Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing?

My ancestors packed up and left London in January of 1666, and arrived on some Virginia coastline by March of the same year.  The six-to-eight week journey meant surviving mostly off heavily salted pork and beef, some boiled vegetables, and marginally tasting water.  The toilet was mostly a bucket and an rag to wipe with.  Their accommodations were harsh and unheated.  When they finally did land....they were put up near the bay in some non-descriptive house and accepted whatever was available.

Today, I can board the jet in London and make the trip to Dulles in roughly eight to nine hours.  I'll sit in some half-way decent seat and watch two or three movies to entertain myself during the flight.  I'll have a tasteless piece of chicken with some soggy noodles, and guzzle it down with a French wine, and then later sip off some French glacier water.  If I do need to use the toilet....it's fairly clean and sanitary.....with recycled toilet paper, and some soap and water to clean my hands afterwards.  The temp will never go lower then seventy-degrees or higher than seventy-six degrees.  Other than the seventy-five minute wait for some TSA geek to swipe my passport against his scanner or possibly losing my baggage.....there's not much to get frustrated about.  I'll get into a shuttle bus and be taken to the local Holiday Inn and sleep quietly on an outstanding mattress for eight hours before resuming my journey the next day. I'll have crispy bacon for breakfast, along with some fairly delicious pancakes, and sip some freshly brewed coffee.

Three-hundred and forty-eight years have passed.  A significant amount of technology development, innovation, discoveries, and changes in commerce have occurred.

I was reading a piece last week that an individual suggested that we've reached an era where we really need to sit back, pause, and try to grasp what we've done and where we actually stand.

The fact is.....if I got this weird idea in my head.....I could actually take out my credit card today....plot some trip to the Isle of Tonga, and leave tomorrow.  The flight there, the hotel stay, the rental car, and the boating excursion could be arranged in less than an hour.  I could pop over to a local shop in town....buy the twelve clothing items required for the trip.  And tomorrow at around seven in the morning....board some flight in Frankfurt to start this two-week trip.  Up until twenty years ago, it might have been impossible to consider the trip that I had just described.

My brother, if he got some weird idea in his head....could go out and purchase sixty farm implements related to the pre-tractor era (meaning pulled-by-a-horse-or-mule), within a one-day period.  In fact, he could view the items via Ebay....note their condition by the picture....and then call the guy from six states away, who might be actually standing in the middle of his cornfield and answers via his cellphone.  He could arrange for the sixty items (from sixty different owners) to all be delivered within the next week.  Unique paint for each item as part of his master plan?  He could probably pick a one-of-a-kind paint color that is only manufactured in Coos Bay, Oregon, and have it delivered to Bama in two days by Fedex.

My neighbor could come up with a fascination of Brazilian women.  He could go Brazilianwives.com and spend an afternoon filtering out the unlikely gals and finally come to find this Amazon-looking gal....six-foot-four-inches....and has a degree in pine-tree-studies.  She likes humor....doesn't smoke....and would be agreeable to wearing a thin bikini outfit whenever out in public.  The recruitment and period leading up to the marriage will only take six weeks.

A guy in Bama who has never done a transmission job in his life.....will log onto Youtube and find a four-hour video where the whole process is explained in detail for a 1978 Chevy pick-up.  He'll move his sixty-inch TV to the garage....and quietly watch the process on TV and conduct the whole job by himself.

The truth is.....a massive amount of technology has come upon us and we've failed to grasp it.  We haven't sat back and asked ourselves....is there a point where we need to stop and think about this?  Are there any ethics that we are missing?  Are we getting into deep territory by recruiting a Amazon-looking wife who dresses in a scantily fashion?  Might I be making a stupid mistake by dreaming up a Tonga vacation in sixteen minutes?  Is there a way to delay my brother if he got the idea to build up an entire collection of horse-pulled implements in a matter of half-a-day?

I no longer carry a map around in my car.....I carry a GPS and I have to admit in the past year or so....I just don't get lost anymore.  To have suggested to me two decades ago that I'd never get lost again or carry maps in a car?  Well....it's kinda amazing.

I sip, as my preference, French glacier water.  Tap water is ok, but Evian Water is pretty tasty.  To have suggested two decades ago that I'd drink mostly only bottled water.....only drawn from the Vinzier Plateau of France.....well, I wouldn't have believed you.

I carry a cellphone around with me and can contact anyone in the world in a matter of seconds.  If I observed a unique car or an unusual statue....I can take the picture and send it around the world in a matter of seconds as well.  If you'd said that to me two decades ago.....I wouldn't have believed it.  I can order a pizza while sitting in some park in Wiesbaden, and have the pizza delivered to me within thirty minutes.

If anything....we are now walking at a faster pace toward something that we cannot imagine today....yet will likely exist within twenty years.  There's no doubt that I might have my doctor services handled by a Chinese guy named Wang, who I Skype with and have a device in my house to test me for various things to let Wang know my condition.

I expect most cars manufactured within five years to have some device to alert the cops, the fire department, or the garage services folks of a "problem".

I expect some art software and printer to exist....where I can take a picture of my favorite landscape and have the software interpret it in the mind of Van Gogh, da Vinci, or Monet....to print out a large copy of the landscape for my living room.

I expect half the residents in Alabama to be self-brewing their own beer within two decades....even if they live in a dry county.

I expect drones to be a regular part of our lives within the next decade.  CNN will likely have a dozen flying around the US and provide live feed to their viewers.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this.....you have to settle back and wonder about advancements and where this all leads onto.  Will we have so much technology in our lives....that we aren't able to appreciate much of anything?  To me.....it's an interesting question.  

Sunday, 28 December 2014

History Takes Unique Curves

Being a 'retiree'....I have time to waste (so my wife tells me).

I've spent a couple of days redigging family history.  There are some footnotes, which I've come to add to the story.

Last year, I dug deep enough to go back to around the mid-1500s and fifteen generations of the family.  Presently, I've dug down to 1290 (John Hammond of Suffolk, England), and added four more generations onto the story.

But there are two curious references I've come across.

First, this guy who made the journey from London to the new world with his son....it appears that this wasn't really his first trip to the new world.  There are a fair number of bits of information to indicate that this guy (John was his name) was listed as a mariner, and had traveled a good bit via ships. It would appear that he was a ship's officer and signed various documents to which you'd need some education and authority to accomplish.

So this guy built up a career of roughly two decades....sailing back and forth in the 1640s and 1650s.  At some point, his first wife passes on.  Toward 1666, John makes up two decisions....one to remarry and the second to end the sail-life.  John is in his late fifties and marries up with a gal who was twenty-one years old.  In the spring of 1666....prior to the London fire, but in the midst of the plague period.....John takes his wife and his son with him.....leaving England for good.

The second reference which came up oddly.....is this group of Hammonds who settled up originally in the Norfolk area of England (a hundred miles north-east of London).....weren't exactly life-long English guys.

For a number of generations, they'd lived there and farmed off the local lands.  They were English by every standard you could imagine for the time.  However, there's not much on records or history to go past the 1300s.  However, there is this odd thing about old gravesites in the Kirby-Bedon region where they settled.  A fair number of the sites have markings related to the Normans (the French).

Around 1066....the Normans finally invaded England.  The French force?  It was made up of various Europe 'tribes' and a remarkable invasion force.  Epic books and movies have been made over the Norman invasion of England, and the British loss.

At the conclusion.....the Normans needed to ensure control over the new territory.  Most historians will agree that around eight-thousand Normans were brought in.....given title and property (land and farms) as part of their contribution to the war....but their bigger contribution was to control England and the losing party.

Kirby-Bedone?  It's a pretty rural area, and you can sit and imagine some folks arriving with some authority on their shoulders....and just setting up shop.

A written line to cover this period?  None.  I am left to an odd family line which seems to go past Kirby-Bedone, and might actually end up on the northern coast of Normandy and have a French connection.....preferring civilization and farming.

A Closure in My Old Neighborhood

For the 3.5 years I lived in Arlington....there were a hundred-odd structures that would get brought up in local conversations whenever you said "waste of money".  One of those included the Artisphere in Arlington.

It was a highly artistic structure over near the Wilson Blvd area of Arlington....generally referenced as being in Rosslyn (although the whole region is Arlington).  As best as I can describe the building....having walked around it but never entered.....it was a dome-shaped building of a significant size.  There was a bar and lounge attached to it.....although I can't remember anyone ever claiming they sipped a beer there.  There was a 4,000 square foot 'ballroom' for social engagements.  And there were five or six areas for art display or public displays.

Most folks in the Arlington knew it existed.....beyond that, I doubt if it ever had more than local school kids herded over to it, or the 500-odd artsy-crowd folks in the local art establishment that went to it monthly.  What the Arlington county council would admit.....they were supplementing the budget with around 2.5 million dollars a year.  The odd thing was that the county had twelve people hired up for the facility as full-time help and another twenty as part-timers.

The place, at it's peak last year.....with between 75,000 and 80,000 guests.....simply never made any type of pay-back to the community and was a magnet for public funds. Every election period.....this was fairly noted in the local news.

Well....this week, the county commission finally made a decision to dump the Artisphere.  They will discuss some alternate purpose for the building (mostly because there's a six-year period left on the lease and if they break it.....there's more cash involved).  Although it's hard to guess what function could be made out of the dome-structure.

The odd thing that always came up in conversations when people discussed the place?  It's the only pub/lounge in Arlington which WOULD NOT accept credit cards.  With almost three-hundred drinking establishments in the Arlington area.....this one footnote is the one that made me question the legit nature of the whole establishment.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Cops, Thugs, Hypocrites, Mass Movement, and America

Just ten observations about a trending topic of cops, thugs, hypocrites, mass movements, and the US.

1.  Generally speaking....roughly eleven percent of Americans smoke marijuana at least occasionally.  Roughly nine percent of Americans use illegally procured narcotics at least occasionally.  Roughly .4-percent (1.2 million) Americans use meth at least occasionally.  Do the statistical average and you will bump into one doped-up idiot every single day.....maybe six to twelve times a day.  All it takes is one guy or gal getting unhinged and doing something stupid....where you, the neighbor, the grocery clerk, the retired guy, or the cop has to shoot them and put the guy six-feet under....because they were threatening you.  It's a higher chance of bumping into this type character....than a Jehovah's Witness, which says something.

2.  Disrespect rates higher than respect today.  Maybe it's stress on society.  Maybe it's the continual demands put on people and they can't handle it.  Maybe it's just the trend of society to go this way.

3.  Once you red-line a part of your town as a place not to hang out or drive-through after dark....it generally never reverts back to a green-line area (safe).  Ask anyone who lives in Memphis.....roughly seventy percent of the city is regarded as unsafe after dark.  Birmingham, Alabama has roughly ninety-percent of the city as unsafe after dark.  The whole eastside of DC, is unsafe after dark.  We just accept it, and don't ask questions.

4.  If you get shot dead by a cop or a thug....does it really matter over the end-result?  Dead is dead.  Does it matter that you are black and shot by a black cop or a black thug?  Does it matter or make any difference that you are white, and shot by a Latino thug?  This gimmick phrase of "black lives matter".....is about the most bogus statement ever pushed out and accepted by some mass movement.  All lives matter in the end.

5.  Why do we generally dislike cops?  They end up getting used to hand-out traffic tickets as a money-maker for towns.  We've all experienced this negative side.  They also get hired and never drug-tested.  Cops for small towns aren't college-educated (even a single year) and rarely have some academy background.....so it's like hiring Larry's cousin Marvin....who used to watch Adam-12 and T J Hooker.  How many cops are on the side and working for drug cartels/gangs?  Probably a couple thousand throughout the entire US.  Fixing this?  It's beyond a solution stage.

6.  What's the general rule about gunplay?  If you wave a gun around and point it at someone.....you don't respect the gun or general rules on handling a gun.  The odds are against you living a long and uneventful life.

7.  When some media thug comes around and hypes up your misery....your mess....your pit of despair.....it's usually a brief episode where you get used for some agenda.  Maybe it's a positive agenda.  Maybe it's a negative agenda.  Naturally, you ought to ask questions.....but you get too caught up and just skip the common sense moment.

8.  We all have some minor element of hypocritical thinking in our lives. We talk ethics but occasionally lack them.  We talk positive lives but occasionally take the negative stance.  We talk nutrition but sip a 44-ounce Big Gulp or chow-down on a Wendy's Double-Cheeseburger dripping with grease.  We talk up on the wonderful values of some neighborhood kid, who we know is doped-up five days a week and robs liquor stores occasionally.  We hold political figures to false stances and just grin when they break their word on forty-fourth occasion.  Our moral judgments slide....depending on the mass movement of the day and our hypocritical scale is always fluctuating.  We don't seem capable of realizing this.

9.  If you lived in a marginal lifestyle, in the worst part of town, and knew six teens who were dead before age eighteen by violent means....what would motivate you to stay and continue to live in such an atmosphere?  A logical guy.....after being robbed by thugs or watching houses on their street flip to becoming meth-houses....would pack up and move as far away as possible.  Are we that anchored down?

10.  Cops aren't cops anymore.....once they acquire military assault tanks, put on military-style uniforms, run elite 'gangs' to serve search warrants, and approve military-tactics as part of the daily routine.  Maybe they put on a badge and pretend to be cops.....but these type of characters are something else beyond the concept of a cop.  What we've accepted....isn't normal.  Yet we've crossed the line and allowed this type of behavior to become the 'norm'.

There's something wrong here....but it's wrong all over the place.  Simply wanting to clean up the mess or act normal.....is no longer possible.  We've all become hypocrites....respectful hypocrites.....but lousy successful tax-paying hypocrites.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Turning Innovation into Something is the Bigger Talent

On the list of the top one-hundred inventors of America.....Samuel Morse might just barely break into the group.  Most folks would rate him way down around number two-hundred.....maybe even into three-hundred level.  Some would even say.....he wasn't really an inventor....per say.

All of this brings me to this short history of Samuel Morse.  He's the oldest kid among a family of highly-religious enthusiasts.....tied to the Calvinist Church of America.  Calvinists, for the sake of discussion....are individuals who sit and discuss the Bible at length.....extraordinarily length perhaps....to reach conclusions on why Adam did this, why Eve did that, and how this might all be interrelated.

You can sense that the path of Samuel Morse is going to be a long and difficult one.

He ends up going off and getting fairly educated on theology, mathematics, philosophy, and the science of horses.  If things had gone a certain way.....he'd likely be an outstanding horse doctor and veterinarian.  To support himself through the couple of years at Yale.....he did a lot of painting.  To be humble about it....he had a vast amount of talent.

After the Yale graduation....Samuel was preoccupied with painting.  For almost two decades....that was his one and only profession.  He picked up various commissions.....making a marginal income out of the work, and always finding another project to hook onto.

In 1825, while he was in New York City.....he got an urgent letter detailing his wife being sick.  It would have taken three days to get back.....but the letter merely said an illness had come over her.  He was closing off his business and preparing to leave two days later....when the next letter came.  His wife had passed on.  He never knew the extent of the illness, and the distance for the letters to travel made immediate knowledge impossible.

This episode bothered him greatly.  His painting career continued on to some degree, but he was probably a bit preoccupied.

Seven years would pass, and one day while crossing the Atlantic.....he was in the company of another gentleman and came to discover that this guy had the same fascination with electricity as he did.  It's an odd science in this days and just barely in the beginning stages of understanding it.  What you could grasp was that an electrical current could be passed from one point to another.

No one saw any great purpose beyond that.

So, Morse sat there and reasoned enough to say that you could 'talk' via some electrical current.  No one had sat around and realized the idea or how you'd make it work.  Morse simply developed a code.....tested it.....and did some demonstrations proving that you could talk to someone not just across the room, but across town, and across an entire country.

In roughly twenty years....Samuel Morse had taken a simple twist to an already existing piece of science, and brought communication into a bold new era.  In essence....all he did was invent a simple code.  This....brought to you....by a painter, not an inventor or scientist.....but a painter.

Why History is Like Nuclear Science

I had a fascination with history since like the third-grade.  To me, it was a fascinating open window about life, culture, events, and screw-ups.  I had an appreciation of looking over a map showing the whole 'walk' that Lewis and Clark conducted, and how they didn't have a Motel-Six to check into, or some interstate diner to provide a charming lunch.  I liked WW II stories that unfolded, where one single episode led onto a massive and epic story.  I like the mysteries left by Stonehenge and the Pyramids.

What's generally bothered me over the decades is that history is often taught by instructors, professors, and teachers....at such a level....that it's like nuclear science or geometric equations.  High schools were bad for putting out the whole structure of just memorizing twenty-two key terms....to pass the weekly quiz.  Looking back....it was amazing.  You had eight class days of forty-five minute 'mini-lectures', which all keyed on five TERMS per day, and you simply had to memorize just enough of that to get a decent grade.....then dump the data as you moved onto the next chapter.  Nothing was ever learned in such a way to make sense.

In college, occasionally you'd have some professor who would drift off from the lecture and actually lay out this great graphical vision of some event and you could visualize the approaching battle, confrontation, or big adventure.  Those occasions however, were rare.

In the 1990s, I began to notice the History Channel doing some fine pieces on history....which took you to the actual site.  They could actually run up a forty-four minute piece for a one-hour TV show which would tell you the simple story of how Chicago literally burned to the ground, or how some hurricane wiped out Galveston.

One of the great problems in history is that you need to start somewhere.  Most folks like to start their understanding of history either at the Great Depression or WW II....because things kinda fit together easily for their understanding of the story.  Frankly, it's all turned into a story-telling art.  Once someone pushes the notch back....to say WW I or Teddy Roosevelt.....you can usually tell that person is really stretching themselves to connect the dots.  Push them back another notch gold being found in California in 1848....folks start sweating.  Push them back to the Roman period, and you got a stressed-out guy.

My entire introduction to the Roman Empire....from the text books that Alabama offered up for world history around the ninth-grade......consisted of roughly three pages.  There's maybe fifteen things that the teacher could pluck test questions from, and nothing made much sense to a 14-year old kid from Alabama.  It took me around forty years to realize the massive implications of the Roman era and how so much modern history fits to what the Romans started and finished.  Telling the story?  I doubt if a quarter of all college history professors could sit there and do an adequate job over the Roman era story.

This past month, there's been a couple of episodes on German TV featuring the historian and professor Christopher Clark. The German TV crowd hired the professor to do a six-part series over German history.  They actually put the professor in a car, drove around the country.....made some great drone-type video of the landscape.....and then told a five-star story of events.  The Roman era was completely laid out and made perfect sense.  The era of the Enlightenment fell right into place.  The replacement of the Roman authority to the Catholic authority was fully explained.  The Thirty-Years War could finally be put into some understandable context.

The trouble is that we have so few Professor Clark's around, and we end up with a one-star lecture for the most part about Columbus, which tends to portray a slanted story, or some hyped-up story over a map that he MAY or MAY NOT have had in his possession.

I came to hate science in high school because it revolved around forty-four thousand science topics and ninety-nine-percent were things you'd never use.  For the past forty-odd years.....I just haven't had to deal with dinosaurs, the pollination of a bee, or classifying mammals.  I won't say it was wasted time but I just wasn't destined for some career in science, and you could have established that fact by age twelve.

History was different.....you could piece together the puzzle and make sense out of what some idiot did, or some epic moment that just accidentally worked out for no real reason.  History could explain why Ford appealed to every American as a car.  History could lay out why New Orleans was screwed-up from day one and has never recovered.  History could explain the interstate system and how it only comes after WW II and the review of the German highway system.

The bottom line?  It'd be nice if history were more simple to grasp, and maybe we are moving in that direction.  But it might be another thousand years and a ton more events to occur.....before we get to that mythical moment where it all makes perfect sense.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Explaining this North Korea Thing Over The Interview

Alright, so imagine two youth North Korean TV production guys go in and talk the North Korea movie crowd into financing their big idea for a new four-star movie.

The theme of the movie will be two young North Korean reporters get this once-in-a-lifetime chance to venture to the US, walk around Washington for seven days, and finally interview President Obama....where an gimmick-assassination attempt will be made....possibly successful....possibly unsuccessful.

The movie crowd asks....where's the action?

The two guys respond....that the movie centers around the sexual liaisons of President Obama with dozens of interns who all happen to be blonde dimwits gals from Virginia Tech or Cal State.....freaky Secret Service guys with Baltimore hookers in the background....fake interviews with US Senators who are mostly dead from the neck up....lobbyists who keep handing the two visiting North Koreans free dope and cash....a CNN guy who is the accompanying guy to explain everything to the North Koreans but appears to be mostly a Democratic-party thug.....and a very happy hotel manager who is really a trans-gender individual and seems to be doped-up on pain-killers constantly.

Still, the movie crowd who should be careful about investing....asks...."where's the big action"?

So the two guys respond that President Obama's wife would be in one scene and confess her husband is freaky in bed and appears to have a thing for Hollywood stars.  In another scene, the two will catch a late-night Metro subway train and watch three murders occur over black guys who said the wrong thing to an undercover cop.  And there's a scene where some big-name handler of the President admits that the whole 2008 and 2012 election were all fraudulent in nature and part of a bigger plan to take over the Democratic Party....to ensure it fails miserably over the next decade and all connected to Karl Rove in some way.

Finally, the North Korean money guys agree.....and the two youthful guys make a movie where President Obama and VP Joe are shot by bumbling Secret Service agents, in a very graphic scene.

North Korea decides to market the movie and send it to possible US theaters.

How much whining would occur in the US over a North Korean movie with this type of theme?

So, just what would you expect.....if you did the same type movie theme on North Korea?

Yeah, that's pretty much the entire story in a nutshell.

A Little Bergdahl for Your Morning

Sometime on Friday....the Pentagon wrapped up the Army investigation of Bowe Bergdahl....the Army NCO who deserted his post in Afghanistan...leaving his rifle and unit....and going off to be captured by the Taliban of the region. Over the past six months, the Obama Administration traded five bad guys out of Gitmo.....to get Bergdahl back.  No one associated with the Administration will speak publicly over the money involved.....but it's figured to be around one million dollars that we gave as part of the deal.

The investigation concluded....yes, he deserted.   End of the story. Concluded and signed off.

Next?  Well.....the Secretary of Defense (Hagel) is handing it over to his unit commander and they will determine charges, or maybe no charges.  You can figure this will take three months to work out.
There are several scenarios.  The worst case is a full-up court martial.....which I seriously doubt will occur.  There could be just some administrative action to dump Bergdahl immediately with a general discharge....but get a lot of Army folks frustrated and hostile that he just gets off easily.  So I'm going for the likely scenario of Bergdahl getting a Article 15 situation....losing most of his stripes....getting ninety days of some jail....and then discharged with a Bad-Conduct Discharge.

Converting it back to a general discharge?  Maybe.  Getting the VA to grant PTSD?  Very likely.  The $350,000 of back-pay from the period held by the Taliban? Zero chance of the money coming to him now, my humble opinion.

Normally, a guy like this would get several years (minimum of one-year) for a simple case of desertion.  There's been cases where no time were awarded, our nut-case who ran off to North Korea and stayed twenty-odd years ended up with no time in jail....simply because he suffered enough.  They may see the same logic in handling Bergdahl the same way.

What does all this say?  If the White House had realized the full consequence of getting Bergdahl back and having this amount of negative attention, I doubt if they'd done it and just let him sit there.  It's another sign of how they aren't capable of grasping the problems and consequences of bad decision-making.

As for what happens to Bergdahl in the future?  I'll predict he gets PTSD paperwork and a military disability situation ($30,000 a year).  I'll also predict he writes a book, which generally doesn't sell.  I'll predict some idiot ten years from now will make a movie over the episode.  And I'll predict that Bergdahl ends up packing a bag and leaving for El Salvador or some marginal third-world country within five years....admitting that he can't handle life in the US.

A nutcase?  Yeah.  Based on everything written of his youth.....I'd say that the Army should have reviewed his entry and stopped him at the front door.  This was predictable. Sadly, there's probably a thousand Bergdahls in the Army today.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

This US-Cuba Hype

Since 19 October 1960.....we've had an embargo and closed relations with Cuba.  The reason?  It's best not to ask this but I'll try to make it simple.

Cuba had a bogus government running things throughout the 1950s.....which had a quiet relationship with various mafia families of the US.  The banking sector, the hotel sector, and anything related to cash-flow.....had some element of the bogus government or US mafia figures involved.

The revolution that came up in 1960?  It brought Castro and his empire into existence.  Most folks figured that a year or two later....with the embargo....the Castro folks would come to be non-existent.  They were wrong.

Every single President since Kennedy.....has been quietly waiting.  LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and even Obama....all had a simple list of things to take down the embargo.  Free elections was the mandatory item....which the Castro team could never get to some agreement over.

What will happen in this case?  I think some dimwit will be picked as a chief talker for the White House.....some retired Senator, and in less than five days.....work up a fantastic agreement.  The President will sign the document in March, and talk about this for weeks.  The Senate?  Oh, well....that's not going to rate too well.....if there aren't any free elections in the deal.  The odds of the treaty being approved by the new Republican senate in 2015? Zero chance.  And probably zero chance in 2016.  The lack of free elections will be the chief problem.

The President will work up a visit by April for himself.....going down and dining with the whole Castro team....chatting up the new relationship....which officially doesn't exist without Senate approval.  He knows that....and will talk about it for the whole of the remaining two years.

Sounds like a wrestling script?  Yeah.

The positive for regular folks if there was a treaty completed and you could fly into Cuba?  Well....you folks with crappy health insurance....could just drop it, and use Cuba's cheap healthcare deal for any requirements.

Got a gallbladder mess?  Go to Mobile....catch a ferry over to Cuba in eight hours and you get your surgery done for less than $500.

American business folks in a rush to get some deals in Cuba?  Don't count on this happening.  The hotel business?  Who the heck wants to drive around a failed Communist state and look at dilapidated buildings and crappy beaches?  There's just not any tourism that can be sparked out of this mess.

So, it's hype.....mostly free hype, and that's the best that the President can build onto.

I Hate Final Episodes

Generally, I hate the last final episode of most shows.

Coming up in a five months will be the final episode of Two and a Half Men.  There's talk that Charlie might be brought back for the show.....but I really don't care.  It's been messed up ever since his character left the show.

Generally, I thought the last final episode of LOST was crap.  Maybe if I'd been drugged up and sipping straight Jacky D's.....I would have understood it better.

The last episode of Friends.....was a marginal two-star piece and it'd been better just to have all six sit down at a cafe....get drunk....and start some fight, then all walk off in separate directions.

The last episode of Magnum PI was supposed to come at the conclusion of the seventh season....with him dying and going off into the greater beyond.  It was one of the most disliked episodes ever, and convinced the studio to do another season, invent some way of bringing Magnum back and doing a final eighth season, with a slightly better conclusion.

The last episode of the Sopranos left you in a bad fix.....the four family members sitting at the cafe and the camera faded out just before something happened.  But you never know what.

This week.....Larry David, who wrote Seinfeld commented on the conclusion episode of the series.  It was described as "clever".

There are 180 episodes of Seinfeld.  I've probably watched every single episode at least fifteen times.  It's the only series that I can rewind, and watch over and over. The number of bad episodes?  I regard only the final (number 180) as the only bad episode ever made.  I can ever go back to season one, and the first five episodes.....which you'd expect them to be marginally acceptable.  Well....episode one might be just a tad weak, but none could be described as marginal.

How would I have ended Seinfeld?  I would have had Patrick Steward of Star Trek fame come to do a voice piece....leading into the first minute.  His question would have been.....what if the four had never met?

Jerry might have never met George....and gone off to be an insurance salesman and quietly married to Miranda....a Jewish lawyer from Queens.

George, without meeting Jerry?  He would have signed up for voice lessons and been a radio news guy for some New Jersey talk-show.  Married?  Well....by age forty, he'd been on marriage five.

Elaine?  She would have quietly worked her way up to be a catalog designer....living with some car mechanic...and spending summers in Canada.

Cosmo Kramer?  He would still be Kramer, with all his eccentric qualities.

I would have tied the twenty-two minute piece all together.....telling their stories and how never meeting would have been a different ending entirely.  Then I'd come to the final minute where I introduced Newman.....fading in from darkness to a point that you can recognize him.  He'd just say a simple phrase....."I like to tinker with mortals....just to see if you can get a bunch of nothing to be curious or interesting".....then grin and walk away onto a cloud.

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Newest Government Database

It has yet to be discussed much....but late this week.....your Fed-Government is going to roll out this really impressive database, with fed stuff cranked into it, and basically tell you the basic damn college in America for your Johnny or Jill to attend.

I know....it's amazing....fed advice on something.

It's a ranking system, which takes into account all 7,000 colleges across America....from the local level to the state level, onto the private level.

It'll be like an NCAA football bowl database, with lots of critical pieces of info.  Like for example....it'll know the graduation level of first-year students at Auburn....telling you only thirty-seven percent will make it all the way to the end....thus making you ask what happened to the other sixty-three percent (they boozed out, ran out of dad's funds, got some girl pregnant, or discovered that a community college was better).

It'll have data to tell you about assaults on campus.....and if so-and-so college is dangerous to attend.

It'll tell you if it's a mostly minority college, with lesser grade averages.

It'll tell you the tuition costs per year, what the dorms and food-pay-plan might cost.

Now, I'll admit....for the parent sitting in their living room and pondering over what Carl (all of fourteen years old) might do in four years....it might be a shocker.  You go through the database and realize that an idiot studying French literature at Mississippi state....might have to pay up $72,500 for tuition, room and board, and pocket money over four years.  Maybe you'd sit down with Carl and establish some thoughts over French literature not amounting to much, and talk him into a welding certificate at the community college....for the grand sum of $7,300 over two years (living at home of course).

There are some positive things that such a database might provide.....but the trouble is.....the federal government is the builder of this.....just like they built the Affordable Health Act database.  Same folks.  What's the odds of them building this right?  And if they built it right.....why couldn't they do it with health insurance?

Ever heard of Fort Hays State University?  It rests in Kansas.  The yearly tuition for a IT or computer science degree?  $3,472.....per year.  It's the most affordable college in America with in-state tuition figured up, for the degree.  Normally, most folks wouldn't care.....but if you only had $12,000 in the family account to put forward for some certificate to help Jill get some education and avoid borrowing a lot of cash.....Fort Hays makes sense.

All of this brings me back around to good intentions, incompetence by the US federal government, screwed up priorities on selecting a college, and the ranking system.

Based on a priority system.....the NCAA bowl selection process is likely to be fairly screwed up because NO one wants to allow some scenario to occur where Auburn and Alabama would meet up in the final game.  So various gimmicks have been worked into the system....to ensure that Auburn and Alabama NEVER meet in such a game.  The same strategy guys are likely at work with this college database....to ensure that you never get to a best over-all college.  That is my humble opinion.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Big World of Memoirs

From all this stuff of the past week in the news....I came to this one single note that I noticed....which makes no sense.

The news folks have talked a great bit over the last month or two about this young gal Lena Dunham.....who wrote up a memoir at the youthful age of 28.  To be honest.....she was writing it when she was 27, and published at 28.  Lena's book (Not That Kind of Girl) isn't on my reader's list....mostly because I read historical stuff or Steinbeck.  I admit.....it's a pretty closed-off reader's list.

Dunham's big piece in the book, which draws lots of curious readers....is some rape scene with a Republican guy.  Several facts revolve around this scene and the description of the guy.....which we've been told this week that it's a composite character.

For those from rural areas of America....composite characters are when a writer has hit a block of misery and can't really fill in a space.....so they make up a scene and then try to throw in this character who is a mythical version of James Dean, Flip Wilson, Hulk Hogan, Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer, and the Lone Ranger.

Composite characters are this new trend in writing.  You write a mostly true-to-life book....getting the reader really into the story with juicy writing and real facts.....then you inject the composite guy/gal for the weaker moments that you can't really write facts.

You can imagine trying to do something like this in the 1930s and 1940s.....and a book publisher would have chased you out of the office.....refusing to publish garbage like this.  It was either FACT or FICTION.  You can't blend either into some type of engrossing novel.

But enough of this composite garbage.  What got to me this week....was the nature of a 'kid' (27 years old when writing it).....publishing a memoir.

Typically, a guy gets up to his fifties and starts thinking over life, and starts to write something like this.  The majority of memoirs don't get published until a guy is sixty to seventy years old.

President Obama released his memoir back in 1995....he was 34 years old and his chief accomplishment in life was six years of college and some community organizing efforts in Chicago.

Generally, I have a limited amount of respect for someone who spends a fair amount of time in their youth....who sit down and write some memoir of their accomplishments.  It's like some idiot sat there and told them they had a great story to tell.  If they'd been traveling across America by bicycle, spent an entire summer in Ireland with some hot lusty affair involving a pub mistress, or tamed lions for some Texas traveling circus.....maybe there's some great stuff there for a memoir.  But if the best you got is composite characters or chatting up on the brief two years at Harvard....there's just not much to say.

Do I read memoirs?  About the only memoir that I can recall reading completely through and having some interest in.....was George Orwell's piece on Homage to Catalonia.  From what I can remember....it was the Spanish Civil War period, and Orwell wrote up on his experience there.  From my memory (it's over thirty years ago that I read the book).....it was a fairly detailed piece and I was glad he was doing his 'duty' in Spain because I wouldn't have gone or sat through as many days of misery there as he put in.

So I come to this question.....should anyone take a twenty-seven year-old's memoir as significant?  The simple answer is "NO".  It's mostly gossip stuff that sounds juicy.  Beyond that?  There's not much of life accomplishment to regard as significant.  The sad thing is....we probably will get a Lena Dunham updated memoir about every six to ten years, for the remainder of her life.  Maybe when she gets up to around sixty years old....she'll just combine the half-dozen memoirs into one single memoir.....building up more composite characters, and getting us all enthusiastic about some real or fake scene.

Sadly, we accept stuff like this....as normal, which says a lot.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Rehydration Gimmick in the Senate Report

From the Senate report on torture released.....I came to some piece of reading it....concerning rectal rehydration, and how some guys had this forced upon them as part of the torture process.

Not having a vast amount of knowledge on this rehydration business of the rectum.....I pondered over this and read up on it.

In the early 1900s....there's this device developed for health farms or wellness hotels that develop in both the US and Europe.  The device is called the Murphy Drip.  It's inserted into the rectum, with a solution that had different elements.  The earlier versions all had saline....later adding sodium, and various other possible liquids.

The gimmick here....was to flush out your bowl of the various deadly poisons that might be there.

Scientifically....NO one has ever proved it is helpful....nor harmful.  I'll base that off thirty minutes of poking around the internet.

Oddly enough, in today's weight-loss clinic schemes.....the rectal rehydration episode is making a comeback and usually on the menu of most hotel clinics.  In Germany, you'd pay between 50 and 100 Euro for this. No one states numbers, but I'd take a guess that a minimum of 30,000 Germans probably request this yearly at the various wellness clinics around the country.

A form of torture?  Well....normally the customer requests this....it's not forced onto some customer.  So, it might be an invasion of privacy.  But to say torture?  It's a pretty bogus statement to go that far and say it the way that it comes out.

The odd thing I would say here.....who exactly dreamed up this idea of pumping various Islamic guys full of saline solutions and where did they get introduced to it?  From a wellness clinic?  It just makes you wonder.


Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Senate's Torture Report

Only some observations, but first....my entry into the discussion.

Years and years ago, I worked at a base in Louisiana and we had this guy in the organization that I barely knew (bumping into him once or twice a week....he was noted for always having a 'problem').  He came up one day with the problem of a neighborhood dog that was coming onto his property and taking a crap....more than once a day in fact.

My associate got peeved about this and talked up his frustrations.  Finally, one day.....he announced he was putting some poisoned meat.  A guy or two in the group voiced concern....you'd just get into more trouble this way.  But he did anyway.

A week passed....nothing much said, then he comes over to discuss the new problem.  A cop had come over the night before and asked if he knew of any problems in the neighborhood....someone had poisoned three dogs, with two of them dead.  My associated said no, then asked which dog had survived.  Of course, it was his arch nemesis.....the bad dog he'd talked about for weeks.  My associate said nothing much and the cop left.

From the group.....the general discussion was....there's a bunch of trouble if they figure out you did this.  But our 'problems' guy saw it differently.  In truth, three separate dogs were coming over and visiting his yard (not just one), and his wide-spread method of justice fixed his over-arching problem.
So, onto this torture report.

First, the Department of Defense had a simple rule book on interrogations that existed since the 1950s.  You had various ways to interrogate prisoners captured in a war situation.  Torture was not one of the prescribed methods.  You could make the guy's cell miserable.....limit them to just water and basic food....and intimidate them in various ways.  Hurting them or denying them medical care.....was not allowed by the book.

Having been through  the intelligence school that the Air Force had.....I asked the question during the seminar we had on interrogations.  It was an interesting response.  After WW II....the US had asked a lot of questions to the Nazis and German army.  At the conclusion of the war, the Germans had come to figure out that physical suffering in the name of torture for interrogations....had very limited value and usually got you a lot of bad information.  You could limit a guy's sleep pattern, make them tired, and do various tricks to achieve a better interrogation.  So the US military bought into this and went in this direction.

The CIA?  From the 1950s on.....they experimented with drugs, and a thousand other methods of interrogation.

So, when the 9-11 event started.....it was the CIA who ventured into this physical method of interrogation.

Second, who watches over the CIA?  A Senate select committee.  For several years, they've done their best to deny they ever heard of such episodes.  Maybe it's factual.....maybe it's false.  You don't know.  But if they don't know.....what does it say about the Senate managing our intelligence apparatus?

Third, you can sit and imagine Bush finally being told of the events going on.....twelve to eighteen months after they started.  He's sitting and wondering who the heck authorized it.  Basically, all you can see here is the CIA running off on their own agenda and dragging people along with them.

Fourth, once Bush finds the stuff going on.....then they have to have a legal review of the business....deciding what's right and what's wrong.  Basically.....lawyers deciding the ethics of interrogation and torture.  It's kinda like having your barber get into marriage counseling between you and your wife, or providing gardening advice.

Fifth, it took the Senate five years to build this entire report.  Between all of their real work, and full-time duties......they hired up enough people to pump out something.  Just makes me wonder if we could use them for other projects....like finding jobs for unemployed Americans or fixing medical costs in America.

Sixth, what happens now?  Nothing.  You can imagine this President with his Nobel Prize going off to some European meeting and this war-crimes topic gets brought up.  He can't sit there and talk his way around it.  Normally, in this type of mess.....you need to clean the room and do the rest of the job.  In his case, President Obama doesn't even grasp that part of the mess that has been created.

Seventh, is the Senate willing to turn Americans (CIA members and contractors) over to some UN war-crimes court?  You can guess that they've done everything possible to avoid saying that, but the question is sitting there.  Can they go and grab sixty guys and put them on some plane to Brussels?  Is there some legal paperwork sitting there which would be useful in just grabbing people and sending them off to UN justice.....while admitting that the US justice system can't do nothing over this?  Pretty bogus, if you ask me.

Eighth, all of this leads back to some event in 2016 or 2017, dangling in the hands of some Republican President.....having to face down some UN challenge to hand over the guys responsible for war-crimes.  In a way, it's like the story I led off with....a dog crapping in your yard....with the Senate having laid out some drastic crap, and you end up having to bulk-poison the yard....to get a solution.

Socrates would ask a bunch of questions....like how we got to this situation, and how much value we actually put into morals.  A bunch of losers who claim some religious war and killed three-thousand-odd Americans....doing something pretty inhumane and immoral.  We retaliate by doing some more stuff ourselves pretty inhumane and immoral.

So, the final word.  Strangely enough....the Senate report didn't touch the new strategy of President Obama.....using unmanned drones to kill people outside of war-zones.  If you ask me....it's pretty inhumane and immoral.  Just seems like we need the new Senate meeting in January to start a new five-year campaign....getting to the bottom of drone-executions and who authorized them.....under what American law....and how 'fair' it is.  Seems like the war-crimes folks of the UN would want to investigate that as well.    

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The BullS*it-Meter Journalist

For about a week, I've been watching this rape-story episode with Rolling Stone.  Last Monday....there were tons of info that basically put the entire story in doubt....as a fraud.  A week later?  Basically....Rolling Stone has now said that the whole story is suspect and is laying blame back at the young journalist who wrote it.

Today, I noticed that the journalist....Sabrina Rubin Erdely commented that she had a "BullS*it-meter" and that she knew precisely when people were BSing her.  This came up weeks ago when someone was asking at a writer's conference and she responded that she knew how to easily recognize BS.

You can generally say something like this.....if you are around fifty years old and seen an awful lot of crap in your life.  In her case....being mid-thirties....I doubt if she's really seen people with bogus accounts of events.

This 'BullS*it-meter'?  Well....if she had bought it at Radio Shack....I'd be suggesting she go back over and try to get her money back.  It's kinda like those old comic book ad's for the submarine kit for $29.  You hear something like this and you just shake your head.

A bright career?  It's hard to say where a person goes next if your entire story is basically a fraud or based on some creative character who might be half-real-half-fake.....like Man-Bear-Pig.  If you try to hire up with some newspaper or news service....they will continually put a fact-checker on you and make you feel frustrated over the lack of trust.

So, this brings me to an odd topic.....all this stuff that she's written in life....could each have a element of truth and an element of fake in it?  You just don't know.  There are dozens of articles that she's written.....all having an element of negative slant on something.  Might various pieces of the past stories be fraud too?  You start to wonder about this.

This Senate Torture Report

Today was the release date of an examination over our interrogation methods since 9-11, and how 'brutal' the method ended up being applied.  The Senate is the producer of the report....6,700-pages....of which there is only a 500-page document which is released to the public.  The cost for the project?  Roughly forty million dollars.

So, my humble opinion:

1.  A bunch of senators will tell you what they think, with the majority being Democrats, and you have to base the entire report on this curious fact.  Brutally honest, or brutally dishonest?  Only you can tell, but you'd have to read the whole 6,700 pages to reach that conclusion.

2.  Is there anyone from the whole group who read the whole 6,700 pages?  A humble guy would laugh over that question, and already know the answer.

3.  Has harsh interrogation ever worked?  Before 9-11....the general belief was no.  You can question any guy who went through the Air Force intelligence school, and they all would respond that the statistics are against you.  What changed with 9-11?  It's hard to say.  Some folks believed there was a vast amount of information out there with each character they apprehended.  Even today, they still believe that.  Curiously, the Nazis readily admitted by the end of 1945....heavy-handed interrogation simply didn't produce results like you think.

4.  The further use of this report?  While the Senators will deny it.....some folks at the EU or UN will ask for the full report, and attempt to prosecute various CIA or military members over the next couple of years.  Whether the President or the Senate are willing to turn those folks over to the EU court or some war-crimes court....is unknown.  It will simply open up another door, which no one really knows the answer.

5.  Why did it take five years?  No one can answer this with a straight face.  Perhaps someone will bring up Vietnam processes, potential interrogation episodes, and ask for $50 million to go back and write up another 5,000-page document.  Or perhaps we can analyze the Tony Noriega episode?  Or perhaps we can analyze the Cuban missile crisis?  Or perhaps work up the full indepth report over weapons to Syria via the CIA operation in Libya?

I would suggest this....2015 promises to be an extremely interesting year.  The Senate will be set to a Republican theme, and you might see various characters brought in to explain what they did in 2011 or 2012....and this pay-back.....will be part of the game.

When a Reporter Ain't a Reporter, in Bama

I don't read the Montgomery Advertiser much....I will admit that in public.  It might come up once or twice a year in my readings....mostly over a murder, robbery, and some state capital scandal of sorts.

This week, the Advertiser put up an editorial by Del Mash, State Senator, Republican, from Bama. For some reason, I saw just cause to read over it and sit a while to ponder over what was inferred.

Del writes up a 60-line piece where he notes that he's disturbed over fake journalists getting press credentials....sit in the press gallery area and watch fierce and tough debate among Alabama state senators (35 total).

He believes that bloggers have now infiltrated the press....getting access into state capital press rooms....discussing tactics, strategy, and upcoming events among the state capital elite. He lets you know right away....he doesn't want to change the vast amount of transparency that exists in Montgomery or with the state senators (all 35).

So, Del wants to push for a solution and has asked the Bama Press Association (APA) to write down the proper authority and description of a real reporter.....then get the House and Senate to agree to this.....then ensure no one but real press folks cover real important work going on.....especially with the state senators (all 35).

Del indicates that he's been told to by former and present Bama reporters that they aren't fearful of Del's intentions here, and they would like to clean out this mess as well.  In their mind, it just ain't right for folks like bloggers to write slanted pieces and go against the common good work of fine Alabama reporters.

On average....how many fine good newspapers send reporters down to cover the work going on in Montgomery?  Well...there are roughly seventy-odd newspapers in Alabama today, with eight college newspapers.

To be honest....the bulk of them probably have never sent a guy to Montgomery to cover events, and rely up on the top three papers in the state to inform them of events (Birmingham News, Montgomery Advertiser, and the Tuscaloosa News).  Some papers.....like the Times-Daily out of Florence....might send a guy down to cover a big key event that will be front-page news for two or three days, but ordinarily.....they just don't pick up on news.

The blogger crowd?  Fifteen years ago.....there just weren't any such people.  The amount of coverage that your paper might put out in one average year would have amounted to twenty articles....rarely did any go longer than 500 words.  The Birmingham News might have done six to eight major pieces taking a half-page.....mostly describing an epic moment where bingo was fiercely debated, or some Democrat was caught in a terrible scandal involving the health industry, or road funds were being hotly contested.

Over the past five years, some bloggers have arrived....spend an entire day walking around....asking stupid questions of reporters, state senators, lobbyists.....then go home to write a fifty-line expose (blog as Del describes it).....over some stupidity shown by Republicans.....or Democrats.  The thing is, it's not not forty people reading these blogs anymore.  Some of these political bloggers now have ten-thousand hits a month.

Some of these bloggers are laying out vast strategies that used to be kept within a ten-man group within the state senate and a few reporters.  Someone will sit on the park bench out back of the building and just note who has a new Lincoln Towncar, or $60,000 SUV from such-and-such Ford dealer in Arab.  They might note that such-and-such state senator just returned from a vacation resort deal in Miami....and he didn't have to pay for anything (God bless).

Bloggers are even writing up a who-is-who listing on lobbyists.  They know these guys only deal with gambling, and those guys who only deal with road construction.  They know that such-and-such character who appears only once or twice a year....is there to talk up Mobile's port and getting more money for infrastructure gimmicks that companies ought to pay for but they'd like for the state to pay at least half.  Then you have those guys who occasionally show up to talk airport expansion in Huntsville, more state park money for Gulf Shores, or the pressing issue of enticement funds to get more Mercedes built in Bama.

The university crowd?  Well....yeah.....the bloggers have even taken to noticing how they operate and what funding vehicles are created quietly to bring new infrastructure to various colleges in the state.

Not that I doubt Del's sincere ways and talented ability to write up a fine editorial.....but it's just awful hard for me to find some vast difference between reporters and bloggers.  To be honest....I could probably go through a couple of beauty shops and barber operations in Bama....find six rather talented folks, and hire them as actual newspaper journalists tomorrow.  Without a four-year degree or fake education.....these folks would probably write the same type columns and articles, and I'd just have a grammar queen hired up to clean up their English-language issues.

The plan to write a standard and then deny the bloggers entry into press areas?  It might occur.  The bloggers might start to observe the reporters more....what fine cars they've acquired....and start to wonder if the reporters might just be extended arms of the lobbyists (not to say such is happening).  If you ask me.....it'd just open up a big can of worms.

All of this....over the comings and going of the Alabama legislature.  Thirty-five senators and one-hundred-and-five legislators.  Roughly seventy-odd papers in the state.

And truth be known.....a murder or bank robbery....usually outranks political doings in the state on the front-page.  As for political scandals?  Well....unless the governor gets caught in something....it's usually page two, with coaching notes on NCAA football, snake stories, and meth-house busts.  Bama, at it's best.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Difference Between Bama and New York City

If a pack of cigarettes cost you around $14.50.....just how stupid or how desperate would you get?

In Bama, if Piggy Wiggly and the rest of the crowd suddenly pushed a twelve-dollar tax onto a pack of smokes.....folks would react....in a fairly stupid or corrupt way.

Yeah, we'd import smokes in from Mississippi, and it'd start within six minutes after the tax went into affect.  Yeah, we'd send junior over to Natchez, with an order for 3,000 packs of smokes and resell them up and down the highway to anyone who'd want to buy them, with maybe a quarter added onto each pack for our 'profit'.

Yeah, we'd set up a cigarette mafia made up Nam vets, fake disabled guys who get Social Security, bogus NCAA football freaks, meth-addicted women who look like zombies, and retired guys who claim they've been alien-probed several times since 1973.

Yeah, we'd hook up with the deputies of the local sheriff and work agreements about their bribe to just stay away from some parking lot on highway eleven from mid-afternoon to late-evening.

Yeah, we'd make sure the Baptists were all thrilled by the massive cigarette tax, and ensure that ministers talked up the evil nature of smoking to get them thrilled.

Yeah, we'd invent some fake gimmick that the cigarette tax revenue would go to.....in support of schools, blind people, catfish, wild varmints, Nam vets, or county parks named after corrupt county commissioners of the past.

After a while though....things would settle into regular pace, and we'd start to screw up.  The county sheriff would eventually get pushed into the corner by some gas stations, beauty parlors, and bait/tackle shops.....clean up the cigarette mafia.

You see....what tax revenue money that did come in....would be noticed after a while as being marginal and not enough for all the smokes that seem to be smoked.

The sheriff would eventually send his guys around to enforce the stupid $12 tax on smokes.  A couple of the mafia members would get hostile about this.  You'd drag us away from the parking lot, and on one single afternoon.....we'd miss $300 of sales.  It's our rent money, our beer money, our gas money, etc.

After five or six arrests, with momma bailing us out each time, and a month later....getting arrested again....things add up. So, we'd get hostile and frustrated.  It ain't right....why take me and not that other guy on the other side of the parking lot, or the gal over by the Piggly Wiggly pig-sign?

So, you look at the episode that unfolded up in New York City and you just shake your head.  If we'd been that foolish to raise cigarette taxes per pack to $12....we'd have dozens of guys per month where I grew up.....that would refuse to allow themselves to be arrested.

Nothing new or unusual here.  Maybe it took the New York City crowd longer to reach maximum frustration, but we'd done the same thing in Bama.....just a heck of a lot sooner.

The odd thing here?  In Bama, one single cop would have confronted the 300-lb guy.  After a brief conversation.....the cop would have called the second cop to come over, and they would have hit the big guy with a stun gun.  After he'd been knocked out.....the cops would have asked the clerks at Piggly Wiggly (Homer and Gerald) to help them push the smokes guy into a pick-up bed and just haul him to the county jail that way.

That's the difference between Bama and New York City.  We would have taken the less confrontational way to fixing the problem.  True, our hefty Bama guy might have died from the stun gun charge......but it's the most humane way of dealing with frustrated folks....easily and quietly.  Course, after this....we would have sent six cops out to the arrested guy's house....shown a search warrant and searched his two thousand packs of smokes.....then gotten the state tax guy involved, and later seized the guy's pick-up.  We would have made his life miserable enough that he'd have to move in with relatives and accept their help.

That's the difference between Bama and New York City.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Invisible Executive Order

What was exactly signed on 20 November 2014, in support of the President's immigration reform executive order?

This is a curious thing.  There's only two documents registered now at the National Archives.  If the President signs such a document.....it has to be presented and registered.  It'd be on-line.  So, there are only two documents from that day registered.

Document number one?  It's an order directing cabinet secretaries to find various ways to cut paperwork on visa/immigration forms.  It's a brief three-page type document, and doesn't suggest anything beyond cutting paperwork.  They can collect and distribute data from reviews, among their departments.  Plus the President directs them to talk the improvements to the nation, via the news media.  Beyond that?  Nothing.

Document number two?  It creates a national task force on finding ways of better integrating new Americans into society.  It's a brief three-pager as well.

So, what was it that the news media....CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post.....all talked about on the evening of 20 November?  The President said he did an executive order and listed his actions.  No such such written document exists.  What happened?

It would appear that the President held a meeting and issued verbal instructions.  Then each cabinet secretary issued out a memo.....having less effect than a Presidential executive order, but accomplishing the wording of the President.  What did the President actually say?  Unknown, and it's likely that no one really remembers the entire wording.

In my youth, around 1985, Ramstein put out a news piece of a massive renovation project for the officer's club on base.  I remembered looking at the massive amount of work and thinking it was well over $2 million involved.   I left the base at the end of the year.....just as work was about to start.

Somewhere in the summer of 1986, as work progressed.....an investigation started up.  It was an odd deal.  Someone asked where the funding came from, and no one could give a straight answer.

So toward the end of 1986, the investigation team on base turned the job over to the Pentagon.  The investigation continued.

What finally came to be declared in spring of 1987 was this.  This whole renovation project started with one meeting which the four-star general of Ramstein was supposed to attend....but did not.

In his place....was his wife (odd, I admit), the chief NCO of the Air Forces in Europe, a number of Recreational and Welfare guys from the headquarters, a funding guy, the Ramstein base commander, the Ramstein Recreational Chief (Lt Col), and the officers club/NCO club chiefs.

A requirement was verbal put out by the headquarters people....verbally, for a massive renovation project.  All the wording was backed by...."the general voiced this priority".  You can imagine the scene. Then someone states that funding will take forever, and the comeback is that a German renovation fund exists for projects like this.  So, the base commander is forced into the corner and agrees to start the project.

The German renovation fund?  It was designed for housing and barracks....NOT for massive recreational projects like this.  That was the big problem to start with.

Then you come to a written document signed by the four-star general....there is none.

So around 1987, the investigation team does some disciplinary paperwork on various people connected to this....but can't say nothing to the four-star general.  He walks away....looking pretty foolish....but otherwise no issues.

The whole renovation project?  They have to review what has been done, and what can be marginally done to just finish the stupid project.  Roughly half of the grounds work of the original plan is thrown out.  The glass covering for the side of the officer's club for a dining area?  Gone.  I'd take a guess that roughly half the whole project is tossed.  Luckily, no one goes to jail.

So I look at this gimmick that the President has used.  He had a meeting and verbally told some people to do something, and they write the memos to enforce his position.  The senate?  They'd have to bring all of the people involved into a room, swear them to some oath, and ask what did he actually say.  They might sit there and beg stupidity or faulty memory....making this immigration gimmick to be the most foolish political accomplishment of the past fifty years.  Stopping it?  Well....stop what?  There is no executive order, and nothing that a court could put its hands around.

My humble guess is that a dozen Democratic senators are sitting there and pretty peeved by this behavior.  Maybe it's enough that they just say 'screw-it'.....we won't vote with the White House for the remainder of the next two years.  This is not the simple easy stuff that they'd like to go on interview shows and explain to CNN journalists or ABC Sunday talk show hosts.

So, all of this hype and talk.....over a non-existent executive order?  Yeah.  That's the funny thing about this deal.  Nothing, about nothing.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Bama and Murder

Alabama has a code written into law, which has an attachment to the charge of murder.  It's in section 13A-6-2 of the state code.

Basically....anyone is committing murder if he/she does of any of the following: commits or attempt to commit first degree arson, first or second degree burglary, first degree escape from a jail or prison, first degree kidnapping, first degree rape, any type of robbery, first degree sodomy, or any felony dangerous to life....if there is a death of any person while in this circumstance.

So, even if you were not the shooter, or the person intent on the crime....just by association in an episode where someone dies.....you get charged with murder.  Just driving a guy away from a shooting zone....you are participating and will be charged with murder.

This puts an awful crimp into defending you in some court episode.  Maybe you were just helping some cousin get even with a neighbor by participating to a minor degree in some arson situation on a house....and someone dies during the ensuing fire.  If you get pointed out.....just by minor participation....you need a special lawyer and will be fighting murder charges.

This all comes up because of a Faulkner State college kid, who was participating in a home robbery in the Montgomery area.  Four college gentlemen....all from the Christian-themed university....decided to rob some house.  The owner figured out what was going on.....pulled a gun while they were in the house, and shot one of the fine young gentlemen dead.  The remaining three guys?  All will apparently be charged with murder.

You can imagine the shock on their faces.  None carried a gun.  None had even a knife on them apparently.....at least the news media suggests that.  The prosecutor decided to apply the full law upon them.

If convicted?  I'm not sure that any of the three would get more than ten years in prison.  The court might come to agree on the conviction but not see any reason to throw a massive book at them.

How many folks in Bama know the law?  I'd take a guess that less than three-percent of the population is aware of how the law can be applied.  For some, it'd be a massive shock to know that they might do something to help a friend or neighbor....and end up with some murder charge because things went wrong.

Travel by Air?

Air travel is something that I generally dislike these days.  Between the hours spent in airports waiting on the plane, the cramped conditions within the planes, the lousy meals, the frustrating problems that can occur, and TSA.....I'm fairly negative.

This week, one of the big news outlets came up and said that TSA had done a review over the idea of denying you all carry-on luggage.  They won't say why this was necessary, or if there is some new terrorist threat which might have some angle on this topic.  The conclusion was.....no, it was not necessary....end point.

If you go around to people who travel by air and ask them.....how happy they are with TSA and the whole airline travel game.....the general answer is 'marginal'.  A handful of people have actually given up and now simply travel by train or car.  The news media won't guess the numbers, but I'd take a guess that short-distance travelers (the folks flying from Nashville to Chicago for example)....have dropped by one percent.

This brings me around to the idea of what it'd take to convince the public that there is too much security, too much hassle, and too many frustrations to occasionally travel by air.

If the airlines stood up and said....you can carry your jacket and a purse only.....as you board....would you draw the line?

If the airlines stood up and said on all 90-minute or less flights.....no drinks, period....would you draw the line?

If TSA stood up and said no laptops can be carried onto the plane....would you draw the line?

If the TSA folks stood up and said they wanted you to have three forms of ID to get through the initial security area....would you draw the line?

If TSA and the airlines came to say you needed to be at the airport three hours prior to the flight.....to get through the baggage turn-in and security requirements.....would you draw the line?

I doubt if anyone sits there and thinks about where their limit might be, and just how they'd react to something that changes your entire life.  Between the airlines and TSA....could they do something so drastic that ten-percent of America drew the line and just said 'adios' to air travel?  Before 9-11, I would have laughed over that suggestion.  Today?  I'd say it's very possible over the next decade that we will reach some mythical point where people say enough and refuse air travel.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

When Ethics Don't Matter

I noticed this story out there today....from Keane University, New Jersey.

The university was updating and renovating it's conference room....the big one where the management staff would gather to make talk over things.

They eventually came to decide on a nifty table for the highly-windowed room....round in scope, and very dynamic, with what appears to be TV monitors built into the table (probably for briefing purposes and tied to some laptop).

They paid for the table and chairs....$219,000.

Yeah, it's a hefty amount.

Here's the curious thing.  It's made in China.  Someone wrote up the spec's and it's probably bundeled in a dozen boxes to be assembled by some crew Jersey City who get paid $12 an hour for such work.
If the desk had been made in the US?  I used to buy modular desks for a Pentagon organization, and I can tell you that this type deal would have easily run $350,000 for material, delivery and installation.  So, maybe it's a good deal in one way.

All of this has hyped up folks in New Jersey and asking questions about the ethics of spending there via the college management crowd.   Keane charges $11,244 per year for tuition, which in my book....makes it a reasonably priced college when compared against most four-year public colleges.  But you have to wonder.....if someone actually stood there from the state legislature and monitored monthly spending and what the university actually renovated or bought.....the average tuition ought to be more around $8,000.

As for some kind of ethics class for the university management folks?  Forget about that....they'd just laugh it off.

But I would think at least a hundred university staff groups are looking at the impressive pictures....gazing over the million-dollar-type conference table, and thinking they've got a special place in their university for that type of renovation.  

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The 'Straight' Daryl

I'm an enthusiast of AMC's Walking Dead (the zombie TV show).  Toward the end of their first season.....I caught an episode and became kinda interested in the scripting to the show.  So I went back....caught the whole season, and generally regard it as a well written science fiction piece.  I agree....it's pretty hokey, but it tends to lay out a creative scenario.

For a number of weeks, there's been this by the producers that their key character....Daryl.....the loner....might be portrayed in future episodes as possibly gay.  I don't know where the idea came from, or why it really mattered.  There's not much sex stuff ever portrayed on Walking Dead, and you tend to worry about ninety-nine other higher priorities (food, fuel, safety, zombie attacks, evil governor characters, ample supply of bullets, clean water, home-cooked food, a safe place, etc).

Yesterday, I noticed in the news that the producers came out and basically said that Daryl was one-hundred percent straight, and that a new character would be brought on within a couple of episodes.....who would be absolutely gay.  Rhyme or reason?  None given.

Frankly, if we came down to some zombie period in real life.....your life style or personal desires would rate pretty far near the bottom, and it's hard for me to envision the necessity of doing something like this.....except to get another segment of the audience all thrilled by individual episodes.  Will one gay Walking Dead character bump into another gay Walking Dead character?  Will some bondage freak appear in future Walking Dead episodes?  Will Texas cross-dresser appear in an episode or two?  Will some Bill Crosby-type character appear in an episode and pass some spiked mixed drink over to some survivor gal?

TV back in the 1980s was pretty simple and uncomplicated.  Any idiot could have written a Magnum P.I. episode in about an hour, with some mysterious gal in need of help, and some fist-fight toward the end....would result in Magnum solving a third-rate mystery while keeping Higgins at arm's length from figuring out who Robin Masters really was.  Today?  There has to be six different twists to each single episode, at least one gay character, some dark humor, and some complicated story-line that takes six episodes to explain a two-line mystery.    At least on the positive side here.....Daryl is still Daryl....the guy you'd call at 2AM to ask for some enormous help and know that he'll move heaven and earth.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Phantom Army

The quick nature in Iraq of ISIS suddenly moving south and taking over a big chunk of Iraq.....has been largely unexplained in the news media circles.  Everyone basically gave a free ticket to ISIS and just said they had superior capabilities, and left it at that.

This week, it's come out that an investigative arm of Iraq has been looking at one single issue....men in uniform.....Iraqi Army troops.

They've reached this conclusion....they think 50,000 troops that are on the payroll.....getting $600 a month as pay.....are non-existent.

Yeah, it's a bit hard to believe.

If you sit down and examine the pay, the training, the uniforms, the barracks, and various aspects of the military pay requirements......you'd need roughly $350 million to cover everything.  But what they say is that various officers were in the middle of this scheme....pretending they had some many troops under them.....but were just skimming off the top.  An extra ten troops here ($6,000 a month).....an extra forty troops there ($24,000).....and you got yourself a decent house, a new Mercedes, and a good lifestyle.

The hope was.....you'd never have to go into battle without your forty men.  You can imagine this phantom unit in existence.....on the books with 400 troops.  But as you walked around the barracks and compound.....you just never saw more than 200 troops.  No one said much.....and why would you worry?  Unless of course, ISIS came knocking.

The thing that bothers me is that the US was also paying out training funds, and they likely used the same books.  So when the Pentagon said they'd trained the whole 114th Brigade of 400 men.....the odds are that they only trained half that many, and still paid a full rate for the other 200 non-existent men.  The bullets and weapons handed out?  Hard to say.  Maybe they still exist but I doubt it.

The logic on how ISIS moved so fast across Iraq?  Well.....they just weren't that good.  They met Iraqi military units that were undermanned and unable to sustain a decent defense.  Nothing more than that.

Will anyone go to jail?  I doubt it.  Should they pay the money back?  Well, it'd be the right thing to do but the money is already spent.

Years and decades from now.....history will be written over the vast offensive that the ISIS folks mounted in Iraq in 2013.  The whole story will be centered around a non-existent Iraqi army.  And the public will simply not believe that such a thing could happen.  

The Two-Americas Essay

The New York Times wrote up a piece entitled "When Whites Just Don't Get It".....which is mostly about something they refer to as 'white privilege' and two Americas.  Their emphasis is that we just don't recognize this dilemma and fix/solve it.  They even suggest some 9/11 or Warren-type commission that would highlight the problem.

I suspect a number of journalists are pepped up on caffeine and dreaming of that one short week they spent in Amsterdam where everyone seems to live in peace and harmony.

So, here's the blunt truth.  Go to South Africa and just tour around the region.....to include the various suburbs, and take note of the security compounds, armed guards at malls, and methods of confrontation that cops tend to have there.  Then go to Rio and tour their region.....to note the various secure neighborhoods, armed private security, and gangs at work.  It's the same thing at work in the US.

Take four Senators out in some car....around 10PM....into DC's southeast side of town.  It's a brief ride from the Senate building to the bridge separating Anacosta from the federal portion of DC....maybe three minutes.  After you cross the river, you need to prepare yourself.  You could take a federal interstate and skip Anacosta, but in this case.....we want the four Senators to see the real side of DC.  So, they ride through some pretty rough neighborhoods.  You don't want to stop, or you might be robbed right there on the street.  In the 1990s......four hundred folks were killed per year on the streets of DC, an area of six by six miles.  On any given night, you can figure that thirty percent of the population is doped up on something.

Make the rounds of Memphis, Birmingham, St Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Dayton, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Richmond.

Two years ago, my work associate who lived in Richmond described to me an event that'd occurred over the weekend.  Some young gal from his church had gotten all dressed up for dancing at some local club.  She bumped some doped-up gal, who took offense to this.  Some confrontation escalates. The other gal was an older gal and doped-up.  At some point, the physical stuff results in the wig flying off the older gal, and she goes nuts.  She kills the younger gal with a knife.  Cops come.  Older gal goes off.  Never knew the court stuff to the story, but you can figure she'll do life in prison....over some drug-induced lifestyle which is 'hip' stuff in Richmond.

Across the US, you see the same deal in various urban areas.  There's hardly a single US city of 100,000 people that doesn't have a danger zone or neighborhood where you just don't travel at night.

Fixing this?  The drug culture has taken over.  Attached to is the thug culture, the welfare check culture, the free federal money culture, the manipulation by politics culture, and the waiting-for-something-to-happen culture.

Minority folks who do escape?  There's basically two methods.  First, you get an education and find real work, and untie yourself from the old neighborhood....thus moving on.  Second, you join the military and find yourself challenged to accept change.  A handful of folks might get religion and get to a new level of life.  Beyond that....nothing happens.

The mere suggestion of some federal commission coming to some solution, with twenty-five points is ridiculous.  It'd all involve massive funding....probably to the tune of three-hundred billion dollars.  Just flush the money out and watch everyone get their program, with some middle-men acting as community organizers and talking about some upcoming change....just spend the money over five years and everyone standing there to ask when "change" was going to come.  Yeah, it's kinda like the President's theme from six years ago.....that "change" business was something that folks could latch onto.  If you wait long enough......"change" will finally come.

Well....here's the sad thing.  "Change" can't be bought, publicly funded by the taxpayer, or written into some report by a white-skinned PhD character from Harvard.  "Change" cannot be defined in some thirteen-thousand page document, or some sixty-minute CBS special, or by history revisionists of Time/Newsweek's staff.  "Change" can't be solved by fancy speeches, political theatrics, or tax-free foundations who seem to talk out of both sides of their mouth.

The two Americas theme?  It's here to stay. When you get to Birmingham's outer ring, don't stop or pull off the interstate until you get to the next county.  When you drive into Detroit, stay on the interstate until you've gotten into the rural areas.  When you get to Atlanta.....just stay on the interstate and exit only when you clear the city urban zone.  Every major urban area in America is concreted down into some zone that you'd best avoid.

And here's the cherry on this cake.  Latino minority numbers are increasing.  Within a decade, Latinos will be the real minority of America. Two Americas?  Just try to imagine three Americas.  The coming New York Times article in a decade?  "Whites and blacks just don't get it".....detailing how Latinos are now part of the mess that needs to be solved.