Friday, 31 October 2014

Talking Mass Transit

There are five states which don't provide funding for mass transit. Alabama is one of the five.

Personally, I don't think of it as being a big deal, but the business news folks at Business Journal in Birmingham felt it was worth talking about (their article came out this week on the topic).  They'd like to see some changes in Montgomery, and a more friendly mass transit atmosphere.

I've traveled around the world and seen just about every type of mass transit idea operating.  Some work.  Some are failures that simply work like a pit.....throw money in and see nothing in return.

The success stories are mostly in highly urbanized areas.  If you had a town of 500,000, and run a decent bus network....folks tend to use it if the prices stay at an acceptable limit.  The DC system with subway and buses?  It only works because the federal government puts a fair amount of money into the system beyond the daily income and the state contributions from DC, Maryland and Virginia.  If the Feds quit paying extra money....the whole gimmick would fold up because of the massive  cost.

There was a study in the 1980s....my hometown region of Bama....Tuscumbia, Florence and Sheffield....had become the largest urban area in the US without any mass transit (not even a single bus).  The public that might appreciate mass transit in this area?  It's the lower class only, and by the time you consider the massive layout of the landscape, the minimum number of passengers per day, and daily operational costs.....it's unsustainable.

You start to gaze across Alabama....Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery, and Birmingham....same story.  You need four essential elements to mass transit to make it effective.  First, you need to convince all work classes that it's more effective in getting you from A to B.  Second, you need it to run seven days a week, for people to put trust into the deal.  You can run Sundays at half the rate.....but folks still need the bus if they are in the right frame of mind.  Third, you need it to run from 5AM to midnight to convince the locals that it's helpful, but you assume higher costs because of the increased hours. Fourth, you ensure absolute safety while traveling, with robbery or assault the last thing that might happen on a public bus.

The trouble in Alabama is that if some state senator started to pick this up and discuss the matter....indicating that the state would funnel $2 million to Birmingham for bus operations....then the rural folks of Bama would ask where this money came from and how they'd get mass transit money in the rurals of the state.  Naturally, it's an argument with no end.

A gas tax that would run back to each county for mass transit?  You'd typically expect the money to be misused or abused.  Some guy would rig up a contract for his cousin to operate a bus deal.....and the guy would hire some illegal guy, and use a 1966 Greyhound bus for the cross-town adventure.  Corrupted?  Yeah.

I don't expect much out of this.  The governor might bring up the topic, but he tends to bring up 350-different topics a year, so it doesn't really mean much.  Life will just continue on, as is.

Profanity Usually Gets You into Trouble

This week, it got around that some guy or gal in the White House, had been using the term "chickensh*t" when referring to the Israel prime minister....Benjamin Netanyahu.

The question was posed to the Press Secretary to identify who used the term, and he kinda declined.

I looked over the story.  It seems like someone was doing a comment dump to a source with the national news, and used this "chickensh*t" comment in a big meeting.  It appears that some type of apology had to be worked up and pushed to Netanyahu, but it's not clear what was said or how it was said.

So, I come to my general history of hanging around Air Force guys for over thirty years.  "Chickensh*t" just isn't a term you heard or picked up.  I can probably only identify two guys who ever uttered the term on a frequent basis.  I would take a guess that it was their standard term of frustration to use.

I would challenge you to go out and ask guys.....just on a rough average, how many times have you ever uttered "chickensh*t"?   Most will stand there and note that it's just not one of their 2,500 normally used words in a month.  So you run through forty guys and end up finding that only one guy notes some use with the word.  From women?  It's probably one out of 250 that would utter it at least once a year.

Now, if you were talking the word "bullsh*t", that would be different.....more frequent, and fifty-percent of all guys utter this at least once a week.  Chickensh*t is different on a verbal commentary than bullsh*t.

I know.....you might ask is it possible that the President himself is the one who uttered chickensh*t? Well....it's best not to ask that.  It'd just get you into deeper thought processes and is it really worth two minutes of your thinking time to consider that?

All of this gets me to a point....when you start to throw around profanity....it's usually not going to mean much unless you dropped a lead weight on your foot, or accidentally flipped your new $8,000 riding mower over in the ditch.  Using profanity over some political guy?  Total waste, if you ask me.  But this is what got around in the news this week.....a bunch of news guys trying to tell this story about "chickensh*t" but they can't say it on the air, so they have a graphic behind them with "chickensh*t" written on it.  The clean word police?  So far, nothing.

Only in America.

Why Jury Duty Matters

Jury duty is a pretty rough deal.  You registered to vote.  You get an envelop from the county clerk to show up for jury duty with an ID.  You show up and they ask a few questions.  Of course, from that group.....they want to establish right off the bat....you are an American citizen.  If you aren't....you are dismissed.

A smart guy would pause there and ask the question....well....how did you end up on the registered voter listing?

From the states of Virginia and Maryland, they apparently had a listing of failed jury members, who disqualified themselves over the past couple of years because they weren't US citizens.

You can imagine the shock here, especially by significant party strategists who just wanted to look the other way and pretend you could walk right through and vote.

All of this finally got figured out by a group in the region, who've decided enough is enough....they will sue in court.  All of this puts Maryland and Virginia judges in an awkward position.  There are two things in play, if you haven't thought about it.  First, you'd have to clean up the mess by forcing voter ID, which Maryland folks probably won't be happy about.  Second, this group of people who have voted while not American citizens (you can easily prove that point as well).....well, there is a $15,000 fine established for fraudulent voting.

The group contends....there's roughly 40,000 people in this mix.  Yep, the fine collected by both states could go upwards to $600 million.  Enough to pave roads in both states for six months.  Getting the money from the non-citizens?  Oh, I'm guessing it's practically impossible.  That's the amazing part of the story.....a fine that would get you nowhere.

What happens?  This cannot affect the 2014 election, except to reinforce voter fraud as they look at names, who voted, and who declared themselves non-citizens at the jury process.  The Maryland court will likely take it's time and get to this around May of next year.  The state will try to defend itself and delay this.  Figure no real court case until August of 2015.  The judge?  He'll come to an opinion by fall of 2015, and force it upon the state.  Appeals?  You attract a lot of attention by trying to deny voter ID....especially as you come into spring of 2016 and another Presidential election.

In Virginia, it might go differently.  They might size up the mess by the state legislature, and opt for voter ID rather quickly.

I have left off one other detail which a second group of analysts noticed in checking names from Virginia and Maryland.  There's roughly 14,000 dual voters from the states....meaning they are registered to vote in both Maryland and Virginia.

Part of this issue is that once you register.....you tend to stay on the system for two years.  There are fair number of people who get a job up in the region, and buy their original house in Maryland.  After a couple of years, they realize.....Maryland probably isn't as safe, or tax-friendly, as Virginia.  So they sell the house, and move to Virginia.  Getting off the Maryland register?  They don't tend to think about that.  Could some of these people have voted in both states?  That would be a curious thing to check out.

All in all....it means that this gimmick of checking jury listings is going to pick up steam.  Those who try to just get around this and fix some way of an illegal being on the jury?  Well, all that would do....is create a fraudulent jury, a fraudulent jury outcome, and a conviction that can't be sustained.  What idiot would want that atmosphere in his state?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Alabama: The Land Where Time Might Eventually Stand Still

This week, some Alabama state senator, Rusty Glover, pushing to achieve something that the nation itself, cannot achieve.

Rusty will put forward in January as the new legislative season opens in Montgomery......a bill to end daylight-savings time.  Based on commentary by various forum chatters.....it's probably a ten-to-one blessing on this.  It's hard to find anyone left in Bama who really wants the twice-a-year time change.

I should note.....earlier in 2014's beginnings....another Bama state senator did the same thing, but his episode ended when the authorities came to charge him with various crimes.  While a defined as a misdemeanor type event.....this guy ended up in some plea agreement and paid $24,000 in fines to the state.  This is one of the problems with Alabama politics.....you might be really surging in popularity and the next day find yourself all screwed up because you helped your cousin get a contract, accepted money from a massage-parlor therapist, or got drunk and disorderly at some Baptist church revival.

In Rusty's episode?  He's currently clean and uncharged on any front.  He might survive 2015, and actually run for the governor's position in 2016.

The bill itself?  Rusty said that it'd likely pass, but only after daylight savings time goes into effect in the spring.  So, the bill will say that as fall approaches and it's time to revert to 'normal-time'.....we won't move, and will on permanent daylight-savings time.

Now, what I expect eventually to occur is the split of Bama folks.....kinda like NCAA football action (Bama and Auburn), where one group wants to be permanently on daylight-savings time,and one group wants to be permanently on standard-time.

Farmers, engineer, gas-station attendants, Mountain Dew enthusiasts, flea market sales people, agricultural agents, ranchers, meth technicians, and snake-handling ministers.....will all have a personal opinion about this and voice discontent with the way this ends up.  One group will voice the terrible frustration of being permanently on daylight-savings time, and one will voice a woeful discontent about just living one time only.

For this reason, I'm predicting that some unfortunate corruption episode will befall Rusty Glover's destiny, and end this before it occurs.  Not that I really want Rusty to fall a step or two.....but it's the Alabama way of correcting righteous enthusiasm before things get out of control.  I should add.....without some lobbyist group or some corrupt millionaire benefiting, the natural tendency for failure is enormous in Alabama.

The Advancement of Society

There are roughly 13,000 medical conditions, disorders or physical ailments that affect mankind today.  I read that this week in some health article.  It's an amazing number of things that you could come down with.

Of the 13,000....there are 450-odd mental disorders.  These include: Dyscalculia (the inability to handle anything with numbers...even looking at a clock), Night Eating Syndrome (you binge and eat hefty evening dinners), White Coat Hypertension ( you get high blood pressure and freak out when you see anyone in a white jacket, especially a doctor), and Frotteurism (generally feeling happy sexually when you merely rub your crotch against someone....like on a subway).

A lot of the 13,000 are simply phobias.  These include: Dendrophobia (fear of trees), Ergophobia (fear of work), Kainophobia (fear of anything new....these people rarely buy new cars or furniture), and Plutophobia (fear of wealth, these people usually live under bridges).

Two thousand years ago, if you lived in civilization (central Europe, a small village of 300 residents), you had one likely mid-wife character in the village with some medical-related sense.  She might have been the worst person in the village to deal with, and maybe a nutcase half the time....but she had knowledge over roughly the normal one-hundred-odd medical conditions which typically affected folks.

You can figure pregnancy figured into the group.  Fever. Animal bites.  Broken bones.  Stomach issues.  Constipation. Simple muscle aches.

Over the course of two-thousand years, we've assembled a vast amount of knowledge over our physical and mental problems/disorders.

We can now take in some guy with anxiety issues which only appear at certain times, and rapidly get down to the point of diagnosing the guy with technophobia (the fear of speed).  This generally means that get him downsized from a regular car to something that is less sporty and thrilling to drive.  It's a silly thing and I personally doubt that they are more than a hundred such characters walking around America with this condition.

What happens over the next thousand years?  I would take a guess that we will identify over 100,000 medical conditions and disorders.  Some will relate to one single human being having a fear of waving flags, or air-flow created by a simple fan in the room. Some will involve physical changes in a person after a massive fitness episode.

The point of all of this discussion is that we just haven't stood still and said 'enough'.  We are continuing to define human conditions.....now almost one-by-one, and have no desires to limit expansion.  We are even to the point of advertising our medical services at unique situations....where certain doctors are there to only treat technophobia-type patients. That's how specialized we've become.

Society, in some ways, has become one massive disorder.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

This TLC, June, and Honey Boo Boo Thing

At some point in the fall of 2012, while still living in Arlington, I sat there one night and accidentally flipped over to the TLC, which was running Honey Boo Boo.  I sat for six minutes watching this garbage reality show.  A commercial came up, and I flipped the channel at that point.  That was my full dose of Honey Boo Boo.

I noticed about three months ago that June had dumped her man, or he'd just left.

This week, I noticed that June had taken up with predator guy, and TLC had decided enough was enough....terminating the show.

No one ever said much over how many folks watched the show.  I personally doubt that they ever had more than 200,000 Americans who tuned into it. For kids?  No.  I can't imagine any kid wanting to watch this stuff.  Teens?  No.  Young guys?  No.  I think the bulk of the audience were mostly women over sixty, and they thought it was cute.  Beyond that....nothing.

This is the problem we have with TV today....reality TV is blooming and you can create a bogus show on gold prospecting (Gold Rush), a fake dinosaur hunt, truckers hauling weird stuff around America, amateur scientist talking myths, ghost patrols, and even fake lumberjacks.  I sat last year and watched some trailer park saga from South Carolina's beach area.....with mostly trailer folks talking trashy stuff and having dramatic lives laid out in six entire minutes.

The truth is....reality TV is cheap to produce.  You hire a crew, get some gimmick, hire some fake actors, and with $200,000....you can get a decent episode of fake car repossession produced or some homeless guys living under some bridge in Birmingham.  None of the facts have to be true.  Acting can be marginal.  The story can be half-witted or dismal.  You just need to get the whole thing told in 22 minutes and keep folks interested.

My brother could lead some camera crew around the farm, noting various local emergencies (fence posts need replacing, yard needs mowing, the light burned out on the drive-way pole, or the septic tank backed up).  It'd kinda work for a while.

Some other guy could run a twelve episode season over his flea-market empire and his wife who is three-timing him, along with the nephew who is getting charged up to become a fake Baptist minister.

Some gal might run three seasons with a fraudulent body massage studio, which is really a cheapo bordello which the local cops are bribed to just overlook.

The issue to me....it's all less than entertaining, and in some ways....it's fake.  It's so realistically fake......you know it's fake.

June and Honey Boo Boo?  Well, if the CNN legal guy is right....Boo Boo is likely to end up with relatives or some foster home.  June?  You'd just sit there and wonder how she picks so many loser guys and if it's just dumb luck.  Maybe June will eventually recover, marry some radical minister guy from El Salvador, lose forty pounds via the local fake fitness studio, and get picked back up for TLC.  Stranger things have happened.

Bringing Them to the US

Some guy in the US State Department wrote up a "white-paper", which advocated the idea of bringing African Ebola patients.....into the US.....for treatment.

Yeah, you can sit there and wonder about this idea.  What the State Department generally says is that they don't know of any such idea.  There might be one single white-paper....written by some guy....in support of this process.  There are 13,000 folks who work for the state department and it's possible that one single guy dreamed up this radical idea, and maybe four people have actually read the initial page.

How would this work?  I would imagine that some big hub would be created in each country within the Ebola zone.  That hub.....run by three or four thousand Army and Air Force personnel....would pick up identified patients....run them through a personalized check.....then push them onto a prioritized system.  A special cargo plane would land with a container to quarantine them for the fourteen-hour flight.

My guess is that the stress of the flight would worsen their condition a fair bit, and if they were three or four days into the worst part of the episode.....a quarter of the folks would pass away within a day or two after arrival in the US.  Our care wouldn't matter to those folks.

Thousands?  I can only take a guess that the initial surge would mean a thousand people a week needing this transport.  Maybe after six months....the numbers might finally retreating with the right mix of strategy and tactics.

The question becomes....for those who survive....would they willingly get back on the plane and fly back to Liberia?  My humble guess is that most will ask to stay.  In this willingness to help out these folks.....we will basically open up a Pandoras Box.  Ten thousand?  Maybe forty thousand Ebola survivors.....intent on staying?

For this reason, if any government idiots or White House idiots really support this type of idea....I'd go and do something radical.  I'd find the most remote area of New Mexico.....in the midst of the desert, and make that the Ebola center for these folks.  Then when they talk of immigrating or staying.....I'd have a law that basically says you have to stay in that rural and remote area of New Mexico for ten years before citizenship could occur, and you were forbidden from leaving the state of New Mexico....until you wrapped up that residency requirement.

I'm hoping that this is just a joke, or the work of a guy trying to impress his boss with new and creative ideas.  It just isn't something you'd want to start.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

This Shooting

This Washington state school shooting?  You can sum this up in three simple lines.

Fifteen year old, noted for good decent behavior.....wanted some girl to date him.....she refused.  She dates someone else, which gets the shooter kid all disturbed.  The kid takes a pistol (9 mil, spoken in press) and shoots folks in the cafeteria up close.  Cops come....kid shoots himself.

The anti-gun crowd?  Well, they can talk gun mentality, but it's not an automatic rifle.  Some comments indicate that it was a family-owned weapon.

My perception?  Based on his social media commentary and behavior changes....I'd say he was on something....huffing or puffing, or weed.  He's showing paranoid changes, like you'd typically get if you puffed a good bit on a joint of extremely harsh variety.  Toxicology report?  Maybe a month from now, it might come out in a public setting, and just lightly note some marijuana usage.  If you dig into the story.....he'll be some kid who walked into some drug usage and couldn't handle it.

Maybe I'm wrong.  But it has something about it to suggest drug usage.

Ebola Balls?

Late yesterday, I got to reading over the New York City doctor with Ebola.  They got to some point in the story, and noted that the day or two prior to being identified with Ebola.....he'd been bowling.  You can imagine this scene.....a guy sweating a good bit.....got a slight fever....handling a bowling bowl over and over for an hour or two.

There's probably four hundred bowling bowls in this alley, and I would imagine the bowling manager is standing there and feeling very uncomfortable.  Naturally, he'd like to sanitize each and every one....but you'd have to handle them, and you'd best do it in a haz-mat suit.  If you start something like this....folks who work at the bowling center will freak out and leave the place in fear.

You can sit and imagine this guy calling around to the CDC....asking them how to properly sanitize bowling balls infected with Ebola.  The CDC geeky science guy will stand there for five minutes contemplating how to officially answer this, but truthfully, they've never had such an episode.

A day will pass and then some new team is brought in, to study bowling balls and Ebola.  They will sit around and note the amount of sweat generated, then the potential for thirty-nine different bacteria of a major concern, then discuss at length the composition of bowling balls.  Some guy will call the National Bowling Ball Federation, and then the Canadian Bowling Ball Federation....to clarify the general construction of balls.

Days later, a major meeting will occur at the White House.....with the new Ebola Czar discussing the impact of infected bowling balls and where this might lead the nation.  The President will notice at some point that he's sweating a bit, and folks have backed off a foot or two from him.  He feels a bit sickly.....but it's mostly over this stupid meeting, a ill-fitting jacket, and poor air circulation in the room.

A decision will be made....a special Army team will be activated with National Guardsmen from Omaha.....to deploy to all affected bowling centers in America.  When called, they will respond.  They will run the affected bowling balls through a state-of-the-art sanitizer developed secretly at a site in southern Maryland.  The device....costing $16 million.....cleans eighty-two balls an hour, and then certifies them as each being "fit and clean".  The Guardsmen mostly set it on automatic, then go and eat a hearty and greasy burger meal at the bowling alley.

A parody?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The Trouble with Grand Juries

Over the last couple of days, I've sat and watched basic comments from the Grand Jury of the Ferguson cop case come up.  What is talked about......concerns the autopsy of the kid (Micheal Brown).  It shows that he wasn't turning away or a yard or more from the shooter.....he was right there leaning into the car.

Folks have gotten disturbed over this leak....saying it just isn't right for Grand Jury material to get leaked.  They are probably right over that.  But then, what happens in two or three weeks....as the Grand Jury hands down their review of "no court case"?  This is the only way to get people to talking and reacting to information that the Grand Jury has reviewed, and grasp that the original story told by a couple bystanders.....wasn't really truthful.

From viewing four interviews yesterday, I'm prone to say that people from around Ferguson just want the Grand Jury to pass this onto a judge and let the trial occur anyway.  Generally, a Grand Jury is there to ensure some basic evidence exists and there's some marginal suggestion of possible quilt.  The crowd, I perceive, doesn't want the Grand Jury involved.....they want a full-up trial case, with a standing jury of their peers.

When I graduated from high school in 1977.....I went out into the world in a fairly naive state of mind when it came to civics and basic law.  From the last three years of high school history and civics......I probably had a decent idea of the Constitution, my rights, how to vote, and an explanation over different forms of government.   No one ever explained legal rights upon arrest.  No one ever talked over the purpose of the Grand Jury.  No one ever discussed legal punishments or such.

I look upon these people from Ferguson and their understanding (or lack of understanding) of law, and see a group of people with marginal sense of the situation.  They figure.....toss the case to a judge and jury, make sure that locals are fairly picked to be on the jury, and they will surely come to pronounce guilt over the cop involved....thus sentencing him to life in prison.  That's the only outcome allowed in their mind.  They might come to agree to a fifteen-year sentence, but that's with a lot of anguish.  No trial at all?  That just can't be possible.

The prosecutor in this type of case?  This is an interesting thing.  At some point where the Grand Jury is agreed the margin of quilt.....the head prosecutor of a district or county....will sit and evaluate just how winnable the case is.  If this is a absolute dunk.....he'll do it himself.  If there's a less-than-fifty percent chance?  He'll hand the case to one of the junior prosecutors on the team and just watch from a distance.  Why screw up political opportunities later in life with one bad failure of a court episode?

Once the autopsy showed the kid leaning into the car.....it really puts this into a different light from the original story that the news media picked up and carried for days.  The toxicology report?  That one is still out there and kept secret.....but I would suspect the kid had a minimum of weed in his system.....to such a degree that he really couldn't think and react in the right way.  In the end, the high that he was on.....simply got himself into a fair amount of danger.  He didn't deserve to die, but he was doing some awful stupid stuff.

Sometime before Thanksgiving, I expect the Grand Jury to settle this and just hand down the opinion that there is no evidence to support a trial.  The Justice Department will be all over this and suggest some civil rights abuses.....which will go to a whole new procedure, and a federal Grand Jury.  The odds of getting that jury to agree?  Probably same as this episode.  Unattainable.

Theater will occur next......a burning of the town.  Figure at least a hundred people arrested.  Some stores burnt.....won't be rebuilt.  Most of the police force by spring of 2015 will have found other jobs and left.  Businesses will feel threatened with lesser police reaction, then start to close down.  It's a fairly dead town within three years. Go look at southeast DC.....there's not a single grocery store in a neighborhood of 50,000 residents.  Until the 1980s.....they had several grocery operations, and then as each was threatened.....each closed.  Nothing came back. It's the same way in Ferguson, I feel.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Fake Issue

A while back, the University of North Carolina stumbled across something that had a 'bad' smell.  It was a suggestion that some student-athletes of the past had taken bogus classes.  So, a audit guy was brought in....former federal prosecutor.  After months of review, his report went to the college leadership.

Basically, the college staff had rigged up fake courses, which were entirely built for their marginal student-athletes....giving them passing grades to pass through the minimum requirements to stay at the university and play sports.  The fake passing grades?  That led onto fake credits, and one might assume at this point.....fake degrees.

Various counselors knew about the fake classes and how they worked....using them for their prized players.  From the two articles I read over.....it went on for eighteen years and ended around 2011.  It's not clear why it ended....although I suspect that someone stumbled onto this deal in 2010, and the university wised up to clean up it's mess without saying much.

I'm pretty sure that most of the top NCAA football and basketball programs all work the same way.  If the NCAA put forth a real audit across the whole spectrum.....you'd find they all have to function this way.  Without the dimwitted star players?  The NCAA sports spectrum would be nowhere near it's lofty status today.

What bothers me about this....is that now this bit of evidence exists over the degrees or credits attained by past graduates of the school.  Logic would dictate a review be accomplished.....credits removed....degrees be suspended....until the individual finishes a legit course or program.  Personally, I think the school ought to offer the classes freely....although having roughly 3,000 individuals put in this unique position means a fair loss for the university.

All of this cast a bad light on university degrees and their actual value.  Here are 3,000 folks walking around with some of degree, and it's fake.  The guy has long moved past sports.....maybe teaching in some high school, running a sales job for some national firm, or doing sports coverage for some network.  He pretends for the most part that he's gifted and knowledgeable, but with the fake classes.....he's more of a pretender.

But behind all of this....what if the whole class program across the nation was fake and a large portion of graduates over the past thirty years were mostly fakes?  We sit here now wondering why kids in high schools aren't learning much.....why common core's chief operating strategy is simply to make the teacher read a script.....and why gifted college graduates seem like idiots at times?  Yeah, this audit might have opened a Pandora's Box.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ahead in Our Future

This past weekend here in Germany, we had an interesting test-demonstration at a race-track.  Audi came up and ran one of their high-performance cars....without a driver.

Sensors were turned on....a database of the track was planned out....and it effectively ran the track with no driver in the car.  Thousands sat at the track, and watched the demonstration and were amazed at the degree of technology being demonstrated.

So, I'm to this way of thought.....these kids of today....sixteen years year....are likely to be the last hands-on trained drivers still left in twenty years.  We will reach a point by 2035, where I suspect that most cars will have a GPS unit, a driver-handling unit, and the guy sitting in the left seat.....won't be doing anything other than plugging in the destination and instructions to avoid certain towns, roads, or intersections.  Beyond that.....we will not be driving.

It's hard to imagine an entire society coming up by 2035.....youthful and daring.....and that driving talents will not be taught.  By 2060, there won't be many people left who have acquired real driving talents, and I suspect that driver exams will be rarely given and require some kind of excessive fee by the county or state.

A delivery truck pulling up to the gas station, with no driver?  A sensor-led pallet jack will unload one pallet of sodas and put them on the backdoor step of the store.  A kid sitting back at some delivery headquarters will monitor everything and ensure that the receipt is accepted, and the jack loads itself back onto the truck....which then hauls off to the next store within 216-seconds of delivery.  No chit-chat.  No breaks.  No excuses.

One guy monitoring deliveries from the county distribution point of five self-driven trucks in the county.

Driving cross country?  You will simply step into the vehicle.....lounge out comfortably and sleep for twelve hours while your vehicle quietly reads the situation, adjusts for rain and snow, and then delivers you to the final point.

A great talent lost?  Driving made you calculate and appreciate danger.  Driving taught you the art of making decisions and thinking ahead.  Driving gave you an appreciation over taking care of a vehicle and careful selection of tires to meet your driving situation.  It will be a sad day, I think.....when we get the driver-less car.

When Living in a Mansion, Don't Throw Rocks

I noticed in today's news that Louisiana Senator (currently in the running) Mary Landrieu (a Democrat) got into some verbal discussion over her house.  Folks had said it was a mansion....something that most Louisiana folks hate.  Mary came right back said her $2.5 million-dollar house was not a mansion.

So the argument is....when does a house become a mansion, and is there any relationship to money?

In Bama, a guy could spend $32,000 on a house-trailer, and say to his wife that it qualified as a mansion.  We also could buy a cabin in the deepest part of the woods, with marginal running water, rattlesnakes in the backyard, and no electricity......then refer to it as a mansion.

In Arizona, folks were particular about mansion status, and it meant you had to have a fairly decent pool, both AC and swamp-cooler, a RV-garage next to the two-car garage, and three-thousand square feet of "something".  You could actually buy a mansion for $300,000 there in Tucson in the 1990s.

Down the road from me here in Germany.....there is a upscale neighborhood on the side of a gently rolling hill.....with four-thousand square foot houses, with underground garages, and the value likely runs around $1.5 million as a minimum.  Germans would hate to refer to them as mansions, but if you walked by, you'd grant them mansion status with no questions asked.

Owning a mansion, typically gets you status.  It means you made it and have something to show for it.  Mansions usually have a fancy gate, and nifty security fence.  You typically want to throw five or six parties a year and invite folks who've been on "Friends", or the Oprah Show to be on the guest list.  You also have a fancy light fixture in the entry hallway which you want to force guests to admire, since you spent $75,000 on it and had it shipped in from France.  Somewhere in the main room, there will be some provocative artist rendition of a red pony riding against a Siberian blizzard, with pink butterflies hoovering above the pony.....which you bought at a Miami showroom for $9,000 from a artist called "Bufitofo".

I can remember in the mid-1980s....the TV show of "Homes of the Rich and Famous".  I actually watched a dozen-odd episodes.  Generally, I always sat there and wondered how you cooled or heated some 5,000 square-foot house, or how you heated an Olympic-sized pool in Nashville in the midst of winter.  Desiring one?  I really can't say that.....I guess I watched the show mostly because the two alternate choices were Charlies Angels or some comedy of a one-star marginal nature.

What does Mary Landreiu do in this case?  It's hard to eyeball some house, and come to a conclusion that you spent $2.5 million on it......but it's not a mansion.  The size of her Georgetown "mansion"?  Just over 7,000 square feet.  Bathrooms?  It's got five of them, along with four hot-water heaters, and two dish-washers.

All this discussion comes up because she decided to slam her Republican associate running for the Senate seat.....over his big-scale house outside of some Louisiana university area.  Someone quickly asked Mary about her status, and this generated a fair-sized mess to clean up.  It's one of those glass-house episodes.....where you ought not throw any rocks because some other folks might throw them back.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yeah, It's Unfair (ID for Texas Vote Discussion)

I sat this weekend and reviewed the remarkable Supreme Court episode that unfolded.....a Texas law requires an ID for you to come in and vote.  Some members of the Supreme Court tried to get into the mess and stop the law from being enforced for this November's election.  They failed.

Justice Ginsberg wrote a hefty six-pager to argue over this Texas law, and it's unfairness.

I sat and looked at this episode.  Yeah, there is unfairness.

It's unfair that when I drive a car, I need to be able to show an ID.

It's unfair when I buy booze that I have to show an ID.

It's unfair when I buy smokes and I look too young....I need to show an ID.

It's unfair when the doctor prescribed narcotic drugs to me and I go to pick them up at the pharmacy, that joker clerk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when I ask the county office for a building construction permit, and they ask me to show an ID with the paperwork.

It's unfair when I get married, that the county license clerk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when I got stupid on Friday night, drunkenly married some gal from Natchez on Saturday and realize I screwed up on Sunday....that the county clerk asks for annulment paperwork, and an ID.

It's unfair when I want a fishing license, the county clerk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when I go to Canada, and they ask me for an ID and $438 just to get a moose license.

It's unfair when I go to get registered mail over at the local post office, and the blonde gal at the front desk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when you get yanked around to be on jury duty, and show up to find that they won't accept you just saying you are James J. Jones....without an ID.

It's unfair for a college or university to require an ID....just to register for French literature classes.

It's unfair when I walk in to claim social security finally at age sixty-five, and the idiot clerk wants me to produce an ID.

It's unfair when I go up to an airport and intend to travel that the airport clerk wants an ID before they hand me a ticket, and the TSA idiot wants me to show an ID before I get past the red-line.

It's unfair when I'm eleven years old and showing up at an "R-rated" movie, then they ask for an ID.

It's unfair when I go to an upscale hotel $300-a-night hotel and use a credit card....that they ask for an ID as well.

It's unfair when I've been over into Mexico for twenty-four hours of boozing, and the US Border Patrol guy asks for me an ID before he'll let me back into the promised land.

I would openly challenge Justice Ginsberg to show me how you can survive in America today for 365 days without an ID.  You can't survive now, without some form of ID on your person.  Gone are the 1960s......when you walked into the airport and just vouched you were so-and-so, or you picked up heavy narcotic drugs at Joe's Drug Store, or you walked into Louisiana State University to say you were Joe B Gile's oldest son (that was good enough).

I'm not sure what world Justice Ginsberg lives in....but it can't be America.  A guy can't make it today without an ID.  You can't graduate high school without a social security number.  You can't travel without an ID.  You can't marry or divorce, without an ID.

This political game played here?  It's for awful naive people who don't live in the same world as the rest of us.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Inside View of the Ebola Czar

This week, the President finally decided to appoint a Ebola Czar.  Now, you'd think fine.....but isn't there already a person in charge of infectious diseases for the government?  Yes, but apparently, they aren't the person to manage Ebola.  Go figure.

The guy chosen?  A heavy-weight in science or medicine?  No.  Ron Klain.  He's the former chief of staff for Joe Biden.  A political guy.

The general reaction?  A few senators came out within hours to comment that this really wasn't a good answer.  The media reaction?  Mostly negative.  The guy has no experience with medicine, hospitals, or the science involved.  He's a political player, that's it.

What's the deal?  This is a bit complicated.

This week, the President got yanked into a meeting and forced to sit there and listen to various issues on CDC guidance which was WRONG.  They admitted this.  There appears to be a public stance, and a private stance.  There also appears to be White House staff direction going in one way....while the science guys advocate a totally different view.

I think the President just said enough, and refuses to meet in any meeting with the medical or science guys.....making his Ebola Czar do this, and thump on them as necessary.  He can blame everything that goes wrong....back on the E-Czar (my title for the guy).

 I'm also of the mind that this is more of delay tactic.  The Senate will ask to meet this guy, and he can truthfully say that he's just gotten the job and needs to get his staff together.  No meetings until after Thanksgiving will likely be the talk for a while.

By the time that early December rolls around....either the efforts of the CDC will be successful, or we will have four-hundred folks in some type of quarantine.  The science questions for the E-Czar?  Forget about him answering.....he'll have five guys hired to just answer those.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the Senate will play along with this until early January, when the majority are then Republican....and then they will start a process to make him a marginal player, or force the President to hire a real scientist or doctor.

This all leads back.....if you don't get it.....to the ban on incoming people from the five countries affected.  The President won't go this direction and the political establishment just aren't pushing it.  Why?

This goes to an odd detail of thousands of visa-carriers in America who come from the five African countries in question.....who paid political donations to get their visa for themselves and their forty closest relatives.  Go around the south today......count up various upscale houses and neighborhoods which have been bought by wealthy African businessmen.  They come here for the safety and stability....flying back to conduct business as needed.  The political donations keep coming.....the visas keep getting approved, and I would imagine that both political parties benefit off this in some fashion.

By February of next year....I anticipate the pressure will be such....that a ban will have to be pushed into place.  But by that time.....it'll be too late.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Open-Bathroom Discussion

It's a long sordid, and complicated story.  Some people are pro-gay and pro-transgender got together in Houston, Texas.  They decided that there was enough neighborhood and public support to push up a carefully crafted agenda, which basically said.....depending on how you felt or were biologically (male or female), you could go to the bathroom of your choice.  So for example, if you were guy who occasionally liked to dress up as a lady and pretend you were a lady.....if you were in the public library or some basketball arena.....you could walk into the women's restroom.

I know, it's a pretty difficult idea to get across, but apparently....this was the mythical moment when it was believed by some political people as being an opportune time.

So, a number of folks figured out the whole scheme, and then went against it.  In order to go against it.....they had to put it on the ballot and make it a referendum.  Roughly 17,000 signatures of registered voters in the area were required.  The group got over 50,000.  When the city clerk got up to roughly 19,000 on the count and certified....they stopped.  The minimum had been met.

An odd thing then occurred, as the city deemed roughly thirty thousand of the signatures as null and void.  The wording to this....is not exactly clear, and I've yet to find any journalist (even from Houston) who can explain how they failed.  One must assume they were either not a Houston resident or they were not registered, but this is never spelled out.  These days, petition gatherers are trained and know precisely the three or four questions to ask, to ensure the guy signing is legit.

What happened next is rather odd.  The city attorney then lodged a criminal type action, looking at the support group who put up the petition, and deemed that local ministers were behind the action.  The big step here?  A legal document forwarded to a judge and signed.....demanded that five local ministers of Houston hand over their sermons, personal emails that discussed this entire matter, and any correspondence that had the mention of the city mayor (who is lesbian).

You can imagine the eruption of hostility over this....the ministers have basically said that this stepped over the line of the Constitution, and there's going to be a long and hostile fight to start up.

Violation of religious rights?  The Constitution offers up one of the most protective clauses on the face of the Earth for religion.  You cannot make any single law which impedes religion of any citizen, period.  No exceptions.  You cannot interfere with the assembly of a religious group, as long as they are acting in a peaceful manner and not threatening anyone.  I don't believe you can find any other government that goes to this extent.

The sermon request?  I think the five ministers probably sat there as they got the letter and read it.....coming to just grin and start laughing.  Some ministers might admit they have vast scripts and PowerPoint slides.  Some might admit a single page with a few quotes.  And some will just grin and admit that they have scrap piece of paper with two or three Bible quotes, and lead the entire forty-minute sermon based on those scraps of paper. Some ministers might have video stock of their sermons just because they think these were five-star episodes and great classics.

What would a city prosecutor do with sermons?  This leads off to a funny moment or two which would brew up.  I'm not sure this city prosecutor or the people behind him have considered what happens in court rooms, and how a minister would be in his "audience".....preaching to the judge.....preaching to the jury.....and preaching to the city prosecutor himself.  A court room?  No.....the minister can convene the moment into a church, and the whole court affair disappears in a matter of five minutes.  It is in effect.....the most bogus use of law that one can imagine, and would be a court circus by all definition.

Saying that the church or ministers have no right to define local laws as hostile or threatening the social environment of their members?  You'd have to lay out dozens of things which are allowed by ministers and disallowed.  The minute you start this.....it becomes never-ending.  What judge would sit there in a court, and allow this to become such a mess?  I can't think of any rational judge sitting in America that would want this type of case in their court.  Just imagine the minute you call a witness and they want you sworn-in to tell the truth, and the phrase....."so help me God" comes up.

Strangely enough.....all of this goes back to the original concept....letting some guy think he's a woman today, and going into the women's restroom.  Or having some woman who thinks she's a guy and going into a men's restroom.  Houston has 2.196 million people (at least Google says that for 2013).  Out of that, how many people want the dual privilege bathrooms in public areas?  No journalist, political figure or commentator has suggested a number yet.  That's the surprising part of this story.  For all we know......it could be dozen people out of 2.196 million.  Maybe it's 216 people.  Or maybe there's 16,326 people.  You just don't know.

Yes, we've created a massive and frustrating mess, to help some people find the right bathroom for their personal relief.  We've wrapped ministers, religious groups, news media idiots, neighborhood groups, Democrats, Latinos, blacks, Southern Baptist Churches, and Republicans into this.  All for the sake of a bathroom break.

What idiot dreamed this up....to come a month prior to the November election?  You can't find where this started, and you have to wonder if some Karl Rove-type character just sat there a year ago and felt he could trick the Houston Democratic crowd into doing something really stupid.

Roughly 1.6 million people came out in the county and city election of 2012 from Houston.  The vote?  County-wide, it was almost fifty-fifty for Republicans and Democrats.  It's a fair balanced deal.

In this moment?  The Democrats rely a fair amount on Latino votes, and I would take a fair guess that half of the Latinos registered to vote.....also attend some local church....and have some opinion about this whole sermon thing, and the transgender bathroom thing.  If you ask me.....the leadership in Houston for the Democrats have blasted themselves severely over something of such a minor stumble, which might only benefit a dozen transgender, or a hundred, or a thousand who might want this.

This morning, I read that the State Attorney General has drafted a letter and sent onto the prosecutor involved in this....to simply stop.  There are certain things which he might do, but getting the sermons into some legal episode?  That crossed a line.

To simplify and tell this?  If you had spoken up a decade ago to say that some major city in America would seek to pass an open-bathroom agenda for public facilities in town, then would fuss over a ballot referendum with adequate signatures, and finally go after some ministers and sermons in a courtroom turned church environment.....I would have laughed and said it'd make a great comedy.  Well....it came to pass.

The golden moment in this comedy? At some point, if this goes into court with the five ministers, the prosecutor will be hotly frustrated with things, and some minister will say "I'm praying for your lost soul."   The judge will get peeved and jerk the minister on the stand giving testimony around, and the minister will turn and respond that he's praying for the judge's lost soul as well.  At that point, the fat lady will sung, and the curtain will close.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Just Ebola Things to Ponder

At some point this morning, I read up on a new White House update....the President commented....that'd he'd hugged and kissed several Atlanta nurses who were handling Ebola patients there at Emory University Hospital.  He meant this in the way to reassure folks.

I sat there and pondered over this.  Knowing how things happen in the real world.

What is the policy if the President comes down with 103-degree temperature and gets sent off to quarantine?  Will VP Joe Biden take over during this brief period?  Is there an understanding on this already written down?

If the President comes down with Ebola....how do they sanitize the White House?  Burn every rug in the place?  How many weeks it take to disinfect the White House (I'd take a guess a crew of sixty might be able to finish the job in six weeks).

If the President and VP Joe are both sent off to quarantine.....is there a procedure for Representative John Boehner (Rep) to take charge for two or three weeks?

If the President and VP Joe pass away, along with the next five folks on the succession list.....would Attorney General Eric Holder temporarily hold it until the Senate could approve a new Attorney General and then let that guy serve as President?

Would the Senate fall apart if forty of these old guys got Ebola and passed on.....leaving a whole big group to be quickly brought in and assume their Senate jobs?

If O'Reilly of Fox News got Ebola and passes on.....can Fox find a five-star dynamic guy to take over?

If the whole Supreme Court got Ebola and passed on......could President Obama find nine folks to satisfy the Senate and get them pressed into service?

If the Atlanta airport was noted as contaminated with Ebola.....could they ever clean it enough to satisfy the public that it was 'safe'?

Could you really trust any hotel in America....once we get up to ten thousand people in quarantine?

Would we have enough players on the Alabama NCAA football team to be there and win at the championship game in January?

You see....Ebola can take on various scenarios and present lots of problems which we just aren't thinking much about.  What if the seven guys who know the Coke recipe suddenly get Ebola and pass on.....is the recipe written in some form and can we ensure survival of this wonderful sugary drink?  You can sit there at night....after watching four hours of Ebola hype and wonder about a lot of stuff.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Olive Garden

An odd thing happened Friday when the board of the mother-company over the restaurant Olive Garden met.  They were dumped.

There was a vote at the meeting, and an abundance of investor votes went in a radical direction....fire all of the board members.  What got everyone up in arms revolves around criticism over the menu, the quality of food, and the marginal profit direction seen by most business analysts.

Back around 2012, I made a trip to the local Olive Garden while living in Arlington.  I kinda had high hopes for a real Italian dinner when I walked in.  The salad ended up being a two-star deal with cheap dressing.  The bread-sticks were in abundance....maybe more than what I needed.  And the dinner itself was lacking.  I hate to suggest it.....but I could have brought out a can of Chef Boyardee (pronounced Bama style as "Chef Boy-R-D") and done done as well with the offerings.

The investor crowd wants to shake up Olive Garden and go in a totally different direction.  The stock itself?  It's around $47 a share.  The peak was around $56 a share (Fall 2012).  The current dividend?  Well....it had been around $2 per year, which isn't that bad.

Changing around a restaurant company enough to influence the profit margin?  People tend to go out for two basic reasons today.  First.....the retiree class which eats out five to seven times a week seeking a good deal and a good menu selection. Second....the quick-stop class which simply picks up something on the way home from shopping or work.  These two groups make up the majority of customers.  I personally think Olive Garden is missing the mark by not looking at the retiree crowd and trying hard to offer up menu choices and prices to attract more customers at lunch.

A drastic change then from the board flipping over?  It's hard to say.  You can figure it'll take ninety days for some changes to take place and effects being seen on a daily basis.  Maybe it helps.....maybe it simply snowballs into Olive Garden being sold off to some other chain.  You just can't tell.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dressing for the Flock

I have various newspapers, media sites, and forums that I read through each day.....so I come across odd stories that make you ponder.  Today's topic?  A guy found out that a local minister of a mega-church operation.....was hired up by the deacons of the church.....and had a monthly five-thousand-dollar clothing allowance put into the deal.  He didn't lay out the membership of the church, or the guy's yearly salary....it would have been curious to know that angle of the economic picture.

So, here's this pot of money.....$60,000 a year.....just for clothing.  It's hard for me to imagine this type of situation.

When I retired from the Air Force.....I spent around $1,500 on real clothing (not uniforms), which naturally included a suit, and a number of casual clothing items.  Yeah, I even bought three pairs of dress or casual shoes.  After that period.....I probably spent around $500 a year on clothing for the office atmosphere.

In this case.....this guy is going through 1,250 a week.  Your imagination runs wild with this scenario.  He probably goes to some upscale 'big-and-tall' men's shop in Atlanta or Miami....gets sized up for a slinky wool-mix suit that runs around $1,000.  He probably has three or four pairs of $3,000 shoes that came hand-made out of Italy.  And he's probably wearing $60 socks from France.  I won't even take a guess on the underwear situation.....other than it won't be the $1.50 pair of Hanes that Wal-Mart sells.

The bigger question here.....does it really matter when this guy steps up to some podium and talks blabbing away on Psalms 116?  Are you looking at the suit....more than the guy and his talk?  Women got in a heart-throb situation and getting all peppy over a guy's suit?

The problem is.....he asked for the allowance, and got it.  It's a tax-avoidance gimmick.  I'm guessing his car is leased and provided to him by the church.  The home situation?  Likely another leased property.  The travel allowance (not even mentioned by this forum member)?  Probably upwards to $50,000 a year.  I would take a guess that the deacons in this situation signed up a guy, and the total package probably ranges around $400,000.

This all means that you need a mega-church that is 'thriving'.....with four to five thousand 'souls' engaged and coming out for the entertainment each Sunday, and putting at least fifty bucks in the plate.  That income is covering the church building (likely a $25,000 monthly mortgage payment), and some supported church programs that run into the $4,000,000 level for the entire year.

These deacons?  They aren't your garden variety type.  These guys signed up early on, and simply latched onto the gimmick to make their church operation successful.  I'd take a guess that the deacons themselves take a sabbatical of sorts every six months....to some Palm Springs resort, and play golf for the weekend while the church pays for the trip, the hotel, the golfing, and the dinners.  Taxation?  No....just free money.

There's something wrong with this picture.  But I'm not sure it's fixable.  You can't invent a tax that would be acceptable to these groups.  You can't mandate a limit on allowances.  And you can't condemn the guy for at least asking for $5,000 a month for suit money.  It is.....what it is.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Reality of Ebola in America

I noticed in the travel news for this morning....five US airports have adapted a Ebola test, which is mandated for entry into the US.  They ask a few questions over where you were, and if you might have come into contact with some infected guy.....then they take a temperature reading.

Refusing the test?  That's the curious thing.  The federal guideline listed.....said that if you refuse....you go to quarantine.  It didn't say where, or describe the living conditions there....but they'd have federal authority at these airports to accomplish this.

There are around two hundred 'international' airports in the United States.  Huntsville (sadly) qualifies as one.  Ketchikan, Alaska....oddly enough....qualifies as one.  Idaho doesn't have a single one.

Which five get the authority for this test and quarantine deal?  Dulles, JFK, Atlanta, Chicago, and Newark.  How'd they get to this idea?  The CDC says they studied the numbers of Africans coming into the US....and these five get roughly ninety-odd percent of the inflow from the affected region.

What the CDC hints at....is that the Border Patrol folks will continue to be the first line of defense, and likely be the ones who ask the questions, and pull up some measurement device to check your temperature.  Somewhere in the background....if you read their commentary enough....there will be a couple of CDC guys standing there and waiting.  Full-up suits and protective gear in reserve?  Yeah, I'd take a guess that this will be the case.

After a twelve-hour flight....you get tired and frustrated.  You walk off the plane and find yourself in a waiting area with seven-hundred folks already there and another two-thousand folks coming down the hallway.  Your Border Patrol folks?  On this lucky day....there might be ten guys handling things....MAX.  You wait and wait.

As you get up to the front, this guy asks four stupid questions, and you answer one wrong because you really aren't thinking clearly or grasping what he means.  Suddenly, you can tell he's freaking a bit, and aiming some laser-light device at you and you freak out.  The marginal AC unit isn't cooling well, and you are over-dressed, and you show some body temperature just above normal.

Sarge now raises an arm and two CDC guys come up to seize you.  You stand in some room ten minutes later, and trying to get calmed down.  A fed guy isn't too happy with your attitude, and starts talking quarantine.....if you don't confess.  You confess your mortal sins.....your various affairs.....your tax-avoidance over ten years.....and your favorite episode of Gilligan's Island.  Nothing seems to work.

An hour later....you get stuffed into a plastic bag of sorts.....thrown on a truck with no AC in the midst of July in Atlanta.  You end up in some old Army post where some guys in plastic suits take your bag and will issue you some hospital outfit.  You refuse.....they rough you up and cite such-and-such CDC rule.  You ask for a lawyer.....they deny you a lawyer.

You pick up your cellphone to call grandma or Uncle Percy to get you out of this fix.  They stop you and cite another CDC rule.  Eventually, they contact grandma, Uncle Percy, and your wife.  All that they will say is that you are safe and in good hands....with a cot, and three meals a day.  They promise to release you in three weeks.....if you don't show Ebola.

The meals are crap.  The cot has bed-bugs.  The tent has mice running around.  The latrine facility is cleaned once a day by a guy named Jose, who is illegally in the country but paid $4,000 a month to be the sanitation guy for the camp.  The camp has some psycho gal who yells and screams half the time......which you figure she's bi-polar and off her meds.  The camp guards will sell you beer but it's three bucks a can.  There's some Army National Guard chaplain who comes around daily to pray for you, but you get the feeling that he's working more for the CDC folks than you.

On day nineteen of the twenty-one day period....some new guy arrives from Liberia who answered the questions wrong.  He seems OK, and very friendly.....knowing the Braves results from this year, and absolutely convinced that Bush was a better President than Obama.  You notice some sweat on his brow but blow it off....it's just hot in the tent.

Day twenty-one, you get released.  They basically drop you off at the Greyhound station in town, and you ride nineteen hours back to the final destination....home.  You curse over and over about that damn CDC thing.  You call your Congressman and Senator.....demanding pain and suffering money (mostly $50,000).

Nine days later.....you get the fever and sweats.  Doctor at the hospital asks where you been, and you note a quarantine camp.  All heck breaks out.....they rush more CDC guys to the room, and ambulance you off to the next quarantine camp.

If you didn't have it the first time around.....you sure got it this time.

That's how things work in America.  We make movies about this type of adventure, and talk about it as a joke....until it happens to us.

The Speech Test Story

Somewhere in the late 1990s....I got introduced to the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test.  Microsoft in some early version of Word....actually had the readability test as part of their package.  I admit....from the two hundred folks in my organization.....I was probably only among two or three people who knew of the software test and it's implications.

Flesch-Kincaid works this way.....you wrote a page or two (or forty pages) of a speech or paper.  The paper measures the wording....from 3rd grade level of high school.....all the way to graduate school at some university.

It's supposed to help you reach your audience.  If you know that your audience needs a speech geared for lower-intelligent folks...say 10th-grade education....then you can build a speech to that degree, and measure it in the end to be certain of the standard desired.

It's a handy product if you give speeches....write white-papers....develop research projects....or putting together an entire book.

So I noticed today....someone finally took Flesch-Kincaid and applied it to Presidential speeches given since the late 1700s to the present.  It probably took at least a year to dig up the various speeches, and run them through the application.

What they tend to find is interesting.

Most speeches written in the 1800-period....were mostly at the college-level of understanding.  Washington, Adams, and Jefferson wrote comprehensive speeches.....that probably were a bit more difficult than common man of America could take and grasp.  The thing is.....they were educated at a certain level, and most of the people they came into contact with.....were of the same level of education.  Most of the speeches?  They were heard by these same individuals.

From 1850 to 1875....things started to change.  Presidential speeches were now being drafted and given....spreading from college-level on down to the seventh-grade level.

From 1925 to 1950....there were no more of the college-graduate level speeches.  About ninety percent of the speeches given in this period by Presidents....were of the 12th grade of high school on down to the eighth grade.

Since 1975.....there's not been a single Presidential speech developed that went past the 12th grade of high school.  The majority fit for eighth and ninth grade writing skills.

President Obama's noted speeches?  They generally fit into the seventh grade to the tenth grade.

A odd fact or two from this study?  The Gettysburg Speech drafted and given by Lincoln.....was noted at the eleventh-grade level. The poor notes given to George Bush's speeches?  Well....they generally measure up to the same level given by President Obama.  No better....no worse.

What does all this say about our national character and leadership?  We've developed the remarkable ability to write marginal speeches that get the point across to people with limited or sparse education.  We want a leader who seems to think like us.....talk like us.....and educated like us.  He may be fake to some degree....walking around with a Master's Degree in law....but he's hired enough people to draft marginal speeches for our entertainment.

Fixing this or cleaning it up?  Forget about it.  I doubt if the public would be happy with a George Washington-type character today showing up and giving a humble speech which was drafted at the college level.  Neither would the public likely stand and vote for a guy like Abraham Lincoln.  We've gotten use to gimmick presidents, and it's the current trend.  For better or worse, this is the direction we are going.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Hefty Weight of Democracy

It's one of those odd psychological moments.  You have a forum with some political guy or gal running for office, and some idiots are free to ask stupid questions.  So you have one gal ask you....knowing you ARE a Republican....if you voted for Bush in 2000.  There are basically three answers...."yes", "no", or "I don't remember".

This leads onto a second question....especially if you answered with anything beyond "yes".

The idiot could ask you....if you didn't vote for Bush, then who did you vote for?  The quick answer and better comeback would be you didn't vote for anyone....feeling that none of the candidates were competent.  Nobody would fault you for such an answer.

If you answered "I don't remember"? They will ask about your memory lapses and how often they occur...making you look foolish.

Out of a hundred Republicans or confessed right-leaning guys.....I would imagine that ninety-nine would just simply say "yes, I voted for Bush".  The one guy?  He might freak out and say "no", getting the more difficult questions next.

Over the past thirty years, and various Republican candidates.....I'm guessing most right-leaners would go the same way.

Democrats?  Well....I'm guessing up to 2000.....the numbers would resemble the right-leaning folks.

This week.....the gal running in Kentucky against Senator McConnell.....was after a newspaper endorsement.  They wanted her to appear up against a board, and answer some questions.  These weren't rocket-science questions.....just simple position questions.  Then they asked if she'd voted for Obama, and she went through various gyrations of avoiding an answer.  She couldn't answer "yes" or "no" or "I don't remember".

I wouldn't call this stupidity......but a naive gut feeling that you feel like you screwed up not just once, but twice, and you don't want to admit this in public.

How many of a hundred Democrats would go through this gut feeling answer?  I'd take a guess that three or four.  It's not a lot, but it's enough that draws some puzzling thoughts.

If these four individuals act this way....what happens in the future?  Will they ask some really tough questions of Democrats running for office, and demand some blunt truths?  Will they expect more evidence on the table of past performance?

This Kentucky Democrat?  I suspect that she lost five-percent of her support from this unique answer, and it won't be coming back this late in the election period.

Influencing the 2016 election period?  I'm willing to guess that someone is watching all this stuff, and will make the same question come up on numerous occasions....forcing people to admit who they voted for or against.

Democracy is an odd thing.....now, you have to remember who you voted for in past elections, and be willing to admit this in public.  We are lucky to remember who the governor is....the past record of the Dallas Cowboys....the ingredients of a good cocktail.....the pin number for the ATM machine....and when we last did an oil change for the pick-up. Now?  Our voting record?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Bama and Ebola

I was reading over Bama news this morning, and noted that our state governor (Robert Bentley) came up and did a media speech deal yesterday with the state health officer, and some infectious disease expert from a Montgomery hospital.

The deal?  Well....the governor wanted everyone in Bama to know that things are OK, and all planned out if Ebola arrives in Bama.....no matter if it comes via Gulf Shores, the Tennessee border, or via the Birmingham airport.  There's a plan.

Somewhere in the talk, the mention of a checklist for state medical folks was disclosed.  There are questions now that get tossed early on in a medical interview....like....have you been traveling recently....like to Africa?  There's some mandated procedures that got mentioned, and the governor kinda summed it up....Bama was ready.

Where does this leave us with the normal Bama scenario?

Well....first, we tend to find different ways of pouncing words that we don't commonly use.  So, I'm betting on several creative ways of folks saying "Ebola".  Maybe E-bul-lie.....E-bull-ly....Eb-o-lie....etc.

Somewhere down the line....some Bama folks will pull out their Bibles and look through Revelations (always a popular place to find agreeable stuff), and point out that God already forecasted this, and it's all part of the master-plan.

At some point here, some Bama or Auburn football coaches will sit and ponder over various strategies if their quarterback gets Ebola, and how they would handle it with the back-up quarterback.

Bama graveyard managers will start to eyeball expansion, talking up the need to double up on space in the near future.

Bama lawyers will see potential income angles by calling up folks who have wills and hinting that maybe it's time for another review, and maybe cutting out folks or including folks....ifing you got Ebola and suddenly passed on.  Folks might talk passionately about the Ford 150 pick-up and who it might go to.....if they got Ebola.

These African missionary missions might draw more negativity.  Folks might say they'd do some missionary work, but only in Texas or Utah.....just to be on the safe side.

Bama airports?  You can imagine the cleaning services folks getting some note from the Airport Manager that they need to wear hazmat suits whenever some guy throws up in the concourse...even if it's from too much booze at the airport bar.

Guys will sit around the general store in Bama and discuss cleaning solutions for Ebola....mostly from experimental ideas that they got from their three years in the Army, or from the county agricultural agent that visited recently.  It'll always involve some element of diesel and some weed-killer....be highly flammable....and eat paint off a car in sixty seconds.

We'll even have a few guys who talk up an underground bunker idea....where they and the family will huddle up for six months while Ebola destroys the heartland of Bama.  The wife isn't aware of the bunker or the plan, and would likely divorce the guy once the plan gets mentioned.

The problem in Bama....is that we tend to think too much.  We don't see a simple problem.....we see a vast multiple-scenario complex mystical situation....that demands a frustrating answer beyond human reckoning.  It's the five-side barn, the horse that adds numbers, the septic tank that has worked for forty-five years without replacement, or the twenty-year old Dodge car with an automatic that has never required rebuilding.

Even now....this moment.....over 300,000 Bama folks are working hard on Ebola prevention and handling.  They will casually mention this at the Waffle House as they meet with friends and peers.  It'll get brought up in Sunday Bible School this weekend....that they just acquired some special special cream from Canada that dissolves Ebola on contact.

The governor?  Well....he's simply putting himself into the same position....thinking ahead.

Frankly, it's a shock to some Bama folks because they still thought that Guy Hunt was governor (1987-1993)....forgetting that Guy had to resign in 1993 after the conviction of taking $200,000 which was used mostly for marble figurines and high-end lawn mowers.

So, don't get too excited if your Bama neighbor talks up Ebola.  He's just thinking ahead.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

On the Topic of Free College

I read a piece today from Yahoo Finance....over "free university" deals in Europe.  It was kinda comical....they came to some point and suggested that America ought to offer the same deal....free college.  They noted....Germany was already doing it.

I sat there....mostly laughing.  There's some differences between the US and Germany on college.

First, NO German university has any NCAA-related action. No football...no million-dollar coaches...no massive sports complex....no alumni program...no volleyball team for ladies sports...no softball program.

Second, if you screwed around and played drinking games all the way through your first semester...they’d invite you to leave, and you would not find much sympathy with a second chance. Party schools in Germany?  None.  Forget about that angle.

Third, German university programs don’t have a bunch of support staffs with imaginary job descriptions and ample incomes. A German university likely functions with half the staffs that most US colleges have.

Fourth, towns around the university programs in Germany have a high value on the students...mostly because they go to recruit them to sign up as residents of the town....getting to the 100k, 200k, or 300k level....which means more handouts from the national government. This relationship to the town, makes the university a pull partner of the local city and of value. Most cities run more transit buses through a university district...subways are added...and they are part of the local community. 

Fifth. Cops who protect the German university...are city cops or state cops. There are no hired thugs or wannabe cops patrolling a German university, nor is the cost dumped onto the college. Nor are the legal proceedings separate. If you do something stupid on a German campus...you get a city judge, and the DA after you....so you don’t have to worry about getting expelled....you get actual real jail-time, with no campus lawyer helping you.

Sixth and final, all these instructors and professors are part of a national level of pensions and benefits. Some guy is watching the whole trend, and ensuring that stupid individual university administrators aren’t lining up some guy for a $300k a year pension deal. If some German governor woke up tomorrow and got wind that some professor in his state is about to retire and get more monthly income than his job....someone would be dragged to the state capital and be asked some pretty difficult questions, and it wouldn’t be a pleasing situation.

They can offer free tuition...the question is....would US university programs be willing to offer the same deal? My guess is...NO. I should point it....it generally takes 4.5 to 5 years to get a bachelor’s degree in Germany. And it’s around seven years if you count in the master’s degree.

I should also note....they also don’t run up bogus ethnic studies degrees, how-to-feel-good physic 116 classes, or Bigfoot studies courses. Got a professor who gets into trouble with some student for relationship woes? They turn the evidence to a state prosecutor and let him handle the mess from that point on...no worries for the university in terms of legal issues.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Statistical Reality

It's an odd statistical number that you can't track down in the first place, nor in the second place.  We never knew precisely how many American were walking around without health insurance prior to 2009....the best numbers were somewhere between twenty-five million and forty-five million.  You can go and find at least forty different measurement methods, and they all differ to some degree.

Explanations for those without health insurance before 2009?  It generally went into three categories.  You had the group who just said it was too expensive.  Then you had the group who were young (eighteen to thirty years old), who figured they'd handle the thousand here and four-thousand there, out of their pocket, and just avoid stupid monthly payments.  Finally, you had the group who questioned the commercial side of this....never wanting to allow a middle man to come in and profit off them.

So, now the 2014 number.  This week, I came across an article that a journalist had done a fair amount of homework, and noted that the latest numbers say that forty-one million Americans are without health insurance.  Again, it's a statistical game, and his method might be right, or might be wrong.....you just can't tell.

The reasons?  Same three.

You'd think with the government subsidy, and some families getting insurance down around $250 a month....this would all work and be fine.  Well....that family getting the subsidy and the $250 a month rate.....had a deductible, and in almost all cases....it was around $6,000.

Deductibles are strange things.  I once went to a insurance agent about my car insurance.  I wanted the rate cut.  After playing around with the numbers....the agent finally said I could actually cut my monthly rate in half.....but I'd have to accept a $5,000 deductible.  It was a rather new car, so I felt fine.....I accepted that.  Had it been a four-year old car.....and I'd totaled out the car in an accident....I doubt if the insurance company would have paid out more than $2,000.

Who has $6,000 laying around in a typical year?  If you make less than $50,000 a year.....I'd take a guess that only ten-percent of these people have such money laying there, and most could not sustain year-after-year of $6,000 going out for a medical deductible situation.

Flipping the commonly used $6,000 deductible over to a lesser amount, like $3,000?  A working class family would say the same thing.....they really don't have even that much money to fool around with.  They've burdened themselves with car payments, car insurance, a monthly mortgage, school-required stuff, cable TV, a smart-phone or two within the family, a short vacation each summer, high utility payments, a heating bill for each winter, and non-budgeted items like tires, veterinary bills, $75 tennis shoe purchases for junior, and occasional transmission repairs.

The reality here is that a bunch of guys went off to DC, and thought they could fix the world.  They weren't middle-class or working-class guys....they were paper-giants of the political type.  They used numbers from various special agenda groups, talked a thousand-words per minute, and more than capable of writing two thousand pages of text.  The end-result?  Nothing, over nothing, solving nothing, and thunderous applause at a magnificent feat.

The trouble here is that no journalist who gave peppy talk in this 2009 about what was coming....can stand there now and say much.  We seem to have lost some trust and generally become more cynical about "experts".  We'd all like to ask the expert about the deductible business, and how it fits into real life.  But, that's just not possible to engage these guys in a real debate.

A total waste?  Yeah....if we did all this shifting of taxation around, massive hardcore talk over "change", and added thousands of pages of regulation.....only to find it did nothing to fix the problem. Kinda hard to stand there and say much.  We fixed what we could fix and left the remaining pieces there on the ground.  It's not a pretty picture.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Club

In twenty-two years of traveling around with the Air Force....I probably entered at least fifteen Enlisted/NCO Clubs along the way.  It was the social side of the Air Force....sometimes being a bit humorous, and sometimes being a one-star marginal place where you just wanted to sit and sip a beer for twenty minutes.

I came to a number of conclusions about these clubs.

1.  Until the early 1990s....no one ever cared if they made a profit or not.  Suddenly, almost overnight.....a club had to be profitable, and you started to see managers go fairly frequently.  The ones that stayed.....invented all kinds of gimmicks....and they cut zero profit situations entirely.  It was like day and night, in just a year or two.

2.  Every single club throughout the 70s and 80s....had a room in the back where the senior NCOs would gather and play poker.  It was their home, away from home.  They drank while they played, and I imagine that a quarter of them needed alcohol rehab.  At some point in the 1990s....these rooms rapidly started to disappear.  Maybe it was the type of entertainment that looked bad, or just a whole generation of NCOs retired.

3.  For some reason, almost every single club could hustle up and lay out a fabulous Sunday buffet dinner which attracted just about everyone on base.  But from Monday to Friday....this was the last place on Earth that you wanted to go for noon lunches.  It was like an entirely different crew running the place on Sundays.

4.  I can remember twenty-five-cent pitchers of beer in 1979.  That basically all disappeared in the early 1990s as the anti-alcohol agenda came into play.  The cop patrols in the parking lot?  Yeah, that started about the same time in 1990.  The problem with profits?  Well....yeah, that started about the same time too.

5.  For years and years....the Ramstein club had live entertainment at least five nights a week.  You could walk in on a Thursday evening and there would be four-hundred folks sitting around.  Live entertainment today?  If lucky....they  might run something up once a week.

6.  I spoke to a NCO a couple of years ago and asked them what the chief draw of the local NCO Club was, and he admitted that they were running a mystery dating game agenda, and that would usually draw around a hundred folks on a Friday night. No band?  No.  No DJ?  No.   It was reality dating as entertainment.  I questioned this guy.....how could this draw any crowd?  And he simply admitted that it was fairly lame, but this was "safe" and would pass the base morals agenda easily.

7.  In all the time I ever spent in an Air Force Enlisted/NCO club.....I've only witnessed two fights.  The first one was in 1977, and between three drunk guys over one gal.  The SPs arrived....totted the three off to the jailhouse, and the gal just walked out the front door with some fourth guy.  The second fight was between two drunk housewives....arguing over something of a nature involving a spilled drink.  The truth is....Air Force guys just weren't the type to fight much over anything....even when drunk.

8.  Bingo was a gimmick to draw in Asian wives of Air Force guys.  I worked with a guy who was hired by the club to run their bingo operation.  In a normal one-night operation.....my associated hinted that over $10,000 would easily run through the bingo operation.  I asked about the profit take, and he said it was almost zero.  The club's whole game was to make it last two hours and ensure they drank and ate a fair amount.....which was where they made profit.

9.  The worst club I ever went into....was an annex of the main club.  I actually showed up on opening night....shocked at bright colors, bright lights, pool tables in the open, and a modern-style bar.  The burger bar was four-star and I was amazed at the offerings of the club.  Six months go by, and I show up at the same club on the second occasion....finding it a dark, shadowy place....no pool tables, just open floor.....and weird music in the background.  Everyone was dressed weird, acted weird, and you felt like you were at some San Francisco bar.  I quickly sipped through one brew, and left.  Four months later....they busted the place one night for immoral activity in the bathroom, and some hint of drug activity.

Clubs aren't like clubs of the 1970s, or for that matter....of the 1980s....or for that matter.....of the 1990s.  Most clubs have been modernized over the last decade....offer up commercial style food, and have a small pub/bar for the marginal crowd that might show up for one single drink.  The fear of drinking on base?  I think it weighs heavily upon folks today.  In 1979.....you might have three-hundred folks fairly drunk on a Friday night at the Rhein Main Air Base NCO club.  A typical club today on a Friday night?  There might be one guy drunk, and you can put a 50-50 bet on him not avoiding the cops and some arrest.

A different world.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Cleaning Up Ebola?

The Ebola episode in Dallas came up with an oddball story.  The local authorities got real nervous about the apartment of this guy, and they wanted a clean-up crew to come in and do a clearing/sanitizing of the place.  So they called up the normal folks.  The minute that Ebola was mentioned......NO-GO.  Over and over.

No one wanted to sign up and do the job.

So they branched out and eventually found someone who agreed to take the job.  The cost?  I'm not sure.  The journalists didn't reporting the episode didn't want to broach that question apparently, and I'd take a guess that it was double the normal hazmat rate.

I looked up the annual hazmat employee rate.  It starts out around $18 an hour now, for a guy who is certified and capable.  The US Bureau of Labor even says that a regular guy in this profession now can clear $37,590 a year.  For Ebola?  Well....there is no certification for it (not yet anyway).

I'm guessing this will open up big and bold new opportunities for various folks.  Find some hazmat professional guy.....run up a fake-Ebola training program....and then hire your team out for $60 an hour per individual.

Cleaning a meth houses now costs between $3,000 and $25,000.....depending on how bad the situation is.  Cleaning an Ebola apartment?  I would imagine starting cost ought to run a minimum of $10,000, for what amounts to an entire day by two guys in suits and using a ton of sanitizing chemical stuff.  An airplane?  Man, that might run up to $50,000 easily.

Somewhere out there.....there's this guy talking to his cousin down in Natchez, Mississippi, and discussing this business venture (Ebola-Clean), and how to make money off the government or local folks.

I finished a book recently on the London Plague of 1665/66.  Typically.....when the plague got into your house.....everyone in the place was a 'goner' in a matter of a week.  Typically, the door was closed and no one ever entered.  The house just wasn't used again.  No one ever profited off the plague except those who sold fake remedies or pretended to care for folks.

It'll be curious to see just how quick the hazmat companies react, and how many new companies pop up to take on the job.

My Lego Story

I was walking down the street the other day, in the shopping district, and came to the one-and-only Lego stores in town.  That's all they deal in.....Lego stuff.

I browsed at the window for several minutes and then came to the high-end choices.....a Simpsons house, for the equivalent of roughly $240.

It's an awful lot.  Course, it's time-consuming as well.  I'd take a guess that it'd take pretty much an entire Sunday afternoon to put the whole thing together.

And then?  What?  How exactly will you display your Simpson's house?  Will your wife allow it on the coffee table?  Is there any place that it'll fit in the cubicle of your office?  Will you even display it?

A toy for a kid?  I kinda doubt it.  I'd suspect that you'd have to be at least eight or nine....to read through the instructions and assemble it.  But how many kids would want to sit there for four hours and assemble such a thing?

I'd almost like to stop and ask how many they sell in a year, but I suspect it's more for looks than actual sales.  At best.....I'd guess that a dozen get sold.....mostly bought by girlfriends for their geeky boyfriend.

In the 1970s.....nothing like this would have ever been sold in any town or at any major store.  The minute you spoke of a $50 Lego deal.....it was a no-go.  Today?  Ample funds, wild ideas, and a natural tendency to do crazy things.

On the adjoining shelf was a pirate ship, which ran into the $400 range.  It was double the number of parts and man-hours.

Yeah, for me....it just begs a lot of questions on common sense.  But apparently, we've lost that quality of life.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Problem With Cultural Evolution

There's an interesting case coming up in Colorado.  I doubt if the national media will pick up on it or discuss it much.

The case relates to the state's new laws over medical marijuana, and a private company's rules on employment.  Company X (a satellite TV service) has an employee.  The employee is a quadriplegic who has been advised by a Colorado doctor to utilize medical marijuana, which is legally sold in the state.  The company has a drug-testing program, which marijuana is one of those drugs that is listed on the forbidden list.

The chief reason that the company will say is that they are fearful that employees might show up at the work-place, with lingering affects of the drug in their system, and cause safety issues (for themselves or the public).

The guy in this episode, had been with the company for three years, and the original drug test occurred in 2010, with dismissal as the result.  The original court episode resulted in the company being proven innocent...the dismissal was allowed.  The appeal?  Again went for the company.  So we are at the level of the state supreme court listening to the case.  Personally, I expect them to render for the company again, and the case will move to the national level for one last chance.

The medical experts tend to side mostly with the guy in this case.  His health has improved with the use of marijuana.  Safety experts will generally side with the company.

If you go to the Fortune 500 companies.....almost all of them have some type of drug testing requirement.  You could work for them for over forty years and never get tested.  You could be tested yearly.  What generally happens within the Fortune 500 companies is that an event occurs which makes a division chief question the individual in question.  The HR office will send a note to this guy and require him within X-number of hours to report to a nearby lab and give a sample.  Failure to do so.....results in automatic dismissal.  It's usually written into your contract.

The problem here....is that we have an evolution going on with medical marijuana where one part of the nation has progressed on, and the standards of the remaining nation remain with certain rules.  There is more than ample proof that serious usage of marijuana disrupts your thinking process and could potentially cause an accident.  Hence.....even for buying medical marijuana.....they generally instruct or require you to leave the premises of the "store" and go home.  They don't even want you smoking this in their parking lot.

All of this leaves a regular user with limited options for employment.  A Piggly Wiggly shelf stocker, a gas station clerk, a french-fry guy at Burger King, or a pizza delivery guy.  At some point a decade down the line....some journalist is going to write up some big long story about the woeful problem with medical marijuana users and the unfairness of laws and forced drug-testing.  Some political party is going to promise a safe conversion for the nation, and we will all wonder a year or two later why accident rates have jumped a couple of percent.