things were getting stagnant.  Banks were hyper about US policy.  The US economy wasn't going much of anywhere.  And what people were mostly looking for a logical guy who would ask questions, get assessments, and take the steering wheel for a while to readjust things.

In essence, we are still waiting.

The PR guy for the administration came out a few days ago and used the expression that the President had "brought tranquility to the globe".  Which someone within the White House Press area asked if that area of the globe was Iceland?

After hearing the comment, and having been through Iceland on numerous occasions (more than eight, but I've never ventured outside of the airport).....I can attest to one single thing that I've noticed about Icelandic folks at the airport.....they tend to be focused, professional and courteous.

In general, there are roughly two murders on average a year in Iceland.  It's not exactly a hotbed of oppression, greed, frustration, or hostility. There were 394 assaults reported in 2011.  Although, to be honest....if you could weasel out the drunk and druggies on the 394 number......you'd probably get closer to the 275-number.

Back in late December of 2013.....less than eight months ago....the Icelandic news folks reported the first police situation since 1944 where a cop had to shoot a guy.  Yeah....I know....pretty amazing.  The cops tried to calm the guy a bit....but he had a history of mental disease (oh yeah, they have that as much as we do), and after the guy fired.....the cops fired just enough to drop the guy.

Why is Iceland so tranquil?  Well.....this is a bit difficult to believe.....but because of taxation and income levels.....the upper class of Iceland is noted to involve only 1.1 percent of society.  The lower class of society?  1.5 percent.  So the MIDDLE CLASS is made up of 97.5 percent of society....hence, the reason why everyone is so happy, and TRANQUIL.

So you sit and think about this.

There's not much to get frustrated over.  No one can really afford to drive a high-end BMW....so they all drive average cars.

There's not much to envy.  No one can really afford to go off to Aruba for a week of hard partying, or Hawaii for two weeks of fun in the sun, or spend $7,000 on a weekend trip to Vegas.

There's not much to get hostile about.  Your cousin is making the same money as you.  Your wife is making about as much as you.  Your postal carrier is making as much as you.  Your barber makes as much as you.  So you just kinda tip your one beer tonight (that's mostly all you can afford in Iceland) and nod at the bartender that it'll be a long one-beer night for you.....sipping very slowly.

 There's not much to get disheartened about at a class reunion.  Everyone got to the same point in life as you....even after thirty years.

There's not much to feel defeated about.....the neighbor is about as screwed as you are on promotions.  Your doctor might note your blood pressure is awful low, but that's ok.

Complex world stuff?  Well....it's hard to say if the President knows much about complex stuff.  You don't run into many complex problems as a Illinois legislature guy, a part-time professor, or community organizer.  Stuff from Harvard, Columbia or Occidental that fits into this issue of a complex world?  I doubt if any professor from the three schools ever taught a class that hinted of complex situations in the world.

Complex stuff in Iceland....the tranquil land of snow and ice?  I'm imagining the toughest thing that might turn a Icelandic guy upside down and get him all frustrated.....is a 300-piece Lego set.  Yeah.....in an entire year......there's just not much to get the feeling of complexity into your thinking in Iceland.

In the US....because of all the various issues, problems and chaos that exists.....we tend to vote guys into the position of President....so they can do....what we can't.  And if they grasp at some point that things are fairly complex and beyond them....then ask for help or get the right people around you.  And if you just won't take such action?  Well....it might be time to get a park ranger job, or start looking for another professor's position.

Long, Long Time Ago

This was the week....thirty years ago....that drinking ages suddenly went to twenty-one.  President Reagan pushed on this a bit, and the legislation was pretty easy.  It was actually introduced by a Democratic Senator on 26 April 1984 as a bill.  It took four days to pass the House, and sixty days to pass the Senate.....both on voice votes, and no one is noted having voted against it.

Could you get the same enthusiasm today for such a vote?  No.

By 1984, I was past twenty-one....so this never affected me.  To be honest, I don't even remember this being a page one item with the local Stars and Stripes newspaper (maybe it was).

It's an odd item to get into a discussion.  You accept eighteen year old punks into the Armed Forces....to kill people and destroy entire cities if necessary, but the same logic doesn't hold if the kid wants a beer.  Same for driving skills....at age sixteen getting a license.  Same for credit card applications or loans.  A nineteen-year-old kid could walk into a doctor's office.....get a prescription for a major painkiller, and take the dosage himself that night. The list goes on and on.

Up until this point.....states controlled their situations.  Again, one of those cases where the federal guys exceeded their authority, taking a little bit of power from each state.

The curious thing about the law?  Well....it had a waiver written into it.  If you were doing communion wine for religious reason....even several bottles for the afternoon service at some friend's backyard 'revival'......that's ok.  Wine for Godly reasons.....was written into the legislation....which makes you wonder about how they could write fine acts of legislation in 1984....but really lost the art to such writing by 2009/2010.

Did it fix much?  I'm not sure about this.  Maybe it did.  But you can walk into any college dorm and find eighteen-year-old kids puking their guts out at midnight because they drunk a lot of booze and don't remember much of anything.  Who sold them the booze?  Don't know.  The taxes for the booze?  Oh, that went into the county and state taxation racket.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The American Ditch in Decline

I noted yesterday that the topic of EPA expansion on regulating took another step or two.  Apparently, there's some effort for the EPA to have regulating ability over washes (as you have in Arizona), roadside ditches, and drainage ditches.  We aren't talking on federal property....it's meant for all of the US, period.

So you'd sit there....as a typical Bama guy would....trying to imagine some department in the EPA....governing ditches in Bama.  The commissioner of ditches?  Yeah, it'd be a paid job, with a hottie secretary, forty scientists studying ditches, and probably a thousand administrative guys properly monitoring ditches throughout America.

You'd go once a year to Tallahasse, Florida to attend the ditch-association meeting.....charming environmentalists on ditch knowledge and regulation.  There would be ditch lobbyists there to hand out golf carts, special gifts, and fancy swanky evenings with hired lobbyist-hookers.

The scientists in charge of reviewing ditches in America?  Well....they'd come from upscale university programs at Harvard, Yale, and UCLA.  Naturally.....they'd admit they'd never really seen a real ditch in their life, or pulled a truck out from one, or seen a bunch of copperhead snakes in a typical southern Alabama ditch.

The dry wash commissioner?  Well....there's not much to say or do....for ten months out of the year.  Usually in July and August....dry washes become a hot activity, with monsoon storms arriving and flooding areas with the dry washes.  So you'd have plenty of time to talk politics in DC, swap bar-b-q recipes, talk with trampy Baltimore women, and sip straight rum in the afternoons at the office while watching baseball games.

Fifty years ago....if you had suggested that some government agency would eventually want to take over your ditch business in rural America....folks would have laughed you out of the room.  Today?  It's not a joke.

There are four million miles of roads in America...more or less.  So you can figure at least five to eight million miles of ditches in America.  You'd have to hire a bunch of college kids and do a large database.....to show various grades of ditches.  Yeah, it's a full-time job for some unemployed college kids....just to count ditches.

Permission to place a ditch, or perhaps do maintenance on a ditch? Coming from Washington DC?  Is that really necessary?

You can imagine some type of accreditation coming out of this....meaning you have to be an official ditch-digger, with some type of degree or background.....to even dig a ditch.  Just showing up with a shovel and pick....won't cut it.  You'd have to be special....to dig a ditch.

Only in America.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Oh, That Railway?

Over the weekend.....some analysts came out and put together the method of transportation for the 300,000-odd illegal aliens coming across the border for 2014.

It's an interesting story, which goes back to the early 1990's and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

At the time, some folks pushed as part of the package a port deal in Mexico, which would connect to a railway....thus unloading ships from China (at a much lesser rate) then putting the cargo onto railways that cross Mexico and lead into Texas, New Mexico or California.

The graphic above shows the general routes through Mexico.  If you notice the end lines on the south part of the map....those are adjacent to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

So you as a 13-year-old Salvadoran would cross the border into Mexico....make your way to Tapachula.....wait for a train leaving for the north, and in a week or two....you'd be at the US border....then walk across.

The curious thing about this railway?  In 2005, it was bought by Kansas City Southern.  It's a Mexico division....so the profits can stay in Mexico (rather than be taxed by the US).

Yeah, our little piece of NAFTA.....which took about ten years to develop....is now part of the rail access method of getting the illegal kids to the border.  What will halt it?  Nothing.  No one will stop the railway.....nor put up a fence at the border.....or enforce any law (on either side of the border).

The odds of CNN or any major network chatting about this?  Virtually zero.  You could go and put some reporter and camera crew on the railway cars, and tape the 120-odd-hour trip getting up to the border.  It'd be awful easy to tell this story and how we really screwed up.  But, that's not what the media cares much about.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Day of Reckoning for the IRS Chief

The judge handling the IRS episode over the Tea Party stuff....gave an odd directive to the head of the IRS last week.  He wants the head guy to come back next week, and give testimony.....under oath.  The media has barely covered this order, and no one really says much over it.  Having worked around the US government.....I can state that this oath business probably changes a ton of things over a short period of time.

What will happen here?  As the order was given for testimony under oath.....the head guy starts to sweat a bit.  Number one....rarely do any of these people hired for such a lofty position....have any understanding of IT work or situations.  They hire people to handle IT requirements.  So, just asking one stupid and routine question....means a answer under oath, and the head guy probably can't do an adequate job.

Number two.....once he realizes the impact of the order...the head guy goes back to the division and orders a big meeting with all the players, and the lawyers of the agency.  The lawyers want the players, and people with info.....to now provide written and signed statements to the head guy.  These statements need to reflect the "truth" but also blend into the statements of their associates.

Number three....as you can imagine....these lesser figures now start to sweat because no one ever made them write statements and sign them before.  So, that night....they call their lawyer (the $150 an hour local guy).  He admits that he's not up on this kind of stuff, but knows a DC lawyer who is (the $300 an hour DC guy).  This DC lawyer gives a two hour phone chat to this guy and his local lawyer.  The key thing?  Don't sign nothing unless you feel comfortable, and it's the truth.

Number four....as the hours pass and the deadline to come back into court starts to get close....the head guy now finds several folks willing to only state a couple of facts and limit their knowledge admitted.  The head guy tries to comfort his folks.....they are protected by the lawyers of the agency.  No one believes this now.

Number five....over the twenty-four hours before the next judge-to-IRS chief-meeting, there's high tension at the agency.  Some folks are thinking of leaving the agency as soon as possible.  Some folks have given up doing real work and worried about protecting themselves.  The agency lawyers are pulling eighteen hour days....but can only charge eight to ten hours on their time-card.  There's some feelings about a US marshall team possibly arriving and conducting a search of their records.  So the lawyers are likely cleaning their files as time goes by....to ensure they don't have conflicting evidence or emails in their possession.

My humble guess is that the IRS chief will ask for a delay of ten days once we get to X-day.  The judge will have a choice of cooperating or demanding they show up.  Hard to say what happens in this case.

If you could find a network covering this and giving minute-by-minute coverage....it'd be kinda interesting to watch.  My guess is that no network will cover it, period.  Maybe a one-minute update at the end of the day....but nothing much else.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Question of Scandal

For a number of weeks, I've been trying to grasp and understand how the news media grades and invokes "scandal".  Some networks and news organization say X is scandal but Y is not scandal.

If you grow up in Bama....you generally know scandal.  There's roughly ten versions.

1.  The local Baptist minister is caught with three choir ladies....which none of them knew that the other two were involved.

2.  The local water department clerk is finally audited after fifteen years of employment, and is noted to having stolen over $100,000 through the years.  All of the money is gone....primarily due to her gambling habit at the casino over in Mississippi..

3.  The local mayor and city council are discovered to have hired up relatives for various town maintenance jobs....of which none of them ever work more than twenty hours of week for a full-up pay-check.

4.  A city council pair of dimwits rig up a property swap, where some guy gets a $150,000-valued piece of land in exchange for a $10,000-valued piece of land that the city owns.

5.  The local high school agriculture instructor is caught buying state property at some state auction, in the name of the school and then turns around to sell the former state property at the normal price....walking away with $5k in profits in his pocket.

6.  Two deacons from the local church use church funds to travel off to a deacons conference in Plano, Texas.....but later are discovered to have stayed at some fancy resort in Dallas, and pay for strippers with the church credit card.

7. The local doctor is arrested and charged with Medicare fraud for asking for blood tests for every single patient they see.  The extra profits made from this gimmick?  They pay for a Bahamas property they bought and intend to retire to within ten years.

8.  The local bank loan officer is discovered signing loan papers for her lover....over and over and over.

9.  The minister's wife runs off to Oklahoma City with a local farm implement salesman.

10.  The police chief from town is found undressed in his squad car with two Memphis transexual lady-guys who just happened to stop in the middle of Alabama on a warm July evening.

The thing is....most folks know what is scandal and what is not.  A news reporter can pretend he knows better....but it just doesn't work well.  People tend to ask stupid questions....why this happened, where the trail of money went, and how someone fell from the lofty position they held.

Sometimes, you feel sorry for the scandal folks.  You'd like to help them somehow.....maybe send up a prayer, or just look the other way on something.  You'd like for the scandal to just go away, or get fixed by some judge in a hurry.

The fact is.....we pretty much know scandals so well.....because we've seen them so often.  A typical Bama guy will swore that he sees an average of one scandal every ten days.  Sometimes with his neighbor....sometimes with a church member....sometimes with a relative....sometimes with a former school buddy....sometimes even with a hunting partner.  It's life, in a difficult way.  And it's not exactly pretty.

Entertaining?  Well....yeah.  It does beat talking up weather, GM brake pads, bad mowers we've bought at Wal-Mart, loose women we know from the flea market, and swanky gals who shop along side of us at Piggly Wiggly.

The truth is....we enjoy scandal, and probably rank it higher than NCAA football.  Well....up until the bowl games anyway.

The Illegals

Yesterday, I came to note that some folks have awaken from this illegal immigration episode and asked why the US government is so busy in moving these illegal teens around, and yet in the inner city areas (like Baltimore, Memphis, Saint Louis, etc).....US citizen teens are under constant threat and ought to be offered some kind of "asylum" as well.  The hint here....to pack them up and move them to safer territories.

At the heart of the matter....I don't think the Administration planned any of this, and it's more of a external plot by various drug cartels and gangs to take advantage of the government's limited view of forceful actions.  You could write the entire response of the past four weeks by the White House onto one 3x5 card.  It's safe to say....no one is doing much of anything because no one in the White House has ordered much of anything.

Are inner city teens (regular American citizens) in a similar danger or threat that the illegals cite?  Yes.  Pick up your newspaper and look at shootings and stabbings in Baltimore.  Look over at violence in Washington DC's southeast neighborhoods.  Ask for a status of Houston inner city violence from any of the cops there.  It's bad.

So, why would you not treat these American kids the same way and put them on some plane to San Diego, or Waco, Texas or Coos Bay, Oregon?  These inner city kids are fearful....just like the illegals.  It just seems like you'd create some program with Greyhound buses.....free tickets....and just send American kids all over the nation and let them restart just like the illegal kids.

Maybe it's silly, but we seem to have billions set up and ready to spend on everything except border security or a fence.  Why not spend the billions on our own kids and send them somewhere else as well?  

Friday, 11 July 2014

Weed Nation

We are about to have state number two on the "marijuana-is-approved" list come into reality (Colorado was the first, and Washington state is now the second state).

Some folks with 247 Wall Street sat down and did the analysis on the next group to enter this stage.
The list?  Alaska (the vote comes in November and will likely pass), California (likely within two years), Maryland (they will virtually decriminalize it to the extent that it's more serious if you jay-walked than it is buying weed), Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon (likely by the election of 2016), Rhode Island, and Vermont.

What does the trend indicate? No southern states within the foreseeable future.  Also, shockingly enough....Michigan wasn't on the next list....while the residents of Detroit would easily vote up such a measure with a twenty-point margin (my humble bet).

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, I noted that marijuana farmers out of South America have virtually stopped their production cycle....with no one really interested in buying it or transporting into the US.  Mostly because there's already plenty of legal marijuana already on the market, and tons more coming from US farming operations.

The DEA guys?  They seem to have basically given up on crimes and the legal system surrounding marijuana.

What's left?  Taxation on sales of marijuana.  On this topic.....someone has to be standing there and calculating the actual sales going on in Colorado, and knows the daily revenue numbers.  ABC reported just in the past few days of the first accurate study of sales over the weed....which they figure around 130 metric tons of weed were sold in the past year.  Roughly ninety percent went to state residents and the rest for "guests".

The market value currently reflects around $220 an ounce for weed.  You can do the math....but it'd come out just over a billion dollars a year for state sales....if the $220 number is accurate (I'd question this myself and think the number is lower).

If you attach a taxation deal to the sales.....and you border Colorado....then you have to wonder about what sales taxation you are missing....if your "buyers" walk over the border to buy their stuff.  In the end.....if you figure you lost $200 million on possible taxes....you'd get pretty upset, and start to campaign on getting it approved in your state.

The guys conducting this survey.....kinda limited themselves.  They left out a number of questions....either because of time, man-power, or just limits.  For example....for these 'guests' of the state....where are they coming from?  Texas?  Utah?  And the age grouping of the buyers?  And were they continual repeat buyers?

Whether we like it or not....weed is now a business, and a revenue machine.  It'll eventually turn into a taxation device.  And we will have to accept the fact that more people smoke weed, than those who don't.

Just An Odd Observation

Just an odd observation.....but national data collectors say that between 1.5 and 3 million American teens....walk/run away from home each year and try to disappear.  The amount of federal effort put into finding them and correcting the situation?  Almost nothing.

300,000 illegal Latino teens entering the US?  Well....we would be willing to spend $3 billion to house and handle them.  We'd put hundreds of thousands of man-hours into their situation per year.

Yet we won't even look at the 1.5 million American teens.....actual American citizens....and their issue.  We won't put them into protective camps on military bases.  We won't put them on buses to San Diego.  We won't hire lawyers to handle the legal issues involved.

What does it say about our society, our priorities, and our politics?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Sneaky Chinese Guys

The US government runs a department....whose sole responsibility is to access and control security clearances for all US citizens working for the US government.  Every five years....if you have a clearance....these guys snoop over your financial records, your travels, your relationships, and your perceived attitude at the office.  Then, they write this stuff down, and someone makes a decision if you continue your security clearance....or you fail it....thus getting terminated at work.

This week, this department admitted that Chinese hackers snooped around the database.  The department said in some positive way that the Chinese didn't get personal information from the database.  Of course, over the past few years....various government agencies have said things that were simply not true, and no one challenged them on the factual part of their story.  In this case, I'm not sure if the Chinese got locked out, or simply found a better door to enter on a later occasion.

So, why would some Chinese guy want to find this listing and the data attached to hundreds of thousands of cleared US government employees?  You can arrange for them to fall into various traps....if you know the guy is heavily in debt (like a $500k mortgage that he can barely pay), or his credit cards are up to around $50,000.  Perhaps by reviewing the records....you can assess the guy travels a good bit to the Caribbean and you can have some hooker become friendly with the guy while sitting at a bar in Aruba and get him into a black-mail scheme.  Or you could start to move non-Chinese agents into the US....plant them as neighbors to target X, and then listen into phone chats from the house next door.

Generally, it always bothered me when I had to fill out the twelve-page document every five years and declare various facts.  They would snoop around and if you missed a detail....like some one-day trip to Switzerland, or some $25,000 investment account transfer....they would dig and figure you had tried to hide the information.  So, there's tons of data in this database, and it's all sitting there to be manipulated by the Chinese....if they can just sneak around the entry problem.

Are the guardians of this data worried?  I kinda doubt it.  They might be curious over why the Chinese would sneak into it....but I would doubt they are rethinking the whole database and access quality that protects it.  Meanwhile, if you were holding a clearance.....you'd start to wonder about new friends or neighbors who bump into you, and ask a lot of questions.

New ISIS Strategy?

There's been this hint over the past couple of days that this ISIS-crew....the folks taking territory in Iraq and threatening stability there.....might head south and tear apart Mecca, which resides in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis kinda protect Mecca....as the holy spot for Muslims around the world.  If you are Islam.....you are supposed to make one trip in your life to Mecca....for religious purposes.

Why would ISIS destroy Mecca and the holy site there?  Well....there's this little commentary within the Koran that you aren't supposed to allow structures to overcome the religion itself.  When you put up a statue for Islam....it's defying the general rules of the religion.  When you put up a $50-million-dollar mosque.....it's defying the general rules of the religion.  The ISIS folks are going back to the standard Koran definition of a thousand years ago, and making a stand for old fashioned traditional values.

Mecca?  Well.....there's some history here.  You see....around 600 AD...Mecca was a big-name trading center in the Middle East.  If you were a merchant or bartered stuff.....it was on your top ten places each year to go and deal.  You could call it the mega-flea market of the Middle East around this point in time.

Mecca thrived under the free enterprise system and widely known as a open-religious community.  You worshipped as you pleased....just don't antagonize folks was the general rule.

The big deal of the year in Mecca?  There was a religious fest to celebrate all religions, which centered around this black rock that existed there.  Everyone came to trade, barter, and spend money during this festive occasion.

This changed as Muhammad arrived, and eventually threw out the controlling authority of Mecca....then declared that the black rock was only there for his religious group.

What happens when ISIS crosses the border?  My scenario for this runs through three basic steps....with the Saudis in absolute shock as their border guard situation evaporates overnight.  ISIS would have travel roughly 700 miles (figure one entire day at top speed with no stops or minor battles to limit them).

Mecca, upon hearing they'd cross the border....would likely empty out within four hours....heading either west toward Jordan or east toward the sea.  Two million residents in Mecca.....so you can figure the four-lanes leading either way will be clogged and half the folks in town will never have a chance to get out before ISIS arrives.

The curious factor is that if all of the two million residents were armed.....and the ISIS arrival crew (initial stages) would not number over 3,000 in number (my humble guess on the pick-up truck delivery system).  Mecca, if they were logical and thinking....could put down the arrival crew in a matter of hours.  But these are Saudis, and without their military structure....they just aren't the fighters that you'd want for this case.

The Saudis would now turn to the US, and demand absolute help delivered overnight.  The current administration?  It'd take at least ten days for them to form an opinion and get the President's approval to proceed....add four days to get troops into place, and by then.....half of Mecca is destroyed and the black rock structure is non-existent.  I'd also find that all of the banks in Mecca have been emptied out and billions stolen in the form of bills, gold and silver.

Now, if I were ISIS.....I'd move on westward.....toward Jordan, and Israel.

The odds of going into Saudi Arabia?  You turn a pretty negative Iraq episode....into a five-star mess in a matter of a week.  Gas prices will go up by twenty percent.  CNN will surge into first-place as they cover the development.  The President's staff will wake up to discover that they really don't have a plan to fit this, and will want polling data to indicate what the American people suggest....which is mostly to dissolve the Designated Hitter-rule in baseball, get rid of the illegal aliens, and fire Senator Harry Reid.  If we produced all the oil we needed from within the US....then none of this would matter.

Yep, things could actually get worse....if you didn't think it was possible.

Wal-Mart Beverage Shops?

I read a lot of business news....and yesterday, there was a five-star bombshell piece quietly hidden in the Wall Street Journal.  A brief two-line piece....which described Wal-Mart's new strategy of getting into alcohol sales, doubling their stake in this one area, and possibly opening stand-alone beverage shops (beer, wine, and booze).

It's not the Wal-Mart concept that we grow up with in the 1980s, and it probably won't work in some conservative southern regions.

Wal-Mart operates with a simple concept.  You brew beer.....you want to sell based on a profit margin for your product.  More is better....in most cases.  So, Wal-Mart steps into the room and says that price per pallet isn't good enough.  So you as the beer guy....hint that if they'd buy thirty-percent more on quantity, you'd ease on the pricing of the pallet by ten-percent.  Eventually, you reach some agreement on a fantastic amount of beer that they will buy.....but it means less profit than you'd normally accept. Bulk-sales....in effect.

Everyone from hair shampoo manufacturers to shoe polish dealers.....hate Wal-Mart's bulk pricing strategy.  You sell to get a big step up.....take large orders.....and then rely on making up the margin by dealing with Piggly Wiggly, K-Mart, Target, and the others....with regular pricing.

How would a Wal-Mart beverage shop (standing alone) operate?  I'm guessing it'd be 2,000 square feet.....bundled into a industrial neighborhood of some city....hoping on sales as folks get off work and want to pick up two cases of beer, and six bottles of wine for the weekend.  There would likely be eight full-time employees, and six people coming in to stock the shelves daily as a part-timer.  Somewhere near the front would be chips and dip....maybe some charcoal for grilling....and maybe every spring there would be an assortment of grills lined up for sale.

Wal-Mart's target?  All of the small convenience beverage shops that exist in most towns and cities.  You see....they can't get the special discount prices.  I'd take a guess that a southern town of forty thousand residents....will typically have eight convenience beverage shops spread out within the urban boundary.   With just one Wal-Mart beverage shop.....it'd probably wipe out three of the no-name shops within three years.  Put one on the west end of town and one on the east end of town?  You'd probably wipe out seven of the eight no-name shops within five years.

The end of an era?  Maybe.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

My Immigration Solution

While most Americans suffer from amnesia.....I'm one of those who remembers the 1986 era, and the immigration act that was passed by House and Senate, and signed by President Ronald Reagan.  It was a done deal.  It was supposed to fix all ills, ensure conformity, set up a process to enter the US, and then hand out bulk forgiveness to roughly ten million illegals in the US (mostly from Mexico and Central America).

Well....thirty years later.....we are at the point where people pretend the 1986 act doesn't exist, and we need to repeat the process again, and then forgive roughly fifteen to twenty million illegals in the US.

So, after a number of months watching both political parties engage in comic talk and chatter, then observe news analysts do a one-star job explaining the problem.....I'd like to suggest five simple solution steps.

1.  Forget the fence...it'll never be built....both parties will fight to hand out money but then never do enough to get it built.  So....fire all of the border control agents....dissolve the border.....and just plain forget it exists.  Whoever wants to cross the border....just needs to walk over.  If the Mexicans want to continue their part of border control....fine....but we don't need to waste time or effort on this.

2.  Anyone who wants to enter the US....may enter, period.   Doesn't matter if they are from Russia, Thailand, El Salvador or the Congo.  Just get on a plane....fly in and announce yourself. Forget this garbage about being real friendly to Latinos.  Just open up the door, and let anyone arrive who desires.

3.  All new folks arriving....get to work immediately and pay taxes and social security.

4.  The voting deal?  Well....once you arrive and register yourself at some post office....you start a fifteen-year process.  No arrests, no long-term desertion of the US (you get two weeks a year outside of the country without restarting the clock), pay your taxes, learn English.....then after fifteen years....you get a voting right.

5.  What happens in three years?  With sixty million foreigners arriving in the US....we suddenly start to notice that Latinos are extremely unhappy because someone else is taking the work that they had secured in years past.  Some Thai guy....some Congo guy....some Russian gal....would all compete against the Latinos who had some political power at some point, but now are just one blip among sixty different blips.  

Fair is fair.  Unfair is unfair.  Too many political idiots are making this into a circus episode with no real achievement in the end-result.  So, let's play poker and push the stakes higher.  No limit poker, and make both Republicans and Democrats start to sweat....along with a bunch of illegal Latino guys.

 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Short-Sleeve Versus Long-Sleeve

Years ago....1977....I joined up with the Air Force.  One of those ten little things that you came to question over the first year....was this mentality about long sleeves and short sleeves.  The Air Force had to "control" everything, and mandate what could be done or never done.

With the 'greens'.....they actually allowed us to take the shirt into the tailor and have the shirtsleeves cut off....thus making it a shortsleeve shirt.  However, this meant that after mid-October of each year....you had to wear only longsleeves.  So you'd pack away the one or two shortsleeve shirts into the closet and just get by until mid-April....when they were allowed back.

The same issue existed with the 'blues'....with some rule in effect.  Of course, none of this made any real sense....except to control people.

As the years passed....the old 'greens' went away, and the BDU arrived.  The nifty thing about the Air Force view of the BDU....was that you could roll up the sleeves.  So in the midst of December....in some hot building that had lousy heat control....you could roll up the sleeves and get some relief.

When the Army went to the BDU....you would have thought that they did the same thing, but no.....they instituted a rule that said that the sleeves MUST NEVER be rolled up....even in the midst of some deployment to Central America or Africa.

Naturally, there's grumblings about this kind of mundane and stupid rule.  Someone at the top thinks that if you rolled the shirt up....it'd mean more cases of skin cancer.  What evidence or study do they offer?  None.  As far as I can see.....no scientist or foundation group has ever gone out to do a research project on such an idea.

Why all this bother over shortsleeve and longsleeve stuff?  I don't know.  Evidently, it bothers some folks to show your arms.  Maybe it's the tattoo stuff, or the muscles demonstrated.....but it's really a problem for some folks.

Years have passed, and I've been out for fifteen-odd years now.  As a contractor and GS.....I had a couple of longsleeve shirts, and maybe wore them twenty days out of the year.  I'm anti-longsleeve.....about as much as you can be.  Maybe in the right office....with the right AC temperature....it makes sense.  But in the real world.....it just doesn't work.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Foundations

Sometimes, I'll point out the obvious, which news investigations refuse to touch.  Over the past couple of weeks....there's been comments made nationally about the speech fees that Hillary Clinton charges at public settings.  This erupted out of a college speech....where she was paid $200,000 to come down and speak for an hour or two.

To defend the pricing method....it came out late last week that the fees all go into a Clinton foundation.  The foundation turns around and dispenses the money gained to various charities that the Clintons favor.

So you'd look at this and say it's all fair.

Then you kinda ask.....who runs the foundation, and what all does the foundation pay for?  Well....that's the catch.

You see....if you are wealthy enough....you find the right team and build your own foundation.  The foundation can go out and buy a condo in New York City.....where you the head of the foundation will stay on various nights.  They might also buy a condo in Miami, and a condo in Chicago....all for the best interest of the head of the foundation.

Then the foundation might hire friends of yours....or their kids....to pay them hefy incomes and pretend to work or produce something of value.

Then you might use the foundation to hand out five or six scholarships a year.....to Georgetown University (figure $40,000 a year for tuition).

Foundation abuse can go to various extremes.  You might notice that most all of the major sports players in the US.....all have foundations.  They utilize them to help cover taxation issues and provide some type of protection for their capital assets.

As for the university stupid enough to pay $200,000 for Hillary Clinton?  I can't think of that much that she would share....making it worth even $20,000.  For that matter....other than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or Doctor Ben Carson.....I can't think of too many folks that ought to be paid more than $100,000 a speech.  Yeah, someone at the university ought to sit down and explain the fee business and how much they send out per year on fees.  It might explain the $18,000 a year for tuition, or the high cost of a on-campus apartment.

So, generally foundations are creations of some design....which probably aren't the purest of things that exist.

Friday, 4 July 2014

How to View this Teen Immigrant "Mess"

Over the past two weeks....it's become topic number one if you watch the news.  There are various slants over it....from the White House, the Republicans, the Democrats, the Latino agenda folks, the right-wing crowd, and journalists.  So five simple things that you ought to pause over and think about.

First, there's been indicators of increasing illegal immigrant teenagers.....for at least six months.  If you read through the comments by the Border Patrol crowd.....they admitted this back at the end of 2013.  It's not one event....it's simple a continuing spiral of the same event.

Second, the numbers are now overwhelming the capability of the Border Patrol folks to handle.  They aren't minding the border.....they are minding the kids.  They won't say the mix, but I'd take a guess that less than fifty percent of the folks who would normally be on patrol daily.....are doing some type of kid-handling episode. Nothing indicates it will improve.

Third, most people who analyze this from south of the border....indicate that instability in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are helping drug-gangs to threaten neighborhoods.....so in despair.....the logical step would be for younger kids who just want to get out of a mess.....to find some safe haven....the US.  No, the President, the Democrats, and the agenda crowd....didn't create this....they simply failed to react.

Fourth, while this rests now as a top five problem....this administration has one great feature....they don't make quick or fast decisions or develop solutions in a matter of days.  This is a crowd that mostly gets to a point where the President thinks of his own solution.....demands implementation.....and everyone jumps on quickly.  Notice, there's not been one single suggestion of fixing this....other than immigration reform.  Immigration reform will not fix this.....it would only fix the problems of those who've been around in the US for a decade or two decades.

Five, if you have 300,000 teenage immigrants standing in the US by November timeframe....election period....what exactly do you think will happen to voters in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas?  What happens in communities that wake to realize that they've got 1,500 teenage illegals sitting in a holding-community just a mile from the city limits?  Who pays for the illegals while they wait.....and wait.....and wait?

There are seven problems here: the drug-gangs, instability in Central America, political abuse of immigration, lack of a fence, limited leadership from the White House, news media pretending to be investigative, and a nation frustrated with politics.  As of this moment.....do you see any of these being resolved?  I rest my case.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A Nineteen Percent Day

If you picked up a New York Post today, there's this small story over insurance companies, and the expected rate of increase for January 2015.....for healthcare costs.  The shock?  Several are pushing toward a nineteen percent increase.  Whether it is finalized yet or not....some folks are likely sitting there and just asking themselves.....where in their pay-check does this come out of?

My general expectation is that around three-percent of the people who have insurance today.....likely will quit by 1 January as they figure out the rate of increase and the inability to cover that cost.  Naturally, losing a million folks.....means in July of 2015 when the insurance companies meet again, and set the 1 Jan 2016 rate......will go up yet again.

This is the problem with the method of allowing the government to mandate what happens but not really offering a control mechanism to keep something within reality.

A topic for the Sunday chatter shows?  Yeah, but what can you really say?  It was all expected, and there's no magic bullet to take down this beast.

Simply Observations

First, from this point on out for 2014....there's zero legislation occurring in the House and Senate.  The election cycle is in full-swing.  So, when you hear the President talking up new legislation.....it's mostly all hot-air.  For 2015?  Way too early to talk any priorities, and if the Republicans have fifty seats in January....the whole game changes.

Second, this chatter about Supreme Court Judge Ginsburg retiring?  Simply hot-air again.  A number of liberals are talking up that she needs to retire before October, thus allowing the majority of Democrats in the Senate to safely pick a fairly liberal judge to replace her.  Well....they waited too long, and nobody in the Senate feels comfy about doing this business before the election (November).  So, go and mark your calendar.....around 18 November.....Ginsburg will announce she's retiring as of mid-January.   This will safely allow the remaining Democrats (who might be leaving by early January anyway) to stand up and vote.  The running list of replacements?  I'm guessing the President has three individuals on a very short list, and it'll take less than forty-eight hours to press forward after the retirement announcement and get this done.  The odds of getting some angry Senators?  Better than fifty percent.   There are at least a couple of Democratic Senators who aren't exactly reading the script that the White House sends over anymore....so it might not be an extremely liberal judge selected....thus upsetting even more folks.

Third, generally....no matter where you live in Tibet....you are living at high attitude.  This has puzzled scientists for years because it's not that easy to live in that environment.  Well....they finally researched the genes and found that there is this DNA sequence code....from an extent version of the human being....which the folks of Tibet got....and it helps them survive at high altitudes with lesser oxygen.  This would naturally bring up the question of what exactly happened to the "cousin" of the Tibet folks and how did they die off?  Maybe another research grant, and another project to dig up buried folks?

Fourth, if you look at localized news.....over in Sacramento, California.....a significant TB outbreak has been announced at a local high school.  True, the numbers are less than ten so far.....but it begs the question of how TB is resurfacing, and if it relates to illegal immigrants.  TB used to be one of the most prominent diseases that Americans could get.....then it kinda got wiped out.  Returning?

Fifth and final....ever wanted your own drone?  With a camera?  I was at a hobby shop last week here in Germany, and here is the Phantom II drone.  Roughly $1,500.....you can fly it around for roughly two miles and video-tape your neighbor's property, the beach, and just about anything.  This kinda begs the question.....just how prevalent will drones be in ten years?  Will twelve-year old kids be using them?  Will Wal-Mart be monitoring the parking lot with them?  Will folks be viewing their neighborhood on a regular basis?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The $15-a-Vote Deal

I've waited a day or two for the dust to settle in the Mississippi primary episode where accusations over the weekend suggest that Cochran-enthusiasts suggested a $15-a-vote deal to at least one black minister.  He has the text messages, and the deal was to involve these votes would result in some brown manilla envelopes arriving, by some method (probably not US postal operations), and folks would get "paid-off".

The question is.....why $15 a vote?  Is this the standard?  Why not $10 or $25?

Americans get all peppy who paying for votes comes up.  It's generally perceived as unethical and illegal (just about every state has some kind of law that is supposed to prevent it).  Usually through the 1960s....it was a normal practice.  For the past twenty-odd years.....there's no cases that I can recall....where money came into play or was suggested.  Course, political folks got smart and had other methods to "pay-off".

The math on this is interesting.  Say that you need four thousand extra votes.....with $15 as the standard, you'd need $60,000 to carry out this agenda.  Where does this kind of money come from?  One back pocket to another.....some rich guy has cash around and needs a favor done by the political figure, so he offers the $60,000 to a middle-man who finds the witless figures to dump their votes.

Then we come to the odd part about the deal.....what if the guy promises his vote.....gets the $15....and then walks in to vote for another candidate instead?  Where is the check and balance of the game?

Up through most of the 1800s.....election day was bartered off mostly on booze.  You walked or rode a horse over to the county-seat.....started drinking early in the morning at one pub or bar which supported one particular party.  Free booze or beer for hours.....you voted for that guy.....got some more free booze and then walked home.  I would imagine that fifty percent of the men in America on election-days prior to the 1920s.....were mostly drunk for the whole day.

What will happen in Mississippi?  If the State Police refuse to get involved, and the federal Justice Department just watches from a distance, then it's done.  Nothing will come out of the episode, and the guy promised the $15 per vote will just sit there and grumble heavily over this.

Enough to get folks hyper and put a petition up to recall Senator Cochran?  Well....that would be curious.  I'm guessing sufficient numbers exist to get a petition in, and have a recall measure on the same voting papers where you'd vote for Cochran as the next Senator for Mississippi.  On one measure....he might get re-elected.  On the other measure, he might get recalled.  This would force the governor to appoint someone for six to twelve months.....while they run another primary by summer or fall of 2015.

What's this all lead to?  Corruption by insider Republicans who favor their best guy, and try to fake out the public into believing that the system is fair.....when it isn't fair.  If you live in Mississippi and were a moderate supporter of Cochran, you've got a bad taste in your mouth presently, and wish you might have just stayed home on this primary episode.  Personally, I'd raise the stakes next time around and demand $20.....just to make folks sweat a bit more as they have to hustle up more cash than usual.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Your Weekly NSA Spill?

Folks got peppy over the newest NSA story....released yesterday.....that our guy Snowden now reports that we spy upon 193 countries.  Yeah.....there's just four apparently on the forbidden list: Australia, New Zealand, England, and Canada.

Yeah, it must be true then....we spy on Tonga, the Vatican, Monaco (.7 square miles), and Saint Kitts (107 square miles).  The significance of what we pick up via the NSA with Monaco?  Well....it's best not to ask that, or ever spend an hour trying to answer that.  Hotel bills, business men conducting a tractor deal or a fuel deal, or perhaps some guy ordering seventy cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer to be delivered to his private yacht just off the coast of Monaco.

Big news?  No.  There's really not anyone out there who is surprised.  Big news via Snowden?  Well....on the scale of things, it's barely worth mentioning.

To some degree, I suspect that the guys have gleaned through all the traffic that Snowden handed them, and this is starting to get to the point of zero value.

So, if you were a bad guy.....should you run off to Canada?  No.....the internal cops (their version of the FBI) will spy on you.

About the only thing of interest that Snowden hinted in the newest episode is that we have about 90,000 individuals walking around the surface of the planet that the NSA deems as important to track.  The who's who of significance in the world?  It's hard to say.  The Pope might be on the list.....while the King of Jordan might not be there.  Some jihad guy might be on the list.....while the wife of the King of Tonga probably isn't on the list.  Entertainers like Madonna on the list?  I doubt it, but we might be stupid enough to track her, her expense account, and who she calls on a daily basis.

Now, if they listed the 90,000.....which they didn't.....it might get real interesting.  There might be seventy guys in Peru on this list....scratching their head over how they made the list and what's the big deal about their black market deals or drug-dealing.

Course, sitting back in Moscow.....Putin probably is sitting there and asking his guys for the number of folks they track and they indicate it's well over 350,000.  Putin might grin for a minute, and then ask how many of the US's 90,000 made it onto the KGB list of 350,000.  The KGB guy might grin and then indicate they know precisely because they already have a copy of the US list.

So, a lot of print.....over nothing?  Yeah.  It's almost of the quality as the NCAA football updates from Mississippi State University for the week.