Thursday, 30 March 2017

Austin, EU?

Today, at some dinner function function in Malta, the head of the EU (Jean-Claude Juncker....pronounced Yunker) said that if President continues to talk about taking apart the EU....then he (Junchker) would suggest that parts of the US also remove themselves from the US government, and go independent.  He didn't say that the EU would take them.....just that they might be independent.

He suggested that Ohio and Austin, TX could go independent.

The odd thing is that if you went around a dozen US metropolitan areas today....they could probably get up enough votes to succeed and try to apply to the EU.  I doubt that the EU would want them....but that's the state of affairs in the nation today.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Colin Kaepernick

I rarely get into football discussions.  Over the past four years....I've watched maybe a total of two games, and admit my interest in the last decade has rapidly declined.

This past season, I watched the Colin Kaepernick business unfold, with the knee on the ground during the national anthem being played.  When it started up, I thought that he must have reviewed his career options and knew that most teams looked upon him as a magnet for negative media attention.

Since his contract ran out....over the past three months....almost zero interest by any team in the NFL.  He seems shocked, and some sports journalists hype this as unfair.

Here's the simplicity of this 'business', and I emphasize it as such.  If you are going to pull out five-million dollars for some guy to work for you....for one season, then you kinda expect him to be a positive media device for the team.

You don't want to wake up one night and react to a phonecall that your highly paid "Joe" was arrested for beating his wife, or was arrested for badly assaulting some guy at a bar.

I can rattle off a hundred different things that you really don't want to hear about some guy that you are paying five-million dollars for.

In this case, you have to continually wonder...on game-day....will Kaepernick go back to the one-knee trick?  Maybe you could make it through a season without him going for some media attention.  Maybe not..

It would be different if you were just paying the guy $500 for one single game on a Sunday. You probably wouldn't care if he worshipped Satan, drank tea from marijuana, or if he had a tattoo on his back of Trump.  But for some guy to make a million or more?  No, he has to set some examples and be awful dedicated to his profession.

I don't see Kaepernick in that fashion.  He's not focused on pure football....he has some angle at work, and why should I risk my money on a guy like that?

My guess is that three weeks into the season....some quarterback will have a serious injury and some team will sign Kaepernick to a short one-season contract for less than one-million dollars.  It'll stipulate something about focusing on football, and he'll get one single chance.

In some ways, this is why I hate football today....it's more of a reality show....than a sport.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

"Doc"

With the comments that came up over General Flynn in the past couple of days....this brought back all these images and memories of incompetence among general officers.

At some point after I retired, but continued to work as a contractor to the Air Force....we had this four-star general who descended upon Ramstein. "Doc" Foglesong.

There is hardly a week that would pass when you'd sit there for five to ten minutes in amazement at some weird directive which came out of the headquarters.

He had twelve programs which became the primary joke that airman discussed for days, weeks and months.

At the top of thee special programs....was Combat Proud.  This was a base beautification situation.  Fences that didn't meet some particular scale of acceptance were torn down.  In some cases....fences which had been only up for five years....were torn down.  Beauty became this topic and people began to question who held the key to beauty.

During the first year of existence, I'd take a guess that almost every airman and junior NCO on base was spending a minimum of four hours a week in some Combat Proud task.

At some point....painting white rocks came into the vogue, and a month later....it was deemed 'non-beauty' and the rocks had to be picked up and thrown away.

Staff meetings in squadrons always had tasks listed for the commander to assess if they were all doing enough to meet high expectations.  Lt's and Captains were walking around on Friday to analyze and determine accomplishments.....so they could be measured on various slides for Monday.

Combat Nighthawk was another program started by "Doc".  This was supposed to be this deal where junior officers on night shift....were to meet up with senior NCOs on night-shift, and there would be sharing of experiences.  They would get into a truck....as night descended, and just drive around.

I asked a junior Captain about this once.  Basically, he noted that they spent four hours in a some truck one evening.  I asked....what was the conversation.  Well...he said....they basically talked on the Dallas Cowboys....they were both from Texas.  For four hours?  Yeah....they went over the Roger Staubach days and recounted various players.

I'm not sure if this was an exchange that "Doc" wanted....but it was better than talking four hours of nothing.

Combat Education was another "Doc" invention.  For years, the base education center on each base handled education requirements.  "Doc" woke up one day and felt that he wanted to emphasize this more.  So they invented this program, and put the title above their newsletters or emails.  Nothing much changed....just that "Doc" got credit for something that had been going on for years.

Then came Combat Touch.  It was the wrong title and it conveyed something of an arousing nature.  It was supposed to be a program for Chaplains.....to bring spiritual needs and well-being to airmen and their families.

The program itself had existed for decades, but "Doc" made it his program.

The big problem came about twelve months into this when "Doc" wanted TV advertising fixed up for AFN.  60 and 30 second commercials.

Army guys started to laugh when this 'combat' word came up in the advertising.  Drinking games were created....a shot when the 'combat' advertisement started, and each time the voice uttered 'combat'.  Typically, it'd be a minimum of four times in a 30-second ad.  Over a four-hour period on Saturday evening?  You could have 'combat' require you to consume 20 shots....if the ad's were lined up for an Air Force evening.

The thing is....all of these existed in some form, prior to 'Doc', and all reverted back to some normal scheme after he left.

Doc's next two jobs?  He settled into a Mississippi university for two years, and then kinda got enough people upset enough....that he left.  After that, he ended up with some energy company for a year or two....that had serious write-up handed down by the gov't over safety practices.  

It was a period where you began to assess the competency of officers, and realized that a fair number of them were not capable of leading people.  It wasn't about their degree, past background, or previous jobs....these were people who just weren't competent and lacked common sense.

Seven Years of Hype

Done.  This attempt to pass a replacement healthcare bill to replace ObamaCare?  Never voted upon because it would not pass.

So you sit there and ponder upon this.

For seven lousy years, you had to hear GOP bigwigs out of DC....from McCain to Ryan and at least 150 Republicans who'd appear on Sunday chatter shows....gushing over how they'd have a better idea and fix the terrible dilemma that ObamaCare laid upon the nation.

It was a farce...a hoax....a joke....and never worth discussion.

This is part of the problem of the Republican Party now.  They have so much hype and theatrics built into their operation....that you can't tell where fake chatter starts and ends.

What should you expect now?

1.  Ryan is practically worthless on leadership, and some challenge will come up to replace him.  Frankly, if I were him....I'd leave the chairman job, and move to some other occupation after the election in 2018.

2.  Democrats shouldn't say much of a happy note.  ObamaCare is losing participants every year.  It's built to have a very limited life.  By the GOP screwing this up....it's laid out a very short string of survival....maybe four to six years before various states, and a large number of the public are complaining bitterly.  Single-payer is the only method left.

3.  If the financial bill comes up and faces the same type of GOP division....then you can assume that the big-plus-up that would have occurred in November 2018's election for more Republicans....will never occur.  In fact, you might be able to assume that 25 House seats will shift over to the Democrats, with two or three Senate seats also going to them.

4.  For Trump?  New reality.....the GOP is fractured and unable to be of any benefit.  He might as well assume this for the remaining three years, and just make the best out of a marginal situation.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sears

If you read through various business journals over the past week....there's a sense of Sears coming to an end....maybe sooner....maybe later.  It's an odd feeling.

I grew up with the local Sears which operated in some 'giant' location in the midst of Florence, Alabama.  It was mid-town (well, in the sense of what mid-town means in Florence).   In retrospect, I doubt that you could have put more than 100 cars in the entire parking lot.  So on occasion (especially around Christmas), you had to park on the main street and put a nickle in the parking meter.

My folks would have made the trip into Sears about every six weeks.  It was the obvious place for clothing, tools, or Christmas toys.  I can still remember the Christmas catalog which would arrive in early fall, and you'd have an entire hour of enjoyment checking out what they offered for sale.

Across the street was the Sears annex where lawnmowers were sold, and tires were available.  My dad bought tires from them on a random basis.  At some point, he flipped to Wal-Mart and their tire shop.

By the late 1970s....that location had reached it's maximum usage and they swung Sears around to the new mall on the end of town.

Over the 40 years since....I've probably been in a Sears at least fifty times....mostly for clothing or shoes.  In the past decade?  I've been in Sears once.  I'm probably one of the reasons why they are in the negative position that exists today.

The thing is that they always had quality clothing or shoes, but beyond that....they were in a competitive situation with a dozen other companies and Amazon.  When I needed plain white shoes for the office....I went to Landsend and ordered via the internet.

I see this end as some comment to an era that is closing out.  Radio Shack (sinking at the same rate as Sears), Grants, Big "B" Drugs, Circuit City, CompUSA, Woolco, Zodys, ABCO Foods, Blockbuster, Tower Records, Price Club, etc.  It is a totally different environment today than in the mid-80s.  You can drive across various urbanized areas now and see various large store-fronts which are empty and waiting for the next start-up and their eventual failure.  At best, you probably have six to ten years of life upon opening some store these days....before you stumble or meet up with real competition.

So I have this image in my mind....Christmas....mid-70s....and this small town Sears decked out in Christmas decorations and lights flashing. That's the Sears that I remember.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

When Happy People Aren't Happy

The UN has some department which has the function of determining your happiness....as related to your country.

I know....you sit amused that such a department would exist and people would actually get paid to rank people by their happiness.

Yesterday, the ranking was updated for 2017.

Norway now ranks as the happiest land on Earth....displacing Denmark.  Over the past year, something must have happened to make Danes less happy, and Norwegians more happy.  A logical guy would ask what, but then you'd come to realize it might be something as simple as weather, some soccer league action, or a movie which came out to thrill Norwegians.

The rest of the top ten?  Well, it's an odd thing....Denmark, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden make it into the top ten.  All Nordic countries....all have a Viking heritage element.  One might come around to ask the UN folks if there is a favoritism deal going on, or if they are very pro-Viking.

Over my life, I've spent time in Denmark (six weeks), Finland (one week), and Iceland (one week).  There are several key elements in life that you come to notice in these countries.

First, it's extremely expensive to live any kind of life.....even a marginal life.  On my scale of a regular meal at McDonalds....where it might cost $4.90 to have a full-up burger deal in the US.....in Denmark or Finland....you are talking about a minimum of $7 for the same deal in local currency.  Don't ask about Iceland because they shut down their operations a couple of years ago (it was too costly to run and make a profit).

Second, booze and smokes cost a heck of a lot.  Taxation ensures that you don't drink the hard stuff....just the beer and wine.  Go look for teens smoking and you will notice very few because they can't afford a pack of smokes.

Third, gasoline....especially in Denmark....has a hefty tax attached to each liter sold.  So you don't drive much.

Fourth and final, there is this odd aspect about a happiness scale, the suicide rate for the Nordic countries, and the continuing escalation of anti-depressants issued out in Nordic countries.

I noticed in the last week that Iceland did the math and figured out that roughly 12-percent of Icelandic adults are on some anti-depressant.  If you look at the scale of this and trend....they are within five or six years of probably hitting 20-percent of the nation on some kind of anti-depressant. From a 2015 report, you kinda notice a trend building up.  These same five Nordic countries are in the top ten of dispersing anti-depressants.

Reason given?  I think there are three central reasons for the high rate of anti-depressants in these countries:

1. This July sun-up hour total (roughly 22 hours per day) and the December sun-down total (roughly 22 hours per day), if you use Iceland as the example.  Your sleep cycle is continually messed up and trying to recover.

2.  In most of these regions, you are in a self-contained 'cabin' situation.  There are vast areas of Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden which are fairly rural.

3.  Once the medical profession got all wrapped up in accepting legalized happy-pills (instead of marijuana), it was fairly easy to just start handing out the pills if you met these prescribed conditions.

So the question to ask now.....if the UN rated these Nordic countries for happiness, and they were hyped up on happy-pills....are they really happy or just drugged-up happy?  Without the happy pills....would they be as happy as you think they are?

It's best not to ask questions over this whole happiness thing.

Monday, 20 March 2017

We Just Don't Care

I came to notice this morning a survey by C-SP*N this morning....they discovered that only 43-percent of the people they polled....could name one single member of the Supreme Court.

Yeah, most of the court have been on the job for five years, and their names get mentioned in the news at least forty times a year.

I think if more surveys would be done, there'd be some sad truths learned:

1.  My guess is that more teens (15-to-19 years old) can name members of the Kardashian family more so than members of the Supreme Court.

2.  More guys from Louisiana can name more NCAA football coaches than members of their delegation from the House and Senate (total of eight).

3.  Most women over sixty can name more soap opera characters from their favorite show, than name members of the House of Representatives.

4.  Most New Yorkers, if given a choice of watching an hour of politicians chatting or watching a rerun of The Sopranos.....they'd pick the mafia family over the political talk.

5.  Most people from Oregon, if given a priority listing of true events versus fake news....would rank Bigfoot higher on the truth scale than the Russians hacking into the 2016 election.

6.  Most NASCAR enthusiasts can probably name more race-car drivers than members of the Senate.

7.  Most Baptists can name more disciples of Christ than members of the Supreme Court.

8.  If Speaker of the House, Rep Paul Ryan, were to walk into the primary Walsenburg, Colorado cafe....the Huerfano Cafe...to have breakfast, I doubt if 20-percent of the crowd would be able to recognize him.  Ten-percent might suggest that he's some reality TV show guy, or some male model from New York City.

9.  Most residents over forty in Alabama can name more University of Alabama quarterbacks over the past three decades for the university, than name the seven current Representatives from the state.

10.  If you asked just in general....for folks to name the VP candidate for Hillary Clinton from 2016....I doubt if more than 40-percent can cite the guy's name.  Even folks who voted for Hillary....might have trouble.

Here's the thing....no one really cares.

None of these Supreme Court Judges, Presidents, Senators or Representatives are really doing things that affect us in some personal way.  Some folks might get hyped up and charged to the max....but if you had to go and cite names....other than Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, President Trump, President Bush, and Senator Ted Kennedy (he's been dead for decade, if you didn't know)....that's about it for recognizable names.

 Maybe it's a shock for journalists or the national media, but this is reality.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Trump's New Budget Target

It's an odd piece that popped up in the news this morning.  President Trump is preparing his first budget, and in the middle of this....folks kinda noticed this....he zeroed out the normal $445 million that would have gone to PBS, NPR, and went on to eliminate the money for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, along with the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.

NPR and PBS?  So far, nothing said.  I suspect they both knew it was coming and mostly hoping that it'd be a fifty-percent cut, or maybe a two-year gradual thing.  Well....it's all cut, and would be effective as they pass the budget.

The Senate and House?  From the Democrats.....they will freak out.  The Republicans?  There might be five or six GOP Senators who will fall on their sword to protect PBS and NPR....the rest?  They will grin and just say it was time to cut the budget.

I remember NPR in  the early 1970s and the great book readings, classical music, jazz, and theater readings.  It was a great network in the beginning.  Somewhere in the middle of the 1980s....they turned into some news network....classical music started to disappear unless it was late at night, and culture and literature was something that you only got on weekends, and in limited doses.

What will happen to NPR and PBS?  I suspect a lot of pressure will be brought upon the Senate and they will find five or six GOP Senators who won't agree to a total zeroed-out budget.  So Trump will offer them a simple bone....a twenty-five percent cut now, and a total cut by 2019.

If I were NPR....I'd start to look at the headquarters location....in the midst of high-cost DC....and opt for a lesser environment.  Maybe Colorado Springs....maybe Nashville....but somewhere that is half the cost of DC.  And then I'd tell all the employees that we will move you there on our 'nickel' but you give up 40-percent of your current pay.

Both NPR and PBS can survive on....if they are careful on their budget and dump the idiots making $200,000 or more.  Who knows....maybe NPR will sign off the air in two years and just admit they can't do it without government support.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Trump's Tax "News"

After you read over the brief three-line story (that's really all there is of the two-page 2005 tax submission of Donald Trump)....you are left with three simple thoughts.  I will get to those in a minute.

Who dug up this 2005 return (only the first two pages)?  No one dug it up.  Pulitzer-winner David Cay Johnston simply got it in the mail.  No source.....just two simple pages.  One might admit that Johnston has written pieces on Trump in the past....mostly critical, so maybe someone thought he'd easily accept these two pages.

Value of the two pages?  All it says is that he made $150 million in income, and paid $38 million in taxes.  That's it.  You don't get the other pages which note which stocks he sold, or the NY state tax form, which might have noted that he paid another $10 million to them.  But no one bought up the state tax side of this story (notice that).

So my three thoughts.

1.  Trump made a copy up himself and sent it to Johnston, knowing precisely what he'd do with it.

2. Anyone who wants to make a big deal out of unfair shares of taxes.....need not complain about Trump, BUT instead about the Senators who write the code and ensure unfairness across the whole system.

3.  For the next two weeks.....all that MSNBC will talk about is unfair taxation, and the result?  Trump has led them to some public anger and to wipe out the current tax code entirely, fire IRS, and just have a straight flat-tax for companies and individuals.

News?  No, this is all fake news to get people up to some point of anger and accepting massive change.  Brilliantly done, if you ask e.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Why Paul Harvey Mattered

A couple of years ago....there was a newspaper (the Rochester Democrat) that wrote up a piece talking of a comparison between Rush Limbaugh and Paul Harvey.

“Talk radio needs a little more Harvey.” “A lot of word pictures are drawn every day purporting to describe how inflexibly partisan and flat-out angry the world of popular communication has become. But few things tell the tale better than two names. In short, Harvey was the velvet glove. And Limbaugh is the iron fist. Take your pick.”

It was an attempt to take the image of Paul Harvey, with his wit....and make some comparison.

Paul was never a real news guy...he was mostly an accomplished story teller...who sat and read all the news of the day, and then would tell you the layout of the world.

If you sat in a state of blindness...Paul painted the image for you.

If you were in a state of chaos....Paul laid out the simpleness...thus making you feel at ease.

If the technicians of vast design were tossing words, verbs and adjectives at you with no clear understanding...then Paul wrestled them to the ground and simplified it in five brief lines.

If some political hack out of DC gave a 45-minute speech...Paul would simply carve out the two lines that mattered to you.

If some farmer in Red Bay had only fifteen minutes a day to spare...where he could rest his weary feet and tortured hands...sipping some coffee and catching up on worldly events....then it'd be by the pick-up radio as he listened to Paul advising him on the world today.

If a dozen nightly newsmen had spent a thousand man-hours....working up a sweat and done everything possible to discredit the US military, then Paul could undo their damage in 60 seconds...making the giants of corporate broadcasting look like fools.

If you needed a pep talk after 9-11, Paul gave it.

If you needed a reason not to despair or worry about life...Paul gave it.

He had no gentle hands or delicate touch. He would dispense absolutely terrible news and tragic opera in the sense of life today.

Paul knew your strength was based on this American uniqueness...'we'll just ride this out' and know that the sun will rise again tomorrow.

Paul would avoid using the word "whore" but say it in a gentle way that the gal had no morals.

Paul could whip up a bit of advice to some 15-year-old kid that got him back onto priorities and a decent compass direction.

If someone had whipped up some huge mess of rocket science....then Paul would untangle the story enough to lay out five or six science statements which would make sense to some guy with a ninth-grade education.

The thing was....Paul was never obsessed or dedicated to biased news.  If he'd said something bad against the Democrats today....he'd come right back tomorrow to say something crappy about the Republicans.

If some politician was acting like they were an idiot....he'd kinda let you know that the guy wasn't hitting on all cylinders.  It'd be said in a nice way, but he wouldn't have avoided the obvious.  With the Hillary-pneumonia episode at the 9-11 Memorial....he might have been able to suggest that she needed some medical attention but a week later when she seemed all fine....he would have asked what medication that you can take to get over the pneumonia that quick.  I think he would have said a dozen odd things over Trump, suggesting the GOP could do better.

The sad thing is that there are no Paul Harveys today.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Something You Can't Have

For most of my life....I never thought much of health care.  On a handful of occasions as a kid, my dad whipped out his checkbook and wrote a $25 check for a doctor's visit or shot.  At age 18, I was covered by the Air Force medical deal.  After retiring from the Air Force, I have their Tricare program.  So for the most part, I haven't thought much about it.

Back around 2010....I became a government employee and for 3.5 years....had a commercial health insurance policy.  When I went to the doctor....I sat and asked stupid questions....like why this visit costs $65, or why I need this particular drug, which might have cost $40.

I had one idiot hearing specialist who tried to talk me into buying a $6,100 hearing aid.  I eventually figured out a better deal...at only $1,500.  Yeah, it had all the features of the $6,100 deal.

I sat and watched the comical behavior of congressmen, senators and the President in 2009, on the health care act, and seem mostly amused with the behavior of the GOP as they attempt to fix all of this.

So, I've come to this one single prospective.  You can't have affordable, high-quality, four-star healthcare, period.

If you said you wanted decent three-star affordable health care.....well, maybe.  But that's not what you are asking for.

Why? I'll give you six reasons.

1.  You aren't in Denmark, where highway speeds are 55 mph or less.  Go walk into any major city in Denmark and note the lack of business in the emergency room on weekends.  No drug overdoses.  No shootings.  No knife attacks.  There might be one single doctor in the emergency room area, with four or five nurses, and maybe two ambulance crews on call.  Beyond that....they don't have the type of character that you see in urbanized US cities.  You need bulked up hospitals to handle stupidity, for the most part.

2.  Look around Europe for controlling behavior over alcohol and tobacco.  Less cancer and less kidney/liver issues.  In the US?  No one is about to take either item down a notch on usage.

3.  Go and suggest single-payer type programs around with hospitals or medical companies.  They don't like the idea because the government is only going to pay X-amount on such-and-such procedure.  If you tried to make it occur....they'd just go and shut down various operations, and you'd have only one single hospital within two hours of your house that did ALL common medical procedures.  The rest of these would go to twenty-odd procedures and just become some minimum care hospital.  Would you be happy with less options?  No.

4.  Would you want some doctor reviewing your files and saying your hip operation or knee operation can only occur IF you lose 60 pounds?  You'd go ballistic.  Well, the majority of doctors say successful operations can only occur if you fit into a certain frame of health or weight.  They aren't joking.  The same with doctors who suggest that you need to quit smoking for two months before they conduct such-and-such operation.

5.  Plastic surgery and optional stuff?  This is all stuff that you need to pay for out of your own pocket rather than force the general public to cover this.  The people who want to transform themselves into some other 'being'?  It's going to be hard to find an economical program....when you fit this into the deal.

6.  A cut-off point for generic folks who have only a 20-percent chance of surviving ten years more?  No one wants to sign up for that because it's not fair.  But when you talk about $65,000 in care required this year, and $25,000 each year after that point....to keep you going....it adds up.

I think in five to eight years....after we realize that Trump-Care has problems and the Democrats proceed onto the next version of this, then at that point we might have 20-percent of the public finally ask....is it possible to have affordable four-star health care?  They will realize what I've already come to figure out.

In fifteen years....maybe half the population will realize that you can't reach this perfect level of affordable health care.  Then what?

That's a good question.  If we make it through three separate health insurance programs....all deemed a progressing failure by the end....we might come to realize that having DC manage this whole thing is part of the problem.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Agent Provocateur

Years ago, the term "Agent Provocateur" was created.

It's French....if you were curious about the pronunciation.

It was historical in nature....meaning basically that you (the agent provocateur) helping or enticing someone to do something (typically illegal) in a careless way....without thinking over the event or the consequence of the act.  The agent provocateur himself?  They often felt compelled to do this out of loyalty to a group or a creed.....or simply were employed by someone who needed something devious done.

Note this entire act by the agent provocateur could be for an entirely peaceful event (a march or a demonstration).  This could be simply for a student gathering to ensure various 'mouth-pieces' exist to talk to the press or get the message out.  This could just be for wording a document that will be sent in mass to various journalists to ensure that they use their manipulation capability to carry the message further.

Could the agent provocateur be a journalists?  Yes.  They could undertake a cause close to them and help to form a message or fake public sentiment....to ensure some successful conclusion of the act.

In recent years, the police in America were great at using agent provocateur folks....to get on the inside of groups.  But you can find political action groups who have used the format to get their message carried direct to the public.

The problem for the general public?  Basically, you are stuck there reading through a news piece, or watching some interview, or getting a live coverage piece of some riot.....wondering who is the agent provocateur in this case.  Is it the intellectual gal who is mostly talking for the demonstration?  Is it the CNN guy who seems to have lots of facts?  Is it the Fox News journalist who seems very determined to tell the story in a certain way?

People are stuck having to ask stupid questions and wonder who the agent  provocateur really is.  All of this complicates the process of assembling information and determining what is news and what are the real facts over an episode.

Yes, we've dug a pretty deep hole and seem to have fallen into it.

The Samsung Story

This week, with the WikiLeaks release....you kinda learn that the CIA has a bug installed in some Samsung TV systems....those with internet-video capability....that allow the system to be bugged, shoot video and audio of the room, and send the data stream back to some CIA bunker.

So you sit and ponder about this.  How many TVs are affected?  No one says.  It could be 100,000....it could be a million.

So you imagine this room in a bunker with twenty guys sitting there and watching collected data every day....for eight hours.  Mister Banker....Miss Charming....Pastor Joe with his wife Wanda who do the wild-thing nightly....Little Martin who sings Christmas carols when no one in the house is around....Ingrid who does the house-cleaning without any clothing.....Peppy who talks to Jesus for hours when the house is empty....and so on.

It's not just American houses....it's houses across Europe, Asia, Middle East, etc.

Imagine yourself as one of the twenty-odd people who view these and send the best stuff onto some language group to give them the verbal comments.

Chancellor Merkel?  Yeah, she might have a Samsung and maybe it's caught her in some compromising situation where she was lounging on the couch by herself and sipping straight from some whiskey bottle.  Yeah, Le Pen from France might have a Samsung and gotten caught eating American-made cheese crackers and sipping from a Pepsi-can.  That crazy Prince Charles?  He might have been caught smoking French cigarettes and farting.

If you ask me....this might be one of the worst jobs in existence....in this CIA bunker deal and viewing Samsung video action.

The sad thing is that you need to occasionally produce reports and act like this is really valuable stuff....convincing the CIA chiefs to continue funding this and ensure your job (which pays $88,000 a year) will continue on.

Amongst the guys.....your greatest story is the one where some Democratic Senator has over some Republic Senator, and the two guys embrace in some moment of passion.  You don't tell this story often....mostly because no one believes it.  

And what no one says much....is that the Chinese and Russians have known this for several years, and copied the data trail....so they have the same intelligence generated.  And they will admit that they have video of the CIA bunker guys themselves doing stupid things.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The $500 Check Discussion

I read a piece that centered on a comment by the CEO of Assurant (Alan Colberg), who was discussing economics and sales approaches, and then said, “The reality is, half of Americans can’t afford to write a $500 check,”

I sat and pondered upon the comment for a while.

In the early 80's, while in the Air Force, I came across a lot of characters who simply didn't have cash reserves....period.  It was not a big deal for a guy to come up on the 25th of the month and be out of cash....so he'd take his color TV to a pawn shop for $40, and it'd be enough to get by until pay-day.  I witnessed on one occasion a guy who desperately needed $500 for airline tickets, and he got the pawn shop to agree to take his car for a couple of weeks until he had the money to repay them.

Do I believe Colberg's statement on half the nation?  I seriously think that roughly 35-to-40 percent of the nation is seriously walking on limited cash, and counting on their monthly check to just help them survive.

The real question is.....has society changed and is the $500 check problem a bigger problem today than twenty-five years ago?  I have my doubts.  I think it's the same crowd that existed back in 1995...the same crowd from 1980....the same crowd from 1970...etc.

This crowd represents a political trend in some ways.....they are promised year after year, decade after decade....that help is coming and better days are ahead.  Most believe the promises and keep waiting.

What does this all say about the nation?  Well....the truth is that roughly sixty-percent of Americans are carrying the economic buying-power of the country.  Those are the people buying $1,000 chainsaws, $8,000 fishing boats, $35,000 RV trailers, $1,500 hunting rifles, and $700 a weekend resort deals in Vegas.  We seem to never give this group the proper credit for all of the fine spending efforts to keep the nation afloat.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The "Mute-Flex"

I can remember the first TV that I ever bought....which had a remote control and a feature to it that I came to appreciate...the mute-button.  As the weeks passed with this new TV and the ability to mute....I came to hit the button almost automatically when commercials came on the air.

By the 1990s....my German wife had tired of my mute-flex activity and I was told to lessen my mute-button activity.

Over the past five years, when I sit and watch news media shows....I tend to hit the mute-button an awful lot.

For example, if Senator John McCain appears....it takes barely twenty seconds for me to sense incompetence and do the mute-flex until his segment is finished.

When Jeff Bezos, the Amazon and Washington Post guy, appears...it's a five-second reaction and I hit the mute-button.  There's just not much that Jeff is remarkable about or keen on....it's mostly some personalized political hype.  He had one bright idea in assembling Amazon but beyond that he's just not an authority on anything else.

There are certain actors now....that if they suddenly pop for an interview, it's a pretty quick mute-flex for me to react.  Kim Kardashian, Kevin Spacey, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, and Whoopi.....it only take three seconds for me to react.  Nothing personal....it's just that when they typically appear, it's not to talk about their latest work....it's either soap opera talk or some political gimmick.

For US Senators, there three groups from which I put the mute-flex into effect.  There's the folks who get five seconds (Patty Murray, Lisa Murkowski, the Rubio, and 'Chief' Warren).  The second group gets about 20 seconds to show their level of competence for the day (McCain, McConnell, and Booker).  The third group will get up to an entire minute (Portman, Cruz, and Tim Scott fit into that category).

The problem for me is that I see a lot of people trying to influence you with nickel and dime-talk.  They don't know much about the topic but seem to have memorized ten lines and repeat those often (Nancy Pelosi is famous for that type of behavior).  Maybe twenty years ago, Pelosi was bright and clever, but if you look at statements over the past three years....she's got some card in her pocket to remind her of the scripted answers and sticks always to the script.

The Apple CEO....Tim Cook....is on my twenty-second list.  If he's there to talk about products....fine, I'll sit and listen.  If Tim wants to get hyped up on social commentary, politics, or the status of bathrooms in America....well....the mute-flex is pretty quick.

For Rush Limbaugh?  I'd put him on the twenty-second list as well.  Sometimes, Rush might pick out one single topic and show a fair amount of research.  On other cases, he's just hyping some one-star topic without any value, and that mute-button lessens the pain of having to listen to him.

If you add it up?  I probably mute at least ninety minutes every month.

The thing is.....it becomes more and more a habit.  Rather than sit there and listen to some idiot on NPR talk on some fake topic...I hit mute.  Rather than listen to some journalist give a five-minute piece mostly on speculation rather than fact....I hit mute.  Rather than listen to the Today Show Matt Lauer give a fake interview with some idiot....I just hit mute.

So all of this brings me to the general public.  Are they doing the same thing?  Are twenty percent of the viewers of some Sunday talk-show hitting mute when Senator McCain appears?  Does anyone track this?  Would it scare the networks to realize that a quarter of all their hyped up political talk isn't being listened to?  Would Tim Cook of Apple get all upset if he found out that most people don't care to his his political feelings?

The mute-button, in my humble opinion....was the one of the top ten things ever devised or invented.

This Wire-Tap Story

Here's the sad likely trend of this whole Trump-Obama wire-tap story.

Within ten days....the Senate will decide that some truth-commission committee needs to form up.  The Democrats will realize the full impact of this and start to get real fussy.

By early May, the committee will start up.  I suspect that neither former President Obama or AG Lynch will agree to appear.

After four months of testimony and stalling, some charges will be handed over to various individuals.  All will be lawyers within the Attorney General's circle....likely all rookies.

The damage to the 2018 mid-terms?  Prior to this, one could anticipate six to eight Democratic Senate seats would flip.  With the truth-commission and the results.....I'd go ahead and figure 12 Democratic Senate seats will likely flip....giving an enormous advantage to the GOP through 2020.

The sad thing about this is that any idiot could have seen this as a potential train-wreck and refused to participate on the warrant to wire-tap.  None of them saw that angle.

As for former President Obama?  The sad thing is that when some reporter finally asks the question of when he knew about this.....he will simply answer when the news people announced this story this week.  Otherwise, he didn't know nothing....about nothing.  It could be the truth because he was simply the 'empty-suit' to the White House, with the handlers running everything.

All of this revolves around some lost sense of ethics.

It seems like every year.....you come across hundreds of examples now of bad ethics..  You have policemen, Wall Street players, bankers, judges, teachers, businessmen, etc....who seem to have made it to a successful point in life, but without any ethics. Their world collapses rapidly when they finally get caught in some mess without a clear exit.

So, settle back and enjoy the whole opera unfolding.  The fat lady won't be coming out for at least six months.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

PESD (Post-Election Stress Disorder)

Some mental health folks have finally sat down and diagnosed a new disorder.  People suffering from this....are said to be suffering serious anxiety attacks and feeling stress throughout every single day.  They apparently get up in the morning, turn on the Today Show.....and start getting aggravated and stressed out.  Driving to work....they listen to the talk-radio show and news, and start getting more aggravated.  By mid-day and chat topics going on with co-workers.....they get more stress.  By late-afternoon....watching MSNBC and listening to NPR....their disorder gets worse.

What the APA is suggesting is that you might need to see a mental health specialist and seek 'real help'.  These feelings....the PESD....could lead to serious health problems and potentially treatment in a 'facility'.

Oddly, if you just turned off the TV and radio for two weeks....went to landscaping your backyard....cut off contact with radicalized political junkies.....and simply read a bit of Hemingway or Steinbeck.....you'd likely be cured of PESD.

You would think that folks were hyped up over missing the second-coming of Jesus or something.

Can the PESD folks survive four to eight years of this?  I have my doubts.  At some point, you will have to do some fine drugs (provided by your mental-health doctor), start consuming more alcohol, or find themselves dumped by family, friends, or their company.

Somewhere along 2020 to 2024, it'll be considered a national problem....with Doctor-Phil-like characters trying to bring people into forced treatment and accept reality.