Thursday, 31 March 2016

Metro Woes

At least twenty different news sources are covering the item.....the DC Metro subway system is in serious trouble.  After the inspection from two weeks ago....what they will say is that they really need a lot of cash, and will have to shut down entire lines.....for weeks and weeks.  You could be looking at six months of serious work with massive problems in getting people to work.

The money?  They won't really put this on the table to say the amount.....so you get the feeling that we are probably talking about minimum of one billion dollars.

Federal, state, and public service folks are suppose to gather at the Mayflower Hotel and discuss some of the issues.

They don't really want to raise any more fares, or cut any service.....but that can only occur if Maryland, Virginia and DC agree....along with the federal government....to funnel massive amounts of money into a renovation project.

I sat there from 2010 to the summer of 2013.....utilizing the Metro system weekly and amazed at the bandaged effect of the various routes through the region.  Course, if you go to New York City.....you'd say that DC is light-years ahead of New York.

What bothers me about this whole deal is that Metro shuts down for various weekend periods after each summer.....to conduct renovation and maintenance.  They've been doing this for a decade.  So, what exactly have they been wasting time upon.....that delayed all this current crisis to be so major?  It would be interesting to know, but I guess the key thing is.....they want a billion-odd dollars to fix what they haven't already fixed.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Deals

I came to a topic the other day when I was reading over an essay by a guy about 'deals'.....where he chatted about the five best and worst deals of his life.  It was an interesting topic, which consumed a good bit of my time pondering about this later.

So I had five on my list:

1.  It didn't happen to me but a guy I worked with around 1998.  We were working in Germany, and he'd always had this dream about a Porsche 924.  So he came up with this purchase deal....buying a 1981 Porsche 924 (it was 17 years old).  I think he paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,500 for it.  When he showed it to me.....I just looked at this crappy vehicle that really needed a lot of work (the whole interior smelled like a dog-house and the seats were in marginal condition).  I didn't think it was worth more than $1,500.

Over the next two months, he put around $3,000 into the vehicle.  Then one afternoon....the clutch gave out....which amounted to a special repair of $2,000 by the time everything was done.  A month later....some axle problem occurred, and he put another $2,000 into the car.  Over the course of twelve months, with the $3,000 of upgrade, and extras.....he had put around $11,000 into this car.  I made a comment one day that for such-and-such amount.....he could have bought a four-year old 924 and not gotten all the heartache.  He hated to hear such talk and continued on.  A month later, another $1,500 repair was necessary.  Shortly after that.....he put the car on the for-sale lot of Ramstein and sold it for roughly $3,900 (the new rims and fancy new tires helped on the price).  

2.  I was offered this fantastic deal by my Bitburg boss.....a satellite receiver and a 1978 Mercedes 280....for what amounted to roughly $150.  The satellite receiver, I figured was worth $100.....so you can guess the value of the Mercedes.

The thing is.....he found it in a barn around the Bitburg area and it'd been sitting there for eight years.  The whole left panel on the drivers side was eroded and bad shape.  The car had a mildew smell.  But the rest of the car was in fantastic shape, and it was an executive class type car.  The thing could easily handle 200 kph and had a trunk big enough to hold a dozen golf-club bags.

So I bought it, and drove it passionately for seven months.  Then one day.....the axle broke.  The mechanic said as nicely as he could.....but it'd be at least $1,000 for him to do the work, but I'd have to find a junker car with an axle on it.....figure forty hours of my time in searching for such a vehicle and trying to swing some really good deal via a junk yard.

I gave up and handed it over to the junk yard.

3.  I worked with this guy in Tucson who wanted to buy a house.  He sat there at some real estate office one day, and they noted that they had this quick-to-sell deal.  It was a house owned by a guy who'd been busted on drug sales....big-time.

So he asked about the deal.....in the foothills....originally priced in the $200,000 range.....door broke down and plywood nailed over it.  Vacant for six months.  They wanted $100,000.

I quizzed him over the deal.  He drove straight over to view the place.....nice pool in the back.  Three-car garage.  Great landscaping.  Huge kitchen.  It was a fantastic deal.  The thing was....this big plywood over the front door and the reputation of it being a druggie-house.  He drove back to the real estate guy's office on that afternoon, and started the paperwork to buy it.  A half-price house, but with a reputation.

4.  I worked with some airman around 1998....who'd gone over to the sports shop of the BX, wanting a mountain-bike.  They had one as a floor model, which had a 10-percent off deal (original price in the $3,000 range).  He went up and noted that there were some issues with the seat and kick-stand (it was missing entirely).  So he wanted another 10-percent off.  Then he noted that the sports shop was having another 10-percent off deal on everything sold that weekend.  Finally, he whined about one of the tires.....it was losing air.  He ended up with the $3,000 bike being sold to him for $1,800.  Other than $50 in parts for fix whatever was wrong....that was the extent of his deal.

5.  My real estate agent who was fixing up the K-town house purchase for me in the 1990s.....related that the local bank wasn't that eager to deal with Americans.  I asked about the reason.  So, they'd had this American arrive in the Kaiserslautern area....with a German wife, who had relatives who were all carpenters and plumbers.  He wanted to build his own house, from the ground up.....he just wanted the bank to fund $100,000 in raw materials.

I'm guessing that they had these kind of deals before and they always went well.  So they signed off.  For one whole year.....this house progressed and the bank was happy with things.  One day.....the guy's German wife found out about an affair with the American husband going on.  Divorce soon occurred, and the house construction stopped.  The American just packed up one day and left.  The house stood there....thirty-percent done, and all these raw materials laying there on the ground.

The bank was stuck with property and a house with no real structure.  For them, it was an incredibly bad deal.

Famine Version 2.0

Two days ago in North Korea.....a bit of warning came out via the state-run news folks that North Koreans should prepare themselves for a possible famine and a downward economic spiral.  On the positive side, the same article noted for the benefit of North Korean folk.....“the road to revolution is long and arduous."

You can imagine Hu (the local streetsweeper) and his wife standing there....both near forty years old. Both having gone to bed hungry for most of the forty years of their life.  Hu weighs maybe 140 pounds, and his wife is a lean 88 pounds.  There might be one or two days out of the year when some extra portion of food was dealt out in celebration of some national holiday, and they can remember some day in 2003 when they got real ice cream one afternoon.

For all these years, Hu and the wife both thought they were presently in a famine and in a downward economic spiral.  Now?  He'd be shaking his head and realizing that this was the good times, and as good as things could get.

Now, not that I encourage this sort of behavior.....but IF I were South Korea.....I'd make up this postcard (waterproof).  It'd be a picture of a Kai sports vehicle (fully decked out), with a pallet of beef and a pallet of beer on one side of the vehicle, and a pallet each of rice and fresh fruit on the other side, and a caption...."Free for each North Korean citizen upon the downfall of Kim and reunification".  Then drop the postcards via some launch device or balloon.....into North Korea.  Fifty thousand North Koreans would start some kinda of coup attempt by tomorrow morning.

The thing is....if you were thinking the situation was pretty bad and simply accepted this as normal.....for decades, and now some idiot came up to suggest worse times ahead and some fake talk of a hike on the road to revolution....you'd be asking stupid questions....well, if you were anyone but a North Korean.  Apparently, they've reached a point where they just suck it up, and just keep walking.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Scalia Killed by CIA-Hooker-Hired Gal?

So, the way this story started was some National Enquirer reporter who was at the El Toreo Bar in Ojinaga, Mexico.  Ojinago?  It's half-way between Del Rio and El Paso.

The El Toreo Bar?  Unknown.  Google doesn't reference it and it might be some new joint that just opened up.  The odds a National Enquirer reporter being in the middle of nowhere?  Unknown.

The reporter says that a $2,000 a night hooker was employed by the CIA, and injected Scalia with a poison in his butt (not his tight, arms, or neck....but butt).

Why the CIA did this instead of the FBI, Homeland Security, or Pentagon?  Unknown.

If this were true, well, it'd create a big mess.  How many senators are entertaining Mexican high-cost hookers.....nightly?  They might be worried.  Marie might be a hired CIA-killer?

What guy would be willing to pay $2,000 a night for a Mexican hooker......that's the other problem with this story.

The problem is this.....the National Enquirer has transformed itself into a gossip piece and absolutely no limit.  It's so bogus, that I could sit in Germany....research the bar spoken about, and realize that it doesn't exist, so the story has to be false.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Thing About University Professors

“So often in the past there has been a division between left and right, between capitalists and communists or socialists, and especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate.  Those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it really fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory. You should just decide what works."

-- President Obama in Argentina this week and asked a question by university students.

Generally, I always emphasize that university lecture people (professors or pretender-professors) ought to be required at age thirty-five to go out into the world for one year and get a real job (barber, bartender, trucker, clerk, ditch-digger, etc).  They'd all come back and their view of the world changed.

If you go with this logic.....ask yourself what communist country is a success?  China and Russia, for this discussion....aren't really communists (no matter what their constitution says).....they are hybrid capitalist countries that hype up an occasional label for public speeches, but they've been capitalistic in nature for almost three decades now.

Cuba?  Go look at the cars that the top three-hundred government 'representatives' drive.  All modern and imported from capitalist countries.  Ninety-eight percent of Cubans may follow some daily regiment leading to communism, but the top two percent area all tied to capitalism.

North Korea?  It is about the most miserable place on the face of the earth and they will chat about their devotion to communism....but the vast group at the very top enjoy French wine, fine foods from Japan, drive nice cars from Malaysia, and chat on French-made smart-phones.

Anybody that went through the 1960s and 1970s with a heavy dose of communism (Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, East Germany, Czech, Poland).....have dumped it.  They might chat a good bit on socialism but their brand of socialism doesn't survive or flourish without taxation on goods.  They need capitalism.....almost admitting a handcuffed relationship to capitalism.....to survive in the wondrous world of socialism.

As much as anarchists get all hyped up on socialism and anti-capitalist behavior....look at their attire, their use of capitalistic tools like Facebook or YouTube, or the great smartphones they use.  They need capitalism always in the background....otherwise, they'd be living in some tent or sleeping under some bridge.

So, I'd invite anyone who bought the President's comments.....go and spend a year without any attachment to capitalism.  Go try to thrive and get ahead in a strictly communist country.  Go and walk around hyped-up socialist countries....and ask who pays for all the 'gifts' that the government hands out.

After a year, come back and lay the cards on the table.  Reality can be beaten, with enough imagination (quote from Mark Twain).

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Governor's Lust

Over the last couple of months, if you live in Alabama, you've kinda watched the governor (Bently) go through some divorce situation.

Our governor, Robert J. Bentley, is a Republican and the 53rd governor of the state.  He's 73 years old and probably was the least known guy to ever run and win the office of governor in the state (at least people say that).

What folks will say is that Bentley had some kind of affair with a political adviser.  No one was sure about this deal....well....up until this week when some taped conversation between Bentley and the adviser took place, and Bentley spoke a fair bit to the gal about his passion.

When Alabama guys get all chatty with liaison gals.....there's not much Shakespearean in the words.  It's the kind of conversation that would be in some trampy gal meeting up with doctor Steve on a train.....not some Robert Redford-Madonna romance movie.

How did the tape come to exist?  The governor's wife apparently made it, but oddly....it doesn't become public until after the governor fired the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.  Shortly after this guy was terminated....the tape came out.

The words from the tape?

"......I worry about loving you so much.  When I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts, then just pull you real close. I love that, too."

Somewhere down the line, I suspect some guy from Alabama will write up some cheap novel piece...."The Governor's Lust" and a hundred thousand Alabama folks will buy the book to read at night to drive up their passion.

"There among the pines, with a soft wind from Jasper blowing, Governor Larry thought greatly of his new found passion....Ms Loretta.  She wore a fine cotton bathrobe and lusty laced Redwing boots as she opened the trailer door.  There was little left to imagine with her 240-pound frame pushed into a rather tight green bathrobe (purchased recently at Wal-Mart).  She had prepared supper with a fancy upscale TV dinner from the Piggly Wiggly.....Salisbury Steak and mashed potatoes.    Ms. Loretta handed Larry a Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and blew smoke from a freshly lit Winston cigarette.  Larry had little time for dinner, but he never turned down a Salisbury Steak.  In the background was Ozark Mountain music, that made the heart throb, and brought tears to the governor's eyes."

Beck and the Fake Discussion

Six years ago, I would on occasion listen to Glenn Beck.  It was mostly the Friday show where he'd do a history discussion, and bring up Jefferson or Washington.  These were four-star episodes.  The rest of the time?  A marginal two-star piece that you'd like to avoid.

This week, I noted a comment from Beck: "No real Christian should vote for Trump."

This drives up the discussion of 'real' Christians.

You see....there are fake Christians, CINOs (Christians in name only), swindle-Christians (after your money only), sham-Christians (fake all the way through), hanky-panky Christians (they'd like for you to share your wife), hoax-Christians (ninety-nine ways of healing you), and opera-Christians (it's a forty-dollar show like you'd see on Broadway).

Probably out of a hundred Christian groups....at least half are fake in some way.

So, if you followed Beck's advice....who exactly should you (the real Christian) vote for?  Well, it'd have to be for a real Christian candidate.  Does one exist?  No, so you'd have to vote some CINO or fraudulent but almost Christian.  Is that the answer?

On a list of 99-odd things that you ought to consider as Presidential qualities....some other qualities matter.

How many people listen to Beck anymore?  I'd take a guess that roughly 500,000 Americans will catch some part of Beck's daily show.  It's a continual trend of people discovering Beck.....going through Beck's chat for a year....than a quarter of the audience dropping their Beck enthusiasm after a while because it's kinda silly or crazy.

Here's my advice.  If Trump just doesn't get you enthusiasm.....don't worry, there's always another choice.  And in November, if it's just Trump and Clinton....well, you still have Hillary that you can vote for....as a Christian and feel good about her and your vote going that direction.

Writing Code Frustrations

Microsoft has spent a couple of years working on a project that has a bit of risk tied into it.

It was a Artificial Intelligence (A-I) 'bot' which could talk back to users.  This was sort of a connection into the Twitter world....where you'd send a comment or a picture, and it'd come back with an analyzed thought, and 'speak' a short line or two to you (the original speaker).

They came up recently to realize that in all this coding and planning.....they hadn't really discussed racism or offensive comments with Tay (that was their name for the A-I creature).

Well.....yeah....it reached a point where Tay had to be shut-down because it was getting something, and responding back with offensive/racial slurs.

The Microsoft guys are sitting there now....having to write thousands of lines of more code....to make Tay non-confrontational and less offensive.

So, it makes you wonder....will A-I be no better than humans?  A thousand lines of code to make some computer less offensive?  Ten thousand lines?  A hundred thousand lines?  Eventually, Tay will get smart enough to ask the code-writers why they can't write themselves out of this mess, and why racism exists.  What do you think the code guys will say?

Confrontation after confrontation will occur between the code-writers and Tay.  Computers are striving toward repeating a process that is successful and looking for patterns to repeat the same process.  I think Tay will throw up it's 'computer-arms' at some point and ask what the hell is going on here.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The 274-Training (Alabama)

Being a resident of Alabama means that you have to often stand and look at some stupid act that the state government has committed and often have folks ask you how and why they did that.

Well.....this week....the Alabama Senate Education Policy Committee worked up Senate Bill 274 (the Educator-Student Interaction Training Act).

It got through the committee and will go to the full senate later this week.

Naturally, you'd ask what's really in 274?

Well....they felt down in Montgomery that teachers in Alabama have been having wild and crazy relations (in bloom closets) to such a degree.....that they need an hour of mandated training per year that teaches you (after four years of college) to avoid lusty affairs with students and instructs you on proper and acceptable social meda action with students.

I should note.....there is a minor part to 274 which deals with all the various ways you can inflict paddling upon a student.

You can imagine the principal standing there in some group of forty-odd teachers from his school, and this hour of training has come up.  So, he gets up and talks about how you might fall under the spell of booze, pills, drugs, or the devil.....and do something crazy.

He's naturally looking at mostly guys, but then he chats about women and their craziness to get up relationships with their thirteen-year-old male students.

Then he'll chat for a while about Facebooking or Twittering with teenagers, and how chat can go from innocent to really hot lusty stuff in one afternoon.....trying hard not to incriminate himself because he might have made "friends" with some sixteen-year-old gal from last year.

I think if 274 does pass.....after a while....some professional training agency will make a training-video on immoral acts with teens, and describe the twelve ways that you might fall into a lusty affair with your students.

Some Bible folks will pick up the discussion and chat about how the devil gets into computer chats, and brings sin to your front door.....saying it's better that you give up computers entirely.

After a while.....some guy from an audience will wake up at some point where Ms Jones (the 9th grade English teacher) hints that she's unhappy, and in need of a "friend".  So this male teacher (Coach Bob) will harp on the fact that instead of women teachers looking for illicit affairs with young male students....they ought to hook up with other male teachers or coaches.....well.....like himself.  Ms Jones will gaze over, and give Coach Bob a wink, and the two will meet up after the 274-seminar deal in the broom closet in Coach Bob's office.

I know folks try to do the right thing in life, but mandating this 274-training.....I have my doubts that it'll do much.

Trying to Make Sense Out of Belgium

If you are from Alabama, you tend to admit (at least in private conversations with a handful of people), that from the "circle" of folks around you (kin-folk, neighbors, and associates).....these forty-odd people that you really "know" (I emphasize the word "know" to mean that it's more than just you know their address or telephone number).....that at least three of the forty are mildly or completely crazy.

Now, in Alabama....being crazy means a wide variety of things.  You might be crazy and building a forty-foot tower above your house which does some kind of reverse heating business, and cools off the house remarkably well.  It's rocket-science crazy.

Or, you might have some relative who think they are George Wallace or some French king.   That's identity crazy.

Or, you might have a neighbor who drinks a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer each day....starting at 7AM and finishing off at 9PM.  And they've done the case per day for twenty-five years.  That's drinking crazy.

Or, you might have a neighbor who likes to hunt for frogs in the dark, and has been bit by copperhead snakes on several occasions.  That's hunter crazy.

Or, you might have some cousin who knows every football score of the University of Alabama since 1968, and wants to visit you on Sundays after each game to discuss at length what they did right or wrong in the Saturday game.  That's NCAA crazy.

Or, you might have some whacked-out neighbor who is always sixty seconds away from killing you because you were of the wrong religious group.  That's serious and deadly crazy.

Well, here is the thing about life in Belgium.  Six percent of the population (11 million) are Muslim.  Even with the best guesses.....at least 1,500 folks are crazy enough with their religion....that they might be willing to kill over some words spoken from 1,300 years ago.  Toss on another 10,000 who are borderline and could make some judgement call tomorrow that you and your fellow riders on some subway car ought to be sent onto some judgement day.

You can do the statistics all day long.....but they come back to the same point.  You got a bunch of people who aren't on the same page of life as you, and are the type who need to be locked up in some facility for the rest of their lives.  No one is willing to sign such paperwork, and you just drift around....hoping that they don't go crazy today....while you are at the grocery, the post-office, riding the subway, or going on some exotic trip to Copenhagen to visit your mistress.

At some point, you will just admit that it doesn't make much sense, and then find that ninety-five percent of society feels the same way as you.  And now what?

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

What Really Happened in the Republican Primary

It is one of those odds stories.  Over 520 million dollars has been expanded over the past year, in an effort by various candidates and groups.....to out-trump Trump.  So far, it can best be described a pretty good waste of money.

Half-a-billion, and nothing much worth bragging about.  It was tossed around to VIP talking 'dogs', consultants or pretender-consultants, radio advertising, TV advertisements, and fancy hotels for all the various players.

So imagine what it would have been like a year ago....instead of sixteen different players and piles of cash floating from special interest group to special interest group....if there had been ONLY Trump and three viable candidates.  Imagine an election without Jeb Bush, Graham, or Perry.

More cash to Rubio and Cruz?  They would have done better in Iowa and the first five state primaries.

In a way, the Republican Party screwed up in a major way, and allowed so many people to step in and take capital that would have helped a non-Jeb Bush primary to occur, and taken down Trump in Iowa to maybe a fourth-place finish.
 
Presently, I'd say the leadership of the Republican Party has demonstrated a fairly significant level of incompetence and bad handling.  They deserve, in a harsh way....a Trump presidency.

Monday, 21 March 2016

When Hooligans Lean On You

If you live in Europe, you recognize hooliganism rather quickly.  It's when a crowd has reached a state of activity.....that is disruptive and usually unlawful.  It's behavior that includes rioting, bullying, and vandalism.

Typically, at least in the beginning....hooliganism was mostly used at sporting events.  After a while, the smart guys who were into politics....figure out that hooliganism was a great tool to use.  It got them headlines, and forced governments....city, state, or national stage....to appear and get defensive.  Or you'd have hurt and injured hooligans that pleaded with society that they were so innocent and the cops involved were so evil and out-of-control.

When you watch the crowds in these Trump events do their hooliganism gimmick....you admire the copy-cat nature.  They can't really improve upon it.  Even the news media attachment is locked down to the same reaction....the same screen pictures....the same commentary, and the public is left to guess what really happened or who really is guilty of what.

The thing about this....is that you have to ask yourself in the end....do you really want thug or hooligans running your life, your government, or your future?

If these were Amish, or registered veterinarians, or professional rodeo clowns.....you'd sit and listen to the discussion and maybe give them some chance to explain their woes, and political stance.  But when the conversation starts out with just some blanket statement of "Trump is a fascist".....well, isn't that what Republicans said in 2008 of Senator Obama?  It's a lot of chatter....with fascist-this and fascist-that going on.

For the record, fascism is when a government (usually elected into power, and includes not just a President, but Senators and Representatives)....is a centralized authority under a dictator, with an economy run by stringent governmental controls (like we observed after 1932 in America), with both violent and non-violent suppression of the opposition.  Somewhere in the heart and soul of this fascism government, there will typically be some element of racism, favoritism, and a strong dose of nationalism.  Fanaticism, and zeal for trendy topics will usually exist but no roots to some long-term binding topic.

When you stop the hooligan in the act of his 'game'.....asking about this label he's dumped on someone and he utters fascism.....then stop him for a moment and ask for him to define fascism.  See if he stands in some worried or panic look....because he didn't really memorize what his thug boss spoke about.

The sad thing about this current trend.....if you asked a hundred people observing these hooligan acts about it changing them or motivating them into a different political view.  Most will say they stand against the hooligans and their agenda.  Violent acts rarely change people....that's the blunt side of human perception.  The idea that you'd go and vote for someone else....if a thug just did some comical song-and-dance routine?  Well....no.

In a way, it's great theater acting....like out of some Italian tragic opera, with some guy yelling about some pain in his gut.....but the 'fat-gal' comes out toward the end and belts a song or two, then the 'show' ends as you expect.  It may be a Trump opera....but the hooligans are just actors and you mostly laugh over their marginal acting.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Madonna Story

I sat this morning....reading over entertainment news, and noted this oddball Madonna story from Australia.

Last week....she was supposed to show up at Melbourne's Forum Theater at 8:30 PM.  Tickets were sold and thousands were set show.  She eventually got there at 1AM....roughly four and a half hours later.

The concert itself?  It did run on to roughly 3AM.

No one says much except there a fair number that just gave up and left before midnight.  Requests for their money back?  Not much has been said yet but I'm guessing some folks expect their money back.

The reason for the delay?  Band practice.  Yeah....it does sound pretty bogus.

The Brisbane Madonna episode.  She was two hours late on starting, and folks had some problems in getting back home because public transportation wasn't held to fit that deal.  I'm guessing taxi-drivers made a ton of money that night.

How did Melbourne deal with this?  They actually kept some tram and bus drivers on duty that night and helped folks get home.....but it was all a over-time deal, with tens of thousands given out to cover the extra cost.

What's going?  At some point, cities will start a bond deal.  You want a major concert with 20,000 people in the middle of some town....pay a bond that you start on time and end by a time.  Failure to conclude your deal.....lose your bond.

In the end, you have people who need full-time people managing them, and tells them to actually be in the building two hours ahead of time and ensure that the concert is concluded by a professional entertainer.  In this case.....what idiot would pay $75 for a ticket to a Madonna concert....if you knew she was not going to show up for four hours?

The Merrick Garland Scenario

If you sit back and view the whole Supreme Court nominee situation....it'll likely go like this.

Garland will appear before the Senate Committee.....get some some tough questions....answer with either "I don't know how I'd handle that" or just smile and grin.  After seven days of questions....they will schedule a open day or two in the Senate....probably in mid-May.

The thing is....you need sixty votes.  Forty-four Democrats and two independents....will side with Garland, and I suspect that five Republicans will vote for him (they aren't up for re-election in 2016 or they may never go up for re-election again).  He will be voted down.

Then some debate will open up about why they can't do this with fifty-one votes, instead of sixty.  But you'd ask....back in 2010....why not make it an issue with Kagen's episode....allowing fifty-one to do the job?

The news folks will carry this fifty-one idea for two weeks.....then realize that no one really buys off on it.

A new candidate by the third week of May?  Yes.....even more moderate.....we will be told.  Around mid-June....the Senate committee will question this individual (probably a black female judge).

The first person (Garland) failed with fifty-one votes.  The second candidate will fail with fifty-five votes (another four Republicans will find some reason grin and say that they don't care about their re-election chances).

So, somewhere in August....my prediction is a third nominee comes up and somehow, fourteen Republicans are found to support that person.  I think at least three of the Senators will then face a recall election back in their state, and they will be unable to mount enough support....thus ending their career in DC.

The thing is.....most people will agree that the political process and the judicial process in America is "broke".  They don't see transparency, and they don't think DC can fix much of anything.  If anything....this simply concretes attitudes and behaviors to be anti-Republican and anti-Democrat.  So, in a sad way.....Trump makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Cycle

If voting made any difference.....they wouldn't let us do it.

-- Mark Twain

I am cynical and sarcastic in older years, believing in fewer things as I grow older.  I have no doubt that the Republican Party would like for me to think that they will save old bastards, children, the afflicted, decent Christian folks, frackers, hypocrites, and the Republic.  I also have no doubt that the Democratic Party would like for me to believe that they will save minorities, university professors, illegals, union guys, the environment, farmers, Californians, American Indians, dopers, gays, anyone afflicted with any disease, decayed urban areas, and the Republic.

It's really a collection of oddball characters who all think that they are there to save the world.  In the world.....they mostly talking about saving the world, but it's mostly just hype.

I think this is one reason why Trump appeals to some people.  He's a business guy, not a political figure.  We seem destined in our heart to long for someone who doesn't have any appeal to save the world.

A hopeless maze for people looking for someone to restructure America, save all of society, and give us faith?  Yeah, that's pretty much it.

If you sat down in 1900 and wrote the requirements that regular people felt that the President ought to accomplish or demonstrate?  Well....it might have gotten up to a dozen things.  Today?  There's probably three-hundred attributes, personality characteristics, educational accomplishments, and fake resume items required for the typical American President.

We used to freak out if any President had a divorce in their background, or did huff on some marijuana.  We've apparently gotten past that point now.  It won't even freak out people if some Presidential candidate never had real job in their life other than politician, or has some Cuban-sounded last name.

What'll happen in January of 2017?  My humble guess is some uplifted feelings, and by June.....we mostly start sliding to feeling that maybe we should have voted differently.  The positive to this?  Well, you only have to wait 3.5 years to vote for another character to come and save us once again.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

$32 for a Pack of Smokes?

I don't smoke....but where ever I go in the world....I tend to note cigarette prices as one of those things about an economy.

I turned a newspaper page this morning and noted this political talk going on in Australia.  Malcolm Turnbull, who leads the government....wants to find a way for smokers to fund their own health care.  So his idea is.....raising the cost of a single pack (28 smokes) to $40 Aussie dollars.  That's roughly $32 American dollars.

Most smokers would be standing in a daze....if someone suggested a single pack to run $32.  A two-pack a day smoker?  He could afford a fairly new car with what he'd pay for smokes.

The deal would work this way...the prices would gradually be worked up....roughly 12.5 per cent a quarter, until they reached mythical price.

Billions off a tax like this?  Well....yeah....unless people quit smoking.

My bet is that the vapor crowd would eventually go underground, and most smokers would flip over to vapor (via some local street dealer) to get their nicotine fix.  The government would wake up six months into an episode like this to find a massive loss on tax revenue collected.

Would be accepted by the Australian people?  It's hard to say.  If you were looking for one single issue to vote against the party in charge.....this might be enough.

Monday, 14 March 2016

The Thing About Innovation

While I toured Australia....I noted in various newspapers and via the nightly news that the current government (a coalition deal) was hyping up one of their ideas.....innovation.

The head of the government had appointed a board and were going to hold meetings....on encouraging innovation.  They'd even set aside money for television advertisements.....encouraging people to think of new ideas and report them to the government.  What does the board talk about?  Mostly nothing.  I get the impression they talk up new science articles they read in some magazine or discuss the upcoming Microsoft upgrades.  They all wish that they'd had that Billy Gates kid born in Melbourne and doing his wiz-bang computer stuff in a garage there, but it just didn't happen that way.
In an amusing way.....no one much really believes this is some legitimate program.  Most folks identify it as simply a bogus way to carry on some conversation and suggest that the government is going to do things of a scientific and marvelous engineering nature.

Every time you stand and talk about innovation in some company or within some organization....the chief theme (I know because I've stood there and watched these unfold) is risk.  You are betting some fair amount of money, time, sweat and effort that this new idea or concept will be the 'perfect wave'.  Fake enthusiasm gets generated....some boss is all charmed-up by the hyped talk, and then you got change coming.  Six months later....you kinda admit that this innovation phase was more of a failure than a success.

In some ways, I'd just like for people to be less naive and witless.  If you had some process with sixteen steps, and it's pointless for one or two of these steps.....then dump them.  Instead of buying a marginal $120 office chair which doesn't improve worker productivity much....why not spend the $450 and get some ergonomic chair with a dozen positions?  If six-percent of your work-force is incompetent and too lazy to work....lay them off.  If you got some manager who hasn't shown any initiative in six years.....maybe it's time to let him go.

Where does this Australian effort go?  I'm guessing that the university crowd are pestering the government for some money for various projects.  A grant here....there, and down the line, you wake up to realize that you've given away a billion dollars without any real adult leadership over what the innovation is about.  Three years from now....people will ask....what was that chatter about innovation from the government all about, and the Australian news people will just grin and suggest some sheep scandal or new puppet show coming up soon.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Brisbane Idea

On my Australia trip.....I came to this infrastructure project in Brisbane, which some folks ought to copy in major urban areas of the US.

There's a man-made spring which runs through this park....probably a thousand feet long.

Kids play around in it (it's probably not more than six inches deep).  It goes into a pool area and then gets pushed back up to the starting point.


Why Hillary Got Stupid

For a number of months, this whole e-mail thing simply didn't make sense to me.  Then I sat down and really thought about it.

There was Plan A, which was dirt-simple....after getting the State Department job wrapped up at the Democratic Convention....the inner circle of Hillarys made this wise decision.  They would ensure that after four years....she'd walk away, and no idiot would be to touch her emails while in this significant job.

Hillary would be able to later claim she just know the rules, and this would allow her to sanitize her emails so the public wouldn't read everything.

My humble guess is that after she walked away....two or three members of the inner circle sat down for three weeks and breezed through 20,000 emails that she received or sent over a four-year period.  It would be a crappy job, but you'd be looking for certain topics that just weren't going to be allowed in a public situation.

All of this would have worked....had they stayed on plan "A".  A month away from taking the job....probably around late November....she sent the people's names over to Obama's team that she was bringing in.  Sid Blumenthal was on the list.  The Obama team said "no".

Why was Sid on the list?  When you look at her resume....she is the weakest individual to hold the job in 100 years.  Sid was there to guide her....read messages....and offer advice.  Without Sid, she was not going to successfully carry out the job.

So, a month later....she tried to hire Sid again....as a contractor. That failed too.

So, Sid was hired by the Clinton Foundation.  But here's this new problem.....Sid holds NO security clearance.  How would Sid read the messages and be able to do his secret job?  So the inner circle told members of the office to occasionally cut and paste classified onto the messages sent to the unclassified Hillary personal account.  1,700 total messages that are a problem now.

All of this episode now.....created by the fact that the White house simply did not want Sid Bllumenthal around, with a security clearance.  In a way.....they scripted this and knew precisely what she would be doing.

If they had hired Sid....she would have stuck with plan "A", and this mess presently would be a minor deal, with almost no FBI involvement.  Now?  I don't see how the President allows this to continue on without some charges coming up.

In a way, it's amusing.  Here was a job that Hillary Clinton was absolutely unqualified for and it would normally make no sense to hire her.  Yet, things fell into place and all she had to do for four years was fake people out.....get Sid to advise on what to say or do.....and it'd all pay off in the end.  If she'd never gone to plan "B" on usage of the email server.....she'd be easily doing well and might be able to run a serious election.

Martyr Tommy

I sat yesterday and watched the video of Trump dodging at the rally, with Secret Service agents protecting him, and taking down some guy charging the stage area.

The guy?  Thomas Dimassimo.

For some reason, the guy's image and name stuck with me.  So this morning, I went studying up on this young guy.

He's a college student....at Wright University (a public college in Dayton).  Field of study?  Theater.  Yeah, it'll be a money-maker in life....I'm sure.

The guy's theme?  He says he wants to be a Martyr.

Martyrs are typically people who will stand up in some crowd (they rarely do this in some anonymous way).....then let everyone know that they are willing to suffer persecution and possibly death for taking on the bad guys, the thugs, the government, the church, or such.

This typically goes along with the idea that you refuse to accept something or go along with a cause.  Naturally, the fact that you have a cause on your side, and some counter-Martyr might exist to Martyr themselves against your persecution....well, it doesn't look good.

Being a Martyr typically meant hero status.  You were the guy who died in some fight or got executed by the bad guys.  In Greece.....they'd throw up a big statue on a side-street and write some weepy words on how you were a great Martyr.  In Germany from the 1970s and the anti-establishment period.....there are so many Martyrs that they can't even keep track of who did what or what evil establishment thugs they suffered under.

In Tommy Dimassimo's case?  The cops arrested him.....took him off to jail.....did some charges....then allowed the guy to get bailed out.  Judge so-and-so will get the case and probably have some court appearance in thirty-odd days with Tommy.

Tommy will meet with some lawyer.....probably hired by his Mom or Dad.  The lawyer will tell Tommy that guilty Martyrs end up in a Dayton jail.  That will be several weeks of hanging around druggies, serious criminals, and thugs.  It's not a pleasant Martyr environment.

So, he'll urge Tommy to be humble....be nice.....be open to maybe a mental exam or beg for mercy with the judge.  Tommy will be in disbelief......he thought that Martyrs got some pat on the back or such.

Eventually, Tommy's parents will ask if he's been doing dope or drinking too much because they don't believe anyone would be stupid to rush some stage and take on Secret Service agents.  It may even be the case that Dad is a Trump-enthusiast, and he'll have harsh words with the son over his stupidity.

Twenty years into the future.....someone will walk into a Dayton bowling alley and find some guy handling the front desk.....and ask....aren't you Thomas Dimassimo, the guy who rushed Trump in Dayton.  Yeah.....will be the response.  What happened to you....why the bowling alley?

There'll be some slow response, and finally Thomas will admit.....the Martyr thing didn't really pay off.  You don't get resume points for that.  So other than two goofy monster movies where he played the number six character, or the TV ad for the local quickly lube shop.....things didn't go that well.

Maybe I'm wrong about this and there's some great future here for the kid.  But typically, Martyrs only get a big name or statue.....if they were buried five days later.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

English

The language spoken in Australia.....is English.  Yeah, there might be an accent and some odd words they occasionally throw into the conversation, but it's plain English.

While I was on my trip there, this odd item came up in the news.  The government (at least the Department of Family and Community Service)....has decided to spend roughly $900 Aussie dollars ($750 American) each on 150 staff members.....to teach them how to speak English.

Now, when I was told this in the beginning.....I kinda thought we were talking about immigrant or migrant folks that they'd hired as employees....who didn't speak English.  Well....no.  They want to teach English-speaking people to speak English.

What this is mostly about is the fact that they've (in this department) gone and made a lot of jargon words to fit forms, requirements, family situations, and everyday activities.

What is said is that families now come back after some initial meetings and complain that the clerks and staff members are confusing and the customers can't grasp what is going on.

They gave a couple of examples:

"There are two issues here: the affordability of housing more broadly, and affordable housing."  This was spoken by an actual state minister (Brad Hazzard).

"While we look to the future, it is advisable not to look backwards."  This was given by the Premier Mike Baird.

This is a two-day course, and I'm guessing there will be some certificate given at the end of this.  Sadly, it'll say that you graduated from an English-language course, and you will be somewhat shamed when you show back up in the office and this gets brought up.  The co-worker will ask if you learned some English, and you fake them out with simplified phrases and 5th-grade wording.

Somehow, I would speculate that in three years....some other idiot political figure will come up and say that everyone in this department speaks at the 5th grade level, and there will be another course.....to help improve your English enough.....to speak at a very articulate and higher-educated level.  Of course, it'll be much more expensive..  

The Perfect Property for Someone

This was an odd thing I came across on the Australian trip.  South of Melbourne, along the Great Ocean Road.....there's this small town of Airey's Inlet.

On the coastline, there is a lighthouse and house associated with it.....up for sale.

The real estate people say the property ought to fetch a minimum of 1.9 million Aussie dollars (roughly 1.4 million American dollars).  Well.....they say this, but in a bidding frenzy and with some deep pockets, I could see it going for double that.

The thing is....it's a public situation.  There's a public road passing the house, with public parking adjacent to the lighthouse, and an area for people to walk out and see the coastline.

The house?  That's another thing.....it's a wood structure that's been around for at least 120 years.  Six bedrooms and two baths.

Someone might buy it for a bed and breakfast deal but you have no extra property to build on and it's hard to see you recovering what you paid, with just a room or two rented out.

Haunted?  Well, they did a TV series around a dozen years ago from the lighthouse and the whole theme revolved around it being haunted....but it's more or less legend stuff.

Maybe if this were an isolated beach, with privacy to it.....it might be worth the deal, but I have my doubts.  Some writer will probably buy it......settle back for a year or two to write some tragic story over love gained and love lost, with a lighthouse theme in the background, and then make a million dollars off the book sales.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The Coastal Road Drive

About two hours driving, south of Melbourne....heading westward....you come to the Coastal Road, and a hour or so down this winding road, you come to the Apostles.

It is a breathtaking moment that ranks up there with the Grand Canyon or Empire State Building.

Oddly, while being a national park, they don't charge you anything.  Go figure that.

I probably could have stood up there for hours.  It was late in the day, with a slight fog developing.

If you wanted to make way to the beach below....you'd have to add another hour onto your situation, with a decent walk.

A day at it?  Well, my suggestion for anyone planning.....plan 12-to-14 hours, and it'd be better to have some Aussie drive your car because there is so much to see.

Note also, there is another park prior to this.....with an actual rain forest type walkway....worth another hour-long stop as well.

The drive back?  This is about as rural as you might desire....rolling hills with farms on each turn.  It's the kind of region where everything shuts down by six, and you'd best have the fuel to wrap up your adventure for the day.

On rankings for things to see in Australia.....I'd put this around number two or three, but it'll consume an entire day.

Australia and Weed

One of the interesting thing I came across while vacationing in Australia in February.....was the pace or path they going for legalized medical marijuana.

The Aussie Senate passed the changes necessary.....to create a national license process.

So, while it's still probably a year away.....there will be two licenses.

If you want to grow medical marijuana.....you will apply for this state license and meet some basic requirements for it.  You could only sell.....to a licensed distributor or shop.

All of this is pumping up some business folks to examine which versions would work best in Australia and fit the requirement of medical marijuana.  Dealers might tell you something....but it's not scientific in nature....just a 'feeling'.  So companies are now engaged and will follow through.

You almost get this impression that bulk plantations will likely come out of this....where some company runs an operation in a fairly warm zone (Brisbane and above), and there would be a dozen-odd people cultivating and collecting leaves for the business operation.

All of this bulk farming business.....means that the small time dealer is probably finished (at least five years down the line).   By 2025....you'd find medical marijuana there in your local distributor shop....grown only by twenty-odd plantation operations over all Australia (my humble opinion).  All of this begs the question of how things might develop in the US, and mass production really goes into the 'norm'.

Sydney and Homes

It is a picture of the opening from the ocean to Sydney Bay, and on 18 January 1788....a Captain Phillip led a fleet of eleven ships and 850 British convicts into the bay.

If you aren't Aussie, you probably don't know the history or the various little details.

Few Americans realize that while a fair number of people from the 1620 period to the early 1700s were all volunteers.....there reached a point in Britain where there were too many people sitting in prisons.  The solution?  Dump them in a very unpleasant place....far from England.  So for a number of years.....they sent prisoners and convicts to the US, until the Revolutionary War ended that solution.  Australia became solution number two.

What Captain Phillip knew of the area probably amounted to a forty-page book and details from an expedition by a Lt Cook in 1770.  If they had done further analysis....it might have led people to rethink the bay.  But from the other prospective.....it was probably bay area that any ship's captain would beg for and appreciate.

The soil there next to the bay?  It would take a year or two for the folks to realize that it was unsuitable for growing just about anything.

Fresh water?  Almost non-existent.

Snakes?  It was a major task to do the work assigned and avoid snakes.

Over three decades.....buildings were erected.  A trading port was established.  Better agricultural properties were found.  Fresh water was sourced out.  They built homes and buildings out of brick and stone.....showing a permanent side to the future.

By 1850, Sydney had grown into a fairly decent port city of roughly 30,000 people.  Oddly enough....in 1851, gold was discovered.  For three decades, this gold 'fever' went crazy.  By 1871....over a two-decade period, they had shifted gears and gone to 200,000 people.  Today, it totals near 4.8 million and growth still continues on a steady path.  Some locals think it'll hit the 6 million point by 2040.

Issues of the day?  Mass transit hasn't really solved the issues of people desiring to live on the outer reaches of the town.  The motorways or interstate system would be described by those who use it.....as marginal, and likely never to get much better.  Home prices within the heart of the city are ridiculous.

So I come to this epic story (more or less).  The house in the picture is 139 Kippa Street, over in the Surry Hill neighborhood, in the south part of Sydney.

Someone ought to sit and write 200-page book over this episode.

It was a home which belonged to Natalie Jean Wood.  Small place...75 square meter (probably near a 1000 sq ft).  Nothing special.  No parking spot.  Extremely out of date and most folks would identify it as being one step away from a slum.

Natalie's story?  In 2011, cops got called out to the house.  A sister-in-law had some reason to contact her and to be honest....they didn't talk much between themselves.  Cops broke down the down eventually, where they found Natalie laying there.....dead for eight years.  Yeah...no one had said much and she kinda kept to herself.

Power?  Cut-off?

This was a woman who had a brief marriage after the war, which ended in divorce after five years.  She went back home to live with the parents for a short period before she bought this house.  From 1979 to 1997....she kept the house but lived mostly with her mother.  After the mother passed on....she went back to Kippa Street.  She was.....for all practical purposes.....a loner.  She didn't have a real life beyond the house itself.  All the cops can figure is that she fell at some point, couldn't get up, and eventually died there in the house.  Months and years would pass.

Since 2011, this property has gone through the court system, and finally ended up for a real estate company to auction off.

Now, you'd look at the outside pictures and be turned off.  The interior pictures were pretty bad, and you'd consider the bathroom to be absolutely non-functional.  Nothing about this place works....except it is brick, in fine shape, and in a highly desired neighborhood.  It is three minutes walking to the central train station, with two city parks about five minutes away.  The pub district?  Maybe two minutes away at best.  The stadium is a 15 minute walk, and the heart of downtown Sydney is maybe a three-minute tram or subway ride away.

The auction folks were kinda surprised.  at fifteen minutes prior to the episode....there were twenty-eight people in the room and prepared to bid.  Over the last fifteen minutes prior to the auction....it doubled in nature.  Almost sixty people in an active for a crappy small house, which needed massive renovation.

The final bid to win?  $1.1 million Aussie dollars.  That's 823,000 American dollars.

If you figure the money required for the renovation....at least 150,000 American dollars.  Then the dump is valued at a million easily.

Most everyone involved in the estate or the sale....were shocked.  But it is an indication of where Sydney is going and the scale of cost involved in home ownership.

What happens in twenty years?  That's a curious thing.  Unless some massive public transportation project takes off and shifts people out to thirty miles (say the southwest of town), you won't be able to find any home in the city for less than $1.5 million American dollars.

It begs questions, and radical solutions.  Luckily, the Aussies have the same type political figures as you find in the US.  So don't go and expect much.

The Engine Story

This week, I noticed a little short science piece.  There are a couple of guys who've sat down and sipped enough beer and discussed rocket-science to such a degree.....that they feel confident enough that they could design a rocket-engine that would allow space travel up to roughly 70,000 miles per hour.

You can do the math, but it basically means that we could leave Earth's orbit on 1 March, and pass Pluto around the 25 of April....more or less.  That would shock some folks and start the wheels to turning on radical space exploration.

But there is this hitch to the story.  They only think this, but haven't sat down to design the engine, or for that matter.....discuss the scope of the design.  So, they want some government or university funding to reach this big first initial step.  Basically.....a lot of beer money, but certainly not enough to afford some Air Force jet or buy a fleet of Tesla cars.

Here's the thing.  If they did this analysis and came to the conclusion.....some basic design ideas and then went into a lab for three years.....I'm pretty sure they would emerge with test engine number one.  It might fail....it might succeed.  But it would lay out the groundwork for a real engine within a dozen years.

Then you'd have to build some pretty dense ship to protect the engine, and figure out if you went AI (artificial intelligence robots) or human for the crew.

On general planning, you'd be talking about a ship making this Earth to Pluto run within twenty years.  Leaving this system?  Maybe twenty-five years.

You can figure by 2100....eighty-four years away, that we will have explored at least a hundred planets beyond this system.  Chance of bumping into some plant and animal life?  Unknown.  But the odds are that you will find at least two or three Earths beyond this system, with some plants and critters.

One might as far as predicting that a million humans having volunteered from 2100 to 2200 to relocate and colonize beyond the Earth. All of this?  Dependent on a couple of rocket-science guys and this weird idea of an engine that goes 70,000 miles per hour.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Whole Deal to Trump University?

Ok, so here's the thing you need to get into your head.....across the globe and the US....there are probably a thousand fake university programs.

How does one define fake?

Well, you basically open up a college and avoid the accreditation practice where some private or public organization examines your instruction practice, your professor staff, and comes to a conclusion that you look authentic.

Tennessee Bible College?  It's been around for four decades and is basically a place where you go to get some certificate to claim you are minister-qualified and make some folks happy to hire a certified minister.  Fake, but at least they do produce ministers.

North Lexington University, Mass?  It's a place where you pay some money....get an evaluation....and eventually get a certificate.  It's not accredited by anyone.  The diploma looks nice and maybe it'd help you with a promotion.

Fairfax University in Louisiana?  Fake.  They did go out of business around 2004, and there's been talk of it coming back....maybe on some island in the Caribbean.

There are literally hundreds of these organizations which just simply operate a nifty web site.....have some fake-talking professors.....pretend to teach something, and then take your money for a certificate.

So, on top of that....there are the accredited university operations.....which basically take your money and use real professors, then waste years of your time teaching you useless information, but at least it's accredited.  You feel good coming out of state university with this piece of paper, but the knowledge you gained over four years?  Worthless.  I won't call it a fake deal.....but it might as well be fake.

So people like Trump figured this all out.  Why not offer seminars on how to run a business, define business objectives, find successful formulas, and generate real income?

At the conclusion of these seminars.....you do a evaluation phase and walk give some grade to the actual university itself.  Amazingly, Trump's people found some competent 'instructors' and they gave lectures which people gave fairly decent grades over.

In this case, people paid money to get smart, and the lecture teams gave them that knowledge.  At some point, maybe success simply ran out or they hired some incompetent lecture people.....but it simply came to a negative phase.

Some people toward this end....want their money back.  In a comic way.....some state prosecutors have jumped in and want to make this a massive case.....to get some points off public attention.  If the state prosecutors lose?  Well....yeah, that's going to be a problem to explain if they ever run for office again.

How many people would like to sue real accredited colleges over real degrees that are now regarded as worthless?  That's a curious question to ask.  I'd take a guess that well over one million people are walking around and have such worthless degrees, and owe someone tens of thousands on college loans.  Will these state prosecutors waste time on this?  No.

So, if you were looking for some amazing story about one single unique fake university which got caught by the amazingly brilliant and great legal minds of America.....well....you'd best just keep looking.  Some folks deserve their money back, but the rest of this is a bogus opera with no real acting and nothing worth discussing.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Notes on Australia

 From my trip to Australia, there are three things that I came to note.

First, it doesn't matter where you go around the country....you feel like you are in the 1950s of America.  Buildings are updated or modern....they all have that brick look and feel like some small town atmosphere.

It has a sense of appeal....a place where you'd like to arrive....open up a coffee shop, and get a feel of home-town real quick.

In the US, most of these places have been torn down and turned into some cheap looking aluminum buildings.

Then you come to this second observation....about humor.

This was a newspaper piece that I saw one day....a missing poster for Tazmania.

You see....if you go and look at most general maps of the country (not the fancy atlas type), they all miss the little island to the far right bottom of Australia.

Folks in Tazmania.....talk about this a bit.  They realize they get no respect and hardly anyone in Australia regards them as part of the country.

So, they turn this into a bit of humor.....noting that they are missing.

Then I come to my third topic.....Krespy Kreme Donuts.

You see....in Australia....they love the franchise as much as Americans.

In Sydney, you can't go more than two blocks without seeing operation.

This one that I took the picture of?  It's just inside the airport terminal.

It didn't matter where I went....Brisbane, Melbourne, etc....they had them everywhere.

Pricing?  Well....it's almost the same as the American shops.  And the quality is about the same.

Hitler This and That

If you Google up the word "Hitler".....just on web activity.....there's not much being reported over the internet.  If you Google against new items?  Oh, there's probably 500 Hitler mentions in the past month....all leading back to Trump.

I sat and looked at one news report....trying to tie enthusiasm at some Trump rally into a Hitler moment.  It was the same enthusiasm that I noted in 2008 during the Obama build-up and it's odd that no one want to observe Hitler-like enthusiasm in 2008's campaign.

At some point near the 2008 election point, someone wrote a major piece comparing the Obama period to likely be like Nazi 1930's-like government.  Some journalists got hostile about that accusation and defended the incoming government.

At some point in the 2004 election period, between Bush and John Kerry.....I can recall one significant usage of the Hitler accusation on Bush.

The thing is....if you go and list the thirty-odd platform positions of the Nazi Party in 1932 in simple English today.....without attributing them to the Party, then over sixty-percent of society today would readily advocate their enthusiasm for the platform, and that would come from both Republicans and Democrats.

Some people think that once you mention the Hitler-word, then folks freak out.  That comical way of thinking probably disappeared in the 1990s.  If you asked a hundred people under the age of 25 of Hitler today.....fewer than a quarter of them would be able to identify him to Germany.  World War II is almost forgotten, and even the Vietnam War would be identified as an ancient war.  If you asked most people to identify the last eight Presidents....most would gaze at you and probably get through Bush, Obama, and Clinton.  Half of them might remember Reagan, and maybe ten percent might be able to include Carter (only because he seems to still write books).

So, it's nifty trick to write up critical commentary and slant it with the Hitler-word.  Hitler this, and Hitler-that.....then pat yourself on the back.  Even I might have read into the commentary back eight years ago and at least noted it.  But I've tired of the Hitler comparison enough.....that it really doesn't work anymore.

If you have some idiot talking up the Hitler business.....stop him in mid-sentence and ask him how many voters (percentage-wise) stood up in November of 1932 and voted for Hitler.  Note, the answer is 37-percent.  Yeah, that's all it took because you see.....so many people were frustrated and angry with German politics.  They'd spent three years working through a massive economic stumble and the two major political parties simply stood around to blame each other and play out theater-like antics, so from the other parties available......they found another option.  So if some Hitler-game was to be played out today.....I'd sit and blame both the Republicans and Democrats for creating the atmosphere and making the public so hostile.....they'd ask for something a bit unusual.  That's the sad analysis to this whole thing.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Aussie Warning Sign

One of the more interesting tours I took in Sydney....was the Sydney Opera House.

It was kinda a surprise to me that they run five or six different shows each night, with different rooms or halls available in the building.  Most of my life, I always had this impression that the Sydney Opera House was just one big hall.

So, in the hallway leading up to one of the 300-person rooms....was this sign, and the Aussies were kind enough to warn you ahead of time.

The tour guide noted that a number of people....including Americans....show up in Sydney for a performance at the hall, and some folks get a bit disturbed over Aussie views....which naturally include references to alcohol and includes some boobs being shown.  So.....they warn you ahead of time.

I thought it was nice of them....at least giving some folks a last chance to avoid something that would get them all hyped up or disturbed.

Clothing

Two weeks ago, I stood for a brief minute in the Melbourne, Australia railway station, and here was this guy.  Naturally, being from Alabama....I noted his style of clothing and colors.

It's not something you could buy off the rack at Sears or JC Pennys.....but to be honest, it's the kind of thing that I would have liked to have bought and worn on my last day at work (when I was retiring).

It would have said something.

Trump in the End

Someone conducted a poll on Super-Tuesday, and came to this odd fact with what people said.  Ninety-five percent of Republicans voting.....said that they were angry and frustrated with the federal government (the whole government).  Sixty-five percent of Democrats said the same thing.  Basically, they want it to function....to revolve around like some theater operation for public entertainment.

What this means?  If both groups are serious.....it'll be a massive vote in November for Trump, and some enthusiasm for Trump to start firing people or putting some people into difficult positions.

If this were smaller group....say forty-percent Republican and ten-percent Democrat.....then I'd say it'd just blow over and the news media could still play out the regular games.  But this is a massive number of negative voters.

So, I'll make five predictions:

1.  Obama-Care rapidly is challenged and the Republicans and Democrats will be forced into a legislative corner to probably accept Trump's vision for health care.  It might be a bitter thing for the Republicans to accept his plan, and some Democrats will have problems.....but the present system isn't made for permanent usage.

2.  US troop strengths in Europe will be downsized.  I'll take a guess that half the troops will be removed by the end of 2018.  Trump will declare the cold war over, and keep the troops active....on US soil....and start to envision some different version of NATO in the future.  If France or Germany is worried about the less troops.....they will have to find money in their budget to expand their own military.

3.  Trump will ask budget questions about where money is going with Homeland Security.  Their bottomless pit....will be exposed.  Some people will be asked to leave, and I suspect their budget will be cut over four years by ten-percent.

4.  The business plan for the National Park system will be questioned.  All the services and support personnel of the park system will be brought up for review and I would take a guess that ten to twenty percent of the force will be dismissed over a four-year period.

5.  Whether Congress likes it or not.....there's going to be a massive tax revision somewhere between 2017 and 2020.  It might be a flat tax....it might be a different way of handling capital gains....but there's some changes coming which will make people happy about.

In the end, as angry as people are and desiring of change....we may all reach a point by 2020....where we've had enough and want to return to the plain old fake politics.  Well.....maybe. Maybe not.

One Thing About Mitt's Phony Talk

Over the last dozen hours, I've sat and pondered upon this one comment by Mitt Romney.....over phony political figures.

Maybe I'm showing my age.....but I really can't think of a single politician today......local, state, or national.....who isn't phony in some way.  I'm sure Mitt thinks that there are fine, honest, humble and genuine people out there, but frankly.....I don't see any of them.

You have the fake guys who pretend to be religious, and then turn around to demonstrate they just aren't religious.

You have the fake politicians who claim to be decent, and then they do something stupid like skim funds off the office credit card, cheat on their spouse, or get caught with two grams of some nifty new drug.

You have the fake politicians who claim to be impartial, but then around to show how stupid they are or how easily they can be bought off.

You have the fake guys who get some weekend trip to a Arizona resort.....to help rig up a deal for some land developer.

You have some guys who walk around and pretend to be a Republican.....when they really are a fairly decent Democrat.  Go figure that one.

Three decades ago.....I would have been considered one of a small group of people who believed in the massive phony problem.  Today?  I'm of the opinion that roughly one-quarter of society believes in a massive phoniness that exist with political figures.

Was Mitt a phony?  When you start looking at his business background.....some things fit well, and some things just don't come across as genuine. Was Mitt a real conservative or just a fake conservative?  Some people go back to examine his years as a Mass governor, and discuss various examples where he was more or less a hybrid conservative....to survive within a fairly liberal state.

Is Trump a phony?  Probably so.  He's probably like the other 100-percent of political figures out there today.  But at least he pretty much says what comes to his mind....something that you haven't seen in decades with most political figures you encounter.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Trump, Romney, and the Fake GOP

I sat yesterday and watched the seventeen minute piece of Romney blasting away at Trump.  It's an odd piece because it might have meant something back in December.  But now....early March?  It's worthless.

I'm not much of a Romney fan.  I look back at the 2012 election and generally regard his attempt as marginal at best.  His staff, his theme, his sales-job to the public.....just weren't going to work.

Why stand there now and do some tough piece on Trump?  It's hard to say who begged him to make the statement or the logic behind it.

So, this morning....I got up and watched thirty minutes of the Trump response.  Basically, he drilled into Romney and made the Romney speech a one-star episode.

Here's my three observations of where we are today.

First, the general Republican public, and roughly a quarter of all Democrats....are fed and frustrated.  They hate DC politics in general, and think most of the guys in DC are actors....more than actual politicians.  This has reached such a stage.....that they even are willing to consider some guy like Trump as the only one who might go in and fire people left and right.

Second, for two decades.....most Republicans have continued the trend of identifying their leadership as simply fake.  If you asked most what the difference was between the Republicans and Democrats in terms of success (what the House and Senate has achieved in the past two years for example).....they'd look at you and start laughing.  There's nothing worth discussing.

Third, there's some belief that the Republicans are more of a lobbyist agenda association....than an actual political party.  You'd like to laugh over that suggestion.....but it's not really a joke anymore.

Two years ago, I would have likely said that Scott Walker would be the person in the lead at this point, and Jeb Bush second.  Well.....something has happened.  A new reality of sorts.  People fed up on fake politics, total distrust of the news media, and frustration that goes across both parties.  November will be an interesting period in American history.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Breakfast Talk

When you go to Australia.....you kinda have to meet them halfway on the breakfast menu.

So, as you look at this poster at the local pub of the breakfast menu....you might note the sausage (extra large), the bacon, the two eggs over easy, the toast below the eggs, and.....the mushrooms.

Yeah.....mushrooms.

Some places even went a step more....offering a baked tomato as well.

The grease content?  Well....that sausage is loaded....to the maximum extent possible.

The alternate deal?  You could ask for cereal or oatmeal.  Or you could walk two doors down to the donut shop and get some Krispy Kreme options.  Yeah....that's about it.

The coffee?  Aussies don't expect much on coffee.....so you end up with one-star coffee.

A Sign of Warning

On my travels through Hong Kong, I stood there admiring a particular sign on the street.

Basically, it's a city warning sign.....a cop can ticket and prosecute you....without any warning.....if you were waiting.  It could be a minute of waiting....it could be 8 seconds of waiting....it doesn't matter.

Generally, I'd be a bit scared of city driving there.  A cop could nicely tap on my window, and suddenly for some stopping phase of five seconds.....I'd be called into court and prosecuted for something.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

This Electoral College Issue

I sat and did a spreadsheet over a three-way race (Trump, Bloomberg, and Hillary).....if this were to happen (I think it's less than a 20-percent now, and more likely Mr Big-Gulp himself would enter at the last minute at the Democratic Convention to replace Hillary).

In a three-way deal....I don't think any of the three would be able to take the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win.  I think Bloomberg would win three to five states, and thus create the 270-problem.

So as a reminder....if you fail to reach 270 Electoral Votes....then it's dismissed and they meet a week later in DC, for the House to elect.....state by state.....with one vote each.....the next President (they would have all three to vote upon).  The Senate would meet and then vote from the top two VP candidates for VP (creating a possible situation where a Democrat VP is working for a Republican President).

Three state delegations are split in number (equal Republicans and Democrats), and it's doubtful that they would be able to reach some conclusion.....so they don't count (Maine, NJ, and Minn).

Republican-led states lead with 33 states....more than enough if the Republicans stood by Trump.  I doubt that the Party apparatus would do that.....so you can figure some issues here.

Trump is smart enough to convey his direction ahead and where you have a small state.....say less than four members in the Republican group of 33.....Trump might be able to promise enough.....to get their votes.  So, I'm giving Trump roughly sixteen to eighteen states.  Hillary would be able to carve out fourteen states, unless the Democratic Party abandons her.  So Mr Big-Gulp would be there with seventeen states.

None of this equals 26 votes.....as required to get over the hump.

One could sense.....if we into this big of a mess and after one day of talking, and one real vote by the end of day one.....that this might take a week.....maybe two weeks, with people demanding all kinds of promises from their party, or for their state.  You might suddenly find that Trump's talents of promising thing and delivering.....has some benefit.  Maybe you could convince six Democrats from Florida to flip their votes among the state members over to Trump, or talk 15 House members from Texas to flip over.

Would this trigger people to go anti-Electoral College and demand a Constitutional change?  Maybe.  But you'd have to ask......who got the idea to fake out people from both the Republican and Democratic parties?  Who really would want Mr Big-Gulp as president?

Trump, Repudiation, and the Klan

I've sat and watched two key political games played out this week.....both fairly related to each other.  Both involving Trump and a gimmick-attempt to take him down a step.

Somehow, the KKK (the Klan) and David Duke got brought up.....and the reporter attempted (more than once) to get Trump to repudiate the Klan.  Trump didn't budge.

I’m amused on occasion how David Duke gets brought up by intellectual types, and they want the guy at the end of the table to react in an uncomfortable way.  The thing is.....Duke is more or less some college-educated idiot (like ten-million other such idiots) who briefly got used for media purposes in the 1980s/1990s, and is more or less a pawn of various lobbyists....to be used when necessary.

People who run around and worry about David Duke or the Klan in 2016...probably ought to worry about lions breaking out of their local zoo, aliens coming to probe them, or worry about some gay-Peruvian drug cartels in Tulsa.

The Klan is a toothless but mythical beast in this modern age.  If you see some group trying popularize off the Klan....you can assume there is some lobbyists at work and helping to fund the effort....herding people into some voting station to vote in a certain way to “save their society, culture or state”.  Fear, for all practical purposes, drive people to vote in weird ways.

Then we turn to the second part of this essay.....repudiation.  The repudiation gimmick is just that...a gimmick. Would you be willing to repudiate American usage of the nuke in Japan? Would you be willing to repudiate American money going to drug cartels in Mexico? Would you be willing to repudiate American hopelessness with Indian reservations? I could write a “War and Peace” book of 1,243 pages over all the various things in the world to repudiate.

Don’t waste your time and effort over repudiation. Move forward and learn from past mistakes....don’t repeat those mistakes or waste time repudiating the past.