Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Seven Things I Learned from Hurricane Katrina

Ten years ago, this past week, Hurricane Katrina came and passed through New Orleans.  I came to note seven observations over the past ten years of the event.

First, you could go and tell ten thousand people of a life-threatening situation coming to their edge of the world, advising them to leave now....and at least ten-percent will disregard your advice and stay.  Whatever advice or wisdom that you tried to offer them.....didn't matter.  You can offer up a brief prayer for these people and just say adios.  You don't need to be concerned about these people if they realize the impact of what you suggest.

Second, the news media is mostly there for the thrills and bogus human interest stories.  Nothing much has changed in the past decade.

Third, if the National Guard hadn't gotten it's act together quick and gotten to the Super Bowl to pull those people out.....several hundred folks would have perished on top of the chosen-to-go crowd.  Folks don't readily grasp that the National Guard activation comes up and it takes two or three days to get everyone at their post and get trucks to a designated point.  Still today, people don't realize that.

Fourth, about the last thing of value that you can get from a US President is some fly-over of a disaster area.  It doesn't solve anything or fix anything.  Send some general down and just order the guy to fix the problem and give him ten-thousand Marines.

Fifth, folks don't return unless there's something to return to.  Look up the population of New Orleans today....roughly 378,000 compared to 500,000 a decade ago.  Houston took up a fair number of folks, who've opted not to leave....they are happy in Texas and know the job market is better than in Louisiana.

Sixth, I learned that global warming and climate change didn't really bring a hundred more hurricanes after Katrina like all the experts for CNN and ABC/CBS/NBC predicted.  It was supposed to be an era of huge disaster episodes.  And it never came.

Finally, I learned that it's best to run your own disaster escape plan and not rely on the US government for much.

Wal-Mart and the AR-15 Episode

This past week, Wal-Mart decided that it will only carry guns that hunters and clay-pigeon shooters will operate. So the AR-15, it's top model of gun that it carried for a number of years....won't be carried.

This will mean that they basically carry an assortment of cheap shotguns, and a small quantity of bolt-action rifles.....which will generally mean a six to eight round magazine.

This comes after some court action and legal scares on Wal-Mart, triggered by aggressive lawyers working for various foundations.

Wal-Mart even went out and produced a simplified statement which hints that it still supports hunters.  As long as no mass shootings occur with shotguns, that attitude will continue along....but you can imagine the first time that some shotgun mass shooting occurs....the Wal-Mart business team will examine the whole firearms strategy.

So, what you got was the Wal-Mart "message".  They won't be playing because it's not in their interest.

Your reaction?  You can sit and chat about this.....get frustrated with the neighbor over a long talk of the subject....even slam your fist down once or twice in anger.  Or you can send Wal-Mart a "message" and thug lawyers.

If you need cheese, milk or bread.....go down to Piggly Wiggly and buy it there.

If you need new tires....go to your local tire shop in town and haggle with the manager over the price and just accept their tire deal (being $20 more expensive than Wal-Mart).

If you need cheap t-shirts made in Mexico....go over to Pennys or Sears and buy them.  Oh and by the way....remember all those cheap $7 packs of Wal-Mart men's underwear made in Mexico?  You could go to 'Flint and Tinder' and get US made quality underwear (for more money, I agree) and you will help to employ Americans, not Mexicans.

If you need tools, go to your local hardware shop in the town you live.

If you need gardening items or plants.....same deal, shop locally.

Give these people the business that you took away from them two decades and return to the people that gave you an honest deal.

If you need a gun or ammo.....go to your local gun-sales shop and buy off of them.  Tell the guy that you are a former Wal-Mart consumer but you want his shop and business....so ask for deals.  Show your face three or four times a year and let them know you will stand behind their business.

For you folks who pushed on Wal-Mart and the foundations to get them to this position?  You'd best go as extreme as possible in buying off Wal-Mart and help support them while the other folks quit the business operation.  In twelve months.....Wal-Mart would start to ask questions and discuss closing down various operations because profit loss.

Remember, there was  time before 1980 where Wal-Mart didn't exist in your community and you used Mom-and-Pop operations, along with the local grocery operations.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Xe?

I've tried to make sense out of this....probably wasting an hour reading and pondering.

The University of Tennessee of Knoxville.....has a hired gay-rights person as part of the school staff.  With the new semester starting up....there's been this slide to come out and let students and staff know the 'agenda'.

There are 'code-words' now for gender neutral folks.  If you were using the normal word of 'she', then it'd be gender-neutral to use 'ze' instead.  If you get into grammar rules.....there's always an object, a pronoun, etc.

Naturally, once this came out.....there were a fair amount of negativity.....since this isn't a nationally recognized thing or a state-mandated thing....a fair number of folks (students) were against this.  Quickly, the chancellor of the university came out and said that this would NOT be mandated or forced upon anyone.

Where did ze come from?  That's not completely clear.  From some readings, I've come to realize that dozens of countries and languages....have various ways of dealing with he or she, in masculine terms or otherwise.  Word experts appear to always have fits in grasping a way to describe something and it must fit within a rule-scheme.

As for the introduction at the university?  Here's the thing.....in most cases.....mom and dad are sponsoring Jennifer or Bob Junior and probably paying the Knoxville crowd around $70,000 for their education.  On top of that, there's another $50,000 going to the Knoxville community, booze industry, clothing appeal shops, and court establishment for fines or issues.  It's a large sum of money and they just want that kid to graduate in four years, get a real job, and appear to be successful.  The concern of mom and dad over Xe or Ze?  Almost zero.  It's not helping them pass some class in economics, nursing or engineering.....it's probably not important.

If you go back a hundred years, and showed up at any state-run university in America....the emphasis for the four years included some introduction to Greek, simplified debate classes for each year, and a small amount of engineering-related classes.  

How long will this new grammar stuff stay around?  I suspect that the comical side of college life will drag this along as an anchor, and a large segment of the university will take this as a joke.  They will use the new grammar for test answers and get the professors all tangled up in grammar usage.  No engineering professor is going to buy off on this, and eventually.....each department will come out with it's own accepted usage of English.  And when some electrical engineer professor starts mandating acceptable English.....you know you got a problem.

Berkeley Smokes Story

I noted this week....out in Berkeley City, California.....there's a proposal going up by a city council guy to ban the sale of tobacco (smokes) to "youths" under the age of 21.

Naturally, this all goes along with some noted increased in underage tobacco use.....part of which relates to e-cigarettes (becoming more popular now).

The proposal will arrive for the whole city council to vote on in September.  No one says much over the remaining members of the city council or if there's some public out-cry over the business.

I'm humored by the term "youths" being attached to anyone from age eighteen to twenty-one.  These are all people allowed to vote, purchase and own weapons, enlist for the military, get student loans of $100,000, obtain credit cards and get heavily into debt, and marry without any interference from Mom or Dad.

Once Congress opened up the door and said people down to the age of eighteen had the right to vote....they've opened up the door for various debates.

Personally, I wouldn't mind if they were stupid enough to draft up something like this....to just go ahead and say a bunch of things are off-limits for this youth group.  If kids are that stupid to smoke and you think it's bad....why aren't they that stupid to vote for silly reasons?  Why would you allow an immature 18-year-old gal to marry an immature 20-year-old guy?  Why grant drivers licenses at sixteen?

What happens when the Berkeley City council passes this?  Simple....a couple of guys start walking around in the area and selling black-market smokes.  You charge ten to twenty cents profit on each pack and the underage punks go ahead and pay the extra costs.  Or they drive fifty feet beyond the city council authority and buy from a non-Berkeley dealer.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A Big Door

I was reading through a piece in the Washington Post from the weekend, there's this opinion piece written by a PhD guy (Theodore R. Johnson).  He has surveyed the whole discussion of paying back the black community for reparations from the era prior to 1865, and think the only think that can be done logically....is to grant some type of vote-change that allow (at least for some period of time) a vote power of 5 to 3 for blacks.....meaning that each time a black guy voted....it'd count for five-thirds of a vote.

The logic here....for this entire period prior to 1865 is that black votes counted for three-fifths.  So, for some period of time (not mentioned in the commentary), this five-thirds vote would fix the unfairness that blacks have dealt.

This type of wisdom would draw two reactions.  Some people might agree in theory but doubt that it'd work.....too many folks would claim to be black when they weren't black.  And the second group would obviously say it's totally unfair and would be against the idea.

My issue would be that it would open up this big door and folks would start to talk about other reparation deals to solve a past problem.

Women would want a seven to two vote, for all those years that they weren't allowed to vote.

Indians would want a twelve to three vote, for all those years they were unfairly treated.

Ethnic Chinese would want a six to four vote, for all those years they were unfairly treated.

Mormons would want a nine to seven vote, for all those years they were unfairly treated.

Japanese-Americans would want a nine to six vote, for the period they were held in camps in WW II.

Irish people would want a six to five vote, for the period they were held back in economic conditions.

At some point, then you'd have members of the Washington Redskins football team who'd want a two to one vote for the unfairness of the NFL and life.

Then you'd have residents of New Orleans who'd demand a eight to one vote for the years of suffering after Katrina.

Then you'd have West Virginia and Oklahoma folks who'd demand a twenty to nineteen vote because they were always treated as second-class citizens.

This would go on and on, with everyone thinking of some unfairness and dreaming up a way to pay themselves back.  Life is unfair...period.  For over 100,000 years.....we can pretty much sum up the gains of human civilization as being unfair.  As for repairing unfairness?  It's a pretty big door and if you open it.....I'm not sure where fairness and unfairness would end up.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

How Trump Might Think

There's been a fair amount of chat this week over the Republican Headquarters and this idea of confronting Donald Trump.  Basically....he'll have to pledge to NOT run as an independent if he wants an "invite" to the next Republican debate (herded by CNN News).  It's more of a rumor than fact presently.  My hunch is that several folks want this forced upon Trump and disqualify him from the whole debate episode.

Timing?  Well....16 September.  So, if it were to happen.....it'd likely be finalized by the first week in September, three weeks away.

It would be awful stupid to invent this rule out of thin air, and now impose it upon Donald Trump.  But, no one says that the Republican Headquarters in Virginia is made up of rocket-scientists.

The influence on Republican-leaning individuals?  I'd take a guess that half of all Republicans would take this the wrong way, and hint through to local party guys that they might be finished with the Party and it's schemes.  It might actually scare a number of people about what happens in November of 2016.

Trump?  I have this funny feeling that he's a bit smarter than the Republicans think.

If I were Trump......I'd go over to MSNBC and ask them what they'd charge to run a full-hour on 16 September....at the same time of the CNN debate.  MSNBC would grin and give some round number.  You have to remember.....they are making lousy profits and they wouldn't mind cancelling an entire evening of the news to get some real cash flow.

So, Trump would own that one hour.  Then he'd turn around and ask Clint Eastwood if he had anything planned for that evening.  Clint would grin and say he was free.

Then some evening deal would be arranged in the midwest....maybe Ohio....maybe Kansas....maybe in Colorado.  They'd invite a hundred folks to come in, and Clint would stand there and simply moderate this debate.  He'd challenge folks to toss hard questions onto Trump.....not to just let him let him off the hook.

TV analysts would start to look at numbers.....CNN's debate with ten approved Republicans and MSNBC's one debate between the public and Trump.  Minute by minute....folks would be flipping over and watching Trump.  Twenty-five questions.....three or four honest and difficult debate moments with a upset mother or a disjointed Republican retiree.

Clint would wrap up the whole thing and gaze at some empty chair and just say something like.....this chair has been empty for an awful long time.  Maybe it's time to fill it with the right guy.....then Clint would just grin, and the camera would fade.

Analysts would say that for every single person who watched the regular CNN Republican debate.....there were five who watched MSNBC's Trump debate.  At that point, folks would admit, there's not much reason to continue the debates....it's over....Trump is the guy.

I can't see the Republican National Committee being this stupid.  But if they were....they might be surprised how much respect they've lost over the past decade, and people are tired of their gimmicks.

VP Joe as President?

There's a piece in today's political news that VP Joe Biden is traveling over to visit Senator Warren and have a chat.

Some people think (at least if you look at political journalists) that the race is finished and over for Hillary, and that the unremarkable crew (O'Malley, Webb and Socialist Bernie) won't attract any interest and hurt the overall party image.  The analogy I would use.....the Democrats for 2016 appear to be like the Washington Redskins of the past decade....where they always start with charged-up enthusiasm and by the middle-point of the season with their favored quarterback on some disabled list....folks give up because there's no way they can win.

So, there's this chatter over VP Joe and how he might get into the race.  Joe is 72 years old presently, and would be 74....if he did get into the race and actually win.  My hunch is that Joe would like to make the run....have Senator Warren as his VP, and leave after four years (age 78).....giving Warren the upper hand to be President in 2020.  VP Joe might be talking up the idea of Warren running as President and being Joe staying around for another eight years as VP again. Yeah, it'd be odd but Joe might like the job more than you'd think.

The odds of VP Joe running?  To be honest, there's just not that much enthusiasm for any of the Democrats....even Joe.  It's hard to analyze this and come to any rational reason for this lack of enthusiasm.  You would think over the past four years that various news outlets would have come out and talked up the next twenty-odd Democrats and their accomplishments.   Occasionally, you see the national news people talking up five or six Democratic Senators.....but it just doesn't come through as 'thrilling' or 'enchanting'.

What all of this means?  It's a lousy season for the Democrats and it'll hurt even more as lesser-positioned guys (running for state senator or governor) find no real enthusiasm being generated this year.  It might be an all-time record for Republican wins in 2016 unless something changes.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Book Review: The End of Doom

The End of Doom, by Ronald Bailey.

It's a recent book, just published in the past month or so.  The catchy title?  Well....Bailey sits down and does a complete review of the all the doom enthusiasts of the past forty-odd years.  These are the people who preached doom and gloom over the rivers, the lack of food, the progression of society, etc.

The quotes are there, and the dismal failures of the doom players.  I'd say out of five-hundred doom quotes.....Bailey will safety say that roughly five predictions did come true (although for oddball reasons which had nothing to do with the original concept of the doom predictor).

Toward the last part of the book, Bailey sits down to talk about breeder reactors.  Very few people grasp the complex nature but the simplicity of the breeder operation.  Around 2010, I spent several hours on some weekend reading up on this developmental type nuclear reactor and was amazed at the technology and innovation situation that we'd gained.....then dumped because of doom enthusiasts.  Bailey covers this, and if you wanted a simple 100-line introduction to breeder reactors.....this book is the best around at doing that.

All of this said....Bailey does come to inform you in chapter six that he's somewhat in agreement with climate change.  He will note that some doom enthusiasts have screwed up the science and turned it into a difficult topic for the public.  What he will get to eventually....is that we have technology, cutting edge ideas, and ways to solve the problem without involving vast changes to the economy....which he indicates the bulk of alarmists and doom enthusiasts are more into chaining capitalism than fixing the issue.

Some sidenotes.....it's a heavy-science book and you won't be able to read the book over a weekend.  It would be an excellent reference book to have around when discussing cancer causes or health issues which got into the doom chatter.  I wouldn't recommend it for a high school kid, and it might be a difficult book for first or second-year college kids to absorb and digest.

I'd generally say after reading it.....if you were fairly skeptical about things before you read the book....you've probably intensified your skeptical nature by twenty percent after wrapping up the End of Doom.

Your Friendly Post Office

Around 1920, in this charged up era of prohibition and alcohol issues....the US government passed a law that said that the Post Office system could not ship or transport alcohol, period.  For roughly a hundred years.....that law has been in place.

I noted this week in the Wall Street Journal....a piece which touched on the Post Office and alcohol issue.  The current commissioner of the Post Office system wants the law repealed.  He's kinda added up numbers and indicates that they could generate at least fifty million dollars in income if they could pick up and deliver beer, wine or booze.   There's at least two Senators who will push it but no one is sure about this passing.

For a hundred years, the Postal system has protected our morality and virtues.  At least, that's what the intention of the original law was all about.  The prohibition era lasted roughly thirteen years.  What can be said is that the saloon negativity did come to an end, but private and personal usage of alcohol continued on, and within twelve months....a large segment of American society were continuing their drinking habits.  Oddly, no one said a word about the Postal law and no one made any attempt to repeal it.

Today?  Well....thirty-three states have some form of county or city prohibition still in effect.  Seventeen states dictate that no county or city can attempt a limit on alcohol without state consent, which is usually impossible to gain.

Alabama has three entire counties still dry, with twenty-odd counties considered 'moist' (meaning some city has gone wet but the overall county is dry.  About every two years now.....more towns in Alabama go 'moist', so the prohibition tendency is slowly dying off.

The problem with the Post Office idea?  There will have to be some office hired within the agency which monitors wet and dry situations, and sets the standard.  You probably won't be able to ship nine-percent beer to a number of states or cities.  You probably won't be able to mail directly to some guy's house (meaning you have a note to come by the Post Office with an ID to pick up your booze).  And you won't be able to ship to any county or city which is dry.

This profit idea?  I just don't see many people logging onto Amazon and ordering up wine or booze via this method.  But I could see some intellectual guy sitting on his patio in Alabama and desiring the fancy taste of a Seattle-brewed beer (like Stoup's green beer).  You log on and order a six-pack on Wednesday night, and by Saturday....Clarence....your mail-guy.....puts the note in your box and you drive over to pick up your Stoup's beer.  That night.....you sit and talk excessively to your buddy over a bar-b-q and a green beer about the essence and marvelous taste of the green-tinted beer.  Then your buddy will mention that Stoups has a whiskey-barrel aged beer with nine-percent alcohol.  In seconds, you will log on and order a six-pack of that barrel for next weekend.

Maybe after five years, guys might adapt and be drinking all kinds of custom beers and the big five beer companies will finally admit they can't compete with the micro brewery operations.

All of this.....thanks to the Post Office changing the rules.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Cuba and Flights

The Wall Street Journal carried an item yesterday....over air travel being worked on by the Obama Administration and the possibility of air routes to Cuba established by the end of the year.

What's generally felt....is that some type of open door will occur and regular flights occur.  If you read between the lines....I'd take a humble guess that the week prior to Thanksgiving....it'll happen, and at least two airlines will offer a Miami to Havana or New York to Havana route on Thanksgiving weekend.

What develops by Christmas....at least by what I see is a dozen cities on the east coast offering at least a once-a-day flight into Havana, and Miami probably having a dozen flights a day.

Who goes to Cuba?  Well....in the beginning....a number of couples who just have this desire to be the first people on their block who've been to Havana.  It'll be a trip down to visit some resort built and run by some French or German folks...some casino experience....and beach episode.  Eventually, some folks will visit to utilize the Cuban cheap medical services.

By the end of 2016, I'll predict at least a hundred flights a day going into Havana.....with the news media describing how Havana became overrun by so many Americans and the charming Communist character of the city is forever lost.

Somewhere along the way.....missionary groups from various church groups will converge upon Cuba and a whole new angle on missionary work will emerge.  By 2020, Cuba will be in the middle stages of a society issue where half the island is enthusiastic about some religious conversion and the other half attached to the old Communist doctrine.

The Trump Scenario

Ten observations over what might unfold:

1.  If Trump picks up more than twenty-five state primary wins, then it'll be tough for the Republican undeclared convention delegates (roughly fifty percent of those attending will be non-primary delegates) to push him out of the way and hand it off to Bush.  If they do it....massive numbers of Republicans won't vote in November.  Oddly, they could allow Trump to proceed but give him almost no national Republican support or funding (something noted out of Virginia after Cantor was voted out by the Tea Party guy).

2.  A Trump cabinet would probably include Walker as the VP, Cruz as Attorney General, and Rubio in some cabinet post.  I also think Doctor Carson might be brought for a 'czar'-type position and retained as a close adviser to Trump.  Chris Christie and Jeb Bush would find no welcome mat for their services, but they kinda know that will be the case.  A number of business people would be brought in for various departments.

3.  The border fence/wall deal will not be a favored topic among both Republicans and Democrats.  Neither will prioritize it upon Trump arriving as President.  So, he'll carry out the construction without their help, and let the public know this was the only way to accomplish it.  2018's election will be interesting because old favorites of both parties will be likely pushed out. The fence or wall will get built.

4.  The network news folks will have problems in a anti-Trump theme.  The public won't buy into it....from either the typical Democrat or typical Republican voter.  Fox News will actually dip to lower numbers within six months of the Trump arrival.

5.  Trump and Putin.  I think Putin would be sitting there for hours....reading over intelligence reports and trying to figure out Trump.  Putin would eventually pour several shots of vodka and finally admit that there is no logical way of understanding Trump other than there's always a deal in the mix of things and Trump is not a political figure in any fashion.  Maybe the two guys would mix well....but I have my doubts.

6.  Trump on the economy.  Stocks and the 'thrill' of a Trump period would take off.  Somewhere in the fifth to eighth year.....there would be a huge crash-and-burn episode.  Too much enthusiasm and no controlled braking during the Trump period....would require a recession at some point.

7.  Trump would fire people.  You'd casually open the paper about six weeks into a Trump presidency to find that he fired a guy.  A week later....you'd observe that the fired another guy.  Lawsuits would occur and get dragged out in court over three or four years, with half the fired guys getting some judge to haul them back into the old position.  There'd be pages and pages of fired guys who would be dragged around by the media and discussed as 'victims'.....till the point where the public would ask what they did to get fired.

8.  Executive orders?  I think Trump would set the all-time record for E-O's.  The House and Senate (with both Republican and Democrats cooperating) would try to hinder these orders but Trump would simply drag them into court.  Both parties would try to use budget crisis periods to control the situation, and Trump would simply shut down the government and play out the game on TV.....making both parties look stupid.

9.  When retired President Obama comes out to do a critical assessment or negative comment about the Trump Presidency.....Trump would likely come up with a top ten screw-up's of the Obama period and the public would marvel at the debate between the two.

10.  Trump would likely walk away after the 4th year and just say it was enough.  The issue for both parties is that he's challenged the whole make-up of the political character enough.....that neither can go forward with six-line resume characters running for President anymore.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The "Wall" Crowd

Generally, you can go and ask the build-the-wall crowd  and the anti-build-the-wall-crowd various questions over immigration, the 'Mexicans', legal terms and ethics.....but never get any real comforting answers.

So I'm a history guy, and I like how history relates lessons learned....some wise, and some pointless.

The Chinese started a wall operation in the period of 700 BC.  When it was finally done.....roughly five-hundred years would have passed.  Course, this wasn't a wire fence, or modern technology type situation.....it was brick and cement.  What the Chinese wanted....was a wall that stood the issues of time.  I should also mention that this was a 13,000 mile wall....way more than from you'd want from Texas to California.

Chinese historians will tell you....in a blunt way....the way achieved everything desired.  They will also note that it was a public project, and employed folks of the region....keeping them happy, occupied and fulfilled.  The foreign guys stayed out for the most part (they were failures of the wall), and some folks did climb over.....but without horses.....it was a bit difficult to march on and get somewhere.

The East Germans built two walls.  One was the border fence along the front between East and West Germany.  The other was the circling fence or wall that was put up in Berlin.  The evil West Berlin folks, with no inhibitions or control of desires were kept from the "people of perfection" in DDR (the Democratic folks who liked Communism).

If you go back 1,500 years across Germany itself today, you will find evidence of hundreds of walled cities and towns.  The walls were built to keep trouble-makers out, and protect folks during periods of incursion.  Generally, the walls worked unless the trouble-makers were creative and found ways to break the walls down.

Generally, if you build a wall....someone will come along and say they can conquer the wall.  People take pride in overcoming walls.  If you built a seventy-foot tall wall.....there'd be some guy to come along real quick and find five ways of getting over the top of that wall.  The guy might even write a book about the experience.

What I see from Trump-the-candidate....is that he might actually get elected and be part of the wall-crowd.  Then he'd arrive in DC to find that the Republicans really can't find any enthusiasm or willingness to put money into a wall.  The Democrats will just stand there.....gleefully smiling and not having to say anything because the fraudulent Republicans are doing all the work for them.

Trump would stand there for around six minutes....listening to the reasons why they won't fund it, and then say fine.....he'd just assign the US military to the task and just start yanking them back from South Korea, Europe and the Pacific.....to build the wall.  Republicans would go on TV and chat about how you need to build a wall, but only in the right way, at the right time, and with the right plan.  This would consume an entire weekend of political chat shows.

Generally, I don't think the wall would do an awful lot because folks would just seek out smarter ways.....maybe like digging a tunnel or just taking a rubber boat from Mexico to the Texas coastline (kinda like they do from Libya to Italy today).  The thing is....we've gone so long in this fake agenda business, that we really don't believe much of anything that's said now.....by either party.

Being against the Mexicans?  Well.....I'd be all for a wall built up along the Canadian border too....except I know that the Canadians don't really care much to illegally cross (there might be forty a year that do it illegally).  The eventual problem I see is that 300,000 Nigerians or Chinese guys might also get the idea that it's awful easy......sailing to Mexico, and then just hiking across.  Would we be just as happy to see them crossing the border as the Mexicans?  I have doubts.

So, maybe at the end of the 2016 election.....we might accidentally elect Trump as President and start on some wall.  We might even call up some Chinese guys or former East German engineers to ask how you build a good wall.

The Server Issue

I've watched the Hillary server story bounce around for several weeks now.  This new piece.....where the FBI has the server but it's been 'wiped' has stood out.  Yesterday, the FBI kinda hinted.....they think they can recover data from the 'wiped' server.

For a number of years, I worked around IT folks and the classified environment.  When it came time to bring a server down or get rid of the hard drives.....you were left with two options.  One was total destruction or magnetic degaussing....which was a hundred-percent deal and no possible recovery.  This costs some funding/money.  The second method was some approved software deal which would wipe the drive.

An IT guy explained it to me one day.....there was the cheap method where some companies would just do a once over software and they were satisfied.  As the guy said.....with that software type and attitude, if you had the right secondary software and were aggressive.....you could recover some to all of the data on the drive.  The Air Force was always picky about this and paid for the more costly software.....which did the four-star job.

Oddly, with the people I worked with.....they liked the total destruction method....where it got shipped to some facility in the states and put into a grinder.

I look at the Hillary episode and note that they never once seemed to worry about the server falling into the wrong hands (like the FBI).  The company they hired?  They weren't exactly a four-star big-name company.  I'd have my doubts that they went out and bought the big-name software to wipe dozens of times over.....some hard drive.  They probably put some junior technician in charge of this and he used a regular wipe program that wasn't that efficient in nature.

So, Hillary is sitting there and wondering about this stupid hard drive and the contents.  If the FBI brings back all the data.....then what?  It'll take six months to read all the data and come to some conclusions.  Is there other email accounts?  Are there forty-odd people using this one server?  Are there discussions about bribes and special favors?

If the FBI hadn't been called into this......no one would think much about the episode.  Now?  You ought to have doubts about the nature of the Hillary campaign and if it can survive this.

The Democrats are sitting there with three marginal guys and a dismal view of the convention period for 2016.  If a quarter of the Democratic voters fail to show up for the election in November of 2016.....how does this hurt the bulk of the 'other' guys running for Democratic office (Senator on down to state parks commissioner)?  In Alabama, twenty-five thousand fewer Democrats voting in a national election year.....is a big deal.

I probably harp on this too much.....but the party is responsible for ALL of their players, and to have the national office equate to marginal interest for the public has a major impact on state-by-state election issues.  Even bond issues and state law changes.....all would have a different turn-out if there's no four-star person running for President's office.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Having Your Wits Around You

Having your wits around you.....wise words passed by a guy making an observation over the recent deaths in Spain with the bull running scheme.

Years ago (probably into the early 1980s), I had this fascination with the Spanish event held yearly....mostly in Pamplona but also in other cities across Spain.

The Running of the Bulls is a eight day event and it usually heats up just after lunch each day where six of the bulls are herded up into one area of a cobble-stoned street.....then turned loose on a number of guys who get to run down the street and hope they don't get trampled or gored.  At the end of this end, the bulls end up in the local stadium, where they will be used for the bull fights of the day.  One should note.....the complex of the entire day will be all six bulls being taken down, and sent off to some local butcher.

The history behind this?  Well, it's an odd piece of Spanish history.  Going back into the 1400s, Spanish cattlemen were kinda like the cowboys of the American west.  They were young and looking for some thrills.  So they'd eventually get to Pamplona where the bulls would be herded down the narrow streets to the local butcher area.  The Spanish cowboys got the idea to run the herd a bit faster and turn this into a show of sorts for the locals.....which meant a couple of guys were at the back to push the herd forward, and a couple of fast guys were in the front to show off their courage and charisma.  No one says much if guys got trampled or gored in those days.....my hunch would be they did but it wasn't recorded into history.

If you follow the bulls runs.....you'd note that this year has been a bit different.  Currently, if you count all bull runs in 2015.....there's been ten folks killed so far.  The Spanish media doesn't talk much over the wounded or severely injured.....just the death count.  Ten is considered awful high and getting a fair amount of discussion.

The chief cause of the ten deaths?  Well.....social media.

What folks say is that guys have shown up with smart-phones and they want to get into the run.....video-taping their situation as they run, and they aren't paying attention to the bull and the general escape path.  They are looking a good bit at the smart-phone screen and trying to get better pictures of the bull chasing them.  It's a multi-task situation which humans aren't capable of performing well.

A local mayor in the region analyzed everything, looking over the deaths, and then kinda noted in commentary to the reporter over the article.....you need to have your wits around you.  It's wise words....something that a farmer in Bama would say or some NCAA football coach would say in practice.

Two years ago, I noted that some California guys were discussing the idea of bull runs to be held there.  There was to be some animal cruelty folks who were going to use the court to hinder them and possibly stop this episode.  It's hard to imagine that it'd happen in the US.....too many lawyers would be involved and you'd have to charge folks a thousand dollars for the privilege of running with the bulls.  Then you'd have to do alcohol checks to ensure everyone was sober, and probably some mental test to ensure they weren't crazy (like those Spanish folks).  There'd probably be some age requirement, and a gun/knife check at the starting point to ensure it was a fair race.

For these ten guys who've passed on in Spain because of the bull run this year.....I'm guessing all of them figured they had a ninety-nine percent chance of survival....otherwise, they wouldn't have been this stupid.  The problem is....when dealing with a 1,500 pound steer....you can't be sure of their view of the situation, and when he stops for a second and does a 180-degree turn....you might be standing there in a bit of shock that your bull run strategy didn't consider this possible change in the scenario.  Your wits?  Well, at that point, you are maxing out to one-thousand-percent of your wits.....trying to think of the reason why you did this stupid race and realizing you've got two seconds before this bull gores you.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The Tunes Story

Some smart folks at Brunel University (west of London) did a study over medical operations, anxiety among patients, and music.  Oddly, they came to this conclusion....there's a better outcome to the operation procedure if you listen to some likable music before and after the surgery.

To achieve a decent survey, they've polled around seven thousand folks.  Course, they also interviewed the medical folks involved, and they (the medical folks) said.....they were agreeable with this, as long as it didn't interfere with their process or procedures.

There's a historical side to this story because roughly a hundred years ago.....the idea was put forward, and then discounted by the medical establishment.

What's this all mean?  Well....some other group will start to ask the question if the Bee Gee's tunes are better for pre-Op, or maybe some Willie Nelson, or some heavy metal tunes from the 1970s.  Naturally, this will take into account people are different and what might work work with one guy.....won't work with the next guy.

This could trigger hospitals to hire up amateur DJ's who'd sit down with Gus while he's preparing for surgery tomorrow, and ask for suggestions for the hour before surgery and the hour after surgery.  Gus will sit there for a while and remark that he's a harmonica guy for the pre-Op, and then he'd like some Scottish fiddle music for the hour after the procedure.  The DJ will sit there, then admit he's got mostly pop stuff from the 1990s, eight-eight tunes from Johnny Cash, and four-hundred classical or opera tunes.

Eventually, as research episodes continue on and twenty years into the future.....we will come to discover that people will select Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire have a 99-percent chance of survival after an operation, for some unexplained reason.  The science guys will shake their heads.....it just can't be that simple.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

DC and Shootings

There was a big meeting this week in DC, between the police department and the city authorities.  Right now, the murder rate in DC is on pace to hit 145 by 1 January.....the highest rate of the past six years for DC.

The chief of police wanted everyone to know that there are two basic problems.  Statistics show that a high number of the current 2015 murders were committed by guys who'd been released from prison in the past year or so.....who were supposed to be ineligible to own a gun (yeah, there's actually a federal law to prevent such things from happening, and it's a shocker that the law wasn't obeyed).  She also wanted folks to know that high-capacity magazines were part of the problem and need to be addressed.  Oddly, she couldn't cite any statistical trend to show such.....it normally only takes one or two bullets to kill a guy, so I'm at a loss to see how a magazine holding ten to fifteen rounds matter.

I noticed in other news around DC.....the city council and police have upped the pressure on illegal mini-cycles, quad bikes, and dirt-bikes being operated around the city.  All of this comes from a shooting in May where a reporter in the midst of a crowd was shot and killed by some punks who were shooting back and forth while on illegal mini-bikes or quads and traveling through the city.

One city council guy from DC wants thugs who get caught on the illegal bikes to spend six months in city jail and pay $1,000.....but only after getting caught on the third occasion.  Of course, none of these bikes are registered or tagged.....that's the amusing thing about the trend.  You go out with some drug-money profits.....spend $700 and you got immediate transportation.  You get into some trouble.....then dump the bike and walk away.

Having lived in the DC region.....you come to realize after a while that most punks in the age group of 15 to 21....don't care.  They don't care for civilization....laws....respect.....etc.  So you get caught doing something wrong....no one cares.  As for the high capacity magazine humor that the police chief offered.....Andy worried about Barney to such a degree, that he only allowed him one bullet, and even then.....that was one too many.  But you could hand 10,000 Americans a gun and one bullet, and the vast majority of us (probably 9,997) would walk through life and after fifty years.....still have the one gun and one bullet.

The Bartender Story

I noted this week that the MIT guys have been busy.  These are the 'rocket-scientists' of America.  They think of a problem, and solve it.  Well....they finally built a bartender-robot.

I'm not sure of the priority of such a requirement, or if the pub-owners of America hinted that it might be more cost effective.....but they sat down and designed the first version of the bartender-robot.

The guys who designed the bartender-robot admit that there are limits to this.  For example.....if someone drops a drink on the floor.....this robot doesn't have the ability to solve the problem or clean up the mess....at least not yet.

I'm guessing a couple of Japanese robot designers will look over this bit of news....spend three years in an enclosed lab and emerge with a robot who does all the drink business, and cleans up the dropped drink.

I noted that they didn't really give the drink robot a typical bartender name....like "Ernie" or "Mandy" or "Monty".  This is one of the key things about a bartender.....there's an established relationship between bartender and the customer.

Bartenders serve this odd position in life.....providing consultation, judgement, recommendations and tips.

A guy screws up on a relationship, and within hours....he'll be at the bar to ask for advice.  A gal makes a big mistake at the office, and within hours.....she'll be at the bar to seek guidance.  A guy will lose big-time at a poker game and within hours.....he's at the bar to get an opinion on how to explain this significant loss to the wife.

How will the robot fit into this scheme?  I'm not sure.  Maybe they can eventually program "Elvis 2.0" to stand there while serving a drink, and note the three big rules of a failed relationship, or rattle off the five best TV shows of the 1970s, or discuss rocket-science issues over dishwashers.  Maybe you could tie this robot into Goggle and he'd just answer question after question.  Maybe at some point, after the third or fourth drink....."Elvis 2.0" would ask you for a blood sample to ensure you aren't drunk and he'd test you right there at the stool.

We are probably safe for another decade or so before this sort of stuff gets out of control and suddenly they show up in big-name bars in Seattle or Portland.  It'll be another thirty years before they start to show up in the heartland and small towns.  

Sushi/Bar-b-q Place

This past week, I was visiting out in Dresden, Germany.

Outside of the hotel, maybe 200 feet away....was this local restaurant.....a Japanese sushi and bar-b-q place.

I probably looked at the sign a dozen-odd times as I strolled by the place.  Sushi and bar-b-q.  It's an odd mix.  

Sushi is a top dish of Japanese people.....involving steamed vinegar-added rice, a couple of vegetables laid over the top, and usually fish.  You might throw a fruit or two on top for sweetening affect.  I'm not exactly into Sushi, and I'll admit.....being from Bama.....it's hard for me to adapt to international dishes at times.

How many Sushi/bar-b-q places have I ever noted in life?  Well....none.  This is the only one.

I have my doubts that this place will be open long.....maybe six months.....maybe a year.  Maybe if they'd gone to just an Asia-style food place, or just some southern-style bar-b-q place.....it might have more of a chance for success.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bacon as a Topic

Last week, I noticed the anti-Coke graphic....which really got down into the negative aspects of Coke in your diet.  It was an interesting graphic, and based on the science.....it's kinda true.

This week, the bacon crowd came up with their own graphic.  They tried hard to make it sound anti-bacon, but it's pro-bacon all the way.

To be honest, I have an addiction to bacon.  If you gave me the choice.....I'd buy the least-lean bacon possible....with extra fat.....and cook up six to eight slices.  Forget the crispy stuff.....I want the 'bad' stuff.

Does the bacon 'mafia' know this factor?  Yes.  I suspect they meet quarterly, discuss the sales strategy and work hard to keep guys like me hooked to the greasy product.  You can imagine the guys sitting there.....talking up the grease and bad health aspects....then grinning....and finally getting to the new science of adding more fat than normal to the product.

Getting me to kick the habit?  No.  No way.

The Past and the Future

There's a study completed by a mapping service in the UK.....with 2,000 people participating....which kinda determined the top twenty skills....essential and time-honored skills.....that we are losing because of innovation and advancement in society.

It's a list that you might want to review:

- Reading a map.  Since GPS came along, most people don't think about maps....they just plug the location into the computer and it guides them there.  The basic idea of north and south?  Dissolving.

- Using a compass.  You could probably go to a hundred people today, and less than five will admit they've used a compass in the past decade.  Fifty years ago, it would have been something used on a regular basis.

- Knots.  If you went back a hundred years ago....there were probably four or five knots that most people knew and could tie.  Today.....out of a thousand people....maybe ten might know enough to remember two or three knots.

- ID trees, bugs and plants.  It was a necessity back in the 1800s.  Today?

- Wiring a plug.  If you finished school in the 1950s or 1960s.....you probably had some introduction to this.  Today?  I doubt if more than three or four kids might be taught the skill of this simple act.

Then you come to this one unique skill set....writing letters.  The truth is, we are shifting over to email and losing the skill of a simple one-page letter.  In the 1840s, you might have mailed one single page to the relatives back where you grew up.....half a world away.....describing the trials and accomplishments of the year.  You'd fill up the entire page and then briefly end it.  This is a skill that we are losing today.

It's worth reading the article and pausing over the effects.  Society is in an evolutionary stage.  Skills that were critically important twenty years ago.....aren't important today.  Tires are built in such a way today that flats are very rare.  Some guys might wake up one afternoon to discover a flat, and some ultra modern 'jack' sitting in the trunk.....which they aren't familiar with the method of using it or how to secure such a jack to the car itself.

It is something to ponder.  As much as we are advancing.....we are also dumping skills along the side of life, and thinking they will be of no use in the future.


Thursday, 6 August 2015

Simply Observations

First, there's a great storyline over at the British Telegraph over oil prices and the Saudi strategy in play, which is mostly now a failure.  Somewhere in the middle is this graphic chart where oil producers have their bottom line for making their state budget work.  Right now....Norway and Kuwait make just enough off the $60 price listing for oil....to make their budgets.  Sadly, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia don't make enough and are eating up what financial capital they had.....and likely borrowing to meet yearly budgets.  Another year or two of $60 a barrel prices?  In the case of Iran, they probably won't make it....but in a twist of sorts because of the nuke treaty with the US.....they might get some money that's been in the bank for a while, and quietly survive longer than Saudi Arabia.

Second, the guy in the Nashville theater shooting....was a certified nut.  Relatives admit the guy had been put into a facility on at least four occasions.  Each time, with proper drug usage....the folks who managed the facilities signed the guy off as 'OK'.  The problem with this managed nut situation....is that each person needs to live a simple lifestyle and take their drugs each day....with no alcohol or other drugs in their life.  The odds of a hundred such nuts accomplishing this?  It's pretty bad odds.

Third, the FBI has now been pushed into the Hillary server affair.  It's been almost three months since the story started, and something has occurred to get the Justice Department to finally react.  Legal trouble?  If they call Hillary into some office to provide a statement....I would have doubts that she shows up.  All of this leads me to think that the internal machine of the White House is going to help someone suddenly come out by November and draft an unknown character who will sweep through the Iowa primary with shocking results as Hillary steps out of the race.

Fourth and final, Liberty University has invited Bernie Saunders (far-left leaning Democrat) to come and speak.  It's a thriller of sorts to imagine this scene and how people might take Bernie's words.  I think most people....even far-right conservatives....would agree with ten-to-twenty percent of Bernie's comments.  Another twenty-odd percent would be almost acceptable.  The question would be....would you vote for Bernie?

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Dead Lions Talk

Not that I care that much for the Cecil the Lion (the old lion that whacked by the American dentist)....but I noted today that some gal who claims to be a seance-expert.....that she was able to communicate with dead Cecil (the lion).

She wanted to let folks know that Cecil is doing ok in the afterlife.....urging folks to be strong and speak up for those who suffer. Bring some light and some love....to life.  That was the words from dead Cecil (the lion).

Dead lion communication?  Well....you see, this is all part of the whole gimmick.  If some people hyped up the first part of the story....why can't a second wave hype up more of the dead lion story with some communication episodes.

Maybe we could have a seance crew each week communicate with dead animals....like Lassie, Flicker, Ole Yella, Mister Ed, and Flipper the dolphin.

Are we finished with Cecil and his affairs yet?  No.

Sadly, I think there's still more to come.

The Thursday Debate

Well...it's the opening point of the 2016 election and the long anticipated Thursday night debate is to arrive with a 'bang' (at least the news folks think that).

If you look at the ten people who will be on the stage and the limited time of the debate....each guy will be lucky to have two minutes to a question and I doubt if that many people will get much out of the episode. For the quick-witted politicians.....an extra jab or two, and maybe five of the folks in the running will be quietly pushed aside and finished off long before we get to Iowa in January.

There are a couple of folks who can do marginally well in debate forums.....Rubio, Bush, and Scott Walker.  Cruz is more capable than most of these people in debate and he might be the one to really gain points from impressions made.  As for Trump?  If he's in attack-status....he'll make the lesser capable candidates look lousy and help to end their campaigns early on.

One might note here.....there's still not a word from the Democrats of a debate and zero chance of any debate coming up before October.  I personally have my doubts that a full-up debate will occur this year from the Democratic Party.  Hillary isn't much on debate skills and there's just not any real enthusiasm from the public for some debate.

Bottom line?  Trump has a stage to speak from and the level playing field that journalists have been toying with and pretending that exists.....will be a forgotten item in a couple of days.  It'll be strictly a four man race from the end of August on.....Trump, Cruz, Walk and Bush.  Rubio may take up a stand in Florida to subtract votes from Bush....but beyond that.....he won't generate national interests.  And the rest will find little public interest.