Sunday, 31 May 2015

Drinking and Legislating

Over in California this week.....it got out that the California state legislature has hired up two part-time guys to provide ground transportation for Senate members.  The cost?  Each guy is paid around $2,500 a month.....for this part-time work.  No one says the hours per week, or a limit to the hours.

The deal?  Well....over the past couple of years....some California state senators have been caught drunk-driving.  So, the two guys hired.....are supposed to get a call from a senator when he thinks he's too drunk to drive home.

Naturally, a Bama guy would sit and ponder about this.

If you end up calling these guys.....it means you are too drunk to drive.  But doesn't it also mean you ought to be too drunk to legislate?

No state, as far as I know.....has ever instituted a no-drinking policy with each capital building.  So you can imagine these guys....standing around and swapping stories in the afternoon....sipping a whiskey here and there.....maybe sneaking out to the back and gulping down two beers.....then doing a rum-and-Coke before taking a vital vote.

It would be curious if someone would force the issue of no drinking while in a legislative setting.  After you take the vote and go over to the local pub to celebrate your bill-passing abilities.....ok, I don't see a problem then.

How many bills get passed yearly by drunk legislative folks?  Unknown.  But maybe it's time to ask about this.


Saturday, 30 May 2015

Simply Observations

First, this Dennis Hastert episode has a curious twist.  What gets Denny in trouble is that he removed $10,000 or more from his bank account in cash on a number of occasions....drawing their obligation to ask 'why' and he gave bogus reasons.....so they handed it to the FBI as the law requires.  Denny gave a bogus statement to the FBI.....so he's going to court about this.  The blackmail angle?  Well...if he had said to the bank in the beginning that it was blackmail....all is 'good'.  If he'd said this to the FBI....all is 'good'.  What will court action achieve now?  Denny will get some kind of suspended bust and a fine (I'm guessing $25,000).  The dimwit (individual A that the FBI knows by his real name) in this episode?  He'd best lawyer-up and prepare for a hefty tax bill, a fine, and some fair amount of legal costs.  At best, he'll get to keep half of the money....but I bet he's already spent that.

Second, SB 377 has passed through the Alabama Senate and will likely pass the legislative process to be signed by the governor (figure 10 days max).  The deal.....no more marriage licenses.  A county clerk will only be able to issue a marriage contract (between two individuals, with sex not really part of the situation).  It's a fake way of fixing the whole problem.  Without the license wording.....there's no need for a judge of any county to be involved.  A clerk would handle the whole thing.  As for the strength of the contract versus the license?  Basically the same thing.....a word game at best.  Oddly, you could have two straight women (NOT lesbians) now agree to join up and get a marriage contract for mutual benefit of getting a house or aiding each other in older age.

Third, I noticed this week....several news media folks got hostile over Hillary's fake southern accent.  To be honest.....Hillary, Bill and President Obama.....all use the fake southern accent at various times.  Bill's accent is maybe fifty-percent fake......he uses it so much that it's almost his normal accent.  President Obama's fake southern accent?  He uses it maybe twice a month....always in a speech to some southern group.....it's fairly fake and you know it.  As for Hillary?  She gives such a fake accent, that you almost think she's a Romanian resident attempting a fake southern accent.

Fourth and final, Brazil entertainment folks have put together a new soap opera for TV purposes.  The deal?  All tied to the Bible era.  Yeah.....stuff out of the old Testament.....written into a script and acted out for TV purposes.  The odd thing?  Folks are watching it.  It's making money.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Erasers

The British paper.....The Guardian.....put an interesting article over a noted scientist at King's College in London.  Guy Claxton spoke out in a public statement: "Erasers are an 'instrument of the devil' and, as such, they should be banished from our classrooms. Children should be encouraged to learn from their mistakes, rather than feel ashamed of them, he explains. They shouldn’t feel the need to pretend to have got things right the first time, but should be encouraged to try things out, take wrong turns and see what they can learn in the process".

Yeah, it's kind of a radical statement.

To be honest....since around 1975....I've been a pen guy....refusing to carry or use a pencil.  If I made a mistake in writing.....I crossed through it and continued on.  I didn't see my work being worthy of being reviewed later like Einstein, Charles Darwin, or Micheal Faraday.  Notes in my opinion....were simply notes.

Now, I realize some guys are different and have maintained their 10th grade science notebook or their 2nd year engineering class notebook from college.....thirty years ago no less.  But generally.....notes are worthless at the end of the semester and the test cycle.

What Claxton is suggesting is that we simply readjust our perception of material we've written and not feel ashamed by mistakes.  Take a side-step.....admit imperfection......learn while in the progress of things.

We might as well admit that half the things we have today....came from mistakes.

I'm one of those folks who has to live around Germans.  In German culture.....the eraser mentality is a big deal.  Every single kid and student carries around a hefty eraser, and pencil.....along with six color-type pens/markers, a ruler, and various tools of marking a paper in a special way.  In some ways....it's fanatical in the behavior thing.  I'm presently in the middle of a German language class (3rd day) and the teacher ripped me up for not having a pencil today (yesterday came the criticism of not having a yellow and green marker on my person).

The odds that Claxton will have any success?  Zero.  The eraser cartel and control freaks will go berserk when this comes up in class.  You are dissolving thousands of eraser jobs.....if you got rid of this standard in society.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Six-Percent Problem

If a volcano started building up around a hundred miles from your house.....with smoke pouring out.....some eruption factor being predicted.....and chaos possibly in the works.....six-percent of your neighbors or friends (maybe even your wife)....would want to go and get within a mile of the volcano to see it up-close and personal.

If you had a 'mad-elephant' who'd stomped and killed a dozen folks.....that had escaped from the circus and cornered in some woods on the other side of the county, then six-percent of your friends, neighbors or relatives (maybe even your husband).....would want to go and walk out in this woods to find the mad-elephant.

If you had a dam that was failing and everyone was warning folks to get out of the downward area.....six-percent of your friends, neighbors and relatives....would want to get into the truck and go about a half-mile down from the dam to watch the potential results.

I call this the six-percent problem with society.  We are this stupid.

You could write a forty-page users manual for chain-saws, and six-percent of folks who'd buy the chainsaw would totally avoid reading the users manual, and get injured in the first week of use.

You could buy a pretty angry and hostile bull....whose previous owner had said he was terribly disturbed, and you told every neighbor to avoid your pasture area where he roamed......and six-percent of the folks warned would immediately come over and want to see the hostile bull.

It is our natural reaction....to test fate.  We simply don't believe some words of caution or wisdom.

For some reason, I actually believe that this group of people are hard-wired to be this way.

The same group of people will see the speed limit set at 75-mph and drive 90-mph....even when it's lightly raining.  The same group of people will hear about a tornado being observed twelve miles over and want to jump in the truck to go and watch it.  The same group of people will hear about some crazy gal who hangs out at the local bar and is absolutely toxic and nuts....but go right up and test her reaction to their offer of a drink.

For some reason, I think there's a reaction by some of us.....to hold back the six-percent.....to emphasize they are doing the wrong thing or risking themselves over stupidity.  But here's the thing.....wisdom, judgement and advice don't work.  Let nature do what it's been doing for a ten-thousand years.

Just some humble advice.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Problem with Meditation

I read a fair amount of newspapers from across the globe.  This morning, I went over a piece on the Daily Mail (a British daily).

There's this piece over how meditation can trigger mental issues.

Basically, some science folks did some analysis and studies.....then they did the statistical average.....roughly sixty percent of people who've been on some type of meditation retreat/trip.....end up with at least one negative aspect (confusion, panic, or depression).

Oddly, the way it works is that the early part of this meditation was positive and gave you some inspiration or positive thrust in life.  Then for some reason.....there's a 'rush' as you fall to the ground.  You probably could make up for this 'fallen and can't get up' episode by having another mediation moment, then just keep repeating this to avoid the confusion factor or panic attacks or depressive moments.

Relating to 'aholic' moments?  Over the years, I've encountered a few folks who were addicted to meditation-type situations.  Several times a day....they needed to retreat and have a couple of minutes of self-meditation....to reach a positive state of mind.  I didn't think much of it....just that they seemed to be like smokers and needed a 'nicotine-type' fix for their mental state.

How many people meditate?  Unknown.  Psychology Today, back in 2010.....said there were around ten million Americans who did at least one meditation moment per day.  How they reached this conclusion was not precise and had some rough estimation involved.  If true, then it means that you likely bump into three or four people a day as a minimum who are stuck on meditation.  Higher in urban areas than rural areas?  I might tend to agree on that.

Will this trigger anything?  Well....I'm guessing some TV dimwits will say it's a national problem and want to confuse people with anti-meditation talk and have anti-meditation gurus appear to chat on frustrations of meditation.  Eventually, some folks will wonder if they ought to flip over and become enthusiasts of mediation to fix some other issue in their life.

Bottom line?  Just get with your life and don't worry about rights or wrongs.  Sip some Mountain Dew, watch an episode of Gilligan's Island, get a haircut, or chat over septic tank knowledge.....just live a bit on the edge and be happy over that.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Odd Prospective

Somewhere among all the documents released this week on Osama bin Laden.....there's this odd collection (minor in detail) that relate bin Laden to Global Warming/Global Cooling/Climate Change.

A normal guy would just breeze through it and move on.  I sat and read through the details.  This is a Muslim high up in the leadership role....fairly deep into religious discussions....motivated by his interpretation of Allah (God) and the Quran.

So bin Laden comes to this reality.  Allah (God) willed Climate Change to occur, so it would be against Allah's will (God's will) to oppose this change.  In effect.....suck it up and accept it.....don't waste time fighting it or inventing gimmicks to stop it.

As bin Laden notes....it's part of the bigger plan in life and the Quran says you can't oppose what is laid out and part of the 'will'.

So bin Laden lays into the Muslim community....prepare for the various changes and simply accept them.

In some ways, he's a bit stoic in nature.  If you accept religion, it's attachments, it's mystical design, and holy documents.....then there's a master plan in play and you merely need to accept that...instead of challenging it.

It's an odd stance taken.  Basically, by Quran language.....you have to accept whatever comes your way in terms of life.  But then there are thousands of 'waivers' given by Muhammad and the Quran, where people need to interrupt and take charge of Allah's will.....to hand out punishment and execute as necessary.  One is ok to participate in, and the other is not.  One of those confusing things about religion and the amount of belief you want to put into it.

Simple Truths

1.  Politics have become like professional wrestling.....good guys versus bad guys.....soap opera-like theater occurring on a twenty-four hour basis.....and pretender wrestler analysis looking almost like a George Stephanopoulos-character giving minute-by-minute coverage.

2.  For every black guy (note, I didn't say anything about black women because they aren't getting this stupid) who gets shot by a cop somewhere in the US......there's a minimum of fifty black guys getting killed by black shooters.  Somewhere in the math....it's obvious that no one is smart enough to grasp the big picture.

3.  If some Alabama Republican dimwit tells you his Bible coverage and how he's so against casinos, lotto, and gambling.....then he comes out five to ten years later to say that you really need casinos, lotto and gambling for tax revenue purposes....then he's had some type of Biblical conversion episode.

4.  Hillary Clinton could reveal herself as a lesbian former bank robber-turned psycho-killer, and she'd still be charming folks and running for President.

5.  If you go over Republican primaries of the past twenty years.....you realize 2016 is different. The 1992 Republican primary:   Bush and Buchanan.  1996 Republican primary: Dole, Forbes, Buchanan.  2000 Republican primary: George Bush, McCain and Keyes.  2004 Republican primary: Bush.  2008 Republican primary: McCain, Paul, Huck, Romney, Thompson, Hunter.  There's at least five four-star characters in the running this time.

6.  If you forced all 1.1 million law enforcement (yeah, that's based on a 2008 collection of data) personnel to take a drug test tomorrow......how many would pass?  And if forty percent failed....would you even have the guts to fire them?

7.  If you gave people the opportunity to pick some TV show to live out their lives within the scenario....the odds are that most folks would pick either Breaking Bad (to be a meth producer) or Walking Dead (living in some zombie zone).  The days of wanting to live in Mayberry, or Little House on the Prairie.....are long gone.

8.  In 2011, we crossed the high-point for expenditures on septic tanks ($2.6 billion spent across the US).  The guys who keep the numbers indicate that there is a climb going on (2015: $3.2 billion to be spent).  And by 2018, they expect the  numbers to reach $3.5 billion.  If you were looking for a simple business concept with relative good success rates.....septic tanks would be in the mix.

9.  Some science folks did a survey and found that smokers are sixty-percent less likely to vote in elections.....than non-smokers.  What they generally said was that smokers have less trust than non-smokers, and don't participate as much in groups/functions/agendas as non-smokers.  This would beg a number of questions and why we didn't recognize this trend previously.  Luckily, they didn't survey drinkers and non-drinkers......it might spell doom for Democrats if we learned that mostly excessive drinkers voted straight-Democrat tickets.

10.  Finally, for years and years.....everyone assumed that foundations were created to act as charity units, and it's a shocker now for the American public to realize that the Clinton Foundation is mostly there.....well.....for anything but charity.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Yep, They Couldn't Think of Anything

One of the Bloomberg Business Channel guys did a sit-down with Iowa Democrats (ten of them).  Typically, I don't expect an awful lot of competent analysis via the Today Show, CNN, or any of the normal pretender news folks.  Bloomberg tends to shock me on occasion....they round up folks who aren't part of some foundation or pretender 'expert' status, and they kinda talk like guys at some barbershop or church group would talk.

So, Mike Halperin asks these ten folks.....from Hillary Clinton's four years as Secretary of State.....what would you say was her top accomplishment?

The ten folks just kinda sat there in a daze.  In Alabama....it'd be like some minister picking people from the audience to name all the miracles that Moses accomplished, or some cousin asking you to name five great University of Alabama quarterbacks from the past fifty years.

None of the ten could answer 'top' accomplishment.

Nor could any of them name any accomplishment.

So the ending of this question came to some guy who simply said that he'd watched her for twenty-odd years and viewed her as competent, and that you just couldn't possibly vote for Scott Walker.....mostly cause he'd destroy the unions in America.

I sat there and watched the minute-long clip twice.  Yeah, it's a pretty dismal explanation about someone who spent four years in a fairly noteworthy job and no one seems to remember much of anything they did.

I worked in an organization once with a Captain.  After three years, it was time for the guy to leave, and they needed someone to sit down and help him and his chain of leadership to write achievements.  I sat there looking at the Major who asked me to help and simply noted there was nothing this officer did in the two years I knew him....that was worth writing on paper.  The Major walked around and the next five people said the same thing.  Anything they wrote....mostly led back to what I or several others in the shop had actually done.  We didn't care if they wanted to use the words of our actions....but the Captain was the most marginal leader that I'd come across in twenty-two years.  When he showed up each day.....he was there to just show attendance and sign papers.

I see Hillary in the same light.  She walked around and attended meetings.....did two-star chats with news media folks, and repeated scripted answers for chaotic events going on in the world.  In terms of knowledge or expertise?  She was a marginal two-star person doing a job that required an awful lot.

What's this say for folks from Iowa?  They recognize the same thing.  So, it's pretty simple for a three-star former governor of Maryland to walk in.....talk a bit, and amaze the public.  It's not a pretty sight, but I think Hillary has lost momentum and blazing away on fumes only at this point.  The job as Secretary of State?  It didn't give her anything worth talking about, and we kinda know that now.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Asking the Right Questions

Was our participation in the 1775-1783 American Revolution a mistake?

Was our participation in the 1775-1890 Indian Wars a mistake?

Was our participation in the Shay's Rebellion mini-war of 1786 to 1787 a mistake?

Was our participation in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 a mistake?

Was our participation in the Barbary Wars of 1800-to 1815 a mistake?

Was our participation in the War of 1812 (really going all the way to 1815) a mistake?

Was our participation in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848 a mistake?

Was our participation in the intervention campaign in Hawaii (1893) a mistake?

Was our participation in the Spanish-American War of 1989 a mistake?

Was our intervention in the Samoan Civil War of 1898 to 1899 a mistake?

Was our participation in the US-Philippines War of 1899 (all the way to 1902) a mistake?

Was our participation in the Boxer Rebellion of China in 1900 a mistake?

Was our intervention in the Panama Revolution of 1903 a mistake?

Was our intervention in the Banana Wars of Columbia in 1909 to 1933 a mistake?

Was our intervention in the Russian Bolshevik situation of WW I a mistake?

Was our Iranian hostage rescue mission a mistake in 1980?

Was our intervention in Panama in 1989 a mistake?

(Note, I've left out approximately forty different military conflicts of the past two hundred years.)

When I sit and watch some dimwit reporter asking about Gulf War I or Gulf War II being a mistake and trying to get some guy to rile up Republicans by saying Bush was right, or Bush was wrong......I start asking myself why limit yourself to just one single conflict?

Reporters....bluntly.....are idiots.  They pretend to up on history, but most are marginally capable of holding a discussion on anything other than recent history (the last twenty years).  When they start asking 'got-you' questions.....the candidates needs to stop the discussion and ask them about the Whiskey Rebellion or the Panama Revolution of 1903.  If they want to turn this into some history review episode.....let's make it interesting.

How about asking some Democrat about the Clinton handling of the Kosovo War?  Would Hillary get such a question?  No.   That kinda tells the whole story.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

What is an Obama-Phone?

Once upon a time.....the federal government.....compliments of your Congressmen and Senators.....decided that the public didn't have access to the vital requirement of having phone-access.  So, they invented a subsidy.

To get at the subsidy, you had to go to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) because they were given control over the funding.

In the beginning, there was Lifeline.....created during the Reagan era.....in 1985.  Lifeline was to provide a discount on your basic monthly phone service.

You had to meet one of two goals, in order to get Lifeline: (1) Make an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines.   Or (2) Participate in one of the following assistance programs: Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP); Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Federal Public House Assistance (Section 8); Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); National School Lunch Program's Free Lunch Program; Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance; Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF); Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR); Head Start; or State assistance programs (if applicable).

The limit?  One single phone per household.

Link-Up America was program number two.....coming from the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  Yep, same folks....your Senators and Congressmen.....from the Clinton era.

Link-Up America had a slightly different theme.  It was built to pay 50-percent of the initial installation fee for regular old-fashioned telephone service (up to a max of $30), or wireless telephone.  The remaining cost?  It could be put on a interest-free and deferred schedule deal.

So you look over these.  Both started up in 1980s and 1990s.....long before Obama came into the picture.

Lifeline barely got noticed in the 1980s.  Some counselors and community action people hyped the program in urban areas, and it got picked up.  Link-Up America got the same attention.  An odd thing came up roughly a decade ago....in that cellphones suddenly became the popular way of people communicating.  Companies aimed their product at the masses and sold them on cheaper phones.  Both programs got pumped up even more since the 2008 election, but they've been around a minimum of twenty years.

The best you can say is that cellphones arriving in bulk within the poorer communities of America occurred during the Obama administration, and people took advantage of them.

Friday, 15 May 2015

When to Hit Mute

One of the greatest devices ever made to benefit mankind.....is the TV remote control.  Somewhere on everyone's remote.....is a singular button called "mute", and with this enormous power.....you can silence stupidity, slowwittedness, sexist comments, racist comments, or boneheaded remarks.

There are a few political figures now that I will simply hit 'mute' automatically when I see them come on the air: Jimmy Carter, John McCain, Harry Reid (unless he chatting over how he got punched), Sean Hannity, and Governor Brown of California.

There are a dozen-odd characters who appear on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News as some "expert" and I've kinda figured out that they are anything but an expert.....so I'm rather quick to hit "mute" on them (Karl Rove is one of them).

Most religious figures will get the 'mute' punch quickly.  Franklin Graham is an exception to that punch.

Oddly, sports figures have gotten themselves onto my mute-list.  I can't sit and listen to anything that Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, or Alex Rodriguez says or discusses.  To be honest....in the two weeks leading up to NCAA bowl March-Madness picks.....I usually hit mute on just about everyone who wants to do analysis on their prediction picks.

If someone starts talking on why you need to stop a casino from getting placed in such-and-such town......that'll get me to a mute situation rather quickly.  Having some guy defend a riot in Baltimore as legitimate.....will at least get me to pick up the remote.....as I carefully listen to see if they deserve a mute or not.

If I were to watch a thirty-minute piece of NBC news at night.....there's probably six occasions that I'll hit the mute and wait till they get to the next piece.  I don't usually act that way with local news or any part of 'The Five' (from Fox News).

I'd take a guess that I probably punch the mute button around 2,000 occasions in the year, and I'm not sure if that's average or excessive (or maybe even less than the normal guy).

In the middle of a typical TV show.....it'd be odd if I hit the mute while Captain Picard was talking to some visiting alien, or Hoss was helping out some guy on Bonanza, or watching Jeopardy.

Generally, I'd have to rate mute as the second most used button on my remote control.....after channel selection.  I used to get the urge to change color backgrounds or flip a situation to black & white, but my wife got flipped out over that practice so I tend to avoid doing that these days.  My present German TV has a video/audio capture deal where if I'm really into something.....I can hit one button and it just automatically captures that minute or two of action and I can play it back later.

It would be curious if the TV folks would analyze such things and comment in a public forum that Jimmy Carter gets muted by sixty million Americans when he comes on to chat about something, or that Karl Rove gets an automatic mute by fifty-five million Americans when he appears.  But I doubt that they'd want folks to know about such things.

The curious thing here?  Up until the 1970s.....we didn't have mute.  And we pretty much had no choice about listening to folks.  Technology has given us a wonderful tool.....which we never seem to appreciate.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Thing About Classics

It's an odd piece that I read through this morning.  Up at Columbia University.....the ivy-league school that only the ultra elite of students end up attending.

For some of the degree programs there.....you have to attend Roman or Greek mythology classes.  For ninety-nine percent of all college students in America....you get a pass for Greek or Roman history.  A hundred years ago.....you couldn't avoid passing such classes.

So, there's these Columbia students who are a bit unnerved by various Greek or Roman passages in mythology.....which end up getting read aloud in class.  They say there need to be warnings about such episodes.

This leads back to "Metamorphoses" (by Ovid) where a pretty violent assault and rape is written out and explained.  This hypes up the topic of these classic pieces of literature being offensive or sexist.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Greek and Roman pieces over a fairly tough society and people meeting up with pretty bad circumstances.....which you might compare today in some way to getting to New Orleans on a Friday night and ending up in the bad part of town, or visiting Baltimore's more violent side of town.

I have to be honest.....I attended a couple of community colleges, the University of Maryland, and Louisiana Tech.....where none offered Greek or Roman mythology/history classes.  Even if they had.....I doubt if I would have wasted any time or effort for such a class.  From high school in Alabama, the closest they came to including such stories was a Shakespeare piece.

I was probably fifty years old before I sat down and read over Greek or Roman mythology or history.  I can think of a couple of reasons why one might want to sit down and read over the 'classics'.....and try to grasp the society in existence then.

From this Columbia University crowd who are a bit fussy and disturbed over the text?  I doubt if many of them have been to third-world countries, spent an evening in the bad part of Detroit, or sat in some Trailways bus station in Kansas City around midnight.

Homer, Virgel, Socrates, and Seneca all sat around and did a lot of thinking and story-telling.  It might be worth a few hours in some university sitting to listen to the stories and think about what they wrote.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

My Suggestion for George

I've read over a couple of accounts of the newest experiences of George Zimmerman.  Basically, either through an accident or a misunderstanding.....George was wounded (more so by glass than a bullet).  From various statements, you get the feeling that the other guy knew George by visual recognition and had some kind of conflict with him.  Anyway, George didn't pull a gun on the guy, and cops won't be charging him with anything.

I'm one of those people who think George is mostly screwed because of the recognition factor and urban settings that he prefers.

I think George ought to pack up and move to some small town in Alabama.....grow a beard.....get a facial tatto deal (like Mike Tyson).....and simply introduce himself as a Honduran foreign national.....having recently arrived via President Obama's guest amnesty and immigration deal.  Simply introduce himself around town as "Jose" and let folks know that he's pro-Republican, anti-crime, and a "Bible-believer".

After a brief introduction....most folks...especially around Alabama, would be faked out by this personal introduction and refer to their new neighbor as "Jose" the illegal alien.

Now, I admit.....it's fraud, wrong, and deceitful.  But, trying to be George Zimmerman in some urban area of Florida just won't work.

As time goes by, "Jose" can talk up anti-crime, pro-gun, and conservative politics with the locals.  After a while, the locals will be so positive with their "Jose".....that they will put him up for town council or county commission....while talking over his illegal status and how it's all 'OK' since President Obama ordered it 'OK'.  Eventually, "Jose" might even work his way up to state governor before someone woke up and realized he was actually George Zimmerman, the white Latino.

The Thing About Narrative

At some point yesterday (Tuesday)....President Obama made some personal comments and decided to lay out one of his observations.  He noted that Fox News was spreading negative sterotypes about the poor in America.

The quote:  "I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving got traction. And look, it’s still being propagated. I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. They’re all like, ‘I don’t want to work. I just want a free Obamaphone,’ or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative that gets worked up and very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress, which is much more typical, who’s raising a couple of kids and doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills."

The problem with this statement is the word "narrative".

The public over the past decade has gotten use to narrative.

Your son knows the narrative when he brings up an allowance upgrade, and you start talking about responsibility and work ethic.

Your buddies at the office know the narrative of the boss when he's talking bad numbers, crisis period, and layoffs coming up.

When the cops need to explain why they shot some old lady's dog.....you know the narrative that will be used to explain the perceived threat to the cop.

When some state legislative cops start talking about closing state parks because of tax revenue problems.....you know the narrative.

When some Secretary of State tries to explain why some ambassador just accidentally died in Banghazi......you know the narrative.

When some black guy is thrown in the back of some police van and arrives at the destination with a broke neck....as the cops try to explain things....all you think of is narrative.

When the female principal was caught in a parked car out front of the school with some high school senior and the cops smile marijuana and notice that four buttons on the gal's blouse are undone......you listen to the explanation and all you think of is.....narrative.

When your state football coach wraps up the season with a 5-7 record, and explains that he just didn't have the right players.....you listen and all you think of.....is narrative.

Narrative is now a skill.  The guys at the Washington Post, NY Times, Time and Newsweak all know narrative. The folks at MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, and Fox News know narrative.  The folks who do the behind the scenes preparation for the morning religious chat shows know narrative.....talking in Moses, IRS, Adam and Eve, immigration control, Satan, and unemployment.

Poor people know narrative.  Rich people know narrative.  Liberals and Conservatives both know narrative.  Cowboys and Indians know narrative.  Farmers know narrative.  And even failed and confused NCAA football coaches know narrative.

As for the President's wisdom in pointing some finger at Fox News over narrative?  He seems awful worried over Fox News......like it's some root-canal or hornet's nest sitting over the backdoor of the house.  For one single news source.....if you pause and look over comments from the White House.....Fox News gets mentioned at least five or six times a year.  NPR or Newsweak?  They never get mentioned.....almost like they don't exist in the mind of the White House.

The poor getting noted by Fox News?  I'm not that sure that they get mentioned much.  Maybe there is some stupid program which does little to help the poor.....which gets mentioned.  Maybe some revenue hand-out gets zero respect because it's not working.  People say things and they get noted.

I suspect most Americans would like to have a President who only gets noticed once a week.....never appears on some comedy show.....and is rarely quoted by the NY Times.  But trying to find such a mythical character is practically impossible.  That's my humble and honest......narrative.

Gambling Coming to Bama?

It is a shocker in Bama over the latest legislative business.  The Republicans in the state....having vowed over the past three decades to protect the innocence of every Bama resident by standing against lotteries, casinos and gambling.....are about to accept it with a friendly smile.

The draft bill sits presently with the state senate and most folks are believing in an acceptance.  The money generated?  Oh, that will be for education and children of course.....at least that's the coded phrase used.  It'll end up in the general fund sooner or later, and then be used for cop cars, state parks, and office furniture.

For decades, the Republican Party in Bama represented this relationship to good morale living, religious lifestyles, and principled authority.  Yeah, I know.....it was bogus....but it was good theater and folks believed it.

If you walk into a barbershop.....nine out of ten Bama guys would say this gambling thing isn't such a big deal.  They probably wouldn't even rate it in the top twenty issues of the day.  Most guys will admit that they already buy lotto tickets across the state line occasionally, and at least three of every ten Bama guys will admit to having been to a casino in the past year or two.

At least a quarter of all Bama women under the age of forty will readily admit that they've been to a casino in the past year or two as well.

The upset folks over this Republican change?  Mostly church folks who got some five-star minister character who quoted Moses and thrilled his congregation with bad-mouthing gambling.

The people who will get addicted?  Well.....yeah.....there are those who can't handle gambling.  The same can be said for those who can't handling driving a car in a safe fashion, or those who can't handle NCAA football in a safe fashion, or those who can't handle prescription pain-killers in a safe fashion, or those who can't handle a credit card in a safe fashion, or those who can't handle chainsaws in a safe fashion.  You can only protect society to a certain degree.....after that.....it's a guy's own responsibility for screwing up.

So, prepare for gambling coming to Bama.  Heck, we might even see a casino or two coming out of this state park business.  Joe Wheeler might turn itself into a fantastic gambling casino.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Free-Range?

It's an odd term.....I actually had to look it up.

The topic of free-range comes up because of a couple up in Kentucky who had the sheriff come out and visit......to confiscate the ten kids.  A local person went and complained over the living conditions, health issue possibilities, and lack of education for the kids.

What is generally said is that the parents were using 'free-range' parenting as their model.  Free range means that you let kids do things on their own.  You give them no limits....no obstacles....no borders....no rules.  The kid learns by mistakes made or their own sense of judgement.

Home-schooling?  No.....don't make the mistake of putting this crew into the same image as home-schooling.

In this case.....you have some kids and if they want to spend an hour working on math problems.....they do it.  If they spend eight minutes a year on math problems.....they do it.

In the home-schooling environment....you the parent will have a curriculum, devote time to some goals, have some text-books which help the teaching process, and set testing processes.  At the end of this....there's a process to get a high school diploma or GED.

In free-range, there's nothing unless the kid reaches a point of deciding learning is important....which may or may not ever occur.  You might have five kids in your free-range house.  Kid number one by eighteen years old will have a 12th grade background in English grammar, a fifth-grade background in math, and might know nothing of the Constitution.  Kid number two might not be able to handle division or multiplication, nor have any talent other than painting.  Kid number three might only be able to handle 4th grade reading by age eighteen, and may never have seen a map in his entire life. Kid number four might be able to handle 12th grade math and science, but knows nothing about American history or civics.  Kid number five might be a great hunter and carpenter by age eighteen, but can only read at the 3rd-grade level.

In this particular case.....there was some confrontation between the father of the kids and the neighbor.  A knife was used to threaten the neighbor, and the father apparently asked one of the kids to retrieve his gun.  The neighbor decided enough was enough.....called county welfare services, and they did the homework.

The family doesn't even live in a house or trailer.....it's a hut of sorts with a tin roof.  No septic tank....no running water....no electricity.

The fight is on apparently.....with the family defending their practices (unschooling is the term used in their defense).  I noticed a bunch of folks who would normally defend home-schooling who were kinda supporting this effort.

The problem is....once this kid gets up to eighteen....now what?  No one (police department, fire department, post office, etc) will hire someone without a GED or high school diploma.  At best, you can flip burgers, cut fire wood for people, or drive a truck (provided you can actually read the driver's manual).  You are gaming the kids for survivor mode and living just off the land.  Beyond that....there's no real possibilities in life.  I admit....we need a handful of folks who can cut down trees and sell firewood to folks.  Maybe if you can keep enough folks 'limited'....this would work out.

What happens with this Kentucky family?  Well....someone got them prepared for the modern world, and got fund-raising on the agenda.  They've got some lawyer money and will take the county social office to court.  The judge?  He's going to ask questions....mostly to the parents.   The family lawyer is going to eventually admit to the parents that they got to change their agenda idea a little bit....get cleaned up.....and make some promises.  Eventually, they will agree to park a trailer on the property as a proper living structure, and to home-school the kids.  The judge will eventually let the kids come back and they will be monitored.  As much as the parents will try to fake the situation.....I suspect the judge will take back the kids within two years.  I just don't see this mess resolving itself.

For the free-range crowd?  I'm kinda shaking my head.  Need to repair a tractor?  The manuals are mostly designed for someone who can read at least at the 8th grade level.  Most household accounting situations in America require addition, subtraction, division and multiplication....6th grade math, and if you can't do it......you can't balance your financial situation or handle obligations.  Like your rights?  Well.....you'd have to read the Constitution, discuss it, and grasp the meaning....which means at least a 8th grade comprehension of civil studies.  I admit that fifty percent of school after the 9th grade is wasted.....but you got to have some foundation.....otherwise, you are lost. Free-range?  No, I'd call it dead-range....you don't go nowhere or do much of anything.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Chip Story

There's an interesting story today over bio-chips and tracking ability.  Basically, the experts are saying that the day isn't that far off when you put a micro-chip into your body, and based on scanners (one would assume the state governments, federal authorities, etc) would have the ability to turn on a search program and find you within minutes.

Usage?  Let's say you wanted your family protected, and had each kid loaded with a chip.  Your 20-year old daughter is missing from college......the search program is turned on.....cops get the coordinates and swoop down on some dimwit who is holding her.

Or your dog walks off and you convince the county guy with some authority to activate a search for "Tipper".  An hour later, you drive up to the woods where Tipper is sitting and pick him up.

This starts to put a lot of missing people into categories where you'd find them in a very short period of time.  They might still be dead, but the days of 10,000 people being reported yearly and never found?  That will come to an eventual end.

The cost of this?  No one says anything and I'm guessing the chip will cost at least $2k when it gets introduced.  Maybe in a decade....it gets down to $100 a chip.

The search cost?  That's a different story.  It took barely a decade for cellphone towers to appear across America.  I'm guessing you could quickly alter a tower.....throw up a particular antenna.....and modify your tower capability very quickly.  The government involvement?  I'm guessing someone will pay off the right senator and ensure the government is donating at least a billion for this upgrade.

The eventual usage?  A farmer might load chips on his cattle, to prevent cattle rustling.  There are hundreds of scenarios where usage might occur.  The curious thing......some people might not want to be found.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Ten Things That Won't Exist in 2025

1.  Newspapers.  Yeah, I hate to speculate on this....but getting some newspaper in paper form....will be practically impossible.  Some digital form will exist, and if you subscribe to your city newspaper.....then getting it on your Tab or Smart-Phone will be the only method.  This also means fewer journalists or more part-timers.  Also, don't get excited if the monthly rate runs $40 for a five-time-a-week-production cycle.

2.  Key Lock on a Car.  Yeah, it'll be some 'fob' that you will carry around and if you are within a meter of a car door....the 'fob' will get picked up by the car antenna and release the lock on the door.  A physical key for the car?  Non-existent.

3.  AM Radio on Your Car.  FM will be shifting to digital form, and satellite will continue on as a form of recreational communication.  But AM?  It'll be strictly small town stations for churches and community groups that survive on.  Car radios will stop AM inclusion by 2025.

4.  Checkbooks.  This is a hard one.  So many people over the age of forty are chained to checkbooks, and they might still be offered.  But the days of you opening an account and getting a checkbook as part of the deal....are starting to slip.  Over the past two years....I've written a total of two checks.  You can see them fading out shortly.

5.  Postal Delivery on Saturday.   I know......they say it'll survive...but it's only a matter of time before we add up the cost and make the decision to abandon Saturday delivery......and eventually Monday delivery.  Cost will be the factor which drives this.

6.  Contact Football of Any Form in California.  Some whacked up people will put a law up for a vote which forces high schools and colleges to offer life insurance and injury insurance for the sport of football.  The cost will shock the education system and they will ask the question if they really need to support the game at high school or college level.  Once this occurs.....a dozen states will review the idea and continue the trend.  The NFL is screwed for future players once this occurs.

7.  Hot Coffee.  After a number of law suits slip through the cracks and hot spilled coffee episodes end up in court.....a number of chains start making the decision to delete coffee and tea from their offerings.  In order to play the insurance game out.....coffee salers will buy insurance....which means an average cup of coffee will cost around $4, and at that point.....it's stupid to buy coffee.

8.  Telemarketers.  Basically, the skeptical nature of the general public will create a dead-zone around Telemarketing.  As business lessens, they hire fewer people.  Eventually, it'll just die off as a profession.

9.  Travel Agencies.  The folks over fifty prefer to deal with an actual person when booking cruises or airline trips.  Well....the folks under fifty can do the magic themselves, layering in research and great deals via filters.  You will wake up one day and realize that from the ten agencies that you knew from around your town.....there's only two left, with both only open Monday through Friday.

10.  NPR as a Public Entity.  I know.....people will talk over how it's been around and will continue to survive as a public fixture.  Well....it'll exist but it'll be a private entity (like CNN is).  When you examine their format, which used to be a good bit of poetry, jazz, opera music and classical tunes.....that's all mostly disappeared, and it's mostly all news.  Some brief moment in Congressional fighting over budgets will finally occur, and half their budget will be cut.....to save healthcare.  The NPR crowd will cry over this and get hostile.....but that's the problem with being so focused on news and not being a public fixture.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A Brief Essay over Front Porches

This is the front of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate.  It looks out onto the water of the bay.....about 300 feet in front of the house.

A magnificent view, no doubt.

You can sit and imagine spring, summer and fall....late afternoon, after a full day of activity, and settling onto a chair facing the bay.  There's no TV....no internet....no radio.....no daily newspaper.....nothing.

Some neighbor might ride up on his horse.....find George sitting there and sipping a whisky.  A discussion could commence....maybe over horses, fondness for peach cobbler, harsh words over some political discussion, or a long-winded joke about a French mistress and a English minister.

Talk might go into the evening hours, with a candle or lamp lit, and the visitor might be offered up a room for the night.

A porch was a place where discussions were a form of entertainment and emotional survival.  You laughed over good times and bad situations.  You contemplated why men did stupid things, or why women uttered harsh complaints.  You might have spent an hour or two discussing why corn is higher in Arlington, than in Richmond.  Or you might have just wasted a whole afternoon discussing why it's so hot this year compared to last year (you didn't have global warming in those days to blame on such events).

In some ways, we have lost the front porch behavior and attitude.  It was an anchored part of our society, our culture, and our future.  No one today defends the front porch.  No quotes great passages or writes epic movie scripts over the front porch.  It was a saga-builder, just waiting for a visitor to start some topic.

The Addition of Dr Ben Carson to the Republican Primary

First, let's go ahead and admit that there is zero possibility of Dr Ben Carson coming to the end of the Republican primary with any state wins.  He might pick up a couple of delegates here and there, and probably will get a thirty minute chance to speak at the Republican Convention.  Is he running to get a cabinet spot, or is it running just to make people ask more questions?

Second, by adding Dr Carson into the primary debates.....there's this turbo-mechanism which will result.  He adds sense and coherence to the commentary.  He will stand and debate to the ninth degree.....things which some voters simply accept as a fake agenda item.  The weak debate candidates?  They will look weak, shaky, and frail.

Third, some black leaders....particularly within the church environment....will quote Dr Carson on occasion, and deem his campaign as one of positive character.

Fourth.....the list of elected positions?  Well....some people will chat about that and it's one of those minor issues in that he's never run for any office, ever, in his life.  How many American Presidents have that type of background?  A handful in fact (Washington, Grant, Eisenhower, Taft, Taylor, and Hoover).  In the case of Taft.....he'd been a four-star administrator for various Republican Presidents, and eventually held the position of Secretary of Defense.....but had never run for office in his life.  Carson would be walking in some pretty good shoes if he did get elected.

Fifth and final.....maybe this is the guy for VP.  Even if he doesn't carry any big numbers.....he has the position of authority on respect, common values, and simple common sense.  Over the past thirty years.....I can't think of any VP that was a four-star character.

Book Review: David Crockett, His Life and Adventures

By John S. C. Abbott

It is a curious book, available on Amazon Digital for free, which was written well over a hundred years ago.

It is a finely woven and clear-cut story over the remarkable Davy Crockett.  I cam to three observations by the end of the 136 page book (it's easily read over a week).

First, there are at least a hundred occasions when Crockett met up with mother nature, disease, bears, mountain lions, Indians, and hostile threats.....and he should have died.  As you come near the end of the saga.....you come to realize the amount of luck this guy had going for him.....day in and day out.

Second, as a kid around age twelve....he was 'directed' by his dad to help some guy who was herding some cattle from the edge of the wilderness to Virginia (roughly 200 miles away).  He completes the job, and basically walks back.  When you take into consideration.....his age.....lack of a map.....no compass.....no adult leadership.....it is a remarkable feat.  If you tried to find some kid in America today who would do something like this.....I think you'd be disappointed.

Third, you come near the end of the book to realize the Alamo period was something that could have been skipped.  If the Indians had invited him to on hunting with them during their meeting.....he would have never gone to the Alamo or met up with the consequences of the Mexican Army.  In such a case.....you'd have to wonder where exactly he would have ended up and if he might have been some future governor of California.   Remember.....he was only forty-nine when he died at the Alamo.

As for the book?  I'd highly endorse it as a reading and history project for a 10th grade class.  They could complete the book in a week or two, and it'd probably draw out three or four discussion episodes for class participation.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

My Ten Baltimore Predictions

1.  All six cops demand separate court appearance/episodes, something that the city prosecution team will not be happy or thrilled about.

2.  First case occurs by September and is a failure for the prosecution....no conviction on any charge.

3.  Strong attempt to push all cases out of Baltimore.  At least one case on far east side of state, with heavy white/Latino presence.  Rest of cases will be far west (Rockville, Frederick, Hagerstown), with same issue....heavy Latino/white presence on jury).

4.  While pressing on lighter charges and offering incredible deals.....none of the cops accept plea bargains.

5.  Second and third cases will be mostly all innocent situations, and scaring the urban public in Baltimore that no conviction will occur.

6.  Major riots by October/November.  Cops refuse to provide adequate protection and stand-down on their own.  Mayor and city council is shocked at amount of damage.  Governor refuses to bring the national guard in.

7.  The only guilty gain for the mayor and prosecutor will be one or two charges on the driver of the truck and the fact he didn't buckle the arrested guy into his seat.  Maximum jail time given is two years.

8.  No one in Baltimore by early 2016 believes in 'justice'.  This reshapes the whole Democratic playing strategy for the state, and for the 2016 presidential election.

9.  Cops will refrain from enforcing any drug laws in Baltimore for remainder of the summer.  Statistical average are half of what they'd normally be.

10.  The mayor and council decide by July to put up $300,000 for a statue of Freddie.  It'll be dedicated by spring of 2016.

Maybe I'm wrong on some of these.....but....maybe not.

A Moment over Laws

The Hawaii state legislature passed a new law in the last week.....you have to be twenty-one to smoke cigars or cigarettes.  I'd assume you'd have to be twenty-one to smoke marijuana as well....but the news media left that out of the article that I was reading.

What the law says is that you can't smoke, buy or possess regular tobacco products or electronic cigarettes.

Your fine if caught?  Ten dollars on the first offense.  After that.....$50 or mandated service to the local community.  My humble guess is that if you don't have any cash.....the community service will fall into play.

The odds of this law working?  I'm a reasonable guy and and understand the strategy here.....but it's mostly a joke.  What cop will waste his time on this type of patrol?  The 15,000 teens who smoke marijuana daily in Hawaii?  They will continue on smoking and not worry much about this.

The military guys on post?  Well....here's the thing, most military posts obey the local rules, so the BX guy or the Commissary clerk standing there.....as you step up with lots of condoms and a pack of Camels....will ask you for an ID card.  Sadly, they will sell you the condoms, but not the smokes.  So you walk back to the barracks.....talk to Joe (your buddy who is 21 years old), and Joe goes to the Commissary for you to buy a cartoon of Camels.

The thing here.....is that when you make laws that are unenforceable.....it detracts from the public 'trust' in you as a legislative body.  They see you as a gimmick organization, working on bogus public laws with no balance, no value, and no return.

So, out of the hundred eighteen-year olds who smoke today in Hawaii.....what does this do?  Well....it means you sort through your friendships.....find someone who is twenty-one....and get them to do your Camel purchases.  You get around the law, with simplicity and ease.  Life goes on.....with just a mild stumbling block in front of you. All this democracy around us, with so many tools left to us by the Greeks and Romans.....and we worry about smoking and how to criminalize it?

General Store - Greek Style

If you walk around the streets of Athens, Greece.....you will eventually come to the Greek version of Home Depot.....a mom-and-pop shop with just about everything....squeezed into a thirty by hundred foot shop.

Alabama used to have shops like this, which thrived off of farmers and the local community.  Most have dissolved away and simply something of a legend today.


Friday, 1 May 2015

Helmets and Greece

 Greeks are pretty tough folks (men and women).  If you stand around and take a decent count over an average day.....out of a hundred motorcycle/scooter operators....roughly sixty will be riding with no helmet.  Greece is OK with this.....being hard-headed is a Greek tradition.

I noted after a week there in Athens....that I hadn't seen a single motorcycle accident. No, not a single one.  No guys hit by a bus.....no one running off some embankment....no guy smashed flat by a garbage truck....nothing.  In fact, I didn't even notice a drunk Greek on a motorcycle.  Everyone seemed to know precisely what speed was safe and what was acceptable.

Now, I admit.....it's a statistic that folks don't think about much.  In all of Athens, I'd take a guess that out of 789,000 residents....at least 100,000 folks ride scooters/motorcycles daily.  If you do the math and various formulas.....it means they are fairly lucky folks.

On the subject of scooters.....I'd also make this observation....people aren't picky.  I probably saw at least a hundred brand names.....some South Korean and Chinese models were out there.

The most interesting observation?  I noticed that cops rode on some occasions with two guys to a bike......getting the second guy to some accident or violation episode.

Old Buildings

 No matter where you go in Athens, Greece.....there are old buildings standing there and almost ready to fall in.

This was one of those buildings....around the Karameikos Cemetary (tourist area of town).

The roof?  Yeah, it's already caved in.  Grass growing on the first floor?  Yep.

The odd thing is that it's on a fairly traveled street and you could tear down the structure and put up a bakery or coffee shop.

If a guy spent a week walking around, I'd take a guess that you'd see around 500 such structures in town like this.  Maybe it's a ownership issue or just a court thing where folks argue about who gets Uncle Joe's old rental property on such-and-such street.  I don't know.....maybe it's just the the way that things work there.

Worrying about something falling over?  Well.....they do put up a marginal catch-net and if it's just a stone or two.....you'd be ok.  I'm guessing they don't have big wind storms like you have in Germany or the US.

Jury Duty of the Old Days

Just an odd thing I noticed in one museum at Agora.  

Around three-thousand years ago in 'civilized' Athens Greece.....if you were a property owner and free man....you had rights and responsibilities.

One of those responsibilities.....occasionally involved you being ordered to some town square and a jury being formed up from outstanding citizens of the town.

As you'd notice in today's world.....there's be arguments over fairness and the selection process.

In those days....of ancient Greece....a guy sat down and thought about fairness and eventually devised a jury duty process.  A stone-mason got called in, and told to chisel out this unique (19 x 11 spots) and a piece of paper would be in each with a black or white end.  You'd walk up.....draw your paper....and if black, then you were sitting on a jury for today.

Questions to get you disqualified from a jury?  No one says much over the Greek routine, and I kinda doubt that anyone could come up with justification to deny himself or some guy on a jury.  If picked.....you kinda served.  But on the other hand.....I doubt if any Greek jury meeting took more than eight to twelve hours, and maybe five or six witnesses.  You could probably utter the word "liar" out loud if you didn't believe his story.

Oddly.....the stone method worked. For this.....we need to sit back and ask ourselves if our lives have improved over the past three thousand years.

Greek Strawberries

When you walk around the streets of Athens, Greece....there are plenty of street dealers.

Most have gimmicks.   Some big talker out front.  Some gal in a skimpy blouse.

I came upon this one guy who had spent a fair amount of time that morning as he set up his stand.....organizing strawberries. It's the kind of image that you stand over and admire.

There's probably thirty minutes of effort put into this strawberry display.

How many does the guy sell per day?  Unknown.  Maybe the whole trailer is gone by close of business and he starts fresh in the morning.

Fresh?  That's the curious thing.....most all strawberries you come across in Greece are locally grown, and have a naturally great taste to them.  I've come to notice some of those you buy in Germany.....have a non-descriptive taste to them (like they were grown in some Dutch glass-garden warehouse operation).

An artist at work?  I have to say that I stood there for two or three minutes admiring the display and the effort of the guy.

WD-40

No matter where you go in the world.....there's WD-40.

This past week, I was on vacation in Greece.

I passed by a little mom-and-pop 'Home Depot' operation in Athens, Greece on some side street.....and here was WD-40.

I suspect there's something about the name, and the way it's marketed around the world.  A guy will buy a can and that's all he needs for the next five years as he sprays here and there for some remarkable oily situation.

I could probably walk into ninety percent of homes and ask the guy if he had a can.....and he'd grin for a moment and admit he's got one in the basement or garage.  His wife?  She'd ask what the heck WD-40 was and just say look in the garage.

Thugs, Hoodlums, Martyrs, and Baltimore

I've been on 'holiday' in Greece for a week, and the only English network available at the hotel....was CNN.  Naturally, the Baltimore riots are just about the only thing that CNN covered beyond the Nepal earthquake.  So, I sat and watched report after report.  After a while, you turn off the TV and you ponder.  Observations occur.

First, these are basically two-star hoodlums.  We have them in Germany and England as well.  They come out.....get active for a couple of days....burn off steam....destroy police vehicles....engage with intent to harm the cops....destroy public and private property.....pretend to have some agenda but it rarely says much of anything....and then retreat into the shadows.

Second, hoodlums can be of limited varieties.  If you look around.....you rarely find any Latino hoodlums.  The days of religious hoodlums ended around 1700 (after the Thirty Years War).  These days, the hoodlum trade is made up of blacks and anti-capitalists.  Women rarely fall into the hoodlum profession.  I'm not sure why.....maybe they've got other priorities in life....demand nearby toilet services which never occur for a proper riot.....or just think it's stupid to destroy property. Based on video of the Baltimore riots.....I'd take a guess that it's ninety-percent male.  I also noted that you just didn't see any guy over the age of forty, which is typical of most Germany hoodlum events.

Third, hoodlum riots can start up because of a good martyr situation.  Most folks can't define martyr.....so I'll give you the simple basic wording: a guy who was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and met up with a misfortune act.....which usually leads to death by the authorities or cops. The dead guy then becomes a symbol for the hoodlums.....who can base their violent acts on the poor martyr guy.

Some famous martyrs?  Athanasios Diakos (famous Greek martyr from 1821 who was killed by the Turks.  He'd been offered various deals to just surrender and he refused.....noting at the end that he was Greek and would forever be Greek), Socrates (he made some unfortunate negative comments against the Gods, thus showing disrespect, and the authorities had to make the religious guys happy by killing Socrates....note: Socrates drank the poison willingly to demonstrate principal), and Joan of Arc (leading the French army onto victory but turned into a problem for the Catholic Church).

These recent martyrs within the last couple of years?  Trayvon Martin.  He's the kid who was suspended five times from school for unknown activities, a problem-kid who'd been sent to live with dad, who encountered some "white-Latino" and some conflict occurred, with Martin ending up on top of the white-Latino in an assault type position, then shot dead.

Micheal Brown?  Another kid who seemed to have money for marijuana but not enough money for cigars which had to shoplift and steal from some grocery.  Upon leaving the grocery and walking home......he and his associate decide to walk down the middle of some street (on the line), encounter one cop, engage in a short discussion, determines the cop disrespected him, and joins into some type of episode where the cop shoots him in the back.  Oddly, the autopsy shows Brown standing in front of the cop and in a higher position very close to the cop.

Eric Garner?  A guy whose entire profession of supporting his family is to sell loose and untaxed New York City smokes. Arrested on numerous occasions for the same type charge.....for some odd reason stood his ground and refused to be arrested peacefully (there's even another charge for disrespecting a cops arrest but why even bring that up).  The cop puts a choke-hold on the guy....rather than tasering him.  The fact that Garner was not in fabulously great health should be part of the story, but it's kinda left out.

Freddie Gray?  A guy who got a check each month for a lead-paint episode as a kid.  Freddie had almost twenty arrests.....mostly for drugs.  His health?  He had asthma.....which might be linked back to the lead-paint business.  On his final day of life, his martyrdom starts with Freddie in a drug-purchase area when the cops do a sweep.  Freddie runs.....gets arrested....tossed into the back of a holding vehicle.....has a asthma attack and asks for his inhaler.  The cops don't say much but apparently Freddie doesn't get his inhaler, goes into convulsions in the back (either from the asthma or the drug he ingested).  Freddie knocks himself around, suffers spinal injuries, and dies.

It's hard to make a real martyr out of these four guys, but for the sake of the argument.....they will serve some purpose.  Perhaps like Joan of Arc or any number of a dozen Greek martyrs.....each will get a statue some day.

Third, the cops.  In 1965.....a cop had four potential threats of a marginal nature to face each day.  Drunks?  They were typically friendly and cops on some occasions would just drive the drunk home (we were actually that friendly at one point).  The weed smokers?  These were the guys who just wanted to talk and talk and talk.  Cops would just toss them into the tank and let the court system work as intended. The crazies?  Cops were a bit worried over them because you just couldn't be sure of the end-game.  Finally, the crook?  Yeah, these were guys who'd rob a gas station for a hundred bucks.

Today?  The cop has a strange element that arrived in the 1980s.....drugs.  Between PCP, meth, bath salts, cocaine, and a hundred-odd drugs....you sit there as a cop each day and review your reaction situations if "X" occurs or if you engage some whacko with a machete on PCP.  Just because he's doped up......he's a potential martyr.  Hundreds will riot because of the death of a whacko on PCP and waving a machete in the air.  That's how silly and how disturbing all of this has become.

The new cops of today?  They look more like military MPs than regular cops.  They can't behave or act like Andy Griffith of Mayberry because they'd be dead within the first year of employment.

Finally, I come to Baltimore.  You can draw a six-block circle with a green marker on the area around the harbor and the baseball stadium.....that's the only safe place in Baltimore for you as a  tourist.  If you go anywhere else in the city.....it's dangerous.  Drugs?  You can buy any drug you want....even LSD and heron.  The city leadership?  They concentrate on the protected area near the harbor and sell convention opportunities at the nice hotels around the harbor.  Ever since drugs arrived in the 1980s....the city leadership has staged a weekly round-up of drug thugs as their gimmick of choice......showing they have control, when they don't have control.

How many companies have made a decision to set up shop in Baltimore in the past decade?  Few if any.  Heading further west.....a hundred miles.....it's a different story, with various companies setting up shop and doing business in DC.  Baltimore as a city....is dying.  The remaining cops will protect the green-zone, and try to fake the public enough into believing it's still a legitimate city (it's not).

The mayor of Baltimore?  She was on some fast-riser list and would have gone onto some senator status quickly, and maybe within ten years been on someone's presidential candidate list.  Her actions over the past week?  Probably enough to stall those plans.

To sum it all up.....we've arrived in a new world where hoodlums, martyrs, and thugs are part of the society.  To be honest....the modern martyrs are fakes but that's our own undoing.  The icing on this cake is an active news media which turns some hoodlum episode into an epic news piece.....kinda like a Greek opera with numerous characters and some fat lady singing a woeful song near the end.  And we treat it like entertainment (something that Socrates would just shake his head over).